It would seem that barge skippers are a dying breed, since those I have known are well into their seventies or already dead. Thus, with fewer people living aboard, there will shortly be none of us left who intimately knew these magnificent, friendly craft. Surely then, it is worth setting pen to paper, for the sake of posterity, to bring alive the tail end of a way of life which was quite usual in East Anglia not so very long ago.
My reason for reminiscence was not, I assure you, to write the most riveting rescue story of this decade, though readers will be mindful of our narrow squeak. No, I would like to feel that the people who read about VARUNA and our family life aboard are in their imagination sitting next to me on Manningtree beach on a hazy afternoon, looking up at the cotton wool clouds scudding overhead, a sea-gull perhaps dipping a wing towards them, as I have often sat listening to the old barge skippers, sometimes exaggerating, occasionally over-dramatising, but always entertaining.
I hope this account of four years of my life will prove the answer to the adults and youngsters who invite me to tell them a story about ‘something a bit different, but something that really happened’. Different, they mean, in the sense that they want to know about something unusual that happened to somebody ordinary, and unusual this episode certainly proved to be, in that our home was not only a lifestyle but a love affair with a barge which became part of us. This, then, is a tribute to her, a posthumous award to VARUNA for giving me so much pleasure, and a yarn to tell.
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