Life afloat suits some people, and with a business that’s made living and working all over the English waterways possible, it suits Giles Byford and Jill Parkinson so well they feel blessed. Everything, from the circumstances of finding their first narrowboat to rejecting academia, seems to bring rewards; so they’re not surprised that the same strange magic appears to be working its charm when they set about building Hawthorn, the barge they intend to spend the rest of their lives exploring Europe on. The future’s promising and wonderful. And then, quite suddenly, everything falls apart.
Reedbound is largely about what followed: how the terrifying voyage across the Irish Sea became an act of faith that contrasted with a gentle westward wander along an empty canal to the River Shannon and the heart of Ireland’s waterways. And how, despite feeling vulnerable and nervous, they were determined the best way to recover their confidence in life afloat was to avoid doing any research and simply trust that all would be well. This unusual approach delivered constant surprises, adventures, unexpected spaces and the company of other misfits. Giles began to write – initially a widely read blog, and then articles for waterways magazines – and Jill finally had time to explore her interest in art; the success of which can be seen in the numerous illustrations that are a feature of Reedbound.
Reedbound compares and contrasts two inland waterway systems – England and Ireland – and two boating cultures. It’s about Giles and Jill’s approach to travel and life, which is as rare as taking a barge across the Irish Sea. It’s also about the delight of experiencing the Irish landscape and culture through naïve but willing eyes.