Part 9

The weather was being typical English spring into summer weather, and was extremely wet and cold. Misterton was moored in Stainforth and we were unable to do much to her in the rain except continually remove screws and rubbish. Trips to the trip were seriously hampered by the torrential rain and Simon rightly decided we should not work every weekend. Simon had joined an organization the Dutch Barge Association (DBA) and they held meetings and conferences, and he was doing a lot of research on Barges and things we needed to know. The boat builder did not want to move Misterton to the boat yard until the TV crew had filmed her at Stainforth, and we were in a waiting game.

I was pleased Simon thought we needed to have weekends where we relaxed and caught up with friends, after all we were both holding down full time jobs alongside this project. We were going to spend a weekend in Crouch End and drink good wine, eat nice food and bore our friends with tales of Misterton. We did have a second topic of conversation, the wedding, but Simon was worried this might bore people and suggested we kept this discussion to a minimum.

I came home from work one evening and Simon looked extremely pleased with himself. This normally meant something good had happened to Misterton.

‘Are they going to move her?’ I asked.

‘No. Not as good as that but still useful.’

Useful, that word told me it was something practical and probably involved an element of work, and definitely was not driven by total indulgent pleasure.

‘The DBA are having a Saturday conference on barge electric installation and how to go across the channel,’ he announced.

A conference on barge installation, how thrilling – not! It turned out that Simon thought this was something we could go to together to learn more about barges, we could learn about the electrics together. Still the afternoon session was on crossing the channel and I was definitely interested in that. The bonus was that lunch was included, but we would have to get up early on our Saturday off to drive to Kent for 9am. That meant not having a night out with friends on Friday, but we could catch up with them on Saturday.

‘I guess it will be interesting to hear about how to cross the channel even though we are a long way off doing that ourselves,’ I said.

Simon then explained that to get back to London we might want to leave after lunch. He also told me that the DBA held regular events and there was bound to be one on this topic again before we went over the channel. Seeing the look on my face Simon suggested that I might not want to go to the electrics talk, and he would be happy to go alone and fill me in when necessary.

I thought for a minute, this was a tempting offer; I could have a lie in, go to the gym, have a sauna and temporarily join the ranks of ladies who lunch. I looked at Simon and found myself saying ‘we’re in this together; it will probably be good for me to learn about electrics. I’m going to live on the boat too, and when you’re away with work and there’s a problem I’ll need to be able to know what to do.’

Simon explained that they were not going to be demonstrating practical electrics at the conference; it would be focused on the theory of electrical installation. I reassured him that this was what I had thought, and it might help me understand the basics. After all, I reasoned to myself, just because I was marrying Simon did not mean that I needed to become a lady incapable of doing anything practical – did it?

The Saturday morning dawned and irony stared us in the face, it was a beautiful summer’s day, perfect weather for working on the boat. I think we reached a silent agreement not to say the obvious and smiled as we set off before 8am on a Saturday. The directions given by the organization were excellent and we were able to find the village hall in the middle of nowhere with no problem at all.

When we walked into the hall, I realized we were the youngest people in the room; everyone else appeared to be of retirement age. A group of gentlemen gave the appearance of being ex navy and were extremely organized. As I became aware of my surroundings I realised that all the men were front of house, meeting and greeting and proudly displaying electric manuals. I was not the only lady there, the rest were in the kitchen making sandwiches and arranging quiche, presumably for lunch. This was not quite what I had meant when I’d wanted to temporarily join ladies who lunch.

The gentlemen waited for a few more arrivals and different folk from the world of water arrived. There was the nouveau riche couple with the designer clothes, flash car and a very expensive boat full of gadgets; the good life couple who were leading the way for sustainable lifestyles and the part time business and boat life freelance consultants. This was one aspect of life on the water that I found particularly pleasing, no one really cared what you did they were interested in you and your boat. The friendship and respect shown to everyone was equal regardless of the diversity of backgrounds that people came from.

The two speakers were introduced; a man who was the font of all knowledge about batteries and a second gentleman who had owned several boats and installed a variety of systems in his time.

The first man started to speak and I started to take notes, as he spoke I wrote over six pages of notes, and became more and more aware of the dangers of the system we would have on Misterton, and in reality the dangers found in all electric systems. One story that stood out was the fact that normal spanners would melt and stick to batteries if they came into contact, also any metal wearing around wrists could melt and stick to the skin. There was something about having to blow across the top of a battery before working on it or it could explode, the gentleman explained that was how he had lost the hearing in one ear. There were many little stories all of which I wrote down furiously, and made a mental note that we would need to buy a properly insulated tool kit to make sure Simon was safe at all times.

Finally the talk was over and lunch was on, a buffet organized and made by the nice ladies in the kitchen who now made an appearance to supervise the self-service buffet. The food was extremely tasty, and we were able to network a little with the keen people in the DBA. I made a mental note of the names of those who had seemed to have a lot of experience working on boats, who knows when we may need to seek more advice, and knowing the names of people on the DBA site could only be helpful.

As we drove back to London, and finally our well deserved night out, Simon asked me if I had learnt anything.

‘Yes,’ I said confidently, ‘if anything ever goes wrong with the electrics on Misterton I’ll not touch it till you get home.’

The following week we received a phone call from the research lady on the TV programme. She told me that our test film had come across really well but there was still an issue with the moorings, or rather our lack of moorings.

‘You’re too risky,’ she said, ‘you’re story is really interesting but you are risky as who knows where you will end up, That’s a problem for our producers. Good luck though.’

I broke the news to Simon and he was disappointed too. Despite professing no desire to be involved with a TV programme once it looked like a possibility he had become used to the idea and thought it could be good fun.

He professed to not being surprised. I asked him why and he explained that he thought we were too risky because we’re not risky at all. Simon had researched on the internet the stories the programme covered and previous couples had got divorced or the project had failed. We were clearly in love and excited about our soon to happen marriage, and we were in a good position to wait till the boat was ready. We did not have to live on a wreck, live in the wild or do anything that would create a great drama in the eyes of the producers. Our relationship was too much of a sure thing and our patience with our project was immense. The later was going to prove to be extremely challenging and the former is fantastic. I could see his point – where was the drama?