Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Story contd.

As we neared the boat our hysterical laughter died away and I realised that Fleur would not be amused and had every reason to be absolutely livid with us. After a whispered good night to Harry and Jean we clambered aboard – William and Wally dripping the evil mud in their wake. Thinking on my feet I urged Wally to go below uhere, presumably, Fleur would be nestled in her pink fluffy blankets,clutching her hottie and, please God, asleep. We would allow him privacy to scramble into the wretched pipe cot, whilst we disrobed outside. Then we would sneak, silently, into our shared bunk, thus avoiding any unpleasantness.

There was gentle snoring from Fleur as we crept below; in fact she was the only one who had a good night’s sleep proving that there is some justice in the world. There was a bit of a popple on the water and a swell, so although there was to be no conjugal nonsense over the week-end I spent the night clinging for dear life to William to avoid falling out of the narrow bunk. Poor Wally had the wandering anchor chain for a bed fellow and didn’t sleep a wink. He was up at crack of dawn with a conciliatory mug of tea for Fleur and one each for us but we had to get up in order to drink it,

We all apologised to Fleur with lots of excuses about time and tide but she knew full well that for the rest of the week-end she would rule and we would behave impeccably. As the wind and tide were right the men decided we would set sail immediately and I would cook breakfast en route. The stove was on gimbals and I was a dab hand at cooking under way. Everybody enjoyed eating in the fresh air – whilst scudding through the waves, but Fleur objected to my doing bacon and egg AND tomatoes.

‘So extravagant Pat and not at all necessary!’

Fleur hello! The war is over! I think she was quite cross that I could actually do something useful. She was such a competent and thrifty person she had stuck me into the ‘useless blonde’ compartment. She had no interest whatsoever in sailing and it didn’t occur to Wally that I might like to man the tiller occasionally. So different to William who was the most generous of sailors and was always delighted to let me have a go. I found it quite illuminating. The adage ‘climb a mountain with some one if you really want to get to know them’ is equally true of sharing a small boat.

Judy wasn’t a boat with mod cons. There was an enamel bowl for washes and a tin bucket of the ‘bucket and chuck it’ variety. The etiquette was that the men went fo’ard to pee and we girls were given a private bucket. Anything more complicated had to be dealt with ashore in the pub and it all worked perfectly well until we had that dodgy ice cream at Felixstowe

Oddly, for a naval officer, Wally was often sea-sick – and I was told it was not such a rarity in the navy. It was a glorious sail up the coast and we were in high spirits as we went ashore for lunch. The fish and chips were delectable and then came the fatal ice-cream. I don’t want to labour the point and list the gory details but the four of us- that week-end - reached a level of intimacy that can take years of married life to achieve.

We didn’t linger in Felixstowe as we had a hard beat against the wind to return Fleur and Wally to where they had left their car. It would have been difficult enough tacking (zigzagging trying to find the wind) but with the onset of D and V it was sheer hell. To find which way the wind is blowing you have to stick a wet finger in the air and see which side dries first but when one is being violently sick there is no time for such niceties.

The sea became very rough and we were tossed about mercilessly with the violence of the waves. At one period I thought how bizarre it was that we were on the brink of disaster and yet across the turbulent sea were the holiday makers at Clacton sunning themselves in deck chairs – completely unaware of the life and death struggle unfolding before their eyes. Life jackets? What life jackets?

We didn’t drown, we didn’t die and we finally reached port exhausted and chastened. As Wally and Fleur tottered towards their car, trailing the now sodden blankets I wondered if Fleur would ever take to the water again. By the way, I almost forgot:what with the sickness and all, the lemon meringue pie wasn't mentioned. The rest of the holiday was an enjoyable convalescence, exploring medieval Maldon and pottering round the salt marshes, relishing the birds and glimpses of Thames barges with their terra cotta sails. By the end of the fortnight I was eager to get back to the phone and see what Paula had in store for me.

Popple: rolling rippling water.
Hottie: hot water bottle
Gimbals: rings and pivots for keeping articles horizontal
D and V: diarrhoea and vomiting


sablonneuse said...

Oh that sounds like a nightmare end to a boating holiday but thank goodness for your sense of humour in telling the tale. It made enjoyable reading.
I'm just wondering if you still went on the water for holidays ever again.

AndrewM said...

Good work. Most evocative.

Z said...

Oh my word, the mental pictures conjured up here! That's a wonderfully told story Pat, I'm just glad I wasn't with you.

My husband remembers visiting upper-crust local friends as a child and his sister asking for bread and butter and jam at teatime. The air froze - butter AND jam?

granny p said...

"Hottie"? - that does make me nostalgic - same generation, see, more or less. Nice stuff. William getting some kudos this time.

Eryl Shields said...

I love this story, you tell it so well. Particularly enamoured of your term 'Anything more complicated...' it reminds me of Katherine Hepburn's character in African Queen.

f:lux said...

Despite the D&V you've made it sound like a lot of fun!

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I loved 'the four of us - that weekend - reached a level of intimacy that can take years of married life to achieve'. That is a euphemism among euphemisms - and a very welcome one, too, given the subject-matter. A great instalment, Pat, and I'm longing for the next one.

PI said...

Sablonneuse: yes we had some great sailing adventures but after the children were born we were much more health and safety concious.

Thank you Andrewm. I value your opinion.

Z: you would have loved it. Glad the Sage is like-minded!

Grannyp: as long as we were in a boat or in Greece we were perfectly compatible

f:lux:in retrospect it really was and I suspect we all dined out on it for years.

Zinnia: thanks Zinnia. The sea and D and V are great levelers.

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

Holy gimballs, what an unfortunate ice-cream!

Fleur sounds like a bit of a pill, to be honest.

PI said...

Sam: Fleur - like Dodie - was a complete one-off. A character from another age and totally genuine. As with Dodie I came to appreciate her individuality and became fond of both of them over the years.
Guess What! I've just had an email from Meriel (actually spelt Merriol) as in 'who is Meriel?'


I take it there were no choruses of 'friggin' in the riggin' then?

Sounds like a great way to have a good time. Messing about in boats. Wind in the Willows?

Guyana-Gyal said...

Pat, your adventures are just great. Even though some didn't happen quite the way you wanted. What do your grandchildren say when you tell them?

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Wait a minute! "Hottie" is a hot water bottle? Say it ain't so....

kenju said...

Your "level of intimacy".....reminds me of the time that a couple we were good friends with invited us to their apartment for homemade chili. About 30 mins after eating, we all had that ominous feeling - and there was only one bathroom in the place. It was horrible!!

Drama Queen said...

WHY?! bacon and egg AND tomatoes!!

Aren’t you lucky you didn’t bring out the caviar, then Madam really would have had her feathers ruffled.

You remember with this so much detail its hard to remember it didn't happen only yesterday!


OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Not the greatest boat trip I've ever heard about...All the sickness---between the Ice Cream, and the Seas...It sounds quite impossible! (lol)...But you sound like you were a really good sport about the whole thing!

PI said...

4d: I think Wind in the Willows was possible less graphic than out trip.

GG: my grand children think I'm funny and a bit shocking and very non PC.

Hoss: you have to remember we have only just discovered central heating.

Judy : must have been even worse with the trappings of polite society. Hope you had a giggle out of it - in retrospect anyway.

DQ: Just don't ask me what i did yesterday.

Naomi: The first part in the pub was enormous fun and then we had to pay the price. At least it gave me something to write about. Years later Wally had a very swish boat with all mod cons but it was never so memorable.

belle said...

I WAS getting confused - this wasn't last weekend and William isn't MTL?
I think I need to get with the programme... point me in the right direction!

The post reminded me of my RYA (In)Competent Crew course ... we had the same unfortunate experience on our night sail from Lynmouth to Poole. I doctored a frozen lamb stew with curry powder for dinner, it was blowing a hooley, we nearly capsized at The Bridge by the Isle of Wight and I was the only one that wasn't sick (including the skipper!). Never sailed again!

PI said...

belle:If under the title it says 'aside' that is present day burbling. If it says 'story contd' it is the next episode of my life chronicle. Hope that makes sense.
What a great sailing experience. What a shame you didn't continue.

belle said...

aaahhh .... makes sense now ... thanks.

Exaggerated a bit for effect there on the sailing thing ... did sail again but never in anger.

Was in the Royal Naval Reserve and somehow sailing never quite compared to driving a P2000 at 40kts! (Ask Wally about P2000s!)

PI said...

belle; that sounds very impressive.I haven't seen Wally since my son's marriages nearly twenty years ago and we are no longer on close terms. I am persona non grata I'm afraid.