Saturday, 9 March 2019

We've Gone Off Grid

This post was meant to go out a while ago, when the headline was "We're Getting There". I had to change it to what it is now, because we got there (work wise): The kitchen is done, the canopy is on, the batteries are fixed and the wiring finished. The heating is working, and the solar panels are drawing in most of the energy we need. 😅

It wasn't a very nice time. It was Winter, and we had lots of work done and therefore little privacy and lots of DDS (dust, dirt and stress). Our start into boat life certainly didn't go as well as we had imagined it. Ewan has chest pains (no, it's not the heart) and suffers exhaustion and is therefore written off sick for 2 weeks; and my neck has played up again, nearly as bad as it was 1.5 years ago, when it all started to go downhill with my spine; and my lower back is constantly in pain. Yes, it's another moany post, I'm afraid. And it goes on, I'm afraid, because now we're back in Abingdon, off grid, moored near Abingdon Bridge, and, despite the place being amazing, the weather is really not so good to us, rocking us about like nothing else. I'm constantly in a state of 'emergency', which can't be healthy. Ewan is much more relaxed, feels safe, and he's really enjoying some time off. He needed that so much.

I think, if we now were physically fit, we would actually start enjoying ourselves. When the sun is out, it's glorious here, and when the stars are out, the sky looks just magical. It just has to get a bit warmer, still.

So, really, we haven't quite got there. I'm sure we will, though. Once the winds ease and the sun comes out more, we'll feel so much better. I hope we're not delusional. The few things that still need to be organised, are
- getting the name onto the boat,
- getting the bow thruster repaired,
- getting the hull inspected.

Here are some impressions of the work site and new kitchen:

I know, it's natural that chaos comes before order, but it was annoying anyway.
The gas pipe and regulator had to be replaced, so, for about 4 weeks we could only use a camping cooker.
New fridge, new freezer, new gas hob, new LPG gas oven, new microwave and new fronts.
Oh joy!
But then.... looked pretty much as we had imagined it.
The worktops have been covered with a special sparkling laminate.
And - just so you remember, this is what it looked like before:

Some people would have preferred this style. But we love it in Ash wood with red worktops.
I just didn't like the cold, black and white, male look to the space. Now it's looking and feeling warm. The new red rugs help, too. We also decided to get rid of the big 3-seater sofa, as I just couldn't get comfortable on that. We replaced it with a two-seater sofa bed, which we are very happy about. Sitting is much more comfy now. 

So much more us.
Now we're moored in this very beautiful spot in Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. On the photos below you can see the end of the garden of the Nag's Head pub. Normally we're only allowed there for 3 days, but we intend to stay until we're being moved on, because of the very windy weather. We're pretty much in the heart of Abingdon right now, which is very convenient and still so lovely. I'm so glad that Ewan's brother Duncan was available and happy to help us move the boat from Shillingford. I was still a bit nervous from the last experience. But now I'm feeling much more confident again.

Two confident males and a scared dog.
Moored opposite Abbey Gardens.

It's such a beautiful spot.
We'll enjoy another week of Ewan being off now, and the whole coming weekend we'll be celebrating Ewan's 60th birthday by having an Open Boat. We're both looking forward to that. Although, where the heck shall we store all the food and drink?? And where will they all sit? What if it rains? Saturday will be party night. We have no clue at all how we're going to make this work. But I do want to stop worrying all the time. Therefore, I shall be prepared as best as I can and leave everything else to fate.

Love to you All 💖

Monday, 28 January 2019

Work Site

Hello everyone,

It's been a while again. Sitting down and just writing seems a luxury at the moment. My (our) life has been so stressful recently that I feel we need another holiday.

Don't know where to start, so I will just start with the heating. It's still not working. We've had an engineer out twice and an electrician too. They came to the conclusion that it's the original wiring, and that we need to have it re-wired. Apparently Viking boats are made in Poland, with Polish standards, not English. God knows what that means. Anyway, a new loom has been ordered, and the engineer will come back this Thursday to start the job. Fingers crossed, we'll finally have a warm boat this coming weekend. It is getting to me that we have to have electric heaters plugged in, which draw a lot of electricity, which has been costing us £10 a day. The wood burner is going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we're still not warm in places. The floor is ice cold, and the 2 bathrooms are not exactly warm either. This particular job will have cost us an unexpected ca £1500, we think.

We had ordered 5 smart lithium batteries and the necessary kit to wire them in. Early January the electrician came with 4 only, as the 5th had tested faulty. During 4 very long days of putting the wiring in while it was very cold out there was also a test to my poor nerves. I'm not really complaining, as the kind soul didn't charge us a penny for the work, only for the batteries, the gadgets, the wiring and the accommodation. That came to over £10,000 (! - Yes, it's true. But these batteries are supposed to be good for about 20 years). So, we're very grateful indeed that this wonderful chap never charged for his workmanship. Still, it was stressful for both of us, as Ewan had to shadow him all the time in order to help when necessary, and I had to put up with the space looking as if a bomb had exploded. We're still waiting for the 5th battery; and some more wiring needs doing, which - he thinks - will take another 2 days work. This will hopefully be finished by mid/end February.

The boys sorting the batteries and me keeping the bellies filled

Six solar panels have been installed, tilting ones, and there seemed to be no problem at all. Took the young man a full day's work into the night, but it's working. We can't use solar energy yet, as we're still plugged in at the Hotel due to the electric heaters drawing so much. But it will be so fantastic to know we're using solar power for most of our electricity in future.

The canopy has been measured up, finally, 2 weeks ago, and apparently it's being fitted tomorrow (29th January). We're very excited about that, as the forecast is snow, and it will add to the boat's warmth and to our comfort.

This is just the frame for measuring the canvas which will cover it.

It'll look soooo lovely and will give us more room, especially for our dirty shoes.

Kinver seem to be doing a splendid job. It took them ages, though.

Poor lad, he had some difficulty in doing this job, as it was quite windy that day.

Last, but not least, we've had a kitchen fitter round since 21st January, and there's now light at the end of that particular tunnel, too. As you might have seen, the kitchen was black and white. We're changing it to ash wood with sparkling-red worktops. We've taken the electric oven out and replace the half-gas-half-induction hob to a full gas hob, so we don't use electricity when cooking/baking; we've replaced the dishwasher with a free-standing freezer, and we've replaced the built-in fridge with a free-standing one, as it gives us more fridge space. We hope it's finished by the end of this week. It already looks just like I had envisaged it, and - again - I can't wait for it to be done. The new LPG gas cooker and hob need plumbing in professionally. We've been let down this morning, but it will be done this week. In the meantime, we're using our new microwave for heating up food. I'll post the piccies when the kitchen is finished.

My health is not so good. My body is aching all the time, and I find it hard to get up and out of bed in the mornings. I feel stressed by everything, especially the cold, and I wonder if that is contributing to my achy bones. Ewan is not feeling much better either, unfortunately, and I'm beginning to worry about him. We do have good times on Coddiwomple, especially when we've got friends over. But we also have a good go at each other for nothing at times. The stress of the past 4 months is taking its toll. I know we'll get through it. But in the meantime we're just surviving, it seems.

Just a reminder, what our boat name actually means. We're looking forward to travelling purposefully.

My business is picking up. I'm a Life Coach and Family Systems Therapist, and for the first time since I've gone full-time self-employed, over 3 years ago, I'm feeling it coming on. That is a huge shift, and it feels fabulous. Having to deal with work, though, as well as everything else, adds of course to the load we're dealing with at the moment.

I can hear your "aaaaw"s LOL. Yes, it's not been easy.

My new flyer - A bit of shameless self promotion.

I do hope I've done a good enough job, so people understand what I'm offering, professionally.

Ewan is constantly making sure that we've got enough wood and water, he's also been amazing at shifting stuff around, so we have been able to use the boat as a living space. He is and remains my rock and my hero.

Our boating community, The Shillies, as we call ourselves, is just so lovely. One of them, Tim, is a homeopath, and we're helping each other with our issues. I'm totally into homeopathy, as it does help me and has always helped my young children, when they still believed in what mummy believed in.

Finally, I'm posting a few lovely pictures I've been taking during walks. Not only when the sun is out, nature is such a source of inspiration and strength.

Our amazing view in the sunlight onto Shillingford Bridge

Light and shade along the Thames Path between Shillingford and Benson

Jack's view

Reminds me that reflection is good practice, and mindful walks help

A beautiful berry dress, a welcome colourful spot in the wintry scene

A stranded narrowboat. Nature is conquering it back. Wondering what the story is behind this scene.

Beautiful reflection in the sunlight

I love willow trees; they're like fun curtains ;)

Life and Death next to each other, as it should be. Both beautiful and natural.

Grass is so resilient

Who doesn't love the look of snow drops

Is that a sign of Spring coming soon?

A bed of snow drops in a garden in Warborough - Stunning!

A very windy day on 27/01/19. Lucky it flew no further than the owner's garden.

Thanks a lot for reading and please always feel free to comment below. Oh, and remember to click "follow" on the right (if you're reading this on your phone, I have no idea if you can, actually).

Till soon,

This is a Facebook group that I host:

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

A Not So Happy Post

It's Winter. And I'm feeling all those familiar lows that come with short, dark, rainy and cold days. I don't think I suffer from SAD, but I certainly feel a huge lift when the sun is out. But there's much more to the lows than the weather, which - of course - confronts us with heating issues. By the way - as I'm writing on my laptop, whenever I'm pondering, I look up and I see the river flowing past my round window and the river bank on the opposite side. It's always such a lovely view, whatever the weather. It has probably become one of my favourite places to be on the boat. Anyway - where was I? Ah, the lows. Yes, recently I've been up and down a lot, probably more down in the valleys of emotions. This new life of ours - yes - I wanted it. And I still do. Now comes the 'but'. But I also feel constantly challenged by so many little things. The biggest challenge is when Ewan says: "Let's take the boat out." My body goes into complete shock before I feel the fear creeping up in me. What if we bump into a bridge, another boat or the river bank? What if Ewan panics - I have no clue how to maneuver this monstrosity, nor would I be at his end fast enough to help avoid a collision. Usually, as soon as we set off I start feeling more at ease, knowing that my man is feeling confident and happy with moving and mooring her. We have walkie-talkies, so we can communicate, as he's at the stern end and I'm at the bow end. That helps enormously. Yesterday we moved Coddiwomple just from Shillingford to Benson, a journey, which takes just under half an hour one way. We needed to pump out. Ewan was amazing, but there was one moment when I thought we were heading straight into a boat by the river bank; we were going sideways instead following the stream. We would have crushed it, if Ewan hadn't last minute re-gained control over our 37 ton vessel. As always, he managed it well. When we were back home, I was completely exhausted from the stresses of stressing. I am trying to stay calm and focused, and I think I kind of am, but man do I worry. There are moments while moving, when I just feel totally amazing and happy, and I am then looking forward to summer, when we'll be moving about much more. But in windy, rainy weather conditions, I feel our boat is becoming more like a weapon when we move. I am so incredibly proud of Ewan and his confidence. Without him being my rock (as ever) I would have already run away screaming (not sure where, but honestly I would have). I just also want to mention that our dog Jack is always completely freaked out when the engine starts, until it turns off again. He shivers the whole way, bless him.

The constant awareness of limited water, power, limited sewerage tank space, gas supply and wood/coal - I'd never been confronted with that before. Water was always available, so was heating, electricity and sewerage. I never thought about it much. Now I do. I pee into a bucket, I poo at the hotel, and I ask our guests not to flush and use a bin for used paper; I shower rarely (don't worry, I do wash properly), I use washing up water twice or top up with hot water from a kettle; I have to get drinking water from the hotel every 5 to 6 days; I have to think about when and which way to heat, so that I'll be warm going to bed and getting up .... It goes on and on.

Recently I went to a women's meeting, and one of them had lived on a narrow boat for 6 years, so we got chatting. She warned me that Shillingford Bridge Hotel's garden floods from time to time, and that we then would need poles between river bank and boat, so that the boat wouldn't drift into the garden, and that we needed a dinghy to get from boat to land. That set me off into fight and flight mode, and I couldn't sleep that night. Just imagining myself floating meters away from the land and having to get into an unstable inflatable boat with my dog, just when he needs to do his business..... Oh God Almighty!

Yes. I'm finding this hard. I admit it. Now you can have the last laugh.

But I'm not defeated. I'll soldier on with my knight in shining armour. Because Spring and Summer will make it all worth it. I see that going into this venture at the end of September wasn't the best move, as dealing with Winter as newbies really is hard. We still have no canopy, and Kinver are so bloody slow, I think they might actually have forgotten about us or can't be bothered. We still have no working batteries and have to be plugged in all the time, which costs us about £100 per month. And no solar panels either, yet. All ordered. All happening in January, we hope.

So, now is the time for some good news and another 'but':

But, we have an amazing community here at Shillingford Bridge. It really is so lovely to know these special people and feeling the support and friendship. We are not alone. The hotel staff are also very welcoming and nice.

This place is absolutely beautiful; our views stunning. The swan (we call her/him Lesley) comes on a fairly regular basis, and we feed him/her duck food. We enjoy the wildlife, the sounds/noises, and seeing it. Often at night we hear an owl - magic. It's quiet; no noisy, horrible neighbours. The walks round here are gorgeous. Ewan and I are going strong. I have time to heal my body and do the occasional coaching with clients. We have no mortgage no more, no money worries. I enjoy the slow life. I love it when friends and family are with us on Coddiwomple. We have wonderful times together and so much laughter. The Wi-Fi works, slow, but working. By the way - we have a Mi-Fi box from TP Link with a Sim card from - "All you can eat", which means unlimited data for £25 monthly. The best deal on the market here. The TV is working. Glad we kept it LOL. Winter nights can be quite long.

So here goes. I'll get through my struggles, I'm sure. It's probably mainly my physical issues that bring me down. So much pain all the time.

Lots of love to you all,

Monday, 22 October 2018

A Dream Has Come True

So, let me introduce you to .... Coddiwomple.

Yes, you've read that right. To coddiwomple = to travel in a purposeful manner to a vague destination. We love that word, we did from the first time we heard someone use it ("....coddiwomplin' around...."). It's kind of unbelievable that no-one had yet registered it with the Environment Agency. We secured it nearly a year ago, and now she's ours.

This is where she was delivered  by her former owner and his crew; Abingdon-on-Thames, by Abingdon Bridge, opposite Annie's Boathouse Cafe. The previous owner, John, took pleasure in a last cruise with her and offered to deliver her to us (just asked for expenses), while we were on holiday in Croatia. So, when we came back, we found her like this on a beautiful Monday morning:

Our hearts were pounding, as we approached and stepped onto her for the first time with our own keys, as the owners. Very exciting indeed. I had asked Ewan to play "Millenium" (by Robbie Williams) and carry me down the steps, inside. He played Millenium, but he didn't carry me down the steps (boooh). I forgave him instantly; I am a very heavy girl. Instead, we hugged and danced inside our new home and were just totally overjoyed. Our dream had come true. We did it!

That was on the 21st of September 2018. It will go into history as one of our biggest mile stones, and we're proud as Harry.

Here are a few pics from the inside:

Yes, you're looking at an en-suite bathroom. And - guess what, ... we have another bathroom. Yes. Two showers, two toilets. That's what I call luxury.

Reality kicked in quite quickly, when we had to realise that Coddiwomple was not made to be off-grid. At all. We discovered 5 starter batteries, instead of 1 starter and 4 leisure batteries. Apart from the starter battery for the engine, the rest of them were knackered, didn't hold any power. We had to plug in somewhere. The closest, affordable and available spot we found was here:

Shillingford Bridge Hotel, near Wallingford, Oxfordshire. How lucky are we???!!!

But we couldn't go before we welcomed my oldest daughter and her husband, who came for a week's holiday from Germany. On Friday morning (28. Sept), with the help of 2 wonderful friends, Martin & Janet, we emptied and filled the boat up at Abingdon Lock (filling up took 1 hour!!!) and then set off to Shillingford. A beautiful 3-hour journey in the sunshine - that was just glorious, and again, very exciting. I felt so happy, and Coddiwomple moved so easily through the river. My daughter and her hubby shared the happiness with us, that was very special indeed.

Once we paid our dues and charged the power station, we were finally able to use our appliances. Up until then I toasted my bread like this 😂:

Fortunately she has 2 gas hobs and a wood burner, so we could cook and be warm, before we plugged in.

After my daughter +1 had left, we smelled the fumes coming out of the sewage tank very strongly - urgh - very horrible. So, not long after we had moored up, we needed to go and pump out again. That made us realise how careful we need to be with 'businesses'. Luckily, there was a space at Benson's "Le Boat" rental. They were ever so sweet and helpful. And we had our first ever cruise on our own, even though it was only half an hour 😉. I had been so nervous, but Ewan is a natural. He moved, turned and moored her so smoothly - I was well impressed. Me at the bow, giving hand signs. We're a good team.

This is the view onto the Hotel garden:

Our lovely neighbour, Tim, has since moved to the other side of the bridge, as he got a space with free electricity, lucky him. We won't get a space there this year, unless we're very lucky. Seems like we're paying about £100 per month for power. But that's okay, given the rent at this mooring is very affordable.

The vinyl signs are in the making, the stern canopy as well (might take 3 months though). Talking to the boaters community on Facebook, we found an absolute earth angel, Graham Mills, who is helping us sort out our batteries, power and solar power needs. He's already been for one morning, and he'll come back on Friday for a full audit, as we're totally dumb-arses when it comes to electricity. He's not charging any more than his expenses, as he's retired, wants to be impartial and unbiased, wants to help dummies like us and has "enough money - don't need more".  We can't believe our luck. What a great community the boaters are. Totally wonderful.

Look at Captain Ewan - he's smiling like a HoneyCakeHorse (Honigkuchenpferd - German expression for someone who's smile couldn't be broader). Last Friday, we took her back to Abingdon for another pump-out and Diesel fill-up. In the meantime we've discovered that we can fill up with water for free at the hotel (yippeeh). The weather was  f a b u l o u s. We stayed a night and went back on Saturday - another warm, sunny day. And this is what the Missus did:

Well - not all the time 😄 But it seems that I get a lot more relaxation while Ewan is doing all the hard work. Yes, I am very grateful indeed. But I seem to always prepare meals and constantly keep her clean, which is not to be underestimated, given that a lot of grass and dirt comes in with paws and shoes all the time; and the wood burner makes the space very dusty indeed.

This is what happiness looks (and feels) like to me:

We've been on Coddiwomple for almost a month now. And we both honestly haven't looked back, not one millionth of a second. This is what we wanted, with all it's discomfort, challenges, stresses, worries ... and ... wonderfulness. Life has indeed slowed down big time. We love the convenience of having the hotel here and that we can park both the private car and the work van. The Hotel staff are so accommodating, friendly and welcoming - it's fantastic. Wallingford is delightful with its Cafes and independent stores. My life couldn't be richer. So many friends and family have already paid us a visit and compliments, and many more to come. Sharing Coddiwomple with others is what makes our life even more amazing.

And the walks around here .... Have a look yourself:


And the views from the barge on sunny days/nights:

Speaks for itself, right?

Jack is a very happy boy:

We also love our new pets:

Not to forget the ducks, who also come to be fed. I've seen my first Kingfisher - Oh my God - I was so excited, I screamed. Ewan thought I had hurt myself LOL. And so many herons and other river birds.

I'm sorry I didn't post earlier. I had to settle in a little bit first, and we had to deal with so many things, like Wi-Fi, accessories, wood, lots of visitors, getting stuff to work etc etc. I went through several worries, mainly at night, having thoughts of her sinking or leaking, the water pump stopping to work, the toilets stopping to work, the heating stopping to work ..... LOL. But that has all calmed down. It was just new. And I call it growing pains. I've been expanding, and I have no intention to stop here.

I intend to post more frequently from now. Looking forward to your comments and getting to know more of the boating community. In the meantime: