We lost two decades in a Midlands Canal

…Stan Cullimore took his parents on a canal boat holiday with Drifters from our Wootton Wawen base last September.  Here’s what he wrote about it in the Mail on Sunday, published 16 December 2012.

When I was a child, our family holidays always seemed to involve walking, camping or cycling.  My parents, Don and Vera, believed that going on holiday meant doing something active.

But now they are in their 80’s they would rather stay in and watch Downton Abbey.  They’re also at an age when they don’t take too kindly to new ideas.  So when I suggested my brother Ralph and I should take them on a family holiday for the first time in years, I wasn’t expecting a very positive response – especially when I suggested we could all go to Stratford-upon-Avon on a narrowboat.

How wrong I was.  After I explained that all they had to do was climb aboard and then sit back and enjoy the countryside, they jumped at the idea.

Ralph and I volunteered to do all the work.  After all, Dad has got a long list of things that no longer work so well – his back, his knees, his ankles.

When we got on board the canal boat, I was delighted.  There was lots of room for Mum and Dad to sit during the day, there were plenty of bedrooms and a bathroom and, most important of all, the vessel had central heating.

Then my heart sank.  There were three steps leading from the deck to the cabin.  My parents aren’t good with steps, but they didn’t grumble.  They took their time and then made themselves comfortable on a sofa.

Mum even let my new puppy, Mabel, snuggle up on her lap.  Ralph undid the mooring ropes and off we set.

For the first few miles all we did was enjoy the peace and quiet of the canal.  Later we went through locks and chugged slowly past fields of sheep.  Then Dad appeared.  He wanted to do something, so we let him join in as we worked the lock.  Then Mum appeared – she wanted to take Mabel for a walk.

By the time the boat was through the lock, my parents and Mabel had disappeared off along the towpath.

Ralph and I stared at each other wondering what had got into them.  Something about life on board had knocked at least a decade off both of them, and by the time we got to the centre of Stratford, Mum and Dad were like two puppies themselves.

I suggested we all deserved an ice cream and they nodded like eager schoolkids.  They spent virtually the entire week grinning from ear to ear and hardly kept still.  Mum summed it up perfectly on the last day: ‘When you offered to take us on holiday, I never realised how exciting it would be.’

They’re already asking if we can do it again next year.  I just hope Ralph and I can keep up with them.

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