Time to explain a little about the London pied-a-terre. Well, it’s not a pied-a-terre, in the most literal sense, as it’s on water. I appear to have become, rather quickly, the half-owner of a 45ft narrowboat moored on Regent’s Canal. And my new morning attire (worn whilst drinking tea, listening to Radio 4 and waiting for the immersion heater to warm enough water for a shower) is this kimono, donated to the two-wardrobe cause by my mother.
Now, there is an immense number of boater-bloggers, from continuous-cruising retirees to back-to-the-water parents, anti-social loners to community activists and eco-campaigners, drifting water gypsies to the permanently-moored (whose ranks we are joining, at least at first) – so I don’t feel the need to add my two penn’orth on the topic. Keeping in with the theme of the Usual Shop, however, this does on the one hand give me a whole new place for which (and in which) to collect and accumulate stuff, but on the other hand, will limit me in terms of size and capacity to accommodate said items. Things I have realised so far:
– Narrowboat-dwelling does, inevitably, make you question what you really want to have around you, and how much space you really need. I have no desire to start collecting painted tin watering cans or traditional barge decor, and indeed, plan to have no unnecessary knick-knacks at all cluttering up the space.
– It’s also easier, when you’re flitting between two places, to actually have less stuff and not more. Aside from basics such as underwear, socks, black leggings and warm jumpers, a store of which is needed at each end, it’s simpler to travel with and co-ordinate a capsule wardrobe.
– There is a fine line between charming boho pied-a-terre and floating bedsit. At the point at which we bought it, our boat was very much the latter, and it was a few days of scrubbing before we could bear to use the kitchen or even take off the rubber gloves (erk. Grubby, greasy, grimy: I’ve never been the world’s tidiest or cleanliness-obsessed person, but even to me it was fairly comprehensively repulsive in places). The result of which is that I have had a quite sudden and unexpected change in outlook on my purchasing habits, feeling the urge to buy a lot of things brand-new – not just the mattress and bedlinen, but saucepans and crockery, for which I would quite happily have charity-shopped or jumble-saled previously. It had to feel new, clean and fresh. Robert Dyas is one of my new favourite lunchbreak destinations, and oh god, working close to Habitat on Tottenham Court Road is dangerous… This is not the end of Usual Shopping, I’m sure, but at this point in time, my one-time extreme dedication has dwindled.
Nonetheless, I have happily taken lots of cast-off things from my mother, having spent a very fruitful (and dusty) few hours in her attic and garage. I won’t bore you with pictures of the spare towels, bagfuls of cleaning rags, cushions, blankets, bedlinen, bathmats, soap dishes and shampoo bottle-holders, my father’s unwanted gardening anorak (a properly waterproof sailing jacket) and other such sundry items, but I was rather pleased with the kimono and the large wooden-framed mirror. Oh, and I gained another white-framed mirror (£2 from Brighton Racecourse car boot sale), and raided my own car boot sale stash of surplus to reclaim some things, which prompted a bit of rearranging of decor in the house – and subsequent freeing up of some rugs for the boat. So I’ve not quite gone consumerist as yet.
(Other gain of the week: my mother found this purple satchel at a boot fair for me. It’s only a cheap synthetic one and not leather, however, and the straps have broken after a few days’ use. Oh well).