Part 18

The winter was here, and there was no hope of getting any welding done until the spring, the amount of work we could get on with ourselves was very minimal. Gallantly we kept coming up but only managed one weekend in December.

We lit the Stanley range in a vain attempt at creating heat, although now there was no longer any insulation on the boat it was necessary to go and stand right by the stove to bring life back into the frozen sticks that had once been fingers. We were still able to carry on scraping rust and painting on the rust converter. In order to help cheer the process up I had managed to buy an ipod shuffle speaker, and we could now listen to music whilst we worked, which was a real luxury.

It was apparent that we would not be spending our first Christmas as man and wife aboard Misterton, which was a disappointment but the disappointment with timings around the boat was something that we were both getting used too.

To try and keep the boat experience positive we decided to spend Christmas on Simon’s narrow boat Iris instead. Simon was going to turn Iris into a Christmas grotto, and although he was not big on Christmas and all the trimmings he knew I was and hoped that a boat themed Christmas would make up for no Misterton.

Simon went over to Iris a day before me to get ready, I had asked for a Christmas tree but knew that lights would be impossible as we were not going to be plugged into shore power for any of the trip and Iris did not have a generator on board.

When I arrived at the floating grotto, Simon was smiling and informed me that his friend Matt thought he might be in trouble if he did not come up with a good Christmas.

‘Why did he think it might be a problem?’ I asked.

‘I texted him to say I could only find a black fake Christmas tree yesterday, did he think this was a good choice?’

My face fell visibly, but I tried to keep smiling, surely Simon knew black Christmas tree was not a good option, I smiled without my eyes.

‘Do you want to come onboard,’ Simon asked.

I followed him to Iris and he opened the door, Iris looked exactly the same as when I’d last left her, where was the Christmas decorations, I guessed this was his idea of minimal.

‘When you’re inside I’ll show you something,’ Simon said.

He closed the door behind me, and then white fairy lights lit up the inside of the boat, I turned to him delighted, Iris looked very festive with just this small touch. I suppose there was not a lot of room for a Christmas tree anyway.

‘There’s more,’ he said obviously pleased with my reaction. He walked to the front of the boat and opened the doors up to the deck, ‘come and see.’

I walked to the front and poked my head out, there in the middle of the deck was a cute little Christmas tree covered in white fairy lights with a red Rudolph nose in the place of a star. I turned to Simon, ‘it’s beautiful with the lights, shame they won’t work when we get going but they look lovely now.’

‘They are solar powered and will last all Christmas, they don’t need any shore power,’ Simon explained.

I was ecstatic; we had our Christmas grotto, simple but very festive and perfect for our first Christmas as man and wife.

We left and took the boat up the Grand Union canal to Denham Country Park, mooring near the ‘Horse and Barge’ pub, and when we arrived my younger brother Stevie joined us for Christmas Eve. We went to the pub for pre-dinner drinks and realised we could have moored slightly nearer the pub as for some reason there were not lots of eager boaters going for a cruise in the snow and ice that had been around for most of December.

On Christmas Day morning, we got up and had breakfast. We exchanged gifts and stockings (mine was a BP carrier bag filled up with gifts brought from a BP garage, Simon is always a class act) with my brother and then took Iris for a short trip so she was moored nearer to the pub. This was Stevie’s first, and although we did not know it would also be his last, trip on Iris. We dropped him off by the pub car park and he went to join my oldest bother and his family for the rest of the day. We had a fabulous day, drinks in the pub, walks by the canal and then Christmas dinner followed by a screening of Its’ a Wonderful Life which I had ordered specially as there was no TV. Simon had never seen this classic film and I felt it was important for me to continue his cultural education, along with the ballet and theatre trips I had already taken him on; I was now showing him this must see Christmas film.

As we had no television there was no queens’ speech, but Simon bravely stepped in to fill the 3 o’clock void no queens’ speech created and he gave a speech. He toasted our life together and predicted that this would be the first of many boat Christmas’ making a rash promise that the next Christmas would be aboard Misterton.

On boxing day we brought Iris back to Willowtree marina, as we approached the second lock on the journey, Simon asked me if I thought I could take Misterton in and out of the lock whilst he did the gates. This was a first, up till now on every journey we had undertaken I had always been the one to jump off, open the sluices and push the gates open, whilst Simon bought Iris in and out of the locks. I was the one doing all the manual labour whilst Simon did the tricky navigating of the boat, asking me to do it showed he must have more confidence in me, allowing me to handle Iris on my own whilst he was on the land. It reminded me of our last trip to Le Mans, he casually asked if I would like to drive his car, his prized possession. I was sorely tempted but there were French police everywhere and I know my car insurance did not cover me for his classic car, so I thanked him profusely and declined politely. As we got back to the UK I explained to Simon why I had declined, and he casually said, ‘I’ve added you to the insurance, you are going to be my wife and I think I should trust you with the car,’ I was stunned, as stunned as I was when he asked about taking Iris in and out of the lock.

This time I was prepared, I knew he would not ask me if he was not confident so I took over the helm, and Simon stepped ashore. I guided her in carefully, threw Simon the rope, and then took her out of the lock, and gently brought her downstream and over to the bank enabling Simon to get back on board. I felt very proud and content, this was the perfect boat Christmas and we were going to make a great boat team, when our home was ready. The big question was, when would be able to take our new home out on its first adventure, that day was going to be very special.