Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Inside-Out Living Room

8th July

Both children slept through the night, but we were woken at the break of dawn by a gaggle of geese honking into a crescendo, as unrelenting as an Islington car alarm.

We’ve moved the boat from Waltham Abbey to Cheshunt, a short journey of only one hour including one lock. The Doctor went to London to his office and to our post box to collect the post. The girls and I went to the launderette in suburban Cheshunt. There are red brick semi-detached houses with prim rose gardens, gravelled drives and double glazed porches in a soulless and sinister echo of Everytown, England. It’s quiet here. Too quiet. Not peaceful, just still and eerie. After a twenty-five minute walk the launderette is an oasis to me in the silent suburban unreality. I have mastered a technique of carrying two loads of washing and two kids, just using a rucksack and a double pushchair. The Doctor is impressed with my efficiency.

Cheshunt. The headquarters of Tesco. The cut is right next to the station which is brilliant for a fast train to London. Windmill Lane is a bit chav’s and kebab shops; not so charming, but the river Lee navigation on Cheshunt’s eastern edge meanders past lakes and exceptional natural beauty. From our back deck we watch swans, geese and the occasional heron.

Now we’re moored at Cheshunt we have caught up with Single Boat Mum and her friends. They are moored five minutes up the towpath above the lock on the offside. The heat wave continues and green grasses burst alive all over the place as we stroll up the summer towpath to find Single Mum’s boat. Her and the three boats she is travelling with have moored together above the lock beside a lake and created a deck-chaired chill-out area among the woodland on the river bank. It’s a communal outdoor living room; coffee table, fruit bowl, and a mantel piece style of wooden clock is surreal at the foot of a tree, just as if Lewis Carroll had put it there. It’s a wild and private garden. We drink tonic water and fruit juice. The three children enjoy fruity finger foods and get messy. It’s fun to talk to Single Mum about boating and being a boat mum, and Cheshunt and moving moorings, commuting and travelling, babies and things that we have in common. I know boaters and I know mums but someone who is doing both is rare.
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