Wednesday 26 September 2012

A Crime on the Canal

I am new to the school run as Big Sister only started school a few days ago. We do the school run with the bicycle trailer, and leave it locked to a sign post overnight. Imagine our surprise one hurried morning when I hassled a two year old and a four year old up the towpath and onto the lane to find: no bike, no trailer. I double-check my memory; yes we did lock it up here yesterday after school.  I can’t believe it’s been stolen! Especially from a country lane in the middle of nowhere. We’re away from our home mooring at the moment and moored in a beautifully rural isolated spot, overhanging with trees. There’s only one other boater moored here, some distance down the towpath from us. As luck would have it that boater arrived home at that moment and offered us a lift to school in his car. His dogs were in the boot and the girls giggled all the way as the dogs licked their fingers. 

Later at Tring police station the constable takes my details and finds it hard to imagine the kind of trailer I am describing. We do get people stopping, staring and pointing as I cycle to school and nursery with my two princesses in their red canvas carriage behind. The policeman says that he will put a sign up in the police station and get a feature in the local paper.
“Really?” I said incredulously. “I used to live in London. You’d say, I’ve had a bike stolen, and the police would say, Oh yeah.” Meaning, “whatever”.
He laughs.
“But this is Tring!”

For the next few days we make long journeys to school by foot,(me) by pushchair (little one) and by scooter (big girl). The school teacher, nursery staff and the other mums are shocked at the theft we have suffered. Soon enough the crime reference number is generated and five or six days after the theft I am planning to claim on the boat contents insurance. That morning I’m busily hurrying the girls ready for school and nursery. The Doctor has just left the boat, heading to work when he phones me.
“The bike trailer is back!”
“The bike and the trailer, they’re back where we left them!”
The lock of course is gone, and the bike seat has been lowered to accommodate the size of someone much smaller than me but other than that it’s our same old familiar and super-useful trailer. Did some thieving  kid’s parents insist that they take that right back to wherever they got it? Did someone have a pang of guilt that they’d stolen from a young family? Or is there just not much call for a bike with one broken brake and a tatty child trailer on the black market in Tring? Tring is a charming Hertfordshire market town, and even the thieves are good at heart it seems.

Monday 24 September 2012

Memories of Uxbridge

We spent a lovely month in Uxbridge in 2010 as we had to get the hull blacked in the boat yard. The last time we got the boat blacked here was when we gave our notice to the local authority that we intended to marry. To do this you have to have lived at an address for 14 days; of course we never usually have an address. So our marriage certificate cites us as residing at Uxbridge Wharf, Waterloo Road.

Although Uxbridge is at the end of a tube line and has the convenience of a good sized shopping centre, visiting by canal you still feel part of the leafy water-corridor that is England’s longest village. Down at Cowley there are walks in the woods and a pub named after the old Packet Boat, which used to carry passengers from Paddington and back. The Toll House tearooms are a haunt of local boaters and no-nonsense food is served with smiles onto placemats of roses and castles. In the General Elliott I was once part of a boater’s pub quiz team that attempted to beat the other boaters; who’d aptly named their team Sclerosis of the River. At one time I had loads of boating mates in Uxbridge, James and The Yorkshireman, Rufty Tufty Biker Bloke, Nancy Moo, The Marine Engineer and his wife. Some of them have moved away now but if I were to settle somewhere I sometimes think that this place feels like home. We’d sit around under the charming oak beams of the Swan and Bottle, our cork key rings strewn across the table, no doubt discussing portapotties or engine trouble or gossip picked up on the towpath telegraph. You can moor a few hundred yards from the Swan and Bottle above Uxbridge lock and almost feel as if you’re out in the country. I once sat there and did a watercolour painting of that lock; in another life before I had kids, when I had time for such leisurely hobbies. The Marine engineer strolled up with his four year old son on his shoulders. He said that my painting was good enough to sell. I laughed and said,
“You can buy it if you like!”
“How much?” I shrugged.
“A tenner!”
“Ok,” he grinned. He still has that painting now. A woman they knew walked past and said hello.
“What do you say to the lady Charlie?”
“Alright darlin’,” grinned Charlie.
“That’s right,” said his dad proudly.

This is an extract from the book I'm working on.

More about the painting. (Print for sale.)

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Narrowboat 50ft with Wheelhouse #BoatForSale

This is my friend's boat, now for sale with Boatshed.  He fitted it out himself as he's a professional carpenter, and the work is beautiful. I always remember that Reflex stove was toasty in winter too. We had some good times on board that boat; he lived on it happily for years, but now no longer lives in England. This is a great opportunity to get an unusual boat. The wheelhouse means you can cruise in all weathers.

Narrowboat 50ft Cruiser Stern with Wheelhouse


  • An unusual and very attractive fit-out in cherry, chestnut and sycamore.

  • Open plan with separate bedroom cabin at front. Large living space with kitchen and wet room shower/toilet.

     Gas water heater. Diesel reflex heater and solid fuel stove.

  • Fixed double berth

Phil says,

"This is an unusual looking Springer, with a great new fit out. Recent engine replacement 2008. Replated 2004.  She would make a fantastic live-aboard, with plenty of space for very comfortable living. Choice of efficient diesel heating or multifuel stove, with gas water heating makes her very warm and cosy."

See lots more photos at Boatshed Grand Union

Monday 17 September 2012

When Wishes Come True

On 31st August 2010 I wished for nine simple things, that I wanted to bring into my life.
• Friends
• Neighbours
• A community
• A washing machine
• More storage space
• Enough electric to run a hoover
• Our own bedroom
• A place to write, (doesn’t have to be a room, just a cute writing desk or a bureau would be nice).
• I also still want an amazing view, like a field, or the sea.

Do you know what? They have all come true. It’s the power of the mind that manifests my reality. First wish (think), then do. Now I have a new wish list.

To finish writing my book.
To have my book published.
To be earning more than enough money, so we don’t have to worry anymore.
To pass my driving test.
To have regular time to be alone reading or writing for fun.
To drink less alcohol.
To have a cute writing desk or a bureau in my bedroom. 

I can't complain about not having a cool place to write though. You will see from the picture that our dining table where I write is very nice. But if the kids are home and there's stuff going on in the living room then imagine having the luxury of a second office, in the corner of my bedroom!

Come back and visit this  blog in two years and I'll tell you if I've ticked these wishes off the new list.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Save Your Pint

 "Every year, the beer tax escalator increases the tax on beer by 2% above the rate of inflation, thus adding considerably more pressure on the British pub, the cornerstone of many of our communities."

Short and sweet this one.  Here's a link to the petition.

Stop the beer duty escalator petition

Monday 10 September 2012


About two years ago we were travelling the waterways with two very young children. My love of the gypsy life-style and exploring the beauty of rural England was arguing passionately against my cravings for adult company and a good night’s sleep. I had a critical inner monologue that berated me for being unhappy and I wrote a wish list to try to figure out what exactly was lacking in my life: Friends, neighbours, a community, a washing machine, more storage space… it goes on. 

But I notice that my first three wishes were for other people; human contact.

Now here we are, settling in on our residential mooring and enjoying the full benefit of neighbours. The couple on the boat next door introduced themselves on our first day, shared their homemade elderflower wine and offered to babysit sometime. Next-door-but-one is a lovely lady who grew up on a boat. She’s brought up two kids on a boat and took me and the girls on a countryside ramble; a short cut across the fields to show us the way to the farm shop. When our alternator belt snapped we couldn’t run the engine to charge the batteries. I was working at home and knew that before the end of the day I would run out of electric; no lap top, no fridge, no fun. Our boating neighbours recommended a handy boater moored just opposite who agreed to come and fit a new belt as soon as he’d finished his cup of tea. At the church playgroup the lady who delivers the parish newsletter assured me it would be no trouble for her to make a detour down the towpath on her deliveries, so that I can be kept updated with community events.

I did moan on this blog about the price of our new mooring, but did you know that neighbours, other people, human contact, are sometimes worth their weight in gold?

(The story of why and how we got a mooring: The Continuous CruisingControversy.)

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Be a Better Blogger - free course!

In November 2009 Erica Douglas launched the Mum Blogger E-Course and since then almost 1000 people have signed up and taken the 35 week course.

The course teaches you the basics of starting a blog through to how to promote and monetise your blog. The lessons are delivered weekly in manageable chunks so you can complete them around your busy life.

The course is full of information and videos to help you along your way, but it's closing this Friday September 7th. 

I can quite honestly say that this course changed my life. From wanting to simply improve upon my hobby I have become a professional blogger. I highly recommend it.

And it's free. 

You can sign up here.

Disclosure: I was paid to write about this on the Become a Mumpreneur blog but it was my choice to share it here because I really do think the course is brilliant.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

When I Was 5 I Ran Away From School

When I was 5 I ran away from school. Mrs Roberts told the class to get their maths books out. I hate maths, I thought.
“Mrs Roberts is a poo!” I muttered to myself. The boy next to me looked shocked.
“I’m telling on you!” he exclaimed, and went to stand at the end of a long queue of children waiting to speak to Mrs Roberts. I surveyed the length of the line, and thought;
By the time he gets to the front of that line I could be out of here.
I ran to the classroom door and out to the cloakroom. No time to button it – I put the hood of my coat over my head and my coat flew out behind me like Batman’s cape. I was already clutching my school bag which smelt of Penguin chocolate biscuits. I ran out of the portacabin classroom, down the steps, across the playground and towards the school gates. I’m not sure at what point I realised the classroom assistant was chasing me. She was an older lady with permed hair, an A-line skirt and sensible shoes. I was headed for home. I raced out of the school gates and along the pavement towards where the corner of the road became a slight cul-de-sac. As the crow flies the quickest way home would be to cut straight across the road and the classroom assistant was hot on my heels. But I was not allowed to cross the road on my own without a grownup. I lived only 5 minutes from school and it was possible to get home without crossing any roads. So I opted to run around the long way, along to the end of the cul-de-sac, keeping to the pavements.
She caught me.
She put me over her shoulder and I kicked and screamed all the way back to class. I saw children in classrooms stare through windows at me. Back in the classroom Mrs Roberts gently asked me if I wanted to join the class doing maths, or go into the book corner and read books. I went into the book corner and read books and did colouring-in for the rest of the day. Result.
At the end of the day Mrs Roberts and my mum talked about me in hushed voices. I kept on colouring in.

Tomorrow my eldest daughter starts school for the very first time. I’m very proud and a little sad. She looks so smart in her uniform. Like all mothers I can’t believe how my baby has grown. She has seemed more excited than anxious. The other day I quietly asked her if there’s anything she wants to ask me about starting school.
“Yes,” she said solemnly. “My new water bottle that you bought me for school: I don’t think I can take the lid off by myself, to re-fill it.” I smiled and we went in to the kitchen to practice opening the water bottle together.

I’ve told her an abbreviated version of my running away from school story. She thinks it’s hilarious. I’ve made it clear that running away from school, without a grown-up is Extremely Dangerous and Very Naughty Indeed.

Monday 3 September 2012

My Boatshed Anniversary

It’s now a year since I began working for Boatshed Grand Union! We have lots to celebrate and it’s been an interesting year.

I first met Phil Bassett because he was the broker when I bought my current boat, a lovely 70ft trad narrowboat for sale with Boatshed. You can read the full story about how I came to work for Boatshed here

Last August I was introduced on the blog;
“Peggy Melmoth will be handling some of the administration and email enquiries, welcoming new clients, liaising with vendors, and updating the Boatshed Grand Union blog.”
I have also been creating sales documents, increasing our Facebook and Twitter following and have otherwise generally been making myself useful.

In October British Waterways updated their guidance for boats without a home mooring, and in December Boatshed launched Boatshed Liveaboard, after the government encouraged the idea of using boats as homes.  

During the winter the Tring summit level on the Grand Union was closed to navigation for several months. This meant boaters had to decide which part of the stoppage they’d like to moor on and remain.
The rain made up for it later in the year so some of the Boatshed team got completely soaked at The Crick boat show. 

Boatshed Grand Union and Boatshed Inland were proud to be major sponsors of the Canalway Cavalcade in Little Venice in May.The Olympics did not really affect our business, despite navigation on London’s canals being restricted. In other news of course, this is the year that British Waterways became a charity and was renamed the Canal and Rivers Trust.In July British Waterways Marinas Ltd, one of the largest marina operators in the country, appointed as its sole provider of brokerage at its marinas in the South and West.

We also launched a free eBook about Living on a Boat and we’ve seen Boatshed Grand Union rise in to the top 20 of the UK Waterways websites ranking. 

We’ve sold 32 boats during the last year, and have two under offer at the moment. The Boatshed worldwide group of brokerages now has 477,527 registered customers (across our 56 offices) and of course new visitors register each day. 

I am lucky enough to really enjoy my work and look forward to another great year with Boatshed.

Disclosure: I am paid to write the Boatshed Grand Union blog. It was my choice to republish this article here which first appeared on the Boatshed Grand Union website.