Who wouldn’t live a life afloat? Everyone loves to feel a deck beneath their feet. It’s why rich folks like to buy yachts and football teams. Even our own dear Queen had a liking for the high seas. I suspect it was something to do with keeping Philip far enough away from people to insult.
Our boychild reached his 18th birthday alive and well, which, with me for a mother, is no small feat.
In celebration, I suggested a family break. He was very keen on this.
Why a teenager should want to spend time with his family is a mystery to me. Even his older sister wanted to come.
We hired the Captain Jack, a double-width narrowboat, which means she isn’t a narrowboat at all, and took to life on the ocean wave, if you count an old canal basin in the centre of one of the UK’s biggest cities as the ocean wave.
I am a sucker for a houseboat. I once wanted to buy an old observation boat moored on the Clyde to convert into a liveaboard. My plan was to buy her and sail her around Scotland to come and live on the Shore.
I kept my dream alive in the face of family indifference, and in my mother’s case, downright hostility. She was looking for lifejackets to wear over her nightie and insisted on learning all the words for Eternal Father Strong to Save. Eventually, a friend arranged for a marine surveyor to go and see the object of my desires. He gently told me it would be cheaper to move the Water of Leith to Glasgow than sail Nellie to Leith. I think my mum bribed him.
So, we set off for our very own floating palace like the family Abramovich, Poundland-style.
We were ready to take on the challenges of the high seas, as soon as the boychild had stopped throwing up on the journey. Seriously, is there an age limit on travel sickness?
At least he managed to get out of the car. When he was two he could projectile vomit on to both driver and passenger, and on one notable occasion, hit a passing Eddie Stobart.
Life at sea can be harrowing. There is the danger of scurvy. Avoid this scourge of the sailor by ensuring that there are always at least two slices of lime in all gin and tonics.
Mutiny is a constant danger, particularly if the hands discover there is no wifi or television after they sign the articles. Not a problem. Load up PCs with films, games and box sets and settle back, secure in the knowledge that peace reigns in the fo’csle. Such a pity Captain Bligh didn’t have Amazon Prime.
On-board sanitation must be maintained. Solid things cannot be flushed away with the same ease as on land. This is worth remembering if a member of the crew is a goldfish and it dies.
Who among us can fail to recall the day Finny the Fish circled the bowl for the last time and, with a final flash of gold, vanished to Seafield forever? Ironically, you can’t flush a dead goldfish from a boat.
Finally, proper relations with landlubbers must be maintained. It is obligatory to say ‘hiya’ to everyone who passes. This is exhausting.
It’s probably why Britannia hightailed it for deep water the minute Phillip was aboard. God knows what he would have said to the 53rd passer-by that morning.
Queen Mum’s liquid remedy
We went ashore to forage supplies. Fortunately, there was an Aldi nearby with an excellent selection of wines. Next door was a newsagent with an excellent selection of postcards, which surprised me. Does anyone send postcards anymore? Why did we do it in the first place?
Was it just one-up-manship? Who wouldn’t be turned green with envy upon receipt of a glorious view of Girvan crazy golf course?
Was it to share the fun? Who could resist a faint smile at a saucy cartoon involving a small man, a large lady and a brisk skirt-lifting breeze? I’ll bet Philip sent loads, just to amuse the Queen Mum, a woman who certainly knew how to prevent scurvy.
A heart as big as Manchester
The canal sweltered in a mini-heatwave. There were times when we thought we were sitting in the Med, but we weren’t.
The Captain Jack is moored in Manchester. We travelled down the day after that vile toad in human form perpetrated his evil act. There are times when I wish hell existed.
We considered not going, for about a nano-second. We didn’t want to intrude on a city in mourning. We needn’t have worried. When folk found out where we were from and why we were there, we were made to feel like old friends who had dropped by. Manchester is a big city with a big heart. If she was a person, she’d be Elsie Tanner.