land to water
one man's journey
My wife and I were in the pub trade and had been married for about 25 years. We had two lovely children, but once they grew old enough to leave home, and we were semi-retired, we began to think about an alternative life style. We did consider buying a narrowboat and living on the canals, but at that time we eventually opted for life in a warmer climate. We moved to Tenerife, and had a wonderful first year. We were both able to work: myself as a PA and also as a singer/entertainer. Life was good.
Tragedy then struck, as after only one year, my wife Sue passed away from cancer. I was completely devastated, and although I stayed in Tenerife, I struggled to survive. I somehow managed to get by for another year, but then I had to come back to the UK. When I landed here, my only possessions were my kayak, my bicycle and one suitcase. I had nothing, not even the money to rent a place.
I ended up couch surfing in Cheshire. Life was a bit better, especially when a good friend PaoloC took me in. He helped me a lot and as he was a musician, we played some music together. Gradually I was returning to the real world, but even so I had some seriously bad moments, and at one time woke up in hospital after an overdose.
I battled on with the help of friends, and eventually a job came my way. The Canal and River Trust gave me a job as Fundraiser. I was based on the Macclesfield and Peak Forest Canals, often based near the Anderton Boat Lift. From the start, I loved this job. I got to know very many boaters, and fell in love with the canals and the boating way of life. I enjoyed going to work, whatever the weather. I loved everything about boating - the cruising, the connection with nature, and the camaraderie of boaters. But for a long time, I didn't see it as a way of life for myself as I just didn't have enough money.
As time went on, however, I began to think about getting a boat for myself. I set about trying to get a loan, as I was in regular employment and had become one of CRT's best fundraisers. There was no joy for me though, as I could not find a company who were prepared to offer me a loan for the purchase of a boat. In despair, I mentioned my disappointment to a family member. Word got around, and to my amazement another family member offered to loan me the money to buy a boat: all I had to do was go out and look for one. And that is exactly what I did.
The story of how I came to buy a boat is an interesting one. I mentioned the Kayak that I brought back with me from Tenerife. Well in my spare time I was using this to travel up and down the Macclesfield Canal. One day while I was kayaking, I spotted a family of kingfishers. I couldn't resist going back to the same spot whenever I could so that I could film them. When I did these trips, I always turned around at the same place, and always looked with interest at the permanently moored boats that were there. And believe it or not, there was one particular boat there which eventually came up for sale. I had looked at two or three other boats, but when I had the chance to view this particular boat, I knew instantly that this was the one for me. It was love at first sight - and now I have been living on 'Inspired by Nature' for about 5 years. I still love it.
The boating life has been good to me. I love living aboard, love continually cruising and absolutely love being so close to nature. The boating has helped me in all sort of ways, by slowing me down and causing me to feel calmer and happier. To the extent that I don't feel I could live in a house permanently any more.
Living on the water has also made me much more creative. I play the guitar a lot more, and now play the keyboard as well. I don't read music, and have not been trained professionally. Neither am I a professionally trained cameraman. But of course my work is entirely professional. That doesn't mean that I get paid professional standards, of course, but that is not so important to me any more. I just enjoy putting positive vibes out there. I like connecting with people, and love reading people's comments.
It is interesting that my life has almost come full circle. I was brought up beside the sea in Bridlington. Many years later I became a free-diver in Tenerife, able to hold my breath under water for a good while, and chilling out in the deep blue. Now I am back to calm waters, and life again is good. The grieving is still there, of course. But I am uplifted by the knowledge that my wife Sue would have loved to be with me on a canal boat. She would have absolutely loved this life, so in a way I am living it for and with her. I know she is with me in spirit.