Monday 30 July 2012

Lyrical Loops

It's poetry week at Narrowboat Wife! Inspired by my recent discovery of Jo Bell, boat poet and writer of The Bell Jar blog, I am waxin' lyrical this week.

To kick off is a poem I wrote many years ago, and I will follow up with the sequel on Wednesday.


Your Mind

I want to walk through your mind
Leave no stone unturned
I want your life to unwind
To find the secrets that burned
You and when I do
I want to be amazed
To know you inside
And all of your ways
To explore every part
I want you surrounded
And when I eat your sweet heart
I want to be astounded.

(c) Peggy Melmoth

Friday 27 July 2012

The Real Continuous Cruisers!

What do a peg doll, some fancy cheese, a fancy generator, painted roses, and Peter Froud have in common?

They're all part of my real life adventure when I met my clients Neil and Corinne Thomsett for the first time last week. As I'm a virtual assistant and blogger it is quite usual that I don't always meet my clients in person. But if your business is a floating hotel you can always cruise down the Grand Union to meet me on my boat!

Read the full story on the Canal Voyagers blog today. The Day I Met the Hotel Boats.

Disclosure: I am paid to write the Canal Voyagers blog. It was my choice to mention this article here as this particular episode crosses over with the real life of a narrowboat wife!

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Life is Not a Rehearsal

I met this character, we were both boating alone. It was about eight in the morning and looking like drizzle. He’s got a denim waistcoat and long grey hair. He’s bringing his boat down the lock. Mine is waiting on the bollards below the lock waiting to come up. He knows this before he sees my boat because of the windlass in my hand.
“Early start for me” he says.
I smile and say,
“Where you headed today?”
“Oh I just carry on going until I get fed up. That’s just the way I am me. That’s what I’m like.”
He crossed the lock gate, windlass in hand and headed up to close the other gate.
“Life is not a rehearsal you know”, he called across the lock, grinning.
We worked the lock and he went on his way. Passing like ships in the flight.
“On your own?” he asks.
“No it’s me and my husband and two kids.” I said. “The kids are at nursery, it’s easier to move the boat without them sometimes!”
He smiles, understanding.
“You can just get on with it.”

I love those moments when suddenly everything seems simple. Just carry on going until you get fed up. I love the way you can discover morsels of wisdom from a conversation with a stranger. Have you ever heard a cliché, like “life is not a rehearsal,” but suddenly you hear it for the very first time? It was just an unexpected reminder to live in the moment. And for that moment, and for the next few locks, I did. I enjoyed the drizzle and the rain, the winding of paddles and the trees and the grass. I noticed the ripples on the water and a heron on a branch.

Just carry on going until you get fed up: my thought for the day.

Monday 23 July 2012

The Continuous Cruising Controversy

“The code is more what you'd call "guidelines"than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.”
Captain Barbossa,Pirate of the Caribbean

Like a pirate I have always roamed the water in summer time, and like a good BW customer I pay for a winter mooring in winter time. A winter mooring allows us to settle down conveniently, somewhere near childcare.Cruising in summer allows us to explore, see new places and use the boat for what it was meant for. But when you’re off on a summer cruise you may find yourself up at 6 am to catch two buses and a long walk to the town where nursery is.Then you do the same journey backwards and manage to get home to start work by 10am. I’m tired and it’s not fun anymore.

A residential mooring became available near our nursery; my eldest is starting school in September, it would be so nice to settle down in a community. But the mooring is too expensive for us, we struggle to make ends meet as it is. And we do love the variety of travelling. Would we really want to settle down?

But then we got a stern letter from British Waterways saying that this year we have not covered enough distance and would we like to either get a mooring or continue our journey? We do move every 14 days but according to the Guidelines for Continuous Cruisers we do not move far enough. We always used to move far enough, going off on great voyages over the summer. But my big girl is starting school in September and I feel myself gravitating towards a community.

We could continue travelling. When I pass my driving test I could commute back to nursery and school from wherever we are. After all, The Doctor commutes quite a distance into London every day for work. Some boating families home educate. Some register their children as travellers and attend different schools along the way.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place we decided we’d haveto bid whatever it takes to get that mooring. The bidding went pretty high; almost double what some marina moorings cost. Probably because all the continuous cruisers in our area have received a similar letter and 70ft residential moorings are pretty rare. I console myself with the fact that it is cheaper than a London mooring.

The guidelines are not law. The law is the 1995 Waterways Act, but complying with the guidelines is a requirement of the continuous cruising licence. The Act requires you to move to a different place every two weeks but ‘place’ isn't defined by law. I’m not the sort to go for civil disobedience and I don’t want to be an inconsiderate boater, but all over the country there are communities (like the London Boaters) who travel within a short stretch of waterway.

My question is this: If "continuous moorers" moved on and covered the distances described in the guidelines then would the towpath in my local area simply be occupied by different boats that had been forced to move here from their preferred ‘home’ area? There are not enough residential moorings available out there to accommodate all the people that currently live on their boats. The towpath is not over-crowded*; there is plenty of space to moor for all. In 12 years of cruising the River Lee, Stort and southern Grand Union the only place I've been unable to find a mooring space was Camden. What happened to the idea of a ‘roving permit’?

There are three kinds of residential boater; those with moorings, those who are continuously cruising the network and those who travel short distances to be near a place of work or study.

We won the bidding, and will be joining those residential boaters with moorings.

*London Boaters BW Consultation Response 2011, Appendix D. contested claims of 'congested' London canals when their survey concluded 1`boat  every 137 metres in London. 

Friday 20 July 2012

Things I Love About Little Venice

I’m not sure if this is true but I feel like everybody has heard of Little Venice. Maybe they’ve just heard of Venice?

I lived in London for many years but because most of that time was on a boat I was well aware of Little Venice. I decided to write my top five things that I like about Little Venice but once I got started I couldn’t stop!

Here you’ll find the meeting of three canals; the Grand Union, the Regents Canal and the Paddington basin part of the Grand Union. Their meeting point is a large pool which is an oasis of calm among the trees, tall elegant houses and colourful moored boats. One of these boats is the Cascade Art Gallery.

When we moored in Little Venice I liked to meet a friend for breakfast or lunch in The Floating Boater; a wide-beam café boat there in the pool. Brownings Pool and Browning’s island are named after the poet, and the island is now home to a gang of occasionally noisy geese. Apparently rather than Browning it was actually Lord Byron who called the place ‘dirty Venice’ in the days when the island was known as ‘Rat’s Island’. It’s cleaned up its act now and is a rather lovely place to be. Try having a picnic in the peaceful Rembrandt Gardens from which you can watch the comings and goings in the pool of boats and birds.

The Canal Café Theatre above The Bridge House pub is one of those secrets of London you get to discover when you live there. It’s a thriving comedy and new writing venue, and home to the Guinness World Record holders: NewsRevue. ("Longest running live comedy show"). I’ve seen the NewsRevue a few times and it’s always brilliant. Unlike a traditional theatre it’s one of those venues where you get to sit around a table and have a drink while you watch. The theatre can host over 14 shows per week and it’s advisable to book.

Then there’s the local pubs and restaurants and the places you can walk to; no need for buses and tubes when you’re so central. Visit the Canal Voyagers blog today where I’ve written in more detail about things to see in London’s Little Venice.

Between Thursday 26th July and Monday 13th August you can book bed and breakfast on board hotel boats Snipe and Taurus (the only VisitBritain hotel boats in the city during this special time.) Have you ever stayed on a narrowboat hotel? There’s a first time for everything!

Contact Neil and Corrine at Canal Voyagers for more information. 

Disclosure: I wrote this post for Neil and Corrine to promote their business. But they are lovely people and I genuinely think staying on a narrowboat in Little Venice would be brilliant!

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Living on a Boat: The Free eBook

I’ve been living on a narrowboat for twelve years and for as long as I can remember people have asked me questions about the lifestyle.

  • Is it cold in winter? 
  • How often do you have to move your boat? 
  • Aren’t you worried that your children will fall into the canal? 
  • Is living on a narrowboat cheaper than living in a house? 
  • How much does a narrowboat cost? 
  • Have you got a TV/shower/toilet etcetera? 

I was even once asked (by two teenage girls on the towpath in Essex), Can you read and write?

I’ve tried to answer these questions over the last couple of years on my blog, and also on the Boatshed Grand Union blog. As far as technical questions or buying and selling a boat goes, Phil knows more than me, so I’ve teamed up with Phil to create an ebook about buying and living on a boat. We hope it will be helpful both to anyone considering buying a boat to live on, and also to those who are simply curious.

I really enjoyed writing, designing and publishing Living on a Boat, and I am sooo excited to be launching it out into the big wide world today. Simply pay with a Tweet or a Facebook post to get your copy.

I hope you enjoy it.

Boat-Wife xx

Monday 16 July 2012

The Adventures of Peg

Peg is a peg doll. Her story started here. I have now received an update by text from my friend about Peg's whereabouts. 

"Well Pegs moved on, she over stayed and is heading down to Apsley right this minute. She got very drunk quite a few times and gained a moustache! She also became a cat toy but is still in one piece and quite unscathed. It seems she'll have quite an adventure on the next leg ;-) "

Wednesday 11 July 2012

A Cry For Help: Please Read!

Sorry for the dramatic headline; but I just want to draw your attention to my new blog, which is about a different kind of boating: community boating.

The canals and waterways are the love of my life; I’m passionate about the idea that they should be accessible for all, regardless of ability or personal finances.So I've started working with the National Community Boating Association to publicise news from their members, based right across the UK. 

I've started a new blog over at and I'd really appreciate it if you'd pop over and read my first post, which explains what we do. If you don't really know anything about community boating this blog will keep you updated with the variety of people that can get now get access to the waterways. Imagine if you lived right beside a canal all of your life but because of some disadvantage (perhaps financial or physical) you had never dreamed that you could actually go on a boat trip one day yourself. 

If you love boating and you think others should get the chance to love it too, read this. 



Monday 9 July 2012

Guest Post: A Village of Support

Last week I was approached by Heather, who asked if she could share her story on my blog. While my blog is mostly about narrowboating, it is also about parenting. Heather’s story struck a chord with me because I wrote about cancer last year when my friend died suddenly; leaving two young daughters behind.

My Mesothelioma Journey – A Village of Support

“It takes a village” is a recurring phrase that describes the responsibility and communal commitment to raising a child. I had a chance to experience a “village” with the birth of my daughter, Lily, on August 4, 2005.

My pregnancy was relatively uneventful with no complications, until my unexpected emergency C-section during delivery. Many family and friends surrounded me, including my parents and my husband’s family, to welcome our new baby and to wish us well. Everything seemed fine, but nothing could prepare us for the storm that was about to come.

Within a month of returning to work full-time, my health went downhill. I felt tired, breathless, and had no energy. I thought this was from being a new mom, but I knew something was wrong. I scheduled a doctor’s visit and, after a myriad of tests, we found the culprit.

On November 21, 2005, just 3-1/2 months after Lily came into our lives. I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma – a cancer caused by asbestos that attacks the lungs’ linings. I was unknowingly exposed to asbestos when I was a child and 30 years later that exposure became mesothelioma.

My first thoughts were about my baby, not me. The news was hard to bear at the doctor’s appointment – I was told I had 15 months to live if I did nothing. I thought of Lily; I looked at my husband; I thought of the two of them living a life without me. I knew I had to do whatever it took to save my life, for myself and for them.

Mesothelioma has a grim prognosis, so we chose the most intense form of treatment we could. My husband and I flew to Boston to seek treatment with one of the best mesothelioma doctors. On February 2, I had surgery to remove my left lung and all of the surrounding tsissue, an extrapleural pneumenectomy.

I spent the next 18 days recovering from the surgery in the hospital, followed by two additional months of further recovery. I then started chemotherapy, and then radiation-- all of this as a new mom.

We could not have done all of this if we didn’t have the support of our village– the family and friends who surrounded us with love, support, and prayers. People, who we would not have expected, came to support us, while some we did expect support from, fled. The funny thing about this cancer is it really helps to weed out those who will be there from those who will not.

Lily stayed with my parents while we were in Boston. My parents, in this short amount of time, went from being new grandparents to becoming full-time parents to Lily.

It was amazing to see a village of support come together to help them care for Lily. The girls is used to babysit when I was a teenager – now married with their own children – volunteered to babysit Lily while both my mom and dad worked their full-time jobs. People I grew up with in church surrounded my parents with support and love.

While in Boston, we made new friends who shared the same cancer experience with us. This is how we managed to get through each day, with the support and love of the people around us.

Back home in my native South Dakota, my baby girl graduated to eating food and learning how to scoot and roll around. I had to witness her growth and development, though, through sketchy black and white copies of the pictures my mom emailed to me and my husband managed to print at a community printer. The nurses looked forward to seeing the new pictures, as I did, and we all tried to not cry. Lily was the reason for my treatment– she was the reason I decided to fight for my life.

As a family now, we try to embrace all that life gives us, because we know how fragile it is. My favorite quote is, “life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Cancer is a funny thing– with the bad comes a lot of good. With my dire diagnosis, a whole lot of good came from it, and for that, I am thankful.

Heather Von St James is a 43-year-old wife and mother. Upon her diagnosis of mesothelioma, she vowed to be a source of hope for other patients who found themselves with the same diagnosis. Now, over 6 years later, her story has been helping people all over the globe. She continues her advocacy and awareness work by blogging, speaking and sharing her message of hope and healing with others. Check out her story at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.