Part 26

We had decided to spend our summer holiday working on Misterton, although we had decided that this year we would have a sun holiday, and Simon’s friend Dimitrios had recommended a lovely place to stay in Santorini, that had to wait. Our main priority had to be getting the boat ready to tow down to our mooring, in order to ensure this happened we needed to keep on top of the work. On all the television programmes that talk about the importance of project managing on site and not from afar, we had found that when we were present more work seemed to get done.

We arrived on a Saturday that was pouring down with glorious English rain, it seemed that every year as soon as school was over the skies opened and continued to do so till the schools returned. It appeared as though this year was to be no different; I was seriously concerned about the lack of vitamin E we were getting in yet another year without a sunshine holiday.

We managed to entertain ourselves on the Saturday by searching for B and Q’s in the local 100 mile area. We had back in January decided on a floor colour that we both agreed on – chocolate. I had liked red, Simon black but chocolate was common ground and so we compromised (just like we had learnt about on the catholic marriage course). Unfortunately B and Q were unaware of our decision and had decided to phase out the range of floor colours; they were selling them off at all their stores, so we went from Doncaster, to Rotherham to Wath under Deane to find the colour. In Rotherham Simon found granite grey which he liked and I thought distasteful, he purchased 2 tins and smiles saying he would use for the engine room and the workshop. I felt slightly perturbed as the agreement had been outside décor – Simon and inside décor myself, I hoped this was the extent of his interference.

We had a great meal on our gas fired bbq and background accompaniment from the wedding reception occurring in the Goole boathouse. I kept popping my head out hoping for a glimpse of the bride, but I was never successful, however we were lucky enough to hear every out of tune karaoke tune that was performed by the guests one at a time, some were so bad they were actually good. We got on drinking the wine and eventually a fitful sleep arrived.

Sunday morning was bright but windy, too windy to paint the top coat on the wheel house, so whilst Simon went shopping I set up the spray paint and prepared to put a second coat on the bathroom, library and entrance area. I started in the bathroom and after a coupe of minutes the biggest spider I had seen in a long time appeared. I stopped and backed out of the area what was I going to do?

I have the biggest phobia of spiders and beginning to cope with the small ones being around but this was a beast. When I was a teenager living in my dad’s house, everyone was away at work and I woke up one night to see a big spider in my bedroom. I ran downstairs and rang my little brother asking him to come over to remove the beast; he suggested I went back to sleep as it would be gone in the morning. I suppose it was 1 am and he had to get up in 4 hours for work so I can understand his unwillingness to come straight over for the spider. I did not know what to do, so I decided to barricade the top of the stair with furniture and sleep on the sofa downstairs. It has since been pointed out to me that spiders can get through barriers like this, knowing this has not helped me deal with them any better.

I was alone on Misterton with a beast and it was in the room I wanted to work in. I could either wait for Simon to return, or try and deal it with myself. I had been wondering what would happen when we are finally living on the boat and Simon is working away, so I decided to use this as a test. Firstly l I took a photo so I could show the size of the beast to Simon on his return, then I got a big bucket and a long, strong stick. I was shaking all over as I approached the beast but kept reminding myself the spider was a lot smaller than me and probably just as scared. I used the stick to poke the spider into the bucket, and then took the bucket up on the deck and threw the spider into the canal. I watched it swim away towards Chris’ boat and then returned to my painting shaken but proud of myself.

Simon finally returned from shopping just as I finished all my painting and I told him there was a big spider.

‘O.K where is it?’ he asked.

‘Let me show you the picture of it,’ I said.

‘It is a very big spider,’ he agreed, ‘where do you think it is now?’

I told him how I had removed it and he smiled at me, gave me a kiss and said, ‘you are making excellent progress on the spider front.’

As the week progressed Simon was finding it difficult to find things to keep me busy and feeling useful. On one day it was raining and I felt particularly overwhelmed by the size of the project and the apparent lack of progress from where I was standing. Simon had booked a boat to tow us down to the Thames Estuary and it was due to arrive in two and a half weeks. There was still a huge list of things that needed to be done in order for us to be able to go, not least was getting Misterton mobile by reinstalling the steering so that she could be moved to a dry dock in Thorne and have some welding under the water line to seal up the last little holes. This was making me very anxious and its fair to say Simon handled a crying, ranting wife in the best way he knew – he suggested I go shopping. Now as a lady who likes to shop this could seem like a really good suggestion, but the shopping remit in the local vicinity extended to Tesco’s and a Focus DIY store. I blubbed and continued ranting and took the car to the DIY store to buy myself some new gloves. Maybe if I get new gloves I could avoid getting workman’s hands and retain some of my femininity.

I recalled a management course I had attended in my second teaching post, it was six weeks on Mondays and dealt with a variety of topics one of which was managing your own stress. I realised that my crying was symptom of stress and tried to recall what I could do to help. I desperately clutched my little finger on my right hand. We had been instructed to fill this finger up with happy memories that made me feel good, when under stress clutching this finger could help recall positive memories and slowly calm me down. That was the theory, but this time however much I clutched my little finger I still had visions of not getting to Staines and spending another year in our temporary flat. This was clearly not working and continuing to clutch my little finger could result in proper hyper ventilation, so I decided to try the next tactic, When you feel out of control, write down a list of all the things that need to be done and tackle them one by one, crossing them off as you go to give a sense of accomplishment and relieving the build up of stress. Whilst I was on the course years back I had been getting quite stresses about my finances – I’m looking forward to the day when this no longer occurs – and I put on my list that mortgage repayments were causing me the biggest stress. I went and spoke to finance advisors and worked it through and managed to save myself £4000 in the process. This didn’t mean I then had £4000, it just meant it was £4000 less I would have to pay out over the next three years and surprisingly I did feel less stressed. I’m not sure to this day how the course helped me in my professional role, but many of the tips have come in extremely handy at times of personal crisis. I could sense another crisis coming on and decided to use the list technique. From the gloves to keep my hands soft purchase, I went to Tesco’s and bought a book of plain paper. On this paper I made a list of all the work that needed to be done on Misterton and decided that at the end of the week I would go through this list with the boat builder and see what we could cross off.

I returned much calmer and Simon in my absence had set the wheels in motion to teach me a new task, I was going to use a router and make fake floor boards out of the plywood. I felt that this was quite a technical task, as I had to measure the size of the fake boards, and hammer in a baton to guide the router along making sure it was straight, and then take the baton out and move to the next position and hammer it in again, to achieve this task Simon also had to teach me the basics of using a claw hammer, I did do woodwork at school but all  I remember making was a paperweight and a pencil holder. Neither involved any nails, and the pencil holder was my bright idea as I wanted to use the big industrial drill that made holes like all the big boys did. All I had to do for this was select a piece of wood and drill holes in it. No need to ask the teacher for help it seemed easy enough. I selected a piece of wood that seemed to be just the right size and proceeded to drill away, delighted with my efforts I took it to show Mr Mahon, he turned pale and wanted to know who had given me the mahogany. I got a detention for that one, but to this day I protest that no one had said not to take the wood out of the office and I did think I had made a masterpiece. Simon had a tough job on his hands, but he was certainly getting further than any of the teachers at school, maybe it was his positive praise when I did something right and his patience with a reluctant learner, who knows but I was learning a lot of new things under Simon’s tutorage.

Once the boards were all marked out with the router, which took four and a half hours, I was then moving on to paint them with the Chocolate paint stain. For this task Simon roped in a helper for me, a young man called Jede, his father Steve was doing an amazing job on carrying on with the lining and the beading, and creating a finish that looked perfect for our future home. His son was spending the week with him at work, as it was school holidays. Simon asked if he’d like to help, and he was really keen. I suspect it gets boring sitting and watching your dad work after awhile. With Jede’s help it took about 40 minutes to stain all the boards and they looked quite good. There needed to be another coat of stain and three coats of varnish before they were finished, but I was confident we could do this before leaving for our chilling weekend and I would feel like we had accomplished something. My stress levels were reducing again.

On one evening we went to see the Humber bridge, I had never seen it before and was keen to visit whilst in the area, we drove over and found a good view spot. It looked magnificent and it was nice to do some recreation in with our working holiday. Whilst we were in the viewing spot Simon handed me a card, he had arranged for us to have a lovely romantic weekend together as it was our first wedding anniversary that weekend. I could not stop grinning, although the boat still needed a lot of work and we were in the middle of a very trying period, all of the challenges had just helped our love deepen, and we could spend a weekend discussing new tactics about the boat project, whilst being totally loved up, my husband was great.

On our final night in Goole we went to meet our friends Dave and Margaret, in the Macintosh pub, there favourite place for a tipple. We walked into town and had a great evening swapping boat tales; Dave had been having a few glitches with his narrow boats electrics and the more we talked to boat people the  more I realised my DIY skills would be needed for life and not just for the length of the restoration period.

Finally on our last day, the rain stopped and the sun came out, Simon was able to get on with some needle gunning and I was putting the last coats of varnish on the floor before we laid them down. Today I was going to go through the list of work with Alan and see what I could cross off.

I varnished the floor with great speed and got an additional little job, to start painting the sides of the decks with vac tan. I also did all the areas that Simon had needle gunned, and it was amazing how black everything turned despite having primer on.

As the weather was so good Simon decided we could put the first coat of the top coat on the wheelhouse. We had been waiting for nearly two months to do this. I was rushing around getting the roller and tray ready, when Simon dropped the bombshell. We were to paint it all with brushes as this would give a much better finish than a roller. It was something to do with the paint being a special sort that after application would move across so that it was a really smooth finish. It would also be reflective and look really attractive. So Simon said. This was going to take longer, but in the interests of marital harmony I went along with his latest whim. I was trusted with cutting in the edges whilst Simon did the large surfaces. I am sure that my job required more skill, but kept my thoughts to myself. The coat dried slowly, and the cover was lovely, and I suppose Simon was right, the finish did look better with the brush, I was just thankful we did not have this special paint for the roof!

It was time to go through the list, I stood in front of it pen in hand with Alan excited to see how close we were.

‘What can I cross off,’ I asked.

Alan read through it slowly, and looked perplexed, he pointed towards the list and said, ‘we’ve started that and that and that, but we haven’t finished anything yet,’

‘Never mind,’ I smiled graciously, ‘I’ll be back up on Tuesday next week; maybe we’ll be able to cross more off then.’

‘I expect so,’ Alan replied and we both silently agreed to discuss it no further. We both knew that more had to happen to get the boat ready to be towed down, and I was determined we were going to get there.