Jonty Pearce muses on whether growing older and the pressure of responsibilities have dissipated his desire for wanderlust...
When I was young my heart’s desire was to sail to strange exotic destinations and to explore the world, but I was never brave enough to abandon my GP practice with its comfortable income, security, and grateful patients, or to truncate my family responsibilities.
There was always an excuse to stay on the safe side of life, although I did reward myself with the luxury of a mid-life crisis and bought a yacht at a time when work was not going particularly well.
The ultimate choice of whether I abandoned my vocation and practice, and set off for the far blue yonder, or stayed to honour my commitments was resolved when my work problem was sorted out – the new joy of a mutually supportive working relationship refreshed my dedication to the practice and my patients once more until retirement beckoned, when I could move on with proper career closure supported by a sound pension. Happy days.
But now, although I have been retired for almost two years, the anticipated ocean wanderlust has dissipated.
OK, I have enjoyed a cruise ship visit to Antarctica and sailed across the Atlantic with friends, but the expected long trips aboard Aurial to Scandinavia, Europe, and through the French canals to the Mediterranean remain unresearched and unplanned.
What happened? Have I grown prematurely old? Has the proximity of a 94-year-old mother and 10-month-old grandchild tethered me to Malvern? Or has freedom from work stress alleviated the drive to escape to pastures new far from my everyday responsibilities?
The answer is, of course, probably a little bit of everything.
Since retirement I seem to have been busier than ever; the old adage ‘I don’t know how I found time to work’ has become truer than I’d have believed possible.
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I’m enjoying a healthy list of projects – an old supercharged Triumph TR2, a dilapidated Series 2 Land Rover Tipper in need of restoration, two Old Grey Ferguson tractors, and ongoing upgrades and renovations to Aurial – but much of my time has been soaked up by Carol’s unforeseen purchase of a four-acre orchard deep in fertile Herefordshire.
My spring, summer and autumn are punctuated with mowing, maintenance and then harvesting, while the winter is spent pruning, making cider and perry, and supporting Carol while she sources and supplies her outlets with the 2,500 bottles of apple and pear juice that the crop produces. I had not predicted this change of career…
As a result, our sailing activities have been less ambitious than I might have dreamed.
Aurial remains a delight, and we both relish short breaks as well as longer summer cruises to the Isles of Scilly, North Wales, or Ireland.
Pottering around West Wales enjoying our favourite haunts and peaceful anchorages is just as rewarding, though I sometimes worry that our activities are very unchallenging.
I reassure myself that the frisson of anxiety still felt as I depart my berth underlines my respect for the power of the sea and sky; if it were absent I’d worry about the hazards of that overconfidence that leads to fools sailing where angels fear to navigate.
At the end of the day, it matters not whether I prefer ocean girding or ‘armchair sailing’ round familiar waters.
The salient aspect is that we are on the water and happy.
When we grow too old and frail to sail I shall have no regrets for far-off opportunities passed over;
I will have enjoyed my nautical activity to its natural reach.
As I write, Susie Goodall has just been picked up in the Southern Ocean after her Rustler 36 was pitchpoled in a storm.
Glad for her safety, I snuggle deeper into my armchair, glass in hand in front of a warm log fire, happy with my choice.