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One year of sailing

Autumn on the River Lee

It's been a year since we moved into a narrowboat in London.  

The original plan was for us to stay until the end of this year and then return the boat to its permanent mooring and find a new home on land. More recently, however, the owner of the boat suggested we could return to it next year if we wanted, when boating season resumes (start of March). We have agreed to take up this offer.

Like last year, we'll remain in the boat until the start of December and then moor it for the winter. We'll look for sublets/cat sitting gigs that cover us until the start of March and then resume our floating adventure.  For how long?  Probably not too long — we are still thinking of moving back to Canada.  It's now a matter of going carefully through the necessary papers (for common law partners) and getting the process going. It could potentially be during the summer of 2019.

This time last year we were somewhere in Angel, central London, slowly learning the boat's ins and outs, slowly moving towards the EastEnd, adjusting ourselves to a new routine (the hardest one being the prioritisation of public toilets in order to prevent the boat's chemical toilet cassette from filling up too quickly.) 

Every time we had to move the boat (in the UK, if you don't have a permanent mooring, you need to move your boat every 14 days), anxiety took over us — where would we end up? Would we find a spot? Would we have to double moor with another boat?  And would they mind? 

Down the Regent's Canal we traveled, always finding a sweet spot, always going for a celebratory meal and drink afterwards. Boaters along the way offered guidance and advice, and people on the towpaths took photos or helped us with the locks. Slowly, we gained confidence in ourselves.

Today, we woke to beautiful sunshine over London. We are currently moored in the River Lee, just by Homerton (North of the Olympic Park), on our way back to central London. On my way to a laundromat on Chatsworth Road I overheard a couple say this will be the last warm weekend of the year. It's a perfect weekend to tidy the boat, get our winter clothes from my boyfriend's studio in preparation for November and contemplate what's ahead.

On Monday, it will be 20 years since I went on my first date with my boyfriend... to see Bride of Chucky. (Romance isn't dead.)

I am feeling... a little peculiar

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

I need to see more queer films, I think to myself, sitting by myself in the cinema. A lesbian couple sat beside me laugh, and I laugh with them. And when their breath catches, mine catches too; and when the credits role we say to each other wasn’t that a good movie? It was a good movie.

Set in 93, the year of the Breeders, and of 4 Non Blondes “What’s Up?” (one of those songs sneered at the time by now imbued with a little poignancy.) If the sex had been between boys, it could have been a Gregg Araki film.

Only Desiree Akhavan’s second film. Already looking forward to what she does next.

(And it features Jennifer Ehle, the Elizabeth from the best ever Pride and Prejudice adaptation - the one with Colin Firth! Doesn't get more 90s than that...)

Swans outside my boat’s hatch when I step outside in the morning.

Not watching television anymore.

Too many books to read.

Yoga on Thursdays, pull up challenges in the office’s health room, and evening runs around Regent’s Park.

Slow walks down canal paths in East London, the horizon lit beyond the trees.

Not needing to say much.

Lying in bed at night, hatch window open, taking in the breeze and the drops on the River Lea, like faint thoughts passing by.

Not having a fridge.

More money to spend, more evenings spent in the company of friends.

You are OK.

Don't Judge Me

6.30am, leave the boat for the London Aquatics Centre. Ballardian sunshine, ongoing heatwave. Water thoughts cool my body.

Get to the lockers, pull out shorts, goggles, flip flops and… where’s my towel?! Damn… see myself cancelling the swim, walking back to the boat, grabbing the towel (which I hung by the diesel furnace last night), and heading into work.

Or… what’s the worst that could happen? Slightly wet clothes. Dry in the Olympic Park. Cooled down by the Overground’s aircon.

Smile to myself, lock my belongings, head for the pool. Middle lane boy. Use the outside of my underwear afterwards.

Sunny Weekend


We went to a vegan pub in East London for his 43rd birthday. It wasn’t a gay pub but it felt that way –our friends naturally mingling with beautiful young men who came and went.

He got the “Yoga Bible” from me: B. K. S. Iyengar’s Light of Yoga. He received flowers from others. He shared with me a secret smile when handed sunflowers – we have been talking about getting matching tattoos designed by him.

On Saturday, he received from his publishers the printed copy of Great Adventurers, which he spent a year and a half working on. Happiness!

Want you back for good...

“If I had moved into a narrowboat ten years ago, the whole experience would have been documented on Livejournal,” I told olamina yesterday.

She laughed and agreed with me. And although she posts more regularly than me – about twice a month – even she’s getting some grief from her friends that she doesn’t post often enough. I must be in the dog house with some of my friends! :)

olamina is one of my oldest Livejournal friends and we have now fallen into a lovely pattern of meeting once a year, when she comes over to Europe to visit her family in London. (Though this might change next year if K and I finally move to Montreal and will be nearer to her in New York.)

I have been thinking about LJ lately – not only because olamina was in town, but because I also caught up recently with another old LJ friend, gnossiennes. It had been 13 years since we’d last seen each other! Like myself, gnossiennes has stopped posting on LJ. We reminisced about the days when we’d post sometimes 5, 6 times a day. Short posts, long posts – thoughtful posts, posts about nothing at all.

Why did I stop posting regularly to LJ? Why has everyone moved to Facebook and stopped sharing their lives’ grit and bones? We have all asked these questions before…

It’s the 1st of August and I’m going to try – AGAIN – to kick start my LJ. For myself, for my memories, for the practice of writing, for the few readers who still use this site, for maybe making some new friends here, for documenting K and mine’s narrowboat adventure.

Please give me grief if I don’t stick to my plans! ;-)

Jack

After 17 years of living in London, I finally took part in a Jack the Ripper walk. It was a good one too!

My work buddies and I were led by a colleague who knows just about everything on Jack and the milieu he lived in. He has quite a good blog too.

I was glad to find out the victims didn't suffer as they were a) too drunk and b) throttled quickly before having their necks slashed. Worse were the witnesses who stumbled upon them and the mess Jack left behind.

But the detail that creeped me out the most was that Jack nearly got caught in some instances. If only the first person to find the body had turned their head, they would have seen Jack standing right there in the shadows... *shivers*

Afterwards, while walking down Regent's Canal in the dark, towards my boat by Victoria Park, I had to stop my mind from thinking there was someone watching me.

A few Fridays ago, when the weather suddenly turned lovely in London, I took a nice walk from King's Cross to our boat in Broadway Market.

Around Islington, I started thinking of the little Captain and how she was doing. Lo and behold, who do I spot hopping in the grass by the towpath, chasing a moth? Captain!

I called to her and she ignored me at first. So I kneeled and filmed her, patiently waiting for her to give me a proper look. And then she did, and she recognised me, and she came over and made herself known she was very happy. 

We took some selfies and I got up to go. She, naturally, decided to follow me home. But, under the nearest bridge, she suddenly turned and sprinted away: a woman was walking in our direction with a cocker spaniel on a leash.

Today, we departed Broadway Market for the nearby Victoria Park. The park has been notoriously hit by narrowboat break ins — something crazy like 13 break ins in just one week!

We debated if we should moor there or skip it completely, but as I just signed up for Canal Watch (patrolling the towpath at night with other boaters, to try to make it a bit safer) I thought we should stay for a while.

We chatted to a boater after we moored and she said only boats left unattended over night have been broken into. As we are in the boat every night, we should be OK.

The upside of this turn of events is that the novel I'm writing (which sparked the initial idea of living in a narrowboat) is about crimes around Victoria Park!  I'm hoping for more grist to the mill after chatting to people during Canal Watch.

Water cats

The Captain

I'm currently sitting in a beautifully designed apartment just north of Victoria Park, East London. It belongs to friends of ours who are currently in Israel, who kindly lent us a spare key so we could use their shower and occasionally sleep in their spare room if the boat gets too cold.

I was meant to "work from home" today, which meant initially working from the narrowboat. But it rained heavily overnight, and throughout the day, meaning the boat's leaks (one of the little projects we are meant to tackle while we are guardians of the boat this year) were on overdrive. So we decampered to the flat with our things and spent the day here, working on laptops, drinking coffee, wistfully looking out of the window at the rain, at our friends' garden, at the imaginary cat I'd own if I lived here; wondering what it would be like to have a place like this to ourselves, with shelves filled with our books.

My boyfriend is flying to Spain tomorrow on holiday with a friend, for a week, so the boat move which we would have to do this weekend (narrowboats must move every two weeks in London) also had to be done today. I didn't want to wait until the weekend and do it on my own: I'm not quite confident yet in handling it by myself.

BBC Weather predicted a patch of dry at 5pm, so we left the flat and walked back to the narrowboat at that time and got set with preparing it for departure. A few minutes after untying, it started pissing down. Our next door neighbour was luckily home (their boat was double-moored to ours) and he turned out to be a lovely, friendly guy called Rob who didn't mind helping us untie and depart. I'd met his partner Harriet last Sunday and she'd kindly offered to lend us their bucket for the spring cleaning I was inflicting on the boat. Rob and I chatted about boat life, online boating forums and boating holidays outside London, until my boyfriend was all set with the engine and we were ready to leave. Rob had a kind face and I thought of how him and Harriet made a handsome couple.

Vanessa, the Spanish girl I'd first met when we'd arrived in Haggerston, wasn't around. Neither was the beautiful chimera cat I'd made friends with while we were moored in that spot.

I'd first met the cat just after we arrived, when she sauntered inside the boat one afternoon and curiously inspected every nook and cranny. After she'd tried to get inside the engine's box, I shooed her away. Later, after posting the obligatory photos on social media, I found out that an ex-colleague from work, Lucy, had come across the same cat on the canal path and had even stopped to pet her.

Excited about this coincidence, we agreed to meet up for a drink during the week, after work, and I'd take the opportunity to show her the narrowboat. Lo and behold, who do we spot on the canal path as we walked to the narrowboat? Cue more photos and selfies with the little thing. Someone online mentioned this type of cat was a good omen; others said they were rare. She did look to me like a living painting.

Lucy and I ended up bumping into my boyfriend on his way from work and the three of us decamped to a nearby gay pub I'd heard a lot about but never visited, The Glory. I was pleasantly surprised with the venue, the DJ, the clientele mix, the vibe. Their programme hints at many drag nights, many queer plays, many martini deals on Monday, and much more.

Then, on the following Sunday, walking back home loaded with freshly cleaned laundry, I spotted the chimera cat lying on top of our boat. I'd asked Instagram and Facebook that week what name we should give her and the most popular suggestions were "skipper" and "captain". The little captain did her usual inspection of the whole boat but, this time, jumped on the bed, curled up and went to sleep. I continued with my spring cleaning but once in a while I'd pop my head into the cabin and check on her: sometimes she'd open her eyes and look at me as if to ask "may I help you with something"; at other times she was completely lost in her dreams, her chin pointed up to the cabin's skylight. I wondered if she had fleas, and I wondered if we could add her to our adventure.

On one of our final nights in Haggerston, returning from a pint at The Glory, my boyfriend and I spotted her sitting in the middle of the towpath, just by our narrowboat. I called her and she came to me. Then she climbed the boat and circled my boyfriend's arms as he tried to open the hatch. I felt a little heartless but I lifted her small body and placed her back on the towpath. She looked back at us as if with indifference and then licked one of her paws. Then she scampered away.

Today, while we untied, while it rained, while we chatted to Rob, while we set off for Broadway Market -- our next home for the following two weeks -- I kept an eye out for the little Captain, but I didn't spot her anywhere. I have, however, bought some cat food. It's safely stored inside the narrowboat. The next time our paths cross and she comes inside, I'll be able to offer her a nice little welcoming meal.

Frozen start

About 10 days ago, we set off with the narrowboat on our spring/summer London canal adventure. It was a lovely, balmy day – it seemed like the Beast of the East had gone and winter was nearly over. Our first mooring was just past the infamous Islington tunnel.

A week later, temperatures dropped again. Through grim weather we moved our boat from Islington to Haggerston and found a spot near a friendly Spaniard on a boat with a broken down engine.

Friends of ours have kindly taken us in and won’t let us return to the boat until the weather improves.

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