A sudden shift to port, then a slow thud back to starboard, followed by a gentle swaying. The hanging lamp over the table sways, the view out the long, narrow porthole windows floats up and down, back and forth, the railing of the dock on one side, the neighboring boat on the other. Water is my ground. For four days I’m living on a houseboat.
We had trouble finding Hermitage Moorings when we arrived in London on Sunday night, but we had a friendly taxi driver who was fine about driving up and down Wapping High Street, not wanting to let us out in the rain and wind without knowing we had close shelter. We finally located the address and John, our AirBnB host, came to greet us at the top of the ramp leading to the docks. As we walked down I looked up. Glorious — the Tower Bridge and the Shred building lit white against the black sky, just down river.
At the boat, Paul stood in the doorway and helped us get our bags on board and pointed out the steep stairs to our apartment, dark and narrow and low enough even I had to stoop. Then I opened the door and stepped in. “Oh, this is fantastic,” I said and I heard both John and Paul laugh in appreciation. They love their Maxime and it shows in every detail of design and decor. Boat living is tight, so smart, tidy arrangements work well and they’ve worked wonders. Our apartment is both ingeniously compact and beautifully appointed.
After three days living on a boat I don’t feel cramped or annoyed by the pumping in and out of water for the toilet and shower, the small refrigerator and tiny galley, the way I have to squeeze between David in a chair at the table to get to the small living room space. I’m not here to cook or do a living room chill, I’m here to enjoy London.
Which I have. David and I have walked over 17 miles in the last two days, and I’m doing my half marathon training runs on top of that. We’ve walked along both sides of the Thames, up river past three historic pubs, down river to the Tate Modern twice (the Alexander Calder show is brilliant), through Parliament Square and Piccadilly Circus, past Buckingham Palace and through St. Jame’s Park, hunting down the Grenadier pub, with its 400 year-old tin bar and reputation for being haunted by a soldier who was flogged to death there after being caught cheating at cards. It wasn’t easy to find, but it was fun, the ceiling plastered with US dollar bills with sharpie markings, mostly declaring the origin of the bearer but one unfortunately proclaiming “Trump 2016.” I certainly hope not.
No, I don’t feel cramped. I feel soothed.