Observations From A Canal Barge – Life In The Slow Lane

I spent a lovely day yesterday with family and friends cruising along the Bridgewater Canal on a barge we hired for the day. We were celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary  (that’s probably another post for another day!) As we sedately glided along on a beautiful July day I couldn’t help notice one or two things.

The first was just how friendly everyone we met was. Whether it was other people on the canal, or walkers on the tow path, everyone wanted to give us a smile and a wave, say hello, and is some instance stop for a longer chat. They weren’t being this friendly because of our wedding anniversary, this was the norm. The strange thing was that if I’d met these same people, on the same day, away from the canal tow path, say in the busy street nearby, they would have totally ignored me. To be honest I would probably have totally ignored them as well. What was it that was making everyone so friendly?

I wonder if it was the pace of life. Nobody on that canal was in a hurry. The people on the tow path were out for a leisurely stroll in the sunshine. The barges can only go slow, their top speed is slow! The maximum speed limit on the canal is 4mph and nobody ever does anywhere near that. You can quite comfortably be on a moving barge and have a pleasant conversation with someone walking along the tow path. The only semblance of speed we saw all day was the occasional cyclist who sped past us and disappeared over the horizon.

It reminded me of a great book I read some years ago called ‘In Praise of Slow’ by Carl Honore, well worth a read. In his introduction he says:

The problem is that our love of speed, our obsession with doing more and more in less and less time, has gone too far; it has turned into an addiction, a kind of idolatry. Even when speed starts to backfire, we invoke the go-faster gospel. Falling behind at work? Get a quicker Internet connection, No time for that novel you got at Christmas? Learn to speed-read. Diet not working? Try liposuction. Too busy to cook? Buy a microwave. And yet some things cannot, should not, be sped up. They take time; they need slowness.When you accelerate things that should not be accelerated, when you forget how to slow down, there is a price to pay.

If you would like to watch and listen to Carl Honore expanding this idea try watching this 20 minute TED video called ‘Carl Honore Praises Slowness’. What my day of slowness yesterday taught me was that there is a lot to be said for a maximum speed of 4mph.

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4 Responses to Observations From A Canal Barge – Life In The Slow Lane

  1. penpusherpen says:

    I had a holiday on a Cruiser traversing the Norfolk Broads about ten years ago, Mike, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. Just as you describe, the friendliness and the slower pace of living, I feel sure would add years onto peoples life longevity, … much better than staying in the rat race and keeping pace with the stress of City life. Slow down, we move too fast, got to make the morning last, just…. sound familiar? (feeling groovy!! 😉 ) … I did have a dream of owning a Narrow Boat, maybe it will come true one day….(along with the lottery win!!) xPenx

  2. Renee says:

    Hi – nice to see you back here on this blog – I enjoy your insights and take on “currrent events” – have a good weekend

    • Mike says:

      Hi Renee.
      I hope you and the family are well.
      Thanks for your comments – much appreciated as always.
      I’ve been neglecting this blog in favour of my short stories one – now hoping to try and cover both.

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