Friday 26 November 2010

Boat Families Meet-Up

26th September

So we finally had our boat families meet up in the child-friendly rain-proof venue, The Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green. Two families couldn’t make it due to illness and holidays, so the guest list was: myself and family, Barge Mum, Barge Dad, and Barge Baby, who is named after a little flower. I also invited Single Boat Mum and her blue-eyed baby with the pirate shoes. The Doctor and I were travelling in from the edges of our remote field, and delayed by the train. So Single Boat Mum phoned me and asked,
“What does Barge Mum look like?” They’ve never met, but they’ve heard about each other on the towpath telegraph.
“Um. Light brown hair, straight, down to her shoulders. But I don’t know how you’ll find her. There must be loads of people there. It must be quite busy.”
“No it isn’t. I think I might be looking at her.”
“We’re just coming out of the tube, we’ll be there in two minutes.”
When we arrived they had found each other and were pleased to finally meet. Single Boat Mum now has Jolly Rodger wellies, that match her daughter’s footwear. Barge Mum said that it was Barge Dad’s birthday and there were smiles all round as we began chatting and unpacking baby food and sorting out high chairs.
“It’s your birthday is it?” asked the Doctor. “That’s an excuse for a pint later,” he grinned.

Topic of the day was, what is everyone going to do about winter mooring? This year British Waterways has changed the application process to something on line. The way we understand it, there is a date next week when we all have to log on at the same time and try to buy our mooring by the foot. It is a case of first come, first served, and London winter moorings are notoriously popular. When each mooring site’s length in feet has been sold, there will be no more space available to buy. Meeting each other today and having such fun discussing boating and babies, we mournfully wished that we could all just moor together in one big happy community.
“Shall we all just moor together, in Angel?”
“If only we could all get in there, but it’s so popular.”
“I’d love to go there,” said Barge Mum.
“Have you never been there?” asked Single Boat Mum.
“We tried to go there,” she laughed, “but we got stuck in Maida Vale tunnel!”
“I’m going to sort out that wheel house,” grinned Barge Dad. “I’ve started doing it!” He plans to convert it into a collapsible wheel house, then they can go East, through the London canal tunnels.
“So we’re going to apply for Little Venice for winter, I think,” said Barge Mum. “We got a letter from BW saying that we’re not allowed to apply for Paddington again. They had complaints about us last winter.”
“Complaints?” I asked. “What have you done?”
“Oh I don’t know,” she said. “It was that really cold winter, we were frozen in, so we used the tap at Marks and Spencers to get water.”
“They asked us not to do it,” admitted Barge Dad, “but we did it a couple of times.”
“What? So, you’ve run out of water and you’ve got a new born baby...?!”
We agree that they should write to BW and find out exactly what the nature of the complaints about them were, as the letter didn’t specifically say.
“Well I’ve heard that there’s a reasonably priced mooring available at Stonebridge,” I smiled at Single Boat Mum. She laughed out loud, knowing that a recent BW moorings auction had rented a Stonebridge mooring at the price of four thousand pounds for the year.
“I know!” she exclaimed. “Four grand! Who are these rich boaters?”
“And it’s not even a posh area!” I pointed out.
“Exactly. Tottenham!”
“I had a look at Wenlock Basin you know, and that’s expensive too.” Wenlock Basin is also in Angel, Islington.
“Yes and they’re all sausaged in.”
“Is that a technical term?”
“You know what, I know what you mean. It’s a sausage mooring!”
“I would hate to be like that,” said Barge Mum. “You look out of your window and you’re just looking into somebody else’s living room.”
As we chat we discover that us boat-families have a common desire. We all love the country life, and all of us are familiar with the wild flower meadow, Hunsdon Mead, but to be out there close to nature means that we miss our sense of community. This is a boat-woman thing more than a boat-man thing.
“Barge Dad would love to be in the outer Hebredes!” admits Barge Mum. “But I would go mad.”
“We should just do a land grab,” jokes Single Boat Mum, “and set up our own community.”
“There’s a place down the Kennet and Avon that is sort of squatted like that,” said Barge Dad. “They’ve even got tee pees.”
We conclude that the best thing would be if we could all moor together in Angel, and form our own babysitting circle, but that is never going to happen. We’ll have to wait until next week to see what happens when the new winter moorings system “goes live”.
The babies enjoyed a groovy light show at the museum, and my eldest daughter played with various toys and the sandpit. After Barge Dad had played The La’s ‘There She Goes’ on the retro juke box, it was time to take all of our pushchairs in a convoy to a convenient Bethnal Green pub. We raised glasses of Guinness and Stella in the name of Barge Dad’s birthday, and a good time was had by all.

“Introduction to Winter Moorings 2010

Winter moorings are available to boaters whose regular home mooring cruising options may be affected by stoppages; and for continuous cruisers they offer the opportunity to put down roots for a few months when the weather is less pleasant.
BW designates up to 50% of the space at many of its visitor moorings for winter moorings and this year, for the first time, allocation of the winter moorings will be through the website.
The Winter Mooring vacancies will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. The length of space at each mooring site will be advertised until all of the available space has been ‘let’. Vacancies will be advertised at a per metre rate and boaters will be able to ‘buy’ the length of space they need through a ‘Buy Now’ system.”

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