I was talking to my horizontal exercise partner this week about ideas for the blog, and what might be of interest to my minions in the Goth world in terms of topics. The pet boy pointed out that it would be quite funky to write about Goths involved in any kind of alternative lifestyle or living situation, and how to go about finding out if there were any.
We agreed that this was a great idea, and then looked at each other and decided it was way past time for us to stop drinking for the night when it dawned on us that I am that very Goth: being as I live on a narrowboat on the inland waterways, and so do a great many of my other Goth/alt friends too.
So, I’ve interviewed myself for this piece (and bought myself dinner too)! And now I’m going to tell you a little more about my lifestyle as a Goth on the water.
Tell me more…
On Halloween 2011 (the date was coincidental, but I enjoyed the tie-in nonetheless) I moved aboard my newly bought narrowboat, a tiny, scruffy 25 year old money pit with no bedroom, bathroom or running water. Since then I have refitted it with a bedroom, shower room and all mod cons, and now live quite happily as a semi-traveller (I also retain a mooring that I can return to for the winter) on England’s inland waterways.
I share my boat with two cats, and while dogs are probably a more common boat pet, canal cats are very common as well, and usually adapt to the lifestyle just fine.
Boat cats feel sorry for other cats, who do not have their own stove.
My friend Aisha Mirza also started a blog about her own experiences of boat living, and how she found boat life as a feminist alt girl struggling with bipolar, which is a fabulously insightful read. My favourite entry is her piece entitled “Lucky Witches.”
What’s the community like?
The main factor of narrowboat life is the amazing community that comes with it. Boat living ticks all of the boxes for me, as the community is both hugely friendly, welcoming and helpful, but also very much respect everyone else’s personal space. You can take your boat out into the middle of nowhere and moor up without having to speak to anyone for days, or you can moor somewhere busy, social and with lots of pubs.
In terms of the demographic of people who boat, pretty much every section of the community that you can think of is represented, from rich retirees in brand new, shiny boats, to holiday makers, to a significant number of younger people seeking an alt lifestyle without the bullshit, including a significant number of Goths, ex-Goths and various other graduations too.
Plenty of families also live on the water, such as Purple Fairy, who shares her boat “Fairies Wear Boots” with her husband and daughter.
In what ways is it different to living in a house?
Once you get your boat sorted out to suit your purposes, other than the obvious things like the fact that you’re living on water, the day to day life on a boat can certainly prove rather more challenging than it is in a house. You have to empty your own bog, which is not to everyone’s taste, fill up your own water tank regularly, and gather fuel for your stove.
Stove-wrangling is a game all of its own, and it took me weeks to tame my log burner so that the temperature was ambient as opposed to either freezing or cooking. You need to get diesel to run your engine both to move the boat and to generate your electricity, and like lots of other boaters, my roof is covered in solar panels that cover most of my electricity requirements in the summer, saving me a fortune.
Winter can be one of the nicest times of year to live on a boat, but it also comes with challenges. The canal freezes, sometimes to the extent that you cannot move the boat, and then you have to face the challenge of filling your water tank (added to which, the water points may be frozen) and emptying your bog, as well as getting fuel home. The towpaths often become so muddy that you can barely move around, and everything is slippery and potentially dangerous to walk on.
However, the summer more than makes up for all of this, and come the warmer weather, we spend most of our time outside (my office is awesome- I sit on the bow of my boat typing away, looking over some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK). Long summer evenings are spent with homemade wine and other delights, sitting on the bank chatting, or when we really want to play up to the alternative lifestyle stereotype, singing and playing the geetar.
While the liveaboard boating community in the UK is very much a minority group, we do have more Goths per head than is average within the wider community, and visiting landlubber Goths are often very enthusiastic about the lifestyle too.
These boat-Goths really committed to the look…
Would I recommend boat life to the average Goth? First find me an average Goth! It’s not for everyone, and if you don’t fancy the idea of having to empty your own bog and sort out your own services and fuel, even when the weather is shit, you’d hate it. But if you’re something of an adventurer and would love being part of a vibrant, diverse and welcoming alt community that’s not afraid of a little hard work, fill your boots!
For instance, Caprifool is an alt guy (with a truly impressive beard) who currently lives on a smallholding in Sweden with no mains services, and is trying to plan a future move to the UK’s canals; I suspect that he will manage just fine.
Do you have an alternative or unusual lifestyle? Do tell!