Tag Archives: Norfolk Broads

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.

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!”


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,


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.


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.


And home.

The Broad View…Part 2

ship steering wheel

What made us decide to go to the Norfolk Broads on holiday?

We had been sold on an image of lazy days. Of sunning ourselves and stopping at a pub every 1/2 mile or so. Soft sounds of warbling bird song, rustling reeds, whispering their music and water lapping against the hull, as we made our way through the river by-ways, lulling us to doze on the deck under blue sky’s framed by greenery and warmed by the heat of the summer sun. Returning home with a new perspective and completely relaxed.

What we were actually faced with as we descended from our final train after an epic journey into Norfolk was, rain.

And lots of it.

All varieties of rain too. From big droplets landing heavily, to fine drifting spray that drifted where it would as there wasn’t any real wind to carry it.

There was more water in the air than there was in the river.

And this was just the prelude to what was to come during that weeks holiday.

We had been fitted with our life preservers and set free upon the river, scrambling aboard in a rush of bodies for the tiller, dropping ruck-sacks willy-nilly in order to fight for the right to drive our new toy.

Captain Ahab (Nick) took to his role with a vengeance. He had barged through the mass of fighting bodies and commandeered the wheel by forcing his oversized life preserver that encompassed his frame through the brawl and landing a hand on the steering column.

Awareness spread that someone had gained control on the driving seat as he sat revving the engine with its deep throated rumble. We were forced to cluster, grumbling around him in a tight knot of eyes, trying to follow what controls he used and understand how the boat was driven. We were in a group tightly surrounding him, all still clad in our regulation life jackets, like a group of tangerine Meer-cats, eyes following his every move, just waiting for the opportunity to force him from the steering pedestal and replace him at the helm.

Instead, Nick in his previously described only-one-that-would-fit over-sized life jacket, had sat on the seat and literally inhaled the supporting chair inside his preserver so his legs dangled from an invisible support.

It was like having an orange barrel envelope the seat with only a pair of stumpy legs swinging either side. What portions of his arms that could protrude, he was using to force the spongy jacket together across the chest like a concertina to allow him to get a death-grip on the steering wheel. He sat straining to maintain his hold like a loaded spring just waiting to go off.

I think it was gradually sinking in that now, he simply daren’t release his clutch on the wheel. If he had been forced to let go suddenly, the resounding action would have exploded him into a spin that would have drilled him through the hull. At some point he would have to let go and there was a crowd of bodies around him just waiting for the opportunity to take his place.

Willpower forced him to put on a cheery grin, although he was looking slightly desperate and beads of nervous sweat were popping on his brow as he made the engine give a low growl and offered,

“Lets see what this baby can do!”

And he revved the engine to max and forced it into gear. All eyes turned to the fore-deck and the view beyond as he gunned the throttle forward. We all braced ourselves expecting the front of the boat to rear out of the water as we sped away up the river. But what we were actually faced with was a placid paced 5 mph putter along the water-way, and eyes strained towards the river disappearing around a bend in the distance.

We all stood for a few moments staring ahead as it suddenly dawned on the group that the bend was some 70 yards in front and it was coming towards us at the speed of growing grass.

The silence grew.

“Does er, does anyone else want a go?”

Queried Nick.

“Well, Nick and I have the room at the front.” Came Barnys voice into the contemplative silence.

Typically, Barny, with his normal view of the bigger picture and immediate comfort, had slid away from the fighting and claimed prime bunks for himself and Nick.

There then followed a rush of bodies around the boat trying to claim they’re sleeping positions on board. It ended with Winnie and Nasher at the rear on single bunks, Barny and Nick at the front in an enclosed room again, with single bunks and Caddy and I stood leaning into the narrow doorway of a tiny room on the side of the craft peering at a small double bed crammed into the claustrophobic space.

“I’m not being funny here, and I know your not gay, and you know I’m not gay, but I’m putting a pillow between us tonight.” I said eyeing Caddy.

“That’s Fine! Gayboy! I was going to use 2!!”


“Anyone fancy a go at this driving malarkey?”

Nicks voice called hopefully from the front to anyone prepared to listen.

A quick look through the fore window showed the bend 3 yards closer 25 minutes since we last looked.

“Really. Its great fun! Anyone? Anyone?? I really need to let go of this wheel! Hello?? I need to pee! Fuckit you bastards! I’m peeing here!”

“Pee-away pal! Its a boat! Its meant to get wet!”

His wails fell on deaf ears. We simply abandoned him at the wheel. Sooner or later his white-knuckle grip would give way, and he’d explode from his position. Of course we’d carefully pick him up from where he landed then reload his exhausted body back onto the seat and gaffer tape his hands to the helm..


The idyllic holiday we planned never really arose. The rain dictated what we could and couldn’t do. And it wasn’t much. By the second day we became aware that the surrounding water levels were rising significantly. So-much so that each time we pulled into a wooden docking station, we realized that the actual boardwalk was under a couple of inches of water. What followed were long days closeted on board the boat, whose space gradually became more and more confining. And any distraction became all encompassing.

The first time we pulled into a station to fill up with water and empty the soil tanks, Nick, after docking the boat, managed to release his grip on the wheel with out too much drama and rub life back into his eyeballs. He struggled to un-insert himself from the seat, still clad in his life-jacket which he had worn ever since boarding. In fact taking the instructions about wearing it to new levels and actually sleeping in it.

He walked stiffly into the rain to watch us tie-up in preparation of pumping the tanks clean, then waddled to the edge of the boat to inspect the water level dockside, his movements completely restricted by the over-large orange jacket. The preserver made him look like he only had stumpy little arms and legs so out of proportion was it to his frame. Which he did anyway but this made it look stumpier.

I could see him weighing up the distance from the edge of the boat to the dock then held my breath as he hopped off the boat with the intention of dropping cat-like to the quay-side.

Winny had finally secured the rope and turned as Nick decided to drop onto the decking. He stood dumb-founded as Nick landed like a canon-ball, his flip-flops aquaplaning from under his body and he skidded off along the boardwalk toward Winny some 700 feet away, gradually going over backwards, his declining torso accompanied by the sound of his flesh making a tearing zipping noise along the mooring rope.

This was the only thing near enough to him to prevent his fall, and he had scrabbled at it for purchase as he slid and only managed to lock it under his armpit against his body in his desperate attempt to stay up-right.

All he managed to do was water-ski along like a large Jaffa orange, achieving a ripping, zip-wire noise and accompanied by the smell of cooking bacon.

Unfortunately the result was inevitable and he landed flat on his back in 6 inches of water looking like a stranded turtle as he rolled either-way yelping in the over size life jacket trying to get himself up-right. There was a sizzling hiss and dispersing smoke from his armpit as the water put out the beginnings of a fire.

“Me arm! Aiiii!! Jesus Christ Me armmmmm!!”

We simply stood by and laughed.

Sympathy in such situations is a commodity in short supply where boredom rules the day. And we were very bored. It hadn’t stopped raining and cabin fever was starting to set in. Any diversion was welcomed. So it was with some enjoyment we gathered on the edge of the boat, rolling around against each other, to watch him thrash his way to his feet, and alternate between splashing water on the smouldering armpit and sucking on his fingers in an attempt to relieve the pain.

There was nothing else for it. We hauled him aboard and re-installed him back at the helm.

As the trip went on we were resigned to the fact that it just wasn’t going to stop raining. So being already wet decided to have a swim anyway.

This was decided upon returning from having a liquid lunch.

All the best ideas arise at such times.

We returned to the boat and quickly changed, climbing onto the roof of the cabin preparing to jump into the river. Captain Pugwash (Nick) clambered topside clad in his ever present life jacket and after rolling around a few times managed to find his feet. Then it was a case of goading each other to see who would go in first. This was finally decided when Nick simply rammed me off the boat and into the water. I sank like a stone into inky darkness and hit the bottom. I had a slightly panicky moment when I discovered that my feet had sunk up to the calves in thick mud. Some frantic wrenching brought me free and I popped to the surface and swam round the boat to clamber out of the river and onto the deck.

Nick now pre-occupied watching everyone else in the water didn’t even see me coming as I ran up behind him and launched him into the water and he was swallowed into the depths with a shout and a “Splosh!”

I stood above where he had disappeared laughing. This finally trailed away to some concern when he didn’t surface and all I could think of was my momentary predicament on the bottom in the mud. I was just preparing to jump in after him when he rocketed to the surface and bob up and down several times like a huge orange float, sucking in desperate lungful’s of air. He spluttered out a short staccato of words each time he popped up like it a broken telegraph message,

Mudddddddddddd! Jesussssssssssssss!”







Until it finally became apparent that the Life jacket was so big – as he finally stopped bouncing up and down and settled in the water – that as he came to a rest he sank into it.

He was forced to clutch at the collar which had done its job and floated. But With Nick too short to fit it he was left with his head under water and his arms waving around above trying to clutch at the collar and drag it far enough down so that his head could reach the surface.

Finally, there was no other alternative, we had to drag him on board again.

The good thing was it did finally convince him he could take off the jacket and actually drive, sleep and drink in the pub without it on.

He has though always maintained his preference for the colour orange. I think its subliminal. I’m not sure he’s aware he likes it so much.

After he recently got run over cycling to work, looking like a small sun, wearing, the brightest, orangest jacket on the planet, he may at last rethink his colour choices.

Nick in Orange
(Nick prior to being flattened by a Stevie Wonder driver)

After all, Illuminous green is IN.

Unfortunately this story has gone on longer than I expected.

I haven’t managed to cover Nashers heroics saving a fellow traveller, or Winny and the anchor, and the less I say about waking up to finding Caddy spooning me the better.

Part 3 to follow..

The Broad View..Part 1


There are moments in our lives when a smell or a sound or a place can bring memories flooding back. You just have to take some time out to think of what they may be and it opens all kinds of doors. I was fortunate to have a group of friends that I grew up with, went through school with and basically all we experienced or discovered early on in our lives, we did in one or the others company. We shared our highs and lows and laughed an awful lot together.

I try to remember the good parts in my life, the points where I found humour in a situation. The times where back then may not have been too funny but looking back now, are, just because it was so unbelievable. I find some things much funnier now than they ever were then. I think that comes with growing through life and realizing that the stresses and strains of yesterday were never, in retrospect, as great as I feared. But that realization is only reached with age and experiencing things that truly are difficult to deal with.

I think as time passes its easy to remember good times as great, and the not so good moments, the actual severity of those situations actually fade somewhat. It has to – or you’d never move on.

Whether that’s down to a personal view of past situations or not I can’t say. But on the whole I prefer to look at the things that have made me laugh when I reminisce or find a shiny thread of point in a memory that I can look back on and think

“Well, really, that unbelievable situation was funny when you look at it now..”

Most things are if you get the right spin on it.

One of my first “grown up” holidays, one I went on with friends rather than family took place some 27 years ago, 1987 with a group of lads I had known through-out my early years.


It was the time of Afflecks Palace on the corner of Church street when a bargain really did exist. 501’s were the rage, worn with a turn up on the leg. Long overcoats. The Cave shoe shop on Cross street that was mostly goth gear but sold some fabulously suede winklepickers. Corbierres Wine Bar off St. Anns square, down a little side alley and some winding stairs to a cave-like bar. Sitting and rolling Old Holborn ciggies in liquorice paper that had an aroma all its own. Then spending the next 10 minutes first smoking it, then picking bits of tobacco out of your teeth.

Loved it.

U2 in their pomp, with The Joshua Tree tour in full flow. Manchester was THE place to be with bands breaking onto the scene all the time. The Smiths had “Shoplifters Of The World Unite” and “The World Won’t Listen” out, The Stone Roses “Sally Cinnamon” and “I Wanna Be Adored” to name but a few, were in all our thoughts. Billy Bragg with political ideals and raw music that was like a sugar rush to idealistic teens. The Housemartins were in the charts. It was a band I had seen not long before at The International club in Manchester with the same friends arriving late and catching only the last few tracks of the then little known support band, The Proclaimers.

Who were unbelievable live.

The twins came to stand on the balcony where we were watching the set after their stint on stage and we took turns to go over and say

“Fantastic music lads! Whats the name of the band?”

And have one of them turn and look at us through their heavy black framed glasses, and say something completely unintelligible in that heavy Scottish accent of theirs.

“Aw great! Thanks lads! Fantastic! Did I say that already? Superb then!” and wander dazed like back to our waiting friends who would ask,

“Well? What did they say? Whats the name of the band??”

“No fucking idea. Couldn’t understand a word he said.”

Dickhead. You just heard them singing! How hard can it be to ask a question? Did you ask??”

“Dickhead yourself! You have a go then.”

And the next person would wander over slap them on the back and nearly knock their glasses off with their enthusiasm and have the same conversation.

“Well?” when they came back,

“I not sure, but I think it sounded like he just threatened to kick the shit out of me or something.”

Caddy rolled his eyes.

“Jesus. Wait here ffs.” And off he went.

A few minutes later he was back looking smug.

“The Proclaimers.”

He just stood and basked in the admiration thrown his way.

“You understood what they said?”

And we turned as one to look at the granite faced twins then back to Caddy.


“Nope. No fucking idea what he was blathering on about. I asked the girl stood next to them who they were.”

Ah. Why didn’t any of us idiots think of that.

He went far in life Caddy.

I had gone through school with all of them and we were still close enough then to be arranging holidays and have regular nights out together so-much-so that really it was part of our fabric of growing up. Most of what we experienced at the time we did mostly together. This was before University or working life changed some of those relationships due to distance or responsibilities that came with the impact of either. Most of those friendships still exist today, some still close, others tied together with the strands of what we experienced together growing up. Changed, but still there.

So when someone came up with the idea of going on a boat and sailing it round the Norfolk Broads water-ways for a week, stopping only to drink beer at lunch and evenings, well, it sounded like the perfect holiday. Previous holidays together had involved walking up and down remote hills in the Lakes in all weather, carrying everything you needed on your back. Mainly it was wet 90% of the time, with only blisters and banter (when you could catch your breath) to distract you from the weather or the miles, stretching away in front of you,(vertically mostly) to where that nights bed, and nearest pub beckoned. I can’t say those were my favourate holiday venues, the only thing making them worth-while for me, was the company and belly-aching moments of laughter with my friends.

So. It was decided and week of swash-buckling on the Broads beckoned..

pirate flag2

There were 6 of us on this trip. Which involved travelling down to Norfolk to the staging point where we were to pick up our boat and given the do’s and don’ts of life on the river by-ways. Then we would fight over who was going to be Captain and actually drive the boat.

What actually happened was a monumental journey by train that seemed to go on forever. Norfolk wasn’t the easiest place to get to even by road back then. All motorways ended on what felt like the west coast of the country and the journey into Norfolk went via back roads and country lanes involving mules and camels.

With people when asked for directions, rolling a piece of straw between their teeth and saying,

“Arrr? Thee Arr. Thy oo-arr? Arrrrrrrrrrr.”

A lot.

Lots and lots of “Arrrrrrrr’s” and “Oo-arrrrrr’s”.

Our journey into Norfolk was British rails equivalent to the road version.

As I recall it took some 500 trains and changes to complete the journey to I-don’t-know-where-the-fuck-I-am boat yard to collect our boat and begin our own personal Amazons and Swallows moment. The only good points about the journey was the beginning when we were excited, and then the final part where we joined the last train and found it was all private carriages, echoes of another age. It probably was. Stuck in time in the middle of no-where. What I can say is it added a bit of romance to the trip and raised spirits somewhat after a soul destroying journey.

When we finally reached our destination we were shown our new nautical vehicle then given the list of what not to do while on the water. The man giving us the talk was obviously eyeing the 6 young lads he was about to had over a part of his fleet to and was at great pains to impart his rules.

“Thee ‘av ‘an achor. Oo-arr?”

6 heads nod.

“Arrr lads? Life jackets? All times! Oo-arrr? Speeding? 5 to 7 mph. No speeding! Banks washed away! Arrrr??”


“Toilet? Needs emptying. Tha’ll all sink if ship’s not emptied but shit’ll float! Oo-arrrr?”

Distracted nods as eye each other and weigh up who’s going to do that job.

“Emptyin’ station”s. All over damn place. Use ’em. Arrr? Arr.”

I of course took no notice what’s-so-ever as there were more responsible members of the group like Barny and Caddy who would look after that sort of thing. Good, sensible lads. Could empty all the shit they wanted for me. I had more urgent things occupying my mind. I was going to be Captain , strike a heroic pose at the helm and issue orders no one would take any notice of.

In the mean time our “Oo-arrr” instructor continued.

“Life-Jackets? Over there. Arr? Try ’em on and get ship shape lads. Arr? Off you go then.”

So we moved like a small herd and clustered round a room rammed full of worn, orange life-preservers and began trying on what this chap passed out as he sized us up. We gradually began to line up, each standing ready to be inspected, each clad in their own personal buoyancy jackets with bits of string dangling in all the wrong places.

Until he finally came to Nick, and eyeballed him while holding a jacket in either hand, looking from either one trying to decide which would best fit.

See, Nick was short and stocky, carrying a bit of weight, all shoulders and no neck, and neither jacket quite fit. The right size for his height was meant for a tall child, but wasn’t wide enough to incorporate both shoulders in the jacket normally. To be able to fit both in meant his arms were clenched back from his torso while his shoulder blades met in the center making him look like he was impersonating a giant chicken. It looked as if a tension spring had given way in his back and yanked his arms behind him and pushed his chest out.
leaving Nick spluttering somewhat.

“Whaaaa.. Whaaa the…??”

There was no way it would fasten and it yawned wide open across the middle, so that a 12 inch gap was displayed across the chest and stomach, and the tie’s wouldn’t stretch across the space to fasten. And the next size life preserver swamped him.

So it was decided in the spirit of health and safety, that the best course of action was to choose the large one because it would actually fasten and it was funny. The collar rose above his head and the jacket encompassed his torso with plenty to spare. So that only his arms from the elbows and legs from the knees down were visible. At least in an emergency he could put it on and we could throw him over board and 3 or 4 clamber on top of him and paddle for the river bank, “Ahoying!” all the way.

(Nick center stage)

He’d have been better off with arm bands and a swimming cap.

Finally we scrambled aboard our boat and there was an immediate rush for the steering wheel. Lets just say a scuffle took place over control, but Nick clad in a life preserver that would fit 5 men, barged his way in and created enough space to get concrete grip on the wheel. It was him who took charge of our departure, bouncing it off the dock a dozen times before finally reaching open water and then with a wicked grin and a,

Fuck the rules!”

With a glint in the eye, Nick revved the engine to full throttle, rammed it in gear, and found out just how fast 5 mph was.

Each bend in the river suddenly took on a vastly different perspective and looked a very long-way-away. The first bend alone seemed to have somehow been stretched further away from us all of a sudden.

I think we all stood along side him, gazing ahead for some time, trying to draw the first turn closer by sheer willpower, then exhaustion set in and one-by-one we wilted and wandered off, leaving Nick to it.

It was decided there and then.

Nick was now our Captain and he could drive all he wanted.

ship steering wheel

Part 2 to follow…