Part 16

Back from the honeymoon, I was now Mary Sparrow and Simon was going to have to wait to carry me over the threshold, as no surprise to anyone, we could not move onto the boat – yet. We were keen to get up to see what had happened in our absence as it had been over five weeks since we last saw her. We both were secretly hoping that she would look significantly different and that lots of work had been done whilst Simon was taking his new wife on a personalised tour of NZ.

When we arrived in Goole, we were both filled with nervous excitement and when we drove into the boatyard and finally saw her, she was still there which was good, but she looked exactly as we had left her, not so good. We found the boat builder and he explained that they had been really busy over the summer with lots of different projects, but they had managed to weld up some of the holes we had already found. At least there was movement forward, even if it was slow.

We then begun to carry on removing the fit out from the back half off the boat, and there was plenty more to take. Slowly over the next couple of weekends we managed to break the fifty barrier on trips to the local dump, and empty out the rest of the boat. Although hard work, it was still enjoyable as we were working together to build our new home.

The second weekend up to the boat after the honeymoon and the boat builder and his crew had begun to build the wheelhouse. I suspect they sensed our disappointment despite the attempts we went to mask it and decided they needed to surprise us by changing the shape. The colour of the boat was also changing as they painted red oxide paint over the decks that they had needle gunned and welded. Needle gunning is nothing to do with sewing, but a device with a number of blunt needle shaped pieces of steel held together with a steel ring and powered through an air compressor. The needles all move up and down at quite some speed and remove rust and paint from the surface of the boat. The gun is only about 10 centimetres in circumference and to needle gun the surface of Misterton is a time consuming job. I was beginning to realise why the progress in Misterton was slower than I had anticipated. I have always been impatient by nature wanting results I can see in front of me, and throughout this project I was going to develop my understanding of the statement – its all in the preparation.

When I moved into the first house I owned, I thought I would put up some picture hooks on the wall to make it homely and mine. How hard could it be? I had seen lots of friends and family hang pictures, and for the first time in my life it was not a rented property and I could make holes in the wall without fear of loosing my deposit, so I was going to. I went to the local DIY store and bought picture hooks and a hammer. I returned home and decided where I wanted to hang my Dali painting – not an original – and once the wall location had been chosen I started to use the hammer. To my horror chunks of plaster the size of a 50p piece fell away from the wall and I stopped. At that point I decided DIY was not for me and waited till I could entice a family member over to put the pictures up for me. My oldest brother had made the point in his speech on our wedding day that they knew it must be love because no one had ever seen me do anything bordering on DIY before, and now Simon had me wearing boiler suits, using power tools and learning about preparing the surface for proper restoration.

Misterton had not been looked after properly for a number of years, and as a result there is a lot of rust to be cleaned up and removed, This needs to be removed properly and all of the holes, from ones the size of a pin head to ones nearly a foot long, needed to be found and welded. Doing this probably would ensure Misterton never got into such a sorry state again. Then we could insulate her, and how we did this would have to be decided, now that Simon had agreed to throw out the fibreglass that was thankfully no longer an option.

The rust needed to be cleared before this could be done, and the needle gun size versus the size of the boat had no comparison, the boat was huge. A lot of the rust removal in side initially needed to be done by hand and we had a big job on our hands. Luckily, I had developed a strange satisfaction from clearing the rust off the steel and making a smoother surface. I surprised even myself that the challenge of rediscovering the shape of a rivet gave me a sense of achievement. I realised there was no point looking at the size of the boat, as that would totally overwhelm me, instead I was learning to focus on the small part of the side of the hull that was in front of me. There was another potential plus to the work, it was going to use a lot of upper arm work and perhaps my bingo wings would fly away throughout the process.

We found that our life in Goole was beginning to take some shape and we began to make friends with some of the staff of the waterways museum. Andy, who oversees the museum at weekends, gave us a copy of a picture of Misterton when she was still working, and we begun to have some excellent lunch and tea breaks at the museum. Dave and Margaret, friends from when Simon moored his narrow boat next to Dave’s in Reading came to visit and they gave us an amazing offer, we could stay with them in their spare room when we were working on Misterton. This was going to save us a small fortune in bed and breakfast and hotel bills. We were extremely grateful to take them up on their offer, and were hopeful that by the spring would be spending nights aboard Misterton.

We were beginning to lead a double life, the life in London with jobs where neither of us ever got dirt under our nails, to our weekend life when we transformed into manual labourers. I begun to worry that I was enjoying the manual labour more, maybe this enjoyment would eventually wear off – only time would tell.