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.