Sunday, 17 February 2013

Taking stock - six months afloat!

The title of this blog is Diary of a Conservative Party Agent and Live Aboard Boater. My original aim was to blog about my life in the back rooms of party politics and also our new life living on a boat. Looking back I do plenty of the former, but very little of the later. Perhaps because our lives transferred so easily from land to water there is little to blog about, but as we have now been 'live-aboard' for six months, perhaps it's a time for a review.

Firstly, here is a very early blog post about why we were leaving dry land to live on our boat: It's worth a read to understand why we are here.

So, after six months, how is life afloat?

Firstly, the practicalities. As I hoped and expected, we have both adapted to a 90% reduction in our living space remarkably well. In fact, considering neither of us would win a Twiggy look-alike competition, and we spend much of our time moving around sideways, then it is testament to our love and friendship that we so easily live in such a confined space without rows or rancour! In summer we had the advantage of outside - there is no better way to spend a warm evening or a sunny day off than sitting in a comfortable chair by the river, with the sound of lapping waves, reading a book, dozing in the sun and eating alfresco by candlelight. The cold months are a lot more challenging - but there are far worse ways of spending a cold winter night than watching a DVD on a timber lined boat with a roaring log fire in the stove. However, it is not all plain sailing. Our 240v electricity comes on board via a shoreline, which is shared with four other boaters. If anyone overloads their fuse, the power goes out for all four who share that ring. This is not a catastrophe, but it does mean a cold dark walk with a torch to reset the trip switch. What is very annoying, however, is if the fuses trip at 5am during sleep, as we then awaken to a freezing cold boat as the heating has not come on, and what's worse - no hot water. Not a great start to the day - but thankfully it's only happened twice.

In my original blog I wrote about our dreadfully wasteful and consumerist lifestyle. My hopes here are also coming to fruition. Though we don't have time to shop together and plan our meals, Steve and I eat together, and eat food we have bought and cooked for ourselves, twice as often as we previously did. A small fridge and no freezer results in less waste, as we shop for one or two days at a time. And our consumption of energy had reduced significantly. Our electricity is about the same, gas charges have reduced from £80pcm to £15, we have zero water or waste water disposal charges and Council Tax is £600pa less than we paid in Bromley. Overall, a saving of about £2,000 pa (though, through the winter months this is offset by £40pcm on coal and timber for the stove). The biggest saving, however, is not paying rent (out of taxed income) for our flat. And, I am delighted to say, every penny we have reduced our expenditure by we are saving towards our goal of buying a Dutch Barge next year! All is going to plan.

But living on a boat, and quite a small boat at that, is not all rosy, and it would be dishonest of me not to record some of the negatives. At times it can be claustrophobic, and the lack of space to simply get away and read a book, or sit in peace and think can be challenging. Similarly, when one of us has to work late (usually me) or leave early (usually Steve) this inevitably results in disturbance and inconvenience to the other, something far easier to manage when we lived in a large flat. And, on a personal and purely selfish level, I really hate being parted from my books. So often I would be watching a TV documentary, reading a newspaper or magazine or a biography and I would end up taking down all the relevant books and journals dealing with that period time or issue, to see how others had recorded their own versions of history. But this is a small (and temporary) price to pay for the all the benefits we have achieved.

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