16 Aug 2018
We are in Switzerland. First impressions? We have a few. Cows are disappointingly not purple. In fact, if you were to give me a bovine identity parade I would struggle to pick out the Swiss ones from a home reared Hereford, though the neck bells really are a thing, so audibly they’re instantly recognisable.
We had been told that Switzerland is absolutely toe-curlingly, wallet-crunchingly, tear-inducingly expensive. We were told to buy everything in France beforehand. This rather goes against the grain for us. I once heard the Dutch described as “snails” by the French because they bring their whole life in their cars and never go shopping. That’s not something to aspire to, is it? Well, on arrival in Switzerland, I had a keen eye out for price differentials. Diesel was about 40% more than France, and 30% more than the UK. Well, I thought, Switzerland is more expensive but not in a way that will impoverish our family for generations.
But then it happened. We had been recommended a great water park on the edge of Lake Geneva. Mary reasoned that we should occasionally do something for the children, and I found her logic compelling. So off we went. Due to complications with needing change for the parking, I went on my own to buy the tickets. After the queue and the scrum through the busloads of youngsters, I got to the desk. I told her we were 2 adults, 2 children and a baby. She then gave me a price that was so large that I genuinely couldn’t speak. I wanted to blurt out, “Sorry, you’ve misunderstood, we only want to visit today not buy a piece of it and move in.” I then wanted to ask if the flumes gushed out liquid chocolate or mercury. Water is water. A flume is a flume. How expensive can it be?
The flumes were amazing. Mary said to me, “As I was stood at the top, looking down a hole that I was expected to throw myself down, I did wonder why I was about to do something I knew I wouldn’t enjoy”.
The day finished with my children and wife challenging me to the final, so far untested, flume. Indeed, it was the only flume my children had not done, and some of those they had done really did involve near-vertical drops. It was time for Dad to be brave. My challenge started with me stepping inside a sealed perspex box. Never a good sign of things to come. The attendant said something to me in French and then German. I grinned. In fear. She advised me to cross my arms on my chest. Presumably that way, I could be eased into my coffin at the end without inconvenience. The floor of the box then opened beneath me with a loud blast of compressed air. I fell. I tried to keep my eyes open. I couldn’t. I remember three things about the ride. Water was forced up both my nostrils, to the extent that my nose hurt. I fell a long way very quickly for a long time. It seemed to take ages to finish, given how far I was falling. I arrived in the pool at the bottom expecting to be laughed at by an assembled mass, because I felt like I had just been tortured while in a pair of tight fitting swimming shorts and then left in a shallow tank of water at the end.
We had a great day. We walked back to the car with fixed grins, endless stories of water based bravery and plenty of great memories. That moment of united pleasure doesn’t happen very often. So when it does, I don’t let the window of opportunity pass without obeying 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18!
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I am convinced that the water-filled, faintly frightening flumes were a great gift from God. He is the creator of the designers, the engineers, the staff as well as the bright colours, the whooshing water and the sound of wide-eyed screaming. As we drove away, each member of the family had no trouble gushing out three prayers of thanks. Thank the Lord for moments like this, where we don’t need to search for the reasons to rejoice. If only we had the eyes to see God’s goodness in the normality and the difficulties, so that we could truly rejoice always.
Incidentally, if you want to experience the same adrenaline rush for a fraction of the price; please strip down to your underwear, ask your children to blindfold you, tell them to drop you out of your bedroom window and then fire high pressure water pistols up your nose, before dumping you in their paddling pool.