The coach roof has been off for a few days, so when you pop aftwards for a wee you’re outside in the enormous open-fronted shed. On three sides there are corrugated walls, and stretching out to the fourth are often an array of other boats, not many this week. All smaller craft, popping in and out for repairs while we sit heavy at the back corner. The metal gate and the massive space above it looks out over the river we should be on, glimpsed from behind rusty storage units, dinghies and the odd swan. Sometimes we sit on deck and marvel at the amount of seagulls who rest on Chris Rees’ boat out there in the channel. It must be covered in poo.
In our cosy little lounge we sit, him on his tablet, me on this, reading, organising, preparing for the days ahead, lit by a miner’s light hanging from the rack above the fire we haven’t yet turned to for warmth. And yet, something isn’t quite right. My stuff isn’t here. It’s all piled down on the ground in boxes, many of them the same ones I’d used to move aboard Gwen last Spring. On Friday I’ll be moving to new lodgings in Plymouth, in the enormous abandoned eye infirmary where rent for we guardians who keep out the squatters is cheap and bills are included.
I hadn’t anticipated feeling quite so torn from ferrodomesticity. It was exciting, the idea of moving off the boat, particularly in the dark month of August when the solitude and cold of the shed were hard to bear. But now Rich is back and Gwen means being close to him, now the galley once again heats the room with the warmth of my cooking experiments and at night we hug and take it in turns to curse the discomfort of that stupid memory foam mattress, I am preparing to miss it terribly.
The idea was that I find a second part time job or a new full time one in Plymouth and then move over, but that isn’t going so well, and when the room came up with a reserved time limit I had to decide. Rich and I tried to think of alternatives – I could quit my job and work with him on Gwen for the winter, but we probably couldn’t afford that. Me getting more work is something we’ve talked about for a while as a plan for this winter, and the commute is lengthy and the possibility for turning up in clean clothes with a clean and rested body is greatly reduced by the messy plans we have for Gwen both inside and out. So I took the chance at somewhere nice and interesting to live and went for it, and now the time has come.
There are benefits, of course. The room I’m moving into is huge and I’ll be able to get out all my art stuff and music stuff without having to find a nook or cranny in which to store them away in between periods of playing. The people I know in the infirmary are lovely, and the ones I don’t seem approachable from the little I’ve encountered of them. I will be able to come home every weekend and live the Gwen life, and Rich will be able to come over during the week – every Wednesday for the lindy hop classes we’ve just joined, cinema trips, nights of warmth just for the sake of it. While coming home from Plymouth on a night out is usually an expensive lengthy process once the Cremyll ferry stops its late summer service, we can see and do whatever we like, either side of the water. Plymouth will be a second home, not a home. Home is here.
So that’s all good. Gwen will get done (if we ever figure out what we’re doing about this damn concrete sulphate – that’s still an ongoing concern – epoxy doesn’t want to stick to it so what next, tar?) and I will get a job (I HAVE to get a job) and Rich and Trish will still be Rich and Trish (and Gwen). But you can’t do anything about that mushy, grizzly feeling of wrenching yourself away from the person and the project that you love, can you? In living here for the last year and a half I have stopped feeling like a small cog in the works of this dream, and stopped a long time ago feeling anything like resentment towards Rich’s passion for its creation. It is as much a part of me as it is of him save for the manner of labour I’m able to put in to it. It is towards the end that will be a beginning that everything points, and I look forward to returning here often and Spring, when painting her, putting her back outside and eventually living back on board might all be possible.