Wow, it’s autumn already… and the clocks have gone back.

I can’t believe it’s been so long. And a lot’s happened: Boatgirl learned to ride her bike, taking nine days (no stabilisers). She quickly managed to cycle several kilometers and is now confident and stable- a true cyclist!

We did lots of lovely things in the summer: watching Morris dancers outside the pub, pint of cider in hand; a festival or two; a camping trip or three. However it wasn’t until autumn started that we managed to get out on the cut- I had a diesel leak into the engine bilge (a separate section to the main stern bilge, luckily, so diesel wasn’t pumped out into the canal when I pumped the bilge). I also needed my diesel polishing- who knew that you can polish diesel? Anyway, when they started the job my diesel was so gunky that it broke the filter, so there was a delay while they fixed it. There was a leaky return pipe. There was a pressure outlet from the calorifier dripping into the bilge which should have been routed to the outside, so they did that, too. I now have a bitumen-lined bilge which is bone dry, and shiny red diesel with no bugs inside it!

The guys also fitted my solar panels. I’m so pleased, these things are efficient enough that I’ve managed to charge my phone overnight! Even now, in November, the batteries are fully charged when I get home (even though I’m not convinced my battery charger is now working- it used to make a lot of whirring noises and now it’s silent.). Two 100W monocrystalline panels. Even out on the towpath, with the awful cheap fridge I’ve (still) got, I could go out and leave the inverter on and come back to charged batteries. The only thing I can’t do is run the immersion, so at the moment I still need to run the engine to heat the water- it’s progress though!

It’s true that boating’s expensive. The work on the engine plus the panels cost me the best part of a grand, and I’ve just booked dry dock and blacking for February- that’ll be another nearly £1500. I’m trying to save, but life likes to keep us on our toes, so we had a car repair bill last month, and Christmas is coming, and…

But to be honest, living on the boat I feel so rich. So very blessed in our lives: I wake up and climb out into the dawn and feel incredibly thankful that this is my life, my place. I wouldn’t swap it now- well, maybe I’d grab a bit of bank to put a shed on with a decent kitchen, and a couple of chickens! But I feel the boaty life is for me now. Boat Girl saw me deleting an email from Rightmove recently- I haven’t cancelled my updates, I really must- “Mummy, are you looking for a house for us?” she asked. “No,” I said, “would you like me to?”
“No,” she said. “I like our boat.”

She’s not the only one. Everyone who’s been aboard has fallen for her (despite our clutter. Or maybe they’re very kind liars!) and some of the children at school have been desperately imagining what it might be like. Some of them have found out, but we can’t invite people when it’s wet- only in the dry weather. It would have to be a fairly linear party otherwise!

It’s a wonderful lifestyle. I’m missing my outdoor time now that I’m back at work. Autumn here is stunning. The towpath was calm and quiet and peaceful. We started needing a fire in in the evenings, despite the warm days; I don’t mind those chores, the lifting and carrying and sweeping, I relish them for the practical and immediate value they have in warming us, and in the sensual value of the smell of woodsmoke curling from the chimney, the lovely fragrance lightly perfuming our hair and clothes.

We get lovely early-morning mists, we’ve had heaps of blackberries, hips and haws and mellow fruitfulness, and the gorgeous trees in their colours, all accompanied by the incomparable smell of autumn. Last night we had a little Hallowe’en party/ Autumn celebration for some of the boat children and a few from school, with soup and sausages and buckwheat pancakes, cooked partly over the fire bowl and partly in my little kitchen. The dew came down suddenly, with the darkness at five o’clock, after what had been a mellow and golden afternoon, but that was perfect for the celebration. The children loved it, and as we went to bed, our pumpkins guarded us from the spirits wandering the world of the living…



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