In Praise of Hammocks

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The one thing better than a deserted tropical palm-fringed beach? A deserted tropical palm-fringed beach with hammocks. I made this unambitious, unoriginal but spot-on observation a week or so ago, and am happy and grateful to report that three woven, cream-coloured, double hammocks have arrived by boat from San Jose, and are now, as I type, swaying gently in choice locations just above the high tide line. It’s the role of Carmen’s husband, William the caretaker, to stroll slowly along the beach at dawn and dusk to string them up and take them down, and Carmen goes too, maybe to test them. It’s a bucolic scene.

Although requisitioned, and primarily intended, for hotel guests, the hammocks, like the beach, are tantalisingly empty most of the time and, having been struck down by some vague achiness, I’ve been taking advantage of that. There’s a weight of opinion and some dubious ‘evidence’ suggesting that sleeping in hammocks, far from giving you curvature of the spine, a lattice imprint on your face, and a reputation for being weird and ‘ethnic’, is good for you. Doctors are curing a whole backlog of tricksy problems from arthritis to autism with a prescription for a decent hammock, and, while I don’t know why Swiss researchers bother experimenting on an elite group of 12, even they – for what it’s worth – conclude that hammocks are quite the thing for anyone keen to move from awake to asleep without the intervening period of tossing and turning.

This I know. I pride myself on my ability to get into hammocks with books, magazines, snacks and a drink and almost always wake up an hour later, reading matter unopened and covered in juice. Yesterday when I did this there was a fat-thighed, yellow-beaked hawk studying me with disinterest from a close branch. A coatimundi – pizote – was snuffling about below. He paused mid-stride, trying to work out whether this hammock with a human head was friendly; indecisively shifted his weight like a boxer from side to side, before reluctantly – and I have to say, erroneously – deciding it was not, and lumbering off. (He came back while I was swimming. With imagination and sharp-eyes, you may be able to make him out on the horizontal branch to the left of the hammock frame in one of the pictures. When I do eventually get a good picture of a pizote, I shall post it. But looks like very small bear with periscope tail and cone stuck on nose is the best description I can give for now.)

I’m helping throw ideas in the pot for a rustic ecotourism project, and one of the more radical and harebrained (devised after a rum or two) was to get rid of all the existing beds and replace them with hammocks. “Just get rid of them! get rid of them all!” Now, fortuitously, I can back this wildly impulsive suggestion with not just historical precedent – once everyone slept in hammocks in this neck of the woods – but hard science.


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