The wondrous fear of living on a houseboat, or, my life avoiding camping chairs.

2014-02-16 16.43.50So after a conspicuous absence from the blogosphere, and a less visible absence from the inside of my writing thalamus I have returned.  Floating to the surface like so much scummy debris from the Thames River.  Be I perhaps that bottle bobbing along upside down blindly unaware of its onward route?  Be I the log, lumpen and unappealing, putting one in mind of the need for regular intake of fruit?  Regardless, I find myself kicking off the cape of lazy invisibility and returning to the world of the web hosted word, I shan’t anticipate a fanfare.

Anyway, on to the blog post, the nautical theme is evident in the clever title.  Genius is proved by historical longevity as they say and that’s got all the trademarks of an Eliot insight.

I now live on a houseboat, apparently according to some probably inaccurate statistics lifted off Google so do 10,000 others in London (or is it technically 9,999 others?).  It is perched directly on the Thames in the shadow of Battersea Power Station and downwind from Battersea Cats and Dogs home.  It is lovely, and scary and memorable and a bit silly.

Let’s illustrate with a couple of little stories and reflections.

One day I wished to exit this dreamy vehicle to go to work, a request deemed unreasonable by the nauticus upon which I reside.  It displayed its fear at my illogical demands by sitting staunchly on the river bed and thus being some good portion away from the stairs attached to the pier which I would mount to gain (brief) freedom and onward trajectory.  Oh I waited, bundled up to the hilt like a fool, sighing and gazing pointlessly at the gap as it remained the same.  I should return to land nevermore thought I.

After despairing for moments that stretched yawning in to adjacent moments that I boringly anticipated I decided to take matters in to my own hands.  I guesstimate the gap to have been circa a metre, due to the stairs being higher than the boat this was unhelpfully exacerbated and as such I needed a sturdy item to traverse this successfully and avoid the dowsing in the Thames that would nostril ticklingly piss off customers at the cafe where I (used to) work.

I found a collapsible garden chair, a flat beauty of plastic and metal, rusted in the just right fashion Goldilocks would admire.  Laying this one way across the gap (the base on the stairs and the back support on the boat) I stepped on it tentatively only to find that it opened up.  Never fear thought I, simply turn it over, which I did.

Upon the second and blindly committed stepping disaster occurred, yes I admit a disaster that had more than a little tinge of predictability.  I fell through the chair, the seat showing complete disloyalty by immediately breaking under my weight.  By some fortune I had managed to grab on to the stair rail as I fell, which meant I swung in to the side of the stairs but alas hanging almost below them.  I considered my position for a moment and the pain, and then haltingly pulled myself up.  I was in one sense amused and delighted, for you see I had thought my days of being able to hold my own body weight up with my arms had passed.

On another occasion my hardy housemate and I attempted to host a tire off the riverbed next to the boat so that we could re-attach it to the side and thus not thump in to the pier quite so dementedly.  Two hideously long boat sticks with hooks on the end later and we are jabbing away like a coked up polar bear salmon fishing.  The sticks bent, the tire remained and with much guffawing we limped away with sore arms.  We lost the battle, we chuckled at our little war.

There is nothing quite like being on the boat to relax.  Looking out at the Thames rippling away, the moorhens with their gargantuan feet and tiny bodies heads down and swimming into the tide, the Cormorants diving into the depths for lung filling amounts of time, the swans that look like they have no heads as they sleep necks buried in to bodies floating aimlessly like bizarre flotsam.  The sun and the smell of wood burning and the creak of the bits of the boat that have lived a life.  The tide miraculously raising the boat six metres and ensuring a view of London that wallops the air from lungs.  A sense of being in and of London but removed, a feeling enjoyed on New Year’s Eve when dancing, and sipping alcohol of a dubious nature under the gaze of the Shard and equally intimidating MI5.

When at night I occasionally worry about drowning or being gassed to death by a freak diesel engine malfunction I lie on my bed, let myself be rocked and stare out at the skylight until I fall asleep.  It feels like travelling living here, and that’s a feeling I relish.