Thursday 29 November 2012

Memory Book – Hobbies

Dear Daughters,

When I was little my hobbies were reading, writing and drawing. I have always loved books and we have read to you two since you were babies, so now you love books too! I remember enjoying learning to write my letters at infant school and writing poems and short stories at junior school. I was so proud when a short story I wrote was on the front page of the junior school magazine. By the time I was thirteen I was reading Jackie and Bunty comics and creating my own versions. I would pain-stakingly draw picture stories with speech bubbles for the characters. Then I would feed the pencil –coloured pages into my car boot sale typewriter and type words into the speech bubbles.

In my later teenage years I wrote angsty poems, dreamy poems and funny poems. I loved studying English literature and writing essays about Wuthering Heights. I did Art, English and Theatre Studies for A-levels and then spent four years at Art College. After a patchwork career that took me through the building industry, music industry, Friends of the Earth, the NHS and hypnotherapy, I finally got back in touch with my first true love: Writing. I became a performance poet, then a blogger and now a professional blogger and writer.

So what can I tell you about hobbies? Take notice of what you love. Do what you love to do. Never give up. Follow your heart and follow your dreams. It’s not just that my dream was to write. It’s more that I could no more stop writing or not write than I could not breathe.

Follow your dreams.- poem for my daughters.


Memory Book is a monthly slot on The Alexander Residenceblog where Penny writes down some memories for her children, there’s a theme each month, and a linky.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Water Gypsy Gets an Address

My five year old had only been in school for a few weeks when we decided we needed to move schools. When we applied for a school place last spring we were continuously cruising and so we picked a school roughly in the area where we cruise. But then we got a residential mooring and I don’t drive, so I ended up  cycling with the children in a bicycle trailer for half an hour each way to get to school and nursery: That’s two hours cycling a day, and it was going to get cold for the kids doing that in winter. Plus, they are growing too big for the trailer and it was starting to be really hard work!

So we applied to change schools to the little village school near our mooring, and you know how important an address is to a school application. The school is so small, there are only five children in reception class. One of the children in that class also lives on a boat, so I asked her mum,
“How did you do the paperwork, I mean without an address and everything?”
“Well, I just use the boater’s post-box.”
“The what?”
“You know. There’s a little post-box nailed to a wooden pole on the towpath. All of the boater’s post goes there. I can cut you a key if you like.”
Wow! I am going to have an address that is actually near to where I live! I was so excited. I have been travelling for ten years and explaining to doctors and other authorities that I do live within a certain area code, but that my post goes to a mailbox service in a different place. I actually have a post-box, and get to receive letters addressed to my boat name, in our little village. How cute!

A few weeks later I bumped into another boater at the bus stop.
“There’s post for you in the post-box you know.”
“Really?” I was surprised. I have hardly even told anyone my new address yet. It must be some admin thing from the school. My youngest and I walked down the muddy towpath and opened the little box with our key. There was a little letter addressed to our boat. Inside the letter was a home-made card from the five year old daughter of my friend who lives in a house in the nearby town. The card has a hand-drawn picture of our boat on the front and inside it says, “Hope you’ll be very happy at your mooring and at your new school/pre-school.”
What a lovely welcome to our new life in the village, and what a brilliant thing to get for our first bit of post.

Thursday 8 November 2012

More Than Just a Mum Meme

Kate blogs at Kate Takes 5 and she had a great idea to share a picture about the sort of stuff you did before you were a mum.
"I want you to post one picture on your blog of you being 'More that just Mum'. Then come back here and link it up for all to see."
I was the vocalist in a band called 'Stoked'. I was a performance poet - I sold my poetry and got paid to perform! I was a founder member of Dangerchix International. I travelled India, I rode an elephant. I had orange and blue fluorescent dreadlocks down to my waist that glowed under UV light. I was a techno-fairy. I went to illegal free parties and lounged around on the bonnet of a New York yellow cab in a field in Oxfordshire. When I was twenty-something life was very interesting and impulsive; but I don't miss it. I am also enjoying drifting quietly on the waterways with a handsome doctor and two tiny boat girls.

And Kate? She actually did aerobatics - flying a plane, loop the loops in Australia!

Dangerhix International

New! The Narrowboat Wife Weekly

If you subscribe to my monthly newsletter you may already know about the launch of my new online paper this week. I'm excited to have appointed myself editor, writer and publisher of The Narrowboat Wife Weekly! It compiles everything I've written this week into an easy-to-browse-quick-to-read format. It takes articles from all of the blogs  I write around the web, covering themes of boating, canals, business start-up advice, and true stories from my real life of living and parenting on a narrowboat.  See what you think. 

I’d love it if you would subscribe to The Narrowboat Wife Weekly. You get the headlines by email and you will only get the weekly e-paper, no other emails from anyone but me. Have a look at my newest project and please welcome into your life:  The Narrowboat Wife Weekly.

PS. If you'd prefer to just receive the monthly round-up of news you may like to sign up for my monthly newsletter and help yourself to the free eBook Narrowboat Families.

Friday 2 November 2012

Jenny From the Lock

Cowroast Lock, near Berkhamstead
A couple of weeks ago my friend texted me and said that she was headed for Bulbourne – in her boat! What this means is that after about 12 years of friendship we would finally get to moor up together.
Where r u moored? (I text).
Loose pin alley – she replies (meaning south of the bridge). It’s quieter down there. ..
I laugh at the thought that my chilled-out friend considers ‘central Bulbourne’ too busy. With a population of 126 and the occasional dog walker I suppose my side of the bridge is busier than hers.
I first met Jenny not long after I bought my first boat and we’ve been friends ever since. My earliest memories are of her soft laughter, lots of wiggly red hair and chunky silver rings. But while I worked, lived and cruised in London she gave up her London job and edged out to the countryside; first the Cowley and Uxbridge area and then up the Grand Union into the real countryside to Boxmoor, Berkhamsted, Tring, Marsworth and Cheddington. Oh how I envied the quiet and natural surroundings when I visited her. I admired her independence, and marvelled that she thought nothing of doing a lock (or five) on her own. (This was years before I would grow into this boat-wife that now does locks with two kids tied to the roof.) Jenny was gentle and hippy, witty and funny, and her boats (there’ve been a few) are always full of candlelight and cats, the smell of wood-smoke and the sound of relaxing music. To be with her is like living in my favourite part of my brain. To share a bottle of wine in a country pub is to laugh relentlessly, listen intently and glow internally. I always come away feeling like a much bigger and better version of myself; and to me she says,
“You’re good food for the soul chuck.” Jenny is from Hebdon Bridge, the hippy capital of Yorkshire, a quaint waterways town.
It was years ago, one of the first times that I told her I admired her, that J-Lo must have been in the charts because my friend’s reply was to grin and sing,
“Don’t be fooled by the boat that I got
I’m just Jenny from the Lock.”
Of course her name isn’t Jenny, because I use pseudonyms on this blog, but Jenny you know who you are and after a recent night of chats and cats, candlelight and wine I wanted to capture the wonder of our friendship into words somehow.
At the weekend we go our separate ways; me down the Marsworth flight and her back towards Berko. But for two lovely weeks we were neighbours. How lucky we are to move our homes and to find a kindred spirit on the waterways.

“Your friend is your needs answered.”
Kahlil Gibran