Over the last seven months we’ve had the chance to try out a long-held dream, to live literally on the beautiful Thames, in a houseboat. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you’ll know I blogged about this dream earlier in March 2013…then in July 2013 by a series of synchronistic events, we got the chance to try it and fell for the opportunity hook line and sinker!
This week we’ve moved out to become landlubbers again. Back on dry land, it’s now time to reflect on life afloat, how it affected us – for better and worse – and what it feels like when you get the chance to try out a dream.
I guess Dickens puts it well enough – ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ In fact we got there in the best of times – July. And saw it through the worst of times – winter.
Are we glad we did it? Oh yes. So many dreams never see the light of day. And although living on a boat was relatively more simple than some of my other dreams (go back and live in Paris; take a year out and go travelling as a family), achieving one dream makes the others seem a little bit closer.
In the end of course there was nothing amazing about the way I lived on a boat. An opportunity came up – practically fell from the sky onto my head – and I took it. I said yes.
And back on dry land
Why did we move out of the boat? Rather prosaically, our agreed lease was up. We had said we’d take it for six months while the owner looked for a buyer. We were there for seven. Did we think of buying it? Of course. Every single day. In fact, with house prices so ridiculous in London, buying a boat seemed – still seems in an odd way – the best option for us.
But there were a few problems with living on the river. Nothing that can’t be faced up to – even enjoyed with that British thing we do of enduring discomfort with a Blitz spirit. In fairness, a lot of the problems we faced could have been tackled if we owned the boat. Things that were fixable or addressable if you own it and can invest in the repairs. (Lack of heating; terrible damp and condensation; no space for a washing machine; leaks.) But they’re not things that are feasible when you’re only renting, and only for half a year.
I’m still half looking for a boat to buy, and I would definitely prefer to go for one that I could do up and renovate, to make it have a few more creature comforts (or at least less discomforts!)
But what a lot to miss
My goodness, how I valued those sunrises and sunsets, the friends made with swans and geese, the majestic sight of the heron skimming across our roof, the Huckleberry finn appearance of my son as he took to beachcombing like a duck to water (and we saw lots of those).
How my heart soared to be close to nature and notice subtle changes in the seasons and tides, that I’d never paid attention to before.
Here are my top 10 memories I’ll carry with me from the boat forever. And in true balanced Blitz spirit, I’ve added my top 10 discomforts!
1. Walking over to the island – the glorious deserted Brentford Ait at low tide.
2. Camaderie on the river during the storms, with neighbous helping tie up neightbous boats.
3. Eating outside every night in summer and cooking on the firepot.
4. Coming home from work and seeing the smoke from all the other boats doing the same.
5. Sleeping deeply, lulled to sleep by the slow ebb and flow of the tide.
6. Being so close to nature – feeling every drop of the Thames come in and then out again – seeing the depth change, the seasons change, the view change.
7. Watching my son finding treasures in the strand, as excited as any explorer.
8. Watching traffic go by – from paddleboarders to kayakers.
9. Feeding the birds – right from our back door.
10. Discovering that onesies are the ultimate insulation.
What do you think of our journey to life afloat and back to dry land?