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"For five days, you step out of time."
Fans of classic detective fiction may find that phrase familiar. It is from Ngaio Marsh's "Clutch of Constables"; the sign in the window which leads Agatha Troy, painter and wife of Superintendent Roderick Alleyn, of Scotland Yard, to book a river cruise. It was possibly with this in mind that I booked five days for my family on a narrow boat on the Oxford Canal.
Agatha Troy, naturally, finds herself embroiled in an art forgery ring and murder: this is Ngaio Marsh, after all. We experienced no such excitement. But, for five days, we did indeed step out of time.
It was my fifteen-year-old daughter who suggested, with startling maturity, that we leave all technology at home. So, we did. We took my husband's mobile phone for emergencies and the camera; but as he does not do social media in any form and does not get his emails sent to his phone, we were internet free.
There was a radio on the boat but we did not turn it on. Nor the TV. For five days, we lived outside the world.
There is magic about a narrow boat. The chug of the diesel engine is quietly industrious and, from the prow, inaudible. Speed is a gentle walking pace. The canal winds easily through the most beautiful English countryside. Our everyday cares sloughed from us as we glided through the water, exchanging greetings with our fellow travellers and experiencing nothing more exciting than the occasional lock and the challenge of meeting another boat going under a narrow bridge.
For a nature lover like me, it was heaven. The hedges on either side of the water were generously splattered with Midas' gold; scattered with topaz hips, ruby haws, the glowing peridot of crab-apples and the jet and moonstone glimmer of sloes. Birds sang as if it were April. We set off each day at sunrise and moored at sunset. Our heads nodded over our dinner and we were tucked up in our (narrow) beds by 8.30 each night. It was bliss.
Of course, after that five days, we had to come back to the world; to the posturing politicians and salacious celebrity gossip. But we had those five days; a gift to ourselves.
You don't need a narrow boat, but I'd recommend stepping out of time.
For a time, anyway.
A Moodscope member.