I was feeling calmer as we had left the lane, the town and the county of where we’d spent the last few years and the motorway that was taking us to our new home was as nondescript as any I’d ever driven on before. This helped as there were no memories of Michael. The boys were beginning to become a little unsettled and I was glad that we were only a few miles away but I knew that when we’d got there they would rally again and their excitement would be hard to contain. Anything new when you’re 11, 9 and 3 is exciting but to be living on a boat had them almost packing up their bedrooms a little too quickly for my liking.
As we drive into the marina that we will call home for the summer, down the long track, past the office on the left and heading straight on to the pontoon at the end I see our boat, our new home and for the first time in a long while it seems I smile a real smile that should anyone be looking, touches my eyes. I feel a slight bursting feeling from my chest and this takes me aback for a moment as it’s something I haven’t felt in a while and as I struggle with that feeling I look around me and realise that I am, well, happy.
Being happy after you’ve lost someone is something that I found very difficult. It’s like my idea that funerals should only ever be held on rainy days as sunshine, for me, is far too happy. I want the weather to reflect the sadness of the occasion and I certainly wanted this for Michael. I found it hard to look on his funeral as a ‘celebration of his life’ as the word ‘celebration’ and Michael’s funeral were ones that I just couldn’t put together no matter how hard I tried. I only had to look in the totally desolate faces of my children to see that what I felt was right. But after the funeral had past and the life insurance had come through I had to make some tough decisions as although yes the house would be paid off but I had no income to pay the on-going bills and selling was really my only option. I wanted breathing space before making the big leap into buying another house and it was coming to the end of the school year so I thought I’d buy a little narrowboat as I’d lived on one once before and we’d all disappear off for the 8 weeks of the holidays to have a bit of an adventure. All the furniture was in storage and we just had in the car what I thought we would need plus the important bits and bobs that the boys couldn’t do without.
Our boat was called ‘Idle Moments’ which was, I felt, a great refection on what I wanted us to do on her. Anyway that name was so much better than either ‘Morning Flatulence’ or ‘Lead Balloon (with its rainbow carpet on the floor and up to the gunwales!) which were the memorable names of some of the other boast we looked at. Idle Moments suited us and had all the room we needed so I made a cheeky offer quite a bit below the asking price and after that was rejected we settled somewhere in the middle. My family were aghast ‘A Boat??? What are you thinking??’ my friends were supportive but confused ‘You’re not going to live on it forever are you, you really are just going on a long holiday?’ but I was confident, I’d done this before and I knew I could make it work so driving straight on past the marina office I felt a sense of relief that I was ‘coming home’ and that’s why I was feeling happy.
Many years ago I’d lived on a boat during my Uni years and ever since then I always said I wanted to have another boat. This dream was a bit like Michael’s made to measure suit in that it was another thing that never happened so this, to me, seemed the perfect chance. I know Michael would have been happy for me to have my dream and I know he wouldn’t have minded me spending some of the money to buy it. He wasn’t that keen on boats himself and after the usual couply ‘I’ll try your hobbie if you try mine’ start to most relationships I tried scuba diving in a swimming pool (did it, didn’t like it, haven’t done it since) so I took him on a narrowboat holiday (did it, sort of liked it, haven’t done it since) and although he enjoyed the one week we spent on the boat I know he was never in a hurry to repeat it. Once I’d bought the boat I did wonder whether had I died he would have sold up and moved abroad and set up a diving school like he always said he would, I wonder whether he would have also escaped from a house full of memories like I had…
I stopped the car and before I had taken the key out of the ignition the boys had unclicked, opened the doors and were off running down the jetty. Idle Moments was right at the end and before I could say ‘be careful!!!!’ they’d jumped aboard and were trying to do the door – just like they did at home I noticed. I walked up the jetty after them looking around at the marinas as I did and listening to my feet walk on the wooden planks that were covered in chicken wire. The dull clang, clang was a rhythmical accompaniment to my thoughts. I climbed aboard the boat and then did my usual sifting through my bag to find the keys eventually did as the cork float helped as it was new. I put the key in the door, turned the latch and opened the tiny door breath in the boat smell that I’d remembered from years ago as I did. I undid the latch that held the second door shut and swung them both open looking down into the boast as I did. This would do us, I know this will do us and I said to the boys ‘off you go, have an explore.’ I watched them giggling whilst pushing and shoving each other down the 3 steps into the boat and I sat on the front lockers on the deck just listening to the birds whilst enjoying the gentle rocking movement of a boat that’s being explored by 3 excited boys. After a while Tom came to the steps and leaning forwards he stuck his head out through the doorway. I said ‘you’ve got a big smile on your face!’ and he nodded. After a while he said ‘I think this is going to be great Mum’ and I was relived as this was really my idea. But before I could say anything back to him he smirked, looked up at me and said ‘dad would have hated this wouldn’t he?’ and smiling as I knew what Tom meant with the lack of a coffee maker, space to put clothes and limited headroom I was thinking of Michael’s possible reaction too. Actually I think he could’ve got used to the headroom but not the emptying of your own toilet (let alone even just the idea of emptying it) that would have had him running for the hills.
I looked at Tom and smiled ‘yes’, I said, ‘I think he would have hated it…’