Monday 27 December 2010

This Week's Top Ten

26th October

I’ve observed a few more differences about living on board. The kitchen light flickers, but only when the engine is running. We run the engine every evening for an hour to recharge the domestic batteries. The other difference is the further effects of a baby crying in a small space. My eldest daughter is late to bed because the baby is crying so much in the bedroom. The little one is overtired and possibly traumatised by being left with our childminder for the first time this week. When she has stopped crying and gone to sleep I can put my eldest to bed. Our childminder is much loved by Big Sister and much trusted by us parents, but to Baby Sister she is a complete stranger.

So this weeks top ten...

1) Flickering lights

2) Controlled crying in a small space

3) Going on the back deck to throw a tub of dishwater into the Cut.

4) Filtering all our drinking water. Suspicions that we never want to see the inside of our watertank. Ye olde boat wife kept her drinking water in Buckby cans on the roof (tin jugs bought in the Buckby neighbourhood).

5) Having lunch with children while scenery constantly changes outside the window: locks, lakes, fields, reservoirs, gongoozlers, pubs, moored craft, cyclists, joggers, fishermen, dog walkers; England passes me by at three miles per hour.

6) A friendly chat with the coal boat boys.

7) We never get a lie-in. We’re up with the kids at 6.30am seven days a week.

8) Turning off the lights and taps, because electric and water are finite resources.

9) Canal freezes; iced in and run out of water I meet other boaters at the tap in the same situation. Have to borrow a spanner to get water as vandals have removed the handle from the tap.

10) The view outside the window is nearly always tranquil and beautiful.

I texted my boat-mum mates today.

“Hiya. Where you moored? We’re in Broxbourne, headed to Stonebridge this weekend.”
Single Boat Mum says,
“Springfield. How you doing? What’s your winter plans? Don’t know what I’m doing! Very tempted to go to Angel at some point.”
Barge Mum says,
“Boat Wife! So weird was just about to text you! We live in a house! Sold the boat on Sat, it was a real rush job but it’s done now.”

Towpath Talk

24th October

Both girls have colds and are miserable and crying intermittently. Because of their night-waking we’ve all lost sleep which leaves me irritated and short tempered. Their wails resonate around the inside of the boat while I do the dishes and The Doctor hauls the boat backwards into the lock by pulling on the mooring ropes. After filling the water tank at the tap belonging to the Lady of the Lock he takes us down through the lock and we briefly moor up on the bollards below the lock while we go to say goodbye to the man who lives with the Lady of the Lock. He’s crossing the black and white painted foot bridge over the lock as I approach with my family. I nod at our boat down below, engine put-putting, ready to go, at three miles an hour.
“We’re making a high speed get-away,” I say.
“Oh right,” he smiles. “Have a good journey then. Back to London is it?”
“Yes, slowly. Probably Broxbourne today.”
“You’ve got your copy of Towpath have you? There’s plenty there.” Towpath Talk is a canal themed newspaper with monthly news of the Cut. He keeps a pile of them outside the house for boaters to help themselves.
“Um, no not yet.”
“You’re in it you know.”
“Am I?”
“Yeah, back page. There’s a picture of you and the girls.”
This cheered me up no end. Each month there’s a feature called The Wet Web, about things of interest to be found on the internet. I suggested they feature my blog, and the journalist liked the idea of featuring a selection of blogs by mothers on board. Unfortunately, neither she nor I could find any other such mothers so I thought perhaps she wasn’t going to be able to feature my blog. She has instead, however done a feature about canal related things to do with the kids and managed to feature me that way.
The Lady of the Lock is at work so we were unable to say goodbye to her. I tucked my poorly baby into the pushchair on the back deck. She was snuggled in under two blankets with her hood up and she quickly stopped crying and went to sleep for two hours. We moved on around the bend, past Roydon station and cruised slowly past Single Boat Mum’s golden wheat field. There is a backdrop of blue sky on this sunny October day. I was taking things off the roof, like the chimney and the arial, to prepare for the low bridges, and then duck my head down low as we pass under each one. The water level is much higher than when we came this way earlier in the summer, so there is far less head room. Afterwards, back inside I had to turn the fire up because without the chimney up there is less draught to draw up the burning diesel fumes. I’ve never much worried about walking down the gunwales while moving, or trip-trapping on the roof, little feet like a mountain goat among the life saving rings, avoiding stepping on the solar panel. But since I’ve been reading Ramlin Rose I think of all the ways people got killed and injured on the Cut in the past, especially all of the tragic ways that boat children died.

As The Doctor steered us out past the weir at the end of the Stort I came out on to the back deck to have a look.
“Well, that’s it then.” I said, hands on hips, surveying the point where the two rivers meet.
“Yep.” Smiled the Doctor.
“The end of the Stort. I doubt we’ll ever go there again.”
“Probably not.”
“I suppose there’s lots more beautiful things to see out there. Everyone says the Oxford is good, and the Kennett and Avon is meant to be beautiful.”
Yesterday we returned from a week’s holiday in Plymouth and I was convinced that I wanted to live in a house, with plenty of storage space and full size hot baths whenever you fancy it. But today the sun is shining and I’m talking to The Doctor about all the canals we’ve still not yet seen.

Fieldes Weir lock is our first lock on the Lee. I put a cup of tea for The Doctor on the roof hatch above the back door while he stood on the towpath and pulled the boat in with a rope. It looks like the sunniest Autumn ever and breezy trees wave at our Rodney roof as we enter the lock. Whenever I’m winding the lock gate paddles up or down I feel like that animated bloke at the beginning of Camberwick Green. Through the window I can see my big girl who has just turned three years old, is sat up at the table concentrating hard on a colouring book.

From Dobb’s Weir lock I can see a lake and swans shining in the blue. Exhilarated at cruising through sunny locks I feel that boating is in my very being, in my bones. I wasn’t born to it, and I’m a terrible swimmer, (I’ve never been in, thank goodness) but I’ve been doing it ten years now and it’s a way of life. The Doctor is reluctant to leave the Cut. He doesn’t want to “give in”. That’s what Ramlin Rose says too. “You never gives in. If yer gives in yer goes under.” Although, I think her life on the Cut was a little more harsh than mine. If you had a baby you breast fed with one hand and steered the boat with the other. The toddler you tied to the roof, and your priority was getting the boats ahead.

We moor beside a patch of woodland where the tree trunks are bedecked with holly and ivy twisting around their trunks. For a relaxed Sunday afternoon, we give both kids ‘pink medicine’ (paracetamol) and go to a cosy canal side pub, crunching autumn leaves on the towpath as you go. Mother hand in hand with daughter, baby on father’s shoulders pointing at the birds in the sky.
“Birr!” she says. Bird!
It’s like going out with a couple of nutters. One repeatedly throws her food on the floor. The other one takes her boots off and walks stocking footed on the pub sofas. The baby tries to pull baubles off the Christmas display table, threatening an avalanche of candles and pine cones as she tugs the black velvet table cloth down towards her on the floor. We eat roast dinners before the medicine wears off and head back on board for bedtime.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

The Kitchen is the size of a Travelcot


Since Eastbourne the girls have not slept well. This means that The Doctor and I have not slept well. Luckily the floor space in our kitchen is exactly the size of a travel cot. On a typical night Baby Sister will wake, kneel up in her sleeping bag, grab hold of the cot rails that divide the double bed, with both of her tiny fists, and begin to cry. Big Sister wakes up and calls out,
“Mummy, can you get her?”
I use a miners head-lamp to ensure that I don’t step on a rogue slug in the corridor while walking to the bedroom cabin. The bedroom is dimly lit by a pink plastic flower-shaped light. I climb up onto the bunk and stand between the girls, next to the improvised cot-side barrier. I’m slightly bent over as the standing space is less than five feet.
“Mummy, take her out!” whines Big Sister.
“I’m getting her!” I snap groggily. “ You can see I’m in here!”
I lean over and pick up the grizzling baby under the armpits. I sit her up on the bed next to her disgruntled sister, while I climb down to the floor. Then I carry her through to the other end of the boat where we have pre-emptively erected the travel cot.
After a cuddle and a drink of water she is abandoned in the cot to wail with baby loneliness. Us parents gently offer words of comfort from our futon bed on the other side of the kitchen work-top. The first night we did this she cried for an hour and a half, but it’s getting better. The second night we did this, I was more tired so I accidentally bumped the baby’s head on the lamp hanging from the ceiling as I awkwardly lifted her out of bed, and then stepped on Big Sister. The third night, we tried a nappy change, drink of water, drink of milk, relaxing music and finally a piece of bread: Instant happiness. She chomps happily on the bread and makes the baby sign language for “more”!

In the morning we pack up the futon and travel cot, and clear piles of paperwork, toys and a beanbag off the table and onto the girls’ bed. Then the table is ready for breakfast. We can’t make breakfast until the travel cot is dismantled and packed away. And so on, and so on.

“I am just bored here.”

15th October

BW haven’t phoned me about the mooring.

Sometimes, young children change the subject so quickly that you have no idea what is coming next. Over beans on toast at lunch time Big Sister announced,
“Actually Mummy, I don’t want to be here anymore.”
“What do you mean, you don’t want to be here?”
“Now, I want to move our boat back to London because I am just bored here.”
“Well, we will do soon darling. I want to go there too.”
“So, we can tell Daddy that when he comes home from work.”
“Well, Daddy already knows. Next week we are going on holiday to Plymouth to see Gran and Granddad and then the week after that we are going to move our boat back to London.”
“But I just want to go there.”
“Yes, I want to go there too. I miss my friends in London.” She looks downhearted and pensive.
“But,” she pauses, “when we go back to London I will miss all my friends here.” I am surprised.
“What friends have you got here?”
“Um. Like, the man and the lady at the lock, and the man on that boat, and the dogs. What is that man on the boat’s real name?”
“Well, we don’t know. We don’t know him very well do we? We just know his first name.”
“But I will miss the man and the lady at the lock.”
“Yes, I will miss them too.”


I plugged my phone in to charge but it’s not charging, even though the invertor is on. I find my miserable monologue has a new mantra. ‘This would never happen in a house.’ Being a stay at home mum is becoming more recognised as hard work, but the little hiccups of boating life added to sleep deprivation are prime elements for another equation.
(sleep deprivation) + (limitations of a narrowboat home) – (most mod cons) – (friends, family, human company) = the return of the miserable monologue.

The Doctor is back at work and the girls miss him. Sometimes Big Sister cries “because I miss Daddy so much.” So I give her a little framed photo of the handsome Doctor to look at.

“Parenting at home can be very socially isolating. It is easy to find that the only grown-up you talk to is your partner. Widening your support network is essential to help both of you deal with the stress and boredom of the everyday, and also just to refresh yourself with some different company now and again. There are, of course, some very useful websites through which you can meet local mums and/or just vent your frustrations (Mumsnet Talk being, obviously the best!)”

Toddlers – The Mumsnet Guide

How come I don’t even have time for Mumsnet? My lovely baby is 11 months old now. Shouldn’t I be coping better?

I saw one of the Busy Bees mums go by on the towpath with her pushchair today. My beady eyes spied her across the cut. I know her – I know her name! She’s not a friend. Only barely an acquaintance. But I briefly connected with another mother if only for an instant. No she didn’t see me, she doesn’t know my boat. She doesn’t know I’m here. But for a fraction of a second I thought, ‘We are not alone.’

As Rory McLeod would say, “I can’t survive on the kindness of these lovely strangers here.”

Rory Mcleod is an ex-circus clown and fire eater. “A one man soulband, poet and storyteller, singing his own unique upbeat dance stories. A modern travelling troubadour using tap shoes, acappella, harmonica, guitar, trombone, spoons, finger cymbals, bandorea, djembe and various percussion instruments!”

He wished to find a rambling woman to accompany him on his travels. I was lucky enough to find my rambling man. I wonder if Rory and his woman kept travelling after they had their ramblin’ kids?

“So don’t let me go darlin’
I love you now don’t make me stay
Come with me darlin’ when I have to go, when I have to tear myself away
And be my rambling woman
I’ll be your rambling man
And together we will go
Holding each others hand
And I’ll accompany you my darling
Whenever you have to roam
You’ll be my countryside darlin’
And I’ll be your home.
Won’t you come with me when I go?”

Working boat wives were not so isolated. When the men went to canal-side pubs, they’d be moored alongside other families, and while the women minded the children on board they could catch up with their temporary neighbours moored next door. They were part of a community.

“’Spite of all you hears about ‘drunken boatwomen’ most of ‘em was content of ‘n evenin to loose their chaps orf to the pub while they stayed tied to their kiddies and the cabin. It was a chance for Mum to catch oop on her chores ready for mornin and catch oop with news of the Cut with the women moored alongside.”

Ramlin Rose, Sheila Stewart p.33

Wednesday 15 December 2010


Sent: 13 October 2010 21:34
To: Mooring_Vacancies Enquiries
Subject: RE: Winter Moorings 2010

Hi BW Lady

I have been trying to use the new system to buy a winter mooring at Islington, London . On 4th October I spent much of the day watching the mooring website which suggested the launch time would be around 4.30pm. When I checked the site at 4.23pm all available space at Islington had been sold. On 5th October someone on the phone at BW told me the system would send me an email if any more space became available on the website. On 6th October a mooring officer at the London office confirmed that more space will become available at Islington and she would phone me when this is on the website. The site today has now changed from saying 3.17 metres available to 2.23 metres available at Islington. Can you tell me if all the mooring space at Islington has been sold?

Boat Wife

I’m still waiting for BW to ring me about the mooring. Until they do I don’t know if my family will remain ‘of no fixed abode’ for the winter. The children have been waking on average twice a night this week and the sleep deprivation is beginning to take it’s toll. Day to day life seems more difficult. Positive thinking is elusive. The ghost of John Lennon drifts around the boat singing ‘I’m so tired, I don’t know what to do.’

My first born baby was three years old yesterday. Her astonished and innocent face awoke to a pile of presents and a boat full of balloons. The family day trip to a Hertfordshire wildlife park included jungle animals, bouncy castles, a woodland railway train ride, Thomas the Tank Engine, an adventure playground, candy floss for the first time and,
“Any ice-cream you want for the birthday girl,” says the man who lives with the Lady of the Lock. “You come inside and choose one.”
Then we went back home for three pink glittery candles on the birthday cake.
“I thought those candles looked really beautiful,” she said softly, her eyes full of wonder.
When the girls were in bed, us parents flopped into bed at 8.30pm exhausted, but noting an immense satisfaction at focussing so much time and energy on another person’s happiness.

The Secret of The Lady of The Lock

10th October
On a sunny Sunday Big Sister and I stopped on our way back from the village to buy ice-cream from the Lady of the Lock and to pay her for the laundry load that she did yesterday.
“You’ve run out of Mini-Milks haven’t you?” I asked.
“We have,” she confirmed, looking apologetically at my little daughter.
“But I tell you what. You could have a Twister lolly. Would you like that?” She smiles at my daughter and then looks at me.
“You can have that for the price of a Mini-Milk.” She returns with the lolly and my daughter sits on a wooden park bench outside her front door and gets ice-cream all around her mouth.
“How do you like it on the mooring there?” she said, leaning on the baby stair-gate in her doorway, that prevents her dogs from running onto the lock-side.
“Oh, I’m really enjoying having a mooring,” I grinned. “Actually, I was going to ask you. Do you mind? I mean, next week, we’re going to Devon for a week. My parents and my husband’s parents live there, so it’s all the grandparents there you know. Will it be alright to leave the boat there? And you could keep an eye on it for us, you know.”
“Of course, yes. Not a problem.”
So we chatted a bit more and I said,
“You’ve got two sons haven’t you?”
“No, four” she smiled, and described each one to me.
“We never got married though, never got around to it.”
So, the husband of the Lady of the Lock is not the husband of the Lady of the Lock. Is it too late to invent a new pseudonym for him?

I do like having a mooring. I like being a short walk from the village. I like living next door to people who sell gas, diesel and ice-creams. I like having an address – we’re having a new futon mattress delivered here next week! I like nodding at my boaty neighbours when I pass them on the towpath. I like going to the same toddler group every week. I like to fantasise about strimming down all of those waist-high nettles and having a garden for the children to play in. But I think The Doctor misses the stunning views of The Mead. He thinks that a mooring is the worst of both worlds; no storage space or mod-cons and you travel a lot less. I’m beginning to feel it would be the best of both worlds. An address near a nursery, neighbours that know my children, and no need to travel to get water, gas, rubbish disposal or the toilet pumped out.

Occasionally I Google ‘narrowboat wife’ and similar to see if I can find other narrowboat blogging mums. Today I was pleasantly surprised to find myself listed as a new blog on George's Canal Boating website.  I am excited to have a tiny bit of internet fame! But I’ve still only found one other blogging, narrowboating mum.

George's: Canal Boating website is an introduction for those unfamiliar with the pleasures of canal and waterway cruising, as well as a resource for experienced boaters. There are over 2000 links to canal and waterways related web sites. “Please... they are "narrowboats", not "barges".

"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing-- absolutely nothing--
half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

-- Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows


9th October

Recently The Doctor instigated the idea that we should do a big clear out of the boat; get rid of all the things that we’re not using. It’s amazing how many possessions you don’t actually need or use. In my early days of boating I was told about a game called ‘Justify’. Hold up any object that you keep on board and ask yourself do I really need it? Do I use it? You have to justify why you keep it on board. If you cannot justify the space it takes up, it has to go. I admit, that we do not play this game nearly often enough. We piled the back deck high with black bags of rubbish and bags full of charity shop donations, and yet the boat still seems full; there is still more to do. So, this morning I swept the floor, sorted the laundry and bagged up more bric-a-brac bound for the Harlow charity shops. I happily did this while listening to country and western music; another of my guilty pleasures. It reminds me of my mum listening to Radio Devon, with the smell of Sunday dinner cooking. Luckily for The Doctor, he did not have to suffer this glitch in my music taste this morning, as he was reversing the boat backwards and into Roydon lock, accompanied and assisted by our eldest daughter. The husband of the Lady of the Lock sorted us out with gas and diesel, and filled the water tank. I gave another load of laundry to the Lady of the Lock and joked that we should set up a tab with them. I was sat on her doorstep nattering, with my baby in my arms and Big Sister strolling about on the lock-side in the sunshine.
“Last night did you hear what happened out here? Did you hear any noise?” the Lady asked me.
“No, what happened?”
“A man and his dog, fell in the lock!”
“Oh my god!”
“Yeah, he was out here walking, pitch black it was. The dog went in, and the man went in after him to get him out. Big dog it was too.”
Her husband came out of the house to help him.
“I suppose once the dog was in the lock he couldn’t see a way out” I said. “He wouldn’t know to swim out of the lock to find the bank, especially not in the dark.”

A Mooring

Thursday 7th October

On the way back from the church hall toddler group I stopped at the lock cottage to collect the laundry. The Lady of the Lock has also, kindly picked up a load of cheap nappies for me when out shopping at the cash and carry.
“When are you off back to London then?” her husband asked me, smiling to see that the baby has fallen asleep in the back seat of the double buggy. “Ah, bless.”
“Well,” I sighed. “I’m having real trouble getting a winter mooring back in Islington actually.” I briefly explained my story. We discussed the idea of staying around Roydon and commuting into London with the children.
“You should just stay around here.” It is not the first time he has encouraged us to stay.
“Well we can’t stay all winter can we? The lads on the boats,” (I nodded towards the boats above the lock), “they told me the cut overflows into the water meadows and that it comes up all over the towpath. They said they move off to Stanstead Abbotts.”
“What?” he laughs. “They’re not going anywhere. I’ve lived here for five years and I’ve only seen it get that bad a handful of times, and even then it’s only for a couple of days.”
“But I thought we wouldn’t get back out under the bridge.” I glance down below the lock, towards the station. “I heard boats get stuck there.”
“Oh yes, I have seen them stuck there,” he said. “But only for a few days. No, stay. Stay as long as you like!”
“Well our little man isn’t back until December is he?” The Lady of the Lock asked her husband. “You could stay on our mooring until December if you like.” She urges me to come and have a look at the overgrown mooring at the end of their garden.
“We’d clear all that,” she gestures towards the long grass and nettles behind the picket fence.
The boater that lives on their mooring is off travelling on his boat. They describe to me their ultimate plans of running electricity to the site, making it a proper mooring and selling that bit of land one day.
“That would help pay off our mortgage and then we could just run our shop!” she smiles, her blue eyes twinkling. I look at their house. They’ve recently started selling Calor gas and put signs up on the side of the house to advertise this.
“Tell your husband, that we’ve got diesel now,” said her husband. “I forgot to tell him when I saw him on his bike this morning.”
“Wow. Since when have you been selling diesel?” I asked, noticing the orange fluorescent hand written sign, advertising the price of diesel in their window.
“Since this morning,” grinned the husband of The Lady of the Lock. “I’ve got it in barrels.”
I look longingly at their mooring and think about having a garden for the girls, a postal address and being a regular at the local toddler group, with my lovely neighbours supplying everything from water and gas, to diesel and ice lollies.

Back home after lunch I can’t get enough hot water to do the dishes, even though I turned the water heater on an hour ago. I check the pilot light in the cupboard: the gas is gone. The baby is asleep in the bedroom so I leave Big Sister painting at the table with instructions to call me if there is an emergency.
“An emergency,” I explain, “is if you have hurt yourself or something; if you really need me.” (Not, my Lego is annoying me, or I can’t get my sock off.)
“I don’t think there will be an emergency,” she reassures me.
At the front of the boat in the gas locker huge spiders scuttle about as I clutch my gas spanner and peer into the rusty well-deck to see that all four plastic stoppers have been pulled out of the gas bottles. This means that all of the gas bottles are empty.
I head back inside and explain to my daughter that we’re going to have to take the boat down to the lock to get gas. The baby wakes up and cries. I put her coat on and make her comfortable in the pushchair on the back deck. I stick her sister on the sofa in front of a DVD and climb onto the roof to lay the TV arial down. Then, I heaved the gangplank onto the tow path, and lever it up to rest one end on the roof. I then somehow heave the heavy gang plank onto the roof. Finally I loosen all three mooring pins out of the earth by bashing them with a mallet. Then I untie the ropes and reverse the boat into the middle of the cut. I didn’t go forwards first because I didn’t know how shallow it is and we could run aground. The sun sparkles on the water and the short cruise is beautiful as it passes through meadows and trees. But as we near the lock the baby is arching her back and crying in the pushchair and her sister has had a tantrum because I refused to let her do painting unsupervised while I drive the boat. I moor up on the lock bollards and discover that she did do unsupervised painting anyway and has pretty much ruined the table with a selection of multicoloured paints.

At the lock house the lovely husband of the Lady of the Lock offers to bring the gas bottle round to the boat on a trolley. He then connects up the gas bottle for me and himself and one of the friendly blokes who moors by the lock spend at least half an hour holding ropes and helping me to turn the boat so that I can moor up on their end of garden mooring. This is because I didn’t fancy reversing several boat lengths backwards to moor at the nearest space because narrowboats don’t steer well when going backwards. As we actually need four bottles of gas and are collecting sand for ballast off him it makes sense to moor up for a day or two here. Although it is right next to the railway and doesn’t have a view of the meadow, I am excited to have a sort of private mooring and a garden gate. What a novelty!

The BW Moorings Officer

Wednesday 6th October

BW moorings lady phoned me, and after a friendly discussion about my predicament, promised to phone me as soon as the extra metres are uploaded for sale on the website.

The Doctor and I have agreed to discuss further the ideas of house versus boat, and so I exercised my right to change my mind during the ‘cooling off period’ and cancelled the bank loan today.

First Come First Served

Tuesday 5th October

The next morning I tried to call BW’s main switchboard again but I still got a recorded message about the Winter Moorings going live on 4th October, and then the phone system cut me off.
I made a packed lunch and embarked on the four hour journey home. Many kind Londoners (mostly women) helped me lift the heavy double pushchair, kids and luggage up and down countless stairs at the tube stations.

BW had still not returned my call by the time I got home, so I phoned them and got put through to the London office. The mooring officer is not at work this afternoon so she will be sent an email asking her to call me tomorrow. I was told that as Islington is a site where double mooring is permitted more space will be available to buy soon, so long as the craft that have already purchased mooring space are not wide-beams.
“So am I just supposed to log on and keep checking then? Because I cancelled travel plans yesterday to do this, as I know it’s ‘first come first served’. I’ve got two kids you know, I’ve got stuff to do! I mean, when you say it will be available soon, is that the next few hours or days?”
“Yes, I can see it is difficult, but I can’t tell you any more than that. The mooring officer is back in the office tomorrow and she will have a look at it then. But the system should send you an email if anything else gets put on the website. I will mark this email urgent for her, so that she can get back to you tomorrow.”
“Ok then, thanks very much.”

Barge Mum and Single Boat Mum were texting me asking if I got a winter mooring. I briefly explained what’s going on so far, and they agreed with me that it’s stupid! So I’m supposed to stay on line all day, with my slow Dongle mobile connection, just periodically checking my email and the BW moorings vacancies website. Humph.

Winter Moorings “Go Live”

Monday 4th October

Today, I planned to log on to the BW mooring vacancies website to buy our winter mooring in Angel and then begin the epic journey back to Roydon, via London. However, due to a London tube strike and the moorings system now going live at 3pm we are staying in Eastbourne today so that I can buy the mooring, and have an easier journey back home tomorrow.

I enjoyed a warm bath this morning and washed the dishes with instant hot water. I noted that the rubbish and recycling did not have to be carted off anywhere in the double pushchair, and I began to imagine what life would be like if I lived in a flat like this. I would probably have put a load of laundry in the washing machine first thing, so that it would be ready to hang out by the time I’d done the dishes. Without the need of a trip to sort the rubbish, recycling or laundry, our outings today were to the supermarket, a child friendly cafe with toys, and a park. My mind seems to have done a swift turn-around from considering a bigger boat, to fantasising about a cottage in the country.

This morning the British Waterways website confirmed that the Winter Moorings 2010 system will now launch at 3.30pm today. I made sure that myself and the girls were home from the park by 3pm and checked the website again. It was then updated to say it is now scheduled to launch at 4pm, and later updated again to change the time to 4.30pm “at which time all Winter Mooring vacancies will be available to view and ‘buy’.” However, “If any problems are found during the update, the system will be rolled back and the update postponed to the following day to allow assessment of the problems encountered.”

Single Boat Mum has decided that she will not get a winter mooring, and will continue to cruise around with her adopted “boat family”. Barge Mum and Barge Dad have had some people interested in buying their boat, so have also decided that they don’t need a winter mooring. They could be in a house soon! Barge Mum texted me yesterday to say that the wind nearly blew the Little Flower’s pushchair into the cut yesterday – with the baby in it! Apparently she was unharmed and hardly noticed, but it sure did frighten Barge Mum. So, we must add ‘buggies in the wind’ to the list of dangers that boating parents have to be aware of!

The last time I checked the website a message said they would begin uploading the winter mooring system at 3.30pm and this could take up to two hours. They suggested checking the site again at 4.30pm. I stayed on line throughout that time but inevitably by four o’clock I was dealing with a crying baby, trying to begin cooking their tea, and then supervising Big Sister’s visit to the toilet. At about 4.15pm I found the system appeared to have “gone live” and I started searching for Angel moorings in the system. At first I couldn’t find it, but then I found that the site was called Islington: Regents Canal. I entered the amount in metres that I would like to buy and received the error message; “Insufficient mooring space available. Currently, we have 3.17 metres available. Please contact the Mooring Sales Administrator who may be able to assist you.”

By this time it was 4.23pm. I tried phoning the Mooring Sales Administrator and British Waterways main switchboard number but I just kept getting cut off. I eventually spoke to someone at 4.49pm who said they had been experiencing problems with their phone system today. I explained I had been having trouble trying to buy a winter mooring and after consulting with a colleague she clarified that the website had said the system would go live “at some point over the next two hours” (after 3.30pm) and that customers should check the site again at “around 4.30pm”. She confirmed that two customers had already purchased mooring space at around 4.00pm and that the website now says there is only 3.17 metres remaining. She then said that the mooring officer for that area could call me back so I left her my number. No one called me that day.


3rd October

It rained all the way to Eastbourne and yet the sign at the station says, ‘Welcome to the Sunshine Coast’. Raindrops are falling on my nose. With genuine concern my daughter notes,
“Mummy, your nose is crying!”

The girls and I are visiting my best friend, The Fairy Tale Princess who is now renting a lovely flat and living happily ever after with her Prince Charming Geezer. Looking on the internet I discovered that we could rent a quaint, rural two bedroom cottage in Devon for £450 a month. It was in a village near both sets of grandparents and was pictured with fields in the background. I would need to get a driving licence if I was to travel to any kind of job. I could set up my hypnotherapy practice in a complementary health centre in Plymouth city centre. I mulled things over while we took the girls to see the waves crashing on a pebbly beach. They squealed with excitement at the powerful noise of the ocean. We ate fish and chips in a cafe on the pier. Baby Sister did not think much of the mushy peas. I had an epiphany that blew into my head across the salty air. Why did I buy a boat in the first place? Because it gave me the ultimate freedom: freedom to travel with my home. But having children limits freedom. I am “tied down”. Rather than this feeling restrictive, now that it’s finally happened to me I am happy to be tied down to my beautiful children; but if I am now tied down, then perhaps the main benefit of a boat: travelling, can no longer be mine. I want to be tied to a community, neighbours, a nursery for Big Sister, and then a school. It is the fact that we now have a nursery place and a nursery start date for her that has really made me question our lifestyle. I accepted the first nursery place that my daughter was offered because I don’t know if she’ll be offered another one. It’s all about where you live, and as we don’t have a permanent address I thought we must be lucky to have been offered a place. I visited the inner city nursery and it was ok, and conveniently located across the road from the Multiversity, but is it really where I want my daughter to settle in, grow and learn for the next few years? I know that it isn’t. I always pictured my theoretical children having an idyllic rural childhood and running in slow motion through the fields.

Dear Customer,

This email is to confirm that the Winter Moorings 2010 system will launch on the website today, Monday 4th October. The system is scheduled to launch at 4pm at which time all Winter Mooring vacancies will be available to view and ‘buy’.
If any problems are found during the update, the system will be rolled back and the update postponed to the following day to allow assessment of the problems encountered.
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.
If you should encounter any problems using the system please contact the Mooring Sales Administrator.