Tag Archives: Floods

The Broad View..Part 3

pugwash 1

We continued our stately progression around the Broads with Captain Pugwash (Nick) at the helm, nursing a blistered armpit and a near death experience from his exploits a couple of days earlier. He had finally ditched his Life jacket after coming close to drowning in it believing – and rightly so – that he could achieve that feat much more efficiently without all the effort involved in having to put it on in the first place.

This meant he could now hold onto the steering wheel without having to get first one handhold, then compress the huge preserver across his chest as he launched his opposing hand onto wheel obtaining a dual grip with the both hands.

Unfortunately it left him perched on the steering seat struggling to maintain a hold with what was in effect a loaded spring across his middle..

It gave the impression of him striking a pose, straining his muscles to maintain his death-grip, leaving him looking like a short, padded orange Arnold Schwarzenegger, but with a much lower center of gravity. The slightly pop-eyed look that accompanied the straining had gone too and normality – or as near to it as we ever managed – returned.

Without the huge life jacket that had surrounded Nick at the helm, there was instantly breathable room on board. You could now pass him with-out having your face pressed against a window.

The other members of the Good Ship Lollypop now simply took to relaxing and watching Nick nod at the wheel as he drove at the regulated snails pace along the river. On board were Winny, Nasher, caddy barny and yours truly.

Everyone occupied themselves as well as they could during what was really a monotonous time during the day until we reached a town we could moor up at, then wander off and find a pub.

I was sharing a room and bed with Caddy as all the single bunks had been claimed which left only this tiny room and built-in bed for Caddy and I. I must admit that I felt a little hard done by as Winny and Nasher were the two smallest in the group and they could have lay like starfish and not touched each other.

Caddy and I on the other hand were forced to drink extra beer in order to go to sleep quickly and avoid coming into contact as little as possible. What I will add is that (from my point of view – Caddy may disagree) each morning we woke up I found Caddy’s arm over my shoulder and him spooning me..

As awareness spread and we both woke up it led to us jumping from bed and coughing with loud manly “Coughs!” and both trying to squeeze past each other into the main cabin through the narrow door, all the time trying not to actually touch and avoiding eye contact.

Uuha! Uuuurrhhhaah!! I think I’ll go do some manly press ups!”

I would say loudly.

“Yes! Press ups! And star jumps or something!”

Caddy would add.

“Yes I’m all for a star jump or two! Like men! Anyone else for star jumps? Anyone?? No? You must be all gay!!!”

“Yes I agree! Gayboys the lot of you!! Can’t do manly press-ups and star jumps? Poofters!!”

Caddy would confirm.

Barny, leaning in the door-way of his and Nicks cabin watching this pantomime, licked the edge of his liquorice paper to complete his morning roll-up, would look over his glasses and ask,

“Caddy been cuddling up to you again Mike?”

“Yes! The big poof! Had his arms all over me! Uuuuurrr!!!”

“I fucking Didn’t!! It was him! He was cuddling me!! He was nudging me in the back!! The Poof!!!!”

“You lying fucker!!! You had a big boner!!”

“I haven’t got a big boner!! No! Wait!! I DO have a big boner!”

Yes! Me too!! Mines a massive boner!!”

And on, until Barny interrupted,

“Yeah, yeah. Calm down girls you’ve both got big boners. Now go do your press-ups.”

flicking the lid off his zippo to light his ciggie in that laconic way he had, like it really wasn’t worth the effort getting worked up over.

So we would, “Harrumph” our way to opposite ends of the boat and stretch manfully avoiding each others eye-line. Which was hard on a 40 foot boat.

But, it was Caddy was spooning me.

The rest of the trip rolled along in what would have been a pleasant way if not for the rain. So we ended up lounging around the main cabin or napping in our own until we could land somewhere and go and have a pint.

Barny as organized as ever, spent his time plotting our route through the broads. It wouldn’t have occurred to anyone else to do that until we were eventually so far into the water-ways that we would have had no idea how to get back. What would have ensued then would have been a chaotic abandonment of out craft and a brisk walk across dry land until we struck a road. Then hitch a ride to where-ever to then make our way somehow to our starting point at the boat yard. Only to there inform the harbor master when asked, that,

“No we have no idea where we left your boat mister. On the river near a bend? It definately wasn’t near a road.”

So Mr. Efficient personified took matters into his own hands and was the only one with enough patience to keep coming back to Nick and inform him, 1. Where he was, 2. Which way to go, and 3. Tell him when he could have a toilet break.

Everything had a time-table.

Precise instructions were drafted on paper and ticked off as we reached each way-point. He probably could have guided Nick with his eyes shut and by tasting the water at intervals. He was that organized. He just drifted up behind us while we were at some task and either “Tsk’ed” to let you know you were doing it wrong and could do better, or silently ghosted off to inspect someone else.

It just showed how disorganized the rest of us were really. I’m sure if we had lined up of a morning, after his first coffee and roll-up, he would have tied each of our laces.

It was sickening.

The other two members of the crew were Winny and Nasher.

Now, up until a few years previously both lads had been a similar size. Which was short. Nearly waist high as I recall but I may just remember leaning on someone’s head once. Anyway, Winny managed to have a growth spurt which brought him into the heady hieghts of normality or at least eye-level. Nasher though maintained the status-quo and never quite hit the height burst that Winny did. Staying around the five-and-a-half foot point – but that may be my memory being generous.

Winny must have been drilled by Barny who was probably handing out jobs at the time, because every time we stopped he was first off and tying the boat off or dropping the anchor. You just had to make sure whichever you were using was tied on. The importance of this was highlighted when we stopped to have a pint one lunchtime.

Nick, in his Captain Pugwash role had scraped us to a stand-still alongside a mooring point, allowing Winny to leap into action. He dropped off the boat and tied us off on a mooring point then dashed back onto the deck and dropped the stone anchor over the side.

mooring
The day was gently streaming with rain and Caddy, Nasher and I huddled together on the deck at our pre-ordained exit point, waiting for Winny to complete his tasks and have Barny allow us to evacuate the boat in an orderly fashion.

As we stood watching Winny drop the anchor over the side, I sleepily watched the anchor rope snake over the side, the coil – expertly rolled by Barny – unwrapping with a satisfying zip away across the wet deck. I had about as much time to say

“Uuuh – Uuuuuuhhhh!”

While frantically eye-balling Winny and pointing at the rope slipping away, but unable to actually form the words.

Winny immediately looked back to the rope to see the remaining 6 foot-or-so disappear into the water.

Ohhhhhhhhh sheeeeeeeeeeit!”

“Awwwwwwww Christ Winny! there goes the deposit!”

Justaminute!Justaminute!!”

And he grabbed the boat hook and began fishing frantically in the water trying to catch the end of the rope.

“I can’t feel it! Hang on lets see how deep it is!!”

And with out further a-do he speared the 8 foot boat hook into the water after the anchor, fully expecting to see the remainder of the boat hook protruding from the water. It disappeared without any fuss into the depths with barely a splash, accompanied by the chorous of,

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!”

Winny stood for a few moments, hands on hips staring at the water where it had gone, then started stripping off.

“I can probably reach it with my feet.”

He stripped to his underpants and slid into the water sucking in breaths in the chilly water. Taking care to keep a grip on the side of the boat, he began working his feet around in the water below him, trying to regain contact with the lost hook. Finally, he resorted to pushing himself under the water, extending his body to arms-length below the surface but still unable to reach the hook.

Which when you think about it was sticking 8 foot out of the river bottom, and Winny was stretched six-and-a-half feet into the water with his feet waving around trying to touch it.

It didn’t take long to decide the risk of diving down for it wasn’t worth it.

The following day we finally reached our turning point and began heading home. We had motored through Great Yarmouth swinging away from the foot of the River Yule that ran under a bridge continuing down to the sea. The flood water by now having risen so much that there was little of the arched supports to see. We had left the River Bure and entered the River Yare at its bottom end turning to work across what was a lake-like appearance at this point, until as you reached the far side, it narrowed back down into the more familiar river shape.

We continued on that day and spent the night – as I recall – moored up in Norwich.

The next morning we began to retrace our steps and headed back towards Great Yarmouth. The river had risen noticeably with a fast flowing current carrying us along.

As we steamed back across the lake and headed towards our turning back onto the River Bure, Nick shouted us from our sleepy stupor.

“Theres a boat in trouble! Over there heading towards the bridge!!”

Indeed there was. Another cruiser had developed an engine problem and had lost all power. The occupants were frantically waving and shouting as their boat was dragged towards an inevitable collision with the bridge. You could actually see the current in the water we were on, streaming away down the River Yure and on to the sea.

Pugwash leapt into action and steamed towards them having to finally swing the boat into reverse so we could position our-selves to throw a rope to the other boat. We were all stationed across the back of the boat waiting to get close enough and the opportunity to throw a life-line. Lookinbg down I had a moments unease looking at the water and seeing the powerful current flying past.

As we stood there mentally urging our boat closer Captain Pugwash (Nick) was up front blindly reversing it while we shouted directions to him. At the back of the boat we suddenly became aware of a drumming noise from inside, rapidly heading our way.

As we parted and turned to look, Nasher bulleted out of the rear doors and managed to get a foot on the rear gunwale, before hurling his short frame into the air and flying like a miniature torpedo towards the opposite boat some 20 foot away with a rope between his teeth.

Now Nasher was a passionate rugby player, powerful and unafraid of any opponent, size doesn’t daunt him. He showed he had the heart of a lion as he streaked from the cabin clutching the rope – and carrying salvation.

He’s not the tallest person and had often taken some serious ribbing.

He was a doppelganger of Tattoo from Fantasy Island, but, undoubtedly braver than the rest of us.

Tattoo

Personally, I’d have let the boat sink and fished them from the water – if they survived.

It was magnificent. He gained height like a falcon, streaking across the space like some modern day short Errol Finn, the rope streaming away behind him.
We watched slack-jawed and followed his progress as he rose into the air like rocket – almost – leaving a vapor trail as he as he passed through the fine rain drops driving on towards the stricken barge.

Only to fall short and bounce off the other boats gunwale and into the water.

The gentleman on the other boat lurched forward as he struck the side of their boat and caught him by the collar as he dropped into the water. he dangled there for a moment as the man fought to drag him on board finally with the help of another person on the opposite boat, Nasher was forcibly drawn from the water.

I honestly have no doubt to this day, that if he hadn’t been caught and dragged on board then we wouldn’t have seen him again. So strong was the current ripping past us.

As it was we spent some breathless moments watching until he was pulled to safety.

The gasps of relief were interrupted by Barny, who, as ever, was the first to take stock.

“You’d have thought,”

He began, clicking open his zippo with that distinctive “K’ting!” and lighting his roll-up, pausing only to take a contemplative look at the run up area and the distance between the boats,

“That he’d have tied the rope off on our side first.”

We turned as one following Barny’s gaze, to look at Nasher who was now triumphantly stood on the other deck waving the rope back at us.

We did manage to drag the boat to safety despite Nasher risking his life.

It was the most entertaining thing we’d seen all week.

The final night found us exhausted but drunk with Nasher still high on his heroic rescue. the subject only changed when we heard a galloping thumping on the boats outside. Someone was running across the boats in the immediate vicinity – heading our way.

There was a solid “Thump!” as someone landed on the rear of our boat, then the door crashed open and Winny struggled in with his arms full.

“Sorted! Got one!!”

“What! Got what??”

“An anchor!!”

He had seen a similar stone anchor on a boat further along and done no more but clambered on board and made off with it.

“So we’ll keep the deposit! Sorted!!”

It sobered us up quite quickly. I don’t think we slept that night, expecting someone to come angrily banging on the door demanding satisfaction.

Instead on our final day, of all days after a week of rain, the sun actually rose, to find us with it, slinking off down the river.

broads2

And home.

Ginger Delight..

Just told he's Ginger

I love quiet.

An Absence of noise.

I  worked in the Lake District on the flood damage to Cockermouth, Keswick, Egremont and Coniston back in 2010, from December – April. And the first thing you notice is the quiet. No traffic in close season. Its a different case when the summer kicks in mind. But during the winter months, places can be quite remote. It can be like sitting in vacuum. The only sound you hear is what you create your self.

Driving was a pleasure. You wouldn’t see anything behind you early morning. Something would pass in the opposite direction intermittently, but bar that it was a wonderful place to be. When I finally returned to Manchester to work, months later, the stress levels shot back up and it took a couple of weeks to acclimatize to the volume of traffic. Every car behind me felt like it was tailgating me, pushing me along. And everyone was so impatient to get somewhere.

Whilst in the Lakes, though, I was fortunate enough to be staying in a lovely B&B run by a couple of geordies who were the most unobtrusive, genuinely kind people  I was lucky enough to meet.

Graham and Gina. (Bacon to die for and the best poached eggs ever)

And Graham was one of those people who inspired you with his own experiences with human nature.

There was a picture on the wall of the dining room which showed Graham and another person, leaning on an Old Land Rover somewhere far away and dry. The sky looked hot and the ground had that dusty, sandy look to it.

When I asked about it he began to explain. Years previously he and his brother had bought an old, ex-council land rover, fitted it out, and driven from Newcastle and right across Africa in it. And the thing that stayed with me is, Graham telling about his experiences of the kindness of people far away, who were desperately poor, and who had nothing.

As I admired the Photos on the dining room wall, he began,

“D’ya know what? For everything you hear about these 3rd world countries being dangerous, They’re made up of people incredibly poor, who, will drop everything to help a completely alien face they don’t know.”

He continued,

“We wrecked our axle on the Land Rover, in the middle of no-where. Completely stranded. No way of getting anywhere. And suddenly people just appeared. Just materialized. And without any prompting they set-to sorting the jeep out. And they strapped a great fuckin log to the axle and it worked. Got us to the next point on our travels where we could repair and carry on.”

And he paused for a moment as he looked into his past.

“What I’m getting at here is this. It was humbling. To see these people with nothing just drop what they were doing to come and help 2 complete strangers on their way. People, who meant nothing to them, who were just passing through they’re lives, to somewhere they’d never see…And they didn’t even hesitate. They just helped in any way they could….

I’m a real believer in Karma and I’ll tell you this. Pass it on man. It comes around. “

I think this view he held was evident in all of my conversations with Graham. We do tend to be eyes down in this busy society of ours, chasing unimportant things, we don’t actually need.

Part of the point I’m trying to get at here is, the lovely quiet. Graham was always busy. But I think he lived somewhere that offered an opportunity to think and really put a value on something. Place a level of genuine importance or not.

Made me try and slow down and take a look around me a little bit more.

Graham and Gina, two genuinely lovely people, never intruded, they were just kind. (Harvington House)

And it’s people like that you don’t forget. Kept me sane while I worked away from my family for 4 months.

But, getting back to it.

The Quiet.

The first time we took the kids away abroad was to Ibiza, and I think it was pure luck we landed in the resort we did.

It was a 16 apartment accommodation and it was, silent. One of the most relaxing holidays I’ve been on. beautiful  flower enveloped balconies, full of geraniums. All the sunbeds laid out of a morning with lovely padded mattresses lain on top. Pure comfort. we made some wonderful friends during that holiday and had some fantastic moments. Most notably was the Octopus latching onto one of the kids legs on the edge of the shore.

(Not one of mine I can happily say. So I just took my time getting there)

The child in question, a young was part of a fantastic welsh family, was frantically hopping one legged around the beach, screaming her head off. She was ploughing furrows in the sand, knocking kids sandcastles over, and generally waving her leg around like Zorro on speed, trying to shake this thing off.

While her dad danced around her, shouting,

“Whats occurin’? WHATS OCCURIN’??” with that fantastic welsh accent.

(Think Gavin and Stacey)

He was wild eyed, almost as frantic as the child, with a bucket and spade in either hand, looking for an opportunity to batter the octopus.

“This should be good I thought.” as I strolled over.

I think in the end the octopus just got motion sickness and fell off, and was then catapulted back into the sea some 600 yards out off the spade. It was like a Jaws with suckers moment, and there was a mass exodus from the water as it flew over everybody’s head.

The other memory is having a sit down meal in by the pool in the evening, surrounded by flowers, clear blue sky with the day gradually cooling down. We pulled an assortment of tables and chairs outside and everyone contributing food and beer.

Poor old Nikki added more than was bargained when after one beer too many, (actually she didn’t drink, I think it was just one beer bless her) led to  her chucking up. There was a general scraping of chairs as she cleared an area of 20 square foot.

Then people tentatively came back and patted her on the back as she moaned, suffering in her own world. I think Kev- her husband – just felt cheated she had wasted one of his beers.

Brilliant holiday. we went back the following year to find the caretakers hadn’t been paid for 3 months.

No flowers or understandably, mattresses on the sunbeds, as they were laundered daily. And the company was nothing like the previous year.

Then we went to Skiathos.

You’d be surprised to find I’m a joiner. I work with wood, machining, manufacturing, fixing. All noise.

I think that has something to do with the yearning for quiet.

But Skiathos was wonderful. So quiet and peaceful.

The defining factor of these holidays for me is spending the time with my wife, Jane and my Kids. We would either be at the pool or beach. And if available go on an excursion to a water park or some other trip.

The kids would spend their time playing in the pool with me or some other kids, or snorkel in the sea, dig in the sand and generally just have fun. But it was a tiny complex and extremely quiet.

Perfect.

Our next door neighbours were a family of 5. Mum, dad, 3 kids, one of whom had fantastically ginger hair.

Enter Giles.

I mean. Come on. Not satisfied with the trials the poor kids going to face in life with his orange noggin, they added to it by calling him “Giles”.

Giles just doesn’t suit an 11 year old. It doesn’t fit the shape. It’s too “Hawhaw” and old for him. And every time he was shouted,

“Gillllllllllllllles!!!”

He would appear, like orange lightening. A blur of tangerine every time he ran past you. He was like a wiry Orangutan. It actually scorched the eyes as he whipped by and made them water.

I thought initially every time I saw him coming from the corner of my eye, that someone was throwing a large Satsuma, as he exploded past me.

We never actually socialized with the parents, but the kids all got on well. And when it became too hot, took to playing in a games room where there was a large plastic Wendy house, pool table and various toys. This was slightly lower down the hill from the pool, and we could keep an eye on the children while they played, or just hear them if they disagreed.

This particular day we heard a commotion then a Crash and wail of a small child, as the wendy house collapsed.

It turned out Giles had been up to no good stood on the roof, while his younger brother was inside when the structure finally collapsed on top of him.

His dad hauled him off back to the apartment with,

“Your’e bloody grounded Giles! No meal for you tonight! Your staying in my lad!!. No telling you is there??”

(I hasten to add, the on site beautiful open air dining area was opposite the front door of their apartment.)

And that was the last we saw of him for that afternoon and the quiet descended again around the pool with the only noise being the kids quietly playing and laughing, and crickets chirping in the heat.

So, later that evening, kids all showered and dressed, ready to go out and eat, we were sat on the porch, just relaxing having a drink when,

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!”

“Giles!! Pack it in! Deal with it for Christ sake!! That’s all there is to it!!”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!”

And his father, true to his word, obviously exasperated with the ginger demon, having grounded him was refusing to let him come over to sit down for a meal and was making him stay in. A bit extreme I thought, but obviously a man who carried out his threats. Giles in the mean time just continued throwing himself around the room, shouting and roaring, finally descending into out-right tears.

And for some time we had to sit and listen to the screaming and pandemonium next door. And I must admit, I was slightly put-out to say the least, because the lovely silence was shattered.

My kids were sat huddled around me, wide eyed and obviously frightened, and Jane having finished dressing had come out side,

“What the hell was that all about??”

And I looked down at my goggle eyed children and tried to explain in a way they could understand.

“Its ok kids. Its nothing to worry about.”

And I paused before I continued,

“They’ve just told Giles he’s Ginger.”