The wind rumbles like a monster’s purr. Breathy whistles hiss through neighbours’ masts. Now and then I hear a helicopter, an old man singing through his dentures and a baritone chipmunk, none of which are there. Gwen jerks a little, tugging on those few ropes that hold us to our pontoon, and it feels like it’s black everywhere but in this cosy, coal warmed and LED lit saloon. The powers that be have called this storm Frank, but Frank isn’t going to bother me tonight. I’m putting on a trashy movie. Pardon me.
I am alone on the boat, and let’s not pretend for a minute that I’m not loving this bit of solitude while Rich completes his Christmas tour with a fishing, drinking and camping spree. For five days, I’m king, and I decree that the fire shall be too hot, the kitchen unkempt and the sofa covered in notebooks and paint and musical instruments. We had a lovely Christmas, but I had to return from his family visit early to go to work, so every spare moment is bliss.
It’s been two months again since I last wrote, but it feels like there’s little to write when we’re static, both saving up for our big adventure next year and not really doing a lot to the boat. The main change in our lives has been Richard’s arm, which was opened up and relieved of two ten year old metal plates a fortnight ago. He’s not allowed to work for six to twelve weeks after the surgery, but, you know, fishing and hammock camping in Shropshire is all fine (Frank is ruling out the latter, I fear). With him out of action and me hopping nimbly through the usual variety of low paid jobs our aim of having enough to leave for a summer of sail in May seems in peril, but we persevere with hope. Rich has started on the upholstery, and will soon turn to making his and hers dinghies when his arm’s a little stronger. I’m getting scheduled for temp work when the Canteen shuts for a month, and have applied for medical trials to try and earn a quick buck.
The last two months have been warmish but windy, and not always easy. Rich exhausted himself with work and was grumpy and tired in rare spare moments, while I taught, waited tables and designed and felt undervalued when it didn’t seem like enough. The Artist’s Way has bolstered my inspiration to create and I’ve been writing, drawing and painting, and feeling good about myself, and I don’t want to give that up just to slog away at something that doesn’t make my heart sing – but there’re only so many hours in a week and a lot of money left to make. I am prone to twisting myself up with analysis of the delicate compromises of independence, frivolity and direction that come with cohabiting in a floating bunker, but we always end up talking it through, and in the end we support each other. I’ve got fat, Rich has got hacked up, and Gwen has simply endured. As she has done consistently since we left the shed, she outperforms us both.
Next, it gets busy. We’re going to write a new list of “to do” and “to buy” on the Chard’s return, and there are some big’uns waiting to be filled in there. Not to mention small, annoying matters like paperwork, making backups of things and fixing small domestic bothers. We need to try and remember all the things we said we were going to change on the rig while we were sailing months ago – try some winches out, fit the self steering, make something to tie on to for safety, and the rest. I’m going to try and fit my creative capers in between, and I’m going to start running again. Carrying around this winter gut feels like unnecessary hard work in itself.
There’s a lot I could tell you about – how disconnected I feel from the norm after spending time with normal people this Christmas. How much I enjoyed visiting London to see old friends and new Star Wars. The joy of seeing Rich alive, well and drugged up in hospital and learning that he was in trouble with the nurses for screaming “motherfucker” as his anaesthetic wore off. But it sounds like Frank has now invited hail to join his strange sonic party, and I really need to turn this movie up. Until next time.