Barry didn’t get much of a chance to take photographs at The Spring Market last Saturday. Not that we’re complaining, he had a whole heap of folks interested in his boat-full of all things home-brew related.

However, he’s promised me there will be a selection of his exceptional photos available to post in the near future – from the festivals and our travels.

In the meantime, the incredibly talented writer and photographer Andy Tidy captured the atmosphere of the day marvellously.

Click here to read all about it – additionally for us, we get a few ego stroking mentions. Thank you Andy. We love you too.

Andy's photo of my self-painted flower power face

Andy’s photo of my self-painted flower power face

Helen did confide in me that Andy had spent a disproportionate amount of time chatting amiably to people around and about the site – including Barry of course! Well he had little choice really, and was suitably forgiven. It was, after all, his birthday.

And he’d been gifted with a £25 ‘voucher’ from his brother-in-law to spend at The Home Brew Boat. He’d also been one of the two lucky winners of the banner competition we held on Facebook, so he had £20 to spend from that too.

Yes, he was the originator of the ‘Get your kit off‘ part of the banner …

Get you kit off - the home brew crew

Get you kit off – the home brew crew

We’re on our way to The Floating Market in Alvecote for easter weekend. If you’re in the area, do come and see us.

We did it!

Our first ever day of trading as ‘The Home Brew Boat‘, and ‘Funtastic Facepainting by Sandra‘.

And it was a wonderful way to begin our new journey at The Spring Market in Digbeth. We hadn’t realised until the day before that we were privileged to be one of only two ‘hand-picked’ narrowboats trading there.

Admittedly the weather could’ve been kinder; it was overcast and cool much of the day. On the bright side though, the sun poked his head out of the cloud cover intermittently, and most importantly it was dry!

We’d moored the night before below Camp Hill Locks on The Grand Union Canal. Not in a recognised mooring spot – but on the bollards which are there for boaters waiting to go into the locks we assume. But it’s ok. There was no notice saying ‘Don’t’, so we figured we could. And the delightful Sarah from The Book Barge, moored right next to us.

The only other option was ascending five locks to the facilities at Camp Hill, then descending again on the Saturday morning! A journey that would’ve taken a minimum of an hour each way, and one we wanted to avoid. We’d hoped to moor at The Bond, but sadly their security arrangements couldn’t allow it as we’d have been setting off the infra-red alarms all night.

The inspirational Sarah Henshaw - author of 'The Book Shop That Floated Away'

The inspirational Sarah Henshaw – author of  The Book Shop That Floated Away

Sarah bought her boat in 2009, and turned it into a floating book shop. Although the venture didn’t prove as successful as she’d initially hoped, she didn’t give up or give in. She left any comfort zones she may’ve previously been inhabiting, floated away on a six-month adventure, bartering her books for services she needed, and in the process wrote a book about it all.

What an inspiration to anyone with a dream to manifest. Sarah’s a living example of how dreams rarely just ‘happen’; they take visualisation, effort, commitment, fortitude – and a whole heap of passion, planning and self-belief.

So inspirational in fact, that her Book Barge has featured in The Huffington Post in an article on ‘The World’s Great Book Shops’, and on Friday and yesterday she was filmed by a cameraman from the BBC.

The BBC filming on The Book Barge

The BBC filming on board The Book Barge

Our boating buddies Helen and Andy, aka Captain Ahab and crew, were also trading at the Spring Market. It happened to be Andy’s birthday, too so we celebrated in the evening with an Indian meal.

Helen and Andy set up their stall for their Wild Side jams and chutneys – and so much more

Although we didn’t make mountains of money yesterday, we made enough to cover our expenses – and most importantly, we learnt a great deal about what worked well and those aspects needing a bit of fine tuning for future events. Life, after all, is a continual learning process …

Banner and bunting in place on the Home Brew Boat

Banner and bunting in place on the Home Brew Boat

Lots of folks interested in getting their kits off - The Home Brew Boat!

Lots of folks interested in getting their kits off – The Home Brew Boat!

I adored the facepainting, there was a couple of hours in the afternoon when I hardly glanced further than the people at the front of my table or the cute child whose face I was transforming. The hours of preparation and practice really paid off. I’ve kept my designs fairly simple to begin with, with  a vision of expanding as I gain more experience and improve my techniques.

Arm painting in action! Not everyone wants their face adorned ;-)

Arm painting in action! Not everyone wants their face adorned 😉

A huge thank you to those people who came to support us – especially our friend from NZ Gavin’s dad John, his brother and family (above), and our long-time blog reader another John, and a fellow professional photographer so he and Barry always have heaps to talk about.

I’m hoping to have more photos to publish tomorrow – from the master’s camera!

A young male in his early twenties recently confided to me how much he yearns to travel to the other side of the world. While he has some sketchy plans for 2015, he’s wary of what may happen if he steps too far from his comfort zone.


I had no idea what such a concept even was at that age. Actually, looking back, there was little that could be described as ‘comfortable’ during that period of my life. I’d married, divorced and re-married (!), completed my Registered General Nurse training, was living in married quarters in Bundë, West Germany, in a third floor flat, with a husband in the forces generously sharing extremely unpredictable mood swings, pregnant with my younger daughter, and  blessed with a beautiful and very adaptable five-year old.

You’ll be getting the picture that I’m no stranger to seizing the day and taking life by the bootstraps – in fact change could be my middle name!

Fast forward over 30 years and I can now recognise a comfort zone when I see one, along with its benefits and drawbacks. Life is short. When I die, I have no desire to be thankful I spent years living a ‘safe’ life.

Don’t get me wrong, I love temporary comfort zones – but I personally choose NOT to stay in them for long. I’m aware of the challenges of leaving them if I waver, hesitate and wait for the ‘right’ time and circumstances to come along. I have years of mostly fine-tuned practice in plucking up the courage to do scary things.

Leaving Birmingham

Nothing scary about this bit of course. Sad though, as yesterday we said goodbye to Kim and Sean, who’d been on board for a couple of nights.

We’ve moored in Birmingham in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2013 – the second city with more miles of canals than Venice.  And a place I know well as it’s my old ‘home’ town (well, The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield a few miles away actually).

Sean, Kim and Barry by the New library Birmingham

Sean, Kim and Barry by the New library Birmingham

Topping up with water this morning after mooring next to the NIA

Topping up with water this morning after mooring next to the NIA

Descending the 13 Farmers Bridge Locks

Descending the 13 Farmers Bridge Locks

Hoping to receive our 'Saturday wage' tomorrow!

Hoping to receive our ‘Saturday wage’ tomorrow!

A little nervous about tomorrow

Tomorrow we’re doing our first ever trading event at The Spring Market.

It’s taken three and a half years of extensive dreaming and planning to get to this point. So we won’t consider ourselves an ‘overnight success’, even if/when it all goes wonderfully well!

During the past twelve months or so, we’ve relocated from New Zealand, travelled the canals of the midlands and north west, spent quality time with my family, had loads of fun times with friends on board, Barry’s been back to NZ for 10 weeks to apply for the first stage of his UK residency visa, we mooched around the marina over winter enjoying frequent visits to my eldest daughter and grandson, and we’ve done the ground-work of setting up some of our future income streams.

We’ve spent an inordinate (and frightening) amount of our savings to get The Home Brew Boat set up, and my face painting training and resources together. We know the time has now arrived to turn the tide so the waves (money) wash up on the shore for us to bank, rather than drifting out into the vast ocean.

And here we are! All ship-shape and raring to go – though also rather nervous about our first trading event. We’re stepping well out of our comfort zone.

Yes, it’s scary not following the crowd, choosing to dare to be different, leaving what you know and taking risks.

But we would’t have it any other way.

Colourful mural opposite The Bond

Colourful mural opposite The Bond

Our mooring spot at The Bond, Digbeth, Bimringham

Our mooring & trading spot at The Bond, Digbeth, Birmingham

Practicing a spot of face painting in readiness ...

Practicing a spot of face painting in readiness …

Handpicked with ‘The Book Barge’

We hadn’t appreciated until this evening that were one of just two ‘hand-picked’ narrowboats trading tomorrow.

We’re honoured to be trading alongside Sarah Henshaw and The Book Barge – and she’s recently published a book called ‘The Book Shop That Floated  Away‘ which of course will be on sale tomorrow. Andy Tidy, aka Captain Ahab, has read and given the book a rave review in his latest blog so do check it out.

We may just buy a copy ourselves.

Wish us luck! We’ll let you know how we get on as soon as possible after the event …

%d bloggers like this: