So what happened was that my boyfriend and I moved from Holland Park to a houseboat. It was the right thing to do. The Rent Monster in London has grown big and gone nuts, it’s eaten our money. We would never manage to save up for that house or that vacation or that Chanel suit, if we kept paying our landlords mortgage. We paid so much for the apartment that we couldn’t do anything but sit in it. So we sat there, in February, when we decided to do something drastic, something that included moving and getting rid of just about everything we owned. Our things were sold, and what we couldn’t sell was given away to passers by and sent to charity. Two months later my Man and I became the proud owners of and co-captains on our boat, Butter.
Someone told us that “The happiest days as narrowboat owners are when you buy the boat and when you sell it.” That “Someone” lied. So far I’ve experienced many more, like that week I cruised on the Thames with the love of my life for example – we wore matching wellingtons, my hair grew wilder and wilder, so did my Man’s beard, as we steered Butter from Devizes to London. It took weeks. We learned by doing and discovered by being.
Living on a boat is very different from living in an apartment, all of a sudden I’m asking myself questions like: Are the batteries charged enough to run the lights and the fridge? Or should we turn on the engine, dear? Will the ropes be strong enough for a windy autumn afternoon? Are my knots good enough? And where can I get a f…… internet connection? How cold will the winter be? Did I mention that Butter is a fixer upper? We still need to build a few walls. She’s a piece of work.
I thought the rugged life as a sailor was over when we cruised into London on our 65ft steel boat. I thought life would go back to normal once my windburn had healed and my rough hands had turned soft again. I would wear my dresses and heels and finally afford those Isabel Marant pieces I so badly need ( I really do ♥ ) but it looks like I’m going to have to stick to a tight budget for a while. It takes time and money to build a new life.
Living on a boat in the middle of London is like living in a cottage in a big city. You need to chop wood and bring a flashlight in your purse so you can see where you step when you come home after dark – one wrong move on the slippery boat and you’re screaming like a wet cat. The only routine that resembles my old life is when I turn on the gas oven to make coffee. What I love the most about my new life is enjoying that coffee outside, on deck, with my sexy guy.
When we bought Butter, I had this image of me steering the boat in a designer boiler suit, with expensive shoes and untangled hair. I refuse to think of this imaginary image as unrealistic but I’ll be the first to admit that reality hit hard. Barging isn’t glamorous. Moving twenty tons of steel is hard, physical work, and it is slow. A two hour drive by car takes two weeks with this boat. Butter and the city’s fast pace isn’t a natural match. Our boat isn’t built for the rat race. She’s made to move coal or horses or beer. The men who used to work in these barges, a couple of hundred years ago, were dirty and didn’t do yoga. Butter isn’t designed to meet the requirements of a city girl’s life. My Man looks better and better the less groomed he is. He just jumps in and out of the shower, puts on some clothes and that’s all he needs to do to look good. I can’t say the same about me, but I’ve decided that it has to be possible to be feminine and thrive on a twenty metre long ship. I will get my heels back on my feet, because being a continuous cruiser on the Grand Union Canal in London, with my Man, doesn’t mean I want to stop looking like myself or living my life my way. It’s not always going to be glam, styled and picture perfect, there will be days without make-up, in long johns and practical shoes, but my new life is refreshingly real.
Welcome on board!