I fell in love with Hebden Bridge in 2017 when I visited one of my hypnotherapy training school students who lived in the town. Six months later when life was throwing me with some pesky curveballs I googled ‘Canal boats for sale in Hebden Bridge’ and headed back to West Yorkshire. Looking at canal boats was exciting, and a great distraction from the stressful business stuff I was dealing with down south. I had no firm plan but was mesmerised by the idea of a simpler life moored up in a handsomely painted craft that I could escape to when my workload became too much. It would be an entrancing retreat in the incredibly beautiful, vibrant, and creative town in the Calder Valley.
Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink
First, I need to ‘fess up; my experience of boats is limited, very limited. I’d been to a party on canal boat on the Grand Union Canal a few years earlier and thought it was super cool. Dancing on the towpath and mingling with fellow boat-dwellers in a deliciously secluded part of the urban waterway was heady stuff. Had I romanticised life on a canal boat? You bet I had! The idea of owning a floating bolthole, especially one 250 miles away from the source of my stress was very appealing. But… I’d never driven a boat, unless you include a bank holiday jolly on the Norfolk Broads, so I knew it would be a steep learning curve.
The kindness of strangers
The owner of the boat I’d fallen in love with kindly offered to teach me how to start it, steer it and operate the locks. She also told me that the community of boat owners in Hebden Bridge would help and support any boating novice and would offer me a warm welcome. I didn’t disbelieve her, but I found it hard to imagine canal boat folk rallying round to welcome a total novice who had recklessly bought a boat they didn’t know how to manoeuvre, maintain, or have permanent moorings for. Of course, the judgement I (consciously) expected from others didn’t emanate from anyone else, it was my own unconscious narrative… I was being ridiculous and irresponsible, not bold, or brave.
Did I have a wobble? Yes, I did!
I’d been independent and self-sufficient for a long time and the idea of depending on strangers to teach me the ropes felt a bit alien and risky… and very different to living in a house in a London suburb! Then I considered my wardrobes of clothes, shoes, and copious amounts of other stuff that would need an ocean-going vessel to accommodate, even if I did a massive declutter. I began to doubt whether purchasing the lovely boat I’d found was a good idea. Inspired by the previous owner’s use of the boat I had begun to envision a new business idea that I could set up in the future and these thoughts were now percolating in my mind. After some wavering, ‘common sense’ prevailed, and I looked for a home on terra firma. I quickly found my new Hebden Bridge home; a project property that was solid but neglected and uninhabited.
My Mother’s Words
Having viewed and made an offer on the ‘time-warp’ (my description) quirky maisonette (the estate agent’s description) I then had to find the money to buy it. Thankfully, the ageing demographic and the ever-extending retirement age meant that I could get a mortgage at 59… who knew! But having been brought up by a risk-adverse mother (we lost our home when my dad died when I was eight, so it’s understandable, right?) I quickly went from ‘Hey, why not?’ to ‘You shouldn’t be doing this at your age.’ Part of me wanted to take the plunge and follow my heart while the other part (my head) was saying, ‘Be sensible, get everything paid off, and definitely don’t incur more debt.’ Of course, as an experienced hypnotherapist and CBT therapist I’m very aware that the messaging we get from our parents can run deep. They inform our core values, our beliefs, and often our attitude to risk. Even though the project home was more ‘sensible’ than the canal boat, I was still torn. And then a terrible thing happened.
Tragedy is the ultimate wake-up call.
While I was running the ‘should I, shouldn’t I’ debate regarding the massive mortgage I’d have on my London flat, my 39-year-old niece died from cancer. Twenty years my junior, she died well before her time. I won’t say more about that, but the cruelly premature death of a woman in her prime can change one’s outlook big time. The perspective that comes when such a tragedy occurs cannot be underestimated. My dithering ceased and the ‘life is short’ mantra started running on repeat through my mind. I re-mortgaged and bought my new Hebden Bridge home in spring 2018. For the first twelve months I drove up and down between SW London, Surrey and Calderdale and stayed at a local pub with rooms, The Robin Hood in Pecket Well. I continued to see clients in my hypnotherapy practice in Wimbledon and run my hypnotherapy practitioner training school while I project-managed the work on my new place. After a year of overseeing building, electrical, plumbing, and decorating jobs, my dream became a reality, and my new home was ready; my new adventure was about to begin.