Various people have asked us in the past few months what we plan to do about living on a boat with a baby – especially given I’m due in the icy depths of winter – or if it’s a phase we might grow out of any time soon. The short answer is: we’re staying. It’s not a phase, people have raised kids on boats for many, many years before we came along, and we’re staying.
So although I can’t speak for the Owl, I thought I’d explain my side of it, given it was my big idea in the first place.
Remember when you were little and your parents said you could be anything in the world you wanted? And as you grew up you saw photos of rock stars, artists, astronauts in the media and each one struck a chord for the sheer fun and excitement of waking up every day and being that person and you thought: Maybe… And then after a few years you realised … Probably not, and modified your expectations in line with your A’ Level options and whatever your first forays into the dreaded “work experience” had taught you by then (tea, anyone?).
When the time came to face the real world in earnest, despite everyone around you’s best efforts you felt unprepared and vulnerable; you applied for anything and everything going – even the jobs the idea of which made a small piece of you die inside – and hell, maybe you even worked with pop stars and actors for a bit, and as a matter of fact it was quite fun and exciting… Until you realised that, actually, it was also quite shallow and phoney, and perhaps it was time to grow up. To accept the real world in all its tarnished glory, and hope you’d be rewarded with something perhaps less glittery but more substantial. To learn that basically life is about putting one foot in front of another, every day, come rain or shine.
So where does that leave you? You land a job you can actually see yourself making a career out of, and you try to make the best of every step, right?
Problem is, it’s tough to keep searching for the silver lining.
For me, it quickly descended into trudging to work every day on dirty grey pavements littered with chewing gum, wondering if the gas man was ever going to call back about fixing the oven because I’d really like another baked potato before I die; panicking because my boss suddenly had changes to the press release that was signed off to go out yesterday, wondering what it was I had to do next to make it a little further up the ladder of career comfort and stability. And then going home, watching an episode or two of something fun but forgettable with a glass of wine and a bite of supper, off to bed and do it all again the next day.
I hate pavements.
Given how much our daily happiness depends on it, the silver lining really shouldn’t be so hard to find.
And beside the fact that I just love being near water – any water – I find that waking up somewhere a little bit special every day lifts my soul, makes me smile, keeps me interested in the little daily mundanities which are an irrefutable fact of life.
There seems to be a trope doing the rounds at the moment about how happiness is the journey not the destination. I say “at the moment”: I think Buddha started it.
And in the last few years, I’ve taught myself to love those little mundanities; those big, “Are you seriously telling me that THIS is IT?!” questions that plagued my early twenties and saw me hellbent on a hedonistic quest for satisfaction of any kind no longer phase me. I can honestly say I love my life.
One of the major reasons for that is the fact that I have portholes and A MASSIVE ANCHOR.
Last night we slept to the sound of rain hammering down on the deck above our heads, and woke to a world washed clean: the river sparkled, the decks shone, the sky was high and clear and the swans were preening themselves on the upturned tub opposite.
I’m not saying the pavements aren’t still a daily part of my life, but my doorstep is a gunwale I have to step off over the river before I reach them (don’t get me started on the vocabulary. We have a foc’s’le for god’s sake: the only word I’ve ever come across with not one but TWO and occasionally, depending on who’s in charge, THREE apostrophes! It’s completely ridiculous. I can’t even begin to explain how happy this makes me.) One of my household chores comprises pushing the driftwood out from between ours and our neighbour’s boat with a long stick.
It’s FUN, and occasionally when the wind gets up, it’s even quite EXCITING. I don’t need to be a rock star, or an artist or an astronaut. Living on a boat does it for me.