I haven’t Blogged in a while….a long while actually. Been kind of busy rearranging my life. Nothing too serious, just life changing. At my age that is quite an accomplishment. Supposed to be settled by now and sitting by the fire with grandchildren bouncing on knees. Don’t have any of those anyway and it’s summer time, so no fire. Instead, I am sitting on a narrow boat in a marina north of London having sold the house and either given away or sold most of my worldly possessions to live on this 58 foot 4 inch narrow boat. All of 6 feet 10 inches wide, it has a 40 foot living area. Madness? Genius? Foolishness? Sanity? Remains to be seen.
A week ago I stood at the lock on the Regents Canal in Camden Town watching a family struggle with the lock gates and getting their narrow boat into the lock. Took them ages, much to the chagrin of the chap waiting behind them. One boat at a time you see. I was a Gongoozler back then, standing there watching the proceedings. Actually, a number of Gongoozlers stood around gawking. That’s the term real boaters give to those who watch but never participate, Gongoozlers. Lots of folk would love to be on the canals of Britain, but can’t be bothered. Maybe for a holiday, but never to live on them in a marina.
A week later I moved onto a boat with my best friend. Have to have at least two to crew. You can do it alone, but have to have incredible stamina and precision. That’s not me folks. But this is now our home. The house is sold and most of what I owned is gone. The learning curve is going to be long and winding. And we haven’t gone anywhere yet. That awaits a couple of weeks work on the boat and our taking a two days Helmsman’s Course to be qualified enough to get out of tight situations and be able to navigate these narrow canals and locks.
So, I sit aboard our boat this morning trying to capture in words what this new life means to me. I have to say I don’t know yet, except that it feels right. I sat on the bow (the front) this morning, a canopied area with side seats, drinking my coffee, eating my toast (grilled under the boats gas grill) and honey, looking down at the water, watching ducks swim by, two swans and their baby and I have to say it felt good. No traffic. No sirens, no noise other than the wind in the trees and the Beatles on in the background….Penny Lane as I write. Lovely.
A man is coming to put in a new shower later this morning. When he gets here I’ll go off for a long walk along the towpath that runs alongside every canal. Then I might go into the very quaint village near the marina and buy a few supplies. Need a bottle of wine for this evening. Not the whole bottle mind you, not all at once….we’ll see. Depends. I may just walk back in later and eat at one of the three local pubs. Come back and have a shower in the new unit.
One thing becomes immediately apparent. Everyone is so friendly. Both on the boats and in the vilage, people say hello and smile. They mean it. The boat folk are not only friendly but helpful as well. They know we’re rookies (word spreads quickly) and come by to introduce themselves and offer advice about this or that aspect of boating. One chap even greased our tiller for us and talked about the pitfalls along the various routes, what to look out for and all that. All unsolicited. Very kind.
The marina is a great facility. We have electric plug-ins and water to fill our tank, just like a trailer park but floating. I can feel the boat rocking slightly as I type. Strong wind today, but fair. You can fill up with diesel, use their shower and toilets to save your own (we have the cassette system….you can Google that if you like). And free wi-fi which is actually working at the moment. Part of me wished it wasn’t to really give me that getting away from all this technology that entraps us these days.
All in all, the first two days have been a delight. But it is summertime now so you’d hope so. That’s why the waterways are so busy at the moment. Lots of holiday makers from all over the world come to Britain each summer to hire narrowboats. They’ll all be gone by the end of September. Then comes the winter. Many narrow boat owners have houses or some kind of living accommodation on land. Not us. We’ll be in the boat in the worst of it. But we have a good heating system on board (another job being done before we go) and a great little wood burning stove. We’ll be fine thanks.
Friends and family are divided in their opinions of the move. Some think we’re crazy. Others think we’re mad. Some say we’re brave and still others are terribly envious. That’s the thing when you go against convention….opinions are divided but usually people disagree with the choices you make. But we made the decision and went for it. I’ll let you know how the winter goes.
My best friend, meanwhile, has gone back to the city to work, leaving me here to learn about the boat and get used to her ways. She’ll be back on the weekend. She’s bringing her parents with her, but they’re staying at a B&B in the village. The boating life is a little too rough for them. But maybe seeing the boat and being on it for a while will convince them their daughter has made the right choice….yes, and that shall happen when the sun goes nova. Even that may not be long enough. Just in case, I’ll get plenty of beer and wine in for the visit.
The man is here to put in the new shower so I’m off. The sky has turned a little grey so I may take my cagoul in case of rain. This ex Gongoozler has had to learn all kinds of new words in taking on this new venture. Won’t bore you with them now. More another time….if I can still get internet that is. You never know out here in wilds of England. In two weeks we head down to our winter mooring….68 miles and 67 locks. Lots of Gongoozlers along the way. I’ll be very friendly and wave to you all.