An interview with the travel blogger Stuart Forster for his blog, Go Eat Do.
The feature is about ideas for a weekend visit to Chester but, with Halloween approaching, previews my new Dark Chester tours [pictured above].
The tours run Saturdays at 6pm and delve into the dark-tourism heritage of the city, exploring 2,000 years of plague, poltergeists and religious persecution.
Talking about St John’s Church, a Saxon site of worship from 689AD, I describe how:
“Cestrians, the people of Chester, call it ‘the thin church’. It’s a reference to the fact it’s one of those places in the city where the world we know, and another we can’t explain, is at its thinest point. It’s a place to step across the supernatural threshold.”
We also discuss, amongst others, the Chester Mystery Plays and the Chester Heritage Festival (both returning in June 2023).
Plus wider ideas for things to do and see during your visit.
* This story was first published in the Daily Mail.
Prince Charles, arriving at the Prince’s Trust Awards in March, was about to go for the handshake.
But, mindful of the new social distancing rules, he quickly improvised an off-the-cuff alternative.
He was then seen offering Ant and Dec, amongst others, a royal namaste, the traditional Hindu greeting putting palms together and fingers pointing up.
“I do it all the time,” he joked.
But the Prince may have a point. With social distancing here to stay, our familiar greetings are suddenly off limits.
Handshakes and hugs were amongst the first victims of the global pandemic.
Air kisses on a quarantine-free trip to France could be met with a gallic shrug, and the traditional Maori hongi, noses pressed together in greeting, consigned to the pages of history.
While both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump happily pressed the flesh pre-lockdown, some have called time on the handshake.
Anthony Fauci, a leading American public health official, told the Washington Post:
“I don’t think we should ever shake hands again, to be honest with you.”
It’s a hard habit to break, however.
The humble handshake featured in ancient Greek and Roman art as a symbol of peace.
Greeting gestures remain important to express genuine emotion with some 55 per cent of human communication attributed to body language by the psychology professor Albert Mehrabian.
Perhaps our travel experiences could offer a contact-free solution to the dilemma?
Looking to other countries, we find a ready supply of everyday greetings far more acceptable than the ham-fisted knuckle bump and the comical, so-called Wuhan shake foot-tap, which both appeared during the early days of lockdown.
The Asian countries are the natural choice to find new non-contact greetings.
For example, the Thai wai, whereby you bow the head and put palms together, is a traditional gesture of openness.
It’s popular throughout Southeast Asia and used in both prayer and dance as well as greetings.
Dr Sylvie Briand, Director of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases at the World Health Organisation recently tweeted her approval.
“We need to adapt to this new disease,” she wrote.
The formal bow, meanwhile, was introduced to Japan in the seventh century and remains de rigueur in a country that prides itself on adhering to social etiquette.
We could adopt this greeting for more formal settings with the degree of bow reflecting the respect and reverence you attribute to the other person.
Otherwise we should look to the Middle East for a more spiritual symbol.
Simply place the right hand on the heart, which is sacred in Islam as the seat of the soul, and say as-salaam alaikum, meaning “peace be upon you”.
Maybe, instead, it’s time for a radical rethink as part of the new world order.
The Hawaiian shaka sign, curling the middle three fingers while extending thumb and little finger, could be adopted beyond the surfing community, who know it as the ‘hang loose’ symbol.
More radical still is the Zambian ‘cup and clap’, whereby you cup your hands together and clap a couple of times while offering the greeting muli bwanji.
Sign of respect
Most viable of all, however, seems to be the traditional Hindu namaste, which is rapidly moving beyond the yoga mat to take centre stage.
The Sanskrit term, meaning ‘the highest in me salutes the highest in you’, is the natural successor to the handshake.
Besides, it’s good enough for the Dalai Lama.
And it’s far preferable to watching Health Secretary Matt Hancock close a Government press briefing with a Dr Spock-style Vulcan hand salute, staring down the camera with the words, “Live long and prosper.”
It seems Prince Charles may have inadvertently set a trend for us all to follow.
* This article first appeared in Telegraph Travel in time for Father’s Day. More on this theme from my book [pictured above], Inside Fatherhood.
We went to stay with Spanish friends during the last school holiday.
It worked well for a family trip with two other kids for my two girls to play with, the freedom of an unstructured routine and an insider sense of the local culture.
But, most of all, as a man who has travelled alone with his kids since they were young, there was another man there who both understood the challenges of modern fatherhood and shared my passion for showing his children the world.
I often struggle to find this kind of camaraderie on a family holiday.
The sense of isolation I have felt at times as a divorced father, who shares custody jointly with the girls’ mother, has made for some uncomfortable travel experiences.
It’s not the just practical aspects, such as who keeps an eye on the children while I go to the bathroom.
More frustratingly, a man alone with two little girls can be viewed with curiosity, sometimes suspicion.
Immigration officials at a major European airport once stopped us, asking to see birth certificates to prove the girls were actually my children.
More commonly, I’m subjected to other holidaymakers quizzing me about why I’m alone.
“Can I ask,” one relative stranger once enquired as I was nonchalantly loading my plate at the evening buffet, “is your wife dead?”
But I really spat the dummy when a restaurant manager rather publicly warned me not to take my youngest daughter, and then aged just five, into the gents.
“If she needs to go, then I’ll just have to take her to the ladies,” she bristled.
I politely suggested through gritted teeth that she should go and get a copy of her DBS certificate first.
So, as thoughts turn to celebrating our devoted dads for Father’s Day this weekend, isn’t time we gave single dads a break?