Zillah Bethell was born in a leprosy hospital in Papua New Guinea, spent her childhood barefoot playing in the jungle, and didn’t own a pair of shoes until she came to the UK when she was eight.
She was educated at Oxford University and now lives in Wales with her family.
SWIMMING IN THE RAIN
Guest Post by Zillah Bethell
I grew up in Papua New Guinea which is kind of close to Neighbours and Home and Away territory. Tropical. Colourful. Third World. Sometimes I think the Third World is like a little snowglobe the First World likes to shake now and again and have a bit of a peer into before popping back on the shelf until the next Comic Relief day, Disaster appeal or TV advert.
What is a Third World? Well mine was a place where you didn’t get toys, you got crocodiles; you didn’t get television, you got the ocean; you didn’t get computer games, you got canoes; you didn’t get nail varnish, you got hibiscus petals; and you didn’t get sweets, you got paw paws.
I was lucky though. At least I got water. You know the stuff. Silvery, annoying, stops you going out. Comes out of a tap when you want it. Drips down your nose, steams up windows and creates muddy puddles. You don’t have to walk miles for it with a basin on your head and miles back with it slopping perilously out of the basin. You don’t have to dig for it. You can go to school without even thinking about it – other than the fact that the rain may have ruined your hairstyle. The worst thirsty you get is after two hours of PE and you’re desperate to buy a cool can of pop from a shop on the way home. Bliss.
Symptoms of dehydration:
- 5% loss of water – thirst, irritability, nausea, weakness
- 10% loss of water – dizziness, inability to walk, tingling limbs
- 15% plus – death
Our bodies are around 72% water. We humans are surprisingly watery beings! We can last weeks without food but only a few days without water.
Which is why water poverty kills over 1.5 million children a year. And according to the World Economic Forum water scarcity is the number 1 global risk factor. That means water shortages would have a more devastating impact on the world (all worlds, First included) than weapons of mass destruction, terrorist attacks and infectious diseases.
In my book The Extraordinary Colours Of Auden Dare I bring drought to the UK. To the land of umbrellas and roses. Think it won’t get to us? It’s already hit California and Arizona. Groundwater there is dropping fast and to make matters worse Saudi Arabia (having used up most of their water) is paying to pump up billions of gallons from the Arizona desert. Water is the new oil! The new commodity…
Water is now For Sale. That thing we take for granted. That thing we all have a right to. Maybe soon we’ll be buying it on the internet.
So the next time it rains, don’t hide away. Put on a coat and get out in it. If you’re lucky enough to live by the sea, go and have a surf or a swim in it. That was the best part of my childhood: swimming in the rain.
Auden Dare has a rare condition that means he cannot see in colour – and life is beginning to get harder for Auden. The war for water that is raging across the world is getting a little closer all the time. Everyone is thirsty all the time, and grubby, and exhausted. Auden has to learn to live without his father, who is away fighting, and has had to move to a new town and start a new school. But when he meets Vivi Rookmini, a smiling girl bright with cleverness, his hopes begin to lift.
Auden and his mother have moved into the old cottage of his recently-dead scientist uncle, Professor Jonah Bloom. It soon becomes clear that Jonah was working on something secret and possibly something that could cure Auden’s condition.
When Auden and Vivi make an extraordinary discovery of an enigmatic and ingenious robot, who calls himself Paragon, they embark on a thrilling journey of discovery as they seek to find out just what exactly Paragon is – and what link he has to Auden – and find that the truth is bigger and more wonderful than either of them could have imagined.