I am currently in the middle of a poetry commission, inspired by the village of Cropredy in Oxfordshire. During my research, I met Ross White www.mindfultouchmassage.co.uk who lives there on a canal boat and runs his own business in a shepherd’s hut in an orchard alongside the Oxford Canal.
It was already apparent to me how important the canal is to Cropredy, and how well integrated it is into the village. I wondered about the links between Ross’s work as a masseur and his life on the canal. Here are Ross’s responses to my questions followed by a found poem using words from his website.
What is it about living on a canal boat that you particularly like?
- It’s like living inside a living thing, the way a moored boat rocks or sways in the current. It’s like coming home to a friend waiting patiently for you. A moored boat has the potential to travel many thousands of miles, yet it’s also content to wait.
- The sense of belonging to a group of people who have lived on canal boats for hundreds of years, somehow apart from normal dwelling.
- The knowledge that you can move / escape if you want to.
- Being somehow an observer into the lives of those who live around the canal.
- Being literally in nature, hearing the fish or listening to ducks pecking the side of the boat.
What is special about the canal in Cropredy?
- Its our chosen place. Both my wife and I wanted to live in Cropredy. It’s our children’s only home, where most of their friends live, sharing the water somehow.
- The people here accept us and welcome us boaters; we are part of the community. One boater sits on the parish council. Some are members of the local WI.
- It’s only a short walk out of the village into very quiet countryside.
- I think about the suffering, injuries and death that must have occurred during the digging of the canal which today seems so peaceful. There is something important to learn here.
What do you think the place where you live and work will be like in 50 years time?
- Some of the boats on this stretch of canal are historic, they will remain.
- The brickwork of the canal will remain as it is.
- People will rush past looking at devices oblivious to the history right here on the canal.
- Some of the old bridges will be shored up by new technological building materials.
- The canal will be very quiet again with boats driven by electric motors, a bit like the quiet times when they were pulled by horses.
into undivided attention
dance with harmony
engage the deepest layers
relax the heart
soothe the mind and glide
fluid, in a connected state