Froth on the Daydream: a little history

Andrew writes…

2015! A new year and a new life awaits Louise and I, as we eagerly anticipate the arrival of our brand new narrowboat. It will be a 67′ live-aboard, to be built by MGM Boats, Leicester. Construction of the hull will begin in March and the boat should be ready by September/October.

This co-written blog (intermittent entries from each of us) will document all aspects of our life aboard. We have called it ‘Froth on the Daydream’ after the wonderful novel by Boris Vian in its translation by the late Stanley Chapman, who was a dear friend and the UK’s leading pataphysician. Vian’s free-wheeling writing is full of delightful surprises which seem to sum up the allure of our chosen lifestyle. ‘Froth on the Daydream’ is also the top contender for the name of the new boat, although we will reserve judgment until we set foot upon it: a boat should not be named until it actually exists.

At the moment we are living in a house, as we have done since 2007. All this time, we have thought of ourselves as boaters, despite being landlocked, and so we cannot wait to get back to the water. The call of the canals has been powerful and, now we are in a position to do so, we will eventually sell the house once we have moved aboard.

Our first boat was called ‘Mamta’. This was a 45′ cruiser stern narrowboat moored at Trinity Marina on the Ashby Canal near Hinckley. It was a lovely little boat – great for pootling up and down the canal at weekends. Living aboard was more difficult, however, because the space was so limited.

mamta1 mamta2 mamta3

We therefore decided to upgrade to a new 57′ boat. This was ‘Faustroll’, a trad stern narrowboat build by Les Wilson, which we eventually moored at Wigram’s Turn Marina at the junction of the Oxford and Grand Union canals.

nb Faustroll navigating Hawkesbury Junction.
nb Faustroll navigating Hawkesbury Junction.

Pataphysical readers will of course recognise the name of the boat: Alfred Jarry’s contradictory combination of ‘Faust’ and ‘troll’ to create the great pataphysician Dr Faustroll. (For those who have no idea what this all means, see wikipedia or, indeed, buy my book!).

All the coach painting and decorations were done by the legendary Phil Speight. The boat was decorated with yellow spirals (the pataphysical emblem).


The one on the side echoed the portholes. It’s a clever effect.2

The name panel included a gargoyle from the Collège de ‘Pataphysique journal.


nb Faustroll was a great live-aboard boat, and we cruised the Midlands canals very happily for a number of years. This time afloat was period of great creativity, stimulated by the slow pace of life, the glories of the natural surroundings, and the nomadic lifestyle. Here are some internal shots, the second showing Peter Warden’s painting of Looe Island:

6 7

It was during these years that Louise made her first leather roses and founded The English Leather Rose Co. Ltd. which is now a successful business selling large numbers of roses around the world. keepsakeleatherr1

‘Roses and castles’ is the folk art tradition of the canals, so it seems very appropriate that the first leather roses should have been made afloat.

I wrote The Digital Musician while aboard Faustroll, keeping pace with Simon Emmerson (who was also writing a book at the time) through a joint blog.

But, all good things must come to an end, as someone once said. Changes to my job obliged us first to buy a flat and then to sell ‘Faustroll’. It was a sad day when we said goodbye to our boat, but at the time we were very focused on the future and so did not spend too much time missing the canal life. Since then our daydreams have formed themselves more and more into the image of a narrowboat. This new boat is, then, the froth on the daydream that we have been dreaming for seven years!

Author: Andrew Hugill

Neurodivergent. Professor, composer, musicologist and pataphysician. Born 1957. Semi-retired, but still gainfully employed at University of Leicester.

One thought on “Froth on the Daydream: a little history”

  1. Going back to the ‘island’ life, Andrew ! ? Is Faustroll still chugging along under the same moniker too ? I wish you and Louise every happiness aboard your new ‘suds’ ! !

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