Thursday, October 13, 2016

"So why do you like living on a boat so much?"

"I mean, it's not the choice of many, is it?" Paul asked. 

Where do I start? I pause a moment to think, to sort out the major from the minor.

"The pace of life has got a lot to do with it," I tell him. "Time changes when you're on the water. We have a clock that only tells you what day it is. And when boaters say "Good morning" to you, it's not necessarily because it is morning, but simply because they've not had lunch yet. We cruise at less than four miles an hour. We do everything at a leisurely pace."

He makes to speak again, but I continue.

"But it's not just that. The boat itself makes a lovely home. And she's got character. Most houses have numbers. Boats have names. And gender!"

He butts in. "A lovely home? Really? But it's so small! Cramped!"

"But you know, she's big enough for just Grace and me," I reply. "She has all we need for a comfortable life. OK, it's a rather more minimalist lifestyle than you have, and than we used to have, but that's not a bad thing. It's actually very liberating in several ways. We don't accumulate a lot of "stuff". We have everything we need, and a few things that are good to have around, but aren't essential. There's no clutter, and no attic full of things that haven't seen the light of day for years. Waste is minimized. Recycling and repurposing become natural."

Paul wants to say something, but I'm in full flow now. He's not going to stop me.

"And then there's the actual boating. The travelling. Taking our home with us to visit different places. But it's not the being there that's most important. It's the journey itself. It's not like being in a car, where the journey is just the means to the end - arrival. We wake up in a different place most mornings. Park our home each day in beautiful countryside, tiny villages, or in busy towns and cities."

I feel a bit rude when I ignore his further attempts to say something, but he did ask me a question.

"I think you've only seen a few stretches of canal, Paul. You should see more. They're wide, they're narrow, straight and winding. They're cut through farmland, woodland, moorland, meadow and pasture, through hills and on the sides of valleys. They're overhung by trees, or give us wide vistas across broad valleys to distant hills. They take us through industrial areas, too, major cities - pretty much every kind of environment that can be found in the country."

I pause for breath, and Paul gets a moment. I think he's beginning to understand.

"I suppose you get to see a lot of wildlife."

"Oh yes! Nature's very close all of the time. We see, hear and smell her. Birds - ducks and geese, of course, and swans. Coots and moorhens, grebes and cormorants, gulls and terns, herons, buzzards, kestrels, red kites, owls, swallows and martins, reed buntings, reed warblers, robins, tits, chaffinches... " I've run out, though I'm sure there must be more I could name.

"And kingfishers, though not as often as we'd like. And animals - cows, sheep, horses, pigs, donkeys, deer, foxes, rabbits..." I tail off. I've seen lots of tiny, fast-scurrying creatures, too. Probably voles, but difficult to identify. I don't mention them.

"Even alpacas and water buffalo!" I add. Paul laughs.

"And travelling as slowly as we do really gives us time to appreciate plants, flowers and trees, to enjoy their reflections in the water, and the way the sky and the sun play in it, too. Sunsets on the canal can be truly astounding."

Paul nods. He says nothing. I think he's expecting me to say more, but he's got the picture, so I'm silent, too.

"You know, I think you ought to write a book about it," he says eventually.

I smile. "Well, actually, Paul..."


  1. Lovely! I love this post, Roger. It really is what it's all about. I know I don't travel as much as you do, but I have the same feeling about my barge, and I too often wake to a different view, even if it's just a neighbour has gone and someone else has arrived or I've been pushed up the row of beautiful historic barges. But going back to your post, what are the chances he'll buy a boat of his own?

    1. Thanks, Val! I expect most boat-dwellers would echo my sentiments. Paul, however, is very unlikely to want his own boat. He's very much a conformist, and thinks we're rather odd! I've not used his real name, so I can say that about him! :-D