So this is it, my new home for who knows how long, on its way through the lock around the corner.
I have today succeeded in changing the batteries, and so have light. I collect my my solar-panel kit next week. I have changed the oil in the generator. My dinghy is still inflated. Yesterday I lit the stove to remove any trace of dampness on my return from Oxford, and had to flee outside because of the heat. I am connected to the phone system and to the internet. Quite a few friends and relatives now know where I am, after the ‘barge warming’. And the mega-tides have come and gone without disaster. A giant moon rose in a clear sky over the chocolate factory and dragged me up towards it as the river flowed the wrong way - a thrilling moment when I was, apparently, just that little bit lighter than usual. Shortly, when the leisure traffic has gone from the river, the otters will return for the winter.
Shortly, too, I shall rename my barge ‘Wiphala’ after the beautiful banner of the indigenous peoples of the Andes, which I shall fly from the stern - there is, you doubtless know, no ‘w’ or ‘ph’ in Spanish.
So perhaps this is a good point to sign off - I have ‘moved’. Sure, the thing is still something of a giant toy. It will take a lot longer, and a winter or two, before I know for the sure what I’ve done.
But I know already that treading a little more lightly does not mean entering a puritan purgatory - in fact, it’s more fun.
Last week I was working on my next magazine, which will be about the state of the world’s ocean. I was thinking about a feature on pollution, and the strange story of the 20,000 indestructable plastic ducks that were lost overboard in the north Pacific in 1992 and have been making their way around the world ever since. I looked out of the window of the wheelhouse and there, lodged between the bank and my hull, was a yellow plastic duck.