When we set out on our blogging journey in April 2009, little did we realise how many people’s lives we’d touch, and the number of friends we’d make through this medium.
During our first six-month trip, we received an email from Paul Macey, originally from UK, who was living in Manly, Sydney. Sadly, due to my Hotmail account being hacked a couple of years ago, I no longer have the emails we exchanged during for the following two years.
Paul met his beautiful wife Elaine (also originally from UK), when they were living abroad, and they settled in Manly. He’d long harboured a dream to live on a narrowboat on the canals and rivers of UK. However Elaine wasn’t so keen!
Before and following our six-month UK trip in 2010, we flew to Sydney to visit Barry’s brother Peter, and tied in a trip on the Manly Ferry.
On the outward journey we met Paul and Elaine, and I wrote: “Paul sounded as enthusiastic as Barry had been in the 18 months prior to us following our (well his really!) dream, soaking up UK Waterways Sites blogs with a passion, and he and Barry chatted away companionably. Elaine sounded a little cynical – I can definitely understand how she feels, must be a female thing – so we hope to be able to bring her encouragement through our blog in the coming five months. Paul had very kindly bought us a bilge alarm for Northern Pride which will warn us of impending disaster – so hopefully it won’t be put to good use at any time!!”
I’d reassured Elaine that I’d too been rather reticent, but that after the first six-months trip it was I who had suggested keeping Northern Pride and returning the following year.
Taking The Bull By The Horns!
Long story short, they eventually sold their house and most possessions (though lost many thousands of AUS $s due to a delay in quarantine arrangements for one of their beloved cats), and came back to England in 2012, a year before we returned ‘indefinitely’. Paul began a blog on Tuesday 31st March 2011 (http://nbthemanlyferry.blogspot.com/2011/03/). As if he had some form of innate premonition, one paragraph referring to their plans to re-locate stated:
“The original time frame for these plans was going to be 3 years but after a boozy Australia Day in the pool, we decided to expedite our plans as – especially after a few champagnes – you realise that life is quite short and you really never know what is around the corner. Anyway, we decided to take the Bull by the horns and go for it!”
They bought NB Caxton, and spent two years living their dream on board. Sadly our cruising schedules weren’t destined to match, so we never welcomed them on board Areandare or vice versa.
Whilst we generally paint a rosy picture of our lives on the cut, there’s a few disadvantages of living aboard a narrowboat. One of these is access to health care. Even though most of us will be registered with a GP practice, our itinerant lifestyle means we’re rarely anywhere near the surgery! In August 2013, Elaine was finally persuaded to see a doctor after feeling ‘crook’ (one of Paul’s favourite words I suspect!) for a while. Elaine’s diagnosis was never ‘announced’ on the blog, but by September 2013 it seems things were taking a turn for the worse.
Caxton was sold in March 2014, and they planned new adventures in their Motorhome. By this time Elaine had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Previously Paul and Elaine had considered returning to Australia, but once she received her diagnosis and began chemotherapy, they decided to stay in UK. In January 2015 Paul messaged me to say: “Elaines cancer has came back with a vengeance, with your medical background I don’t have to tell you what that means. We will now stay in England with hopefully some trips to Europe whilst she is able to. We are both very optimistic, but also realise the gravity of the situation, so we are very much in the carry on as normal mode. She doesnt want a fuss about it so I dont mention it on the blog. We will get to see you one day promise.“
Sure enough Paul and Elaine made time to come and visit us in April 2015, when we were trading at a Floating Market in Stone.
Elaine sadly succumbed to the illness ravaging her beautiful body, and died on 18th August 2016, aged 54 years, having been lovingly cared for by Paul and her family. Paul was understandably heartbroken.
After publishing a tribute to Elaine the following day on our blog, Paul commented on Facebook. “Thank you so much Sandra. I am just so glad that we quit the mainstream life and had four and a half years of absolute fun and adventure. We had the big house, new cars, well paid jobs, etc, and it all pails into insignificance compared to the life we led on the canals and touring in the motorhome. Thanks again xxx“
In November 2016, he responded to an email I’d sent to catch up on how he was feeling, he stated: “My strongest feeling is to get another boat, travel in the UK in the summer then escape to warmer climes in the winter, using a boat next year should give me an inkling as to what it will be like to travel on my own in a boat. “
On December 8th 2017, Just over a year later, Paul messaged me to say: “Back in the UK, again, been diagnosed with a brain tumour, put a spanner in the work I can tell you xx”.
He’d been spending most of his time living in a Villa in Mojacar, Spain, house-sitting for someone. From all he wrote about this period of his life, although he missed Elaine terribly, he adored the area and the people he met. And seemed to be looking forward to living his life out between Spain and UK, definitely considering buying another narrowboat.
Fortunately for Paul (whilst attempting to find positives amongst the awfulness), he discovered he had full BUPA cover and managed to get his brain tumour removed and all care privately, timely and comfortably.
I wasn’t confident we’d meet Paul again ‘in the flesh’, but thankfully fate had other plans! Last May, when I travelled to London for a weekend with my sisters, I needed the loo at Euston Station. Walking there I had to look twice at a tall man I almost passed – and realised it was Paul! Totally out of context. He’d just arrived there for a football match, West Ham vs Man Utd, with his nephew Liam. It was wonderful to see him smiling again and have a huge hug.
Paul’s post said: “On the way to the hotel I literally bumped and I mean bumped into Sandra off of NB AreandAre at Euston station.. we first met Sandra and Barry back in 2010 in Sydney and they were a big inspiration for us to pack up work and start a new relaxing life on a narrowboat. This was when they were on their boat NB Northern Pride and were going back and forwards from the boat and to NZ. They still live and trade off of a narrowboat, we last met them at a boat trade rally in Stone probably about five years ago. What are the chances eh??”
By the end of May 2018, Paul had had enough of feeling crap from chemo and made the decision to stop all treatment. Known for his honesty and lack of concern about language on his blog, the title had been as above – FCKD Off!!
His quality of life was diminishing far more rapidly than he’d expected, and he could barely eat.
However … in July he’d been persuaded to try radiotherapy in an attempt to stave off the progress of this horrible disease. The post he wrote about this really shows, if anyone is in any doubt, that accumulating lots of money is NOT the answer to everything. He shares feelings around his sadness and regret around the things he (and Elaine) still wanted to experience, and never would.
“What I now have is extreme fatigue that is just so awful, mainly because there is so much I want to do, I would love to go on a sailing holiday, I would love to explore the rest of Europe that Elaine and I never made it to. There are places in the UK that I would love to see, the money isnt a problem….I have sold everything, but when all you want to do is sleep there really isn’t any point. I really dont know whether the fatigue will go or whether this is my new living with cancer life and I had better get used to it.”
Amazingly following the radiotherapy, Paul managed a trip to Cyprus for a family wedding in September last year.
Paul frequently said how grateful he was to his incredibly supportive family, and friends, for their love and care during his journey from diagnosis to death.
The news we’d been anticipating arrived last Sunday, 24th February, that Paul had died.
Over the past week his brother Russell has courageously shared the sad news on Facebook, and via the Manly Ferry Blog, and opened up the funeral to his many friends. We hope to get there to pay our heartfelt respects to a kindred spirit and meet his family.
The final post on Paul’s Manley ferry Blog was published on Monday 25th February by his brother Russell. Paul desperately hoped to get the number of ‘hits’ on his extremely popular blog to 1 million visitors. As of this evening, the ‘stat counter’ stood at 969, 885.
So dear readers, your challenge in Paul and Elaine’s memory is toclick away at all the links I’ve shared. Or just click on this link – http://nbthemanlyferry.blogspot.com
Let’s do our best to get the stat counter to go crazy before Paul’s funeral on 15th March. Once again I’m brought back to the preciousness of life on earth, and our quest to live each day to the full as one day we’ll also face our final one. From me …
“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Marcus Aurelius
This one however, I think sums up what Paul would want to shout to you all:
“Carpe Diem, I say. Seize the day. Grab it by the throat and rattle its bollocks.” Liz Jensen