There’s waking up suddenly with a sense of falling, and then there’s waking up with the complete opposite feeling. A sudden clarity that opens your eyelids like doors with catches that make them stay opened. It’s 4am on the 27th March 2016 and I have just, finally, had the no-going-back realisation that I have to end things with my partner of almost seven years, whom I married 18 months previously. And it’s my 30th birthday.
At the time I was living in a three bed semi which also had a conservatory and a garage. Opulence! In the following three years, I lived in three different places. First, I was at a friend of mine’s for a month, and lived out of about two suitcases of clothes plus a bicycle in her garage. I then moved to a one bed flat where I was donated a few bits of furniture and kitchen items, but I got all cothes and a few other bits from the house. Lastly, just nine months later, I moved to a two bed terraced house. The day I got the keys to the house I went around stroking all the walls. This was my space. My space to fill, paint, drill, cook and have several one person dance parties in.
Going from living at my friends to the flat felt like I’d just been on a massive shopping spree; all the clothes I’d managed without for a month! I was shocked by how little I had needed in those weeks. I gave away a few items to charity shops, but wasn’t about to live like that out of choice, obviously.
Whilst living at the third home, my house, the neighbours attitudes towards the space on the road – or rather, lack of it, being a cul-de-sac of terraces – allowed me some entertainment as I saw them move their cars from one spot to another, just to be *right* outside their homes. I had two factors in my favour; I rarely drove my car, and after a few months there I got a driveway put in. I often let my next door neighbour block me in due to my low levels of car usage. I thought; why not use the space to the maximum capacity? Of course, I later found out that this gave some others neighbours the hump. One gentleman in particular enjoyed telling anyone that would listen that he’d ‘lived there for 80 years so why shouldn’t I be able to park in front of my house??’. Driving drove home half cut from the pub (half a mile away) on Saturday nights was obviously something from 80 years ago that should remain possible, too…
Living on a narrow boat, as I have done now for six weeks, I have not escaped the entertaining parking debates and struggles (‘I should be able to park up right next to the pub, event if I do turn up at 10pm’!!!). For the majority, however, space is much more fluid. The space outside your boat you can set out as yours quite easily with a chair, some mats (so you don’t create a ‘slip and slide’ stepping onto the boat after a few days of wear) and for us in this still cold weather, a few logs for the fire. The shared space becomes ‘your’ space – albiet temporarily. Something about the transient nature of this space gives me a feeling of more space, in fact, that any of my previous homes.
The boat itself is, being a narrow boat, small (60x6ft). It is a bit like a spaceship. if imagine it standing on one end and the shape is not so dissimilar. Moving on here, I was reminded of my time at my friends, living out of two suitcases. Several trips to the charity shops in order to sort out my space for the boat were, in fact, an obvious necessity.
The ‘next frontier’ might just be a different waterway, but I can already feel myself looking at what is on the boat and considering having even less. This process of thinking about space may look quite recent, but I can see the last three years, and experiences beyond that, which have amounted to me taking on this ‘space challenge’. It might not be the right life for everyone, but I believe without a doubt that an excess of ‘stuff’, never made us happier or healthier.
It’s cluttered by cosy
Come and have a nosy
And take a small sip
In our little spaceship
It may float around
And be nowhere bound
But I’m loving the trip
In our little spaceship
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