We decided to follow our dreams and run away to live on a narrowboat eight years ago. I was a Primary Deputy Head and my husband, Mike, was a music teacher working for the County Music Service in Warwickshire. We were both working ridiculous hours so we rarely saw each other and all our children had grown up and long left home.
Now, I have to say we had already experienced owning a very old narrowboat years before when the children were teenagers, it was our bolt-hole to get away during the school holidays. We spent four years renovating her and chugging around, loving every minute of it, but when the kids all went to university we needed any spare cash to help them, so the boat had to go, much to our great sadness.
Have we never regretted selling all our ‘stuff’ and moving onto a narrowboat? Not for a moment! Our daughter initially gave us six months on the boat, then said maybe eighteen months. I think eight years later she’s finally accepted and realised that this way of life makes us happy and we’re going to be living it for quite a while yet.
I’d always wanted to write children’s stories. Having read thousands of books over all my years of teaching and being a mum, I felt I would love to have a go, so within the first six months I’d written my first Chico Chugg book and got it published.
Chico Chugg is a little Jack Russell who lives on a narrowboat, with his family and friends having adventures in and around marinas and the waterways.
After success with my first book, ‘The Misadventures of Chico Chugg’, we decided to actually buy a little Chico which made writing so much easier – I just made notes of all the daft, cute and borderline dangerous antics he got up to and shamelessly used them all. I now have four books in print and two more ready to go in the series. All my books are written through Chico’s eyes and from a little dog’s perspective making them great fun to write.
Meeting up with Anita Ramdharry, who was looking for children’s books to make into a TV series, we now have our own TV Production company Chugg Productions Ltd. Chico has two TV series of 49 seven-minute episodes! Anita produces and films, Mike writes all the songs and scripts and I try and come up with as many scenarios as I can that untrained dogs can act in! It’s great fun! S4C wanted Chico for Welsh Kids TV so we filmed lots of episodes chugging around Llangollen. He’s called Nico Nog after being translated into Welsh. We’ve been nominated for three Royal Television Society Awards over the last three years, one of which Anita won for best new talent.
Through our distributors in Santa Barbara, California, Chico’s TV series are now going all over the world, spreading stories of life on our canals through the eyes of a little dog. We’re also working with Explorers from the Trust and this year Chico went to a school to open the winning schools habitat garden from their latest competition.
Chico has his own website www.chicochugg.com with lots of activities, games, songs, toys, colouring books and much more, including all about school visits that Mike and I do, for free, inspiring children with story and script writing and introducing them to life along our canals. Chico even has Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where he talks directly to everyone keeping people up to date with what’s happening in his daily life in and around the marina and canals.
And can you believe it? Chico is even in pantomime this Christmas in Rugby… ‘Oh no, he isn’t! Oh yes he is!’
Living on a narrowboat has totally changed our lives in more ways than one. I’d never have written a book if I was still teaching, let alone made even one TV series. Mike and I love spending quality time together and working on new ventures and, although at times it can be busy, all we have to do is untie ‘Wah Wah Chugg’ (of course named for Chico’s stories!), put Chico on the roof and ‘chugg’ off for peace and some quiet fun.
Janet & Chico, Crick, Grand Union Canal