I was doing so well at blogging, until I left my parents’ house and went back to the boat. I live on a rented narrowboat, sharing with a friend. It’s on the River Lea, in an unexpected green space hidden behind the inhuman desert of the North Circular. Boat life is fun, and has definitely made me more healthy. However, there is no internet, and any time you want electricity, it has to come from the generator. With both my phone and my laptop being old and knackered with terrible battery life, I’ve basically stopped bothering. It’s no fun being tied to a chugging generator, desperately trying to angle a dying phone into that one magic place where it will allow tethering.
It’s amazing, being offline. And because my phone is dead half the time as well, usually I’m unreachable. If anyone wants me to do anything, well, they’ll have to find me. And good luck with that, I’m hiding.
All that irresponsible avoidance is great fun, until I go visit somewhere with internet. Which seems to be happening a lot lately, what with family parties and therapy appointments and sporting events. (Yes, I am doing a Sport Thing. This improbable turn of events will be explained in my next post.) I came up to my parents’ place on the train today, and have sat down in the luxurious surroundings, reveling in the squashy faux-leather swivel chair and multiple, always-on plug sockets, connected to the internet for the first time in about a fortnight.
My email inbox is up to 3,400 unread, and that’s just in the main folder. Activist discussions and alerts pile on top of unanswered eBay questions and graduate job alerts for positions that I never apply for. Something I sold on eBay got mysteriously returned to me by Royal Mail, and the buyer is wondering where the hell it is. Evictions have been resisted, meetings held, books launched, all without my knowing.
Instead of blogging, I’ve gone back to scrawling in a notebook while I’m on the boat. But every time I visit civilization, I bring my laptop with me. It’s heavy as hell, but I’ve carried this machine up and down the country probably hundreds of times, not to mention to India and back. I don’t generally get emotionally attached to machines, but this one has been with me a long time. It’s nice to be sat typing this.
I don’t think I’m cut out for the off-network life. Time to get a wireless dongle that actually works? I know I can’t live well in the modern world, or do the best at my writing, without the internet and electricity. I need to make myself at least drag myself to pub or cafe with wifi a couple of times a week. But my bike broke, and computers are heavy! Not to mention the bulky cooling fan mat I have to take with it, because even when it isn’t 36 degrees like it was today, this thing has a tendency to melt itself.
Eventually, I’m going to have to get money together somehow, and spend it on technology instead of drugs. Much as it pains me to to do so, the investment will be worthwhile if it lets me draw a balance between idyllic off-grid boat life and the social life and writing impetus I get online.