River Rat Diaries - Rewind: 5 Sep 2016 - Six Foot One in a Six Foot Boat

Date February 2, 2017 08:08

Early days of sun. Everything is drenched in light and for now, I live the dream.

 Alongside the headiness runs deep unease. It’s one of those dreams where nothing adds up, and your arms and legs are made of jelly. A benign disorientation reigns. Why is everything moving? What are those strange noises? Where the hell did I put my toilet keys / glasses / half-eaten sandwich / trousers?

 And the boat moves a lot sometimes, which, quite unreasonably, comes as a surprise. My head swims. After the first few days of swilling around on ‘Odin' I attempted a trip to the Co-op and found myself weaving down the pavement like a committed White Lightening drinker.

 And then, of course nothing works as it does in a house, which is vexing and tiring – welcome to the learning curve; but above all, there’s so little room. Going about my daily business, I might as well be organising a conference in a phone box. Just getting from one end of the boat to another without cracking a rib or altering the shape of my nose is a challenge – and when I get there, it’s quite easy to forget why I’d bothered. Where does everything go? A trip to the bedroom, amongst my half-unpacked belongings is a befuddling obstacle course. And sometimes only an exquisitely lowly placed door jam on the forehead offers the Zen wake-up bell required.

 The doll’s house scale of things makes me feel like a giant, too. I begin to doubt my size, like Alice, and though nothing really lessens the problems of tallness, I’ve found altering my profile and adopting specific, task-related postures makes things easier  and lessens the chances of a neck hernia.

 These postures I’ve named.

 Doing the washing up, for example, I find it’s advisable to pull a quick ‘Henry the Eighth’ and stand at the sink, legs akimbo, in full Power Pose. (Try youtube and Amy Cuddy on the other benefits of this. But that’s another, far more interesting story.) Not that Henry did a lot of washing up. It does work though – slightly reducing ones height, and I’m enjoying freeing the top of my head from the subtle downward pressure of the ceiling.

 The Gardener. Here’s a question. Why crane your neck or bow your back getting through doorways, when you can walk around permanently bent at the waist? Doing so helps no end if you have to go through a door to look in a lowly placed cupboard in the next room, for example. No energy-sapping bending and righting up; become a right angle and let your knees take the strain. And consider taking up gardening.

 The Limbo-dancer. Frankly can’t be bothered to assume a full ‘Gardener’, when, for instance, using the wardrobe-sized loo? The Limbo – that old shimmy favoured at slightly racy 1950s parlour parties – may be the answer. And it makes a nice change bending the other way. It certainly adds a dash of spice to basically ‘not hitting your head’.

 Showering on ‘Olive’ requires focus, and a very strong desire to get clean. As the shower head delivers its drizzle from a height of around 5 and a half feet, one is faced with a choice: hunch or squat. So I bought a low stool, accidentally creating The Cossack – which, incidentally  gives you a very low centre of gravity and raised knees. A willingness to get into the spirit here helps; don’t be surprised if you start humming ‘Kah-ling-kakaling, Kakaling’ as you soap up.

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Posted February 2, 2017 08:08


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 In the summer of 2016, Mark Tunnicliffe threw his life to the wind and moved 100 miles to a boat on the Deben estuary in Suffolk. He now collects buckets, and shouts at birds. Can his dreams stay afloat?  

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