Welcome to the world of Narrowboating

To risk is to live!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Hello Paul and Lynda

Hi Paul - it's lovely to hear from you all the way from Sweden. I hope you have a lovely warm Christmas!
Hi Lynda - I've been dreadful recently at keeping in touch. Promise to email soon. Have a great Christmas.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Happy Christmas

Sorry, should have said it before but I wish my few readers a very merry Christmas and that the New Year brings all you could wish for.


Long Silence

I have not written anything for absolutely ages and I am sorry if you are one of the few who actually follow my meanderings! I like to think I keep a blog purely for my own amusement but there is little doubt that not having very many people following it or commenting on my posts tends to drain my enthusiasm. So my ego is still alive and kicking!

I haven’t been out on a cruise since I last wrote as work limits my time off and I have been visiting family rather than taking off on my own, but next year all that could change…

The shop I work in is going the way of so many others in ‘these tough economic times’ and will close next year. My employer is saying that he doesn’t want to make me redundant and will find me a job in their warehouse, but I don’t have any desire to work in a warehouse in town. I have only managed to last this long in a mind numbingly boring job because I work in a pretty place with friends about and Bonny to keep me company. I also run the place alone most of the time which suits me much better than having a supervisor breathing down my neck!

So sometime between now and June next year, when the lease runs out, I shall almost certainly be unemployed. I guess being female and just 51, I should feel like I am being thrown on the employment scrapheap, but instead it feels more like someone has just thrown open the cage door! Now the sensible thing to do is to start looking for a better job now but I am past being sensible. Thanks to my step mother’s generosity, I have some savings. At present they are sitting in a bank earning pathetic rates of interest – in fact, taking into account the rate of inflation – my savings are dwindling even though I am not spending a penny! Add to that the fear that Europe will implode and my money will be at risk of disappearing entirely into the vaults of a failed bank, I would rather use at least some of the funds now.

So I am going to cruise and cruise properly! My vague plan is to take a couple of months to go up the Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals (very rural and beautiful by all accounts), coming back via the Middlewich Arm and the fantastic Shropshire Union Canal. Then I will draw breath on my mooring before going down to Oxford and onto the Thames. The South Oxford runs out of water regularly in the summer so this trip will depend on which season we are in by then. It may be that I spend longer up north and then stop for the winter and then do Oxford in the Spring. Meanwhile I hope to visit all the friends I have had no time for since I left Devon! Also being able to visit relatives without a time limit will be lovely. But the main attraction of all this is being utterly free for the first time in my life.

I will have a real chance to explore not only externally but internally. Having endless time on my hands will not always be paradise. I intend to indulge in mindfulness meditation in order to practice living in the present moment and not to rush around trying to fill every minute of my day. Not having work as a purpose in life will mean that I will have to either learn to live without a sense of purpose or will have to find something else to give my life some focus. Or perhaps I will turn entirely native and dance naked whilst howling at the moon! I cannot tell you how exciting I find this suddenly open and unknown future.

My fluid sort of plan is to take a year from when I leave the shop without looking for work in order to do all the above. However I will keep my eyes open and if I happen to fall across a part time or seasonal job that suits me then obviously I’ll take it. After a year I will need to seriously look for work but I could continue to manage on part time or seasonal work so hopefully it won’t be as hard as trying to get a ‘proper’ full time job. We will see. I

I will endeavour to keep this blog apprised of my progress. meanwhile here are a couple of photos of Bonny at work!

Buddha BonnyBon at work

Friday, 30 September 2011

Cruising reflections

Bon on holiday

Bonny can be very meditative at times, despite being young and active. She sat here, looking out over the River Trent for a good hour, just watching the world go by. That was the flavour of our cruise.  I deliberately didn’t plan to travel a long distance with limited time. Instead I wanted to be free to mooch along for a while, see a promising spot to moor and stop for the rest of the day, or a couple of days if the mood took us. As a result I was much more relaxed than usual whilst cruising as I did not put myself under any time pressure.

I also have this dream of being able to give up working and cruise for months on end. I wanted to feel what it would be like to have unlimited time and no targets to aim for. I discovered that I am more of a moorer than a cruiser! I love finding a new place to moor up; new neighbours to pass the time of day with and new walks to explore. The cruising is necessary to do this, but I am not one who likes the cruising for its own sake and so am not happy to cruise from dawn to dusk, leaving no time to explore or relax. I feel slightly less of a boater because of this, but it is good to know. I still want to explore the canal and river system but I think I would do it is chunks, taking plenty of time for each journey and returning to my home mooring in between trips. so I’m not the total gypsy I thought I was!

great single mooring Taft bridge

This is the sort of mooring I love to find as basically I am an unsociable hermit! There are wide banks of reeds at either end of the boat so no one else can moor next to me. There is no road or railway particularly close by and so Bonny can run free and there are no houses nearby. This particular mooring is near Taft Bridge on the Trent and Mersey, in between Rugeley and Great Haywood. The towpath is wide at this point so I can put my lounger out without becoming an obstacle for joggers and dog walkers.

shall I go or stay

I have been dreaming of a perfect home mooring. It would be a single mooring rented from a farmer on one of his fields. he would fence off around 60’ x 60’ so we would have room to sit, grow a few veggies and Bonny would at last have a garden to run free in. There would be access to a stand pipe for water and the mooring would be close to a bridge and the farm lane so I could park my car and access the towpath. It wouldn’t be far from somewhere I could cruise to for diesel and pump outs. It would be heaven for us, so if there are any farmers out there who want a regular income for very little effort…

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The great lone cruise

I have been and gone and come back again with the boat, Bonny and I just about in one piece!
We had 14 days to go wherever we liked and do what ever occurred to us at the time – my sort of holiday! The weather was variable as you would expect in autumn so I managed a little sunbathing, a little puddle jumping and quite a lot of wind!
In fact there were a couple of days when gales hit us. I knew they were coming so I moored up safely – or so I thought. I had moored in the woods where there was some shelter, however I hadn’t taken into account a gap in the windbreak. Boats coming around the bend were reaching the gap and losing control of their bows as the wind struck them. The first this happened to was an old, laden working boat and as it’s bow swung, it hit my boat hard enough to empty my cupboards and scrape the paint back to the metal on my gunwales. He was towing a butty (a boat with no engine generally used for hauling a load) and it followed faithfully and also bounced off me. They were very apologetic and I was very gracious! Shortly after this two hire boats repeated the performance and so I had no choice but to move. It was blowing hard as I untied and hastily leapt on the boat before she took off on her own. I had to negotiate a lock before I could reach a mooring in the woods proper. There was nothing to tie to so I had the joy of trying to hammer in mooring pins whilst at the same time preventing my boat from blowing across the canal. I had a few blisters by the time I finally sat down with a restorative cup of tea.
There were many more enjoyable and less challenging moments and below are some photos of them, but there is something about surviving a potentially dangerous challenge that gives me such a huge buzz!
best photo of cruise
This is one of my better photos of a mooring spot. I am really enjoying having a decent camera at long last. (By the way if you click on a photo you can see it much bigger) My boat is in front of the red one (or behind depending on how you look at it!) The mooring is adjacent to Shugborough Hall at the junction of the Trent and Mersey with the Staffordshire and Worcester canal. You can just see Cannock Chase in the background. Isn’t it gorgeous? The red boat contained a couple with a very friendly spaniel – much to Bonny’s delight.
rare sunbathing!
This was one of the rare really sunny days and Bonny and I took advantage of a bit of sunbathing! The mooring was near Weston on the way to Stone. There was just enough room for one boat to moor – my sort of mooring as, given the choice, I prefer solitude to neighbours.

gales at woodend
The photo really doesn’t do it justice but this was the scene of my frightening encounter with a gale and a working boat. The trees were waving about all over the place but you can’t really tell from the photo.

interesting cruising weather
Another interesting weather day. This was taken on the Staffs and Worcester near Penkridge. The promise was kept though as the next day was lovely.

fast flowing trent
The River Trent tracked us for a lot of our trip. The river is, at this point in its life, shallow and fast flowing and very beautiful. More photos and anecdotes to follow. I’ll leave you with sunset over the Trent…

sunset in paradise

Sunday, 28 August 2011

One of my favourite spots

I’m still not sure how far I will be cruising next week but I will definitely be stopping at Great Haywood. This is where the Trent and Mersey meets the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal. It is the most beautiful spot and so although I haven’t started my holiday yet, I thought I would share some of my photos of the area with you…
great hayward trip 002This is the much photographed bridge at the canal junction. Fortunately it is pedestrian only so it won’t be shaken apart by traffic it was never built for, unlike some of our other canal bridges.

great hayward trip 001
This is the River Trent and the rather grand foot bridge leads to the Shugborough Estate which is open to the public. This is a great swimming hole with crystal clear water and is where I taught Bonny to swim!

shugborough hall mooring
This is the aforementioned Shugborough Hall. They have staff dressed up in Victorian garb and it is good for a visit. They also hold concerts and other events in the grounds. It is a well  watered area as the Rivers Trent and Soar run through the estate and the two canals run around the boundaries.

Gatehouse TixallThis is the gatehouse to the long disappeared Tixall Hall. It is taken from Tixall Wide, which is a beautiful spot where the Staffs and Worcester canal widens out into a lake and where kingfishers are regularly seen. Apparently, when the canal was built, the landowners would only consent to the canal being built across their land if it looked beautiful – hence the widening!

great haywood
Mooring in Tixall Wide is lovely but there is no shade, so when it is very hot (not this year!!) I moor around the corner on the Trent and Mersey with a view across to the Hall and welcome shade from a wooded area on the other side, with a pretty path running through it.

great hayward trip 001 (2)
So this will be us next week! I just hope this picture of my boat in the sunshine is prophetic, but even if it tips down every day, we will still have fun.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Excitement mounting!

This time next week I will finally be on holiday and able to cruise with just Bonny for company - Bliss! So far I have had two cruises this year and both were with friends. It's nice to share the experience with people, but I am aware that lately I have started to feel claustophobic with a prickly sensation of irritation with those around me, which is a sure sign that I have been around people too much and need to retreat for a while.

I have two whole weeks of freedom. I have been very indecisive as to where to cruise and have changed my mind on almost a daily basis. I am currently favouring going up the Trent and Mersey to Stone and then to Tixall Wide on the Staffs and Worcester, before possibly going to the Shropshire Union for a few days. Alternatively I may carry on past Stone and go up the Caldon Canal. Wherever I go, it will be slowly with plenty of stops. I have never been one to try and do a whole ring in a week which entails long days of constant cruising. I much prefer to get an earlyish start and cruise till 1 or 2pm and then stop, have lunch and then explore wherever I have ended up mooring or flop and watch the world go by.
The advantages of this approach is that I actually feel I have had a holiday, rather than to come home exhausted and aching. It also means I can usually moor where I want as most of the cruising public aren't looking to stop till later and so there are plenty of vacant moorings. The disadvantage is that I don't get to travel very far and so, thanks to work only allowing me little bite sized chunks of time, I tend to cover the same territory. Still, when my ship comes in (no pun intended) I will be able to cruise for months and years and go everywhere! Meanwhile both Stone and the Caldon will be new places for me - if I get there!

I know I regularly bemoan the fact that I have to work and would much rather be a full time idler, but recent rumblings at work have made me grateful to still have a job - I just hope that situation continues as being a 50 something female does not make for plentiful job opportunities!

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Solar panel experiments

It is over a month since I fitted a solar panel to the roof of my boat and in all that time there has only been two fully sunny days!! However, in the last couple of weeks I have been recording how much sun we have had, what the percentage charge of my batteries are at the lowest point – in the morning after using power the previous evening, no sun overnight and the fridge running. Then I record what it is when I return from work, how long I then run the engine for to top the batteries up and what it shows after TV time when I go to bed.

It all sounds a touch anal, but my discoveries will hopefully ensure I only run the engine for as long as I need to in order to keep my batteries happy and thereby save money on diesel and engine wear. It will also ensure I don’t over estimate what the panel is doing and then run my batteries down too low.

For those of you who don’t know about leisure batteries and haven’t yet fallen asleep through boredom, I shall explain how to treat them nicely so they last as long as possible. This is important because a set of 5 good leisure batteries can cost around £350 to £400. Batteries have a limit of how many times you can charge and discharge them. It’s around 200 full charges and discharges. However if you don’t let the batteries discharge more than 50% of their power, you can double their life span. Ideally you want to keep them at between 60% and 80% although a friend who knows about these things told me yesterday that it’s OK to let them go to 50% but no lower. If they are consistently run down too low then they suffer sulphation and die quickly. for people living attached to shore power in marinas etc. their batteries could last for years and years. But for us hardy people who are permanently generating our own power, apparently we are doing well if our batteries last much over two years.

Right, end of technical stuff. I also wanted to mention again how close to Heaven Fradley Junction is for Bonny and I – particularly because of the plethora of walks there are on our doorstep. One of our favourites is around the grounds of a wedding and conference venue called Alrewas Hayes. It is a lovely old house surrounded by farmland. The whole atmosphere of the place is peaceful and welcoming. They don’t seem to mind us walking anywhere outside and I always get a friendly wave or thumbs up if I see the people who run it. The house signs show a motto which I assume has lasted since it was a family home. It is “To be rather than to seem”. I love it and think about the meaning of this for my own life while I walk. It’s not a cheap venue but if you are looking for somewhere beautiful, then check out their website.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Anger released

With the risk of drifting away from boating matters, I just wanted to follow up on the last post.

There has been a lot of anger floating around in the last weeks, for me personally and on a larger scale with the recent riots. Apart from the incidents related in my previous entry, I have also been really angry with the Church since I left it nearly 3 years ago. That anger, until recently, remained unexpressed and had festered inside me.

I have also been angry with my current employer. I work entirely unsupervised which is fine most of the time. However I am made to feel like a non person within the organisation. They do this by ignoring my emails and phone calls for stock or to resolve problems in the shop. They ignore requests for items we need like lights and tools etc. In two and a quarter years they have never once given me any feedback about the job I am doing. When I send suggestions about how we can improve, they might implement the suggestion but never acknowledge it has come from me. I haven’t seen anybody in a supervisory capacity since last Christmas! I could go on! The point of this is, until today this anger was unexpressed.

Two weeks ago I wrote to the head of the Church organisation I used to work for and expressed at great length how angry I was with the Church and where, in my opinion, it was going wrong. I certainly didn’t hold back and although I regret some of the more personal criticisms I levelled at the hapless boss, the relief I felt at finally expressing all my negative feelings was simply wonderful. It was like lancing a particularly badly infected boil. Today I repeated the exercise by writing to my current boss and expressing how I feel to be being treated with so little respect within his organisation. Again I feel like a coiled spring inside me has unwound, purely by expressing myself and letting the anger out.

Now I doubt either boss will take any real notice of what I have said, much less act on it, but I have said it and that’s what feels important. I wonder if the recent riots will do the same for an angry, fearful populace? Unfortunately I doubt it. You cannot keep people in a permanent state of fear and uncertainty without repercussions. Oh yes, I know most of the people involved were out to steal and damage without any thought of motive, but I also know that the messages coming from the state are that we should be financially terrified for the future, that many young people have little chance of securing good employment and that the planet itself is dying because of our lack of care. Follow that up with examples of the state machine acting with no sense of responsibility or morality (banking crisis, MP’s expenses, hacking etc.) and you have a perfect situation for the hope lacking populace to revolt.

I guess the question I am left with is – Is it healing enough to have expressed anger or do we also need the causes of our feelings to be addressed?

I promise, more boat related stuff next time!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Angry Episodes

In case it sounds like my life afloat is utterly idyllic, I thought I would share with you three episodes in one week where ‘real’ life broke in.

The first was a rare case of ‘canal rage’. I had been taking Bonny for her morning walk when I saw a boater friend by the lock and stopped for a chat. Another boater I know – a single hander - was using the lock. He had just got his boat in and was closing the gates, when a couple in a boat waiting in the other direction both went to the top paddles and, without even looking at my mate for permission, started to wind the paddles up as fast as they could. As I have mentioned in my previous entries, this is a BAD thing to do as it causes the boat to ram the front gates which not only empties all the cupboards on the boat, but can also damage the gates.

My mate shouted at them to stop winding as he scrambled to get back on his boat to control it. The male of the couple – he looked around 60 and pretty inoffensive – went off like an absolute fire cracker. He strode towards my mate with his windlass (a heavy and useful weapon) held high, screaming at him not to … tell him what to … do! My mate was standing perilously close to the edge of the cut and is no spring chicken himself. He put his hand up to grab the windlass and was breathlessly trying to explain to the man why he had shouted. But the red mist had well and truly descended and I could see that any moment my mate was either going to be brained with the windlass or pushed into the canal or both.

Without really thinking, I leapt to his defence and thrust myself in between the two men so I had my mate pressed into my back and the mad stranger eyeball to eyeball. It did cross my mind that I’m really too old for this, but summoning my best ex-police officer voice I told the man in no uncertain terms to let go off the windlass and step back. No reaction and spittle was starting to spray rather unpleasantly from his mouth. I then told him that if he wanted to hit a 50 year old woman with a windlass in front of witnesses then he should do it now before I pushed him into the cut to cool him down! The light started to die in his eye and I felt his grip loosen. Just then, his wife decided this would be a really good moment to join in. She tried to grab the windlass and kept yelping that they were only helping and they always help and they are really very helpful people. I saw her husband was about to get his second wind, so I snarled at his wife ‘back off’. She took one look at my face and did so. The husband then dropped the windlass and stalked back to his boat. The wife kept a death grip on the lock gate and kept repeating that she was going to help! Danger over, I left them to it.

I didn’t feel any fear during the incident, instead I went into the same zone that I used to inhabit in the police – a sort of detached rationality where everything seems to slow down and I could think through the next move without being overcome with emotion. What did frighten me was how I felt during the incident – a savage joy as the adrenalin surged because I knew I could control this situation and if necessary I had no qualms about using violence myself! I enjoyed ‘acting the hero’ and as a ‘peace lover’ that made me take a hard look at myself.

The second episode was less dramatic but happened only 2 days later. This time I was the hapless boater who was waiting for a boat to clear the lock before entering it myself. A boat came up behind me and rammed straight into my rear! (the rear of my boat that is!) I looked round and waited for the boater to apologise and back off but he did neither. Instead he and his wife told me I should have moved quicker and that they had been boating 30 years and so it couldn’t possibly have been their fault. When I pointed out that I couldn’t have moved because there was still a boat in the lock they asked how could they have been expected to see that because they had only just come round the corner. I was angry. I pointed out that had they come round the corner a little slower they would have seen the other boat and would not have hit me. I then walked off to set the lock. The man followed me and although not aggressive, was determined to have the last word. I promptly sunk to his level and kept answering back so that I would have the last jab! This carried on until I had left the lock and we were still sniping at each other as I cruised out of ear shot. Not my proudest moment!

The last incident – all in the same week involved a woman driving towards me on a single track road when our wing mirrors just touched as we passed. Mine wasn’t even knocked out of position since it was such a light touch, so I carried on up the road and stopped where I normally park. She turned around and drove up behind me in a great puff of smoke. When I got out of my car she was spluttering about leaving the scene of an accident and that she was in shock because I hadn’t stopped. She said she had thought I was a ‘boy racer’ – (I refer you to the pictures of my car in my last entry!) When we looked at both cars it was obvious there was no damage to either (although she had a go at suggesting I had caused what was obviously old damage to her mirror edge, before admitting it had happened some time ago). I pointed out that since there was no damage and no injury, there was in fact and in law no accident, and so there was no reason for me to stop. She replied that I should have stopped because she had suffered shock because I hadn’t! I can’t reason with that sort of logic and I think she realised how silly she was being so she left, having said I was lucky she had decided not to take it any further.

So, three incidents in one week all involving conflict. Was that a coincidence? After all I can go months and months with no arguments at all. Have I upset the flow of the universe in some way and this is its way of telling me? am I just being picked on, or is it perhaps God’s revenge as I recently sent a seriously angry email to the head of Church Army pointing out where he, the Church Army and the Church in general were going wrong? I don’t know, but if nothing else it has been a useful if uncomfortable reminder of what I have inside me and what I am still capable of!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Pictures sorted

I have finally sorted out my photography issues and wanted to show off my two new purchases…

titch 1   Isn’t she pretty? I call her Titch. I titch's backsidehad to take a picture of her face as she definitely has one – hence the eyebrows! She is a bit of a 60’s throwback and I love her. Yes, she only has a 1 litre engine but the upside is that she does 63 mpg and costs only £20 a year to tax. Oh, she is a Peugeot 107 by the way.titch's face

solar panel

If Titch saves me in tax and petrol, this beauty saves me diesel. This is my new solar panel and so far it has more than cut my diesel costs in half! Instead of running my engine for between 2 and 3 hours every day to charge my batteries sufficiently for all my energy needs, I am now running it between 1 and 1.5 hours. At this rate I will have paid for the panel and controller and fitting in just over one year. Obviously there are less daylight hours in winter but on the plus side they won’t be much shade from the trees and also the light is clearer in winter – something to do with less dust in the air, so more power to the panel.

The only downside, as you can tell from the picture, is that since I got it, we have hardly had a sunny day so I have yet to see it operating at its best!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Don’t Panic

I meant to post a picture or two of my boat in the last entry – never mind, here they are…

summer dont panic 1

journey 005

dont panic in mist

Single handing

I have always been single – both in boating and in life terms. I have a confession to make – in this age of compulsory relationships, I am actually very happy with my own company and could not imagine what it would be like to share my space with another person 24/7!

I often get comments from people who see me operating my boat alone. They range from ‘Oooh, aren’t you brave’ (to which I reply ‘No, just no choice if I want to cruise’) to ‘Oh I couldn’t do that’ (to which I reply – ‘it’s amazing what you find you can do if you just give it a go’.)

By the way, while I am vaguely near the subject, do you know how incredibly old fashioned canal culture is when it comes to roles for men and women? Living at the bottom of a lock flight means that I see lots and lots of boats come through. I would estimate that 95% of boats that have a couple on board have the woman doing all the hard work of operating the locks while their men lean on the tiller watching them and waiting to steer the boat into the lock. When I comment on it, the vast majority of women say ‘Oh I always do the gates, I couldn’t possibly steer the boat.’

Could I just say this once – steering the boat is the easy bit. It is a conspiracy on the part of the male to tell their women that steering is hard and you might damage the boat if you get it wrong. You won’t damage a narrow boat – they are made of steel and IT ISN’T DIFFICULT TO STEER! It just takes practice. The hard part is winding stiff paddles, struggling with heavy gates and trying to persuade other crews not to whip your paddles up so fast that your boat bounces about like a sexual athlete!

Quite often the male will stand beside their boat on the towpath and pretend to have to hold it there by its centre rope, so they couldn’t possible go and help set the lock – even when it is obvious their partner is struggling. A word to them – those round white things near the lock are called lock bollards and they exist so you can tie your boat to them while you go and exercise your muscles and your chivalry!

There, that feels better.

Back to single handed or ‘lone’ boating. I do have to think ahead a little more than boaters with crew do. I also have to take it a little slower through locks, swing bridges etc. Although having said that, in narrow locks I have a system which allows me to lock through just as quick as boats with crew. Also I get lots of offers of help both from ‘gongoozlers’ (the term for those who visit the canals and watch the boats going through) and from other boat crews. I love it when they offer to close the gates for me after I have passed through as it means I don’t have to balance my boat in the mouth of the lock whilst climbing back up to close the gates. I don’t love the aforementioned crews who, without even looking at me, wind both lock paddles up as fast as they can. The effect of this is that the water rushing in will push my boat back towards the rear gates. Then when the tidal wave hits the back gates and rushes forward again, it picks my boat up and slams it into the front gates!

People often ask me how safe I feel, particularly mooring up in the middle of nowhere all on my own. I feel very safe on the canals. I have never once been threatened by anybody. I remember once feeling threatened as I approached a lock in a town and noticed a group of hooded young men sitting on the balance beam drinking out of paper bags. I was going to have to move them in order to operate the lock and I really wasn’t looking forward to it. But it was a lesson for me not to judge by appearances. They all leapt up (or staggered depending on their level of drunkeness) and asked if they could help me. With some trepidation I handed over my windlass (makes a useful weapon) and instructed them on the dark art of lock operation. They did exactly as I asked and were so chuffed with themselves when the boat emerged safely.

You do meet a lot of characters on the water and some of them will be very different in every way from you and that can sometimes feel scary. But I find meeting people like that fascinating and if I refuse to give in to feelings of fear when meeting strangers then generally it is a good experience. I do believe that fear keeps us apart from each other and since my chances of meeting an axe murderer / rapist / litter dropper are fairly small, I refuse to let my fear dictate my actions and separate me from my neighbour.

A favourite advert of mine had as its tag line ‘Don’t let your fear stand in the way of your dreams’. Amen to that!

autumn mooring

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Do Less

My current philosophy of life can be summed up in the two words above. This philosophy has been largely shaped by two books by Tom Hodgkinson – How to be Free and How to be Idle. I highly recommend them – particularly the first as it helped me change my life from stress driven land living to chilled out living afloat.

Before I moved onto my boat I was your typically driven career woman. I worked long hours and even when I was off duty I would fill my days with activities. In fact any period of inactivity would make me quite anxious. I took as my mantra the old Victorian work ethic; the more you do, the holier you are. The devil finds work for idle hands etc etc. What is amazing is that most of society, including the Church still live by this lie. It helps keep our capitalist world turning, the workforce willing and our congregations subdued and exhausted if we are convinced that the harder we work the more valuable and worthwhile we are.

But what would life be like if we all did less? If we spent significant amounts of time smelling the roses or sharing a pint with our neighbours or sitting still, being aware of the present moment and what a gift breathing is!

Less activity would mean less pollution, less interfering in other peoples lives, less war, less stress, less heart disease, less road rage, less crime, less mental illness. I could go on…and on and on! In my life afloat I have found that my shoulders have dropped from being somewhere around my ears as my whole body has slowly relaxed. I no longer use a diary as I make very few set appointments. The whole pace of life slows when you can only travel at 3mph.

Learning to be lazy has taken discipline though. I still find when I am sitting in the sun, watching the world float by, that all the ‘worthwhile’ jobs I could be doing march through my brain and endeavour to lever me out of my lounger. I still jump in to help boaters at locks even though they haven’t asked for assistance. I realise that I am boosting my own ego by offering help – showing I know how to do it well – rather than being motivated by any sort of altruism. I still look for ways I can ‘get involved’ to make me feel significant or useful.

However I am getting better (or worse if you actually believe in the work ethic!) I am better now at recognising my internal slave driver and telling her to go to hell where she belongs. When I catch myself about to leap up and do something, I am practising just pausing and becoming aware of what is driving me. I am  loving taking leisurely walks and actually noticing and rejoicing in the bird song, the colour of the leaves, the other people walking past. When cruising, I am slowly letting go of the need to ‘get on’. If someone is working the lock slowly then I am getting better at waiting without my blood pressure rising. I’m even practicing occasionally saying ‘No, after you’!

My health has improved, my self esteem has improved as I am no longer relying on achievement or applause to boost it and I am slowly finding my own natural rhythm of life. I highly recommend idleness to all my readers – I would start a movement except that I am becoming too lazy for all that activity!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Some photos to set the scene

Bonny's 1st cruise 001

This is my crew member Bonny Lass. This was taken when she was around a year old – she is two now. She has ridden on the roof of my boat since she was 12 weeks old and she loves it. We don’t use the life jacket very much any more as she has never yet fallen in off the roof and she can swim. Her favourite position is right up at the front, by the cratch. I think she believes that she is deciding where the boat is going and I’m just following on behind!


She is very friendly with absolutely everybody and even tries to befriend the swans at our mooring. They hiss horribly at her but she doesn’t take the hint!


This was what our mooring looked like for most of last winter.


view to starboard spring

And this is our view in the summer.

mary and Fradley 010

Lastly, this is me with my best friend!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The story so far…

Since this is a brand new site, I thought I would run through my story so far – or at least what led up to my living on a narrowboat on the Trent and Mersey canal.

I was born as fifth child of seven and attended boarding school till I was 16 when I went to college, got the odd undistinguished qualification and then shocked my family by joining the police force in Hampshire. My father, who I think was expecting me to do a ‘little ‘job’ before finding a respectable man to marry, told me I’d never last the training – just as well he did, it was the only thing that kept me in!

I was a police officer for 16 years, reaching the dizzy heights of detective sergeant on murder squad, but never found a respectable man to marry – or any other type for that matter, although came close once. Then, for various reasons I got fed up with the police and joined the Church Army instead! This is like the SAS of the Church of England and it’s purpose was to ‘share the Gospel by word and action’ and incidentally recruit more people for the Church. It only took me 9 years to get fed up with the Church, but for more profound reasons than the police. It is harder to leave the Church however, as they give you a nice house to live in and a good standard of living but not much pay so I could never save enough for a house of my own (although had one when I was in the police and sold it at a loss – long story!)

I was pondering my options when I saw a programme about narrow boats on Sky. I had loved boats when I was a child, although it was yachts we spent most of our holidays on, but the idea of living on the water immediately appealed. With my endowment maturing from the mortgage I used to have and a sizeable bank loan I could manage to raise around £35,000. So I started my search.

One of the first things I did was attend a boat handling course at Stourport to find out if I could manage to cope with cruising singlehanded. I did one day on the canal and one on the River Severn and realised that I picked up the basics pretty quickly – enough for the boat and I to survive, but that it would take a lifetime to master – what an exciting prospect!

I also drove around the country talking to as many boaters that I could find – no problem striking up conversations – boaters are a friendly, chatty lot for the most part and most are very happy to pass on tips to a beginner. they gave me a good idea of the sort of boat I should be looking for with my budget and told me the sort of thing to avoid. I visited as many brokerages as I could, but at the same time started to hunt for a mooring. finding a boat is easy, finding a mooring if you are living on your boat is considerably more difficult.

Eventually I found narrowboat ‘Don’t Panic’ – the name nearly put me off buying her as I hate being told not to panic – especially when I am, but I have since grown into the name! She was built by Tim Tyler (very reputable) and won the Lionel Munk trophy for her fit out, when she was built 13 years ago. She is a 50 footer with a trad stern, pump out loo and Beta 43 engine (all that will mean something to you only if you know something about narrowboats – skip it otherwise!)

I started off living in Barton Marina near Burton upon Trent and that was a good beginning as I knew nothing about this life I had chosen and at the marina there were plenty of people offering help and advice. the prices were reasonable and the marina welcomed liveaboards (as we are called) which is quite unusual.  However by the end of my first year I knew that I wasn’t a marina sort of person. It was too much like a small village for me – yes, lots of people to chat to and lots of help, but also lots of people with too much time on their hands and so silly disputes and gossip abounded. People would know when you sneezed and I value my solitude too much to sacrifice it for safety or convenience.

So, by the beginning of my second year I was living on a British  Waterways mooring at Fradley Junction – the nearest place to Heaven that I have ever been to!

That just about brings us up to date although I haven’t mentioned my cruising adventures yet, which include nearly sinking the boat but they will keep for another day. I will end this entry by saying that this is the first time in my life that I have been completely happy!

Hello and welcome to my new blog!

This blog is taking over from my last one - The Narrow Way.
My purpose in writing is to share what it is like to live aboard a narrowboat and how I cope (or don't) with single handed boating! I also occasionally stray into a bit of philosophy around meaning of life stuff. I haven't entirely been successful in setting up this blog as it keeps sending me error messages when I try to make it pretty but if it allows you to leave comments yet, then feel free! Photos of the boat and other stuff to follow.