It’s wonderful these days to be blessed with beautiful weather and there is no doubt that the sunshine lifts people’s spirits, and that’s a good thing. Having said that, I have to confess to being one of those unfortunates who, with vampire-like tendencies, has to avoid the sun at all costs, otherwise I will perish. A sunshine holiday would be a nightmare as, even here in Scotland, I splash on the 50+ children’s sun protection, and have to wear floppy hats with crystals in the rim to keep the rays of the sun away from the top of my rather bald head.
These precautions have been learned from bitter experience. My first ever trip abroad was when I was 18 years of age. Our curate in Drumchapel brought a group of us in a mini-bus across the channel and down through France where we stopped in various places and eventually ended up in Lourdes for a short pilgrimage. From there we travelled over the Pyrenees into Spain, to a camp site in Lloret de Mar, where we intended to spend a week before making the homeward journey. On the first day, after pitching our tents, we headed down to the beach. The sky was overcast so there didn’t look too much to worry about. However, that night, I found myself tossing and turning in my sleeping bag, unable to lie on my back, and eventually going to sit in the mini-bus. In the morning I discovered that my back was burnt and covered in blisters, the worst of which were on my shoulders and the size of golf balls. I spent the next three days only coming out at night until a group of Irish nurses, staying in the same camp site, heard of my plight and cured me by agonisingly rubbing gallons of vinegar into my back and shoulders which, despite the pain, did the trick.
My next experience was on the Isle of Barra where I went on holiday with friends for about six years running, meeting up with another friend who was teaching on the island. For most of those years the sun wasn’t something we had to worry about too much, except for one year, when the temperatures soared into the 80’s, and I got too much sun on the top of my head, suffering serious sun stroke in the process, with all the headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, cramps and nausea that go with it; certainly not a pleasant experience.
You would think that by then I had learned my lesson, but no, some years later I was on holiday on Achill Island, on the west coast of Ireland. One of the many beautiful bays there is called Keem Bay, famous for its basking sharks, and on a scorching sunny day I went for a gentle dip in the water. I’m not much of a swimmer so I didn’t stay in long. I went back to a sheltered area of the bay and covered every part of my body to sit awhile and read – every part except for my feet. This resulted in the most agonizing sunburn ever. My feet swelled up and there wasn’t much the local doctor could do. I ended up driving back to Dublin in flip-flops, from where I was due to fly home to Glasgow for my second week’s holiday. Still in my flip-flops I made it back to Drumchapel. Over the week a kindly cousin, who was a nurse, came in and tended to me each day. Even so, I was still wearing my flip-flops when, after the week at home, I travelled to Trosly in France where I had to meet with the wonderful and saintly Jean Vanier on behalf of a handicapped association I was involved with. It was an encounter I will never forget but it would have been better without the burnt feet. Hopefully the lessons have all been learned, at last, and I have finally got some sense.
The log will be taking a break now for July and August so that I can give my brain a rest – and enjoy the sunshine! Here are words from scripture, spoken to John the Baptist by his father, in praise of Christ, the Rising Sun: And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most-High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the Rising Sun will come to us from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”