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Reform Magazine | November 20, 2017

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On the pilgrim way: ‘Was it irresponsible to get “Wayfromit”?’

Sheila Maxey on getting away from it all

Going away on holiday nowadays raises new questions. Can we still cope with being away from home comforts – eg a chair that is easy to get out of, steps we are used to negotiating, a familiar bed which is near the toilet? And then there is the puritanical question: do we really need holidays anymore?

In July, we had two weeks on a canal boat on the Ashby Canal. For weeks beforehand, the first question worried me – especially as a canal boat is not like a hotel. In the event, one of us (me!) had to climb over the other one to get out of bed in the night. We both had to clamber up and down the steps to the cabin many, many times a day. The Ashby Canal has no locks but we had, of course, to moor and cast off – learning once again to tie knots and haul ropes. We put the mobility scooter on the back, under the tiller, and, using two heavy planks for the wheels, I got it on and off the boat without any mishaps. What with all the fresh air and the increased physical activity, we slept like logs. So my first worry was unfounded.

We had great fun looking at the other boats, especially their names – Viking, Sparrowhawk, Tipsy Gypsy and Brotherly Love to name a few. But the one that stuck with me was Wayfromit – because we were. For most of the time I had no signal on my phone. The Ashby has no shops along it, and hardly any pubs. We only travelled for a few hours a day at about two or three miles an hour. Early each morning I sat on deck just watching and listening. I thought that our life at home had slowed down considerably, but not like this.

Was it irresponsible to get ‘Wayfromit’? With all this time to play with, we listened to one or two good radio programmes – one comparing a terrible Glasgow fire in about 1906 with the Grenfell fire this year – and we had leisure to discuss and reflect.

I got a text – when, for a day or so, we moved into signal range – telling me that Alan, an 85-year-old close relative, had fallen and broken his hip. Because there was nothing I could do, I spent time thinking deeply about him and his life. When we moored in Coventry canal basin, we went to the cathedral and I lit a candle for him.

The icing on the cake of our holiday came when our daughter, Mary, and her two girls spent 24 hours with us en route from Perthshire to Womad festival in Wiltshire. We sat on deck in the evening light and popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate her 50th, Isobel’s 16th and Kees’ 80th. No longer ‘Wayfromit’ perhaps, but still truly blessed.

Sheila Maxey is Book Reviews Editor for  Reform

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This article was published in the September 2017 edition of  Reform

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