Monday 6 June 2016

A Very Different Holiday

From reading this and the last post in quick succession, the casual reader might get the impression that I spend my whole life on holiday! That is not quite the truth (though living in the Lake District, it can sometimes feel that way) but it just so happened that the Chartres pilgrimage and an invitation from some friends to spend a week sailing with them came in quick succession.

So a rapid gear change from the rigours of Chartres (long days of walking, sleeping in icy tents, communal facilities shared by 8,000 people) to a week on a catamaran sailing off the coast of Corfu.

You can tell that I am not used to this ocean sailing lark; on arrival at the catamaran, I was greeted with 'A bit of a swell!' and responded 'Thank you!' I gather that was incorrect.

Actually, by the standards of Gouvia marina, I was anything but a swell. You could see the super yachts lined up in bragging order on a distant quay, and even the humble catamaran we were on probably cost more than my house.

Once again the contrast with Chartres was very marked; and it would be easy to stand on some moral high ground (high wave, at sea?) and denounce the pleasures of the flesh and the indulgence of the wealthy. However the truth is that we had a wonderful week, getting to know our hosts (the parents of our daughter's husband, who refer to us as The Outlaws, reasonably enough) rather better.  And very good company they were, too! I also learned some of the rudiments of sailing a large yacht at sea, as opposed to a small dinghy on Ullswater. We swam, played games, sampled Greek restaurants, bought and cooked freshly caught fish, read, chatted, and relaxed.

So comparing the two holidays, I conclude that they served very different purposes, and met very different needs. A life that consisted solely of cruising on the Mediterranean in the sunshine, having fun and eating and drinking in good measure and in good company would perhaps be lacking something - and it was tempting to make all sorts of judgements about the chap we saw doing his workout on a treadmill on the upper deck of his massive super yacht, while his staff motored ashore in a launch on some errand. But there is certainly a place for real rest and relaxation, and above all slowing down; and particularly in the context of building new friendships. And by the same token, I suspect that an ascetic life, full of the rigours of the Chartres pilgrimage without relief, is a vocation to which very few are called - and that to assume it inappropriately would also be deleterious.

But I don't think I need worry about either temptation too much: the Chartres pilgrimage only happens once a year, and as long as I have a wife and children, I will be ineligible for monastic life; and I certainly won't be chartering a yacht on the Med on a regular basis, either.

And despite our children acquiring a liking for such a splendid holiday, our next one will be back to normal - amongst the midges of Scotland...

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