The Long Village – barging in Europe

Hi all!

While I’m visiting my parents on the barge, I thought I’d give you a bit of background about why they’re spending their retirement in this extraordinary way.

It had always been my father’s dream to buy a Dutch Barge and travel around Europe when he retired from the police. I fondly remember my younger brother and I playing a game with my Dad whereby, he would be lying on the sofa and my brother and I would take it in turns to bribe him with imagined riches, possessions, barges etc. in an attempt to persuade Dad to throw the other sibling off the sofa.

Action shot

Action shot!

This was almost certainly our favourite game in the whole, entire world! We loved trying foolishly to stay on the sofa when our luck had run out, and we loved it when we made it to that treasured spot. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure that either my brother or I actually knew what a Dutch Barge was…but this was always what Mum suggested when we ran out of ideas, that or two twenty-year-olds, which fortunately, we also didn’t understand – at the time…tut tut!

Anyway, I digress. My Dad has always loved boats and we spent a lot of time on them when we were growing up, every summer in fact. None of my friends’ parents had boats and I always assumed that we were just different. This became amplified when my parents announced that they would be selling our family home and buying a barge in Europe. No one else’s parents were doing that and for a long time I couldn’t understand why they’d want to do it.

This is my parents’ home:

Aurigny

Aurigny

I had no idea that it was such a popular thing to do! My parents have become a part of a huge community of fellow ‘bargees’ as I like to call them, often bumping (not literally) into each other on their travels, spending the winters moored together in a port and socialising regularly. Their conversations together often include phrases like, “Have you met Riccall?” or “We had dinner with Matariki the other day”. I suppose the worries that I had before they left were that they would be lonely without friends and family close by, little did I know that there was a huge, welcoming community, known as The Long Village, of like-minded people for them to join!

I asked my Dad why he wanted to do it and he said that he saw a Dutch Barge, much smaller than the one he now lives on, on the Thames and liked it. It was as simple as that really, though I can imagine how his early conversations about this went with my Mum…but some of their newfound friends have come from all over the world to do this and after nearly 7 years of amazing holidays, experiences, foods, apéros with fellow bargees and more, I can definitely see the appeal!

If you’re interested in reading more about my parents’ adventures on the canals in Europe, do check out their blog!

L

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8 responses to “The Long Village – barging in Europe

  1. Must be great to up sticks and sail away when you get tired of your surroundings! It’s probably different in mainland Europe, but in Britain, the words ‘barge’ and ‘bargee’ are frowned upon; it’s a ‘narrowboat’ and the operator is called a boatman (or boatwoman) 😀

    • Well they definitely seem to enjoy it 🙂 I’ve often had to explain the difference between what my parents live on (A 24m long, 5m wide barge) and a narrowboat (what Rosie and Jim live on) to my friends and colleagues. I can assure you that whether my parents were living in the UK or in mainland Europe, their boat would be known as a barge, but I take your point about the use of ‘bargee’ in Britain, I just use it in a friendly way – I hope! L

      • I suppose a lot depends on where you are. In Australia, they referred to the boat that ferried us, and our vehicle, across to Fraser Island as a ‘barge’ … although it looked distinctly ‘unbargelike’ 🙂

  2. Hello Laura, what a lovely story and appreciation of what your parents have set out to do. You may remember, we met in Brugge in the winter at the new year paper boat race where I was disqualified for overenthusiastic ‘helping’ of my leading boat out of the rough. I’m glad you’ve had such a good length of time to spend with Mum and Dad in Netherlands this year, we’re looking forward to seeing them again in Brugge for another sociable winter. I’m actually editor now of the Blue Flag magazine, the Barge Association bi monthly journal and I wondered if you would be happy for me to use your ‘long village’ piece in the magazine. It’s really valuable to get comment from people like yourself who don’t actually live on barges but appreciate and understand why we or our parents do it before it’s too late. Please let me know what you think. Thanks for a great blog.

    • Hi Chris! Yes I do remember the infamous New Years boat race, hopefully the Aurigny entry will fare a bit better next time! Glad you like the blog! Am more than happy for you to use my piece in the journal, it would be great if you could include a link to my blog in there somewhere though? Let me know if you need me to send you the original photos or if they’re suitable as they are 🙂 do send me a link when it’s live! Hope you and Diana are enjoying the summer! L

      • Thanks Laura, that would be great. Not sure yet what space I have for pics but would like one of you or family shot and one of Aurigny in hi res to editor@barges.org if poss. Will certainly link to your blog. Good luck with your travels, sounds as NZ is next then?

      • Brilliant, will do! Thanks for the good wishes, New Zealand is next and I can’t wait! I’ve bought a campervan and am going to travel all over, blogging the whole thing 🙂 thanks again for getting in touch! L

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