After a particularly stressful week, my husband, sweetheart that he is, books me a massage. He sends me an address, and I follow the google maps lady through twists and turns, over bridges and around canals to an address that does not actually appear to exist. The google maps lady tells me I have arrived, but as I followed the numbers up and down the street, I cannot find 145a. I pick up my phone to call my husband, only to watch him emerge from the houseboat moored in the canal running alongside the road. He wore that blissed out look that only comes from really good massage.
‘Where are we?’ I ask my husband as he hugs me. The very neat denim-clad, barefoot man, whose name apparently was Jeroen (ye-roen, like a strange combination of run and ron) was now waving me aboard. I cross the gangway, as you do, feeling confused, unsettled, and like I might actually end up head first in the water. Jeroen, by contrast, with his shaved head, open face, and peaceful vibe, looked steady and sure. He struck me as someone who meditated a lot. I really should meditate more, I think as I shake his hand.
Inside, the boat is all wood panelling and instruments.
‘The sound doesn’t travel’ Jeroen explains, pointing to the instruments, ‘My son can play the drums at any hour and no one outside the boat can hear it. That’s why a lot of musicians live on houseboats.’
I want to be a musician living on a houseboat. ‘Have you always lived on a houseboat?’
‘My partner and I moved here when the kids were small.’
‘And it’s okay for kids to be on a houseboat before they can swim?’ I ask, mentally packing our bags and preparing to move. Jeroen’s answer will be the key to my success when I pitch my husband this lifestyle change.
‘It just means they don’t have a backyard to play in, and you need to keep an eye on them till they can swim. But there are lots of kids living on houseboats and they all get to know each other, it’s a great community.’
I can see it now, the ultimate bohemian lifestyle. We will have no tv, and instead we will be surrounded by instruments and books and creative activities. For the next 65 minutes, we lived this wondrous life aboard our own little floating abode, happy, smiling, a little idealistic sure, scarily step ford absolutely, but wondrous all the same.
‘Lets live on a houseboat,’ I tell my husband as I float down the gangway after what goes down as one of the best massages ever.
‘No,’ he says, squashing the dream like a mosquito. He lists the very real, very practical issues with my idea.
‘Fair,’ I say, plunging back to reality.
‘I’d still like to try it though,’ I say, somewhat truculently as I climb into the front of the bakfiets, holding on for dear life as my husband mad mouse’s around each bend.
There’s something about water that is comforting. It was the same when I had my daughters, the concept of birthing them in a hospital bed felt unbearably sterile and transactional, but in water, I felt supported, held, nurtured, safe.
‘Maybe, I’ll book myself a weekend on a houseboat,’ I muse, trying not to sound petulant whilst I tried out this very new concept where I gave myself permission to do the things I wanted to do without 1) waiting for permission or 2) making myself feel guilty.
‘That’s an idea.’ I can hear my husband smile as he peddles behind me.