Part 22

Now that Misterton was looking like she could be ready to bring down this summer we needed to find somewhere to put her. It needed to be somewhere we could both get to work from and somewhere we could afford. As anyone who knows anything about boats will know, moorings in London are difficult to come by, and often a good mooring will set you back a small fortune with no real return on your cash, no return unless you happen to have enough set side in savings to buy your own mooring on the Thames. Sadly we are not in that category but if we start playing the lottery maybe one day our numbers could come up?

In the meantime Simon was on the case on the internet looking for possible moorings. One question we have often been asked by people is why we didn’t buy a boat in London on a mooring. The simple answer is affordability, whilst the slightly more complex answer is long term intentions. Boats on moorings in London tend to attract a higher price, by as much as in excess of £100 000, and if you ever intend to leave London with the same boat the price drops by that amount. An instant case of negative equity if your long term intention is to leave the bright lights of the big city, we needed to keep our options open, for us one of the points of having a boat is to be able to move home with minimum fuss, and to go out on exciting little adventures. Simon carried on looking for moorings.

Mooring owned by the British Waterways come up for tender on a fairly steady basis, and are often around the Canary Wharf, Blackwall tunnel. Interested parties have to place their highest price in a sealed envelope, and then on the closing day the highest price wins. The average price of moorings around this area tends to be ten to twelve thousand a year, more expensive than my mortgage so not the most popular option.

Simon meanwhile found a mooring in Kew, with a guy named Jon who was building a new mooring pontoon, of the highest standard it must be said, just by Kew Bridge.

Simon sent him all the details of our boat and ourselves and he invited us for an interview. We left Yorkshire early and went for an interview on the Sunday morning at midday as agreed.

As we arrived we noticed a lot of police activity on the bridge, and a cordoned off crime scene, we soon found out that this was a ladies body that had been found washed up underneath the bridge, I tried not to take this as a bad omen although it was hard not too. Jon was a lovely welcoming man, and he had a really interesting set up that he was developing. There were already three barges on the mooring including his own Thames barge. He showed us around and I thought it as beautiful. It was a five minute walk to Kew Gardens, convenient for the over ground and the right side of London to be able to visit many of our family members with ease (not sure how happy they’d be but we both liked the thought.)

After two hours of conversation and a tour around his friends’ barge we all seemed to get along quite well. We then got down to discussing the price. If you wanted to stay for five years there was a premium to pay up front of £20 000, and then it worked out at just over £1 000 a month. I felt the wind slowly leave my sails, as I realised that on top of this there would be no car parking and in the neighbourhood we would have to pay a considerable fee to find any type of secure parking.

Simon and I left all smiles and serenity and then had serious session discussing the affordability versus the desirability of the mooring. We decided that we would go for it if John offered us a space, after all we would not be in London forever and it would be a really cool place to live for a couple of years. Whilst living there, we could cancel holidays abroad but it was such a beautiful mooring we would not miss them (I said this through smiling, gritted teeth.  Simon e mailed our decision to John and he sent our boat details to the Port of London Authority to get their approval and we waited.

And we waited.

We waited a little more.

The waiting became painful.

I became impatient so Simon said there was the possibility of another mooring on the Thames that we could go and take a look at, then we would have more than one option, whilst we waited.

Simon had got in touch with a boat yard in Staines, whilst they had no moorings themselves; co-incidentally their neighbour had an empty mooring at the bottom of a private garden. They put us in contact with each other and we were off on another interview.

To prepare me for the area – Staines – Simon showed me some Ali G clips on you tube, this helped to raise my fear levels at leaving civilised Crouch End for an area that was famous for Ali G and bling.

We went and met Claire and Scout her Yorkshire terrier, who was our potential landlady. As we arrived at her house and walked down to the mooring at the end of the garden, it looked very beautiful, it had a calm and relaxing atmosphere. The mooring was a well made one, with pilings that mean the boat can rise if, or rather, when the Thames level rises in the winter. Claire suggested that wellies would be a necessity in the winter; I decided there and then to start keeping an eye out for wellies with attitude.

The garden was a pleasure to look at, and there were some bushes at one end where the wheelhouse would be that would mean privacy for both us and Claire. The setting looked nothing like I had expected from the area, and the big bonus was that there was enough parking for both mine and Simon’s car, this could mean an end to complicated car switching manoeuvres that we currently had to plan into any trip we went on.

We then sat with Claire in her conservatory area that looked over the Thames, and the real interview was underway.

‘Are you very politically correct?’ Claire asked.

When I’m at work, totally but otherwise I’m an Avenue Q person,’ I smiled.

Claire had not heard of Avenue Q so I quickly filled her in on what the funniest musical I’d ever seen was about and she laughed. A good sign I thought. The conversation was not awkward at all amongst us and Claire appeared to be a very laid back and chilled out person, someone it would be easy to have as a landlady/neighbour I thought, would not live in your pocket but would be good person to have the occasional glass of wine on the jetty with in the summer months. She gave us her price and we thought it was much fairer, and definitely something we could afford whilst retaining a reasonable standard of living as opposed to eating beans on toast in Kew.

As we were leaving Claire said she would be happy for us to take the mooring if we were interested, but recognised that we needed to go and talk it over together.

We did what all sensible adults do when making a decision that would dictate the way our lives moved forward over the next coupe of years – we went to the pub. On the way there I did what Simon’s dad had suggested and drew up a list of pro’s and cons for both moorings, and on paper it looked easy – Staines.

Simon sat smiling next to me and we begun our discussion using the list as a tool  to keep us focused on the task, and sipped slowly on  our glass of red wine (me) and pint of Guinness (Simon).

I was feeling nervous as we had worked out that the commute from Kew to work for me was about an hour, from Staines it would be about one hour and twenty minutes. That meant three hours a day every day of the working week. When would there be time for me to go to the gym? Without my regular fitness sessions I was worried my size would balloon up, but knew we had to adapt our lives to the right mooring as there were none, at least none we could afford/would except us, nearer to my work. (There were some moorings by London Bridge, heritage moorings that would only take historic barges – which ours was. The wheelhouse on our boat had completely rotted and we had replaced it with a slightly larger one we could actually stand up in, but still in keeping with the lines of the boat. As we had adapted the outline, even marginally they would not accept us).

I turned to Simon, ‘I may regret this on freezing old mornings in January, but I think that Staines is the right place for all sorts of reasons, maybe it will be the kick up the backside I need to start looking for a new job, and with luck I’ll find one nearer to the mooring so I can get up later. What do you think?’

‘I agree with you, although my work is very close to Staines so I can get up later,’ Simon smiled.

We did what all normal couples do when they have just made a life changing decision that they are both happy with – snogged and got another drink.

Simon phoned Claire straightaway, ‘after all no point waiting,’ I said, ‘someone else may come along.’

He came back and snogged me again; this told me she had said yes. We both sat there looking like a couple of cats who had got the cream. We had a mooring, our new life would be starting soon, we were both in love, and life was wonderful.