Dear friends, I don't know whether you noticed but it's pretty frickin' cold these days, which means boat life is getting much more difficult. I've considered moving onto dry land, and even signed up to a housing co-op, but if I had to pay more for a house I'd have to stop doing things I like. So I'm staying put. I've knuckled down with plenty of logs, coal and renewed enthusiasm. I thought I'd take this opportunity to review life aboard so far (the ups and downs).
When we chugged her down from Hemel it was still cold and grey which made for some beautiful cruising through bleak, misty landscapes. Watford is a surprisingly green and abundant place to navigate by canal - all idyllic and gently undulating like teletubby land - who'd have thought?
First two week mooring spot was at Broadway Market, a real joy. It felt exciting waking up on Saturday morning and realising I had a chocca-bloc market on my doorstep. I ate a lot of Custard Bastards that day . . . I know they're not really called Custard Bastards but calling them anything else just doesn't feel right.
I was pleased with my garden over summer - only slightly stunted by the fact that if you turned your back for a second all the soil dried out.
The camomile is still going though.
I was moored next to the circus boat for a while - they construct this trapeze atop their Dutch barge and everyone sits on the tow path to watch. There's clowns and acrobats and music and songs, so good.
I can just about move the boat by myself but I don't like to go through locks alone. So I had people over to help me move her. On this occasion one chum got all hyper happy and gave the boat a good rock - I just grinned and when I went inside later I noticed that most of my possessions were on the floor.
The brother helped a lot.
But some days no one wants to help you move the boat - they just want to sit inside and take photos.
Feeding people is a big deal on a small boat but I managed a few lunches. It was a bit odd that people would have to sit on the end of my bed to eat. (Klaus, in red, is the mayor of Nomadic Village: a good thing.) Ah yes those halcyon days: see how Bean entertains everyone with her impression of a mouse.
The good thing about being aboard is that sometimes you feel like a dam hero: guiding the boat through locks, learning about wiring, being able to talk about ballast and solar panels and Lister engines, tinkering below deck and walking along the roof. All so pleasing. I really enjoy the little bits of upkeep that I do - but on the occasion I pulled all these plastic bags off the propeller I was most unhappy. It was late October, I had my whole arm plunged into freezing cold canal pulling at 'orrible stringy plastic . . . and when I looked up the bloated corpse of a cat floated past. Too upsetting.
On the upside though the boat is also really awesome for picking up ladies: look at this one I snagged; she has her pyjama bag on her head - hot.
Something about boat life that I hope to take forward into proper house life is how organised you have to be. It's not necessarily easy to make it look all lovely but it's so pleasing that everything has a place or a hook to hang on. That order creates it's own kind of harmony above and beyond any gammy interior design I'm bound to fall for once I live on land.
Everything is nearby on the boat - I can stoke the fire, make a cuppa, read a book and go to bed without moving more than two steps. And whilst I cook I can feed the ducks and coots.
Electricity is back in my life now. The candle days were funny ones, it was difficult not to go to bed impossibly early and there were some bizarre consequences to getting dressed at 5am by candlelight.
Clever improvisation here to bring a little more light into my life. If you'd like to know how to make potato candle holders it's dead easy . . . you just ram a candle into any unsuspecting potato you can find.
And as winter draws in the stove is my best friend - I can boil the kettle on it and bake potatoes in it (making sure I remove the candles from them first). It's a bit like having a pet in the boat: you never get really bored because there's always a flame to tend. And I've learnt how to adjust it exactly so there are embers still glowing in the morning. I jump out of bed, open the vents and wriggle back under the covers to watch it until it's reached a decent flame again. The downside to stove worship is that I maintain a smoky odour wherever I go.
And this is how my winter will go forward, probably with a few hitches and frustration, some burnt fingers and dirty clothes but it will be cheap.
Next year I think the Olympics may force me off the boat. You have to have signed up to be anywhere near the games for the duration and there's a fleet of poncy boutique boats headed East for the event. But until then if you need me just follow the smell of woodsmoke.