You tell people you live on a boat and their eyes turn upward and green, and they tell you how they’ve always wanted to do that, how they would if they could, how they even knew someone once who lived in a boat, would you believe. My kneejerk response is to blurt “I wee in a bucket” into their misty faces.
I wee in a bucket, which my boyfriend empties at the end of every night into the water upon which my home sometimes floats. When it doesn’t float it sits on greeny grey mud, the rancid stench of which threatens to rot your nose if you’re ever unlucky enough to come up close to it. There’s no shower, and I have to walk to the other end of the marina to get one, providing the woman with the cats who walks round in a pink dressing gown hasn’t got in there first. My kitchen is my washroom is my workshop is my lounge, my bedroom is a bunk which actually has finished walls, unlike the rest of my home. My commute to the nearest city is an hour and a half each way, and I work there. Doom, you misty eyed bastards, doom and gloom!
However, these are not the elements of boat life with which I struggle. The shower thing is a pain, I’ll admit, but we’re hoping to have one on board soon. The commute is a drag, but it’s pretty as fuck and gives me exercise and time to wake up so I can’t complain. The benefits of coming home at night to a bouncing pod of warmth before the reflected lights of Plymouth and waking to the call of Rame’s birds and the sight of deer on the opposite field easily outweigh these little annoyances.
And yet I do struggle. I struggle with myself, with my inability to do anything useful unless Rich is about and the way my body grows as I turn ever more into a paraffin hob gourmet. I struggle most with the lack of my own space and time. When down, I like to be alone, to make something I like and to absorb as much cultural pap as I can fit into my eyes and ears. Rich went away recently and on one tired Sunday I watched the whole series of Firefly and did three paintings, and despite my sullen mood it was heaven. When he’s here, I have to visit friends if I want that level of unmonitored lethargy.
There are two problems here. One is that I don’t have a passion. Rich is building his dream, and it is everything to him. While I enjoy a good scheme about Gwen and to get properly involved when I can, it can get a bit much sometimes, when every conversation has to start with a rundown of the latest ideas and progress and rumours in the marina. I want time and space to do my own thing, but I couldn’t tell you what my own thing is, so I can’t tell him. It’s always just found itself while I’ve been staring into a computer screen or a bottle – I get an idea, I do it – write a song, do a picture, learn something, make a stupid video with a friend, plan a project, do it or don’t do it, move on. Here, there is always something more important (Gwen) and there is no place, no conversational lull, for me to do the nothing that brings these things about. I go out and wander about, looking for my nothing, finding inspiration only when I have the space to be inspired because I can’t be that girl around him, always having to listen and answer for what I’m doing and not left long enough to get overexcited about something I see or hear, to start humming the dischordant noises that eventually become songs. I make no plans, because the plan is already made, and it’s Gwen.
The second problem is that when this hits home Rich worries, and with each worry he holds harder, and with each hold I feel suffocated. He is the most wonderful man, and his care for me is ever apparent (unless he’s in the middle of Gwen work and I’m not, in which case I’m made to feel quite the clumsy tart for getting concussed by a falling hatch) so I feel terrible having to push him away. But I do, or I run for it, or I get worse. He just doesn’t have that need that I have to be alone. I feel an urge to come up with a project of my own to compete, and that would be fun, but it’s daft to try and force it. I find things to do away from home. It may well be enough. I take comfort in the Gwen dream, in the idea that one day there will be new places to explore, new skills to learn, no time to sit around except shifts when I will be alone with the stars.
I feel ungrateful even as I write this, because everything is so good, and he and our lives together are so blessed that we often end our days by saying “we’re so lucky”, and when I say it, I mean it. The good days are so many, and the difficult ones, the ones where I’m in womb pain or sad or in need of space and silence, I guess they just need working on. There are sacrifices to living your partner’s dream, but walking five minutes in the rain to have a poo is the very least.