Monday 19 April 2010

Are narrow boats middle class twee!

Are traditional styled modern narrow boats middle class twee, aping history that belongs to a bygone age. Or are modern boats truly carrying on a real tradition?

I ask the question because many modern boats are luxurious internally and very spacious when compared to a working boats cramped cabin of yester-year. The new canal folk are in the main retired and are possibly a legion of the middle of the middle class. However, we all know that the narrow boat culture is historically rooted in the real working class of the 19th and 20th century.

There is no resemblance to the working clothes of the canal family of old. In fact you might be correct in thinking that the new canal folk all wear a uniform consisting of jeans, Breton hat, plaid shirt, cheap pumps and a bum-fluff beard - which is however encouragingly unisex.

These new canal people are the ones that you might also expect to uphold the green credentials. Narrow boating is portrayed as being all about old fashioned tradition based around frugality and pleasant experiences. In reality the narrow boat is about as green as napalm. The carbon footprint of a narrowboat must be very very big!

I wonder if at some time in the future, there will be a whole new group of people out on the canals, aping the pleasure seekers of today. Are narrow boat people of this millenium the lotus eaters of the next era?

I hope so!


  1. The modern owners of narrowboats are carrying on a canal culture and this is not fake.The canals would have been filled in and forgotten by now if they had not found a new use serving the private leasure boater.I am an orthentic working class chap who can not afford a narrowboat but I am thankfull that the canals have been saved so that people like me can walk the toe paths admiring the boats, the canalside pubs and the countryside.

  2. I live on a narrowboat, and many of us who live all year round on our boats do so as we cannot afford to get on the housing ladder with property prices being as ridiculous as they are. While there are a certain amount of middle class twee on the cut, they generally only spend the odd weekend on their boats, and we who live on, do not consider them to be boaters. More like tourists. And most of us also choose to live a simpler, and yes, greener life because we don't want to participate in the rat race constantly running around at 70mph, consuming anything and everything that moves, doesn't move, and may even be nailed down. Do your homework before casting aspersions on the green factor of others. You consume far more energy, water, fuel, space, living in a house and having a car, than you ever would living on a boat. It is easy to live off alternative technology such as solar panels and wind turbines, as your electricity consumption is a fraction of what it is in a house, and you can warm your home by burning wood, which is a sustainable fuel. I use about 5 litres of water a day. I bet you have no idea how much you use, but I would hazard a rough guess at 50 - 100 litres.

  3. I bought a narrow boat in 2012 and have lived the life of a boater since then. Some interesting facts: my blood pressure is now normal. Stress levels normal, weight normal, cholesterol levels normal... don't have a credit card... electricity is dirt cheap.... same with gas and diesel... don't pay for water, TV licence, council tax... pay cash for everything... no debts, credit or HP... How's that? ...There's more:

    No mortgage to pay... don't live in a ridiculously overpriced little house surrounded by a street full of clones and media freaks.... don't rely on the state... find my own way... like watching all those parochial, land-locked monkeys gawping at me when I cruise by... should I throw them a crumb or two? Not likely! They can keep their rat race lifestyle... I couldn't spend my life on a sofa, scoffing shit and expanding until I run out of steam... I'm a working class person... And a real boater!



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