The Houseboat

By Najat

I had always stopped in front of these boats, or rather, houseboats, moored on the bank of the River Thames. They look so beautiful and different. I always wondered how could people live in a floating house?? What if a strong storm blew? Or if it flooded with rain??

I stood by the wall facing the anchored boats contemplating, and an old man came out from his houseboat carrying a watering can. He was heading to his plant pots to water his little roses that would soon open. He gave them his morning greeting and with so much love he began to water and talk to them.

‘Good morning my dear,’ he said kindly. He was greeting me.

I answered him shyly because I was watching him all the time, ‘Good morning sir, your roses are beautiful, and they will open soon.’

house boats on the river

He replied, ‘These are my beautiful daughters; I know that they will be sweeter too.’

He smiled at me and added, ‘I saw that you have been watching this place for a while.’

I was ashamed and I stammered, ‘Sorry if I disturbed you. I was just wondering how a person could live in an unstable place, - I mean - because sometimes the weather gets cold and the wind blows and the boats become... I mean - the houses here move about a great deal.

I was so embarrassed that I didn't know what to say.

The man smiled wisely and said, ‘Is there any stable home? Oh dear!! They are all shaky and unstable if life itself is unstable and constantly vibrating, my dear. Maybe a houseboat is more robust and sturdier than a house built on solid ground.’

He smiled sadly and said, ‘Do you know? When I was a young man, I roamed the Seven Seas, and I always wished to die on my ship, but unfortunately illness prevented my wish from being fulfilled.’

I looked at him with a smile and said, ‘But nothing can take your boat from you, and you are also lucky because now you can live peacefully with your beautiful daughters.’

The man smiled in a pleased way, and said, ‘Perhaps you are right. We cannot get everything we dream of. But at least let us be satisfied with what we are able to achieve and enjoy that too.’

‘Oh, that was the best thing I’ve heard this morning! Thank you very much, I wish you a good time, and I’m sorry for disturbing you.’

‘No worries, you are welcome. I also enjoyed our little talk.’

He waved his hand to me and went back to talking with love to his daughters, his flowers, again.

It was a sunny morning. I took a deep breath, and continued my walk thinking about his words…