LIFE on the canal in Uxbridge – a dream for some, definitely not the lifestyle choice of others – is brought to life in our new blog, The Narrow View, by boat dweller Natasha Gorbert-Hopkins.
SAY the word 'boater' and most people think of Rosie and Jim, old men with beards and folk festivals. If they think of anything at all, that is – living on a narrowboat (the long, narrow boats that ply the canals of Britain) is hardly the most common or widely known lifestyle choice.
As a 22 year old female, I’m not really your typical boat-dweller. I’m not really the most enthusiastic boater either: my parents decided to turn to the waterways when I was just a twinkle in their eyes, and – except for a three year stint at university - I’ve been more or less forced to live on them ever since.
Nevertheless, home for me has always been on the Grand Union Canal, in the stretch between Cowley Lock and Uxbridge Lock.
The towpaths, the trees, the neighbours are as familiar to me as I’m sure roads and estates and front gardens are to people who live in houses.
The canal was where my mum brought a chubby-faced baby version of me home from the hospital, the background to my childhood games, the waters that I stared gloomily into in fits of teenage angst.
Until the age of eight, I shared a boat with my parents; when my father moved out, he didn’t stray far, moving on to a narrowboat 10 minutes down the canal. At the age of 16, the fleet expanded further and I moved into my own boat, aptly named Freedom.
This was my beloved home for the next six years, until only a few months ago, when it was sold and I had to – dramatically, tearfully - move out, and begin sharing my father’s 62ft long, 6ft wide narrowboat.
That might sound like a lot of room. It is not.
My cries of: “Oh no, I have to live in a cupboard!” were probably heard reverberating down the canal for days afterwards. If I was 10, I would have been excited that I finally had something in common with Harry Potter, but unfortunately I’m 22 and can say for sure that my Hogwarts letter is not in the post.
Sharing such a small space with my dad, at an age when, let’s face it, I really should have moved out, has been challenging. Don't get me wrong, there are positive aspects to living on a boat. There are also a whole host of negatives.
I will try to provide a balanced, realistic and insightful look into narrowboat life: I’ll try to cover some of my FAQs – How do you get water? Do you have electricity? – as well as some aspects that landlubbers (we don’t really call you that) might not have considered.
Next time: The difficulties of tall boyfriends, the complications of no electricity, attacks by swans, and the infamous - the dreaded - chemical toilets.