Is it just me, or is it normal to feel the older one gets, the faster time seems to fly?
I suspect 2016 will be a year that goes down in history as one of immense and irreversible change, for a multitude of reasons. It also brought a few challenges to Barry and I in our lives less ordinary aboard Areandare, as well as many more magical memories. I’ll certainly be happy to welcome 2017 – I have high hopes for it to be amazing.
In January we left Mercia Marina earlier than expected. Having been invited to take up a trade mooring for the winter; the income we made there only just paid for the monthly morning charge. Consequently this winter we chose to remain ‘on the cut’ – and of course we’ve both been working in kinda ‘proper’ jobs too …
Through much of 2016 we were consumed by the intricacies of the second round of Barry’s UK visa application. Not knowing whether this would be successful or not, it was difficult to make any concrete plans – until August when we heard we’d been successful. It’s such an expensive, long and laborious process. We frequently get irritated by people inferring that everyone else just ‘gets into UK easily’. It doesn’t help us, and it feels unfairly accusatory to anyone who chooses to live in UK, for whatever reason. A recent Guardian article describes the story of an EU citizen after Brexit not getting citizenship. It’s very unnerving to feel you may be split from your husband, because you were each born in different countries. The article alludes to others getting their UK visa easily – we wish!
“Her husband, Robert, raised another issue: that Europeans married to Britons do not have an automatic right to citizenship. “As a British citizen, I had the expectation that marrying someone from abroad would automatically give them the right to become a British citizen. That seems to be the case unless your wife happens to come from the European Union,” he said.”
It was a huge relief to finally get the new visa, which lasts until March 2019. So we’re taking the pressure off a little in 2017, whilst continuing to collect relevant ‘evidence’ of our togetherness, and making plans to continue to meet the strict financial requirements to prove we can support ourselves.
We were excited to feature in a national publication ‘Yours’ magazine, in June – another gem for the memory box when we reflect on our life in years to come.
Family and friends – precious and priceless treasures
For five weeks from mid-January to late February, I relished five precious weeks with my mum in New Zealand, where we commemorated the first anniversary of dad’s death. In my absence, Barry happily meandered to the Llangollen Canal for the first time since 2009, where I caught up with him on my return.
My younger daughter adventurously left Brighton and traveled to Uganda for a teaching contract in July. I’ve not seen her since earlier that month. She fell in love with Africa – looking at the photo below you may see why, it looks amazing. She’s back in UK currently, and I’m hoping to meet up with her next week. She’s accepted another contract in a different part of the African continent from mid-January. There’ll be more on that in the near future, as I’m planning on spending ten days there with her.
My eldest daughter celebrated her 40th birthday in August and I loved sharing the occasion with her and her family – it feels like she’s almost caught me up! That’s what happens when you’re unexpectedly gifted to be a parent as a teenager. It was hard work being such a young mum, but I recognise now how much easier it actually was for me to do it that way – and how I reaped the benefits from when I was the age she is now (I first went to New Zealand alone for nine months, when I was 42 years old).
We’ve welcomed and caught up with so many gorgeous people again this year, from UK and NZ, on our travels …
Aghast in August at thoughtless gossip
Our year was temporarily tainted whilst we were in Blisworth in August.
We were astounded to hear that rumours were being spread about us ‘on the cut’. Apparently we’d ‘borrowed all the funds required for Barry’s visa application‘, and ‘as soon as it comes through we’d be parting‘.
This would’ve been amusing, had it not coincided with Barry’s 2nd round application. It shook me up for a short while (Barry as usual took it all in his stride), and magnified how easily people can make up stories about others – seemingly without any thought of potential consequences. Certainly it made me far more mindful about what I/we share here – though I’ve no desire to be in any way dishonest, it’s against my dearly held values. It seems the fact I’m away from the boat frequently, to support my family (that’s how Barry initially persuaded me of the merits of returning to England after all), led certain folks to feel they had the right to invent something. Those who really know us, wouldn’t have given it a second thought.
Ah well. I live by the 20-60-20 principle generally. It’s very empowering. Around 20% of folks will love you and all you do. Around 20% will dislike (is hate too strong a word?) you and all you do. The remaining 60% are ambivalent – and so can be swayed either way, depending on who they chose to believe – or who shouts the loudest lol! Although we’d all prefer to be liked by everyone, in reality this is impossible. Something it’s in our best interests to accept. As Eleanor Roosevelt said
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
It’s their story.
And so we moved on together enthusiastically, especially once the visa was granted (as it should have been of course, seeing as all the savings required are ours, and we have to provide substantial evidence of this, and that our marriage is solid – also backed up by a whole heap of evidence).
Still seeking sustainability
It’s our wish to be able to support and sustain ourselves living on Areandare, without having to re-join the rat race. Sometimes this is more challenging than others. It’s our choice of course, and anyone who has chosen this way of life understands it’s not as easy as it seems! We still believe it’s worth it. For us.
It was our fourth trading season as The Home Brew Boat and Funtastic Facepainting, and although we went to many of the same festivals, we were also childishly excited to be visiting Liverpool for the first time.
The IWA festival sadly didn’t fulfil our preconceived expectations for a variety of reasons, but nonetheless we enjoyed our time on a new waterway, and met some wonderful people.
During 2016 Barry has begun to focus more on his photography skills, and sourced frames for his larger prints of canal scenes. At the Christmas Floating Market in Birmingham he displayed them proudly along the side of the boat and sold a few, which has inspired his enthusiasm. He’s hopefully going to increase his range of greeting cards too early in 2017.
For me I’ve continued to adore Facepainting, and worked at many of the festivals, as well as attending a three-day convention at The Copthorne in Brierly Hill in September, and most recently the Christmas Shopping Show at Malvern Three Counties Showgrounds for the second time. I chose to do less land based events in 2016, which weren’t canal-related, as I found in 2015 that they just weren’t viable.
Talking of which I finally let go of my Life Coaching business in October. Whether this is temporary or permanent is yet to be confirmed. I’ve struggled with my passion and energy for this, finding it not conducive with living aboard due to numerous challenges.
My planned ‘Return to Midwifery’ was unsurprisingly unsuccessful. Having worked in a vastly different system in New Zealand from 2005 to 2013, and not set foot into the NHS maternity system since the summer of 2004, it felt scarily chaotic, under enormous pressure, and for me too much of a priority on saving money at the expense of woman-centred care. I’d rather preserve memories of my 25-year career – which are primarily positive. During that time I’d been very passionate midwifery, and I soon realised I’m not willing to compromise our life on the boat and being with Barry. It’s a tremendous responsibility to be ‘in charge’ of two people’s lives. You can’t just ‘dabble’ – you have to be competent and confident.
So I let it go, joined Barry working for Calendar Club – and loved it! Although we’ve worked at different stores, it’s been a fascinating experience and one we hope to repeat in late 2017 in some way. Both stores will be taken down on Sunday 8th January, at Merry Hill and Tamworth.
In October, all but one of the Steering Group members of the Roving Canal Traders Association (RCTA) who’d been co-ordinating its activities for a few years, decided to step down. Volunteers were hastily requested. I absolutely wasn’t going to put my hand up, but they needed someone to write their quarterly newsletter, and maintain the website (www.rcta.org.uk), so I thought I could use my skills to help out and give back – and I’d just walked away from the return to midwifery so saw a bit of space. I don’t think any of the traders realised how much energy it would take to continue and build the Association – as with most such things an incredible amount of work goes on ‘behind the scenes’. It was soon realised there was a role of ‘secretary’ that needed to be filled – you won’t be surprised to hear that in the absence of any volunteers I’ve accepted this role too – for now. It does feel very positive to be more involved with floating traders, as I’ve often felt apart from the community. It’s my way of giving something back for the support we’ve had since 2014.
A year of travelling and trading to come in 2017
Our Boat Safety Certificate (BSC) is due for renewal by March, so getting the boat ready for that is Barry’s first priority after 8th January. We’ve got her booked into Hawne Basin for a week from 10th February so we can ‘black her bottom’. It’ll be three years since her last blacking, which is a year too long. Last time we had it done at Tattenhall Marina – this time we’re doing it ourselves which will be an experience. We’re then leaving her at Hawne until early April – we’ve got a week at Northmoor House with my family, then the month of March we’re returning to New Zealand – thankfully together this time.
In April we’re hoping to take few weeks to travel, without trading, before the season begins with St Richard’s Festival in Droitwich at the end of the month. We may finally go down to Gloucester, a route we’ve not taken before.
Another long hoped for place we’ll be visiting is The Falkirk Wheel in Scotland. The lovely Sandra from The Doggie Boat has arranged a gathering of 20 of her friends to join her for her 50th birthday, hiring three narrowboats to enjoy the Scottish waterways for six days mid-July.
Our itinerary for 2017 will hopefully include Droitwich, Fazeley, Mercia Marina, Chester, FAB Middlewich, Linslade (a new festival for us), Blisworth, Merry Hill, BCBF, Tipton, and finally the Huddlesford Gathering.
So much to look forward to!
Barry and I wish everyone a Very Happy New Year, and hope you find joy in whatever way you choose to live and work.