Friday 30 March 2012

Where is This Relationship Going?

I mean the relationship with my blog! 

I was surprised that Do You Like Roses and Castles? was quite popular. I had it in my notebook for a while as something funny that my daughter had said, and then realised it could be a blog post. It made me realise a post doesn't have to be a long clever pretty piece of writing, it can just be a snippet or a moment in time... I’ve got to take the pressure off myself! When I look back at my old posts I am very proud of them, I can see now that was good writing. But I think that when I started this blog I was driven by a terrible loneliness and discontentment; my blog allowed me to connect with the world and share the highs and lows of my narrowboat existence. 

These days I do not have the same urgency to jot down the intimate details of my daily life, I guess because I'm happier just living it. I could wake up and write about the glistening water and the serenity of the swans but it’s less cathartic than moaning about the distance to the launderette or the price of a new gearbox. 

So, where will my blog take me next?

Wednesday 28 March 2012

What Does 'Project Boat For Sale' Mean?

Project boat for sale
A long time ago, when I sold my beloved first ever boat, a 45 foot red narrowboat with a cruiser stern, the boat broker told me that she was a little “tired looking” and labelled her as a project boat for sale.

But a project boat can be a beautiful thing; a bargain full of potential. If you're looking for cheap boats for sale in the UK it may be because you're the sort of person who is interested in fitting out a narrowboat or refurbishing a barge. If you're considering this option you will know that you may need a variety of skills, from woodwork to plumbing, and wiring to painting. You may also have to budget to outsource some of the jobs you are less confident about. It could be an opportunity to completely redesign the interior to your taste but it's good to bear in mind that one day you may want to sell it. While it's easy to research the prices of a new stove, cooker or toilet, it is surprising how the cost of tiling, taps, timber and paint can add up.

Your other most valuable commodity will be time. You may need to consider planning your project around work and family; can you estimate accurately how long the work will take? You will also need to consider the requirements of the Boat Safety Scheme. If you're going to move around large sheets of ply or drill holes in steel work you'll need to be physically fit. Depending on the size of the refurbishment you plan to undertake you may like to sketch out your ideas as a plan, and look in waterways magazines for ingenious layout ideas, cunning storage solutions and varying berth and dinette options. Plan ahead and think about how the current tasks will affect future work. Make sure that plumbing and wiring is reasonably accessible for your future self to maintain, and tidy up as you go along, to boost morale, reduce mistakes and find lost tools!

For some enthusiasts the attraction will be the satisfaction of restoring a historic boat. Our unusual Admiralty Pinnace boat for sale has so much potential for someone with a talent for woodwork. Although she is thought to have been built by the Admiralty in 1919, she does not show her age, except perhaps in her grace and style. The wheelhouse, massive salon and wonderful bedroom can be seen in the photos here: Historic Project Boat For Sale.

Boat refitting or restoration is a labour of love but in some cases you could be proud to own a piece of floating history, that has been redesigned to your own specification.

What does 'project boat' mean to you? Are you looking for a project? Have you successfully restored your own boat? Please feel free to come over and join me on Facebook or Twitter for a bit of a chat. We have recently sold two project boats and are looking forward to seeing how they turn out.

For the month of March this blog will be featuring these sponsored posts, while I get on top of my various work committments. I plan to include more tales about the real life of a narrowboat wife in April. If you would like to contribute a personal story about living aboard I am happy to accept guest posts.


Friday 23 March 2012

Do You Like Roses and Castles?

"Mummy, why did people paint my bedroom like people had it in the old days?"
"Well, because people sometimes like things to be how they were in the old days; it's nice isn't it, with the roses and castles and everything?"

The little girl sighs.
"Well, I am just bored of it now."
"Oh. Are you?"
"Yes. I just wish someone would paint it all pink, because I really like pink."
You can't fight the pink. Resistance is futile.

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Living on a Boat The Boatshed Guide

If you’re considering living on a narrowboat you may enjoy a series of posts that I wrote for Boatshed Grand Union about living on a boat. Whilst they were written with narrowboats in mind, a lot of the information may be helpful to anyone looking for a wide beam, Dutch barge, motor boat or any other sort of canal boat for sale, with the idea of living aboard. I’ve compiled a list of links on the Boatshed website to make it easier to find the information you are looking for. 

Let me know if you notice things that I haven’t covered. I’m always happy to answer questions, and write more articles about living aboard!

For the month of March this blog will be featuring these sponsored posts, while I get on top of my various work committments. I plan to include more tales about the real life of a narrowboat wife in April. If you would like to contribute a personal story about living aboard I am happy to accept guest posts.


Thursday 15 March 2012

Life is Beautiful

It’s 9am. I’ve just walked half an hour to nursery and then cycled back thinking about the things that I’ve got to do today. The engine’s broken down (again) so the marine engineer may be coming, if he can. Because we can’t move the boat to the water point I’ll first fetch a barrel of water for the tank. I’m going to do the laundry, the dishes and take the recycling today, as well as doing a day’s work at home. As I cycle down the towpath thinking of how the day is packed with chores I notice the brilliant blue sky framed through the old canal bridge; the painted boats beyond, showing all the colours of my watery village; the sunlight glinting on the water and the swans gliding by. I remember what my blog was all about in the beginning: that Life is difficult: but beautiful.  That sums it up really.
I put the bike on the front deck and roll the 40 litre aquaroll to the water point. Then I pull the full barrrel back down the muddy towpath and lean it against the side of the boat; still on its side. My neighbour opposite lives on a Dutch barge and works on boats. He is in a small rowing boat heading a few boats down to another boat this morning. He smiles,
“Is that you commuting?” I grin. He laughs.
“I used to have another boat: a work boat. But this does me fine really: I can’t fit a welder in it though.”
As he rows away I turn just in time to see that our boat has shifted out slightly and my water barrel is falling into the Cut!
“Nooo!” I wail, as I leap urgently back onto the towpath and grab the handle. It’s heavy and sinking. I wrestle with the cap and undo it in time to begin pouring the freshly collected drinking water into the Cut. I struggle to hold the weight of it, the boat begins drifting back towards me jamming the barrel between the boat and the bank. The concrete edge of the towpath is digging into my knees. I manage to pour enough water out of it so that it is light enough to heave out.  With relief I lift it onto the front deck and begin to pour the half a barrel that’s left through a funnel into the water tank.
My neighbour is returning, rowing back the other way.
“That’s one way to fill the water tank,” he says. Luckily he did not see my embarrassing incident.
“We’ve broken down,” I explain.
“I know one guy,” he says, as he rows on up the Cut. “When it rains the rain water from his roof goes straight into his water tank!”
When you’ve broken down water is even more precious than it usually is. I’m gutted that my entire water expedition has resulted in a mere 20 litre top-up. I need to start my day now; turn on the geny and washing machine, get a coffee and get to work on my computer.
The sky is impossibly blue and the sunshine glistens on the water. It’s 10am. The geny’s on; the laundry’s on; and I’ve finally written an honest blog post about the real life of a narrowboat wife. Life is difficult, but beautiful!

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Kids on the Cut

What's happening on the English canals and rivers at the moment? There were grim findings in the Regents Canal in London last week. We've also had water shortages and council elections argy bargy so I thought I'd write a cheerful story for the blog. As Spring approaches, here are some waterside ways to have fun with the kids.

There's a science workshop for children at the London Canal Museum this week from 13 to 16th March. The day includes a boat trip and practical workshops. Children can find out how the Islington tunnel was built on the canal and build model tunnels. Then, discover why boats float and how to measure the amount of cargo on boats. It costs £4 per child and you can book it by emailing

This weekend the Puppet Barge in Little Venice is showing The Flight of Babuscha Baboon.  The show tells the story of a baboon who wants to fly to the moon in a hot air balloon and has to save an elephant from ivory hunters. For more information visit

If you're not in London the canal still provides plenty of inspiration for family fun. Try hiring a day boat on the Grand Union canal or making a boat themed recipe from Favourite Boating Recipes; Traditional Cabin Fare (compiled by Cas Best.) On rainy days you could read books about characters living on a narrowboat like Rosie and Jim or Bert and Betty. If the weather is fine I might try cycling with the kids, fishing, foraging, or going on wildlife walks.

While we're on the towpath I'll  keep an eye out to see if there are any narrowboats for sale. We are always looking for more boats to add to our selection of narrow boats and barges for sale on the Grand Union. If you have a boat for sale we'd be happy to take it on brokerage for you.

Disclosure: I wrote this post for For business blogging and other services visit

For the month of March this blog will be featuring these sponsored posts, while I get on top of my various work committments. I plan to include more tales about the real life of a narrowboat wife in April. If you would like to contribute a personal story about living aboard I am happy to accept guest posts.

Monday 12 March 2012

CRT Election Day

Emmeline Pankhurst would be turning in her grave if she knew how little I had exercised my right to vote in this life. When I started living on a narrowboat I was young and care-free, and it was easy to assume that all of the political parties were as bad as each other. I was an art college graduate with messy hair and hippy clothes and if I did vote, I mused whimsically, perhaps I’d vote for the Green party. It also seemed to me, that living on a boat without a permanent address made it very difficult to register to vote. It was only as I matured, like a fine wine (or a smelly cheese) that I made time to look into this properly. By filling out a simple form called A Declaration of Local Connection any person of no fixed abode can actually be registered on the electoral role.
So, with the imminent inauguration of the Canal and Rivers Trust it was quite new to me to be invited to express a preference in an election that will have a significant impact on my way of life. I have no idea why when boaters bring in about 20 per cent of British Waterway’s annual income*, that they are only allocated four elected council positions. There were 33 candidates standing for election to represent private boaters and I was struck by the passion for and dedication to the waterways that each of their statements displayed. Many of the candidates already do notable voluntary work, being members of associations, restoration projects, committees, societies and charities. At first I was drawn to the candidates that I feel I ‘know’ through my work life, or through their on line presence. But after taking the time to read all of the statements carefully, I found it more and more difficult to make a decision.
 I was impressed by the extensive boating experience held by all of the candidates, their previous achievements and their proposals for the future. I liked it when two candidates specified that the waterways are for boats. I felt an affinity with Ian Robert Harrison when he wrote “I lived aboard with my young family for three years”, because I too have a young family aboard.  I thought that it was interesting when Frank Kelly pointed out that the DEFRA consultation did not reflect that the waterways “now support a large population of people dependent on boats as homes”.
For me personally, selecting someone with an understanding of the needs of the live aboard boater was a must, but that person must also be willing to fairly represent boaters of all types with differing ideas of what is important. “Categorising boaters into particular groupings is unhelpful and divisive,” said Alan Fincher’s statement.
The election closed on Friday at noon.  I cast my vote on line and came away from this experience with the utmost respect for all of these people dedicated to spending so much of their time in improving the experience of the waterways for all boaters.
What would be important to you in such an election? If you are not already a boat owner hotel boats are a wonderful way to explore the English canals and rivers.

Disclosure: I wrote this post for Neil and Corrine at Canal Voyagers. For business blogging and other services visit

For the month of March this blog will be featuring these sponsored posts, while I get on top of my various work committments. I plan to include more tales about the real life of a narrowboat wife in April. If you would like to contribute a personal story about living aboard I am happy to accept guest posts.


Friday 9 March 2012


I’m feeling retrospective.
Just out of curiosity I wondered what I was doing at this time last year.  How lucky I am that this time last year I was blogging regularly about my real life and so it’s easy to look back and see what was happening. Coincidentally I found that this day a year ago was a major day of change for me.
In the rush of the early morning, while the kids were having breakfast, I had a phone call from Cambodia, from a guy I’d never met before. He was very upset and at first it was hard to make sense of what he was saying. He said he was a friend of my brother’s and he thought my 35 year old brother has had a stroke.  He was panicking because the staff at the small rural hospital where they were had not seemed to have acknowledged that this had happened.  He took my brother on a four hour taxi ride to Phnom Penh to a better hospital. That phone call was the beginning of a three week roller coaster of coordinating emails and phone calls between family and friends, embassy officials and trying to get information out of Cambodian hospitals. I spoke to my brother a few times; he could speak but he was quite vague. Everybody was doing all they could to try to get him flown back to England as soon as it was safe to do so. Several of us were on standby considering flying to Cambodia.
That same day, the purchase went through for our 70 foot narrowboat and we became owners of what is now our new home. This photograph shows the urban scene local to my child-minder in London last year. We now live in rural Hertfordshire on a bigger narrowboat. My brother has made a miraculous recovery and continues to recover somewhere beautifully rural in Devon.  Because we bought that boat I met Phil, the broker at Boatshed Grand Union and later began working for Boatshed: a job that I love.

This time last year all I wrote was that “Big changes are happening in my real life right now. Today we bought a new home. It is beautiful. I will write a proper post about that soon. Today I found out someone close to me is pretty ill. I will not blog about that today. But I am thinking about that.”

“That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it and think how different its course would have been. Pause, you who read this, and think for a long moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on that memorable day.”
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


PS. Because of the madness of March I will be taking a brief blogging break until April. 
Therefore this personal blog will feature articles that I'm writing for Boatshed Grand Union and Canal Voyagers until I can get my work/life/blog/family balance back on track!