ME & MY BOATS
She might be getting old and a bit cantankerous, but Bridget's boat is still well loved. And even if Bridget sometimes wonders why she leaves her mod-cons at home, she wouldn't want to miss out on the natural world and the camaraderie of boaters
Yes, you can leave the mod-cons behind – you just have to buy a good set of elbow guards
Iwonder sometimes, why I would choose to stand in a bathroom, no bigger than one of my wardrobes at home, elbows crashing against the walls, towel falling in the bath and plastic shower curtain attaching itself to my back. One of the joys of boating? I don’t think so. also wonder why I choose to kneel on the bathroom floor, Marigolds akimbo and attempt to launder accumulated essential items when I have a fully equipped utility area at home with automatic washer and dryer.
And, after my morning shower kneeling down in the bath, when I am wandering around trying to dry my limp locks ‘naturally’, I may wistfully think of my hairdryer and straighteners languishing under my dressing table at home. Ours is an elderly boat with many years of faithful service to her credit. But, as with all of us, the years have taken their toll. Still warm and amiable, she has occasional spells of dementia. Systems may lapse into inexplicable inactivity and sometimes, just sometimes, she will refuse to get up in the morning and bobs lazily about at her mooring until coaxed into action. But we all love her as a matriarch. Sirius is a 50-foot traditional narrowboat built at Longport Wharf in 1990. We did not have her from new; she was bought in 1995 from a couple who were moving on to better things. But she was loved from the start. She was kitted out with the basics and all that was needed was furniture, crockery cutlery etc – but we did not replace the carpet or curtains, a fact which was brought home to us this year when we were moored at Crick.
There came a tapping on the roof... ”Anyone at home?”. A lady stood there, who we eventually recognised as one half of the original owners (it had been 20 years!). We, of course, invited her on board for a drink and a chat. She was very complimentary about the condition of the boat and what we had done over
‘Where else can I look through a kitchen window into the eyes of a mother duck on her nest in a world of nature at eye level?’
the years. “Oh. I recognise those curtains!” she chortled, and the family have been reminding me of it ever since.
In 2015, we went up the Ashby Canal. We have been before and find it quite idyllic. Over the years we have done the vast majority of the system, sometimes staying out for five or six weeks at a time and doing vast numbers of locks in a day. But like our dear Sirius, we have to have regard for Anno Domini and we wanted a pleasure cruise rather than a marathon.
Is it a good thing to sometimes leave our power showers, our tumbly dryers, our extensive dressing tables kitted out like a branch of Boots – and, yes here it comes, the hackneyed phrase – get back to basics?
I can bathe anywhere given soap and water (preferably at least warm). I can give my hair the treat of natural drying for a change and I can give our clothes the treat of a gentle rinsing to freshen them up rather than submerging them in the chemical baths of the washing machine.
Perhaps I should wonder where else I can look through a kitchen window into the eyes of a mother duck on her nest in a world of nature at eye level. I can see thistles, clover, nettles – and just what is that scurrying away in the hedgerow?
Where else can I prepare a meal as we travel along and glance ahead through a bridge and see a breathtaking archway of floral loveliness? Where else could we appreciate the camaraderie of the boating fraternity?
Where else can I sit on the back of the boat after a still, clear, cool dawn and feel as if I am in charge of the world and all its treasures?
I think I'll buy some elbow guards!
Bridget's grandson Matt working a lock on the Napton flight
Sirius on a well-earned rest