Between 2004 and 2006, David Thomas experienced a series of disasters in his life, culminating in being told that he only had terminal cancer and only a short time left to live.
How the adventure began
David was only 52 years old. However, after he recovered from the initial mind-numbing shock of the diagnosis, he decided to fulfil his lifelong dream of living on a canal boat, while he still could.
When he found a narrowboat called LadyRiverMouse - an anagram of 'Live Your Dreams' - it seemed like a sign. He bought it, with a view to spending the remainder of his limited life cruising the canals and rivers of England.
Naturally, he had to take the love of his life with him – a rather bad-tempered fluffy white prima donna of a cat called Cookie. David had adopted the long-haired, high maintenance Cookie when his sister could no longer cope with the constant grooming her lovely white coat demanded. She was an indoor cat who had rarely been outside, never mind living on a boat, where according to David dogs are usually the pets of choice. Would it work out? David didn't know, but as he put it later, “I wasn't going anywhere without my beloved Cookie”.
The Travelling Years
The remainder of the book is an account of the few years David spent travelling through the waterways of his native land. Many people live on boats; few cruise as extensively as David did – to London, along the Thames, up to Wales, then tackling the wild and often desolate rivers of North West England.
David and his beloved Lady River Mouse
A beginner to boating when he started, David learned much as time went on, mainly by having numerous – and often hair-raising - adventures. So did Cookie, who contrived to get lost, fall in the water on a number of occasions, and generally use up most of her cat's nine lives. Yet still she occasionally managed to look fluffy and beautiful...and to pose for passersby on the towpaths.
I Meet David
After several years, during a lonely winter, David began to look for friends on the internet. That was when I came into his story. I was 5 years older than him, single, a helicopter pilot, writer, and – most importantly – cat lover. We met initially as friends, then we fell in love, and David's life began to change yet again, leading to the eventual sale of LadyRiverMouse and a new life in the Peak District with me for David and Cookie. That was over five years ago, and we've been together ever since.
Writing the Book
I knew early on that David had a story worth telling. However, he had never written a book before, and didn't know where to start. But I had! So we wrote it together, but I should emphasise it is not ghost written; rather, it is primarily his words and my organisational and editing skills. David knows about boating, has an eye for detail, and is an astute observer of his fellow men and women, both on and off the waterways.
We are finding that the book is of interest to those who have ever travelled on the canals or done any other boating, anyone who loves travel of any type, or simply the armchair traveller who enjoys reading about others' adventures. But “Travels With Cookie” has turned out to be more than just another boating or travel book. It is a tale of bereavement and divorce, of terminal illness and despair, and finally of romance, a seemingly miraculous cure, and a new life. You see...nearly ten years have passed since the diagnosis, and David is still with us, and hoping to be so for many more years.
David and I on holiday in Iceland
Hence the book should appeal to anyone who likes human interest stories of any type. And of course – as Cookie herself would tell you if she could speak - it is a must for cat lovers!