The pros and cons of living on a narrow boat
Things you take for granted in a house, electricity, water, sewerage… At some point we will go back to living in a house, and oh how I will appreciate running water that never runs out, a rubbish collection, a flushing toilet, a washing machine, electricity… Currently the invertor has broken, new one on its way, which means no laptop, no electric toothbrush, only things which can be charged on USB.
Collecting prescriptions, blood tests, screenings, hospital appointments, X rays… All are a three hour drive away. I follow narrowboat femmes on Instagram, they recently did a reminder to get cervical screening done, as many boaters miss out on healthcare. However our doctors surgery is linked to a good and familiar hospital. The alternative would be registering as visitors locally.
The physical hard work
John does all this, carrying logs from the car, shopping, gas bottles (occasionally), opening locks.
Moving the boat every two weeks
Going out to scout out where to moor up and where to park the car on a Friday evening after a hard week at work, driving both cars there and one back. Getting up and moving on Saturday morning even if it’s raining and you’d rather stay in bed. Last weekend we moved the cars at 10pm Friday, and then at 8am John woke me up with a cup of tea and got going. I took a bit longer, finding my thermals and gloves, and joined him at the first lock. John had filled the water and turned the boat around while I was at work, to save time on Saturday.
John has done most of the moves by himself, so when I do drive the boat again it takes me a little while to get my eye in. After my first lock I was okay again.
At the third lock a man came down, shouting at John. We hadn’t noticed that someone had left one of the paddles slightly open, meaning water was running out of the lock: so that was why it was taking a long time to fill, me jogging on the spot to warm up in spite of my many layers.
I was a bit worried about John and the stranger arguing, two men with windlasses in their hands; I do have a vivid imagination. As I came out of the lock I steered well clear of the angry man and his boat, but he beckoned me to the middle, it was shallow at the edges, he said, and he apologised to John for getting angry.
Then we were there, past a sweeping bend, a little row of boats and just green all around. Beside the towpath a huge log with intricate silvery-brown ivy. Right near the bridge and the road, (our last mooring was quite a walk to the car) and a proper non-muddy towpath.
I hadn’t wanted to get out of bed but getting up, getting going and being out in the elements, seeing nature, water, and just getting on with it, even though I didn’t have to do that much, was actually very soothing after a busy week.
‘Sometimes I long to stretch my arms up above my head,’ John said. I can only do The Tree yoga pose with arms curled not pointed.
Some friends recently moved from a van in a field, into a house in Norwich. It was so amazing to be in all that space; two rooms downstairs, spacious bedrooms, big pieces of furniture, and best of all, big, big wardrobes! I miss being able to see all my clothes at once. Between us we have three large-medium drawers, and a canvas small-medium wardrobe. And a bag of clothes in the boot of the car, from which I remembered to fetch my thermal trousers the evening before the move.
There are people who have boats which are neat as a pin, with everything put away in lots of clever cupboards. We are on the messy side but in our defence there isn’t a lot of cupboard space and 48 foot or 14 metres for two people living aboard full time isn’t that big. When it’s a mess it does irritate, but it doesn’t take long to sort out.
Simplicity/personal growth/spiritual wellbeing
Always being close to nature, the swans, ducks and moorhens, the sound of the rain on the roof, very loud on the metal, alongside gratitude for there being no leaks.
Living in such a small space, with so little, when most people have so much and think they need so much, ‘You realise how little you need to be happy,’ John said.
Whatever happens in the future, I feel that this is a lesson which will remain with us.