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Saturday, 19 August 2017

A Terrible, Terrible Loss

A good friend of mine whom I knew from church took my wife Alex, our three year old daughter and myself in his car to Hayling Island, a rather sedate Hampshire resort on the South Coast. Since neither of us as a couple had ever owned or driven a car, it takes the devotion of an unattached male friend with a car to escort us to one of the nicer parts of the English coastline, free of excess commercialism, no railway station, no amusement arcades lining the streets, no abundance of shops selling trinkets and souvenirs, no lavish or towering grand hotels forming the skyline, and no heavy road traffic - and most important of all - no pleasure pier jutting out to sea. All of these features being the traditional characteristics which makes a typical English holiday resort. No, Hayling Island has none of these. Instead, it is a literal island separated from the mainland by a tidal channel about two hundred metres across, which is crossed by a single road bridge. The island itself consists mainly of open fields and meadows, dotted inland with small residential villages, and its south-facing pebble beach backed by sedate residential houses.

However, at the beach there is an amusement park with restaurants and coffee shops, next to a large car park. Among the fun rides, a roofed bumper-car attraction caught my daughter's attention. She immediately made known to me that this is where she wanted to go.

My daughter's insistence reminded me when I was a small boy myself, and at that time I begged Dad if I could go on the helter-skelter which was located on the end of Brighton Pier. His answer was typical: No, such things costs money. It was always No. Such was his philosophy of thriftiness. Indeed, the family budget was well managed despite their rather low incomes, but what at the cost of his son's memories after growing up? And that is significant. It was on one of his more generous moods when father and son were walking along Lupus Street in the Westminster district of Pimlico, when he suddenly stopped at a roadside ice-cream vendor and bought me a vanilla cone. Of all the ice-cream confections I ever had, spanning from childhood to the present day, this particular cone was well remembered - because it was bought for me by my father, as if totally out of character. Coming to think of it, the timing of this act of generosity might have coincided with the news that I have a younger sibling on its way.

And as a result, it was no surprise that at my father's funeral, this ice-cream incident was featured in my epitaph speech which brought my listeners to tears. With the price of a few pence from his wallet, he had bought was not just the ice-cream cone, but something much more, something priceless.

And so as my own daughter pulled me by my hand towards the bumper cars, such memories were aroused. But also with a determination that my daughter's memories will always be worth more than thrifty budget management. We climbed into the nearest car, and in full view of both my wife and friend standing by the edge, I managed to steer the vehicle round and round the outer perimeter of the floor. Because of the presence of my daughter, none of the other riders had made any attempts to bump into us. And as I drove the car, I took a glance of my daughter enjoying herself, something which to me will always be priceless.

Becoming a father for the first time ever, even at the age of 48 years old, was definitely with Earth-shaking emotion. I sat alone with the newborn in my arms whilst my wife was recovering. As I watched her sleeping soundly in my arms, it was if my whole life flashed by, with memories galore, both good and bad. Even all the glories of world backpacking with all the highs and lows of independent travel becomes like a shadow when compared to the brightness of my daughter's birth. She was my everything. If her life preservation involved the cost of my own life, then I would have given it willingly. How the sight of my own offspring had brought out the full spectrum of emotions, from tears to laughter.

So what a disaster for us when the State believed that we were unfit to raise our own children because we were unfortunate enough to suffer from Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the mild end of the Autism Spectrum. I say "State" but really it came down to the opinions of just one adult female. A self-confessed atheist, a patriot, a proud advocate of classism, and of course - a university graduate. Whatever she says, the Court bowed in obeisance. A few words spoken from her mouth and a family is destroyed. I will never watch my daughters grow from toddlers to children, into adolescents, then into adulthood. I will never enhance their memories with good things, nor have the opportunity to lavish my love and affection. Indeed, I could gaze at an ice-cream parlour anywhere in the world robbed of the privilege of buying any treats for my daughters.

Raging anger towards this Social Worker persisted for months, and it was felt at its most intense in the mornings. Asperger's Syndrome? I wonder how many parents with A.S. had successfully raised their children into balanced adults throughout history? Not that A.S. was recognised throughout history, that is, until this Austrian doctor bearing the name Hans Asperger, who in 1944 discovered its existence and made a successful diagnosis of the condition. But for it to be diagnosed, it must have been around for some time, maybe spanning several generations. Even at present, I am aware of a happily married man whose father had A.S. That particular parent must have got something right somewhere. Then thinking about military life, especially when conscription was obligatory, I have wondered how recruits with A.S. coped with boot camp and rigorous discipline, let alone fighting in two World Wars.

Dr. Hans Asperger 

As I had already mentioned in the last post, Asperger's Syndrome is most probably a genetic defect, most likely occurring at conception, but perhaps also possibly developing during gestation. What it is, is that the brain is not properly wired up for normal social interaction, hence making group socials in particular difficult for the sufferer. But I was never convinced that having A.S. should disqualify us from parenting our own children. Hence my raging fury endured for months, maybe as much as a couple of years after our daughters were literally snatched from our home at three in the morning during February 2005, leaving my wife screaming. All because of one female's opinions!

Oh yes, it was easy to be angry at God, as well as with the State. We both felt mercilessly robbed. And then the emotional pain gotten from constantly seeing families all around us, has exacerbated the problem. It is also easy to become introspective, to constantly examine ourselves whether we have committed any specific sin. But no consciousness of any specific sin had ever come to our minds. Instead, we felt to be victims of an extremely unlucky set of circumstances.

And here I am left with a stark choice.

Either forget everything about God, his existence, his so-called "love" and his constant demand for personal holiness. Forget church, forget about reading the Bible, do my own thing - eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall die.

Or use this set of circumstances to draw close to God, pray for his mercy and goodness, pray for our strength in marriage, but above all, pray for the welfare of our daughters - especially for the salvation of their souls.

Christmas 2005 was approaching, our first Christmas without our girls. As was the seasonal custom, I opened the Bible to Matthew's Gospel and began to read his version of the Christmas Story, and after reading about Herod's slaughter of the Innocents, I came across these two verses:

Then was fulfilled that which was written by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama there was a voice heard, lamentation and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
Matthew 2:17-18 AV.

Immediately I felt a compulsion to turn to the verses from which Matthew had quoted, and continued to read:

Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard at Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.
And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to thy border.
Jeremiah 31:15-17. AV.

Immediately I believed the word, and I felt my spirit comforted, strengthened and revitalised. A situation parallel to this:

And (God) brought (Abraham) forth abroad, and said, Look now towards heaven, and tell the stars, if you are able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it unto him for righteousness.
Genesis 15:5-6 AV.

Or to put it in modern English:

Abraham believed the LORD, and he credited to him as righteousness. 

Reading Jeremiah 31:15-17 was practically equal to experiencing regeneration the second time over, although I had already been a Christian believer for the past thirty-three years. By reading such assuring Scriptures has played a major role in looking at the world with open eyes. However, waves of furious anger towards the Social Worker came and went, with times of peace between each wave. Over a course of time I began to feel concern over my wife's spiritual welfare. What was her attitude towards Jesus Christ? Was she a true believer?

Carrying her two daughters within herself amounted to nearly eighteen months in total. Little wonder that the loss of her children had affected her more intensely than the loss had affected me. So much so that her health began to deteriorate to the point that by the Summer of 2013, she was no longer able to walk upright. This was quite a contrast to when she was able to out-sprint me easily, leaving me in a cloud of dust. A GP recommended admission into hospital as an in-patient. Upon entry into her ward, she looked up at me as I stood over her and reassured me with these words:
Please do not worry. I know Jesus Christ as my Saviour.
What reassurance! For the next four months whilst she remains confined as an in-patient, I had to adapt to sleeping alone in our double bed. And every day without exception, straight after work, the cycle ride to the station for the train trip to Reading, where my wife had taken residence.

Knowing Scripture and believing the revelation God has given us had carried us through testing times, as if passing through the fires of Hell. But as I wrote last week, Hell was not able to break us, just as Jesus had promised:

Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18.

As such, to this day our childless marriage remains strong, robust and stable. And just this week we received letterbox contact after a long time waiting. This features a letter on their progress, especially at school where they are preparing for their GCSE exams along with three latest photos. They are now teenagers and how beautiful they both look! It was the receiving of this letterbox contact which was the inspiration of this blog, although we are not allowed to publish these pictures here. Sorry about that.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

A Genetic Defect...

A typical evening social. It could be a group of Christian men sitting at an extended table at an Indian restaurant. This particular group being of the Ascot Life Men's Curry Club, which is part of our church social agenda. Or I could be one of a smaller group of secular friends enjoying a drink at a pub. Or it could be a group of lifeguards sitting around a bar table over a drink, following a pool training session on how to save a swimmer in trouble, together with resuscitation techniques. Never mind that a time gap of more than forty years separate the Reading Life Saving Club (no longer in existence) from the Ascot Life Men's Curry Club. The circumstance has always been the same. While all the others are engaged in conversation, I sit quietly by, taking it all in - unless the subject under discussion is one I'm particular interested in. 

The subject in discussion could be about football (soccer, England's national sport) along with type of car ownership, political issues, computer technology, project details or problems at work (office), money matters, or just general chit-chat - for example, some odd or amusing incidents which had added some colour to the otherwise mundane daily grind. Most of these had never aroused much interest. This could be because I know too little about the topic to make a worthy contribution into the conversation. Yet if there were just two of us - just one other person with me sitting at the bar table - then even for me, the most boring subject - football, car ownership, insurance, or intricate computer technology - these could still stir a healthy and lengthy conversation between the two of us. But never so well in a group.

Unless it's a topic that would stir my spirit. Such as Jesus Christ and the Bible, religion in general, travel, individual sports such as running and cycling, together with the triathlon, along with anything which can ignite a conversational spark whilst in company. So in a social group, Christian or secular, I tend to be the quiet one. Something I had noticed for decades and could not understand why. Neither could I cope with any notion of recording my voice on tape, like I did when I was a youth. This was because my accent is, and always have been, unusual. It has nothing to do with Italian origin as some had suggested. Listening to any Italian speak, sure enough, he may gesticulate wildly as a typical stereotype, but his tone of voice will not be unlike any other "normal" masculine accent. Then I wonder whether my social impediment and accent could have been linked with a prolonged bachelorhood. After all, I did not marry until I was 47 years old.

But having this accent has put me at a disadvantage. That is, what ever I say seems to have not been taken seriously by others. I even wonder whether, even in the subconscious, there may be a connection between disregard of both my vocal and written contribution and remaining quiet during a social. I eventually became aware there was something wrong when after our daughters were born, the health visitor made a reference about us to social services. To cut a long story short, our beloved girls were eventually taken for adoption. It was a shock which shook the very foundations of the Earth. And it was during the parental assessments prior to the adoption when a long session with a psychologist that a diagnosis was made. I discovered that I was on the mild end of the Autism Spectrum, with Asperger's Syndrome, or A.S.

Although I have already heard of A.S, I never suspected that I had it. Yet I could see straight away that this is the answer why I am who I am. But it could have been much worse. The other end of the spectrum, which is in the realm of severe autism, this often goes hand-in-hand with mental retardation, or slow-learning. If I had been there, then I wouldn't have been allowed out of the house (or institution) without constant supervision - let alone backpacking the world on my own! Instead, the psychologist also revealed a positive side of the assessment - that my intelligence quotient was high average - a trait common among men with Asperger's Syndrome.

This brings to mind a Christian friend of mine (not in my church). The psychologist, most likely the same person who assessed me, has revealed to him that he too has Asperger's Syndrome. A few years younger than me, his voice tone is rather high pitched and authoritative, which tend to stand out in a group conversation. And he remains single to this day, which might have been the reason for consulting a psychologist in the first place. But when it comes to intelligence, this man is way above me. Not only had he graduated at university with a maths degree and also being fluent in French, but his learning abilities has qualified him for Mensa membership. It is this high intelligent quotient and dual language that has enabled him to fit in a group social better than I could, because of his rich knowledge and impressive talk. His liking of sport tends to be towards badminton and squash rackets, the latter he regularly competed with me during the 1980's, around thirty years ago. But when it came to overseas trips, unlike me, he preferred the comfort and security of group travel, usually with the Christian holiday company Oak Hall.

But what I find rather remarkable is that although he is a Christian, he favours Evolution over Divine Creation. Of all his cleverness, I find this to be an anomaly. What is the actual cause of A.S. even experts cannot be certain. But it's most likely a genetic defect, either handed down at conception or maybe occurring during gestation (Mum lived in London whilst carrying me throughout 1952 - a city known for its thick smog before the Air Pollution Act of 1955 and the Clean Air Act of 1963 were passed). As a young boy, I recall the outside of nearby Victoria Station literally black with soot before 1963, when a massive clean-up programme got underway. If either the London smog played a role in the development of A.S. whilst in the womb, or whether it's a genetic defect handed down from either side of the family, then this must be more to having been a victim of Natural Selection rather than a beneficiary. In other words, the law of entropy at work with the downward trend from high-ordered complexity of initial Creation, to a state of disorder and degeneration of the genome. This seems to fly in the face of Darwinism rather than support it. Yet despite such obvious evidence, my Christian friend still believes in the gradual upward trend of biological and genetic evolution.

Which brings to mind the Holy Scriptures. The psychologist has noted that people with A.S. has a greater tendency to lean towards spiritual matters, and likely to be more accepting of religion. And here is where I believe the Bible has played a major role in development of intelligence. When I wore the school tie during the sixties, not only did I suffer from A.S. - even if this was still unrecognised back then - but I was further down the spectrum. That is to say I was a slow learner, although not to the level of retardation, since I was still allowed to be out and about without supervision. During Spring of 1968, I left school without any qualifications, a status which "condemned" me to a life of unskilled manual labour.

It was less than five years after throwing out the school tie that something occurred towards the end of 1972. Some time afterwards, I voluntarily enrolled for evening classes at a local college. The first subject I took on was General Certificate of Education: Ordinary Level, or G.C.E. "O" Level English Language. I passed the exam which I should have left school with. Later I decided to give Geography a try. Again I walked away with another G.C.E. certificate under my arm. If only I kept up the motivation. I could have walked out of college with a biology certificate, and maybe a history or physics certificate as well, which either along with the other two, could have qualified me for a clerical occupation - a massive step in vocational progress. However, in both these cases I had already flown the nest to set up home in a bachelor's apartment, therefore there was nobody else at home with me to urge me on. Yet I still passed both exams. But I didn't believe that mere maturing of the mind as I grew older was the only groundwork, although this most likely have played a part as well. Instead, over the years I became convinced that in addition there was another factor which played an important role.

Constant reading of the Bible since conversion to Jesus Christ in December 1972 has without a doubt played a major role in the heightening of intelligence quotient. Perhaps I could be wrong in this, but according to years of observation, there seems to be a definite connection between Bible reading and higher I.Q. This applies to others as well as to myself. And this also applies to atheists alongside believers. For example, famous atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins knows his Bible well. By his own admission, he sat through Christian assemblies during his school days when he attended Oundle Public School in Northamptonshire, known for its affiliation with the Anglican Church. There he embraced Christianity until about age sixteen, when after reading Bertrand Russell's book Why I'm Not A Christian, he began to believe that the works of Charles Darwin to be far more to his liking than Holy Scripture. Although without a doubt, Dawkins was most likely to have been born with a high average I.Q. - I wouldn't put it past him that Bible knowledge gained throughout his school days had enhanced his quotient.

Christopher Hitchens is another example of an Independent School student. From thirteen years of age he attended the Methodist-affiliated Leys Boarding School in Cambridge, where Christianity was the central core of all education. Along with attending services held at the school chapel several times a week including Sundays, Hitchens must have accumulated much knowledge of Holy Scripture before attending Balliol College in Oxford. Unfortunately the raising of his I.Q. by studying the Bible resulted in setting against Holy Scripture from which later this author wrote books such as God Is Not Great, and The Portable Atheist, along with his other writings, including his critique over the British fetish with the Royal Family. Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, along with Sam Harris, and not to forget Bertrand Russell, all with brilliant intellects. All these academics have demonstrated a high familiarity with Holy Scripture and thorough knowledge of the Bible, as revealed in their books.

Among Christians, the vast majority of British Christian males of my age range and younger, according to my own observation across a time span of over forty years, have attended grammar school, followed by university graduation and then successfully holding down a profession. A large percentage of Christian men who held degrees were raised in Christian homes, although this does not rule out a minority of graduates with non-believing parents who made it into university and were converted there. But in general, I have found that children growing up in Christian homes and are fully familiar with the Bible are more likely to attend grammar schools followed by university graduation. This seems to be endorsed by the presence of the Christian Union, a student-run group found in all colleges and looks be be popular and well-attended. In turn, I have known men who were converted to Christ later in life but still retained their manual jobs. Two builders I once knew were in this group, along with myself who was converted at twenty years of age yet had never graduated. But apart from these, working-class men are very far and few-between within a typical English church.

If I'm right about what I have seen over the years, then although a vast majority of present-day undergraduates are unbelievers, far more Christians, along with those familiar with the Bible are likely to graduate than those who don't. And Christians who never made it into university are those more likely having met their Lord later in life. What I have observed over the years looks to have backed up my own assessment that reading the Bible and becoming familiar with it has the potential of raising the reader's Intelligence Quotient.

Nevertheless, I was never set free from Asperger's Syndrome. It's still there. But not only being familiar with Holy Scripture has raised my I.Q. but has provided spiritual strength for us as a couple to pass through the fires of Hell when our daughters were taken away from us, yet Hell was unable to break us. Our marriage remains strong and robust. Each day I want to love my wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for it. A sacrificial love for my wife emanating the love Christ has for his people. Today I attended a friend's wedding (yes, both bride and groom were Christian graduates - an inspiration for this blog). During the public prayer section of the ceremony, I exhorted them to read their Bibles every day. Read their Bibles every day and feast on the goodness of God's holy Word, and Hell will always remain powerless to break them or destroy their marriage. 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Wisdom of Sun Seekers...

One particular day in an English town of Gotham, a group of men were rejoicing when they erected a fence around a bush on which on one of its branches a cuckoo was perched.
"Now you can sing for us!
But the bird took off and flew away without a single note sung.
"Oh dear. We did not make the fence high enough."
The official who witnessed the incident rebuked them with the words:
"You fools! Don't you realise that the bird would fly away no matter how high the fence is?"
"Dear me! We never thought about that!"

The official walked further along, and eventually came to a brook where twelve men had spent the day fishing. As some were wading into the water, they decided upon a head-count to ensure nobody had drowned. But as one counted all the others, he did not count himself, and therefore numbered eleven only. The passing official asked if there was a problem. 
"Yes there is! Twelve of us came here this morning, but there are only eleven of us now. One of us must have drowned!"
Then the official instructed, "Do another head-count."
Each of the men counted the others except himself, and each time the number came up to eleven.
"What will you give me to find your missing brother?"
"An agreed sum of money."
The official snapped his whip across the shoulders of each man present whilst counting each one until the full twelve was reached.
"There is your missing brother."
Oh thank you sir! Thank you for finding our missing brother!"

The next day the official came across a trader who was on his way to the market, pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with round blocks of cheese. One of the cheeses fell off the barrow and began to roll down the hill.
"Well I wonder! Why should I carry you all the way to the market if you can make your own way there?"
 The official then watched the man empty the barrow of the cheeses, and each one rolled down the hill, one at one direction, another at another direction until they were all out of sight, whilst others made their way towards the bushes where they came to rest. Feeling optimistic, he then declared to the official,
"These cheeses have certainly gone far. I guess they know where to find the market by themselves."
He then called out:
I'll see you all at the market!
But as he arrived at the market, he saw no sign of any of his merchandise. He spent the rest of the day there looking for his cheese blocks, strolling along the rows of stalls in the hope of meeting his stock, and even asking other stallholders whether they have seen any of his cheese come this way, but as far as the officials were aware, this fellow never saw his cheeses again.

So all the officials, who were scattered around the town, returned to King John, and told him everything they had seen and heard, for there were several other foolish acts which took place in Gotham which were witnessed by all of them. The king was indeed amused by it all.

Much fiction has been made about King John, son of King Henry II of England. King John reigned for seven years between April 1199 until his death in 1216. These stories were based on real history. One of his historic campaigns was to raise revenue to fund his efforts to reclaim the French province of Normandy after Philip II's invasion of the land in 1204. One way to raise such funds was through heavy taxation of his subjects. And that is where the above three stories of the men of Gotham fits in. King John, hated by many, was to pass through Gotham in order to reach Nottingham, a few miles to the north. By checking Google Maps, Gotham does exist in real life. It is a small town south of Nottingham, and a road from the south passes through on the way north to the city.

And so when the citizens of Gotham heard that their king was to pass through their town, they were immediately alarmed. Their fear that any financial security they had enjoyed was under threat of taxation, and therefore they cut down trees to lay across the road, forming an adequate barrier blocking the monarch's progress. Angry, he returned to London while his ambassadors remained in Gotham to both assess their tax potential and to have the blockade dismantled. And while such assessments were made, these officials came across such foolishness among the town's residents. They reported the matter to the king, who in turn laughed and promised not to disturb a town of fools.

Their ploy had worked. Rather than being foolish, instead they were at their height of wisdom. Their incomes remained safe from the heavy tax burden King John had levied on the rest of the nation.

Wind forward over eight hundred years and at present there seem to be another apparent act of foolishness which was reported nationwide through the media. That is in a story of a hotel by the Atlantic Ocean. Indeed, as I write, the first weekend of August - and in the midst of the holiday season - little wonder that I have heard of this time of the year being "the silly season". A story appeared in a national newspaper this week of how all the guests in a hotel all got up early each morning to reserve their sunbeds by the poolside by throwing their towels on them before filing into the restaurant for breakfast. Hotel Servatur Waikiki in Gran Canaria opens its doors for access of the pool precisely at 8.00 every morning. In readiness of this opening, a crowd of mainly British sun-seekers are waiting. As soon as the doors are open, it is a literal stampede to the better located sunbeds for reservation before breakfast. A towel is thrown on a chosen sunbed, and its owner returns to the hotel until later. A whole stampede - not of cattle - but of grown-up humans! 

They give a wise word of wisdom. First, if these sunbeds are left free until mid-morning, they would find them all taken by their rival German tourists. Secondly, because the UK have such drab Summers, there was a national medical report about a threat of low levels of Vitamin D, a vital health sustainer mainly sourced from sunshine. Although I have not come across any cases of rickets, nevertheless, to have a lack of Vitamin D is certainly not nice to health, and could even lead to cancer and cardiac problems, as well as weak bone structure and muscle pain. And so, blessed with such information, sun-seekers desperate for that much-need sunshine ensure that they get it, stampede notwithstanding! After all, two weeks of sunshine out of fifty-two weeks of the year of constantly miserable British weather is a must-have. And therefore I tend to wonder how many times such scenarios are repeated in sunshine spots, especially around the Mediterranean as well as at the Canary Islands.

The Hotel Servatur Waikiki has five hundred beds, according to the media, and there are only 150 sunbeds. Indeed for the need of a pre-breakfast stampede. What a contrast, for example, to the hotel where Alex and I spent our tenth wedding anniversary in the Greek island of Rhodes. I recall the first morning after our arrival when we decided to visit the poolside. We were the only two people there. The few sunbeds which were around the poolside were all vacant. Having the entire swimming pool to ourselves at eight in the morning was a dream-come-true - before mid-morning, which by then the area was crowded with British tourists. 

But then, that's not the point. Pardon me if I seem to lack wisdom here, but if sunbathing to boost Vitamin D is so crucial, then I cannot work out why such a need for a sunbed is so necessary if there is a beach so close by. And I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are more sunbeds awaiting hire - Wait! That's it! Sunbeds awaiting hire. That means paying extra for a day's use of the sunbed. That was how it was like in Greece. The entire beach lined with sunbeds which has to be paid for. We Brits don't like that. An all-inclusive holiday should mean exactly that - every facility already paid for. No surcharges. No extras. Yet we went to a Greek island three times: twice to Rhodes and once to Kos, and if I recall, we only used the beach sunbed twice - once in Rhodes at a resort of Lindos, some miles away from our hotel, and once at Kos. Generally, sunbeds are far from a necessity whilst away from home. A short walk along the beach and there is always a suitable spot somewhere to lay down the towel. And some of these spots are among rocks which adds a touch of drama to the scenery, as well as greater chance of avoiding sand lodging between our toes, which is often why I find sandy beaches irritating.

Then again, the idea of spending the whole day on a sunbed, whether at our hotel or at the beach, has never been my thing. Maybe once in a while, but certainly not every day. There are far more fulfilling ways to spend a vacation than just sunbathing. That is to check out the environment we found ourselves in. A bit of exploring, sightseeing - even if it means standing in a crowded bus or train. To walk through an archaeological site, to admire the tropical or Mediterranean flora making up a beautiful garden, to hike a trail passing through spectacular environment - whether its a waterfall cascading through a rain forest, admiring a mountain range, snorkelling over a coral reef, or hiking through a desert populated with cactus - or craning my neck inside a beautiful cathedral. And there is always room for fun - swimming in the sea or pool, a ride on a roller-coaster, enjoying some nightlife without the need for alcoholic intoxication. Such life-enriching activities to be enjoyed without the need to stampede for a hotel sunbed.  

Cairns, Australia 1997 - on a ferry to the Great Barrier Reef

And perhaps that was why before I married, package hotel holidays were anathema to me. Back in those days I would have shunned such hotels for the backpacker's hostel, a double bedroom for a dormitory bunk-bed, ranger-led tours for a map or guidebook, and a luxury coach for a hiking trail. From single-destination trips to go-as-you-please independent multiple-stop itineraries. Even after we married, trips abroad was far more to do with sightseeing than chasing a sunbed. To sum up: a fulfilling trip while still soaking in the sun. And an album of interesting, memory-enhancing photos.

And all this has made me ask: I wonder what Jesus Christ would have said or done had he found himself surrounded by a crowd of people about to stampede to the poolside, all in a rush to grab a sunbed? Interesting point. Coming to think of it, I wonder how he would have made out with the people of Gotham during the start of the Thirteenth Century? Would he had commended them for their shrewdness? Or exhorted them to pay their burdening taxes to an egocentric king? Or would he have made a comparison between the wisdom shown by these Thirteenth Century men of Gotham with the present horde of sun-seekers out to grab a sunbed?

I guess I already know what to do in this present-day situation. Stay in bed until it's time to file down for breakfast. Then shower and have breakfast before planning where to go for the day. As for the sunbeds, leave us out. Let them have them. They are welcome to them. While they stampede, we head off to the bus stop or railway station.