A Boat of One’s Own

lark againI live on a little boat called Larkspur which is variously a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I can live the itinerant life I want and be able to just about afford being a writer, and a curse because this lifestyle is being seriously threatened by the very people who are meant to be protecting it.

I bang on about this to anyone who will listen and had the very good fortune to be able to bang on about it to a huge audience thanks to BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought programme.

Four Thought is a series of talks about people’s ideas and passions. Previous episodes have discussed mosh pit etiquette (Joe Dunthorne), medieval sex (Lucy Allen) and being ignored (John Osborne). I made a case for living on the water, which proved controversial to one member of the audience (listen to the end of the podcast to hear her thoughts about itinerant water dwellers, she’s not a fan).

The programme aired live on January 5th, and me and a few boat dwelling friends piled onto Larkspur to listen live over bowls of steaming curry. It was mad and amazing to listen to this boaty chat with brilliant boaty friends on the aforementioned boat. A huge thanks to Bethany Sagar Fenton for making this happen – you can see her at the front of this picture, looking pleased.

boaty fun

You can listen to the show here.

I got the most amazing email from one listener – it’s pasted in below.


I live on my boat on the Grand Union and travel between Milton Keynes and Watford.  I’ve been on the cut for 10 years and now live alone.  Over the past few months I’ve had many problems. After an engine fire that I thought would finish my days on my boat I became very distressed; luckily I overcame that,  then I has a burst water tank. A few more problems came along and one night when I was in bed and couldn’t sleep I just felt like throwing in the towel. 
I don’t have a telly. For the first time ever I turned on the radio intending to keep the World Service on all night to stop my brain churning. In between sobs I heard the presenter saying a poet was going to tell us all about living on a narrowboat.  I thought ‘oh great here we go, another Rosie and Jim load of old rubbish’. But it wasn’t.  It was you, telling people exactly as it is. My fingernails are black too. And the two week rule … ahhh,  it’s lovely moving in the rain. 
When you’d finished I felt ready to carry on. The towel wasn’t thrown. I’ve got over the depressed state and back in fighting mode. To turn on the radio at that particular moment and hear something so unique to me at the time …. well, thank you.  I think you will understand where I’m coming from.



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