A breath of best air
TAKING the cure, they used to call it, in the heady days before wellness spas. It meant to bathe in health-giving springs, particularly in places such as New Zealand, the first country to operate a ministry of tourism. Its department of tourist and health resorts was established in Rotorua in 1901 and within its promotional spiel was the claim that mineral waters were so miraculous that ‘‘cripples throw away their crutches . . . the gouty man regains his health’’.
Old-fashioned feelgood holidays also meant heading for the hills, where higher altitude promised air as crisp as crackers and big views to lift one’s spirits. In the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, they once sold invigorating air in cans, so in times of wheezy need back down on the plains you could tear the seal, gulp greedily and perhaps thump your oxygenated chest like a chimp.
Meanwhile, an entrepreneur in China has started spruiking canned fresh air ‘‘with atmospheric flavours’’ including ‘‘pristine Tibet’’ and sales of pollution masks are booming as Beijing hospitals report a sharp rise in respiratory-related admissions; last month, visibility in the capital dropped to record lows.
In all of this smoggy horror, there is surely a new marketing pitch for cruise companies — all that briny sea air is good for us. What could be more health-giving and happy-making than to be on the deck of an ocean liner, leaning on the rails, breathing deeply. Most cruise ships have a wraparound promenade deck so walkers and joggers can get plenty of unimpeded exercise. Unfortunately, some such circuits wind through the smoking zones in the recreation areas, which makes for a less healthy passage.
My strategy is always to promenade in the early evening, when the smokers and the funsters are in their cabins getting ready for dinner and the crew are stacking sun loungers. The sting is gone from the sun and the horizon is often blushed pink. Many passengers in the know do likewise, although the cans they hold to toast the sunset may not necessarily be full of fresh air.