Longtime UCR contributor Martin Kielty has launched a new video channel titled The Boozer Cruiser, which will chronicle his adventures living aboard a narrowboat and traversing the canals of England and Wales.
Kielty, a Scottish journalist and author of 17 books, launched the Boozer Cruiser in order to document his own experiences alongside the experiences of others.
“Over the past 20 years I’d begun to move away from telling other people’s stories as a journalist and begun to tell my own as a creative writer,” he says. “In 2016 I’d written The Rule Book, a fictional memoir of my favorite pub – the Golden Rule in Ambleside, in the beautiful Lake District of northern England – and it became my second most successful book of all time. … It eventually dawned on me that I could tie the creative writing and pub passion together, and so the Boozer Cruiser idea was born.”
Welcome to the Boozer Cruiser Channel
Kielty says the Boozer Cruiser “was partly a carrot on a stick to help me escape the gilded cage of city life, and that certainly worked.” Three years ago, he set up shop on a 46-foot narrowboat, which travels at a maximum speed of three miles per hour, and began sailing up and down the canals with the intention of meeting new people and sampling new pubs.
The lifestyle change hasn’t been without its hiccups. Kielty still has to go ashore to buy groceries, access an ATM and pay bills, and he admits the narrowboat is “not a terribly green way of living, which I’d hoped it might be.” As the coronavirus pandemic ravaged the world, he was also “forced into the realization that I’d [made] myself lonely and distant at the only time in human history where the network of ‘friends you haven’t met yet’ had been shut down.”
As a result, the scope of the Boozer Cruiser has evolved from its original pitch of “pub and boat and chat,” as Kielty realized he “could allow this semi-fictional, semi-biographical character to become anything.” After much lockdown soul searching, he had an epiphany: “Whatever the Boozer Cruiser creates, that’s what the Boozer Cruiser is. And at that point I remembered I’d recently begun to write poetry, and loved it.”
Now, to accompany his travel videos, Kielty has published a new short story titled “The Last Days of the Govan Elvis” on the Boozer Cruiser website, along with a new poem titled “Echo Echo” on his website and accompanying YouTube channel. Inspired by four words scrawled on a railway bridge — “Listen. Decide. Echo. Echo.” — Kielty wrote the poem in 38 minutes. “It wasn’t one of those things that needed over-analyzed,” he explains. “I say I write epics and ditties, and this was most definitely a ditty – batter it out and get it to fuck!”
Listen to Martin Kielty’s ‘Echo Echo’ Poem
Kielty says the Boozer Cruiser is no longer just a passion, but a necessity.
“You know that thing so many musicians will tell you in an interview, that they’re doing it for them but they hope others will find something important there too?” he asks. “Now I understand what it really means! I have to do this. It’s my record of the things I feel as I explore this new life that I hope I never take for granted. But I feel there’s some shareable truth about us all somewhere in there.”
“Maybe some people will get that. Maybe some will just enjoy the process of looking for it,” he continues. “As a journalist my job is to educate, inform and entertain as I explore facts. As an artist my ambition is to educate, inform and entertain others as I do myself, as I explore truth. While the tools – words – are the same, everything else about it is different.”
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