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Entering the Kingdom on holiday

by
02 November 2006

The child psychologist Dr Tanya Byron is one of those celebrity experts thahas made a whole bunch of TV programmes dealing with difficult kids. I havseen a few of them, but I can't quite take her seriously. To me, she wilalways be the wicked witch. I am always the prince, my brother the fearsomdragon, and her sister the beautiful princess.

No, you don't need to reach for your Freud. Every year throughout mchildhood, Tanya's family and my family would go on holiday to Frinton, wherthe kids would make up a play for the adults. Summer after summer, we enjoyehours of haggling over casting, costume design, and rehearsals - and then thchaos of performance, utterly incoherent to the audience of delighted adultsThey were the magic moments of my childhood.

Now, more than 30 years later, I am in Frinton with my kids, enjoying sunsand, and Scrabble. We spend hours making up games and talking wondrourubbish. I have just spent half an hour helping to compile a league-table ocrisps, and refereeing a hot debate over the respective merits of Quavers anWotsits.

Recently, there has been a running debate in the letters' pages of thipaper on the question of whether a priest is, first and foremost, called to bor to do. I tend instinctively to side with the doers. After all, isn't "beinga theology of lolling around, achieving nothing? What rubbish is that - we havpews to fill. Given views like this, it's little wonder I have a reputatiowith my family for not liking holidays.

Yet, halfway through this one, I remember why holidays are so importantLike many clerics, I am often too task-orientated. At worst, this means that try to convert everything (and I guess that often includes people) into toolsin the pursuit of certain ends. It's quite a confession: sometimes, even mmost precious relationships get driven by instrumentality.

But it is only now, arguing rubbish with my kids, that I spot it. Holidayare not best understood as recharging one's batteries so as to make us moreffective at work - the instrumentalist view of them. Surely it is better tthink of them as reminding us of a world beyond all talk of effectiveness anleague tables. A disputation over crisps returns me to a world of joy ansimplicity, unencumbered by success. Perhaps that is why Jesus says that unlesyou see the world like little children, you won't enter the Kingdom of heave

The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Team Rector of Putney, and lecturer iphilosophy at Wadham College, Oxford.

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