One of the greatest attractions of inland boating on the English canals is it’s anachronistic pace, it’s deceleration of life. A friend has a theory that our souls can only travel at walking pace and that canal boating is a perfect mode of transport to try to re-connect body and soul because, in travelling at less than a gentle walking pace, a long boat journey offers the possibility of your soul finally catching up with your carcass!
Boating is an extended tracking shot through life, the everyday mayhem is momentarily slowed.
Standing on the back deck of a boat with the tiller dictating that you spend hours outdoors, it’s a good feeling to calmly accept what the elements throw at you, and take up a precious opportunity to make a little more sense of the world. There’s time enough to put two & two together even two & three together if the mood takes you. It’s both active (steering the boat) and passive (thinking time). There’s time to take a thought for a walk round the block – several times – up hill and down dale too, as the natural landscape slowly unfolds in front of your eyes.
There’s all the time in the world…
And, once the evening mooring’s found, there’s a chance to make use of that slo-mo leisurely pace, to savour a cuppa, read the paper on the back deck, or head off for a stroll in search of connections enjoying the complex weave of ideas and images prompted by the walk, because – at last – there’s space enough and time enough to enjoy the psychological colours and textures of the moment.
“It can clear your eyes, peeling away layers of deception, spectacle and that strange ‘hidden in plain sight’ that coats the everyday. But you will need to disrupt yourself, set yourself going and apart. You will need to shake up things for yourself, so that rather than wandering ankle deep through the sediment of discarded images and illusions, you kick them up and explore the whole whirling snow globe.” Phil Smith ‘On Walking’ pg53
Boating is the most effective and creative temporary disruption to my daily life, and in its disruption it always feels a mildly rebellious activity with a very English almost anarchic edge.
It’s healthy to take a break from routine.
A version of this post first appeared in October 2014.