This is a fun book, a good holiday read, or one to read with a glass of wine at the end of a shitty day where after two glasses you are beginning to think that you, too, are brave enough to embark on the kind of journey that these two did.
After a few glasses of wine themselves, Damian and Siobhan looked at their frazzled lives in London and decided to throw it all in, get on the barge that Damian had been restoring for years and go barging down the French canals – with a two-year-old son and a daughter who was just one. I hope I never get that drunk.
Damian was worried that his career in advertising was turning him into a horrid bastard and Siobhan was worried she was turning into a boring housewife with no ambition. So they really did it; instead of keeping the idea as a ‘wouldn’t that be wonderful’ one, they kitted up their barge and headed off for the French waters.
The sketches at the front of the book give you some idea of what the barge looked like once they had prepared it for two children, one of whom could walk and another who couldn’t yet, but you have to go online and have a look at what it really looked like. No wonder the French stared at them with amazement. I liked them more once I had seen that photograph, because I found myself jealously irritated by them. She’s blonde and pretty, he’s good looking, and they have interesting names like Damian and Siobhan (even if that looks like a word to describe a bad taste in your mouth). He calls her Shiv, by the way.
The book is written alternately by them, with different typefaces for their voices. Although the chopping around can be tiresome sometimes, it is a clever device as it gives us insight into how each of them reacts to the same experience.
I loved how Damian found it so difficult to be a father initially – having never actually looked after his children during the day, he found new respect for Siobhan how she managed to do all she did with the children and keep it together. I know that sounds mean, but I really believe that most men have no idea how much work goes into being a mother, especially of toddlers. It’s also interesting to see how long it takes for him to truly relax and adjust to the slower pace of their new life.
Siobhan finds it difficult to adjust to the cramped space of the barge and finds that Damian really irritates her initially. I can tell you now, I couldn’t do that barge on my own, let alone with a partner and children. They didn’t have a flushing toilet, the kitchen was virtually non-existent and they had to make their bed on top of flat hard seats in the kitchen every night, because the children had the comfy nook up front. They had to strap the children to netting on the sides of the boat to stop them from falling off.
Despite this chaos, they started to enjoy their journey along the canals of France and the freedom of choosing where to go, with no time limits. Some parts of the book are very funny, especially their encounters with other barges, and Damian’s attempts at mechanical challenges. The descriptions of their forays into the French villages is envy-making; bicycles, fresh bread, cheese, tiny shops.
I found myself getting bored towards the end of the book; I think because I had read enough about barging, and started skipping through the pages. But I was interested enough to go onto their website and feel even more jealous about their present life (you’ll have to go online to read about it).