The British Diaries The Papageno Diaries!

The 1920’s Boat Diaries; Part 4 “Something to Overcome.”

“I know what I’ll do,” I said decisively to no one. I stood up and marched to my bedroom, tossing through the clothes and blankets on my bed, frantically searching for the one thing that would make me feel better.

“Yes!”

Pulling out my hot water bottle, I returned to the kitchen and lit the hob for the kettle.

A hot water bottle had never failed to cheer me up. I was confused as to why I would need to feel comforted, but I did. Maybe it’s from living alone for so long. When you live in a household, you take it for granted how many times you hug someone. And I knew that I was craving contact.

I hesitated and returned to my room, searching through the covers until I found him.

Sighing in relief, I hugged Hopsy to my chest, allowing the comfort to sink through my muscles as a 33-year-old woman, and returned to the lounge.

My love-ravaged soft toy stared back at me with scratched black beady eyes, partially bulging from its grey mismatched head that my Nan had over generously restuffed for me.

I hugged Hopsy again without shame. I was in my own home, I could cuddle my childhood teddy if I wanted.

Returning to the sofa, I set him down beside me as I began to research my next move along the canal.

I wouldn’t say I’m naturally a brave person. It comes in sporadic waves. And then leaves me in a drought.

I left my previous location four weeks ago. It was a successful journey, and I was glad to say that my confidence had come back. I had made it to the winding hole at Atherstone Locks, filled up with water, turned her around, with the help of Tommy and Deakin, found a new location in Hartshill.

I had spent a week there, enjoying the scenery and peace, and moved where I was now, closer to Nuneaton. Time had come and gone so quickly. There were quite a few parties, celebrations, a birthday, and I had even caught and recovered from Covid during my time at this space.

And now it was a matter of days before I had to move.

“A lot of 70ft boats have trouble moving around the bend in Nuneaton,” Xavier’s mum told me (on one of Xavier’s and Lily’s many faithful visits to me). “You’ll be wanting some help.”

“Why? What’s wrong with it?”

Xavier and his mum explained that there is an area where boats moor “double parked”. This wouldn’t be a problem if there wasn’t a bridge with a direct sharp bend where afterwards, people also liked to moor up their boat.

I’m not scared of bumping into the towpath, and getting stuck in the silt, but hitting someone else’s boat feels very unforgivable. I know that I would understand if someone tapped into Maggie around a bend, but there is something so hideously awful about it that I have found myself feeling sick at the idea.

But I know I have to get over this. Because the entire point of getting Maggie was to travel. And the Ashby is calling.

It’s been 2 and a half weeks since I filled up with water. I was able to make Leviathan’s water supply of 175litres last two weeks before I need to fill up. And Maggie can hold 750litres of water. Regardless, this is also something I have been worrying about. I have concocted plans to fill up a large portable water container on a daily basis to keep Maggie topped up, as it looks like another four weeks before I’ll top up again. Maybe that should be exciting. The pressure to move. The pressure to survive.

 Sometimes I’ll weave any sort of difficulty into something to overcome in a storyline. And it may not be a sword fight or a pursuit through a forest, but for me, it’s a race against something. A challenge. How long I can last out.

 Whereas the solitude was difficult in the beginning, I have begun to thrive in my own company- probably because I’m so close to town now that I see my friends at least 2/3 times a week. I’m enjoying it, but I know it’s dulling my productivity. So when I do get my alone time (despite loving my social time) I am so grateful for it.

I sighed, squeezing Hopsy tighter. His eyes bulged at me pleadingly. I had to get a move on. It was time to restock the provisions and find a new mooring spot. Time to film, time to write, and time to finish some commissions. I needed to wake up from this comatose energy slumber I’ve been in since I moved on board. I think so much was happening from selling Leviathan, shutting down my art studio, and moving on board Maggie, that everything had to stop, just so I could process what was happening.

Sometimes I’ll feel a heaviness in my stomach that I’m not where I want to be in terms of success- it’s as if I’m greedy for it. Each time I achieve a goal, it never feels enough. There must be another and another- something to reach and aspire to.

 Something to overcome.

And as the weeks have gone by, I know that I want more. I want to achieve more. If only my brain could work like a normal person’s and actually get stuff done.

The hiss of the kettle jarred me from my thoughts and I jumped up to turn the hob off. Filling up my hot water bottle, which was shaped like a long furry noodle, I returned to my seat and hugged it close to my chest.

 The warmth slowly sunk into me, reassurance trickling through my bloodstream bit by bit.

I thought of how much I would just like a hug from my mother and how much it would make everything better. I imagined myself turning up at the house and asking if I could have a sleepover and then swallowed down the idea as quickly as it came.

I didn’t want to leave Maggie tonight. I wanted to hole up, get a fire going and do something productive- something, anything that would make me feel as though I was moving forwards.

And plus, wasn’t I too old now to be needing a hug from my mum just to make things better?

That would worry her.

“I’m fine,” I said out into the open space. And I was. I was just feeling scared and a little vulnerable. I had spent the previous night in Stroud with friends and had seen how much they supported and loved each other. The constant touching, the hugs and lying next to each other.

It made me happy and sad at the same time.

Because I wanted that. And wasn’t entitled to it from anyone.

This was a solo journey and I needed to create my own comfort.

I held onto the hot water bottle a little bit tighter, Hopsy falling in a partially concussed state as he stared blankly up at me.

 “Yeah, buddy,” I exhaled, setting in behind my laptop. “I know the feeling.”

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