Going nowhere – but we have a plan

Today hasn’t worked out as planned at all. The weather forecast said it would be a bit warmer last night and today would be calm but foggy. We had tentatively discussed a little trip out on the boat, just a few miles down the canal to a turning point and back to the marina in time for tea. It would also be the ideal opportunity to let the stove go out and give it a really good clear out. It’s been burning for a couple of weeks now and it tends to get a bit clogged up and less efficient as time goes on. That was the plan, this is the reality: Gill is tucked up in bed with a horrible cold infection, the marina has a thin coating of ice on it again and I have spent the last hour coaxing the fire back to life rather than letting it go out. We are going nowhere today.

Come to think of it, today is like an analogy of the bigger picture. Our old home in Warton is up for sale but we haven’t had any offers so far. Paying bills on two homes means that we are tied to working until such time as it’s sold and being tied to work means that we can’t just take off and travel indefinitely on the boat. In other words, we are going nowhere tomorrow or the next day either.

Never mind; it’s nice when a plan comes together but it’s also important to be flexible and make the most of things when it doesn’t.

Another plan has gone a bit pear shaped in the last few days but in a good way. We had been planning to go back to our old house and pack up the rest of our belongings to bring them back to the boat. Goodness knows where we were going to put it all but we would cross that bridge later. I knew that we could be imaginative and creative in using all the available space on the boat and I just hoped that once we had it all on board we would work something out. Fortunately, the problem was solved by a simple observation from Gill. She said to me one morning; “the mistake we are making is trying to fit our old life into the boat rather than starting a new one on it”. Light bulb moment!

Just needs a bit of organising

We realised with a bit of reflection that we had been living on board Golden Girl for months now without any hardship whatsoever. We are living in comfort, doing everything we want to do and enjoying life. Why do we need more stuff? So rather than go back to collect the rest of our precious belongings we examined what we were actually missing and it turned out to be next to nothing. What should have been several trips in the car and maybe the use of hire van became one trip, a half filled car and wonderful sense of freedom.

A few more ‘essentials’ to find a home for

We left behind kitchen cupboards and wardrobes full of ‘stuff’ that it turns out we just don’t need. Admittedly there are several boxes of things going into storage but nearly all of that falls into the category of ‘having special meaning’. You know, particular books, photos, keep-sakes etc. No doubt we will get pleasure one day from unpacking them again or if not, some poor relative will unpack them and add them to the pile of rubbish to be discarded.

We thought that we had been pretty good at paring down our belongings over the years but it seems that the temptation to acquire stuff is limited only by the space available to store it in. You may only be able to wear one pair of shoes at a time but given enough cupboard space you can’t half hoard a lot of pairs. We will, of course, have to empty the old house at some point but the contents will mostly be heading to the charity shops or the tip rather than joining us on board as part of our new life. Well, that’s the plan…………. for now.

Poking around in their bedrooms

We spent a pleasant enough afternoon yesterday investigating the homes of complete strangers, grilling them mercilessly about their bathroom arrangements and poking around in their bedrooms.

The homes in question were afloat and no more than seven feet across at their widest point. Yes, you’ve guessed, we are going to buy that narrow boat.

For some time now we have had a plan to retire to the waterways in about seven years when I receive my state pension and we are finally free from the shackles of paid employment. It’s what is referred to as a long term plan and therein lays its failing. It’s not dissimilar to the position we were in three year ago when we had long term plans to pack in our jobs and cycle around the coast. Back then we suddenly realised, prompted by a change of circumstance, that waiting was a mugs game and as readers of this blog will know we packed our bags and got on with it. We have decided it’s time to just get on with it again.

Obliging owners who took us for a ride. (Cruiser stern)

Obliging owners who took us for a ride. (Cruiser stern)

Waiting and dreaming sometimes works out for people and good luck to them but so often it turns into an invitation for disaster and disappointment when all the plans come tumbling down due to some unfortunate and unimagined circumstance. We simply don’t want “if only” to feature anywhere in our epitaphs.

It’s a bit like seeds that are held in an inanimate state waiting for the right conditions that will enable them to germinate and flourish. We acquired this particular seed some time last year when we were tossing around ideas that would satisfy our newly found wanderlust but we put it in the metaphorical fridge as insurance against future drudgery and boredom. A few weeks ago we realised that the fridge was no place for something with so much potential for joy. Now the seed is firmly planted in the optimum conditions and already the first exciting signs of germination are appearing.

Hello! Wake up, can we look in your boat?

Hello! Wake up, can we look in your boat?

We have visited various narrow boat marinas over the last few weeks and have found the location for our new home and placed a deposit on it. Now we just have to raise the funds and go and find the home itself. All our conversation at the moment revolves around cruiser versus traditional sterns and the pros and cons of pump out or cassette toilets. We have produced a complex list of features, (in a spreadsheet of course) each weighted with a score according to its importance and we are busy putting boats for sale through the matrix to find the kind of craft we need to go and view once we have the funds. It’s very exciting and talking to boaters that already live on board is all part of the build up to this next adventure.

Traditional stern

Traditional stern

Our technique so far has been to visit a marina or section of towpath where it is possible to engage with owners, ask them a slightly corny question such as, “how long is your boat?” and then without further ado invite ourselves on board for a good poke around and a grilling of the occupants. So far, without exception, they have been more than willing to show off what is very obviously their pride and joy and also to encourage us without reservation to ‘get on with it’. So we are.

We have to sell a property to raise the funds for this so it might not happen tomorrow but happen it will and that in itself is far preferable to wondering ‘what if?’ Expect a lot of pictures of narrow boats on here over the next few months.

Brand New Life

I was driving Gill to work this morning and we were stuck in slow moving traffic. The road was lined either side with bushes and woodland and I was looking at the generally drab black and brown network of trunks and branches and straining to see any signs of spring. Suddenly my eye was taken by the brightest, greenest display of newly unfurled young leaves. A bit of digging around on the internet when I got home suggested that they may be Elder trees but actually it doesn’t matter what species these young leaves belong to, it’s what they represent that excites me.

They probably weren't even Elders but here's a nice picture anyway.

They probably weren’t even Elders but here’s a nice picture anyway

They were so vividly bright and verdant that they just screamed ‘BRAND NEW LIFE’ to me. They had that colour that you only see when something is new, really new. Before it becomes stained and tarnished by time and the elements. Amongst the drabness of the dirty woodland background they reminded me of someone who has turned up to a party in a flamboyant and glamorous outfit only to find that everyone else has come in jeans and T shirts. They looked gaudy and a bit out of place but they filled me with joy when I thought of the spring and summer that they herald. They represent new beginnings, something that I have been contemplating a lot just recently. I began to consider the changes that these leaves would go through over the next eight months and about what they would look like when we arrive home from our travels next October. Maybe they wouldn’t even be on the the tree by then. Maybe they would be dead.

Like us they will no doubt be battered by wind and rain, baked by sun and possibly even, like us, they will be attacked by insects. They will perform their task of absorbing the sunlight and converting it into energy for the tree as they gradually age and lose that vivid green in exchange for a slightly more subdued work-weary hue. No doubt our excited state at the time of our departure will also fade somewhat over the weeks and months but I would like to think that we will remain committed to the task, just like the leaves.

Come September the leaves will begin to dry and shrivel, turning yellow then red or brown before being discarded by the tree for good. To all intents and purposes they will be dead but their contribution to the tree will be far from over. During the coming weeks, months and even years they will be broken down to form nutrients for the tree that spurned them. I have no idea how long such things take but one day a part of them may well be recycled into yet more bright and shiny new leaves.

Our journey will end at about the same time that the leaves die but just as the leaves continue to feed the tree after they die so then, I hope, the experiences of our trip will go on nourishing us for many months and years to come.

By the time we leave in April, those young Elder leaves will be lost amongst a profusion of vegetation and spring will be well and truly with us. Likewise these thoughts will probably be lost in the turmoil of saying goodbye to friends and the thrill of our departure. Maybe they will come back to me next spring when I see those first opening buds once more. Who knows what we might be planning then.

Tic toc, tic toc, five months to go.

Well, strictly speaking, as I type its four months, four weeks, one day, 22 hours etc. etc. and this is where we are with our plans:

Our landlady has been informed and she will be selling the house we currently rent so there is no option of coming back to our current abode. We will be officially homeless as of end of April 2014.

Gill has broken the news to her employers and despite their howls of protest and begging her to reconsider and come back to her job after the trip she has remained strong and told them it’s not an option. We are moving on.

My job is temporary anyway but if I am offered an extension beyond the end of January it will be on the understanding that I can only work until the end of March. They gave me the job on the clear understanding that I had adventures to live so they will just have to deal with it.

A lock up storage facility of 50sq feet has been booked and anything that doesn’t fit in there is up for grabs.

The disposal of the majority of our possessions has stalled since I went back to work but I will be back on it big time in the New Year. We are also trying not to acquire anything that isn’t edible, drinkable or has a life expectancy of more than five months.

Our route is as planned as it needs to be, i.e. we know where we are probably staying on the first night. After that we just keep the sea on our left.

Sea on left = good

Sea on left = good

Kit is sorted with the exception of a few items we still need to buy. These are:

Digital wizardry in the form of a tablet PC, a keyboard for same and a charging device. Only the first of these is a probable definite if I am to continue this blog during the trip. The other two are still being investigated.

Shorts for Gill because her existing ones are, as she says, “past their best”. I.e. they impinge on her sartorial elegance.

Trousers for me because Gill doesn’t like my current ones. They were a bit big and blousy to start with and now I have lost some weight they are ideal for sharing which is not a good look.

Collapsible plastic bowls but the jury is now out on these for two reasons. Firstly, experienced touring friends Vicky and Woolly that we stayed with last week suggested eating straight out of the cooking pans is the way to go. They may have a point. Secondly, the bowls cost £13 each which is ridiculous for a bit of folding plastic and I am struggling with this.

Two new tyres for my bike. I don’t expect anybody to get over excited about this.

Other than that we already have everything we need from our previous touring adventures. It seems to baffle some people that we won’t be carrying any more than we would on a two week trip but in practice we will just be doing more washing and shopping.

The blog is very obviously up and running. I am getting to grips with it and the keen eyed nerdy types will have noticed that you can now use www.gillandtony.co.uk to find it. I won’t bore you with details of DNS settings and URL forwarding because, well, it’s boring.

Emotionally I think we are both more than ready. It would be fair to say that we would be happy to leave tomorrow if we could. Well, maybe not tomorrow, but as soon as it warms up a bit definitely.

image_pdfimage_print