I’m repeatedly dumbfounded by the bizarre things I read in public places. One of these things is to be found on the “No Fun Allowed” sign at Bronte Park.

Let me explain. I live in Bronte, in Sydney’s east, right near the beach. There is a park behind the beach. A place for fun and exuberance you’d think. Well, apparently not. Waverley Council has erected signs informing people of all the activities that are not allowed in Bronte Park. These banned activities include no companion animals, no ball games, no skateboards, bikes or rollerblades and so on. Basically, all the things you’d usually use a park for aren’t allowed. Don’t you love living in a free country?

However, the thing that has always dumbfounded me the most about this sign is the part that says, “No Kites or Kite Activities”. Flying a kite is obviously too much fun for Waverley Council to allow. But what other activities are there for kites? Surely saying “No Kites” is enough without the added qualifier of “or Kite Activities”. Kites are pretty much a single-activity item, or so I thought. In case you’re finding this sign hard to believe, here it is:

So I just had this particular item logged as one of those public absurdities that we seem to be surrounded with these days. Then I came across this story in the Sydney Morning Herald (www.smh.com.au) yesterday: Kite festival grounded as deaths rise :

“ISLAMABAD: It is one of Pakistan’s great parties – a joyous spring festival in the southern city of Lahore where partygoers crowd on to rooftops under a riotous sky filled with fluttering kites.

But this year the age-old celebration of Basant has been cancelled amid worries about killer kites, knife-sharp strings and ominous threats to prosecute teenage “terrorists”.

Punjabi officials announced the kite-flying ban, in effect ending this weekend’s festival, after seven recent kite-related deaths. Most victims had their throats cut by sharpened kite strings coated with ground glass or metal filings. The latest to die was a four-year-old boy who bled to death in his father’s arms last week after their motorcycle was entangled in a kite string.

“A healthy sport is being turned into a game of death,” said Punjab’s Chief Minister, Pervez Elahi, offering a reward for information about vendors who sell glass-covered string. Those responsible for kite-related deaths would be punished under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism laws, he said. By Friday, Lahore police had arrested 74 kite enthusiasts.

The age-old sport, which requires considerable skill, has acquired a dark side in recent years. It has turned into “kite duelling” – trying to knock a rival’s kite from the air by slicing through his or her string. Enthusiasts have spurned cotton strings for glass-coated versions, often strengthened with chemicals. The upgraded strings can be as knife-sharp and have deadly consequences for anyone who comes in contact with them.

Every year the press carries gruesome accounts of deaths and injuries caused by kite flying, often of young children or motorcyclists whose throats have been cut by low-flying kites. A ban on sharpened string has been widely flouted and public alarm has steadily mounted.”

So I can’t help wondering if Waverley Council are onto something. Are they concerned about Sydney residents taking up the practice of killer kite competitions or are they just so paranoid about litigation that they can’t bring themselves to let anybody have any fun? It’s a conundrum you may want to consider next time you’re in a park near you. Just be sure to sit very still and don’t make any sudden moves while you consider it. There may be a council worker nearby that might interpret your movement as you having some kind of fun.