Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Hertfordshire

The Eagle
Photo by Flickr member Ewan Munroe

"Up and down the City Road
In and out of The Eagle
That's the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel!"


Then everything  seemed to happen quite quickly. On Valentine’s day we had a nostalgic date at The Eagle (the venue of our first date). I described my perfect boat to The Doctor. It would be a 70 foot narrowboat, green, with side hatches and a ‘boatman’s cabin’. A boatman’s cabin is a small bedroom at the back of the boat replicated like the original cabins of historic working boats, and decorated with traditional roses and castles. Side hatches, or ‘loading doors’ are just double doors at the height of the gunwale that let in lots of daylight when open in summer, and can be used as occasional doors.  I’ve always fancied having the living room at the front of the boat with glass doors to the front deck so that you can look out at the glistening water up ahead.
But what would The Doctor like?
“I don’t know really,” he smiled. “A bigger kitchen would be good.” The Doctor is a very good cook.

We talked about leaving London (again) and moving to The Countryside. Although I love Denham Country Park and the area where the nurse and her daughter sometimes go cruising, the Doctor said that commuting to the Multiversity would be a nightmare from there.  Hertfordshire would be a better choice for us for travelling in to work.

I had happy memories of Hertfordshire and the Wendover canal festival. A long time ago, not long after I bought my first boat I met The Marine Engineer and his wife moored near the canal festival. They had a beautiful 70 foot Bantock coal butty (circa 1928) that was converted around 1980 to a liveaboard. She was a trad style with the engine room cabin at the back for the two young boys, and then open plan up to the front where the bedroom was.  I remember The Original Boat-Wife smiling, standing looking out of the side hatch holding her tiny first-born son, only a few months old. They were moored just a few yards from a country pub, The Grand Junction Arms at Bulbourne. Their life looked idyllic. I dreamed of having that same kind of life one day.

Looking for a new boat means drooling over boat-porn on the internet; all varnished wood and brass knockers.  When I was looking for my first boat I feasted my eyes on glossy waterways magazines and caught trains all over England to boatyards full of gleaming paintwork and tongue and groove interiors. More than ten years later things have changed and so much of the searching can be done on the internet. After a couple of weeks of casual browsing the Doctor sent me an email with no words, just a link to a boat brokerage site.

There, before my eyes was a 70 foot narrowboat, green, with side hatches and a boatman’s cabin. The living room was at the front of the boat with double glass doors to the front deck so that you can look out at the glistening water up ahead. This made the spacious oak floored lounge light and airy. The furniture was custom built in reclaimed timber and included a bookshelf that converted into a desk. The diesel heater was styled like a solid fuel stove and heated the whole length of the boat via large copper radiator pipes. The main living space was open plan with a big kitchen that had antique oak fronted cupboards: the kitchen flooring was a pattern of antique oak and slate.

The bathroom had doors closing across the corridor giving the room the full width of the boat. There was a large shower with a glass screen, hand basin and a pump out toilet. The bedroom seemed huge with a large double bed, fitted wardrobe and plenty of storage space.
The engine room was also a utility room containing a washing machine, tumble drier, and another side hatch, painted with the customary time honoured roses.
The beautiful, traditionally painted boatman's cabin, (with drop down double cross bed and drop down table) contained a 1500 watt pure sine wave inverter, and a radiator, as well as seating and storage. There was even a built in, marinised 4kva generator.

The boat was moored on the Aylesbury Arm; just a few miles from the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal, and not far from the Grand Junction Arms at Bulbourne.
The boat broker said that I could come up to see it tomorrow. It would be particularly convenient for him as he has to show it to another bloke tomorrow.
“He’s pretty keen on it.”
I got competitive. I arranged to see the boat an hour before That Other Bloke’s appointment.


Photo by Phil Bassett


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