Life on land is not all it’s cracked up to be

Canal Boat - - Me & My Boats -

I’m feel­ing like I have just re­turned from a desert is­land. Or even an­other planet. We have spent the past cou­ple of months liv­ing in a house. It’s the first time in six years that we have lived any­where but on the boat and, boy, it’s been a cul­ture shock.

How things have changed – and in such a short time. Not for the bet­ter, ei­ther, though that might just be from the per­spec­tive of a grumpy old man.

Take light bulbs. When I last needed a bulb for a ceil­ing light, you bought one of the old fil­a­ment ones or a new fan­gled compact flu­o­res­cent jobs that took so long to brighten up you were in and out of the room to find your glasses while it was still in semi-dark­ness. When I bought a bulb the other day I found a whole aisle of a B&Q de­voted to the damned things. Flu­o­res­cents, LEDs, halo­gens, screws, bay­o­nets – oh, it went on and on. It took me ten min­utes’ study to find the equiv­a­lent to a good old 100w bulb. And it cost more!

Talk­ing of money – as we skin­flint boaters are wont to do – what about the cost of phones, eh? I was tempted by land liv­ing to es­cape from the va­garies of 3G broad­band with a land­line one. And they looked cheap, too, un­til you looked at that small print – “*prices don’t in­clude line rental at £16.99 a month.” A month! When I last had a land­line I swear it was nearer £16.99 a quar­ter. Surely things

Harry should get cheaper? So we still have mo­biles and 3G and don’t miss the land­line a bit. Af­ter all, I’ve never done much heavy­weight down­load­ing or live stream­ing TV.

We ac­tu­ally don’t have a TV on the boat but, be­ing on land, I ad­mit I was tempted. Now we have 60 chan­nels of Freeview, 59 of which seem to be show­ing end­less re­peats of

or Mid­somer

etc. I can’t even take so­lace (ex­cept maybe a Quan­tum of it since that Bond film has been on at least six times since Christ­mas) in the space and warmth of a house. We moved in to do some work while our boat is be­ing worked on. I tell you, if you thought it was hard to find a yard to work on your boat, that’s noth­ing com­pared to the joys of deal­ing with plan­ners, build­ing con­trol de­part­ments and builders.

At the mo­ment the house re­sem­bles a build­ing site and a cold one at that. Heat­ing up nb Harry takes mo­ments: I fall out of bed to make early morn­ing tea, light the Re­fleks stove and re­tire back to drink said tea. By the time we’ve fin­ished, the boat is warm. In the house it’s a case of al­ter­ing the cen­tral heat­ing con­trols, fum­bling with mi­crodot size but­tons and squint­ing at tiny LCD dig­its while de­ci­pher­ing the pid­gin English leaflet.

There must be some pos­i­tives I hear you say. Of course; we are near our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, we’ve hauled some of our lovely old fur­ni­ture out of stor­age, I can put books on shelves rather than back in the char­ity shop once I’ve read them. And we haven’t been trapped by flood wa­ters, un­like my fel­low colum­nist, Steve. Ah, but we nearly were: the lo­cal streams and rivers came up so fast af­ter a heavy down­pour on top of weeks of rain that all but one of the routes out of the vil­lage were blocked – for­tu­nately only for a cou­ple of days. You can’t es­cape wa­ter!

All in all, we can’t wait to be back on the boat. It’s not just be­cause land life is com­pli­cated or costly. No, we both gen­uinely miss it, deeply; so much that we have flash­backs to days and places we’ve been.

Not glam­orous high­lights of trips, just hum­drum mo­ments come back in waves of nos­tal­gia. We miss the misty morn­ings, the ever chang­ing back­drop to life, from quiet coun­try to in­dus­trial squalor. We are, in short, tick­ing off the days to be back on board.

‘If you thought it was hard to find a yard to work on your boat, it’s noth­ing com­pared to deal­ing with plan­ners and builders’

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