Living on the Water

by Josephine Myles, guest blogger and author of Barging In

Have you ever dreamt about living somewhere really unusual? As a child who always had her nose in a good book, I was forever daydreaming about my future adventures living in a hollowed out tree, a remote lighthouse, a tumble-down castle or a tepee. I also had recurring fantasies of running away with the gypsies or the circus. Then at the age of eight I went on a school trip to the local canal, involving a short cruise on board a narrowboat, complete with an old-fashioned boatman’s cabin. I adored the idea of living on the water and fell in love with the traditional roses and castles artwork.

Fast forward eighteen years and I was living with my husband in a one bedroom city flat in Bath, both of us yearning for a greater connection to the natural world. Despite my jungle of houseplants, I would still find myself staring out of my window at the river below, wondering if we’d ever be able to afford a patch of land of our own. We couldn’t, but there was another option staring us in the face: the canal.

The Kennet and Avon canal runs for 87 miles through Southern England, between the river Kennet in Reading, and the Avon in Bath. The stretch near Bath is arguably among the most beautiful landscapes in the country, and is crammed with tourist boats in the summer. However, there is also a thriving community of boat dwellers living on the water, and in our time in Bath I had become friends with a few of them. According to their boat licenses, they were meant to keep moving every two weeks, but many had found loopholes and places they could moor up longer term, allowing them to work in Bath. This seemed ideal: I could run away with the gypsies, but I’d still be able to hold down my teaching job!

So, in the spring of 2004 we sold our flat and bought a fifty-five foot narrowboat. It wasn’t an easy life, but the canal was so beautiful I found I didn’t mind the sacrifice of all the mod cons. The hardest thing to go without was a washing machine, but with regular launderette trips and a bucket of soapy water, I found I could manage. Okay, so I could never quite wash the smell of woodsmoke, diesel and damp out of my clothing, but that was part of the peculiar charm of being a boater… The romantic side of me won out, and beat my practical side into submission.

In the end we lived on our boat for two and a half years. In that time I learnt a huge amount about the boat dwellers’ way of life, including, but not limited to: making do with only a car battery to run your entire electrical system; the best strategies for inviting yourself around to a friend’s house for a bath; the many and varied uses for a bargepole; and the best way to empty a portable toilet without inhaling the delightful stench. I often told myself that one day I’d make use of all these experiences and write a novel set on the canal–I just never dreamed it would be a gay romance!

Our move back to dry land happened as a result of the birth of my daughter. Suddenly, the boat that had been big enough for two felt like it had shrunk. My life seemed to consist of washing baby clothing in buckets, and I longed for a washing machine and enough space to dry all those tiny clothes. The charming idyll had become tarnished, my romantic side had gone into hiding, and I just wanted to move before I started to resent my boat.

These days I’m a proper landlubber again and find it impossible to contemplate doing without my broadband and 240v electricity, not to mention central heating, mains water and sewerage. However, there are certain mornings, especially misty ones like the day I took the photograph on the cover of Barging In, when I remember being on the boat and feel wistful. One look at the laundry basket is usually enough to beat my romantic side back down again, though!

What would you do if given the chance to live a romantic way of life you’d always dreamed of, but which demanded you sacrifice many of your creature comforts? Would you leap at the chance, or would your practical side win out?


Website and blog:


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Author Bio:

English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. Jo once spent two years living on a slowly decaying narrowboat, and was determined that she would one day use the experience as fodder for a book. The result is Barging In, her first novel length m/m romance, which will be released by Samhain Publishing on 20th September 2011.

Barging In links:

Samhain page:

Amazon: Barging In, Barging In (UK)

Author: Guest Blogger

Guest Bloggers featured at Love Romance Passion are romance authors, various industry personnel, and readers just like you!

13 thoughts on “Living on the Water”

  1. *Digs down deep searching* nope, sorry, no romantic side (unless I read about two pretty guys)
    I did take a one week trip on a narrowboat once, with friends, it was a trip around Netherland and we enjoyed it a lot, but I was also really happy to get back home 😉
    Man, I can’t believe it’s almost here, feels like I’ve been waiting for this book forever 😉

  2. Thanks for sharing a piece of personal history, Jo. I’m always impressed by people who do something different.

    I’m a very practical person so the idea of giving up creature comforts to live somewhere romantic is a no-no. I shuddered when I read words in your blog such as, ‘smell…of diesel and damp’ and ‘portable toilet’ along with ‘stench’. Ewwwww! 😀

    But I’ve had my moments…just not with narrowboats 😀

  3. okay, first…I love the cover of this book and now I want to read it! love me some m/m

    second, I consider staying at a Holiday Inn camping. If I go live in a romantic setting it better have cable, internet, hot water and anything else I need .

  4. I haven’t been on the canals for far too long. I sometimes get the urge to try living on one for more than a week or two, but I doubt my joints would forgive me. Likewise to any projects that involve staying in a house while renovating it. I had a weekend in my former home (Edwardian end-terrace) with no central heating in the dead of winter, and that was bad enough.

  5. Practical side is winning out at the moment. I do entertain thoughts though, of living in the country. Only me + nature. Perhaps…one day I will.

  6. @Idamus – surely there must be a romantic side somewhere, even if you have to dig really deep 😉 And yes, it’s been a long, long wait. I don’t know how mainstream authors cope with the year long waits.

    @Prue – yep, the smells were probably the worst thing. It gives you an idea of what life was like before modern technology washed all the natural scents out of it, though. I suppose I could make good use of that if I ever felt brave enough to write a historical…

  7. @Carla – That’s great to hear you’ve bought a copy already! If it was a month ago, you might have seen it with the old cover. It had a redesign to make it more obviously m/m – I was thrilled, as I have to say it’s one of the sexiest covers I’ve seen 😀

    @Stevie – I was always amazed by the boaters who carried on doing it into their dotage. The life seems to make you hardy, but going to it from the comforts of a centrally heated home isn’t the easiest transition. That said, you can find boats with gas fuelled central heating 🙂

    @Susan – Living in the countryside is so tempting, isn’t it? Every time I get swayed by cheap houses in the nearby villages, though, I have to remind myself what a pain it is to be so dependent on owning a car. I love being able to walk to the shops and my daughter’s school so easily.

  8. I had a look at my copy, and yes it is the old cover. I can only see a thumbprint of it, but it is no where near exciting as the new one.

    Oh and my idea of “roughing it” is a hotel without room service. 🙂

  9. You know I love hearing about your life on the boat. I really think it’s fascinating and tbqh a life I could have lived before children, but I, like you, now having had a child, there are certain creature comforts that I simply find I really cannot do without. I mean, I could if I HAD to, but yeah, life is much easier with them. BUT I do like thinking/reading/dreaming about life elsewhere and what it would be like. I enjoyed this entry, this glimpse into a life I’ll never have. Thank you for that. <3333

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