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 …

It’s taken a while to pluck up the courage, but here we are at last!

We’ve been blogging about our adventures on the canals and rivers of the United Kingdom for five years now, beginning on Blogger in April 2009, after buying our first narrowboat ‘Northern Pride’. That year, and during 2010, we were incredibly fortunate to experience ‘The best of both worlds’, spending six-months in UK and the other half of the year in New Zealand.

Can you imagine missing out winter for three years – our seasons were summer, autumn, spring, summer, autumn, spring, summer, autumn, spring, summer, autumn, spring, summer!

From someone who dislikes cold weather (one of the reasons I immigrated to the sunny east coast of the North Island of NZ in 2005), it was blissful.

In April 2013, our plans to stay in England for much longer came to fruition. We bought a longer narrowboat, and returned to the Inland Waterways to live ‘indefinitely’. Having now experienced my first British winter since 2003, and Barry’s first ever, I’ll reluctantly admit it wasn’t so bad really (I know, I’ve heard, it was a mild one thank goodness!).

Today we’re excitedly launching our first post on WordPress, having toyed for 12 months on whether to continue with the existing and popular blog, or shift allegiance and upgrade ‘Areandare’ to her own url (like all loveable females, she won in the end).

Main Line Canal, Birmingham

Travelling along the Main Line Canal, Birmingham

As we’re now not only ‘liveaboards’, but also ‘Roving Canal Traders‘, it seemed sensible to celebrate the shift with a brand new blog.

So here we are!

I’m Sandra, the author of the posts, with a focus on sharing our life aboard a narrowboat; its trials, tribulations and tantalising tales. And unashamedly we’ll be promoting our quest to make living this alternative lifestyle sustainable, while accepting we’re committed to following the ‘rules’ set by the people at the top, to gain Barry’s UK residency. This entails us successfully negotiating a series of interesting hurdles and obstacles, over a period of about five years.

Barry, my other half, is the photographer in the partnership – though it won’t always be his images featured! Frequently I’ll be both writer and picture provider, as by the time I’ve managed to get the stunning photography from my kiwi husband, it could be days (or weeks) after the events! Admittedly, they’re always worth waiting for …

On Saturday we’ll be trading as ‘The Home Brew Boat‘ at The Spring Market, The Bond, Digbeth, Birmingham from 12 midday to 1800hrs.  We have a wide and interesting stock available, an amusing banner to delight the punters, some colourful bunting, and a float with plenty of change sourced from Birmingham’s Barclays Bank.

Most importantly, we’ve a wonderfully willing, and very knowledgable home brewer available to show and sell his delightful wares to anyone he can persuade to share the fun and cost savings of making their own beer, wine, cider or spirits.

And I’ve discovered today, that if the stars align with dry weather and a suitable place to set up my small table and necessary supplies, I could be entertaining younger visitors to the market with some funtastic facepainting …

Birmingham's Spring Market

Birmingham’s Spring Market

If you’re in the area do come along and say ‘hi’. Or we’d be most appreciative of any support on our ‘Facebook‘ page with a ‘like’, a share or two, and/or any supportive comments.

Photos to follow – and they may even be some of Barry’s …


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