Is there any point in a static narrowboat?

This week we are back at the narrowboat, moored in a marina near Chester. The weather is very autumnal – strong winds and rain. So we are not travelling. We have the warm stove on, are watching Christmas movies and walking the dogs.

You may wonder what the point is in coming to the boat of we aren’t travelling. Well I don’t really understand why, but when we arrive we immediately relax. Even the dogs find a comfy spot and curl up. Years ago we used to part-own a static caravan and that had much the same feel. It is as if all the worries of the world are left at home and we can chill.

Some canal boaters never move their boats. I heard this week of a new “wide beam” coming to this marina, which is too wide to travel through the bridges from here, so will be marooned. The owners don’t care. They just like staying on the water. The marina owners also recently installed five floating pods which can be hired by anyone. They are booked out at weekends, even at this time of year.

So I do get it. And I am really enjoying this week. But I confess that a little part of me can’t wait till the spring, when we will be off on our travels again. It’s like people that enjoy cruise ships. Some just want to stay on the ship. Others enjoy the facilities but want to see new things, meet new people.

Which would you prefer?

How important is central heating?

It has been cold this week – around 3°C. Unfortunately our boiler broke down – no heating and no hot water. Fortunately we have a service contract and so were able to call an engineer out. Unfortunately his temporary fix only lasted overnight. Fortunately we have a wood burning stove. Unfortunately it is not working very well because the chimney has not been swept for four years. Fortunately, with new kindling and some TLC we have managed to light it. Unfortunately it does not heat the water or the radiators.

Error 43 – no continuous flame

When we are in the house we get very used to utilities always working. You turn on a switch and the lights come on, open a tap and there is fresh clean water, click on your phone and the Internet is available. And without thinking the house is warm when it needs to be, and you can have a shower whenever you like. It is all very easy and when something does not work we get resentful, angry, confused.

It is very different on the narrowboat. There are three ways to heat the boat – the engine, a diesel stove or the Webasto boiler. The reason there are three ways is that often one or two ways are broken or inconvenient to use. The electricity is always on our mind. The solar is great in the summer but not in the dark, cloudy winters. The engine charges the batteries well but only easily when we are travelling. There is a mains hook up where we are moored in a marina, but we have to remember to top it up, or we will be cut off. And water is not always available. We have to remember to find a working canalside tap every couple of days to fill up, and once a year to disinfect the tank. As to the Internet, things are massively better than even a few years ago. We have a mobile powered WiFi router and can also tether to either of our phones which we have deliberately contracted with different networks, to maximise coverage. But it ain’t “always on”.

I wonder, is it better to have the ease and comfort of living in a house, with the consequent panic when something does fail. Or to live off grid on a boat, where it is harder work, but you understand it better. I’m not sure. I just know I don’t like being cold.

Fortunately the engineer is back today with lots of spare parts. And if that does not work, we can go back to the boat.

What is your view? Perhaps you believe that with sufficient layers of clothes, we do not need heating?

Is “wholesome” boring?

One of the regular readers of this blog was commenting to me last week that they like it because it is “wholesome”. This was meant as a real positive. There is quite enough anger and emotion across the Internet. Hearing everyday stories of someone in retirement is comforting, like a mug of cocoa or a warm blanket. But I confess that when I heard “wholesome” my immediate interpretation was “boring”.

Wholesome photos from my life this week!

This blog was started two years ago, when I left work, because I had written a weekly business blog to my team for many years and I knew I would miss it. The work blogs could also be considered wholesome I guess, but they perhaps had more edge. The usual pattern was to write about something that had happened to me that week, something that connected in how we were working, and a reflection on what that meant to me. Perhaps something we should change, perhaps something to celebrate, perhaps something to reinforce.

This retirement blog has less of that insight, and more mindfulness. Does that make it boring? No doubt some people would say so. But for my regular readers I hope that it does bring some gentle insight and for me it certainly helps me understand my feelings and intentions.

So I have decided that “wholesome” is a word to be proud of. A wholesome blog is to be welcomed. A wholesome life is to be celebrated.

Are you wholesome too?

If you enjoy this wholesome blog, please like and follow.

Going on a road trip

While we have been travelling on the narrowboat over the past two years we got to visit a lot of friends and family we had not seen since lockdown. But there were a few we missed out so this week we set off on a road trip. I am writing this in a cozy pub hotel near Stratford on Avon. This morning we are off to Hove in Sussex to see one of our sons. Then from there we travel to Surrey to stay with our sister in law, and then on to a vast mansion on the south Devon coast, where some friends are house sitting. From there it is to the far end of Cornwall, to stay at the Pig Hotel, where our other son is working. Back via Salisbury to see my Mum, and then to a village near Cambridge where Mandy’s Aunt lives. Finally we stay with Mandy’s brother in Lancashire and then home to Scotland via our friends in the Yorkshire Dales.

It will be quite an adventure and a good run out for our new car. Our old Qashqai had served us well for five years but was costing us more to maintain than it was worth, so after much prevaricating we have opted for a 2019 Kia Sportage. It is absolutely fine to drive but petrol heads will be disappointed that the main criteria for purchase were space in the boot for our dogs’ crate, and lots of “toys” inside like sat nav, apple play, parking camera. Immediately after signing for the car, I felt a bit of post purchase dissonance – would an XC40 have been more sensible, could I have negotiated a better deal, would a 2020 model have been better? But now we have had it for a few days, I am happy. It will do us very nicely.

Some of the route aligns with canals we have traversed this year. Journeys that took us several weeks in the boat are completed in a few hours. I prefer boating because you see so much more on the way but I admit I am enjoying being able to go left and right as well as straight on, as we do on a canal. When we see friends from the boat, they sometimes suggest meeting at some pub in the countryside, and we have to point out that the narrowboat is not great across land!

So on with the trip. It may not be Route 66, or even the Highlands North Coast 500, which we enjoyed a few years ago, but I am excited. I quite enjoy this retirement lark.

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