So this weekend has mostly been spent celebrating my dad’s 70th birthday (which was completely brilliant) and untangling the confusing jumble of feelings that emerged from the end of last week.
On Friday afternoon we took a half day and took ourselves down to the Medway for our long-awaited reunion with Maria Elisabeth, after three months’ anticipation, anxiety and mounting expectation. It was exciting, but I’m not going to lie: I was pretty damn tense. The stakes were high.
We spent about an hour on board, looking her over and opening cupboards, walls and floors up that we hadn’t known to look at before, under the watchful eye of R’s long-term friend and colleague P who currently holds the keys and came in extremely handy for answering the myriad questions we had. What’s that. Where is that. What do we do about that. Is that going to be as much of a nightmare as it looks. Maybe we should do that. Why on earth did they do it like that. And so on, and on, and on…
Inevitably, we’d both remembered it slightly differently in scale – the main space is smaller (specifically : narrower), but then all the other spaces are bigger. The captain’s cabin is huge, with lots of storage. The beautiful old rounded hatch above on the poop-deck is enormous. The foredeck is actually big enough for deck chairs around the anchor winch. The single berth in the priest hole is actually a perfectly reasonable length, and you (at least, I) can actually stand up straight – it’s not just for midgets. It also seems that at some point a previous owner had a second loo right in the middle of our cabin (cue: another rousing chorus of, “Ah, the Dutch and their weird, weird ways”). There is a thin layer of mould on all the surfaces, particularly in the cupboards. The bathroom is sizeable, but frankly weird. No idea yet where the blackwater tank will have to go. The freshwater tank (or whatever the large ply-clad box between the engine and bathroom is) needs removing and replacing. The exterior is even more vast than we remembered and filthy and dusted all over with odd patches of rust. It’s a massive undertaking.
The new bollards are covered in surface rust and need rubbing down and sealing (this is actually fine, despite my initial skepticism – apparently these installations are typically finished with oil so any immediate attempts to paint them would just slide off)
At some point I stood still for a moment in the middle of the kitchen – sorry, GALLEY- and considered my feelings.
I absolutely bloody love it. Proper full-blooming belly happiness. Despite all the millions of jobs that need doing, and how overwhelming it suddenly feels when I consider how little we actually know (and how dependent that makes us on others, and how much that’s going to cost), I can’t wait to be on it for good. I didn’t want to leave.
Despite all this, I was feeling pretty weird on the train back. Exhausted after a long week and after all the drama of the past few months; apprehensive at the prospect that this is really just the beginning and there’s SO MUCH more to come… I know we’re just going to have to knuckle down and get on with it, plead ignorance and bluster our way through as we can, but it turns out I’m a planner – who knew?! – and it really bothers me to see all the jobs that need doing rolling on and on into the future without a clue how to do them. Let alone in what order, or at what cost. It’s confusing, scary and overwhelming, mixed with anticipation and that deep belly love. And relief.
The Owl did not have belly love. What he did have was a weird long moment of “Hmm – so this is really going to be my house? HMM…” Which was driven mostly by the newness of it all and the daunting prospect of actually driving the thing. He’s massively up for the engineering, DIY challenge – nevertheless it’s an awfully big adventure looming suddenly very close.
The keystone of his ‘it’s ok’ rationale is that the land-based alternative would likely have resembled a terrace in the Greater London outreaches with a challenging commute and a comfortably settled, suburban air, miles from anyone we know, which would have made us both profoundly miserable… So, for all it’s terrifying, this is better. (And all the best things are a bit scary, right? That’s how we know we’re alive…)
For my part: I look to the adage that if we all worked in jobs we truly loved, we’d never need to take holidays. I don’t believe that’s true, but I take from it the need to introduce as much holiday spirit into our day-to-day lives as we can. I cannot think of a single good reason not to live on a boat, for me.
Like I said, I can’t wait.
Next up: mortgage paperwork, seven day cooling off bla bla bla, and then at some point in the next couple of weeks we *should* find ourselves taking a little trip down the Medway and up the Thames, hanging right and hitting Barking Barrage around high tide, to tie up in our new home just in time to watch the sun go over the yard arm with a celebratory g&t.