CARLSBAD, OCEANSIDE &
This is not the place to dwell on the events of the past few weeks, save to say we are deeply saddened to have lost a second very special person in our lives. My much loved and only brother Toby passed away on Saturday after a short but courageous battle with pneumonia. It was my privilege to be holding his hand throughout those last long days, hours and minutes. Toby had mastered the challenges of Downs Syndrome for 51 years through his wicked sense of humour and his unbounded love for everyone. He lived at the centre of his own vortex of love, giving it unconditionally and limitlessly and receiving the same in return. There was a great deal to learn from his life and we shall miss him more than anyone will ever know.
Now back together in California, we are having some 'down time', recovery time almost, in a strange desert hideaway called Sam's Family Hot Springs RV Park, just outside Palm Springs, re-energizing after a harrowing month.
To return to the blue Californian skies after two weeks in the English winter is therapy in itself, as is the ability to soak in the four hot spring baths that are a feature of this resort. But most importantly it is a time for us to regroup. To be able share time together once more significantly lightens the heavy burden of unfathomable sadness that we have endured in recent weeks.
We had not been impressed by Oceanside, a plain seaside town with a nice beach and interesting pier but little else. Nuff said.
Nearby Carlsbad, however, has much more style and much more of interest. In the 1880s a former sailor John Frazier dug down into the ground and, eureka, up sprung water out of the arid sand. This was almost worth its weight in gold in this barren area and so he started selling it at the local train stop which became known as Frazier's Station. A test then proved the water had all the properties of that found in other spa towns around the world. For a few years, homes and businesses sprouted up on a ride of optimism, as agriculture flourished and people flocked to the seaside resort. Unfortunately the good times didn't last long. Today it retains a brushstroke of historic charm and some of the buildings resonate those heady days of the late 19th century. There is a splendid path overlooking the long beach, which, being California, you have to share with self-righteous joggers and daftly-dressed cyclists; the most dangerous threat however comes from those mums running while pushing their tricycle push-chairs each carrying a small child who stares back in bemusement at the ridiculous and bouncing antics of its panting mother.
We had explored along the coast further south towards San Diego, visiting the golf courses at La Jolla, the racecourse at Del Mar and the wealthy houses of the rich and famous that line up on the edge of the Pacific.
Now we have headed inland to Palm Springs. We have not started our probing of all the stubborn little corners of the surrounding desert yet and we shall report on our findings in the next blog. There's Joshua Tree National Park, the Coachella Valley (home to the famous music festival), the inland Salton Sea sitting ominously on the San Andreas Fault and the hillside tour of the homes of the movie stars; Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Bob Hope, Elvis Presley, Sonny & Cher and even the flamboyant Liberace have lived here and many of their names are etched Hollywood-style in stars on the sidewalk downtown.
Apparently there used to be a 'two-hour rule' laid down by the film studios whereby the actors could not stray more than two hours away in case they were called back. Palm Springs falls within that restriction and hence its popularity with the movie glitterati.
We have also discovered how the world spins... it is obviously driven by the propellers on the forest of wind machines that surround us.
So we shall leave this quick update there for now. There is so much to come. The energy will soon be flowing again after an extremely difficult, not to mention exhausting, month. There is so much still to see and our zest for exploration will never be diminished.
Make no mistake, we love our old home country. In the Summer, with its glorious countryside, the hundreds of classic chocolate-box villages, those welcoming old pubs, it truly is God's country. And to top it all you can get kippers for breakfast - joy beyond joy. However, a trip back to Britain at this time is not so much depressing - immersed as it is in its winter gloom, embroiled in the endless Brexit fiasco and constantly apologizing for its past, while all the time dumbing down and denouncing what was once great - as simply disappointing. It is, of course, still 'this throne of kings, this sceptered isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden, demi-paradise' that Shakespeare's Richard II described... but only in places. And so many faces sadly no longer display 'this happy breed of men' but mostly look bloody miserable.
One of the reasons for this is the completely unchallenged conquest of political correctness over reasoned, tolerant free-thinking. If you even talk about, say, 'foreign people' or any minority group, then the voices whisper in sotto voce for fear of the ears of the fascist Left's Big Brothers overhearing you. State almost any opinion on a myriad of subjects and you will get an immediate 'you can't say that' reaction in words or looks. While I was there, the former Conservative Home Secretary Amber Rudd was on the radio denouncing the vile abuse and trolling that some women get on Twitter and other online platforms. In particular, she strongly condemned the vicious attacks on an opposition black Labour MP, the ridiculous Diane Abbott, and other 'colored women'. Immediately, the fragrant Ms Abbott launched a relentless attack on her nemesis saying that she was a nasty, bigoted racist to use the term 'colored women' when it should be 'women of color'. She ignored the fact that the slip-up was packaged within an impassioned speech in support of Ms Abbott. Ms Rudd apologized. Ms Abbott rejected her apology. It is hard to keep up with what words are the latest on the ‘abusive’ list. If divisions are to be healed and differences reconciled, tolerance and forgiveness have to be at the forefront. The world has gone mad.
I then picked up a copy of my old newspaper, the Daily Mail, to read that the body that oversees junior gymnastics has instructed that boys who choose to adopt the opposite gender into which they were born and dress as girls must be permitted to use the women's changing rooms. The gymnastic PC mandarins also added that coaches must not discuss this with parents and, if any real girl objects, then it is she who must find 'alternative arrangements'. To find a separate changing room for the 'transgenderers' would be segregation. Crazy. But the real shock of this story is not the story itself, but the complete absence of any objection or a counter-view, with absolutely no-one prepared to stand up and challenge the new diktat. It is all suppressed under the extremist cloak of PC indoctrination. I never thought I'd say it but getting back to Trump's Land of the Free is positively liberating. Freedom of speech and thought is under attack. This is not old-fashioned bigotry. Thankfully, society has moved on, with an understanding and acceptance of minority groups who were until recently persecuted for being different from the norm.
But there have to be limits. A man putting on a frock and choosing to spend his sentence in a women's prison or sharing the ladies' shower room is just plain potty. For us it puts the cross into cross-dressing.
More next week...