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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Gone Down the Tube.

A number of years ago, I read a contribution in a Reader's Letters page in a daily national newspaper one morning before leaving my apartment to go to work. The writer was a middle-age housewife who was on her way home on foot from an errand. On her route she passed an otherwise deserted play park, as all the children were at school. Deserted, that is, except for a police officer who was on duty and in his full uniform. Looking around to make sure no one (so he thought) was watching, he climbed the steps to one of those newfangled stainless steel spiral slides which, back then, had just come into fashion among the swings, climbing frames and other more traditional playground apparatus - a smaller version of the fun fair helter-skelter. Then she watched as this officer of the law was having a whale of a time sliding down that thing while she carried on home giggling to herself.

Or on another occasion, also recorded in a newspaper, during one late evening a fully grown man was seen getting into a shopping trolley parked outside a supermarket located on the summit of a steep hill. He then rode down the hill at speed whilst sitting in the trolley. Or a case of an author when he was still a young boy. On Christmas Eve he sneaked into a cupboard to see a model aeroplane kit in its packing case. But astonishingly enough, he totally forgot about the plane on that Christmas morning, and it was many years later that he approached his mother to ask whatever happened to the model aeroplane.

She burst out laughing, then recalled how the boy's father had waited until late at night, after his children had gone to bed, that he sneaked into the cupboard to assemble the model. He took it outside towards the beach to fly it out. It had flown out alright, out to sea and lost it forever! Perhaps this is why there are many fathers who buy their sons an electric train set for Christmas. So they can play with it themselves, especially with the challenge of laying out the tracks and then watch the train whirl around the oval layout. Such an item is far, far more exciting than the two or three pairs of dull, mundane socks, or even the brand new neck-tie his wife bought as a present to add to his ever-growing collection of either items. I guess fathers who has sons, or even uncles of nephews, are the more fortunate ones during the Christmas season. I never had sons or nephews. So I recall the annual nightmare of attempting to buy presents for my nieces. None of these gifts went down that well with the recipients, and I recall at least a couple of Christmas days when I put on an expression of forced joy to cover my disappointment as I glance at the new but ill-fitting clothing given to me as presents.

Then supposing the actions of a man's shadow reveals exactly what is in his heart. Then imagine a middle-aged suited City gentleman sitting in the commuter train, deep into reading his Financial Times newspaper. On the outside, nobody would give him a second glance. But his shadow would reveal him creeping to the inside of the door, and scrawl his name in indelible ink to add to the graffiti already defacing the surface. If only the carriage was otherwise completely empty, with nobody looking. It would be interesting to know how far he would resist such a temptation before succumbing. And he would not be alone. Because I recall my college days around 1970 in Central London. Before boarding the train home, I managed to reach the exposed beach at the River Thames during low tide. On the bank-side wall I scrawled my name in huge letters in the algae which carpeted the wall. It could be seen clearly from across the river. But what I did was not technically illegal, neither did it attract anyone to take appropriate action.

It's the boy in every man. The want of something exciting to distract from the daily humdrum of life with its responsibilities. And so the day came when the Coral Reef Waterworld finally re-opens after nearly two years of closure for a complete refurbishment. Coral Reef Waterworld is a leisure pool, featuring a rather poor representation of Mt. Vesuvius and the ruins of Pompeii, a pirate ship, a lazy river and a couple of jacuzzis, along with an outdoor section for warm Summer days. But before the refurbishment, its main attraction were the three flumes, or waterslides of various speeds, from fast to gentle. Although the leisure pool itself is geared for families, the Sauna World has always been for adults only, at a suite occupying a building of it own but still attached to the main venue. I am fortunate enough to live very close to the attraction. It was where I always went to every Saturday morning for a sauna. The boy in the man. After a week of physical work cleaning windows, for me at least, nothing is more exhilarating than to relax in the steam room, followed by the sauna.   

Coral Reef Leisure Pool before refurbishment.

And so after twenty-two months of closure, once more I was able to return. But with the weekends and school holidays to be avoided as much as possible. For recent reviews tells of massive queues, with waiting up to two hours just to get in, along with further queuing to use the five brand new flumes which will guarantee a far more of a knuckle ride than the original three. Therefore as one retired from work and with plenty of time on my hands, what could be better than to wait until all the children are back at school, then go during off-peak times during the middle of the week? And so back into the refurbished steam room and sauna. And then, at tea time, I had to try out those five waterslides. 

I recall the time I was at Spring Harvest Bible festival at Minehead in Somerset. There was an indoor swimming pool with flumes there as well. And during a recreational period between seminars, whilst swimming, I overheard one lifeguard shout to another that no way would he use the waterslides, especially on his own, because it would make him feel a prat. He had a point. The flumes were meant for families. So a father and son or daughter was fine. Even two or three young men laughing and having a whale of a time seems okay. And it was fine for a child on his own too. But an adult on his own? Rather silly, isn't it?

Coral Reef flume exterior.

These were the thoughts I had to overcome this week when I allowed my curiosity over these new flumes overcome any feelings of self reserve. This little boy in the man had to come out, or else he would be rather miserable otherwise. So after I had finished with the sauna, I went down all five tubes. Three of them were truly knuckle rides, and I even let out a yell of surprise in two of them. I enjoyed them so much, I had a second go in all of them, making ten rides overall. And I could not have picked a better time than when I did. During weekday evenings families normally don't come here so soon after school. Instead they settle down for dinner, TV and homework. Therefore each ride followed another without any waiting in between. I went home thoroughly fulfilled. I guess the only difference between the police officer in the children's playground and myself was that I did not fear being spotted by my boss whilst on duty!

I believe that any psychologist would advice all men to let the boy within them out, whatever form that would take. Knuckle flume rides are great, but once the novelty has worn off, I'll be attending the sauna suite only, like I did before the refurbishment. But generally speaking, the boy in the man takes many forms, particular among "adult" activities, whether it's riding a Harley Davidson along a straight desert road (in the USA), revving up the car engine at red lights, or something more sedate such as out fishing or playing golf with the boys. As one housewife once said to her daughter-in-law after her husband arrives home with a brand new motorbike, and that was, The only difference between a man and a boy is that the man's toys are more expensive. Or in my case - travel - including hiking into the Grand Canyon, standing on the lip of an active volcanic crater or snorkelling among tropical coral reefs. Or doing a burn-up on a hired bicycle in California, or meditating at a children's playground in Australia whilst riding back and forth on a swing. All these were ways I let the little boy within me have his way.

I am very fortunate to have a very understanding wife. She too have seen videos of these flumes at Coral Reef Waterworld, and she expressed her longing to have a try at them herself, but unable to because of her disability. Not only is the tower have only stairs and no lift, but the rides themselves could easily do her back in, resulting in an ambulance trip to hospital. But when I told her that evening how much I enjoyed sliding down those tubes after the sauna, she was elated. Knowing what's best for me, she has always been aware that to let out the boy in me is one of the best therapeutics I can have, other than spiritual matters.

Off-duty Coral Reef lifeguards having fun

And that is coming from one who is a tomboy herself. When she was young she went camping with the church youth group. She loved it. But she has admitted that she would have preferred to be among the boys, sitting around the campfire whilst watching meat rotate slowly over the fire on a spit as it gradually roast to perfection. Because of her love for the Great Outdoors, I bought a used tent from one of my window cleaning customers, and with it, we went camping for quite a number of occasions. But camping has always been more for her. I've always preferred hosteling.

And this is where I believe that among married couples, it is essential for the wife to allow her husband to let his boyhood out. For her to stifle his boyhood desires and restricting his activities would put a strain on the marriage, leaving him in a state of frustration. There is nothing wrong with saunas, nothing wrong in having fun, there is nothing wrong with a married man going out for an evening with the boys. At least not according to my experience. Because, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31.

Doing it all for the glory of God. I think this makes a world of a difference when it comes to recreation. The sauna is a good example of this attitude. I go to the sauna for a therapeutic cleansing of the skin and to improve muscle tone and blood circulation. These are beneficial to the body. It's okay, there is nothing bad about any of that. But to some, there may be a bad connotation with the idea of the sauna. For example, the LGBT community may perceive the sauna as a gay pick-up, a cruising site and same-sex exploitation. And such seedy sites do exist, especially in bigger cities. But not at Coral Reef Waterworld, which is geared to the family. Interestingly enough, the Apostles lived and carried their message across the Roman world. And throughout the empire public baths were very frequently found. For example, just before its destruction in AD 79, the city of Pompeii had up to three separate public baths, each one the equivalent of today's sauna suite. They normally consisted of the Calidarium, or hot steam room, the Laconicum, or dry heat as with the present sauna, and the Frigidarium, a cold pool or room. This together with changing rooms and other conveniences, were often located together with the Palaestra, or exercise yard, often complete with the Natatio, or swimming pool. Indeed, the ancient Roman leisure centre was hardly different from our own facilities, but not a word from the apostle forbidding believers to use them.

Instead the Apostles warns every believer to flee from immorality, which includes all kinds of sexual perversion. Also in Pompeii, there were bars selling alcohol with brothels on the upper floors. Maybe this was what the apostles discouraged. Along with drunkenness and prostitution, I can imagine all kinds of carousing and "fleshly desires" fulfilled. Instead, the baths were places where not only for cleansing, but also a venue for where various discussions took place, along with business contracts made, together with general socialisation. There is even a tradition which I once read. According to this legend, the Apostle John was bathing at one of these Roman bath suites when someone he knew walks in. This fellow has a reputation for blaspheming Jesus Christ and insisting that he was just an impostor. Immediately John dresses and walks out. As Paul had written, What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness, or light with darkness, or Christ with Belial, or believers with unbelievers?
2 Corinthians 6:14-17.

In this case John walks out because this intruder was not an interested inquirer, nor a honest doubter whose faith could have been reversed by John's presentation of the Gospel. But instead, this fellow had heard the Gospel, and probably for a while even tasted the heavenly gift, even shared in the Holy Spirit and had tasted the good word of God, and of the things to come (Hebrews 6:4-6) but had never changed his mind to the Gospel and believed, and by the process of hardening of his heart, his original unbelief has metamorphosed into hatred of Christ, his Apostles, and the Gospel.

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

And we must not let this piece of advice go down the tube of unbelief.


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