New Year off the grid is cool.
Nightmare Christmas! Sound familiar?
I get it- you’ve met with the Grinch, and he’s out to ruin yet another festive holiday.
We’ve all had enough right? Stressy Christmas isn’t fun; simply undivine!
So, stamp your best off-the-grid foot, cut and grind, etch in glass and end- draw a line.
Begin this year- or next, take Xmas by its festive crackers and make it truly yours.
Want to live off the grid? Thinking of living afloat? Taking a narrow boat holiday?
Don’t miss these useful tips! I have learned the hard way from four years of full-time living on a canal. But you don’t have to do it alone. Go prepared!
New Year off the grid- Where Do You Want to Be this Yuletide?
New Year off the grid, is it selfish? Family plays a big part at Christmas and yes, we love them! But not everyone has friends and family to be with.
But worry not, for after a couple of days of intense socialising- mixing froth-filled Snowballs with lemonade, competing at ‘bored’ games where the same person always wins, call me an introvert, but I want out!
Dressed to kill- not that James Bond film again:( Squeezed into a flashing Xmas jumper now too tight after such indulgence, killer heels rub oozing blisters within five minutes of leaving the house and crystal piercings pull and sting all day; I’m not my natural self.
As you slide down the couch everyone squashes onto- there’s no room to spread here as you drown in noise and laughter, you’re somewhere else- your mind wanders away from the group… to nowhere land. You contemplate climbing up the chimney that brought Santa (old Nick) down, an impossible escape route.
I fold up my zed bed on the last day, with a great sigh of relief!
Stop Hibernating in Winter- why not Xmas off the grid, on a canal boat?
OK, this is easy for me because I live on one, but not totally impossible for you, all you need is a little adventurous spirit! Canal boats are warm and cosy and wonderfully peaceful. But take heed, most rentals are not fitted out for surviving through Winter, not even for a weekend.
The weather is likely your first objection. I love being nestled in with the wood burner glowing whilst the wind buffets us and the ropes creak as they stretch on their taught mooring. Rain hammers on the roof and hungry ducks hang briefly outside the window, hoping for a window to be thrown open and food to be tossed their way.
Xmas day, the two of us, pheasant with red currant jelly, a glass of smooth red vino, swans on the gentle wind blown surf, the breeze blown trees: simple, quiet bliss.
If you’re new to narrow boating make winter easy on yourself, plan your festive location and stay put. Check you have an adequate heating source and a competent oven. Most reputable boat hires will want to help you enjoy your stay in safety.
Winter poses more challenges to narrow boating than Summer, such as navigating in wind and rain, mud, snow and ice, the safety of wood-burners, maintaining electricity during short, dark days… and you don’t want a Xmas disaster right?
Simply the Best Decorations for a New Year off the grid
Christmas trees on boats? Remember, most narrow-boats are six feet tall and six feet 10″ wide, so there is little room for branching out unless you want to foo with a fur each time you need the loo.
This year I hunted out and dragged down the narrow cabin steps, a leafy branch broken off by a gale. Held to the wall with a couple of hooks and adorned with lights; the elder gives a more natural and simple display and is in keeping with the nature around. Costing me no more than four pounds for my last-minute sale lights, I bagged a bargain.
Kick ass ways to save money at Christmas- like Scrooge
Presents are your biggest headache. So prep early, and be creative. Make your cards. Cook up some preserves. Chocolate coat brazil nuts or stem ginger. Brew some Gin, bottle and bag it. Piss-poor planning sometimes works out when sales start early so you can grab last-minute deals, but that unprepared dash might be – Super stressful.
Money in cards is easy but expensive, and a bit of a cop-out. You know that scenario when your brother hands you a twenty out of his pocket because he couldn’t be bothered, and you pop the slippery note in a card and hand the gift right back- What’s The Point!
The best present I bought this year was a simple new storybook. I spent a whole hour in a little corner of a bookshop sitting on the floor at children’s eye level, deliberating over popular authors, the pros and cons of feminine versus masculine, dark or adventurous, traditional or culturally free preferences.
The new book smells ‘Paper-licious’, feels expensive, is a worthy effort, and my friend’s daughter loves the story. But I think I’m biased. Of course, you don’t have time to take an hour over each present, that amounts to ten hours- a whole shopping day!
The Lazy Way to Xmas’s Prep
Ever tried an early Xmas? Since my close family were abroad for this festive occasion, we celebrated early. Xmas dinner in November is weird, but just as fun. Presents are ordered before deliveries dry up. Covid lockdowns are beat. Half the battle is fought. This leaves you with a stress-free Xmas, to wind down and do what you like.
Pheasant fit for a Peasant- Roast a Roadkill- and your aunt won’t come again!
I admit, on occasions, we see a freshly run-over pheasant. Call us unloving, or even ‘Scratters’. But what does it matter? Driver or butcher, they both slaughter meat, and the deed, in this case, is already done. Bird flu is a reason to avoid your feral instinct of forager, don’t take the bird if the plume obviously isn’t road kill.
On seeing such a sad calamity, we’re out of the car with a plastic bag, hot-footing to the scene in attendance of our injured feathered friend. Signs to look for that will tell you how fresh the bird is: bright eyes- not white or glazed, warm soft body- not hard with rigor mortise, clean- not pecked or mutilated. Then, into the bag with the bird and back to the car.
Preparing the bird is a great experience if you’ve never done such a thing. Plucking feathers and trying to contain them from flying everywhere, emptying the gullet of seed… I hate chopping off the claws- and turn away! But for some, the bird’s head- beak and eyes, is the grotesque challenge. Later we learn to cut straight down the chest and pop out the breast. Have you been sick yet?
The Secret Art of Self Defence- dodging the family doo
My hundred-year-old Mum offers me a choice of drinks. “Would you like a Snowball, a Gin or a Picasso?”
“A Picasso?”, I quiz, blank-faced, grasping for understanding. A silent moment passes between us… the neurons fire, the penny drops! “Do you mean… a Prosecco?”
A fleeting moment, laughter shared, generations remembered. Family footprints are trodden deep. But footprints can melt, lost in the warming snow. Or they can be held in cement, a unique print, enduring, set like stone, preserved through the years.
Most of us love to spend some time with family- for those who have one, so don’t get me wrong. But, there is no more fun, (call me dark-humoured), than watching Auntie tuck into what she believes is Booth’s best free-range organic pheasant, without a care in the world to reminisce how the poor bird met its gruesome end.
For if she knew our dirty little secret, she’d scream, spit out her food delicately, pack swiftly, and leg it out the door; never would Auntie be seen here again!
How sitting on a snow-dusted mountain annoys my family
Xmas card snow scenes and fruit cakes dusted with snow white icing sugar forests, decorate every crowded and indulgent flat surface and festive culinary table at Xmas, yet no one aspires to really stand in such a place on this icy winter’s holy day… except me and you.
“You must stay”, my mother insists. “Come for dinner tonight, you can’t spend Xmas and New Year on your small boat. How will you cook dinner? How will you survive?” This Boxing Day is a real fight!
The Best Winter Holiday Off the Grid Wind Down Tip
But all I want to do is sit up a mountain, take in the view, the cold air. Up here I can think clearly- fresh oxygen clears my head. I look down on the little town below, the tiny distant houses and their pulsing lights, the pin-head-sized people, the small dead-looking tree on the adjacent hill, waiting, longing for Spring.
The expansive grey sky breathes. Here my God listens to my troubles. Looking far into the distance, I think about the year gone, and the year ahead.
A wee end note
Oh and, if those fear-mongering Omicron shape-shifters and their Santa-nic trackers dare to show up near your off-grid door this week, reach for your best nutcrackers, take a seat with the Scots, and tell them, “Go Tae F*#$” Happy New Year everyone!
- Do you want to go off-grid next Christmas?
- What’s your worst festive nightmare?
- Where’s your favourite place to be on Christmas day or New Year?
- What are your hopes for the New Year ahead?
- Let’s share…
Want some practical advice on narrow boating? Join the conversation- Ask a question.