Today we moved Barleywood to Rochester.
It was an exciting experience, tinged with apprehension. Exciting, as we would see Barleywood lifted onto a HGV and taken by road to Gillingham, where she would be re-launched into Gillingham Marina, from where we would take her to Rochester Marina, just by the M2 road bridge. The apprehension due to the fact it was the first time either of us had taken a narrow boat onto tidal waters, and also it was the next (and very real) step to our new life as live-aboard boaters.
Over the last few days I have been formulating this post in my mind and wondering if I would have the courage to actually publish it. Here goes...
There are two reasons we are moving on board.
The first and primary reason, it is a stepping stone to our goal of living on a Dutch Barge.
Steve and I both love boating and being near water. Having spent every spare minute of the last three years on Barleywood, it seems a natural progression to actually live on a boat. Once we had made that decision, it made sense to move onto Barleywood as soon as we could. It will be a test of whether we can cope living in a boat (and when we finally get our Dutch Barge it will have twice as much room as the narrow boat so it will feel like a huge space!) And, of course, there are financial benefits too. Our flat in Bromley (with Council Tax, utilities, insurance and all the associated bills) costs us around £18,000pa from taxed income. We will save over 90% of this by living on board - money which will go directly into our savings and towards buying our dream.
There is, however, another, deeper, reason encouraging me to do this. I am actually finding my consumerist lifestyle not only bordering on excessive but also, at times, somewhat vulgar.
This change is an opportunity to step off the spending merry-go-round and re-evaluate where I am and what is really important in life. Many might call it a 'mid life crisis' - if so, I am happy to be here!
Please indulge me and allow me to explain.
Steve and I are fortunate. We both work hard in jobs we love, and are reasonably well rewarded for our efforts. For obvious reasons, unlike many people of our age, we do not have any of the costs associated with parenthood; no university fees or student loans to subsidise, weddings to pay for, deposits on our children’s homes to help find. As a consequence, we are cash rich. We pay all our bills on time, clear our credit cards in full each month, put money aside for a "rainy day" and what's left we spend. As our earning capacity has increased, so has our spending. And how! There are times I fear we are both working harder than we should, to maintain a lifestyle neither of us can enjoy (as we are always exhausted) and are driven on and on and on, afraid that if we work less we won't have the money to keep going. It's a vicious circle and I want to get off.
What really brought this excess home to me was a post on Facebook about 18 months ago. A young friend in Tunbridge Wells posted that he was 'looking forward to treating himself to a Chinese takeaway." I read this and was amused that anyone should think a Chinese takeaway to be a 'treat' let alone worth recording on Facebook. That week we had probably had a Chinese takeaway, as well as an Indian, perhaps also a Thai, we had eaten out once or twice locally and I had no doubt had several expensive lunches in West Malling and London. Almost as soon as I thought this, I also felt ashamed and sad in equal measure. Ashamed that I should be so dismissive and arrogant, as only few years previously, in the early part of our relationship, Steve and I would have also considered a Chinese meal to be a treat. And sad because here we were, living a lifestyle which most could only dream of, and taking it so much for granted that even lunches at Wilton’s and Rules were now par for the course.
Years ago our weekly trip to Tesco was part of the routine of our domestic life. We not only shopped together, we planned our menu together, cooked together and ate together, too. Now we are "rich and successful" we don't plan our menu, shop or cook together any more. Often we don't eat together either, as one or the other is working late. Our groceries are bought online from Waitrose and delivered by Ocado. Each week we spend on food what we used to spend in a month. Then much of what we buy is thrown in the bin as we don't have the time or energy to cook it. And the reason we don't have the time to shop, cook and eat together? Because we are both working 60+ hours a week to pay for Ocado to deliver our groceries and to pay for meals we eat out as we are both too tired to cook at home. Madness!
So now it's time to slow down and get back in touch with reality. As the old saying goes - it's time to start working to live rather than living to work. For those who know me best, please don't worry - you won't find me in the BOGOF aisle at Asda or drinking Aldi own label Champagne (there are limits). But if we can once again find the time in our lives to cook and eat together, in our lovely boat, with the smell of iodine in the air and the sound of waves and seagulls outside the window, with our little log burning stove providing warmth - then I suspect I will have rediscovered a level of happiness that all the money and Pol Roger and lobsters in the world can't provide.
Wish us luck!