Part 12

Every visit to Misterton we were removing more and more of the fit out from the back third of the boat, and slowly Misterton was rising out of the river. Simon overheard two local men commenting, ‘that boat has come out of the water by a couple of inches, they have taken a lot out, I wonder if they’ll put things back?’

I wondered that also, but we certainly still had a lot of the fit out to take out. I went and had a look at the front on the boat to see how you could tell the boat was higher in the water. When I looked you could see the difference in the shade of the black on the hull, she certainly had risen out a lot which meant we had taken a lot of heavy bits. It was no wonder after a weekend at Misterton I felt as though I had had a good work out at the gym, and I was fairly sure my upper arms were improving, the fringe benefits of taking out the inside of a boat, maybe I could make a new DIY exercise video, make a fortune and pay someone else to do it – a girl has to dream.

We had driven to Stainforth late on a Saturday afternoon to spend the Sunday on the boat despite both having work the next day. It was a very special day; finally we were going to move Misterton.

We were not moving her down south to live on, just from Stainforth to Goole so that the boat builder could start to work on her. We were both delighted to finally put her somewhere where people would check on her daily, and start work on the outside while we continued working on the inside.

The people who lived in houses and boats near Misterton in Stainforth had kept an eye on her and rescued her when necessary. The first time we drove through Stainforth I noticed a ‘sure start’ centre - to a trained educationalist like myself that spelt trouble. If somewhere as small in population had its own sure start centre, it also had a large disaffected youth community. I could see there was little to do in the way of entertainment for young people and this inevitably meant they would find their own, and often what the youth of today find amusing no longer makes me laugh, I doubted the entertainment of the youth of Stainforth would be anymore appealing than anywhere else in the UK. Sure enough in the few months Misterton was in Stainforth the windows of the wheelhouse had been used as target practice for air rifles, but we were replacing the whole wheelhouse so no real harm done. A few weeks after the target practice incident Misterton was set adrift and blocked the river, local boaters had rescued her, and Simon and his friends had chained her up with padlocks on their next visit. Moving her from this mooring would give a greater feeling of security about Misterton as at Goole the boat builder would be working on her most days, this should deter any further problems surely.

The boat builder told us we would need to be ready to move early on Sunday morning. I thought this could cause confusion if we did not specify what time this meant. I decided to call him. After the usual pleasantries required on a phone conversation, I asked him, ‘what time are we going to be moving Misterton on Sunday?’

‘Early’, he replied.

‘Early on Sunday?’

‘That’s right.’

‘To me early on Sunday is ten o’clock - is this what you mean?’

There was a monetary pause; I knew this would not be good news.

‘Early, about 8 o’clock, I’ll be there with the boys to move her’ he finally stated.

We got up ‘boat builder’ early on Sunday morning and left the bed and breakfast having used only one of the b’s, not enough time to eat on such a morning. Simon was dressed and ready to go at 6:30am, I’m sure he would’ve slept in his clothes if I hadn’t stopped him. The weather was sunny and even warm enough to warrant wearing sunscreen. Who would have thought the first real sun bathing opportunity I’d have would be in Yorkshire?

We had brought some snacks for the journey, and I was ready to paint some rust converter on the side of the hull that I has expertly removed rust from, I figured with four men on the boat, the ladies opportunity to take the wheel may be limited and someone needed to focus on getting it ready to move in post honeymoon. It does take a woman every time I knew that.

The boat builder told us he was driving ahead to open the locks and the lift bridges that would be en route. He introduced us to Richard and Steve and said we would be in good hands as they both knew Misterton. The boys were not really boys, but fully grown men with an impressive boating CV. Richard told us that the first barge he ever went on was Misterton, he knew the son of the owner (not the previous owners I hasten to add) when she was still a working boat. They had both worked on barges for their working career, and between them had racked up an impressive 45 years of service, but of late had moved to driving trucks as the trade of the inland waterways had declined.

They took the wheel and expertly moved us off from the bank and down to a point in the canal where there would just be enough room to turn her. As we were no longer becoming TV stars I thought I would make my own short film on the camera and tried to capture moments. I was also trying to get the guys to talk on the camera, Simon became very monosyllabic in his responses and his focus was totally on the fact that our boat was moving. It is true what they say about men not being able to multi-task.

Strangely enough it wasn’t that long before there was a request for a cup of tea and a biscuit, for some reason all eyes looked towards me. I had for awhile suspected that the work of Emily Pankhurst had still to impact on the working world of the inland waterways, and women’s intuition told me entering into a sexual politics conversation with the men who had the welfare of our home in their hands was not a wise move. I smiled through gritted teeth and went below to sort out the refreshments.

After all the men had been fed and watered, I though maybe this was the time to get on with some work inside as too many cooks spoil the broth and there were many hands in the wheelhouse already. I was busy looking for equipment to get started, when Simon appeared and asked what I was doing. I explained I thought I should get on with some work as everyone was busy on the deck and I could get busy below.

‘The weather is great, and this is Misterton’s first voyage with us, why don’t you just come and enjoy the ride? They’ll be plenty of time to work when she is moored up.’

I didn’t like to explain I was trying to avoid becoming the galley slave by busying myself with more important tasks, so instead I smiled and said I’d put some sunscreen on and come and join them on deck.

As I got onto the deck the view of the Yorkshire Ridings was bathed in golden sunlight and in the distance I could see a maroon jeep racing with us, with the boat builder inside dashing from lock to lock. I sat on the roof with a can of diet coke in one hand, M+S flapjack in the other and realised I could see this through a different rose coloured spectacle. I was a fully liberated lady of leisure with four men making sure my first voyage on the river was one I could remember as one where I was pampered.

Someone said they were thirsty, ‘the box of diet coke cans is down below’ I replied and continued basking in the sunlight.