Above and below, Arachne Greek Cypriot Women’s Group, who enjoyed a narrow boat trip to Little Venice and back
Published: 20 July, 2012
by AMY SMITH
IT’S not often you see a 73-year-old woman happily cranking open canal lock gates while singing Arsenal football anthems. For Maria Petrie, 73, and 10 of her friends, this was her first time on a canal boat.
Their trip was part of a series funded by Islington Giving to help confront isolation in older residents and to help those with mental health issues.
Angel Community Canal Boat Trust organised 12 day trips with community groups, including Age UK, Bangladeshi Association and Alzheimer’s Society.
On one trip, Arachne Greek Cypriot Women’s Group travelled on the 72-foot long The Angel II of Islington narrow boat from City Road Basin, via King’s Cross and Camden Town, past Regent’s Park then on to Little Venice and back to Islington.
“I was amazed by the excitement because for them it was a unique opportunity,” Evangelia Prokopiou, health worker at the Greek women’s charity, said. “These are women who have lived in the area for 30 years but have never had the opportunity to go on the canal.”
As the boat moved along, the women greeted towpath passers-by and sang Greek hymns and pop songs.
For Fimie Khasgalian, 81, simply leaving her home was an achievement. “Because of my disability I don’t go out unless my daughter takes me,” she said. “This has been an unforgettable trip. I didn’t expect to make it. I am so proud of myself!”
Ms Prokopiou added: “Fimie’s disability is an obstacle but today she has felt less disabled, which is really important in terms of her identity. This is proof of just how important it is to organise events like this.”
There have been long waiting lists for each of the trips but unfortunately this week saw the last of them. However, project manager and skipper John Checkley hopes to find funding to organise another series.
There will be an opportunity to explore the Angel II canal boat at Angel Canal Festival on Sunday, September 2.
The canal boat trust is looking for volunteers and can provide crew and skipper training. For more information, email Mr Checkley at email@example.com.