First day’s volunteering
Crew members Vic, Charles, Margaret, Catherine and Phil.
Well, if I want to keep myself fit and busy once I retire, this is the way to do it. Didn’t stop today. 25 elderly but ambulant passengers on board – all absolutely delightful company. We volunteers worked six locks, took 25 lunch orders and phoned them through to the pub, made more than 50 cups of tea and sold loads of pens and tea towels. Then vacuumed and tidied for tomorrow’s trip. Aching and slightly surprised that I only had ten minutes to see the canal and riverside go by. Rest of the crew were charming and interesting – old hands who said it had been one of their busiest days. Mind you, they didn’t look phased. And they are all at least 20 years older than me! They even had time to quote Shakespeare to me – thank goodness it was my O Level text and I recognised it. Otherwise, feeling slightly inadequate. Will sleep like a log.
James Munro Callan
Thorpe Acre Church Wednesday group
Talks about his trip on Symphony on his way for a pub lunch at Zouch
“I’m registered blind. I can see a little bit but I have to wear my special St Dunstan’s glasses to rest my eyes. I’ll be 86 in July.
I was an able seaman in the navy. I was called up and served three years. I helped the shipping convoys across the Atlantic. Then I worked in iron foundries for the railways, making parts for locomotives.
I love swimming. I learned to swim in a canal up north you know, when I was six. And I loved dancing, but my legs won’t let me any more.
What do I like about the trip on Symphony? I can see the swans; they go past slowly enough – not like the traffic on the roads. I have to be careful of the cars now. And I like the fact that I’ve nothing to do!”
“I was diagosed with MS the same week the twin towers came down. My twin towers came down too. September 2010.
“There had been signs that something was creeping up. But I didn’t connect up the dots. I had fallen out of the shower…fallen out of the patio doors. I kept tripping up on the slightest of uneven paving stones, and my daughter would say ‘Dad! Pick your feet up’.
“The doctor had diagnosed either a tumour or multiple sclerosis. I asked for a second opinion. I had to go into hospital for a week of tests. I was coming back to the ward after tests on the Tuesday when everyone was around the telly, watching the twin towers in New York. Then I got my diagnosis on the Thursday.
“I used to work in the community, setting up community credit unions.
“Now I have to have the electric chair. I can’t even write any more.
“I’ve been twice on these boats. Being outside and a free agent is the one thing I miss. And this allows me to be more of a free agent. I like the company of people. It’s about being on an outing with people, doing something different other than the mundane. It’s a bit of variety. With the illness you become a non-entity. This is a change, and you’re with people. It doesn’t have to be a big thing – just something different.”
Hinckley MS Group
10 June 2010
Last year we carried nearly 4,000 passengers of all ages (5 has been the youngest; 108 the oldest) and every disability.
Dean Holyland, Hinckley MS Group
“It started with my eyesight. If I looked at you, one eye would keep going round. Eighteen months later I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I was thinking tumours, all sorts. But my mum’s got MS so I suppose it’s genetic. I was thirty. That was seven years ago.
“I was a carpet fitter by trade. And I was a 16 stone 14 pound body builder, with 18 inch biceps. I worked full time for a couple more years, and then part time for three years. Not being able to drive finally stopped me. Since then I’ve separated from my wife. And I’ve lost about 4 stone. I can’t do the body building training any more and I don’t eat to keep big now.
“Mind you, I’ve got a whole new wardrobe out of it and an electric leather recliner chair!
“The way look at it, I’m still alive and I’m still smiling. I’ve got a new electric scooter that’s given me my independence back. I’ve had to do it, or I’d be stuck at home.
“I like to live life on the edge. I went on a zip slide at Skegness a couple of months ago. It was 150 foot high and 1,000 foot long. It was amazing. I felt really alive again. I think as long as you are able and you’ve got people who will help you, why not?
“I’m a people person and it makes the illness a little bit easier if you can laugh and have fun. That’s what today is all about. That, and living life on the edge!”
Hinckley MS Group