I was sitting by the Thames yesterday watching the day unfold and across the water there was a line up of House Boats. Given the appalling rents in London I reckon that living on a boat could be an excellent opportunity for folk on basic wages to make ends meet. And as an added bonus, it might be a bit of a romantic interlude.
For more than 20 years I rocked myself to sleep on a very wobbly waterbed, and I found it soothing and comfortable and occasionally very exciting, like when Steve popped over to Oz for his first visit and without going into too many lurid detail, the fucking bed fell apart, cos in my girl's haste to put it together, she had missed some integral steps and there was that legendary heap of unused fixings in a little plastic bag which I had ignored and she had not found it necessary to explain.
Anyway it seems pretty clear that sleeping on a waterbed is quite a polarising proposition, so too it must be for folk considering living on a river boat. For me I reckon at least in the abstract, it would be lovely to be rocked to sleep every night.
But the abstract is rarely the reality.
I remember fondly going for weekends on the old wooden hulled girl, The Tiku. Dad and I were the only ones out of 5 who enjoyed it. I slept on a converted bench seat outside and I could hear the water slapping away on the hull. Yeh it was lovely, except for the constant stink of the diesel, and the rather shitful food and the overwhelming aggravation which spilled out of the others and then perhaps the piece de resistence was the bucket toilet facilities. It was not always ideal, but it was only for a few days - not for the foreseeable future as for the folk on the riverboats at Kingston.
The reality here is that sound travels across the water so as the boats are all tethered together, either the residents are all very friendly or they are church mouse quiet.
It gets pretty chilly in London during the winter and I rather doubt that there is effective central heating, so Ugg boots and doonas would be a necessary expense and not just for the permanent residents. There must surely be a little basket of 'to be borrowed' stuff for visitors, or maybe visitors are limited to the summer when Pimms on the deck is the way to go.
I reckon damp would be an issue again specially in the rainy old winter and the smell of that would be all pervading, which is ok for fisher people but not so good for the suited and booted city workers.
So as I sat and watched the swans and the ducks I could almost buy into the romance, and then reality came and smacked some sense into me. Just no fucking way! Glamping, camping NO THANK YOU, but a couple of days on a boat would be ok so long as there was no hint that a few days might morph into anything more permanent.
So who are the folk living on these boats?
How do they manage?
Could you do it?