Driven on unrelentlessly not to be beaten down by failure, this is one man’s extraordinary true-life story, which highlights the ever-present need to find your way in the world. Across the diverse life adventures over a seventy-year period, a picture is painted of a life that has led from neglect to success and from abuse to knowledge. This book will inspire those who read it to do better.
That 1976 summer was¬¬¬ proving to be a really hot one; it’s on record as being one of the driest summers we’ve had; which is interesting because we had never heard of ‘climate change’ in 1976, it was just a great summer. If you thought about it; you could just imagine yourself jumping in to the river off a boat deck, splashing about in the water, creating waves, wild swim¬¬¬ming, the whole scene seemed to beckon ever harder with each longing thought you gave it.
This cabin cruiser was no Queen Mary, what did you expect for £50 in 1976? She was made of wood; marine ply, to be exact, you could be forgiven for being apprehensive about stepping aboard her, after all, wood was the customary material used to build boats for years. However, this particular craft may have been one of Noah’s castoffs; except that he probably didn’t have access to what looked like white emulsion paint. The whole boat had been liberally coated in it, you could see that someone had done a real job of freshening her up with a very clumsy hand and brush; even the windows had not been spared a daub or two of paint.
Our son Trevor; who was eleven years old at the time, couldn’t contain his excitement at the thought of this adventure. On to the boat he jumped right behind Nigel, the owner, a scruffy guy with long greasy brown hair, who was either a really good salesman or very proud of his vessel. He certainly had the gift of the gab. My wife Frances and I gave each other a sidelong look of disappointment at the sight of this shipwreck. My heart sank; like this boat probably would. I remember thinking, ‘what a mess; well… one man’s meat is another man’s poison’. Still; we both tried to keep an open mind.
There were indeed four bunks, which, amazingly, all seemed to be dry, there was a galley area with a gas cooker and sink. Nigel told us that you call the kitchen area ‘The Galley’ on a boat. There was a cassette toilet that smelt and looked a bit like an old-fashioned sewerage farm with a small sink for washing beside it. The mirror above the sink was interesting in that you couldn’t actually see your reflection in it properly for grime. I turned around and looked to make sure Nigel wasn’t watching me as I quickly drew a smiley face on the mirror’s dirty surface. I’m lucky in that I have a fairly good memory for faces; especially mine! The thing is, if you wanted to clean yourself up, comb your hair, shave or make yourself look pretty; you were going to need a good memory for faces with this mirror. The shipwreck did have a nice sitting area at the back, or stern if I’m to be correct with an outboard motor that had its own removable fuel tank, I noticed that Nigel didn’t offer to start the engine; he just pointed it out, saying that it was a good runner. But no matter, as this trip looked like it had been a waste of time anyway.
We climbed off the boat, although I had to practically drag Trevor off, as he already thought he owned it and was involved with cruising down the Caribbean, so he had a reluctance to end his adventure; Paula had not dared to come aboard, she remained on dry land pretending to be disinterested as she stroked someone’s golden Labrador that had wandered over inquiringly from another boat.
I told Nigel that we would like to look around, as there were other boats for sale in the marina.
Well, after looking over a few of those boats and hearing the amazing sums of money their owners were hoping to sell them for; it has to be said that Willie – that is what the shipwreck was called – started to look like a good proposition; after all, beggars can’t be choosers, she was still afloat, she had an engine and was dry-ish inside; we could hopefully make something of her.
Back to see Nigel we went, then after a bit of haggling for the boat and for the mooring which was rented, we were shortly the proud owners of Willie our very own cabin cruiser.
Every Sunday for the rest of that long hot summer would find us doing what must have been the equivalent of an hours training in a gym; just pulling the cord trying to start that outboard motor. Messing about on the river usually had to wait a while! Some days though, things would be messier than others.
There was that time when our daughter, Paula; who was a year older than Trevor; got a little too boisterous in the stern section and nearly fell overboard. Yes, she could swim but we were cruising along with the outboard motor running at the time and she went over the stern right beside it. As I watched her loose her balance, I had visions of my daughter being chewed up by the engine propeller. Don’t ask me how, but I turned around from steering the boat and caught her in mid-air before she even hit the water and hauled her back into the boat. It was one of those moments of magic. I have no idea what happened, or how I managed it, just like when you knock something off a shelf by accident, then react so fast, that with no effort at all, you actually catch it before it hits the floor and breaks, I expect you will have done that yourself.