Saturday, 14 July 2012

Have we found The Big Society (or perhaps it's Royston Vasey)

We took several more packing cases of our personal belongings to Barleywood today, including family photographs and the contents of the booze cupboard! The Bromley flat is looking increasingly 'empty" and soulless as more and more of our life is moved either into storage or onto the boat. Very soon we will make the personal journey along with two grumpy cats!
We've either found paradise or stumbled into Royston Vasey.
Time will tell.
Earlier this week I blogged about my hopes that Barleywood would not just represent a change of abode, but a change of life too, and I am pleased that today we saw evidence of how such a lifestyle had affected others.

Dotted around Medway Bridge Marina there are no fewer than 60 residential boaters. They (we) live on all manner of craft. Some live on luxurious Dutch Barges or wide beam narrow boats. Others (like us) on traditional narrow boats. There are cruisers, converted barges, a converted light ship and a few monstrosities propped up on stilts or on hard standing which have not seen the water in decades (and would probably sink). There is also a retired 1930s Rhine Cruising Ship (now renamed The Sovereign) which has been converted into a luxurious Bed & Breakfast. See HERE 

Several of the other residents made the effort to come and say hello today - which was lovely. We have lived in our Bromley flat for over four years now and, apart from the couple in the adjoining flat who moved in at the same time as us, we don't know the names of any of our neighbours. Today we met the women who live on boat moored opposite to ours - one is a police officer in Chatham and the other a self employed painter. We also met a retired Special Branch officer who has lived on a barge with his family for ten years. Others on the same pontoon as us include a solicitor, a para-medic and a self employed caterer. Someone else explained that dotted around the boatyard are qualified marine tradesmen of all hues who will do work on a bartering system (hopefully someone will fix our leaking radiator in exchange for a 25% discount off their funeral). It's almost as if a micro-community has developed. From a sociological perspective, I am fascinated to see how this works; how residents interact with each other and how efficient this system is (even on this small scale). Perhaps I have found a microcosm of Murray Rothbard's anarcho-capitalism?

Just two other little stories which, I hope, show the type of community we are moving to.

Within the marina there are several small businesses including a chandlery, a cafe / tea room and a bar. Last Wednesday I popped into the chandlery to buy a power cable, which cost £25.00. Their card machine wasn't working and I didn't have enough cash. Without any hesitation, the owner said, "don't worry - drop the cash in next time you are here." And today I was searching my pockets for a £1 coin for a trolley to wheel boxes from the car to the boat. A chap I have never seen before saw me rummaging and offered me a £1 coin, with a cheery "let me have it back when I see you next." Two small acts of trust and kindness I suspect would not have happened elsewhere.

Perhaps I am looking at this through rose-tinted glasses. It may transpire to be some dystopian nightmare (like the League of Gentlemen's Royston Vasey). Time will tell, but I am feeling hopeful.

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