Replay: The Beginning

Another one from the archives. This was my second post on MyT in September 2008.

The Beginning

My boat owning status is the silver lining of a difficult cloud. My mother is in her late eighties, and prone to various physical and mental frailties that so often accompany longevity. A year ago, she left her riverside bungalow for a small flat in very sheltered accommodation.

We put her house up for sale at almost the exact moment the market crashed. It still hasn’t sold. But at least it’s given me somewhere to stay when I visit her. Not in luxury, but I have a bed and some pans and a plate or two. So I was there, late last summer, sitting on the floor, drinking a glass of wine and watching the ducks and swans go by. I thought how much I should miss the view once the place was sold and started to wonder about the future. Staying with Mum in her flat was a non-starter. The bathroom leads off her bedroom and the light goes on automatically when anyone approaches. In case she wanders, her door is alarmed at night. The chances of me not disturbing her are non-existent.

Maybe the drop in house prices would let me buy a bedsit somewhere nearby. It wouldn’t have to be much. I wasn’t looking for a view, just a spot the cat and I could call our own on our visits east. It seemed a good idea. House prices were less than half those in London where I live, and, even if I had to take out a small mortgage, surely it would be worth it. I’d be able to see Mum, and have a place to stay when I wanted to get out of town.

Back in London I began to surf the property websites. Disappointment; there were no bedsits for sale in the area I was looking. Stubbornly I continued to search, reluctant to give up my new idea. Then, just as I was preparing to concede defeat, up on the screen popped a picture of a boat. It was like a lightbulb going on in my head.

Over the next few days I called everyone I knew who had any boating connections and experience. Generously, they gave me their advice and I wrote it all down, almost filling a notebook.

‘Boats eat money,’ warned my cousin, but I was already hooked. My ignorance and lack of experience of all things nautical cancelled out by the words I had known since childhood: ‘There is nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.’