Why socialising is a terrible idea.

The cool kids.  You find them almost everywhere you go.  Schools, workplaces, sports teams, residential marinas.  South Bank at Sawley is no different.  Throughout the summer, a group of boat dwellers has congregated most nights for beverages and frivolity, leaving me to look on a little enviously at their community, and managing a smile and squeaked ‘hello’ as I scurry past them.    A dozen times, I told myself to just go and join them (how hard could that be?), and a dozen times I watched a box set instead (I can particularly recommend all of ‘Gavin and Stacey’ and at least the first three seasons of ‘Weeds’).

Then last weekend, I had a social breakthrough.  I was having a particularly gregarious day on South Bank, having already had a beer with one neighbour whilst sorting out my share of the communal coal order, and then being convinced by another neighbour that I wanted to sell him my draughtsman’s table.  (I didn’t really, but he still managed to talk me into it, disarming me with an array of anecdotes from his past.  He was part of the team that designed the Channel Tunnel, and then built houses in Mexico.)  So maybe I didn’t scurry quite as quickly past the collective, riding high on my unprecedented levels of chumminess with my fellow narrowboaters.  One of them said hello and introduced herself, and I finally had a foot in the door.

They were lovely; there was idle chitchat, and then one of them – who works in the narrowboat industry – asked me about the work I had recently had done on the boat (referring to the hole in the engine).  He already seemed to know the nature of the problem, and wanted to know how that problem had been fixed.  I gave him a summary of the story, and the cost, hoping he would say that it seemed reasonable for an engine hole disaster (but knowing deep-down that was not going to be his reaction).  Instead of replacing the whole case (£700ish for the part alone), he reckoned the hole could have been welded for £40.  The conversation that ensued made me doubt every patch up job I had undertaken or commissioned. When you know as little about boats as me, then how do you know when someone’s taking you for a ride, someone’s well-intentioned but just not that good, or someone actually knows what they’re talking about?  If there’s something weird and it don’t look good, I no longer know who to call.

Now thanks to my afternoon of socialising I don’t have a beautiful draughtsman’s table (albeit not being used in my garden) and will have replaced it with a coal mountain come autumn.   The full cost of my boat naivety has been exposed (please, please, please let that be the full cost).  Talking to people is overrated, and I miss my days of blissful ignorance enjoying lighthearted banter on the TV about the merits of oven gloves over tea towels, or the cost of marijuana.    From here on it’s just me and the boxsets.

Unless it’s a sunny day.  You can’t be a hermit on a sunny day.

Or I get asked a direct question (like ‘how are you?’ or ‘would you like a drink?’).  Rudeness would be uncalled for.

Or I discover another hole.  In rough seas, the kindness of my neighbours keeps me afloat.

Maybe I will be spending less time with the boxsets after all.

This blog post was brought to you by ‘Ghostbusters’ by Ray Parker Jr.

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Back to the future

When I play the ‘what super power would you have’ game, I usually pick time travel. Sometimes I go for flying, but often get put off at the thought of having bugs and larger creatures crashing into my face mid-air.  This last week has made me think that maybe I’m not cut out for time travel.

At this point, I would love to launch into a story of how I found a mystery switch on the boat, or how I sailed into a vortex on the river Trent.  Sadly that is not the way this blogpost is going to turn out (but I live in hope still that one of these posts will run along those lines).  This edition of the Double Fracture Daily is all about my week moored outside the dry dock, and the challenge of living without some modern conveniences.

Challenge number one: cold showers

At Sawley, there is a lovely toilet block, with a shower that rates as one of my top three of all time.  The boat yard had no such block, and I only get hot water on the boat if I have been running the engine or the heating.  “This may work out well,” I thought the first night (a week after I had last run the engine), after I came home after a 12-hour shift on a particularly sweaty ward.  “A cold shower is just what I need.”  It was not what I needed.  From then on I showered at the hospital or my parents’ house (they continue to wonder when I genuinely will have moved out.  I’m conservatively predicting my late 50s).

Challenge number two: limited electricity

I had no mains hook-up, so the only things providing electricity were the batteries. And the only thing charging the batteries was my solar panel.  Many months ago I did a little bit of research into solar panels before I bought Double Fracture, and the general advice I got was a 200W solar panel would about cover a liveaboard’s electricity needs. So obviously when it came to replacing my stolen panel, I forgot about all my cursory research and went with the first quote I got for an 80W panel.  Which was about enough to give me an hour’s power in the evening.  Two if I turned off the fridge.

Challenge number three: no internet

No online access meant no catch up TV, no mindless Facebook browsing and no trawling Airbnb planning holidays I don’t have enough annual leave or funds for.  Which lead me to a less hi-tech evening activity – reading.  20 years after it was the cult book of the moment, I caught up on ‘The Beach’ (very readable, liked it more than ‘Lord of the Flies’, will definitely watch the film once electricity has been restored), and finally gave in to the next ‘Game of Thrones’ book.  (Jon Snow knows a lot more than nothing for a fifteen-year-old.)

My week of living in the past is now over and I’m loving (not hyperbole, actually loving) having hot showers and a cold fridge.  When I do find that mystery switch on Double Fracture, my time travel exploits may be limited to day trips only.  But I think I’ll read this evening instead of Facebooking (after I post the blog link.  Obviously.)

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Nights in white satin‘ by the Moody Blues.