Tuesday 28 June 2011

CyberMummy 2011

The Brewery, EC1
Last Saturday I got up at Stupidly Early O’Clock, caught a train to London, battled against tube line closures and only just made it on time to a swishy EC1 conference venue. A very dapper feller in a top hat ushered me towards the entrance and my name badge with blog name was waiting for me at reception. When I arrived in the main conference space I was overwhelmed by a huge room of circular tables and a subtly lit stage with large boards displaying sponsors’ logos: This was big. There were over 400 delegates (and I estimated that only about four of them were men).
The number of UK mummy blogs has increased to around 2,500 in the last two years and the parent bloggers social network Brit Mums has a rapidly growing membership. The lead speaker was Sarah Brown, mum, campaigner, writer (and wife of the former prime minister), and the choice of seminars to attend throughout the day was mind boggling.

An array of big name brands dispensed free goodie bags within a market place of stalls at ‘CyberMummy Central’ and the spontaneous comments and thoughts of the social networking twitter-bugs were displayed on an ever rolling Twitter wall. In the Recharge Room you could get your hair or make up done, and enjoy a massage.

The conference opened with Lord Richard Allan, Facebook’s director of policy for the EU. I attended workshops on Marketing Your Blog, Working With Brands and Making Money, Blogging Essentials (Stats, SEO, RSS feeds, design) and Blog-Life Balance (time management). I scribbled furiously in a notebook (supplied free in one of the goody bags) and absorbed a phenomenal amount of information. I was inspired by Erica Douglas’s seminar and really enjoyed chatting to Antonia Chitty about the exciting new direction that I’m taking my life into.
I’m doing Erica and Antonia’s Become a Mumpreneur course at the moment and I’m loving it. It’s delivered in bite size chunks to my email inbox in a way that allows me to progress at my own pace without feeling overwhelmed. I already have sixteen ideas on how to create multiple income streams which will allow me to work flexibly from home, and I've only been on the course for a month. Erica now earns a full time income in part time hours whilst also studying full time. Antonia Chitty is a researcher, journalist, mumpreneur, and author and is full of amazing ideas to help me to create my own business as a freelance writer and much more.

I was initially worried that the event was going to be full of career driven super-mums who are way more confident than me. However, everyone I met agreed that although it felt a little odd to approach a complete stranger with “Hi I’m (Blogger) from  (My Mummy Blog) we were all in the same boat and it was actually quite exciting to meet bloggers in real life that I previously only ‘knew’ on line. I also found that even the most influential, charismatic, high profile bloggers were people, just like me, and not intimidating at all!

The day was rounded off by crowd sourced keynote speakers reading inspiring posts from their blogs. We were in tears at a mothers tale of childhood cancer, and then in fits of laughter at the witty words of others.

At the after party (sponsored by Three) I got tipsy quickly, ate crisps, mingled and left the building at the end of it all completely exhausted and laden with bags and bags of free give-away goodies.

The next day The Sunday Independent (26/06/11) reported,
“Forget Mumsnet... A new breed of “cybermums” is using the internet as an office, PR agency and campaign HQ to launch businesses and charities from their front room.”

Some bloggers were sponsored by brands to attend Cybermummy, but I bought my own ticket as a treat to myself. For the experience, the amount that I learned, the lovely people that I met and the bubble of inspiration and motivation that I floated home on, it was worth every penny.

Friday 17 June 2011

Dear So and So

Dear Blog 

When we first started spending time together I had no idea that our relationship would become so serious. You grew out of my life, but now my life has grown around you so that you occupy too much of my thoughts and my time. You encouraged me to write the first draft of my memoir and introduced me to readers that gave me positive feedback. However, I think the time has come for our relationship to change. If you want us to carry on a romance with this kind of intensity you are going to have to start earning your keep. I am going to monetize you. I am going to turn you into multiple income streams. (I got these fancy ideas from Become a Mumpreneur.) I hope that turning commercial doesn’t make you ugly. Soon I am going to a parent blogger conference called Cybermummy. I don’t know what kind of tweeting cyborg they will turn me into, but I know that I will be different when I come back. I hope that you understand that this love affair must now turn into a business relationship. I hope that we can still be friends.

Love from

Your Affectionate Writer

Dear Literary Agent

Many thanks for your constructive thoughts and kind compliments about my synopsis and sample chapters. I would be happy to sign a contract with you and appreciate the efforts that you have already made to sell my work. I was amazed to hear that you have several publishers bidding against each other for my memoir, 'The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife'. I understand that I am not your only client so your detailed feedback on the commercial value of the book was very welcome. I realise that I have not yet written that amazing synopsis, but writing to you in this imaginative way assures me that you are real, you are out there, and you are going to love me and my book.
Looking forward to meeting you.
The Author

I am worried about what people will think about us spending so much time together. Maybe they think we are co-dependent. When I tried to break it off with you I felt sick for weeks. I should stop worrying about what other people think and enjoy the fact that we are happy together. They say you are simply a serotonin re-uptake inhibiter, but to me you will always be, my imaginary friend Mick Jagger. Thanks for being there.  


Dear Reader

Thank you so much for reading. You are an important part of my life. I love to hear what you think, so don’t be shy, leave a comment below, and let’s make this blog interactive! 



The idea to write letters comes from Kat at

You can click on her Dear So and So badge to read other Dear So and So letters. Cool idea huh?

Dear So and So...

Wednesday 15 June 2011

The Doctor

I don’t usually publish pictures of The Doctor and the girls; I like the fact that they are anonymous on the blog; but I think that this picture retains their anonymity.

Have you ever done that thing where you write a wish list of what you want, to focus your thoughts and make it all come true? Once upon a time, after too many times tossed in a sea of stormy and unsuccessful romances, I wrote in one of my many scribbling books a list of the qualities I’d like in a perfect partner. I wanted someone passionate, interesting, and spontaneous with a real lust for life. It would also help if he liked narrowboating. Sometimes you hear love stories where the heroine finally realised that she knew her soul mate all along, but just didn’t know it yet. A surprise email from Friends Reunited, a lot of strange coincidences, and some time later I found myself travelling through space and time with my handsome Doctor and two perfect boat girls.

The Doctor is clever and playful, patient and loving and when he arrives home from work the girls scream like they’re at a Beatles concert and fall over themselves to fight each other for the first hug.
“My girls!” beams The Doctor proudly, and gathers both into his arms at once.
My Doctor, beams the Boat-Wife proudly.
They love his spaghetti bolognaise and the way he always has a good answer to questions about science, religion and philosophy. (What is God? How big is the sun? Do spiders have eyes?)
Baby Sister voices her appreciation by a happy cry of “Dad, Dad, Dad!” but Big Sister is more specific.
“I do love you this much Mummy,” (displays ‘this much’ with wide hands) “but Daddy is my favourite and best.”

The theme for 'The Gallery' this week is dads. Click on 'The Gallery' to visit other entries, and comment if you like them or feel inspired by them. Go and encourage and support blogging amateur photographers out there!

Tuesday 14 June 2011


Image Credit: Hemel FM
‘Sleep is for The Weak’ Writing Workshop has given me the opportunity to reflect on how my narrowboat life has changed over the last ten years.  I’ve been writing this blog for over a year now, through depression and bereavement. People always ask me, ‘What’s it like, living on a boat with kids?’
My blog is the answer to that question. But now, with a bigger boat, my beautiful boat girls and my handsome Doctor I think I can gingerly approach Contentment, perhaps introduce myself to her, and see if we can get along. So at the same festival that I went to ten years ago, I notice how my attitudes have changed...

Boxmoor Canal Festival 2011

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the 2011 Boxmoor Canal Festival.
For more than twenty years you have been supporting the famous Tring Canal Festival organised by The Wendover Arm Trust (or WAT) to fund the restoration of the Wendover Arm from Tring to Wendover.
As we are unable to hold the festival at our usual site in Tring, from this day forth the festival shall be known as The Boxmoor Canal Festival! You can expect to see decorated narrowboats, traction engines, fairground rides,  live music, a real ale bar, birds of prey, a craft marquee and boat trips on offer throughout the day. Later on you can see the Ellesborough Silver Band and the Fun Dog Event – best canal dog.  If you have children you may not see the inside of the beer tent this year. You are more likely to be standing beside the swing boats or the merry go round in the rain. But the real enjoyment this year is watching the eyes of your children transfixed on the falconry display, seeing an owl and a vulture swooping up close. Then you watch expressions change from fear to  delight as your three year old becomes absorbed in her first ever Punch and Judy show; oblivious to the rain she stands up at the front to shout out a reply to Mr Punch.

Note that the boat with flower pots, a bicycle and fire wood on the roof with washing hanging off the tiller is a live aboard boat.  These people do not really mind fishermen or Rosie and Jims.  You can ask them three questions. Is that your boat? Do you live on that? And; Isn't it cold in the winter?

Try asking that Boat-Wife there, the one with the fancy new boat. (She ought to polish her brass.) I asked her one little question, that was it and she was off!

Yeah the festival Wendover
In the beer tent I recall
She held our table spell-bound
With her stories that are tall

And cruising down the Cut
She told me all about it
She said when you get a boat
I know you're gonna like it.
And you won't believe the people
And the things that people do
But they're lovely water gypsies
In fact they're just like me and you.

(Read the full poem on this post http://narrowboatwife.blogspot.com/2010/07/angel-islington-to-uxbridge.html)

Monday 13 June 2011

Tring Canal Festival 2001

We recently passed through Bulbourne and Tring. It reminds me so much of all my old boating friends, James Hopper Bissett, The Yorkshireman, The Rufty Tufty Biker Bloke, Lina From The Lock, Nancy-Moo, The Marine Engineer and The Original Boat-Wife. In 2001 I’d been living aboard for nearly a year and this was my impression of my first ever canal festival. 

Tring Canal Festival 2001 

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the 2001 Tring Canal Festival.

For eleven years you have been supporting the famous Wendover Canal Festival run by The Wendover Arm Trust (or WAT) to fund the restoration of the Wendover Arm from Tring to Wendover.

I am pleased to announce the joining of this festival with the Bulbourne Waterways workshops weekend (usually held in July) and from this day forth the festival shall be known as The Tring Canal Festival!

We are opening with a Punch and Judy Show and Big Foot and Furry Foot the Clown, followed by
Leighton Buzzard Youth Theatre and the tale of the carrying boatmen. Please don't laugh at the little boy at the front who sings loud but out of tune.

Bob the Builder will be appearing in the arena to announce the winners of the under fives painting competition but he can't actually speak with that great big costume on so someone else is gonna do the talking.  In between his public appearances we're hoping that Bob remembers to turn up for his shifts on the canal restoration project.  There's a retaining wall that needs finishing and I don't want to hear that he's in the studio again. We had to build Little Tring Bridge without him this year following the success of his Christmas number one, ‘Can We Fix It? (Yes We Can)’.

There's a gentleman here who has lost his friend somewhere near the classic cars exhibition.
He's got tattoos and a waistcoat and his black hat has got two feathers and canal festival badges on it from Wendover 95, 96, 99 and 2000.  What do you mean everyone's dressed like that?

But talking of those types come on, why have some of you got A4 paper taped to your back saying that 'This is the Wendover Canal Festival 2001 NOT Tring'?

The three men dressed in sacking each with a box hanging around his neck are actually Ye Olde Fruit Apparatus, a human fruit machine. Dip into each box and if you find three pieces of matching fruit it's the jack pot!

The band in the beer tent tonight are The Geezers. They will be playing both kinds of music, rhythm and blues, and the real ale will be served by volunteers from the Lion Hearts Cruising Club.  In the craft tent there are opportunities to buy sugar mice and coconut ice. There are also watering cans, coal scuttles, Buckby cans, mugs, coasters and wooden spoons  all with traditional roses and castles painted on them.

As you wander around the festival you will notice that there are many different types of boater.

There is a group of lads who are spending the festival by their tent in the car park so that they can listen to their car stereo really loud. These people are normally hire boaters but maybe no one would hire them a boat this weekend.

Note that the boat with flower pots, a bicycle and fire wood on the roof with washing hanging off the tiller is a live-aboard boat.  These people do not like fishermen or Rosie and Jims.  Rosie and Jims have got really shiny expensive narrow boats with two rag dolls in  the window and are also known as Brass Polishers.  They only take their boats out on very sunny bank holiday weekends, drive too fast past moored boats and try to tell other people how to operate locks. People who don't have boats but wish they did, stand at locks and watch boaters struggle with lock gates, but don't help. They ask three questions. Is that your boat? Do you live on that? And; Isn't it cold in the winter?

The sun tanned people with neckerchiefs and brown cords on are from working boats. These are seventy two foot historic boats that travel with a butty of the same size selling fuel to live-aboards or doing contract work for British Waterways.  These people have very beautiful boats decorated traditionally and have the ability to squash themselves up very small so that they can live in a tiny boat mans cabin.

Tomorrow the festival will open with a Punch and Judy Show and Big Foot and Furry Foot the Clown followed by Leighton Buzzard Youth Theatre. And time becomes a loop. But if you sample enough of the Real Ale in the beer tent tonight you won’t remember a thing about today, and can enjoy the same festival all over again tomorrow.

Friday 10 June 2011

Double Yellow Lines

Just took this picture of our boat yesterday which perfectly complements Simon's excellent post about the proposed new parking restrictions in the village where I live.
"Welcome to the parish of Smoke on the Water
Simon Satan spokesman for the Smoke on the Water Parish Council in the county of Glossitover was interviewed on local radio in the last week about the Parish Councillors' radical new approach to parking management.

"We have decided we don't like the look of some of the people who park in our village and so we have resolved to make the whole village out with yellow lines."

Please visit Liveaboards blog for the full story.

The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife

About a year ago, when I was visiting The Mellow Mum, I found a tiny magazine cutting on her bedside table. It was a quote from Mark Twain, “In twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did.  So throw off the bowline.  Sail away from the safe harbour. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 

Right now, we’re not travelling the waterways we’ve never seen, but it is about eight years since we travelled this part of the Grand Union, so things have changed and there’s a lot to rediscover. We never did go down the Kennett and Avon canal, but our mission is still to live the dream, to be boaters, travellers, writers and parents. Can we have it all? The Doctor has recently had a chapter published in a distinguished science book. The contributors to the book include leading philosophers, psychologists, and neuroscientists . His work at The Multiversity involves writing research articles, and he continues to work on his novel at home.

As for me, I’m taking Mark Twain’s advice, “Write without pay until somebody offers pay.”

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Our House, in the Middle of Our Street

I already have a washing machine: Another woman uses it. She uses my cooker and my kitchen every day. Her daughter plays in my garden and her partner mows my lawn. I have never used my washing machine. I have never lived in my house.

It is a modern terraced pebble-dashed place in a suburb somewhere in south west England. It’s not at the end of the world but it’s got the same postcode. Unlike the local shop in Cheshunt you can buy tin foil freely in this suburb, but the gardens are perfectly groomed and the children bounce their balls in eerie unison with one another. The house is in the town where The Doctor and I grew up. It is the place that I escaped from when I threw off the bow lines to explore and discover the world.

We bought our house as an investment, just before the Credit Crunch and property crash of the late-2000s,  and rented it out through an agency. As our lifestyle is so nomadic and The Doctor’s work is unpredictable we couldn’t decide at first where to buy a house. We then decided that the home town of both of our parents would make sense, as we regularly go back there to visit. The day that we went to buy a house was a Saturday. We had eleven viewing appointments with three estate agents. By the end of the day we had seen a house that we liked and put in an offer. If you’re not going to live in it then we found that it was not so hard to make a decision about a house. (When is a house not a home? When it’s an investment...) The house ticked the boxes in what we thought that we needed. It was there “just in case” and “for the future” if we ever decided to give up boating and settle down. But when I actually thought  that our family needed a house this year The Doctor was just beginning a three year research contract in central London. We talked about me and the children moving to the house in suburbia, while The Doctor worked in London and came home at weekends. That was less than ideal as a solution. Why not sell it and buy a house nearer to London? The price we would get for that house would not buy a two bedroom home anywhere near London. The rent doesn’t cover the mortgage so it costs us money every month and we periodically talked about selling it. But now we’ve made a decision. We will keep our investment for our family’s future. We will live on our bigger boat, and one day, with thoughts of Big Sister starting school in The Countryside, perhaps we will live on a mooring.

Monday 6 June 2011

Crying on the Commuter Train

Alone and crying on the commuter train in the morning I considered calling the doctor, either for advice on Citalopram withdrawal, or an urgent prescription for more Citalopram. I stopped taking them because of the short term memory loss,  but I intended to cut down slowly as recommended online. (Everybody knows that busy mummies  should source all their pharmaceutical advice from online forums right?) But then we broke down and so actually we left the old boat in a bit of a hurry. I forgot to pack the pills. Short term memory loss wasn’t so bad; but being so short sighted is. Memory loss is better than my serotonin levels plummeting like a wilful lemming1. For all the rolling stone inner criticism Mothers Little Helper was obviously quite quietly really helping me along. Now I cannot accept honest criticism from friends. I mull over last weekend’s drunken argument and take it all to heart. “Nobody likes me,” thought Mog” (the forgetful cat 2). The woman in the mirror is underweight and overtired. She believes a lot of things that make her lonely. At home, kisses from her eldest child softly break through the mist as her tears fall into The Doctor’s lap. Big Sister pauses, stands back and reflects on the result of her work so far. She asks,
Mother smiles through the tears. The child nods thoughtfully.
“Yes, a few more,” prescribes the junior doctor.
The Boat-Wife resolves to call up the doctor and arrange to get her negative beliefs surgically removed. 3

1) My imaginary friend Stephen Fry has begged me to interject that the wilful lemming is fictional; indeed lemmings as a rule have as much self-preservation instincts as the next creature.

3) If the pills hadn’t stolen her short term memory she might have remembered to just listen to her own 20 minute self-hypnosis download.

Sunday 5 June 2011

The Final Equation

Living with a scientist means that I sometimes try my hand at formulating scientific equations that re-calculate my reality. A quirky quark of quantum physics means that The New Boat is bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. I can explain the recent alteration in my reality like this:

(Our own bedroom + washing machine) x (70 feet divided by 4 people) minus launderette trips

= More Time and Space.

Friday 3 June 2011

Reasons to be cheerful, 1,2,3

Photo by Phil Bassett www.boatshed.com

10 Things That Are Different About The New Boat

1.       Space. This ship has crossed the final frontier. More storage space means that the place is tidier. More space in general means we don’t have to tidy the toys up until the end of the day, instead of engaging in an ongoing all-day battle for floor space.
2.       The Doctor and I now have our own bedroom. We take it in turns to have lie-ins at the weekend. We don’t have to put a futon bed away in the morning or get it out at night. We can even go to bed at different times from each other if we like.
3.       There is a washing machine and a spin drier. (Click on launderettes in the labels list if you’ve not yet heard about my heroic struggle living with two small kids and no washing machine.)

4.       Big Sister can do colouring or make things with Play Doh in her own room at her fold-down table. (Her last room was the size of a double bed and contained just that, a double bed, nothing else.) Now she can have friends around to play in her bedroom. She says she would rather live in a house though ,
“Because then I could have bunk beds like my friend from nursery.”
5.       The toilet flushes, with electric and water. It’s so fancy! On our last boat the toilet just featured a kind of trap door that dropped you-know-what into the pit down below. (There is no glamour in the boating life.)

6.       There are side hatches that let in sunlight and air and a piece of sky. Through these we can chat to the swans and ducks who glide over the glittering water to greet us, and ask for bread. You can taste the freedom on the air.

7.       The kitchen sink empties with gravity, not an electric pump, just like you would expect a sink to do. A silly design on our last boat meant that you had to hold in a button to pump out the water after finishing the dishes. The plughole was below the water level, so an electric pump buzzes and gurgles, sucking water down plastic bendy tubes and out into the Cut.

8.       A different kind of water heater means that we have instant running hot water! Although the water tank is tiny; a thimble! We have to fill up every three days instead of every three weeks. (Or is that because of the fancy flushing toilet and the frequent use of the washing machine?)

9.       We have 240 volt three-pin electric plugs – just like in houses! But it is not a house. We can live where we like and change that place every two weeks.

10.   The New Boat is in The Countryside.  We sleep sound in the knowledge that bored London teenagers will not untie our mooring ropes and cast us adrift while we sleep. We glide through a world of blossomy trees and sunshiney green fields.  We picnic in meadows and wander beside reservoirs. We moor up near crumbling country pubs, and pass through quiet locks nodding at other boaters. Did I mention vast fields of glorious bright yellow rape seed? The New Boat is in The Countryside.

This is my first time joining in with Michelle's Friday Blog Hop. Click below to visit her blog and read other blogger's reasons to be cheerful - or join in with your own blog post! Her blog is called Mummy From the Heart. Michelle says, "Do you know what I believe are two of the fundamental keys to happiness? One, is to choose to be happy and the other is to want what you already have!"

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Thursday 2 June 2011

Towed By The Coal Boat

Kensal Green, near Ladbroke Grove Sainsburys, West London
Geese woke the baby and I at night. The next day was slow progress to Denham. The Coal Boat kept getting loads of plastic bags around the prop. Coal Lad can get some of them off with the boat hook, but at Harlesden he had to put on a wet suit and get in to The Cut to clear it. The water comes up to his chest. By the time we got to the North Circular aqueduct it was all tangled up again. 

At Ladbroke Grove I strapped the baby into the sling and stepped off the Coal Boat as we came under the bridge. Baby and I popped to the supermarket for children’s paracetamol. Coal Lad delivered supplies to a boat on the mooring opposite, and then collected baby and me from the towpath outside the supermarket.

The next morning we awoke in Southall and left the boat with Coal Lad. The Doctor drove us all into London to the nursery, childminder and work. On the way we discussed whether to live on the old boat with no engine, (which means no means of charging the batteries, so no electric and no running water,) or the new boat with no heating.
“I’ll buy an electric heater today,” said The Doctor. “We can run it off the shoreline electric at the New Boat’s mooring.”

So that is how and when we decided to move onto The New Boat. When we finished work that day we drove out of London to Hertfordshire, and with a few basic possessions on board, we began to live in The Countryside.

The Countryside, Hertfordshire

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Kings Cross

Image Credit - London Boaters
Distant gas cylinders rise majestic in the east, and gongoozling daffodils are nodding by the mooring bollards as we rise up the lock. I’d like to say that we left London in a glorious blaze of independent freedom. But our final exit from London to The Countryside is not even under our own steam. We are tied to The Coal Boat; buttied up, side by side. Our engine failure is serious. The bearings have gone. I don’t know where they have gone but they’re gone for good. This could mean that we need a new engine.

If the engine is not running the only way of getting electric is the solar panel: so there’s not enough electric to run the fridge. Should we stay on the new boat instead? The heating is broken on the new boat. It is now a year since we cruised west, hopeful of exploring the Kennett and Avon. Now, we make the same journey limping alongside The Coal Boat, heading to Denham to get our engine fixed. I made coffee and handed two mugs and two biscuits to Coal Lad who was steering the boat. Their business is called something like ‘Coalman and Son’, but Coal Lad is no relation. In fact Coal Dad is one of the sons of The Coal Man, who is the wise old gentleman of Denham, and will be rebuilding our engine. Because we are being towed there is no one steering our boat. It is the first time ever that all four of our family have been inside while cruising.

We went through Camden Lock at the girls’ bedtime. Big Sister came out on to the back deck barefoot and in her pyjamas.
“Night night Daddy!” she calls up to the lock-side.
The Doctor was beside the balance beam holding a windlass, and we’re looking up at him from the bottom of the grimy lock.
“I’ve had three stories!”
“You must have been very good,” he grins affectionately.
I take her indoors and tuck both girls in. They sleep to the sound of The Coal Boat engine chugging along outside our kitchen window.

It’s dusk. There are twinkling fairy lights in the willow tree that towers over Camden Market. The three waterbus passenger boats are sleeping on their mooring. We turn the corner into Regents Park and glide through the aviary of London Zoo. I hear the sound of peacocks calling.

We’re like a fly on the wall witnessing the working life of The Coal Boat. We accompany them on their deliveries to liveaboard boaters and arrive in Little Venice in the dark. When the engine is quietly sleeping we can hear the geese on the island in Robert Browning’s pool.