The Principle of Plodding On

Guest Post by Sandra Clayton 

Overworked, unwell and living in a cold, damp climate, David and I decided to make a fundamental change to our lives while we still had time. We bought a boat, a catamaran called Voyager, put our house on the market and sailed south.  It wasn’t the best time to do it as our country was in recession. But one of the few advantages of getting older is that at least we’d had plenty of practice at surviving national economic crises. 

We were born in the English Midlands near the end of the Second World War and grew up with food rationing – and a general shortage of practically everything – which continued well into the 1950s. Since then we’ve lived through three more recessions. The one in the early ‘70s was devastating. The one in the ‘80s was not as bad. But it was while we were debating how soon we could afford to set sail that the 1990s recession set in, leaving us unable to sell our house because the UK housing market had collapsed.  We set off anyway.

I begin my first book, Dolphins Under My Bed, with two quotations. One is from an American explorer, who wrote that much of the unhappiness in the world is caused by not knowing how little one really needs to be happy. The other is from an Anglican bishop who used his few minutes of radio airtime to offer listeners what he called The Philosophy of Enough by asking how much, materially, do we really need.

The world is ‘in the worst recession in a generation’ according to one recent commentator. Another said, ‘since the 1930s’. And like many other people, we are poorer than we were because what we tried to put by in good faith against an impoverished old age has been snatched away.  However, one thing we discovered from recessions, and subsequently applied to sailing, is The Principle of Plodding On. It has served us well.

During one particular period at sea we were severely battered by Atlantic gales for nine consecutive days. During that time there emerged a growing realization that we could lose our boat, and quite possibly our lives. Until that fateful moment arrived, however, all we could do was just keep plodding on. As it turned out, Voyager survived and so did we. Once the danger is over, though, an experience of this sort has the effect of concentrating the mind on what is really important to you.

In the movie City Slickers, trail boss Jack Palance offers the benefit of his self-knowledge to Billy Crystal, who is undergoing a mid-life crisis. He tells him that there is just ‘one thing’ that each of us really needs to be happy and that when this is known and properly understood everything else in your life falls into place.

For Jack Palance’s character, that one fundamental thing is driving cattle on the open range. For Billy Crystal’s, it is his family. Facing the prospect of our home and worldly goods being consumed by a raging sea, that knowledge was thrust upon us quite forcefully. As we collected food and water and a few other basics to take with us into our tiny liferaft, all that mattered was that we survive together.

As for recessions, the one thing you can be sure of is that most of us come out the other side. Poorer. But usually stronger. In the meantime, all you can do is just keep plodding on. Bit like life, really.

In the late ‘90s Sandra Clayton and her husband David sold up their home and set sail in a 40-foot catamaran. Since then they have covered around 40,000 miles and visited more than twenty countries. Nobody has to sail to enjoy her books. They are written for anyone interested in travel, people and places or a different way of life.

Sandra’s first two books about their travels, Dolphins Under My Bed and Something Of The Turtle, were originally self-published as PODs and both were Finalists in the travel category of The National Best Books Awards sponsored by USA Book News. The latter also achieved second place under general non-fiction in The Written Art Awards sponsored by Rebecca’s Reads.

Both books have since been taken up by Bloomsbury Publishing, with Dolphins published in May 2011 and Turtles – now under the new title Turtles In Our Wake – in March 2012.

To learn more:


Posted on April 5, 2012, in Humor, Memoir, Personal Growth. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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