Britta's Letters from (and sometimes about) Berlin

Friday, 4 October 2013

River Flows In You - the Trip on a Narrowboat (Part 1)

Britta Hügel


'My houseboat,' Hodgkins said. 
'Your what?' I asked. 
'Houseboat,' Hodgskin repeated. 'A house built aboard a boat. Or a boat built beneath a house. You live aboard. Nice and practical.' 
Tove Jansson, The Exploits of Moominpappa


Catch your dream of a houseboat trip on an English canal - and you'll drop out of time. 
Yes, I'm back, my friends, but not quite - still walking a little bit above the ripple of water and waves (and fine English Ale). 
Though a houseboat is not as contemplative as everybody predicts. 
I didn't write a line, I didn't draw even one picture, I didn't read anything. 
I just WAS. THERE. In the very moment. 
(You had to be - otherwise you would bump your head at the beam of the small entrance door, or trip over the kerb of the boat - and the water in the canal was looking not that inviting...) 
Now I'll give you a super-boat-trip-recipe: 

You need
- up to 10 people (best when some children are among them, for a while) 
- travel (Holly Go)lightly 
- bring a little bit of sunshine with you 
- though no driver's licence is needed (why should you? The narrowboat is only about 72 feet (= 22m) long, so who cares?) - it is good to have a person who has done it before - we all accepted our captain Matti - and in the best of all possible worlds he will - as he is - also be a connoisseur of beers - Real English Ale - fruity beers, spicy beers, soft beers, and wild beers (I'll come to that point later, Yours Truly announces with the Cheshire cat's grin on her face.) 
- You know you are among the chosen few if you have some excellent guitar players among you, a sweet ukelele, a spectacular drummer, a great saxophonist and some singers - solo singers and background singers, all are welcomed - THEN THE BOAT WILL ROCK!  
We had all we needed: a tiny kitchen, 

Britta Huegel


Britta Huegel

beds, two toilets and one shower (but let's keep quiet about the hair"blower", which got its "energy" from a car cigar jack...). Though I saw an alternative offer on the canal, 

Britta Huegel

I decided to go to a solid hairdresser in Devizes. 
- and we had pubs (which the French friends on the boat called in their charming French accent "pöb" (as the 'ö' in 'further') -- and for the rest of my life I will always be much more drawn into a 'pöb' than a 'pub'. 
All along the canal they invited us: open doors, fancyful decorated, and offering the widest variety of Real English Ale. 

Britta Huegel


Britta Huegel

- And the landscape: you sit and look at the meadows that slowly slide by your side, the cows look dreamily back, the swans and ducks follow your boat, and the boat people-neighbours are oh so friendly. 

Britta Huegel

But life isn't - as every Wayward Taoist knows - only milk and honey - it is Yin and Yang: meaning: locks and swing-bridges. 

Britta Huegel

Britta Huegel

Locks are very, very hard work (as I learned on that day when we were only three people) - after 7 locks I and my knee knew what we had pushed (and please remember: I am the woman who in the fitness studio proudly pushes easily over 140 pounds on the leg press...) 
First you have to open the lock gates, klink, klink, klink, then the narrowboat enters (did I tell you that it is 22 meters long? A normal lock is 22m and 10 cm long - you just fit in). Then one has to close both sides of the lock gates again - the water rushes in (All windows and doors closed?!?) 

To prepare breakfast in the morning for ten people is a challenge - one of us even made "French toast" twice, joyously accompanied by the shrill F sharp major of the fire alarm.  

While you are anxiously waiting if  our maritim engineer (we really had one among us!) will find a way to stop that infernal alarm shreeks, I use this thrilling moment to take a little break - see you soon. 

To be continued. 







16 comments:

  1. Our neice lives on a Dutch barge with two children ..... it's brilliant and beautiful inside Britta { they had two dogs at one time as well !! } ......... happy weekend to you. XXXX

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  2. Dear Jackie,
    to live on such a boat as your niece is very inspiring, I think - and one boat owner showed us his boat, built after his own instructions, that could really allure me to try it. Happy weekend to you too - tomorrow I'll enjoy your latest stunning blog post! XXX

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  3. Dear Britta - I did suspect that you might be having an adventure on a canal boat/narrowboat, but you did a Pub Crawl, as we call it, too!!!
    Yes there is no time to sit and knit or read - it is a case of all hands on deck especially when some members of the party abscond.
    Glad you have had a lovely holiday, good to have you back, and looking forward to Part 2.

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    1. Dear Rosemary, yes, I was somewhat surprised myself - I didn't know about the beer connection, and I was an absolute beginner in this field (but an eager learner). The crew was changing over the week when some of the London people had to work (at very interesting places), or the children go back to London school.
      The next few days I'll be at the Baltic Sea, after that I will write Part 2 - and so my 'life ship' will slowly change pace and get into calmer water. (And the Tao laughs...)

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  4. How exciting! Sorry I missed your trip through BOA.

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    1. Dear Tom, you know that I really regretted to have missed you in Bath. At least we have telephoned - and, now in Berlin, I will look up some talented English Ale brewers here (we have them!) and show you and H.I around when you visit me in Berlin!

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  5. Ah, such an adventure you've had--and lived to tell the tale. (I took an afternoon ride on a canal boat and watched others handle the locks, so I have some sense of the work you had to do there.) Welcome back!

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    1. Dear Susan, it was the best "thing" I experienced since ages - I am so happy! The locks were heavy work - we all know: for everything one always has to pay a price, Happiness is when it is absolutely worth it.

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  6. What fun! I don't know about doing it with nine others, but the premise of combining water, slow boat, slow food and good weather is one I could embrace!

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  7. Dear Pondside, you would have liked it! And for a week I absolutely enjoyed 'a bath in the crowd' - made me feel young, and gave so much fun like a school trip.

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  8. Britta, this was a fantastic post! I love this:

    'I just WAS. THERE. In the very moment.'

    of course, as any good Taoist would ;) but I also loved the 'pob' and the clever use of the cigar jack and giving a fire alarm its proper place on the musical scale. This was wonderful!

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  9. Dear Suze, thank you! I discovered more than one symbol on this canal journey - and learned that a good Real English Ale sometimes can enhance the right Taoist mood - makes me serene and relaxed (though 'sober' might not be the quite appropriate word :-)

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  10. Welcome back! It sounds like you enjoyed quite the adventure, and I'll be looking forward to hearing more of your tales. I've spent time on a friend's houseboat before, and while we had a glorious time, we never left the berth. Not nearly as strenuous as your experiences with the locks...

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  11. Dear Susan, your trip with a friend seems very comfortable! After our adventure, I spent four days with husband in utter luxury at the Baltic Sea - so I recovered in no time.

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  12. Wild Cat ale on the wild English Canals, something tells me raucous behaviour was sandwiched somewhere in between!

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    1. But, Paul - and that is true! - in the end the Bishop of Salisbury gave us his blessing.

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