Today I became the owner of a lovely Dutch barge houseboat. I’ve been living on her for several months before the sale went through so the feeling that I ACTUALLY own her hasn’t quite sunk in yet. The past few weeks leading up to the sale have been a roller coaster ride of a whole load of mixed emotions; the decision to buy the boat finally sealing my decision to stay in the UK and not run away back to India where a large chunk of my heart still resides- at least for the next few years while I pay off the MASSIVE debt I am now in!
Never being one for convention or staying still on one place, I have made my home in lots of different and sometimes strange places in various countries – an old church, several caravans, a printing factory, a West London mansion’s walk in wardrobe, a vintage horsebox, a hammock on a beach in Goa, a car showroom, a clothes factory, a treehouse….. the list goes on! Back in my youth I chose to squat empty properties rather that claim benefits and live in overpriced rented accommodation that I couldn’t afford. Landlords often gave us a license to stay and be caretakers of their empty properties to keep out junkies and prevent vandalism. Recently the UK government changed the squatting laws (which were originally made to help soldiers who had returned from the war to find their homes bombed) in a stupid and unfair decision which has caused homelessness and hardship and caused an increase in benefit claimants. There are still hundreds of thousands of empty properties which is a travesty and a shameful waste.
The housing crisis in London and across the UK due to rising rents by greedy landlords and estate agents is very real. I chose to live on a boat as an alternative to the mainstream housing solution for many reasons (sustainable and environmental living, community, ability to travel with my home and have adventures, location of mooring to my work and daughter’s school, other personal reasons) with financial ones playing a small part only. However, there has been a lot of press about people seeking houseboats as a financial solution to expensive housing especially now squatting has been outlawed. This in turn has brought more people to the waters and caused a crisis in itself resulting in overcrowding and strain on some facilities. It has also led to a lot of disappointment when these new boaters realise the hard work and expense involved in keeping afloat – it is not quite the romantic ‘free’ or cheap way of life that they expected! I have put some links to more articles on squatting and houseboat life at the end of this article if you want to find out more.
Anyway, I’m a sucker for hard work, and hard work is what I have to look forward to for the next few months (maybe years!) renovating my boat making it into our family home. All I need now to complete it is for my Indian partner and love of my life to come to the UK and find a good job here. It’s an exciting project and a big life event as I am finally putting down some roots – thankfully for me only into water so I can still move if the fancy takes me!
Articles on houseboat living
Articles on Squatting