As readers of this blog may be aware, I like to visit Spain from time to time and I enjoy comparing and contrasting the state of play abroad with the situation at home in good old Blighty – particularly with regards to family values and culture. And one of my ‘pet topics’ (if you’ll pardon the pun), is the prevailing attitude towards children and animals.

Remaining in the land of beer gardens and drizzle (yes, Blighty), during a recent visit to a popular family pub in Fulking, I spotted a chalk board that stated: “dogs and children welcome”. This caught my attention: note that the canines were placed first, before the kids. Is this some sort of Freudian slip, I wondered? If the sign had read “children welcome” and then underneath “dogs welcome”, that would be preferable in my book. However, bracketing them together in that way just seems wrong. “At least the sign said ‘children welcome’ and not ‘children allowed’,” pointed out my friend, pragmatically. “Often, kids are ‘allowed’ but they’re not really ‘welcome’,” she added. “Good point”, I conceded.

I recollect another sign in a popular Hanover pub that read “children are welcome in this area if quiet and well behaved”. Hmm! How many toddlers do you know who will sit still for the duration of Sunday dinner without moving or making any noise? I would say the answer is “precisely none” – unless they’ve been fed tranquilisers instead of beef roast which would, of course, be unethical and possibly illegal. I once left a pub in Rottingdean because the manager said my two year old was “allowed if he’s quiet and doesn’t run around”. I decided that a cheap bottle of Chardonnay in my own back patio was a preferable option.

It is the concept of child movement that causes the most serious problems, it seems. Recently, my family was asked to leave a bar on St James Street because the kids were “running around”. In the past, a diner moaned in Café Rouge because my little boy was “moving”. Some men in Gatwick Airport complained that my eldest son was “moving and looking at us”. And on a recent flight from Spain to Newcastle, an angry fellow passenger complained to me: “how would you feel if a child was standing up on his seat and looking at you?” Well, perish the thought! A child looking at an adult. Sheesh.

Yes, well, I have news for people: young kids move around and they become curious and check other people out – it’s what they do. How did we Brits come to be such a nation of “seen and not heard” kiddie haters, I wonder?

In Spain, unless the ‘ninos’ actually trip waiting staff over, scream really loud or throw bread rolls at customers on the next table, nobody will even look up from their meal if members of the younger generation run around, roll on the floor, check out fellow diners, play with toys or basically act their age, as opposed to sitting quietly and unnaturally at a table while the adults enjoy their three course meal and vino.

Why is it that British people can’t find the kindness to condone kids in a café, unless they remain 100% stationery? Even when I went out with the Grandparents, who are much hotter on table manners than Mummy, fellow patrons in a Tesco café were snarling at my whole family – all three generations of it. Surprisingly, I find that elderly people are amongst the most frequent snarlers: in the past when my eldest son was a few months old, one old lady in Rottingdean tutted at me persistently when I tried to push my stroller round the Co-op to buy bread and milk.

If the young and the elderly were better integrated into family life, and welcome in the same café/bar/restaurants as the ‘male vertical volume drinkers’ (yes, that is a bona fide alcohol industry term), perhaps the incidence of binge drinking in Britain would be reduced. And perhaps we’d generally be more tolerant of the younger and older generations instead of wanting them to be not seen and not heard either.

It also strikes me that, in Britain, we’re far more sympathetic towards animals than children. While I don’t condone the placing of a poor, unsuspecting cat in a dustbin, look at the national media brouhaha caused by the lady in Coventry performing her evil act against cat-kind. I wager that the same crime wouldn’t have attracted attention in other European countries, where people aren’t so sentimental about their pets. Animals are our national obsession and children are often relegated to second place.

Once, in a Northern supermarket, I viewed the results of a charity scheme where customers were given a green token at the checkout and they had the choice of three charities upon which to bestow their token and, hence, their support. At the end of the process, the store would donate money according to which box contained the most tokens. One was for a rotary club, and it was almost empty. The other two options involved help for local children or help for local squirrels. Guess which one “won” all the tokens? Yes, it was the squirrels. I rest my case!

Recent footage on the Argus website shows a “local man” performing some sort of strange and inadvisable “fox whispering” act beside Brighton Pavilion. In the background, various small kids are shouting “I’m thirsty” and generally trying to cause a foxy distraction. Personally (if rather meanly), I think that the YouTube-originated footage would be far more amusing if Mr Fox had shown that he’s not really a “pet” by pecking the man on the nose.