I've been lucky enough to have enjoyed a couple of trips on Queenie in the past few years, ambling up and down the Bridgewater Canal in the spring. The days and nights spent just, well, being, have stayed with me ever since.
Like with any break, short or long, you're away from home chores and absent from work. So there's generally less to do. And from a narrowboat perspective, while one hears about the change of pace, how everything happens more slowly, for me it's the side effect of these aspects that really resonates. The side effect is that there's more time for everything. And in the context I've described, that everything is not much at all.
The upshot of this is that I have more time to think, or to let my mind wander. I can take my time and enjoy the ceremony, the precision, of making the perfect cup of coffee. I can remind myself of what the sky looks like, how the daylight changes over time. I can contemplate the essentials that are otherwise lost to me in the regular daily blur of noise and activity - staying warm and dry, eating, resting and allowing my intangible core to catch up with the rest of me.
Both previous breaks on Queenie have been cruising breaks, but I had the opportunity to book a three night static winter stay on her, which happened this weekend.
I'd booked in late autumn last year, and my busy schedule hadn't allowed me to think much more of it until the days leading up to that long weekend. Working from home by default, but with life in general and the pandemic twist in particular adding an extra layer of stress and complexity, I hadn't realised how much I needed to press the pause button.
So it was in this state of mind that I headed down to Anderton Marina on a Friday afternoon in late January, to be greeted by Hester. Queenie was already warm, the fire was lit and inviting me in from the cold evening. The silence inside the boat was loud and the perfect companion to the glow of the coals.Thus began an immediate expanse of time, slow time, that enveloped me as I stepped in from the stern. A chance to allow the momentum of life's juggernaut to fade slightly as I caught my breath. A chance to stop thinking about work, about what my current life situation is throwing at me, and to dive into simplicity. Reading articles in magazines I'd never consider having time for, learning some new technique in a data manipulation language that I didn't think I could allow myself the mental space to investigate and enjoy, deliberating everything and also nothing.
There's a wonderful streak of adventure and discovery that runs through a narrowboat holiday on the canals. That is clear. But there's also an equally wonderful appeal of a few days and nights of static hire. It's like having a small but perfectly formed boutique hotel all to yourself, with the added bonus of endless water around you, and endless sky above you.
It's a calm, floating context that provides the perfect environment where you can press the pause button. Give it a try.
Queenie is a 50ft/15.45m narrowboat based at Anderton Marina, Uplands Road, Anderton, Northwich, Cheshire, CW9 6AJ. The boat has a Canaline engine and is a great canal boat to handle. Queenie has a cruiser stern (lots of room on the back deck). The hull was manufactured by Nick Thorpe, Staffordshire.