Waterways and canals symbolic of a religious journey in life

A childhood resident of Forton who grew up exploring the waterways and countryside in the area has written a book which links the canals of Forton to a religious journey in life.
Author Gill Bentham has written a book called 'As If' which will be officially launched in June.Author Gill Bentham has written a book called 'As If' which will be officially launched in June.
Author Gill Bentham has written a book called 'As If' which will be officially launched in June.

Gill Bentham, who is 54, left Forton in 1987 at the age of 18 to go to Hull University but has fond memories of her time spent there.

Gill said: “Coming to the area age 11, I joined Garstang High school in the second term of the first year and had a tough time adjusting to the teasing about my more southern accent, missing friends in Norfolk where we had moved from.

“I enjoyed exploring the local countryside on my bike.

Gill Bentham's dad Ben Shaw, formerly a photography lecturer at Lancaster and Morecambe College.Gill Bentham's dad Ben Shaw, formerly a photography lecturer at Lancaster and Morecambe College.
Gill Bentham's dad Ben Shaw, formerly a photography lecturer at Lancaster and Morecambe College.
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“Repeatedly getting soaked walking to the school and waiting on the side of the A6 in the pouring rain meant many a day at school sat in wet clothes or steaming off on huge metal, lumpy radiators.

“My father gained a post teaching photography at Lancaster and Morecambe FE College.

“There was less opportunity for my mum who had mainly concentrated on bringing up my sister and me, but she worked for many years in the Garstang area as a home help.

“This was before branching out and applying to do a ceramics diploma at Preston Polytechnic, based in a Lancaster annexe. I remember being proud of the fact she had such interesting homework to complete, around the same time as I was preparing for O-levels.

A tree by the canal at Forton.A tree by the canal at Forton.
A tree by the canal at Forton.
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“She then worked as a care assistant at the Royal Albert Hospital’s craft room with the residents and had many interesting stories to tell me about their escapades. I attended Lancaster Girl’s Grammar sixth form (1981-3) studying English, Art and Biology.

“Sometimes I volunteered to work a few days at the Royal Albert Hospital, on my school holidays and, in my sixth form work experience from the Girls’ Grammar, I spent a rather grim week on a psycho-geriatric ward at The Moor Hospital as an introduction to nursing.

“My sister trained as a nursery nurse at the same college as Dad.

“In fact, we both learned to drive en route with him to between Forton and Lancaster in his VW Beetle car, those weekdays during our FE student years.

The canal at Tewitfield.The canal at Tewitfield.
The canal at Tewitfield.
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“I spent many hours as a solitary young person walking or cycling along the canal. I knew all the local ponies and visited them with apples or sugar cubes, sometimes taking picnics with my sister, sometimes mentally revising or taking some homework there such as the summer assignment of watercolour sketching for A-level Art landscape practise.

“I even (somewhat tamely) celebrated finishing my A-levels with a bottle of Schloer on the canal-side in 1983 on the evening of my last exam!

“My late father, Bentley, was a gifted photographer who introduced my sister Alison and me to a love of the countryside and canal life.

“My mum, Freda, still attends Hollins Lane Methodist church in Forton, which houses a few beautiful wooden handcrafted items including a music stand and a lectern made by my father.

The lock at Rufford Branch, Burscough.The lock at Rufford Branch, Burscough.
The lock at Rufford Branch, Burscough.
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“He was a keen violinist and choir member there after his retirement from Lancaster and Morecambe College of FE where he held a post for many years as a photography lecturer.

“He came to faith after years of agnosticism, partly through reading my manuscript shortly before his death.”

Gill left Lancashire to become a qualified nurse at Hull University and now lives in Doncaster, and is a member of Legacy Church Doncaster.

She said: “No stranger to setbacks and disappointments, I was co-leader of a church in Doncaster which suffered devastating losses in the 2007 floods of South Yorkshire.

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“The loss of our church building under two feet of water and its heavy emotional toll after necessary adjustments, meant the ministry then failed. Having left nursing and as a result of the failed diversion into ministry, this career disruption nearly cost me my nursing registration.

“Instead of losing everything though, the concepts of these bitter experiences were translated into a powerful message of hope for restoration.

“I use the metaphor of the canal throughout my book – its construction, its slow and tranquil pace, the obstruction and principles of the lock mechanism for safe and effective passage and the watchful supervision of the lock keeper for those who travel on it.

“Woven in with this is a passion for restoration, wholeness and a message of hope in a walk of faith through life.

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“The book, called As If – Steering your Life without Strife, Navigating from Fantasy into Faith and Rising from Delusion into Destiny, is partly autobiographical.

“It weaves in a canal journey narrative and deals with paradoxes of suffering and frustration and offers a strong sense of the trustworthiness of God.

“The book is illustrated with many of my late father’s photographs sourced from around the Lancaster and Leeds-Liverpool canal and is an investigation into the maturing of faith through trials. The book is my second one, exploring many themes emerging from those childhood walks and cycle rides along the Forton canal towpaths, drawing upon a knowledge of wild flowers and a love of the beautiful, local landscapes.”

The book is told through the eyes of an elderly woman as she tells her stories to her great-granddaughter.

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The narrative teases the reader by writing from a future time and a retrospective position as if the author is in her final years.Gill said: “The book has taken over 15 years to write.

“A spiritual guide, ‘As If’ is a kind of 21st Century, waterborne Pilgrim’s Progress.

“Drawing from the imagery of the passing countryside, I share my fascination with the engineering of our British waterways.”

Her faith, she says is a defining and fundamental part of her life.

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She sqays: “I had no peace or purpose until I grasped a living faith for myself.

“I was a self-pre-occupied and anxious teenager and I consider that it is only through having a God-centred approach to life, I have learned to take myself less seriously, listen to and care about others.”

Gill adds: “‘As If’, is a heartfelt story indeed. My husband Phil and I found each other in 2017.

“He already had savings for a life’s ambition to sail a canal circuit on a narrowboat. I had a book already written and set in the context of this scenery. Now these two dreams come together in the book tour.”

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Gill has two children, a daughter Esme, 24, and a son Simeon, 20.

Her previous book, Disentangling Genius, was written to help readers find and disentangle their uniquely personal genius. Her work as a life coach as well as a nurse and author has given her insight into people’s lives, motivations and patterns of behaviour.

n As If – Steering Your Life Without Strife, Navigating from Fantasy into Faith and Rising from Delusion into Destiny has been nominated for a 2019 Author Academy Award.

To support Gill Bentham and vote go to https://authoracademyawards.com/vote2019.The book launch of will take place on a circular canal cruise of the Warwickshire ring between June 17 and July 1, 2019.

Event details here: https://bit.ly/2ANU8Dg.

Visit www.gillbentham.com.

Buy As If – Steering Your Life Without Strife on Amazon from June 25.