ONE of my closest friends died of cancer and I was invited to do the eulogy. The experience had a profound effect on me. Up to then Mary (the wife) and I were running a business working from 5am until 9pm, seven days a week. On the way back from the churc
ONE of my closest friends died of cancer and I was invited to do the eulogy. The experience had a profound effect on me. Up to then Mary (the wife) and I were running a business working from 5am until 9pm, seven days a week. On the way back from the church I asked Mary "What is it all about?" After a short chat we decided to do something we had been talking about for the past 20 years - sell up, start a new life, buy a narrow boat.
That weekend we went out to look for a suitable craft and found Brecon. An hour later we owned it. She now looks quite regal in her royal blue with gold banding livery.
We officially took her over on November 6, 2004, and Mary almost immediately started her list of the changes required to meet her exacting standards. I knew I would be quite busy for the next few years.
The loo presented a bit of a mystery. Where was the handle to flush it?
A bit of experimentation established that there was no sensing mechanism based on weight or moisture. We were just about to get help from one of the guys in the yard when we noticed a couple of buttons labelled 'pre' and 'post'. On pressing the post button, the loo burst into life with throbbing and sucking sounds. It didn't end there because its operation was not simply press 'pre' before and 'post' after, it was dependent on the reason you were there, but I will not go into detail. Suffice to say two 'pres' and one 'post' worked fine for most situations.
We took Brecon out on the river for the first time to see how she handled and she was perfect, even in quite strong currents. Now it was time for Mary to take over the tiller, a task that took a great deal of coaxing (Mary had visions of her sitting up front with a glass of wine taking in the scenery).
The boat is 60ft long but it only does four miles an hour. Mary gripped the tiller like a rodeo rider taking the reigns of a wild stallion. There she was whipping the tiller from side to side trying to tame this speeding hulk (bearing in mind moving the tiller one inch either side was plenty), her face intensely scrutinising the horizon for dangerous situations that could suddenly appear and surprise us.
After a short while of swerving from bank to bank, she gradually relaxed (so did I) and took control, except for a bit of confusion about which way to turn the tiller to get the desired effect at the bow (front pointy bit, to Mary).
Then it started raining. "I'll make the tea now," she volunteered and disappeared into the cabin. We have since agreed that Mary only takes over the tiller when the sun is shining.
Another initial problem was the rear hatch and remembering to slide it back before emerging, something I failed to do on so many occasions, I got quite good at recovering from concussion. This amused Mary until it was her turn. Then it was added to my "to do list".
In a house, everything seems to be continuous, electricity, heating and water and so forth. So there I was in the shower, head to foot in soap suds when, suddenly, nothing - no water - and no choice but to call my loving spouse for help.
When she finally stopped laughing, she came up with the solution, three bottles of sparkling Perrier water from the fridge. Bearing in mind this was in November, is it no wonder that I turned a sort of blue colour that Mary though was quite attractive and went well with the slice of lemon I was now being offered .
We returned to our old home to tidy up some loose ends and face the ultimate challenge in this whole episode, moving the cat on to Brecon.
* Follow Mary and Ray's progress on the river next week.