It’s between 6 and 7 in the morning, still dark, but my body decides it has had enough sleep. No need to wake up Lawrance yet, so I reverse out of bed, put on my wooden shoe slippers, and leave the bedroom.
First thing that has to be done is walk to the front of the boat to open the bottom vent of the stove. The fire will start burning again, and it will be nice and warm by the time Lawrance gets up.
After the normal morning routines in the bathroom I start preparing my breakfast. As silent as possible I get the milk out of the fridge, pour it over the porridge oats in the bowl and in my mug, and put the bowl in the microwave. When my porridge is ready, and the banana sliced and mixed in, I enjoy my breakfast, playing a couple of games on my e-reader. Then it is time to boil the kettle for my first cup of coffee, and to fill the thermos flask, so we have hot water for tea for the rest of the day. I drink my coffee sitting in the well deck (the designated smoking area), having a cigarette and doing a couple more games.
Then it is time for me to switch on the computer, and start working. Usually that’s about the time that Lawrance gets up. I make him a cup of tea, and turn my attention to the stove. Now I can rake the fire without waking him up. I empty the ash pan into the ash bucket, fill up the stove with new coal from the storage in the well deck, and fill the skuttle with more coal for later. Sometimes I also get the hoover out to clean all the coal dust and ash around the stove.
Between noon and 1 o’clock I stop working and have my lunch. After that I resume working or we’re going to Southport (or Ormskirk) to do shoppings.
Around 5 o’clock it’s time to start preparing supper. Usually we have a three course meal, with a green salad as a starter, and yoghurt with fruit as a desert. After supper Lawrance turns on the TV and I do the dishes. The rest of the evening Lawrance watches TV, with headphones on. Because when I read a Dutch book while he is watching English TV, the part of my brain that deals with language really gets confused…
At ten o’clock I either watch the news, or prepare everything for breakfast and go to bed. I fill the kettle with water, so the water pump doesn’t come on tomorrow and wake up Lawrance. I put the right amount of porridge oats in a bowl, get a spoon out of the drawer, as well as a small knife and the banana. I also get my mug, and a cup for Lawrance, out of the cupboard and fill the cup with sugar and a tea bag. Everything ready for tomorrow, I go to bed, read a little on my e-reader, and, very often, by the time Lawrance goes to bed, he finds me fast asleep, with the e-reader still in my hand.
An easy life, you probably think. But living on a narrowboat also means having a lot more (small) tasks that need to be done on a regular basis. When you live in a house, you have an unlimited supply of gas, water and electricity (as long as you pay your bill), mail is delivered to your front door, and sewage and garbage disappears as by magic. Not so on a narrowboat. And most tasks involve heavy lifting.
Every three or four days the cassette in our toilet is full, and needs to be changed. This means taking the full cassette out, prepare the empty cassette (i.e. put in a small amount of anti-smelling liquid and water), and put the new cassette in. The full cassette (with a weight of about 18 kg) now needs to be emptied in the so called Elsan point. This means placing the cassette on a trolley, walk to the Elsan (which is near the exit of the marina, about a mile from the boat), empty the cassette and walk back to the boat.
The (fresh)water tank needs to be filled. Depending on the weather, the hose is either on the roof of the boat, or in the well deck. The latter being the case when we expect or have frost. The water tap is right in front of the boat. Filling up with water is not a difficult task. It’s just that it takes hours (well, sort of)…
We also need to remember to top up the electricity. We always have one or two spare electricity cards, ready to put in the meter. But, as I said, the meter has to be checked (and topped up) on a regular basis. Otherwise our battery charger will automatically switch over to inverter, to supply 240V for TV and computer, thus draining the batteries in no time, and without us knowing that this is happening, until the lights go out…
(I hate automatic things.)
Luckily our gas bottle selector is a manual one. When one bottle is empty the kettle stops boiling, and the monitor panel of the central heating (if the CH is on) will start flashing. Changing over from one gas bottle to the other is not difficult but requires following the correct procedure (see Weather Bomb). Exchanging an empty 13 kg bottle for a full one (with a weight of appr. 25 kg ) is hard work.
So is putting a new bag of coal in the storage in the well deck. Coal bags weigh between 20 and 25 kg. We usually store the bags on the roof, with one open bag in the coal storage in the well deck, ready for topping up the skuttle without the need of going outside. Because, of course, it is needless to say that all these ‘ little’ tasks always pop up at the most inconvenient moment. Changing a gas bottle in the pouring rain, running out of coal in gale force winds, and discovering a red light on the cassette (which means FULL) when you desperately need the toilet…
And of course you have to top up all the stock. Frugal as we are, we try to combine as much as possible. When we go out for shopping, we put the full cassette and the garbage bags into the car, and empty them on the way out.
If need be we buy electric top-up cards in the cafe, and coal and gas at companies located between the marina and Southport. On the way in we check the mail, which is delivered to the laundry room, and put the laundry (that has been washed in the on-board washing machine) in the tumble dryer. If we don’t go out for shoppings, I usually walk to the other side of the marina (with cassette, garbage and laundry) and check the mail. When Lawrance does it, he can’t be bothered, he just takes the car.
All these small tasks keep us busy, day in and day out. No wonder that time flies…