RIP dear Elaine – yet more reasons to follow your dream

Not long after buying our first narrowboat, ‘Northern Pride’, we began blogging. I love to write, and of course Barry had been a professional photographer for 35 years. He re-kindled his previously lost passion, and saw it as a hobby. He returned to feeling like an excited young man, skipping around shooting images of the canals and places we visited along the way.

We’d spend hours most days writing the blog about our travels, for the people back in NZ, and also our family and friends in UK. We wanted to share our stories and show that many people CAN live their “someday I’ll …” lives.

We’ve lost count of how many people we’ve met since April 2009 who’ve exclaimed to us regretfully “Oh, I’d love to do what you’re doing, but …” We share a deep knowing, this smile inside, which sort of wants to scream at them “Then just flipping DO IT!”

Because most people CAN make the changes necessary to follow their dreams.


It means moving out of your comfort zone.

It means letting go of a lot of ‘stuff’ – mainly material goods, houses, cars, flash things. Also attachments to what we’ve been taught we ‘should‘ do with our life …

It means taking risks.

It means having an uncertain future, not clinging onto a job ‘just in case’.

It means not waiting until the stars are all lined up and everything’s perfect.

It means not waiting to LIVE until you reach that magical, made up by governments and people in authority age of ‘retirement’.

So many people will never have the courage or conviction to take the leap – The Fool’s journey in the tarot, which describes the archetypes we all relate to at different times of our lives.

Not long after starting our blog, Paul emailed. He lived in Manly, Sydney, with his beautiful wife Elaine. Paul shared his vision of selling up in Australia, moving back to UK with Elaine, buying a narrowboat and cruising the cut for a while.

Although they loved the Southern Hemisphere, Paul was drawn to the canals, and they both wanted to reconnect with their families here.

In 2010, on our way to and from our second six-month adventure, we planned a few days in Sydney. Barry’s younger brother Peter lives in Glebe, so we wanted to visit him and his daughters. We arranged to meet with Paul and Elaine too.

Elaine was hesitant about the narrow boating possibility, and we chatted to them both about how we’d found it. As I’d initially been sceptical too, when Barry first began his enthusiasm about life on the Inland Waterways, I resonated to Elaine and felt we were kindred souls.

Click here to read a post on our previous blog about the evening we spent with Paul and Elaine in 2010.

A well lived life

Despite a few hiccups, mostly to do with quarantine of one of their cats (they brought two cats and I think three dogs with them initially!), Paul and Elaine lived their dream and came to UK a year before we returned ‘for the foreseeable future’ in 2013.

They spent two years cruising the cut, and also wrote a blog which has hundreds of followers (Paul is a very amusing, clever and entertaining writer). They then sold the boat, bought a Motorhome and thoroughly enjoyed more travelling in UK and Europe.

The intention had been to then return down under.

NB Caxton, Paul and Elaine's narrowboat, now with new owners. We spotted it on our journey on Wednesday at Calcutt locks

NB Caxton, Paul and Elaine’s narrowboat, now with new owners. We spotted it on our journey on Wednesday at Calcutt locks

Sadly, this was not to be. Elaine succumbed to Ovarian cancer a couple of years ago, and despite treatment and a positive and optimistic outlook, last night she passed peacefully away at a Hospice in Cheshire, with Paul by her side.

Oddly enough, we never actually met them on their boat, as we were on different canals all the time they were cruising. They did make the time to come and see us at Stone last year, and it was once again fabulous to see them. At that time they well knew Elaine’s  poor prognosis, had accepted the inevitable outcome, and despite this were determined to continue to live life to the full and not allow it to stop them being happy, loving life and following their dreams.

Paul, Elaine and Barry at Market Drayton RCTA Floating Market spring 2015

Paul, Elaine and Barry at the Stone RCTA Floating Market spring 2015

Rest in peace Elaine, few people are as loved and respected as you are. How amazing you have been to embrace life so enthusiastically and with such an optimistic spirit.

We send our heartfelt condolences to Paul, and their respective families.

However, we also congratulate them both on being brave enough to step off the cliff, into the unknown, and dare to be different.

It’s a true saying that it’s the things we don’t do in life we regret the most – not the things we do. No-one can know with certainty what’s around the next corner for them, so be happy, follow your heart and your dreams. Wait if you must, but be mindful that if you wait too long, it could be too late.

Luckily Paul and Elaine didn’t wait – and what a treasure trove of memories Paul has to keep him company during the painful times ahead.

Arohanui Paul <3 You’ve both inspired so many people throughout the world. Take good care and know that Elaine’s life made a dramatic difference in the hearts and minds of everyone she touched.

14 thoughts on “RIP dear Elaine – yet more reasons to follow your dream

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  4. That was a beautiful tribute, and a wonderful message to everyone. I am currently trying to persuade my husband to take some time off from work (he won’t even take his allocated paid holidays), but the challenge is a tough one. We are Millenials (just about!), with two children under the age of 6. My plan is to manifest enough money for a camper van, so that I can take my daughters exploring all around the UK and beyond. I want to start with heritage trails, stone circles and the like, and pitch up my camper in random locations. It will happen, but whether I can persuade my husband to join us is another matter… I love reading about your boating adventures 🙂

  5. Hi Sandra, What a wonderful tribute to Elaine and what wise words, I feel they are ones that as many people as possible should read as they are so very true. Sometimes we just have to be brave and change our lives, but few are brave enough to do it. We (as you know) have only taken half the plunge and still have a shore based home, but work, thankfully, is far behind us.

    How are things going with Barry’s application to stay in the UK. I am sure we will meet again one day. Jennie and Chris

    • Hi Jennie, I’m hopeful that more and more people will wake up to seizing the day and stop waiting for life to be ‘perfect’ before they do the things they’ve always wanted to.

      A brilliant blog went viral in 2009, by someone called Bonnie ware, called ‘The Regrets of the Dying – She subsequently turned her experiences into a best selling book. The top 5 regrets were:
      1/ I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
      2/ I wish I didn’t work so hard.
      3/ I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
      4/ I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
      5/ I wish that I had let myself be happier.

      I can’t imagine how painful it would be to find myself on my deathbed and regretting not living a life true to me when I had the chance. I suspect Elaine’s spirit soared when her physical body died, secure in the knowledge that she’d had the courage to live a life true to herself, and all of the above really!

      As for Barry’s visa application, it’s just over 6 weeks since it was sent, so we’re expecting a decision sometime within the next 2 weeks. Everything remains crossed – as soon as we hear, we’ll let everyone know. Que sera sera. We’ve submitted an extraordinary amount of evidence to tick the requisite boxes and satisfy the stringent requirements that I can’t comprehend anything but a positive decision …

      Look forward to meeting you both again at some point – go well be happy 😉

      • Oh I do so agree about not dying with regrets and I think I can tick most boxes even though we did not retire until near retirement age. I am pretty good at keeping in touch, but your list did prompt me to send emails to a couple of friends who I had not contacted for a while, so thank you. Fingers crossed that Barry does get his visa. Jennie

  6. Hi Sandra & Barry, lovely words for your friend Elaine. I think you have provided a concise and compelling reasoning for those with a little courage to jump off the ‘bus’ and into a new and exciting life. We are marketed to and sold a modern day slave mentality, all credit to you for taking the alternative route. Some undertake jobs that have a sum of personal benefit and social responsibility (my wife is a nurse) that make them enjoyable and fulfilling without the drive of financial gain. Others like me have a financial imperative to work that looses its appeal as I get old and nearer to the finish line ! Happy cruising Nev NB Percy

    • Hi Nev
      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Indeed as a society in the western world it’s clear we’ve been fed this construct for many years – apparently it’s only getting worse from a recent article I read about a high proportion of Millennials not even taking leave from work because they want to feel ‘indispensable’. How sad. And there was I thinking we were making progress …

      I’m interested in your comment about your wife, and your take on nursing. I’m a qualified nurse and midwife, and worked clinically and managerially, education, project management, etc (25 years in the maternity services in UK and NZ – and returning to midwifery practice next month yikes!). Most specifically in 2003 to 2004 I worked as the National Midwifery Recruitment and Retention Lead, a post funded by the DoH. One of the key retention tools I was persuaded to use was the Superannuation pension fund. Two things struck me when I read your comment. One is that the nursing and midwifery professions are predominantly female, which has long been a challenge in pay negotiations – there’s a link there between what you say and what women have been led to believe it’s okay to put up with (surely their caring should be adequately remunerated?). The other is, I know many nurses and midwives, who, despite having joined because of their desire to care for others and make a difference, are worn out, disillusioned, passionless, etc, etc, but feel compelled to remain in the NHS because of their belief that they must ‘wait to retire’ to get the maximum amount from their Superannuation – because people like me previously said they ‘should’! So they continue for years longer, and the effects of the increasing stress and anxiety from the pressure of doing a job they no longer love, has harmful effects on their long term health.

      I’m sure your wife loves what she does and is perfectly happy, as are many in the caring professions. However, I’d love to send them the message now that they don’t have to wait until ‘retirement’ to care for themselves more.

      I hope you don’t have to wait too long to get to your ‘finish line’, and begin following your dreams 😉

    • Thank you Andre, she was worth writing about and acknowledging the loving spirit that has passed. Lovely to know you’re reading about our exploits and enjoying it 😉

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