I’m sitting writing (the first part of) this as we are moored in Grimsby. Theo settled to sleep not long ago, and Arthur is currently avoiding bedtime by flitting between me and Dave. It’s been a whirlwind few days (well, weeks!), and we haven’t managed to get the boat out yet, but we have certainly accumulated so many other achievements that it’s only a minor disappointment at this stage. Given the tough task of unpacking, organising and storing things that made the cut onto the boat (somehow vast despite the seemingly endless ebay listings, and trips to the tip and charity shops), it wouldn’t really be advisable to sail anywhere at present; there are just too many items that haven’t been stowed.
We actually moved onboard on Tuesday 18th, Dave and I each driving a child and a car crammed to bursting. I thought it would be a more tearful affair. After all, we were leaving our first ‘family home’, the home we bought our first baby, Arthur, home to, where we got ready for our wedding and held our wedding breakfast, and where Theo was born. Maybe if we’d all managed to go in one car and I’d not had to concentrate on driving, I would have had more time to be upset. But to be honest, I think months of finishing the work on the house, the intense last few weeks especially, had taken their toll. I was glad to close that chapter, to know that the challenge was over and move onto the next. Not that I didn’t love the home we created. The ‘For Sale’ sign was delivered and positioned last Wednesday, arriving without warning some time after dinner, and I certainly shed a few tears. Funny because it was hardly a surprise; we’ve been mentally and physically planning and preparing for this sale for a year now, and before that we’d discussed the possibility of moving to a home closer to Dave’s work. It occurred to me when I considered these facts that it’s something to do with knowing that people will drive past or view our house online and wonder about our ‘For Sale’ story, but I can’t quite pinpoint what it is. I suppose it also made the next step on our journey more real.
The last night in our house was harder than the leaving. While everyone else slept, thoroughly exhausted, I was wide awake and couldn’t concentrate on the book I was normally absorbed in. Instead, I walked from room to room, taking in the size and shape of each, the view from the windows (my favourite by far at the time of night being over the fields from Arthur’s room), and especially the memories they triggered. By the time I had finished, I had woken Dave for a hug and some reassurance that we were doing an amazing thing (I nearly put ‘the right’ thing, but I’m not sure that exists). We’ve been so busy that writing about this is actually more difficult than leaving the house was- I have space to think and to feel. But in my heart, I know it this an opportunity not to be missed. I ask myself- would I sacrifice this chance to keep the house? No. What made this all the clearer was the realisation, as I sat watching the boys play on one of the last days in Station House, that, if we were house hunting now, this is isn’t the house I would choose. Again, I’m not really sure why, but something about the house now that it is finished doesn’t speak to me as it did when we first viewed it. Given that we love a challenge and a project, maybe it’s the fact that it is finished!
Dave and I arrived at the boat around 45 minutes apart, after some convoluted sat-nav instructions, a petrol stop and a break for Theo to have a wee on my part. Dave and Arthur were finishing a water pistol fight on deck, an insight into what I am hoping will a normal day for us, but also a welcome distraction from the mammoth task of moving aboard, especially daunting after having only just finished and moved out of our house. I began unpacking that afternoon, but quickly became disheartened- the boat felt swamped, no matter how ruthless I thought we had been. The next day was spent making inroads into the car loads of belongings, becoming familiar with all the little storage areas on the boat, and growing accustomed to life on-board more generally, particularly establishing ground rules with the children regarding life jackets. By the end of Wednesday I was feeling that we had made some progress- a good thing really as we both had to sell, our cars, quickly and empty!
Dave managed to do just that on the Thursday morning, and that afternoon we went on a tour of Grimsby trying to find a mythical DIY store that I knew I has passed searching for something else on a previous visit to the boat. Today, the boat is much closer to being organised, we have managed to discard a few more bags of things that somehow made their way here in the mad rush that was packing, and to be honest our boat is starting to feel like home already, although it may be that the pace of life is masking the transition. The children are exhausted by the end of the day, but Arthur, true to character, is stubborn to the last, always needing one extra snack or to see one more thing before bed. Tonight, he seems to have reached his limit, falling asleep without coercion before 8:30. So far, Theo has woken me between 5:30 and 6 each morning and demanded to be out of bed, on pain of waking up Arthur with loud chattering and grumbling if we do not read stories in another area of the boat immediately. Both have been unsettled, Theo struggling to remember which berth contains which items/is used for what, and he and Arthur resisting the new and more strict boundaries compared to home. Arthur has exerted control by complaining for 20 minutes about the lack of separately made gravy with his chicken casserole dinner, allowing it to go cold and uneaten before deciding he needs it reheating because he is hungry, after which he needs the mashed potato reheating which he also originally refused. It’s frustrating, especially so when we are all tired and a bit fraught, but I have to tell myself this is his way of controlling a tiny bit of his life when we have overhauled the rest of it in such an all-encompassing way.
Moving has been easier than I expected in so many ways. Both cars are sold (and fitness is improved as a result!), most possessions are tidied away, the children seem happy despite the upheaval, waking with smiles on their faces and keen to explore (their continued eagerness for independence and exploration I take as a positive sign), Station House has had enough interest so as not be a concern, and most importantly, I still want to do this! But it isn’t without hardship. I have had tears saying goodbye to family, many of whom plan to see us in the very near future, with not even as long between visits as there would be when we were in a normal house. I will especially miss my brother. We don’t see each other every week, or even every month; we don’t speak every day; we don’t have the same character is many ways. But somehow I feel that we are a team. I don’t know how else to describe it. When we chat or get together, no matter how long it has been, it feels like we are picking up from last time seamlessly. I’ve seen him in the last week more times than in the last couple of months, and it made me realise how much I already missed him as well as how much I will. And my gorgeous, lively and cheerful nephew, who is just reaching the age where he will really remember people and form lasting bonds.
But by far the most difficult person to leave has been my Nana. At 93 years old, frail and having just moved into a nursing home in the last few months, she is experiencing so much confusion and change. Selfishly, I was hoping that, with her suffering with some memory problems, she would not remember much about our plans; however, on our last visit she introduced, without prompting, me, Arthur and Theo as the ones going on the long trip, an asked me many questions about our plans. When we left we were both so upset, knowing as we do that that may have been our last time seeing each other, and her last chance to see the boys. I feel guilty, taking away beloved children/grandchildren/nephews from family; I feel guilty about leaving my Nana alone in a nursing home as I walk through the doors into a new world. I suggested that I might try to visit again before we left, but I couldn’t put her through another goodbye. I wanted to see her again, but Nana had said goodbye to me and the boys and didn’t see fair for her to do it again.
It’s not all plain sailing (no pun intended). This is, and will be, a test, a challenge and a sacrifice for us all; it already has been. And, unintentionally, it is the same for the people we leave behind. I know that we are offering ourselves and our children unbridled opportunity, time and experience we will never get back, but it is difficult when the start of the journey is accompanied by so many challenges and sacrifices, the majority of which are minor, but a few are hugely significant.
To end on a more positive note, because after everything this is so far already an overwhelmingly positive experience, I am going to try to squeeze in time for a picture each day on my ‘proper’ camera, both to keep up my practise and to improve technically, but also in an attempt document our time in a more creative way. I’m aiming to include not only pictures of us/our boat/destinations, but also those lesser noticed things we encounter, or just to snap things from a new perspective. Hopefully, I will be able to upload these on a weekly/fortnightly/monthly basis as a gallery, which will act as a summary of what we have seen and experienced. Since my first attempt were today (wholly unsuccessful as I was shepherding the boys along the pontoons at the time), I will start the first batch from now.
Note the date difference between this being made ‘live’ and when it was written! It has been difficult to carve out the time needed to finish this post, and since we started sailing a week ago (23rd July) we have had other things to prioritise. Coming soon will be a post about our first few journeys aboard, and our experiences of new places.