Monthly Archives: July 2013

Rocking the Boat

For the first time in living memory I have actually managed to take a holiday in the UK when the weather was glooooriuoooos.  Two weeks ago I was browsing waterproofs on Amazon, and then had to buy T-shirts and sun cream instead.  This was a most unexpected turn of events.

My bf’s parents have a share in a narrow boat and invited us to join them for a little trip around the canals.  Although I was slightly concerned about spending time in close quarters with the ‘in-laws’, I do love boating and really needed to spend some time living at 3mph (my usual speed of living is at least 5mph).  We got off to a shaky start when we were just about to set off and my bf decided to give his hair a trim and forgot to put the guard on the clippers and shaved a bald strip right down the centre of his head – leaving him with no option but to give himself a Number 1 – otherwise known as a neo-nazi or thug cut.  Although it was kind of hilarious, I was a very nice girlfriend and didn’t make any jokes about it until he was ready.  I knew he was feeling a bit better when, on the drive to the boat, he pointed out that the close cut revealed that he still had a very good head of hair and that there were no hidden thinning patches.  Crisis averted.

On the first day of boating we went through the Braunston Tunnel – this is a 2,000 yard long tunnel that was built in 1796, which reeks of history and of something a bit dank and unpleasant.  Back in the day when boats were pulled by horses, the boatsmen had to ‘leg’ along this whole tunnel, while the horses got to go over the top – so they’d basically lie on the boat and use their legs to push it along.  Thankfully I got to sit and sip ice cold Pepsi Max from the fridge and wax lyrical about how historical the whole thing was on my trip through.  Chris’ dad, meanwhile, had the nervewracking job of steering us through it and avoiding inexperienced boaters, who tend to see another boat coming towards them, panic, and then do strange things like putting the boat in neutral, which in turn makes the boat swing out sideways, and then leave you with nothing to do apart from wait to crunch into them.  This is what it looked like inside the tunnel:


The views were much more beautiful on the rest of the trip, and I was reminded that England has some really stunning countryside – it’s easy to forget that sometimes, especially when you live in the worst neighbourhood of a city, where tattooed skinheads in tracksuits stands sullenly outside a pie factory eating pies and looking like they will steal your hubcaps while the car is still moving.  In contrast, most of the people that you meet on the water are friendly and helpful (and about 75% of them have dogs, which you can then play with while you wait for a lock to fill up).  





After two days I was back in love with this green and pleasant land, and had developed a suitably casual way of swinging my lock key, while climbing from one side of the lock to the other (across ancient and highly unstable planks of wood).  But the city kid in me was starting to tire of saying ‘Hellooo’ or ‘Good morning’ to every single person I passed.  I was also getting slightly annoyed at people who were not convinced by my lock insouciance and insisted on offering me advice about what I was doing wrong, and what I could be doing better – especially as I seemed to consistently say ‘I’m fine, thanks’ and then immediately do something wrong, even though I hadn’t done anything wrong until they showed up being all helpful.  

At this point I was ready to return to civilisation – and by civilisation I mean ignoring most other people, apart from your immediate neighbours and people who might be about to steal your hubcaps and need to be watched from an upstairs window. Actually, that’s not strictly true – I do love random conversations with strangers, (which I used to think was a Northern thing but now realise is achievable even in a mean city like London with the right attitude), but the beauty of the random conversation is the unexpectedness of it.  On the water there is a general expectation that you will make small talk and be helpful, which sort of turns it into a chore – and I’m not big on chores (ask my mother).

So now I’m back home to my small house (which feels HUGE after being on a narrowboat), and my cats, and the tools that can stop my hair from turning into a big frizzy mess in the heat.  And, of course, the skinhead eating pies outside the pie factory – perhaps next time I should shout ‘GOOD MORNING!’ from the car as I pass him and see what happens?.


Travelling Man

Later this year my boyfriend turns 40 – I have to keep reminding myself that he isn’t a nonce and that I’m actually 38, so there’s nothing dodgy going on.  He’s extremely difficult to buy for, even on regular birthdays, and family have started asking me already for present ideas.  Thinking that there might be some expensive computer- or guitar-related gizmo that he’d like, I asked him to think of something expensive that we could all club in for.  After thinking about it for a while, he came back with an idea about going to Sweden for some computery Dream Hack thingumajig, so I said ‘Work out how much it costs, and I’ll see how much cash I can get together for it’.  As he started planning it, it started to sound more and more interesting – it’s expensive to fly direct to the venue (a place called Jönköping) but really cheap to fly to Denmark and then take a train up to Sweden.  The more I heard about the plan, the more I thought ‘Oooh this is starting to sound like an adventure!’.  Of course it was an adventure for my bf, not me, but I broached the subject of me tagging along and he was completely up for it (“Well I don’t really like reading on planes or trains, so it would be good to have company”).

But, of course, the worst thing in the world I could do would be to tag along and then be a nightmare girlfriend, constantly moaning ‘I’m bored!’, ‘You aren’t paying me any attention’, ‘Do you love Starcraft dorks more than you love me?’, etc.

jonkoping – Google Maps

So I started looking at Jönköping, and looking at what I could do while he was geeking out watching Starcraft.  Well, unless anyone here can tell me otherwise, Jönköping has a match museum, and little else.  Fairly soon into my search, I found a forum in which someone had asked what there was to do there – this was the first response:

I lived in jönköping for 6 months. I can tell you that the two best places to visit are the airport and the train stations. These will, at least, allow you to go to leave Jönköping and go somewhere where something happens. Dullest place I’ve ever lived in my entire life.

Hmmm.  But, I’m still going to go, because despite Jönköping appearing to be the Swedish equivalent of Telford, I think that the travelling is a big part of the adventure and if there’s one thing that me and my bf do well together is travel.  In a few weeks it will be 21 years since our first foreign holiday together (camping in Amsterdam) and we’ve been playing the same game (with the odd variation) ever since – known to us as The Alphabet Game, or Alphabetti Spaghetti.  It’s not a complex game – name actors/films/bands/TV shows beginning with the letter whatever (sometimes taken from the registration plate of the next car we see, sometimes the letter of the place that we’re heading to).  We’ve played it for so long now that certain actors names immediately take me back to a holiday (Piper Perabo – Whitstable, walking along the beach).  There are in-jokes and groans that the same films always elicit (‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 2’, ‘Nooo – you’ve got to give the full title – disallowed!’).  Sometimes we let other people play, but they usually can’t keep up with the 21 years’ worth of stored up obscure TV shows beginning with “W”.  We’ve played it while looking at Gaudi architecture in 40 degree heat and while wading through a mud bath in Yorkshire, we’ve played on long drives, train journeys through France, a coach journey that took almost 24 hours, on flights and on hikes.  When things needed spicing up a bit, we added directors into the actor category, but made them worth double the points.  Sometimes when I’m packing to go on holiday I will mentally ‘pack’ some new ideas for the Alphabet Game.

We also like holiday catchphrases – my favourites being ‘Hellooo! We’re British’ and ‘Bloody joggers!’.  At this point I do realise that no one is ever going to want to come on holiday with us.

Obviously there’s all the other stuff about going on holiday – please don’t think that I’m a complete dork, only travelling so that I can play some stoopid game with my bf and to announce loudly that we’re British (as if that wasn’t obvious enough, since I’m the only person who has lost the top layer of epidermis and is stood in a one-woman queue).  I’ve never been to Sweden or Denmark before, and we have a friend in Malmo who we might be able to visit on the way home.  I’m even intrigued about how much there could possibly be to exhibit about matches (I imagine the invention of safety matches may feature heavily).  There are lakes and places nearby that look like they might be worth a visit.  Who knows – perhaps I might be able to see the Northern Lights (though I have done zero research into this).  The point is (there’s a point?) that the journey will be part of the adventure, and being able to do that with my favourite travelling companion is something that I do not take for granted.