“You need a holiday”, she said

Myself and the team, have – thankfully – had very little to worry about during this awful pandemic. Work’s generally been fine. Everyone’s healthy, and things actually look good for the future – mainly thanks to our amazing customers.

But at the same time, I have to admit, I was starting to feel pretty burned out. The uncertainty of things in the early days of the virus, along with the usual family worries, and the difficulties of running a local plumbing and heating business – it started to get to me.

I began to get crankier and crankier. Then, one afternoon, my girlfriend understandably flipped, and frustratedly declared,“Samuele, you need a holiday”. She went on to tell me in no uncertain terms that I was to get out of the house, find something else to do for a week, and to ‘come back a new man’. I think she said ‘come back’. It did sound a bit like ‘bring back’. But she would never say something like that, so it must have been the stress making me hear things.

Anyway, as always, she was right.

But what was I going to do for a week? Camping in the Lake District? Woodwork classes in Devon? Or a lovely relaxing spa break in a Mediterranean coastal village.

Just the mere thought of getting away from it all was starting to chill me out.

I’ve often imagined myself as a bit of a sailor. A little like Quint from Jaws – but without the snarky attitude and unshakeable desire to kill a shark. Embracing the waves, adjusting the rigging, and enjoying the harsh ruggedness of life on the ocean. Oh, yes. I can see it now.

So, with this in mind, I decided a nice relaxing trip around the Isle of Wight would be just the thing to make me that ‘new man’.

Within a few days, I was at the harbour. I’d decided to wear my blue and white Breton long-sleeved top, nicely complemented with a pair of brand-new leather deck shoes. I wanted to look the part – get into character, so to speak.Trouble was, I hadn’t tried the shoes on beforehand, and I realised they squeaked when I walked above a certain speed. I didn’t think too much of it. After all, it wasn’t like I was going to be running anywhere.

Before I could even whip my flask out and have a quick espresso, the Captain was introducing himself to the other four crew members, all of whom seemed like they’d had some previous experience at sea. I started to feel nervous. Good job I skipped the coffee. Could have sent me over the edge.

Then he came to me. In a reassuring tone of voice, he announced, “I’m Captain Kreegan”. He looked exactly as I’d imagined. White beard, cap, polo neck knitted jumper and stocky build. To be fair, he would have looked good in an 80s Birds Eye Fish Finger ad.

He went on to explain the safety procedures, what our roles were, and the basics of sailing. He said we’d pick it up as we went along, and to remember to enjoy ourselves – we’re on holiday. So far so good, I thought. Then he warned, “Going tobe a slight change in the weather. Might get a bit choppy out there, but you’ll be good. Nothing to worry about. Just embrace it”.

Then it struck me. Considering all the time I’d spent imagining myself relaxing, writing my memoirs… and reading Hemingway, it never even crossed my mind that I could get seasick.

In fact, I couldn’t actually remember ever being on a boat before, other than an inflatable dinghy when I was five years old. And that wasn’t a particularly nice experience; my uncle Giuseppe clumsily knocked the tip of his cigarillo off against the boat and we deflated. I learned to swim that day.

I reminded myself that I was there to have a good time, and boarded the boat.

It was delightful. We headed north, away from the island. Captain Kreegan was full of energy; he started singing about an old lady called Mary, and something about being hairy. I wasn’t paying too much attention, I was soaking up the breeze and fresh, sea air.

Read Part 2

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