Part 4

Finally the boat was ours, Simon had a lot less money in his bank account and the old owners had moved out. We were ready to see our Misterton and revel in our new home. A few days before our first visit as owners, Simon told me that the boat builders wife had e-mailed him to tell him that the old owners had not cleared out much clutter, well let's be honest - junk. She knew I would not be impressed and said that she and her daughter were going to clear it out before we arrived and she had arranged for a skip to be put by Misterton. I was pleased that it was going to be cleared, angry that the old owners had deliberately gone against our agreement and slightly guilty that other people were solving our problem. Simon, being the bigger person than me at times, felt sympathy for the old owners and was extremely accepting of the situation.

I could not shake the guilt, there's a good catholic upbringing for you, and so we rearranged our lives and freed up the next weekend to go and help with the junk clearance. I felt it would be a good bonding experience with the boat, as I'd noticed in the past when I had moved into new houses the cleaning helped make it home. I thought it would be a shame to miss out on this vital stage where we would bond with the boat. Although there was junk it would not take long to throw in the skip and then we'd be ready to paint and tidy.

We went to the boatyard as we needed to collect the keys and get an update on the outside work estimate. When we arrived they made us a cup of tea and said they had managed to empty most of the boat but there was still a little left to do. Great, we still had the chance to take part in the cleansing of the old boat. The boat builder's wife began to describe what they had found, a chip pan full of old fat, the fridge defrosted and full of rotting food, half full tablet packets strewn across the floors and dirty clothes lying around. The best was yet to come - ‘my daughter picked up a tin under the sink in her marigolds, and it disintegrated in her hand'. Blimey I thought it must have been there for ages. ‘She looked in her hand and there were lots of crawly, creepy maggots in the remnants of the tin in the palm of her hand.'

I began to wonder if I wanted to take part in any cleansing process and also if I should fake an urgent call back to London. This fake call works on blind dates: a chosen conspirator calls you 45 minutes into the date and you either a) put to silence and apologise for leaving the phone on, or b) answer and say of course you'll come straight away if Aunty Mo is sick, apologise and run out the door. Situation a. allows you to demonstrate just how interesting you find the date and situation b. releases you from a potentially agonising evening. My dating days were over, I was a fiancé and I suspect such a ploy might result in upsetting Simon, so I convinced myself the worst had gone, and all we had to do now was clean up the aftermath, and what an aftermath it would prove to be.

It was a really sunny day in Stainforth, so according to a Jane Austen novel we were going to have an amazing day and everything would work out perfectly.

We arrived at the boat and I had the camera ready to take photos of our first day as the new owners of Misterton. As Simon unlocked the hatch I was digitally recording the moment and quite excited about what we would find. The hatch opened and we entered. As we descended the stairs I couldn't help notice there was still a stale smell that left a bad taste in your mouth, but I kept smiling.

As we arrived in the living area I could see that a lot of clutter had gone, but I could also see a lot of stains left underneath the clutter, the penny dropped the clutter was a distraction to keep the untrained eye away from stains. These stains must have been lovingly cultivated over time as such stains only come from carefully nurturing dust in a maternal and loving manner whilst ensuring no domestic cleaning product was allowed anywhere near it. Still the cleaning process would help us bond.

Simon I noticed was strangely quiet, the carpet had been removed and he was looking at the floor, his face looked drawn and pale. I asked him if he was alright and he mumbled one word in reply ‘chipboard'.

I looked interested but did not understand what he meant. Chipboard is a form of wood and certainly the floor was covered in wood, this was under the carpet and not a total surprise to me.

‘When I asked him what the floor was made of he showed me some plywood, he intimated the whole floor was plywood - this is chipboard', Simon continued, ‘this is a disaster'.

I was still unsure what this meant, and naively said ‘I'm sure it will be alright, lets look at the rest of the rooms'.

I went into the workshop and it was full of clutter, the ‘junk gold' I had earlier referenced. ‘I think there are some old tools here you might like', I shouted to Simon. We had been at a car boot sale on the Isle of Wight where Simon had pointed out some old wooden chisels like his granddad used to own. I thought some of these tools looked similar and might cheer him up.

I walked to the other end of the boat into the main bedroom and realised why it had smelt so bad there was a damp patch all across the middle of the floor. ‘Simon I know what's causing the smell,' I said, ‘there's a massive damp patch in this room'.

Simon smiled at me with an ironic look in his eye, and I continued to witter away about all the things I could see that would be great in time, and thought maybe I should get a pair of marigolds and start a good clean.

Eventually Simon spoke, ‘I don't want to offend you but I don't think you realise what a big job this is, you haven't got any experience of making things and there are a lot of problems here. She is a very dirty, cluttered boat and needs a lot of work'.

He had that tone in his voice which I have learnt means he needs some time and space to think about stuff and I decided to go and sit on the roof, the sun was shining and I had a good book in the car. I explained to Simon I needed some fresh air and went outside.

I got my book from the car and sat on the roof, I could picture myself sat here with friends, cocktails and smiling at Simon as he drove the boat whilst we relaxed. I looked around the roof and realised it was quite untidy. That gave me a great idea. If I tidied the roof Simon would be happier as the boat would look less cluttered. So selflessly I put my book to one side and started to tidy. There was a lot of dirt, but at least I was in the fresh air, to complete the tidy I even put the ropes into the fancy twirl I'd seen Simon do on his narrow boat. I felt pleased with my accomplishments and called Simon to see what I had done.

He came out of the hatch and smiled, ‘that's a good idea you can see the difference we can make by tidying' he said. I felt very proud of myself, my future husband was happy again, I would make him a good wife what a lucky man he was.