Travelling on the Thames and then the canals, you can't help noticing what different worlds they are. For a start there's the people on the boats. There's them and there's us.
Them: smart casual dress in a nautical flavour. Couples in matching blue windcheaters and deck shoes. Boats called Silver Dawn or Summer Daze, white (occasionally a blue hull allowed) and with sleek, sporty lines completely ruined by the huge festoons of balloon like fenders to stop them being scratched, or worse still crushed by the likes of "us". They look down on "us" from a great height as their engines burble along. It seems their boats have about three stories. One for the oily bits, hermetically sealed and out of sight. One for the living quarters, and a top bit with off white leather seats for steering and viewing the posh houses lining the Royal River. Of course they are sheltered from the weather by a roof. In locks "they" have to undergo a lot of palaver because their boats have curvy sides and can't sit alongside the wall properly. The front ropes seem to be upstairs, and the back ones down stairs, so there seems to be a lot of clambering about.
Us: We have no leather seats. We have to stand up all day holding a stick to steer the boat. If it rains we get wet. Our boats don't burble, they chug, and we go a lot slower, making virtually no wash as we pitch and toss in their wake. It is clear that they regard us with a mixture of slight distaste, some pity and a not inconsiderable amount of fear. Distaste because we carry stuff on our roof and we are not of one class and our canals (which they cannot access) have supermarket trolleys and plastic bags in them. Pity because our boats are like lorries compared with their limo's. Fear because in a coming together of our boat and theirs, we would chug away unscathed and they would sink. Occasionally we speak to them in locks and they find out we're nice enough, but they wouldn't want their daughters to marry us.
How strange then that we too should feel superior. They go out for the weekend. We go on a voyage. We can live on our boats. We can choose our boat's livery. And we can go anywhere and wear anything.