Friday, 16 July 2010


Messing about in boats -the English love it! Not that we have a monopoly in this pass-time.

A number of years ago a friend invited me to join him and three others on a week's holiday on a fifty foot long barge. There's something special about that kind of holiday. The speed limit is 4mph. Anything faster and the barge's wash would damage the canal banks. After a few days my whole approach to life slowed down. On my return to terra firma I found the speed of traffic became intimidating; crossing a road scary. I resented the headlong rush following upon the leisurely pace of canal life.

And the whole canal environment, rooted in the industrial revolution, was fascinating. As we chugged along I marveled at the engineering feat in constructing the canals in order to move non-perishable goods around the country. Long tunnels or cuttings had to be hewn through rocky hillsides, or flights of locks constructed to go over rather than through them. There's the contrast between the quiet countryside, with its special canal wildlife, and then the approach to an industrial town by the 'tradesman's entrance,' with warehouses on the banks. These reminded me that the canals were originally constructed for industry, rather than for holiday- makers like me.

So far so good...but then I wonder. Was I made for crazy situations? Or were they made for me? Any way let me tell you about a bit of canal craziness.
Among us five there was this experienced ocean sailing yachtsman. He'd been so conditioned by the open seas that when we arrived at the marina to pick up our barge he asked for a compass. He didn't realize that the direction of our journey would be determined by that of the canal, not be a compass. And he couldn't adjust from the mindset of the open seas to that of inland waterways. So, although there were drinking-water taps every few miles along the banks of the canal, he was in constant fear of our running out of water. As a result he insisted on us filling up every pot and pan whenever we came to a tap.

This nautical expert was keen to impress us landlubbers with his seamanship. So, when he came to moor the barge he leaped from the prow with the rope in his hand. Unfortunately its length spanned only half the distance to the bank. Out he shot.. only to be jerked to a sudden halt. Still holding the rope in his hand he plummeted beneath the canal waters.

That was but the start of his misfortunes. After changing into some dry clothes he put his wet ones on the barge roof to dry. Up sprang a gust of wind, whisking his shorts overboard. Having retrieved them he sat disconsolately in the bows, nursing a strong drink. Whereupon a fly settled on his nose. As he brushed the irritant away he swept his spectacles off his nose and into the canal. Sad to say, after spending some time treading the muddy bottom he never found them. "Wet, deflated and miserable" about describes this nautical impresario.

I must confess that we were all amused that someone who had been so eager to impress us had come such a cropper. In his case pride had certainly come before a fall!

But how do I meet God in all this ? Well, in the 'Magnificat' we're told that He casts the mighty from their thrones and exalts the lowly. But I would do well not to become too smug about my friend's misadventures -lest in my pride, I, too, should be heading for a fall. St. Paul tells us about God choosing the foolish to confound the wise. So perhaps I need the painful lesson of making a fool of myself, and being brought low, If I'm to learn some wisdom and meet God. The foolish bit I can easily manage -but learning wisdom from my folly is another matter!

Isidore O.P.

Next week Fr Peter will Meet God in 'Only a Film'
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  1. When I read your blogs I marvel that humor can be the conduit to me learning 'Gods Way.'I expectantly and happily read along with a sense of expectation and toward the end, I am left somber, in deep thought and reflection, having learned a bit more about our Lord Jesus Christ.What a refreshing way to learn about our Saviour!
    Thanks, my brothers in Christ. Keep them coming!!
    Love and God's continued blessings!

  2. Can this really be true? From my friendship with Isidore I would say 'yes,absolutely'.He has a knack of observing and annotating
    the wacky happenings around him.Whether he actually attracts them in the first place I cannot say!!
    Mentioning the Magnificat is a salutary reminder to me ! There are many people that in my dreams I would like God to cast down with a vengeance but the blog brings me back down to earth.We are all fools in our own way sometimes and we need understanding and forgiveness from God and each other.