End of part one?

We are back in Scotland. The narrowboat is safely moored near Market Harborough and ready for the winter. Our long trip is over.

For the past few years my retirement plans have centred around spending time on the narrowboat. We reckoned that by the end of the trip we would know whether Mandy and I still get on, whether we actually love boating or it was just a dream, where we want a house, and what we want to do with our future.

So how have we done?

The good news is that Mandy and I still get on. We have rubbed along very nicely being together 24 by 7 in a small space. We have discovered that we absolutely love to meet friends and relatives, but we also love the times when we are moored in the middle of nowhere, with just each other for company.

We also have found that we do love the canals. We love seeing something new each day, the beauty of the countryside, the history of city centres, the pace of life, the community. It feels very sad this week that for this year it is over.

In terms of where we want a house we have not made so much progress. We absolutely love Scotland. Where we live now is very convenient, but Fife or the Highlands are also very appealing. We have also considered moving back to northern England to be nearer friends and family, and nearer the canals. Alternatively we could live on the boat 12 months a year, but for now that feels too scary for me. Maybe a house with a mooring for the boat. We have certainly spent time discussing options this year, but are not a lot further forward on a decision. No rush I guess.

What about our future? No decisions there either. But I think we have made progress. We have found that in retirement there is no need to make long term plans. We know much of what we are doing this winter (Orkney in November, Swinton Park for Christmas, maybe skiing). And we know we want too spend six months on the boat next year. That is enough for us.

So probably 5 out of 10 against our goals for this summer, but the way we both feel is more like 10 out of 10. It has been a tremendous time and we want more.

Have a great weekend. Pete

Do cars drive too fast?

We have been berthed at a marina this week. Rather a good idea because we have mains electricity while our solar panels have been removed. Also good because it has been peeing with rain for most of the week. I have scraped and sanded the old paint and rust from underneath the solar panels, and it is ready for priming and painting as soon as the weather improves. My brother in law, Stephen, commented that a year ago I would have been making high powered decisions about UK banking, and now my hardest decision is whether I think the rain will hold off long enough to get on a coat of red oxide.

He is right of course and I am fine with that. Perhaps my world view has shrunk, as I have retired and started living on a narrowboat. But there is something very satisfying about learning to do things with my hands and learning to live life in the slow lane. Because we have been in a marina, we have been able to spend more time with friends and family, including a few car journeys. And after a month at less than 3mph, cars feel so very fast. Hunks of steel hurtling at each other, inches apart. Very scary.

I am not sure this change in my attitude is a good one. I am very much enjoying my new life, but if I am finding cars too scary, perhaps I have gone too far. What do you think?

Is retirement just a very long holiday?

I have been told that I will not truly understand retirement till I have been retired for over a year. Until then it feels too much like just a very long holiday. That may be true, but boy am I enjoying this very long holiday. We are now nearly a month into our summer narrowboat trip, and while every day something goes wrong, also every day we get to enjoy the wonderful countryside and slow pace of canal life.

This week we have had the excitement of Bingley five rise, the biggest staircase of locks in the world. We have found ourselves stuck in one of the widest locks in the world at Castleford (we called an engineer). We have spent Saturday night with our eldest son on the boat right in the centre of Leeds. I have wandered the streets of Saltaire and Shipley looking for a barber. We had a wonderful evening in a brew pub with two of our friends we have not seen for six years. And every afternoon we have sweltered in the heat. Even though we have insulation, a narrowboat is basically a steel can, and gets so very hot in the sunshine.

I think my favourite day of all this week was moored up in the middle of nowhere, overlooking the Aire valley, and just chilling, reading a book, watching a film, painting my poles.

It may feel like a long holiday rather than “proper” retirement, but it is so much more relaxing than any holiday I have had before. I love it.

What do you think?