A BIT ABOUT MIKE
My first experience of boating was in dramatic circumstances, in a hired dinghy, which I rowed in circles at a boating pond in New Brighton, Merseyside, when I was probably only about six years old. I failed to heed the cries and shouts from shore trying to alert me to a toddler who had fallen in nearby. Luckily a bystander waded in and saved it.
Fast forward to 1976 and I was living in Picton, New Zealand, where I rescued a lovely old wooden launch from the side of the road where it had been rotting for a few years. I restored it, used it for a bit, and sold it. I got more out of the restoration than the boating, since I blew the engine's head gasket on the maiden voyage.
Forward again to the 1980s and '90s and I joined various friends in England and New Zealand on their boats, but was always happy to leave the actual ownership to them. As someone pointed out, a boat is nothing more than a hole in the water surrounded by wood, into which you pour money.
But in 2004 I set off solo on a three-week voyage round England's Four-County Ring on a 72-foot narrowboat, and was immediately hooked. It was at that point, cruising some lovely canals and through some gorgeous countryside that I thought I might like to live on a boat for a year, and write a book. It only took me a further ten years to do it.
Against The Current is that book. Now I am just waiting for someone to buy the film rights :-)
A BIT ABOUT LIZ
When I was younger I'd sit glued to the telly watching David Attenborough, listening to his whispered descriptions of wildlife. I was entranced, and blame him entirely for later going on to study zoology.
His inspiration was one of the main reasons I found the wildlife along the French canals and rivers so compelling, though trying to photograph the birds and other animals was quite a challenge. As Mike says in the book, our attempts were more Notional Geographic then National Geographic. Still, we had fun.
While Mike's waiting for film right offers to come in, I've been wondering who might play me in the movie. I'm thinking Drew Barrymore...
A BIT MORE
We're both British by birth but lived in New Zealand for many years - me for 44, Liz for 25 - so we consider ourselves Kiwi-Poms. This dual nationality comes in handy when New Zealand plays England in rugby because we can support either side, and always celebrate the winner. Cheating maybe, but, well...
Against the Current is really the story of how we decided to leave New Zealand and return to the northern hemisphere. Most people would just hop on a plane at Auckland and get off again at Heathrow, but we chose instead to take a year-long detour through France, living and traveling on a boat.
It was a wildly romantic notion, and not without its critics. Some people thought we were crazy to give up decent jobs, sell our house and seemingly 'abandon' our kids (who apart from one were all in their 20s and had left home anyway). We were criticised for not having any means of support - no income - and no plans in place for the future.
But as we blogged our adventures - recording the highs and lows of living together in a confined space 24/7, wrestling with (and at times destroying) the French language, walking through Medieval streets and along Roman aqueducts, and drinking far too much cheap French wine - there was, ultimately, more celebration than criticism. Friends frequently expressed envy of our lifestyle. Even on those occasions when something went wrong with the boat, or we had a frightening encounter or were feeling glum, the messages from those at home proclaimed, 'At least you don't have to attend boring meetings every day!'
Which is what we reminded ourselves whenever things were bleak. To all those who followed and supported us, thank you.
Anyway, Against the Current takes the blogs we wrote and expands them into the full story. If it makes you laugh, that's good. If it makes you feel like you shared the adventure, that's great. If, after reading it, you're inspired to do something similar, that's fantastic.