Nearly three years I’ve lived on this boat, and it’s only today that I found out that Richard has never seen “Labyrinth”.
It’s Easter, and we were having lunch at The Canteen with two thirds of my little family. He did see some films when he was a kid, he told us. They went to the cinema, or he’d watch a film at a friend’s house, but round his place the only things on VHS were Attenborough documentaries. Everyone around the lunch table agreed that this is very admirable. Then we frowned at him suspiciously – my sister and me in particular. Julie Andrews was our third parent. We knew the whole of Wayne’s World off by heart. Jim Henson, Bill Murray, Tom Hanks… how can this interloper hope to understand their significance? I began mentally drafting our next month’s viewing schedule. I was about to entrust my life to this man, sailing away with him into the unknown. Who is he?
Richard, the nature-loving dreamer. The practical adventurer who might, on paper, sound more like an Arthur Ransome character than a real life bloke. The freak who sews his own moccasins and builds dinghies with one arm while the other repairs. The grafter who survives by complaining his woes away, moaning like it’s an Olympic sport, but who is placated, often, by feeding and nodding. And the rock who intones words of wisdom when the world is out to get me – mostly “fuck them”, who sits for whole evenings giggling or gasping at Youtube videos or shouting with me at online TV shows. He’s a wonder, he really is.
This last month has tested us both. He’s back to work full time and so am I, and if I work over the weekend he uses the time to fix the boat. We’ve got new pins on the push pit, freshly installed water tanks beneath the bunk and a new nav computer set up in the aft cabin – all his work. I’ve pushed on through, trying to make money during the days and plans during the evenings, striving to keep momentum in the slog towards to June, towards our departure from the marina for good (or as good as). We’re both tired, but even in sleep our dreams have become anxious and action-filled. There is always much to do, something new to consider – no decision or action can be celebrated for more than a passing moment. But who can complain while it’s all still happening and pointing towards our eventual release.
Rich and I have, as usual, had very different projects consuming our little spare time. I have rehearsed and reworked the ridiculous rock opera for which I have STILL not written the closing song. I quit nicotine, which is like breaking up with a bastardly partner: though I feel a relieved confidence in its absence I think about it constantly, craving one last hit, one illicit dalliance before I can truly say goodbye. So far, I have resisted, and not killed anybody either. And I have written, watched movies and doodled as I always do.
With his fun time, Rich has been playing with weather faxes. Exciting, huh. One evening I was forced to endure loud, regular plays of what sounded like a screaming Spectrum loading up. These were transmitted from an online radio website, which he fed back in to the mic of his tablet so a piece of software could turn it in to wavy lines that almost looked like what might be a weather chart, though not one you could ever read. This was considered a triumph, so now he has bought himself a proper radio to receive these transmissions. And fortunately this sort of research is now confined to the aft cabin, so I can sit comfortably in the saloon, burping garlic and talking to you, while he is moving on to getting AIS signals to work through the VHF on the Open Source nav software or something like that. No, I’m not paying attention.
And, also, he’s been supporting me. Especially this week. This week I worked six out of seven days, revising or taking tests most evenings to get through the final stages of the RYA Dayskipper Theory course. By the time of my last exam at the end of a busy day running round the Canteen I was so mentally exhausted I had to check every measurement I made twice to be sure, and almost every one required re-doing. I got to the end just in time and, somehow, I passed with a good mark. Rich has cheered me on, taking on the washing up and cooking while I revised and was tested, letting me splurge my worries out in exhausted tirades. And now the course is over and we have a weekend to enjoy ourselves, and I am enjoying him and all his wondrous weirdness. From a distance. While he geeks out to the weather report.