Friday 29 July 2011

On a Break

I am taking a brief blogging break to write an eBook and to concentrate on starting my new freelance writer/freelance secretary business.

The eBook is called Narrowboat Families and will be available for free on the blog. In the meantime you may like to read some of my favourite posts from the archives:

My first ever blog post
Living beside a wild flower meadow
My imaginary friends: Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood
My imaginary friend Charles Lamb: Essayist and Poet
Ten things that are different about mothering on board
FAQs about living on a narrowboat

You can also browse other cool blogs on the latest BritMums blogging carnival, hosted at Mari's World.
Or have a nosy around the inside of our narrowboat in my guest post at The Alexander Residence.
You can get in touch with me on

Linked In

Contact me by email regarding PR, advertising and writing commissions.

See you soon!


Wednesday 27 July 2011

A Million Moments of Closeness

This morning I read a blog post that made me ponder whether blogging can be a kind of self help? The writer had found blogging when depressed to be a cathartic and therapeutic experience. She said that writing about her feelings instead of internalising them was liberating. Readers’ comments said that her post was heart-warming. Another comment explored the possibility that blogging is the new praying, and that if you write for what you wish for then it sometimes comes true. I am a big fan of blog therapy. I have just blogged myself through a year of depression, anti-depressants and bereavement. I managed to still turn that into something cheerful by singing ‘Mothers Little Helper’ to myself and writing about Mick Jagger being my imaginary friend. Getting positive feedback on my writing has given me the confidence to try freelancing. I recently went to a huge parent blogging conference and so I would say that blogging has changed my life!
Research shows that the relative anonymity of writing and networking online allows us to feel safe sharing our feelings. Because of this, new online friendships can sometimes develop faster than friendships in real life. Skype, Facebook, Twitter, texts, emails and instant messages allow us to communicate quickly and frequently making it easier to maintain relationships, both old and new, therefore increasing intimacy.
Sharing your thoughts, feelings and life experiences by using words and pictures on line can make us feel more connected to our social circles and peers. Blog sites and websites like Facebook give us the opportunity to comment on and discuss shared photos and receiving responses in this way is another closeness essential. Discussions sparked in this way can feel like an online version of a banter in the local pub, catching up with friends and building intimacy without even leaving your home.
NIVEA are celebrating the closeness that 21st century technology provides with their A Million Moments of Closeness campaign. You can upload a photo of you sharing a cosy moment with a friend, colleague, sibling, partner, parent or child at, or look out for the road shows, throughout the UK, where the two of you can jump into a photo booth and have your picture instantly uploaded. Whether you share your photos on Facebook or at the road show, you’re in with the chance to win - every day, a picture of the day will be selected by psychologist Professor Geoff Beattie The winner will receive one of 100 prizes worth £100.
Do you agree that technology has made us closer than ever? Share your views and join the Feel Closer debate at Have you ever revealed something in an email, a text or a blog post that you never would have done in person? Is the internet a good way of staying close to loved ones, or does it simply give us an excuse not to actually meet up in person? Is sending a brief text thoughtful and intimate, or a way of evading real-life interaction?  Have your say - and let’s find out how intimate we can really be on Facebook! Check out a million moments of closeness.

Sponsored Post
Vidéo virale par ebuzzing
Viral video by ebuzzing

Monday 25 July 2011

My Piece of Canal - Guest Post

In early labour along the canal path,
TENS machine in the little bag.
Firstly thanks to Peggy for having me. It’s wonderful to be given a space to guest post on such a lovely site. I’m Penny, the writer, blogger, vlogger, mother, wife and arts practitioner in residence at AlexanderResidence . My background is in teaching drama and film. My blog is a creative filing cabinet to reflect on the ups and downs of life with small children, and where life permits, life beyond them. I tweet at @Aresidence.

I thought I would share a piece of canal that’s very special to me...

Just before my daughter was born my husband and I moved from London. We rented a house on a new housing estate in the East Midlands, built alongside a now disused section of canal (at least for boats, it’s home to many creatures).

It was a huge shock moving from mulitcultural, bustling South London to a silent, suburban cul-de-sac. When I had lived for a short time in a cul-de-sac as a chid, my mother had explained the term to me as the ‘bottom of the bag’. I had an image in my head of being tied up inside a big black bag, and that is precisely what I feared estate life would feel like after London.

The little stretch of canal turned out to be the light at the end of the cul-de-sac. Suddenly free of work, heavily pregnant in the hottest summer for decades, I began to enjoy waddling alogside the ducks, down the shady canal path, to buy an ice lolly. In fact the short stretch of canal, bordered now at each end by main roads rather than locks, was about as much as I could manage by that point.

When labour finally began, I spent much of the early stages pacing up and down the canal path. I took breaks on a bench talking to my mum and my husband. They offered soothing words as we watched the swans guarding their nests and reflected on my slow labour.

When I returned home from hospital, some days later, exhausted after a long labour and an emergency c section, I measured my progress by how far along the canal I could walk . My city life seemed so far away. My world seemed so small. But day by day I pushed the pram a little further along the tow path.

After a few weeks I was able to venture over the main road and further along the canal into the countryside beyond, by then I also had plenty of friends with babies to walk with. I was starting to really appreciate life away from the city.

As the weeks passed, the swans, who had been busy guarding their nests, proudly revealed their cygnets. We watched as they grew from tiny balls of grey fluff, to graceful creatures who eventually took their first flying lessons. At the same time our daughter grew from a tiny newborn to a bouncing baby, and having found our feet too, we found the energy to look for a permanent home.

We moved into town, needing to be nearer to the hustle and bustle, but the stretch of canal is still on my jogging route. It will always be a space to be free, and a measure of distanced travelled.

My now 4yo daughter and her friend on a bike ride along the canal

Thanks so much to Penny for this lovely guest post. Pop over to The Alexander Residence to read more like this.

Would you like to guest post on Narrowboat Wife? Contact me.

Friday 22 July 2011

MiFi Changed My Life!

Huawei E585
Three MiFi Mobile Broadband Review

Did you know that half (48 per cent) of mums go online late at night to catch up on things they don’t have the time to do during the day? A third of these time starved‘Midnight Mums’ (33 per cent) get less than six hours sleep a night*. Three Mobile suggest that mums can save 135 hours a year by having access to the internet while out and about. So, does it help?
Denise Van Outen (celebrity mum of one) said,
“Becoming smartphone savvy has been a great eye opener and I’ve enjoyed making dead time, such as standing in shopping queues and waiting for friends, more productive”.
I have recently left my job to become a mumpreneur and most of my business is done working on line. I do spend a lot of time waiting for a browser that cannotdisplay the webpage. When the mobile dongle signal strength is weak I click on‘Help and Support’.
“How to improve your signal strength.
Think about the positioning of your dongle. E.g. upstairs will be better than a basement flat. Some rooms get a stronger signal than others depending on thickness of walls.”
These suggestions are only helpful if you have walls, stairs, and perhaps a house. The software creators might want to add to that,
“Your mobile signal strength is directly related to the levels of outstanding rural beauty, peace and quiet from which you are trying to reach the outside world.”

(Distance from nearest town) + (Beauty of rural scenery) + (distance from launderette) divided by (a large number) = possible mobile internet signal strength.

(See previous post: Communications Are Down)

When Three allowed me to borrow a MiFi for two weeks I was so excited that it could be the answer to all of my problems! Prices for a MiFi pay plan start at £9.91 per month.
(Three also offers all-you-can-eat data on both The One Plan and Pay As You Go packages, allowing mums to blog, social network and shop without worrying about the cost.)
Deep canal cutting
Deep Canal Cutting

The day that I received it we were moored in a deep canal cutting where the mobile phone signal is weak. If it worked there, it should work anywhere. Once the kids were in bed we quickly and easily set up the MiFi and turned on our laptops. I tried the MiFi in various locations, like hanging it near the front door inside a child’s umbrella. I started fiddling with my blog and my husband started live streaming a channel 4 TV programme on his lap top. We were impressed. Everything worked perfectly.
We moved the boat to the next village where the signal was better. I also took the laptop and MiFi away for a weekend in Exeter, and I used it during the week to work on my blog on the commuter train. My iPhone connects to the signal automatically whenever the MiFi is turned on.

Computer Says "No"

However, one day at home I could not get on line at all. I
called 3 Customer Support and quickly spoke to a lovely man who was based in a town just outside Mumbai. I am techno-phobic and had no idea what my computer error messages meant, but the technical support guy remotely connected to my computer and talked me through resetting the MiFi. It turned out that my poor lap top was very confused; trying to talk to my 3 dongle and connect to the MiFi all at the same time. He set the system so that it now looks for the MiFi first, and he kept apologising for the time it was taking him. I found the customer service to be excellent. The phone call did take 55 minutes, but I don’t think that is Three’s fault. I do find it amazing that someone on the other side of the world can be helping a techno-phobic Boat-Wife somewhere on the Grand Union Canal; pretty futuristic don’t you think? When I started living on a boat, in the year 2000 I had some kind of archaic dial-up thing that used Blue-Tooth to talk to my mobile. Things have really changed since then!
So now, I am really looking forward to saving 135 hours a year. If you divide it by seven that’s 19 working days I could spend on my new mumpreneur business: The Freelance Narrowboatwife. Or I could spend it narrowboating with my family...

To learn more about the #MumsOnThree campaign, visit the Three blog or the On theGo Facebook tab.
* Research was carried out by OnePoll in March 2011 for Three. The research was carried out amongst 3,000 mums with children under 16 years old in the UK.

I was loaned the the 3 E585 MiFiMobile Wi-Fi free of charge for two weeks so that I could review it.

This post contains an affiliate link to Become a Mumpreneur.

What would you do with 135 hours?

Tuesday 19 July 2011

The Freelance Narrowboat Wife

The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery

The National is a leading centre for the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with a wide range of neurological conditions such as epilepsy, MS, Alzheimer's, stroke and head injuries. With its neighbour, the Institute of Neurology, it is a major international centre for research and training. I have been proud to work there and met amazing, kind, funny and clever people.

Over the past six years I’ve been a medical secretary, theatre secretary and the administration manager of the neurosurgical operating theatres. I’ve dealt with suicidal callers undergoing cluster headache attacks and I’ve been in to the operating theatre to watch leading neurosurgeons remove a brain tumour. I went to the ‘wrap’ party after the BBC completed their documentary The Brain Hospital.

I’ve listened sympathetically and resolved patient problems while working as a Patient Advice Liaison Officer. I’ve had two children, gone part time and juggled my hospital commitments with building up my clinical hypnotherapy practice. I did a presentation on hypnosis for childbirth at The Royal London Homeopathic Hospital (also a part of UCLH Trust.)

But the government wants to cut costs and the NHS has offered me a resignation scheme.

I am going to go freelance, providing freelance secretarial services from home, and also doing freelance writing, blogging and copywriting. I am working on building an income from my blog and will be selling children's books, artwork and other products all with a narrowboat theme.

Please consider me or recommend me for all your outsourced secretarial and transcription/audiotyping needs.
Use Twitter and Facebook to share this page: Freelance Services with your friends and colleagues who may find it of use.

Subscribe to this blog and visit often to see what I am up to and check out the watercolour painting I did of Uxbridge Lock, which is the first product for sale in my arts and craft shop.

Busy mummies – try my self hypnosis mp3 ‘Massage For Your Mind’
Twenty minutes of ‘me’ time can give you more mental energy to get everything else done.
Top mummy blogger Tara Cain said,
"The sooooothing voice of clinical hypnotherapist Peggy over even more soooothing music.
After just one week of listening to it a handful of times, I am addicted. In a good way. It's supposed to help improve mental calmness, relaxation, confidence, competence, and better quality sleep. What part of that sentence do you need me to say again?!"

I am doing an inspiring eCourse called Become a Mumpreneur and am setting up multiple income streams. When I'm not doing all that I will be pitching my memoir 'The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife' to literary agents. On my 'days off' I will be doing the boat chores and housework and looking after my two beautiful daughters. (Why do my friends and family accuse me of trying to do too much?)

So, goodbye pension, security, holiday pay, friends and colleagues. Hello to the freelance life.

Narrowboat Wife BA(Hons) D.Hyp
Writer, blogger, content producer, copywriter, audiotypist, secretary, bookkeeper, hypnotherapist, artist.

Do you try to do too much? How many hats do you wear? How many plates have you got spinning?

This post contains an affiliate link.

Friday 15 July 2011

Living Aboard a Narrowboat – Part 1

My little Boat-Wife brain is full of fascinating things that I learned at the parent blogging conference Cybermummy11. I was reminded that a blog is not just a publishing platform. It is an interactive community. The writer is approachable and available. When I’m on my boat people passing by on the towpath sometimes ask me questions. Think of yourself on a stroll on the towpath now; I’m hanging my washing out on a clothes horse on the front deck. You think to yourself,

Hey, it’s that Boat-Wife off the internet! I wonder if it’s cold in winter on a narrowboat?

Ask Narrowboat Wife

You may be thinking of living aboard a narrowboat, buying a narrowboat or just going on a narrowboat holiday. You may just be curious about narrowboat family life.  Leave your question as a comment below and I will add the answers to the blog.

Is it cold in winter living on a narrowboat?

The short answer is no. It’s kind of a running joke among boaters that this is the question most people will always ask. The longer answer is that it depends on your heating. Most narrowboats are heated with a solid fuel stove. It burns coal or wood and a narrow steel boat can get very hot when the home fire is burning – enough to need opening the windows in mid-winter! The downside is that the fire can die down to an ember overnight making the mornings a little chilly. My friend Barge-Mum found that her solid fuel stove was inadequate to heat her large Dutch Barge. When I was pregnant with our first child we invested in a diesel stove. It runs off diesel from the engine tank and maintains a constant heat 24/7. The downside is it’s not as cosy and romantic as a real burning fire and it’s a real pain to clean (says The Doctor!). Narrowboats can also have a variety of radiators which either run off the diesel stove or from propane gas bottles.

Aren’t you worried that your children will fall into the canal?

Yes, but probably not as much as non-boating parents. They were born on board and have the risks drummed into them every day. If you lived near a busy road you would not leave the door unlocked. We keep the doors bolted shut and there are playpen barriers around the front deck. Accidents happen to children every day, on roads, in houses and very, very rarely on canals. The memory of the tragic loss of my friends’ child is never far from my mind.

How often do you have to move your narrowboat?

We move the boat every two weeks. We have a British Waterways Continuous Cruising Licence which requires us to continue our journey every fourteen days. In practice we have to move about once a week to fill the water tank at a water point. After fourteen days we are required to move to the next ‘place’ or ‘neighbourhood’ – not just to the next bridge.

Is living on a narrowboat cheaper than living in a house?

It is possibly a little cheaper but it depends on the particular house and narrowboat that you are comparing. I bought my first boat in the year 2000 when I was renting a room in a shared flat in London. Taking into consideration the BW licence fee, insurance, mooring fee, boat loan repayments to the bank, cost of gas and coal etcetera I found that the lifestyle was similar in monthly costs to my lifestyle ‘on the bank’. However, a big motivating factor for me was to be able to own my home. For a couple sharing a boat it would definitely be cheaper than renting a flat. Your costs will depend on the size of your marine mortgage or boat loan repayments, and your mooring fees which can vary depending on location and facilities. The bigger the boat the more expensive your insurance and BW licence will be.

Narrowboat Hire

When you hire a narrowboat the hire company will give you a brief lesson in how to steer the boat. They will also provide life jackets for the children. You can use Google to find a hire boat company in your chosen area. They are also advertised in the waterways press. Many companies offer day boat hire.

Living Aboard a Narrowboat

The Residential Boat Owners Association website has a lot of useful information about living aboard. There are also several books on the topic.

How Much Does a Narrowboat Cost?

A new narrowboat will cost about £1000 per foot. Second hand narrowboats can start at under £10,000 for a ‘project boat’ – something tired and weary. A 40 foot boat for one could be as little as £15,000; a good condition 70 foot boat to suit a family may cost around £45,000. The price depends on the age and condition of the boat. The important thing to check is the condition of the hull, by paying for a professional survey before purchase. Browse narrowboats for sale at

Have you got a TV/shower/toilet etcetera?

Most boats have all of the above and depending on your budget you can have all mod-cons including a microwave, dishwasher and washing machine! The complicated part is do you have a big enough water tank and an electric system that can cope with the demands of modern life? Running these modern luxuries is easier if you are on a mooring with 240 volt electric supply and your own water tap. If you are continuously cruising you will need to find out about generators and invertors and make sure that you have a good sized water tank. Chemical toilets can either be the pump-out type, which is emptied at a pump out point (pumped out by a machine), or an Elsan (sometimes called a ‘porta potty’) which can be emptied by hand into a sewage disposal point.

And there you have it. It’s never long before a boater’s conversation degenerates into toilet talk. Why not share this wealth of information with all your canal-curious friends on Facebook and Twitter? Click the buttons below to share.


Thursday 14 July 2011

Uxbridge Lock: Watercolour

Uxbridge Lock

Welcome to the grand opening of my online Arts and Crafts shop!

I painted this small watercolour in 2002 and sold it to The Marine Engineer and The Original Boatwife. who were moored near to me in Uxbridge at the time. I have done very few canal related paintings so this one is quite rare. I love the vibrant colours and the memories that it evokes of all the lovely boaty friends that I had in the area. Uxbridge is a town on the north west outskirts of London and has a real community of narrowboaters, both permanently moored and those passing through.

An 8" x 6" canvas print of this painting is small enough to hang in any narrowboat, or could fill a niche in the house of someone who just loves the waterways. Like all good paintings it is a conversation starter, perhaps igniting discussions of lazy days by canals and the fact that you stumbled upon it quite by accident while reading The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife.

"When I saw this image I was really struck by it. It struck a chord with me because I like the great outdoors, especially trees and water. So combining the two was like visual catnip to me! I immediately wanted to have it and put it on my wall so that I could look at it and be transported. I also got it as a present for the room a visitor was staying in, and they remarked on it straightaway. I just knew they would like it too - and I was right!" Patrick, London

Be first! At the moment there are only a handful of these canvas prints in existence. If you'd like a little window into my world on your wall this is the painting you are looking for.

Buy The Canvas Print of Uxbridge Lock Now.

Please place an order by email, to contact the artist personally and arrange to pay by Paypal or cheque.

'Uxbridge Lock' Canvas Print 08" x 06" (1" deep) Only £35.00 including P&P.


Matte cotton canvas
Reflective wrap (the print wraps around the edge)
Lacquer surface protection
Wire hanging fixture

Optional Gift Wrap:

Plain, birthday or Christmas gift wrap: £4.99

Monday 11 July 2011

What Today Meant

I really enjoyed Josie’s blog post about finding beauty in two snails nearly kissing. (I tried to leave a comment but my net connection conspired against me yet again – can’t wait to get a Three MiFi, humph!) Her thoughts reminded me of a post I once wrote about finding tiny fragments of beauty in the ugly ‘new town’ of Harlow. This morning the pushchair had two flat tyres, so I dragged a three year old and a one year old down the towpath at 7 am and once more mused over the contradictory juxtaposition that my narrowboat life continually presents. Parenting on a narrowboat is a struggle: fact. But when Big Sister suddenly ran ahead down the towpath exclaiming,
“Wild strawberries!” I was reminded that it is the tiny fragments of beauty that make it all worthwhile.  
Yesterday I left work in London at 3.45pm. I walked to the station and got a train to The Countryside. Then I got a bus to nursery and collected the girls. I then had to safely contain and entertain two tiny children at the bus stop for half an hour while two buses failed to turn up. I furiously started formulating a complaint email to the bus company in my mind. Eventually the same bus driver who had dropped me off at nursery came back around again. 
“We don’t usually stop at this stop on the way back,” he explained to me. “If there’s no one on board to drop off we just miss out this stop and head straight back to the station.”
I was indignant and confident that the timetable on the bus stop decreed that the bus should stop at this stop, despite it being the last stop at the remote end of town it was still a bus stop!
“But what if there is someone waiting at the stop?!” Someone like me. The bus driver smiled a relaxed and knowing smile and said quietly,
“But there never is.”
Something about his laid-back logic dispelled my frustration. I sat the kids down on the bus and was relieved to now be heading quickly back towards the station and our mooring. We finally got home at about 6.30pm. 
So, this morning after Big Sister’s quick snack on wild strawberries I thought that a taxi would be best. I walked with both children up the road to the station and headed straight to the taxi office. The door was closed; there was nobody there. Then, the bus pulled onto the station forecourt with the same familiar driver. I was now delighted to see him and pay a bus fare that was a fraction of the price of a taxi. He smiled as he greeted my children and they clambered up the steps of the bus. After a quick discussion about return bus times and the fact that I had to get to work in London afterwards he told me that he would take me and the girls straight to nursery, wait for me outside and bring me straight back to the station. He would not even accept a return fare but did the round trip for the price of a single ticket.
At the nursery door I gave a quick kiss to both of the girls as I explained to the nursery teacher,
“I’ve got to head off, I’ve actually got the bus driver waiting for me!”
I made it to work in central London in record time.
The point of this story is that fragments of beauty, kindness and nice surprises can happen to you when you least expect it. The nursery drop-off, which I expected to be difficult was made quick and easy with the help of a stranger. It’s just one thing that made me different because of it. Something that felt significant; even beautiful. 
Head over to Josie’s blog, ‘Sleep is for the Weak’, to see what other bloggers wrote about in the writing workshop this week.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Reasons to be Cheerful

These poppy fields are a short walk from where we are moored. I love poppies. They are my favourite flower. Delicate but fiesty all at once. Wild and red yet fragile and short lived.

I left London and moved to the countryside to live beside views like this.

This lovely linky was dreamed up by  Michelle at Mummy From The Heart. I met Michelle in real life at a blogging conference last week. She was very nice. I was very cheerful - because of the free wine.

Reasons to be Cheerful.

1) Poppies
2) Free wine
3) My daughters

Visit other bloggers who are feeling cheerful today by clicking the badge below.

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

Monday 4 July 2011

Internet Hero Saves My Technophobic Ass

Costa del Sol Image Credit: Kevin Poh

Review: Alternate Creations Web Design

Have you ever had one of those weeks where a 7 am phone call triggers a family crisis? You spend every minute on the phone and email trying to sort out something urgent and personal, whilst also juggling childcare and your working life, and through the chaos of it all an innocent little email pops up in your inbox requesting payment to renew your web hosting? You know that kind of week, where you’re about to move to a new boat, relocate to The Countryside and find a new nursery for the children? This is the kind of week I was having when I remembered that I definitely do not want to renew my web hosting agreement. The service was terrible; the design software included was counter-intuitive and frustrating. I urgently needed to relocate my hypnotherapy business website, and rebuild it before launching a new hypnotherapy practice in Hertfordshire. I told the hosting service that I was leaving and they said that I had 24 hours to get my technophobic ass out of their cyberspace.

It was time to ask for expert help from an old friend from art college. That’s right, I needed super-hero cyber-help from The Web Designer, at Alternate Creations. His speedy response was second to none.

So What did The Web Designer do?

Because my current website was expiring in the next 24 hours he immediately downloaded and saved all of the pages, text and pictures, zipped ‘em up small and sent them to me. Just like that.

He recommended a different web hosting service, introduced us online and got my domain name shifted over there.

He used Wordpress to create a simple template for me to build my new site on. But I’m just a simple Blogger girl so when the going got tough he gave me lots of technical support and advice via email, Facebook and Skype.

When I’d uploaded all of my text and pictures I’ll admit it looked a little messy. The Web Designer nipped in there and titled all the pages, tidied up the layout of the index page, made the top navigation links smaller so that they fit into one row and changed the page navigation order so it all made sense.

He did all of this from his office based on the Costa del Sol in Spain, so we didn’t even meet in Real Life!

So now I have my new on line professional work-space. I can sit back, put my feet up on the virtual desk and relax in my pixilated swivel chair, just waiting for the clients to come strolling in out of cyberspace.

The site that he helped me to create is ; simple and user friendly.

The Web Designer offers a variety of services at (Not just design.)

Pop over, take a peek. He’s very friendly. You may be surprised at what super-hero-cyber-help can do for you, at a budget to suit your pocket.

Disclosure: Alternate Creations provided their services to me free of charge. They did not ask me to write a review.

If you liked this article or think that your friends might like some super-cyber-help please share the link on Facebook and Twitter by clicking the buttons below the integrity badge.