the present of time

the present of time

“what can I give him, poor as I am. If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wiseman, I would play my part, Yet what I can I give him, I give my heart”.

One reason for buying our narrowboat was to slow down time. Leave the mad rush of living in the South East and enjoy the tranquillity of the canals. We had a plan of where to go and what we would do, all at a slow pace you understand, but I did not expect it to be quite so protracted. Covid, family concerns and then finally the weather all hampered our progress and in the process I learnt that on a narrowboat you cannot do the dictating!

Our plan to get nb Naomhog to the River Wey for the winter, instead of taking a week took a month. I am not complaining – we moored for ten days outside the Anchor pub at Pyrford and another ten days at Dapdune Wharf, both great places to stay. The relentless rainfall during the month of November saw the river flood and the lock gates padlocked. There were a few windows of opportunity to move but they didn’t coincide with other plans we already had in place. November took on a strange hue as daily we would look at the weather conditions on the Wey. We learnt adaptability and to live in the moment. To do otherwise would have led to frustration and irritability. It reminded me that whatever our circumstances we have a choice as to our attitude towards them. We learned to value our time, partly because we unexpectedly had so much of it and we didn't want to waste it! In truth, we took a chance leaving it so late to get on to the River Wey, but it had made economic sense to wait until the beginning of November. A week earlier, the sun was shining, the rainfall was minimal and the River Wey would have been a breeze to travel along.

My mum, a Scot, was always economic and brought me up to be frugal and to shop cannily. Our childhood diet was rich in fruit and veg, leading me towards vegetarian cooking. Wearing extra layers of clothing, using hot water bottles and woolly hats for warmth, rather than central heating, reminds me of growing up in a cold draughty vicarage where we got dressed under the bedclothes! We may not want to return to that but it has become all too easy over the years to be profligate with our utilities. (Boating has really taught me the value of water!)

The choice between heating and eating is sadly on the increase, with the prospect of unpaid bills leading to anxiety and fear, especially for those with families to support. The fast approaching Christmas festivities, with continuous TV advertising telling us what we need to buy to have the perfect Christmas, compounds this problem. How to afford all the gizmos and gadgets that are on offer, wrapped in festive paper, that will eventually end up in landfill sites. There is a subtle pressure that encourages us to spend money to be happy. I may sound bah humbug, which I don’t really want to do. Rather, I would like us to be able to celebrate the Christmas season without it costing the earth and eroding our mental health.

Instead of worrying about how to afford to buy material presents, why not give the present of time? Time is our most precious gift because none of us know how much of it we have. To give our time to others is therefore a great gift. Taking time to listen to a friend in need; chopping up wood for someone’s stove; offering to do boat or clothes repairs; sharing a meal; walking a dog; lending a book. So many ways to show love in a non materialistic way. We all have different gifts to give.

The original message of Christmas is all about love - by sending his only son into our broken world, God showed his immense love for us all. In the relatively short span of years that Jesus walked this earth, he gave freely of his time modelling to us a selfless way to live, putting the needs of others before ourselves.

Whatever belief system we may have, this message is as vital today as it was over 2000 years ago - to love one another, to be kind, to bring hope into lives that may be hopeless and to share what we have with one another.

A present of time need not be too costly and you never know how much lasting joy it may give.

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About Mary Haines

Mary and her husband Richard now live full time on their 43ft narrowboat Naomhog. Their plan is to travel the waterways March-November and they want to be a 'Listening boat'. "We want to encourage people to tell us their stories because we feel we have time to listen. In this fast paced world listening is not necessarily much valued and is in short supply!"