Other People’s Eyes

It’s my lesson planning day, and my graphics job is all done (one stress down, a hundred to go), so I hoik myself and my laptop up the hill to the Canteen to plan tomorrow’s activities in the wind and sun. Spring isn’t being particularly kind and as if to mark Prince’s passing it’s been snowing in April this week, but today’s bearable. You can see the chop on the sea even from this distance, and feel the sun on your face in momentary pauses between blasts. The sound of birds is louder than any other and it reminds me that I’m in a place I love.

I handed in my month’s notice at the council on Tuesday (three jobs down, one to go) and a colleague became curious, so I showed her our intended route for this year – venturing down to Douarnenez, pecking at the edges of Biscay’s hollow and hopefully onwards past Portugal and Gibraltar to somewhere in the Med. By Wednesday lunchtime a chorus of encouragement cooed as she passed this on to the rest of the team, and before long my standard responses (“of course, that’s only if we can find work out there/of course, we might only make it as far as Falmouth/of course, anything can go wrong before then) were melting beneath the warmth of their enthusiasm. I allowed a realisation – this might actually be happening at last – to play briefly on my mind, and lost all ability to concentrate on my work.

It’s often interesting, though not always this gratifying, to see your own world through other people’s lenses. Rich works with a friend who is also working with her partner to get their boat ready, and she recently bemoaned the oft-heard “you’re so lucky”. Oh, yeah, say that when you’ve stripped most of the luxury away from your life, when your home is a mould, sawdust and/or dirt-filled work in progress, when you’re exhausted from giving it any time or money you’d call spare and have only your dreams of a potential future to push you through. And then there’s the notion that it is luck that has smiled a boat upon you, when you are only too aware that you made and regularly re-make this decision and effort fraught with risk, discomfort and sacrifice.

And yet, you know you are lucky, because this boat and this decision is all yours. Not to mention how lucky you are to have each other, and family and friends, and a place to call home where you aren’t bombed, starved or tortured. And then there’s that dream at the end. I’m so lucky.

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Our little boatyard, with Mordor and its dockyard in the background and Dartmoor beyond

Most of Rich’s friends and family are coming down to join our wonderful local folks to celebrate our departure in a few weeks, and it’ll be special to share this bizarre achievement with all of them and to see our daft little project through their eyes too. Notions of how much we will miss them or how long it will be until we meet again are still, as yet, not allowed in my mind. Good work, denial.

The boat won’t be finished before we go. The galley, for example, has been on a to-do list forever, and the to-do list is still stapled to its unpainted wall, dusty and curled. The money we wanted to save won’t be spared by our last-minute outgoings, but we might sneak away a budget of £200 a week to live on for a few months. There are hopefully things we can do about both on the way. Everything else is up to chance – weather, the operational state of our self steering, how long it takes to recover when we finally stop slogging.

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Rich, in a brief rest from push-pit scraping, probably not feeling particularly lucky

In the meantime, my focus goes back to the day-to-day. Rich is doing punishing overtime so I’m making his dinners and packed lunches each evening, after which we collapse into a cuddle on the sofa with half a nature documentary or the new Game of Thrones before retiring to an early sleep. At weekends we sand and scrape and sift. Rich has wirebrushed and repainted the push pit and I’ve gone organising crazy when not brushing Bob with love. We’re counting down, and the news gets better with each day.

Nearly four years down, nearly four weeks to go.

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2 thoughts on “Other People’s Eyes

  1. Emily says:

    A boat is never “finished,” anyway. I love your writing. It’s from the heart and real and not trying to prove anything it’s just naturally engrossing and visual. Good on you.

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