With apologies to Clifford T Ward for the punning title – anyone else consider him one of our most grossly under-rated songwriters?
Right, to business then. Every trip it always happens. That moment. The siren call. When you wonder if you’d not rather do this narrowboating thing all the time…sod the house, we’re off and it’s a non-stopping service! In fact, it’s rarely a single moment, more a regular procession of them: the morning head-out-of-door poke, tentative yet expectant and so often rewarded with the bounties of the early morn; and the post-cruise dog walk, one final effort before you take the weight off, crack open the Tizer and take on the wasabi peas in a kamikaze snack assault. Shambling along with the hounds I’ll be presented, somewhere along the route, with a glorious view unfurled before me, and with it a blissful silence, a bucolic quietude that has me damning my own home village as a Suffolk Babel. It’s balm to the soul and I’d be crazy not to want more of it. Ring the estate agent.
But that’s the thing right there – I’m not crazy, I do want more of it, the canals and all its attendant bits are an absolute privilege and joy to be part of….I just don’t want it all the time. There, I said it. You can use this in evidence against me should I ever throw it all up and become a full-time Ratty. But I doubt I will. “Not what you were saying five years ago, Sarah”, shouts a woman in the front row. Yes, I hear you and I will willingly admit that I did seem to cycle through the life plans with a frightening velocity back then. I think we got to Plan J or maybe it was K, as I came up with a revolving carousel of new schemes, all seismic changes that sent the naturally risk-averse and conservative first mate into catatonic shock. It got so bad that I couldn’t even mention the words ‘hypothetically speaking’ without him locking himself in the loo with his Viz magazine and a packet of Hobnobs.
Every plan was predicated on becoming either a full-time liveaboard or near as dammit full-time, some kept the house, others sold the house, some featured thin boats, some boasted fat boats, some even had a butty boat, others had French boats, one even had a French house and an English boat, or was it an English house or French boat…all of them involved bizarre, unrealistic work/finance arrangements and all of them left me, quite honestly, exhausted and no further forward than when I started. Which was more than could be said for Andy’s blood sugar, which was rising steadily on account of the therapeutic biscuit intake.
And in the end, it was Andy, on one of his sorties from his safe place, who came out with the sort of prescient observation that unnerves you for being so spot on and yet somewhat uncharacteristic too. This is the man who leaves things on top of the dishwasher, instead of in the dishwasher for heaven’s sake…he’s not qualified to have sensible thoughts. The thing is, as he so annoyingly noted, my planning frenzy had escalated throughout Henry’s refit ie when we weren’t able to boat in our own right (still a one boat family at this stage), and the only fix we could get was a bit of pirate boating with friends for the odd weekend. The less I was able to boat, the more I wanted to boat, and this just became a vortex of unrequited need and desire that saw trains D-J thunder through the planning station before Plan K drew to a halt at the Sensible Husband platform. Over the tannoy came his simple wisdom, which was something along the lines of “just wait to see how you feel when Henry is ready and you are able to do as much boating as you want”.
So Plan K went into the sidings for a bit, and Henry finally set sail, and, much as I hate to admit it, Andy was bang on. We started getting the miles back under our belt and the cakes on the waistline, and the ‘what if’ frenzy duly stilled. Sure, when it’s a sunny day and I’m sequestered away in my work dungeon, I often think about a life afloat , but it’s just a reactionary tick, I know deep down that the current home/boat balance is the way I like it, at least for now. You see inside this head of mine are all sorts of people…there’s the young optimist still hanging on in there but she’s invariably saddled with the old pragmatist, and the latter’s fat arse sat on the rose-tinted specs so I have no illusions about liveaboard life, in the same way I have no illusions that a house is the be all and end all. Good job then that these two are sharing my headspace with another paradoxical couple, the nomad and the nester. Because that’s the cycle – home, boat, home, boat, home, ooh, let’s do a bit more boating, and a bit more, right, that’s enough of that, we’ve run out of clean clothes, time to stop and stick in the house for a while. And repeat.
When we are about to leave home for the boat, we couldn’t be more excited. Except when we leave the boat to come home, we’re pretty excited then too. Well, maybe excited isn’t the right word. Anticipatory. What can we say, we like our big bed…and our ridiculous corner sofas joined in a huge U, and our Netflix-guzzling broadband, and the two loos, and all our stuff, and Waitrose ten minutes away, and village going-ons, not forgetting being reunited with all eight hounds, even if we do have to fight Wilf and Benny for the prized corner occupancy of the aforementioned sofas. And that you can wear a clean T-shirt all day with a better than evens chance of it staying clean all day. I’d be a hypocrite if I said anything else. Same goes if I said my senses didn’t stir at the thought of our next trip out, and that my planning genie is now more productively engaged in geographical routes and destinations, especially given that we now have two boats to play with. Bizarrely, that particular scenario, with the historic angle, never featured in any plan and when Andy uttered his words of wisdom, I doubt he envisioned ‘as much boating as you want’ playing out quite the way it has with Enceladus entering stage left in a surprise plot twist. It’s worked out very nicely though, for which we are all grateful, particularly Andy’s blood sugar levels