Being unsure what the next four days would bring as we moored up at Alvecote Marina late last Thursday afternoon, we’re pleased as punch (excuse the pun!) to report any expectations we had were met – and surpassed.
Michael, Alison and Sandra, part of the collective of ‘The Roving Canal Traders Association‘, organised and advertised widely an event that saw hundreds of people, from near and far (we even had visitors from Germany), making a special journey to discover more about our alternative lifestyle.
Sadly, not all visitors were impressed, highlighting once again the place our individual ‘stories’ reside and give meaning to the value we place on life, love and possessions.
A mixed bag of boaters
There’s a gazillion reasons why people choose to leave the confines of the ‘rat race’ of the 21st century, take a tentative but purposeful step off the merry-go-round of materialism, and live aboard a narrowboat. Some of us are even aiming to make a sustainable living whilst doing so.
I find it fascinating, and love to regale interested friends, family and strangers, of the journey Barry and I have experienced so far to be cruising and trading on the Inland Waterways. If someone had told me ten years ago this is what I’d be doing in 2014, I’d have never believed them.
Other (mostly) liveaboards we’ve met along our meanderings include:
- (Happily) divorced males with just enough to buy a boat and cruise away comfortably with no-one to ‘nag’ them
- Retired couples who sell up, buy a boat and live off their accumulated savings topping up their meagre pension – spending the children’s inheritance wisely
- People in their fifties who’ve had health scares and suddenly wake up to the reality that life is short and don’t wish to risk waiting for that magical and invented age of ‘retirement’ before they ‘live’
- Couples from the southern hemisphere who come for six months of the year and then return ‘down under’ in order to avoid the winter and have ‘the best of both worlds’ (indeed we did that ourselves for two years but affordability excluded it from our list of options)
- Youngsters in their twenties and thirties who realise early on how shallow the corporate world can be
- A myriad of other reasons too numerous to all be included here
Tasteful or tasteless?
On Sunday, a fellow trader was heartbreakingly hurt to overhear a woman, whilst walking past their trading boat, exclaim “What a load of tat”.
Wow! We humans can be horrible can’t we?
I considered the dictionary definition of ‘tat’ – ‘tasteless or badly made articles’. Hmm, that wasn’t what I saw over the four days.
I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you all a handful of my opinions and feelings about such thoughtless and tactless talk – it may just encourage someone else to stop and consider the effect before opening their mindless mouth in future:
- There was nothing on any of the boats that could be described, in my opinion, as ‘tat’
- Every single item was tasteFULL and appropriate to the event, individually and expertly made with loving care
- The products available from trading boats are mostly unique, making them even more special and priceless
- I’d rather look for individual items such as these, than buy the mass produced ‘cheap crap made in China’, purchased from the conglomeration of chain stores found in the massive shopping centres across England
- It’s well known a handful of people have a negative association with narrow boaters (such people refer to us disparagingly as ‘water gypsies’ – not that I’m personally offended by this term in any shape or form), for whatever reason or story they’ve chosen to embrace and believe.
Subsequently I’d suggest this woman saw exactly what she expected to. She would’ve subconsciously disregarded, or had no interest to discover, the items were extremely professionally, and painstakingly handcrafted.
“No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent” (Eleanor Roosevelt) springs to mind here.
Enough said – feel free to add your tuppence worth in the comments below if you feel moved …
Trading at Alvecote were …
The vagaries of the weather
Trading outdoors, we were subjected to almost every extreme of weather over the four days of trading. Warm sunshine graced us with his presence intermittently, cloud covered the sky for much of the time, the rain was kind enough to mostly stay away, but trickled down occasionally on Sunday when the wind also howled in a vain attempt to blow us all away.
That day I asked Malcolm, the owner of The Samuel Barlow, if I could venture under his eaves with my face painting table. He was kind enough to agree and moved a couple of items to make space. However, after three hours of painting just one face, I’m not ashamed to admit I decided I was worth more than £1 an hour, and returned to Areandare to better occupy my time. Three good days out of four was brilliant.
In contrast, on Saturday afternoon and evening there was a Christening party at the pub, full of families, so that made up for the quiet Sunday. I even had a woman in her thirties have her face painted as a pink and purple butterfly. She’d never had her face painted before, and the look on her face when I’d finished was priceless. If only I’d been assertive enough to ask if I could capture and publish it. Next time …
One of the consistent comments Barry’s heard over the four days was ‘I haven’t got time to brew my own’. I’m imagining the same people have enough time to sit and watch the TV night after night, and to work endless hours in order to pay for their frequent nights down the pub where they spend shed-loads of money to donate to the government in taxes. It’s all a matter of choice and priorities. Barry will have talked to them in his gentle kiwi manner and described how little time it takes for some amazing results. I suspect many will have left considering it as an future option – we had an on-line order for a beer kit yesterday and I’m certain there’ll be more to come.
Facepainting is an incredible privilege. To witness children (and a couple of adults) as their faces light up incredulously at the transformation of their selves has been an honour. It won’t ever earn me a fortune, but at the same time it is priceless and very precious.
Our next trading event is at St Richard’s Festival in Droitwich, so we’re now travelling south to arrive by Wednesday 30th April. Do come and visit if you can – just to say hello, buy a brew kit – or maybe you secretly want to try face painting and release your inner child? It’s a marvellous excuse for me to paint mine every day …