“When someone says ‘it weighs a ton,’ I know how much that means,” says Coal Liz. She owns the business with her boyfriend, who lives on the buttee boat that is supposed to be pulled by her boat. This year he has to work at another job until they can pay off the boats, so she is doing most of the work by herself and has the muscles to prove it. Being able to access more clients once the canal is non-tidal might mean her boyfriend can quit his job sooner, for now she is eagerly looking forward to taking a break in the summer until next fall when the weather turns cold again.
As a young woman, who is not much bigger than a bag of coal herself, selling coal in London in 2007, Liz receives a lot of strange looks and comments from people she doesn’t know. For the most part, she has met a lot of good people through her job and after 8 months in the business, it is hard for her to pass a boat on the canals without them saying hello and wondering when she’ll be back with their coal.
Coco, the narrow boat, all of the boats have names and it is bad luck to change a name unless you take the boat out of the water first, travels from her home at Three Mills to her new home. Moving day was seen by many of the movers as a good opportunity to bring friends, and drinks, along for help through the locks, moral support on the intimidating Thames and a fun ride. For some at Three Mills, it was their first time driving their boats therefore depending on more experienced neighbors was essential in the planning and moving process.
Rachel and John Fitzgerald drive their boat, Jesse, to their new mooring at Canary Wharf, in the heart of London’s business district. They are excited about being closer to their work and having access to the good grocery stores that service the busy business district but they are sad to loose their privacy and silence, as two more high-rise buildings are being built very close to their new home.
Dick Vincent at his very tidy and regulated new mooring in Canary Wharf. Dick and four other narrow boats from Three Mills feel small at their new mooring next to the Dutch barges and high-rises. But the new community has warmly welcomed the little boat people. Although they have to keep their belongings clean around their boats at all times, because of all the potential eyes that could be watching, day or night, they are starting to feel at home.