Blog on- 2011/ 2012

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Here are a couple of paragraphs from my latest blog, follow the link at the end to find the rest of the article.


Good Times, Sad Times, Wild Times

For some years now I've been researching the family tree, along the way unearthing a remarkable story, with a previously unknown Jewish heritage, or more precisely, a Spanish Portuguese Jewish heritage, otherwise known as, 'Sephardim Jews'. The overall story of my research (written up so far that is), can be found at wolf-e-boy.com, at the page- 'My Ramus Family Tree'. On the off chance recently, I googled 'Hampstead Sephardim cemeteries', and sure enough a few came up, so after checking which would have been closest to my Great Grandfather's home in 1911, the Hoop Lane cemetery in Golders Green, London, I found their e mail address and rattled off a message to them, asking if they might have a record for Henry Ramus, died 20-11-1911. Imagine my good fortune to get a swift response letting me know they did indeed, and he was, they assured me, the only Ramus they had at that or their other Jewish cemetery at Edgware road, they also sent me the plot number, row, and section, where I could find him. 

Shoreham Fort, Volunteers, Professionals, Babies

Researching the Fort history has been an ongoing pastime for some while, but recently I have unearthed a few gems which help explain the position regarding the status of the Fort soldiers. From the beginning I had believed the fort to be garrisonned by professionals, and indeed it was built to accommodate as such, but their is also a wealth of evidence suggesting the heavy involvement of volunteers, or militia. I have so far traced 12 children born to soldiers stationed at the 'Shoreham Redoubt, Lancing', as it was known back then, the earliest birth, that of Frederick William de Velling, born 17th Jan 1860, son of John de velling, Gunner, Royal Artillery, and Sarah de Velling, nee Langham. The latest birth I found was for John William Burrows, 10th November 1891, son of Joseph Burrows, Sergeant, Royal Artillery, and Bridget Burrows. So we know for sure there were professional soldiers stationed at the fort, it would seem, for the entire time it was manned, but it took a couple of old newspaper stories to shed new light upon this mystery.
The first story I came across, in the Brighton Gazette, dated 27 Oct 1864, told of a cracked gun at the fort needing to be changed, explaining how the guns had previously been fired, 'partly by the Coast Brigade, and partly by the late 4th Sussex Shoreham and 1st Sussex (Brighton) Volunteer Artillery.' . It states further on how, 'the gallant Major of the 1st Sussex Volunteer Artillery is always anxious for the corps to learn something about gun mounting, and to the small number of the Coast Brigade stationed at Shoreham being insufficient to perform the task, he offered to dismount the old gun, and remount the new one'. So there you have it, proof evident of professional and volunteer working side by side. I expect that day must have been one of excitement for the people of Shoreham, seeing a large detachment of soldiers alighting at Shoreham station, with a 12 foot barrelled gun to replace the condemned fort gun. With no footbridge to cross, I don't imagine they would have floated a heavy gun like that over the river, but who can say. I rather imagine they would have marched through town, across the old Norfolk Suspension Bridge, and around close to where the river footpath meets the Brighton road. Where were the photographers then??
Click on the link below to see the rest of this blog post:-

This is the page for my latest blogs in 2015, check it out.


This is just a snippet from my latest blog, check out the rest on my 'Blog on 2013', ( '2015 Blogging on' now) page (click on it at the left hand side of this page).  All my new blogs will be there from now on, but I'll stick tasters up here until traffic moves across. Cheers all :))

Harrys first flight

So here now, is another snippet of Sir Harry Prestons recollections from his book, written in 1936, 'Leaves From My Unwritten Diary', page 79 and 80:-


From motoring to flying was not a long call. Just lately I was reviving some old flying memories with Harold Perrin, the brilliant and popular secretary of the Royal Aero Club- I was one of the earliest members- when Sir John Milbanke, that modern young Corinthian, and his younger brother, were down, and we all chatted together.


Harold Perrin recollected, as I introduced Sir John, that a lady named Milbanke had done some flying in the early days. Sir John said "No" at first; but after a moment he remembered. His mother had gone over to Paris in a balloon from London around 1909- he would have been a boy of 7 then; and a few months later she flew with Grahame-White in one of the first water-planes, which took off from the sea down at Monte Carlo. The machine had no proper seat. One had to hang on with ones hands to a couple of wires.


In my smoking room I have many mementoes, among them a broken propellor. Oscar Morrison gave it to me- he had smashed it on Brighton Beach, on an historic day in February, a quarter of a century ago, (1910), when he flew from Brooklands to Brighton, forty miles in 65 minutes. Lindbergh was only 9 years old then, and Alan Cobham had not begun to fly.


The intrepid aviator told me at the luncheon at the Royal York that followed, that he would have made better time, only he had got off his line of flight. He was circling to land, when he noticed that there was only one pier, and he knew Brighton had two. "Wrong town", said he, and flew along the shore line until he sighted a town with two piers. It was Worthing that he had mistaken for Brighton. Air navigation then was not quite what it is now. Soon afterwards my brother Dick and I arranged the first air race. It was from Brooklands to Brighton, for a gold cup. The airmen had to fly around the pier and land on the Shoreham aerodrome. Hamel, Snowdon-Smith, Gilmour, and Pixton started and finished. Hamel won. Time, 57 minutes, 10 sec.


Although, now, I do not care to move faster than 40 miles an hour, and I practically never leave ground, in the old days I moved faster and higher. That was because so many of the old pioneers of speed on land and sea and in the air were my friends. Andre Beaumont it was who first induced me to leave my beloved earth and venture up among the seagulls. He had come over from Dieppe, and brought his seaplane in pieces from Newhaven port to Black Rock, a mile out along the beach from the Royal Albion. He invited me to go up with him. I accepted. But when I saw him putting his machine together I regretted it. It looked much more home-made than any Flying Flea. Motoring and motor-yachting experiences had taught me much about the unreliability of the internal combustion engines of that day. 


However, I took my seat beside him, the engine started with a shrill banging, the box of tricks shook as if it were going to fall to pieces; and then we began to move over the water. Faster and faster we went, while I gripped the wires on either side and hoped that she would break up while she was still on the water- I was a good swimmer, but no hand at a high dive. This thought was still in my mind when the sea in front of me seemed to drop away as if a giant were sucking it up. We were rising, miraculously, into the air. I regained my nerve and looked down and around with great interest. Ye gods, we were flying! It was one of the great moments of my life.


By the time we began to descend (we had been up perhaps 40 minutes) I had got my air legs- or should one say "wings" ?- and would have been surprised and mortified if we had taken a ducking instead of landing safely, as we did, with a big splash on the water.

Sir Harry Preston and his first car

Leaves from my Unwritten Diary

Chapter 3

Pages 37 and 38

Motoring we looked on more as a sport than as a commercial proposition in its early phases. It was adventurous. Often I received a telegram: "Party of seven coming by motor. Should arrive by 8.30. Please have dinner ready." The chef's face grew longer and longer as the clock ticked on until 10 or 11, and the party had not arrived to eat their dinner. His hair grew prematurely grey. He would remark sometimes that he knew those motors would be the death of him.

Amazing contraptions, some of those first mechanically propelled vehicles were. They had sometimes one huge, fat cylinder. It was do or die on that one cylinder. One of those early cars I had a ride in- a De Dion Bouton, I fancy- had some sort of belt- and- chain drive arrangement, so that when you changed gear- there were only two gears- the rear wheels slid back about a foot. There were two- cylinder little fellows that went along bang -bang- bang- pop- pop! and shook and rattled until you wondered they did not fall to pieces in the road.

Then they made a four cylinder car. I had one of the first turned out, and very well it served me for some years. This machine enabled me to work between Bournemouth and Brighton, keeping a foot in both towns (for some time Edith, my wife, held the fort in Brighton, while I fought a rearguard action in Bournemouth).

It would have been a physical impossibility for me to achieve this without that new fangled vehicle. A hundered miles divided me from my two spheres of activity, and I traversed this distance four or five days a week. We did the hundred miles in about four hours- not so bad, considering there were three level-crossings and the Southampton floating bridge to negotiate. We were a terrific spectacle as we bowled along. I gave W.G. Grace his first ride in this car. He was playing cricket in Bournemouth, and suggested I should get him to Brighton afterwards. I hesitated, as I had to get to Brighton by 4 o'clock, and I could not wait indefinitely while W.G made a century or so. I said something of this.

"When d'you want me to be ready?" he asked crisply.

"Not later than midday", said I with equal crispness.

"Right", said he. "Be at the ground at 11 sharp".

I was at the ground at 11 sharp, and saw him elect to go in first. He chopped the first ball away. The second glanced off his body and fell on to the bails. "Out", said the umpire, and before the crowd recovered from its amazement, the great man was walking off.


"Well, I said I'd be on time, didn't I?" was all the explanation he volunteered, as he climbed into the car for his first motor ride. We made the run in good time, and W.G thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. We had a photograph taken of ourselves in the car to commemorate the occasion.

Image: Harry Preston gives W.G.Grace his first ride in a motor car

Aint Life Funny Sometimes  




When I began researching our family tree, I knew nothing other than what the old man had told me regarding his side of the family, and as his dad had buggered of with the wife next door when he was just seven, it wasn't an extensive family history that our dear old pater had to pass on. But he has passed on a wealth of his own stories, which I never get tired of hearing, and have most of them imprinted in my head now. For the basis of this blog, I'll share with you one of his stories, actually no, this will need a couple to round it up nicely, you can find a lot more by reading my Family Tree Write up at this web site.


After relocating to Brighton from London, Johnny, as his family called him, (Squire to us, and will be here from now on), was enrolled in what local boys referred to as a posh school, the Exevarian, and every day on his way back home, he had to run the gauntlet of the Park Road school boys, who would spot him and give chase all the way to Squires door, where he would bang furiously at the door until Auntie Dickie would let him in and he'd escape the wrath of his would be assailants. After a while, Auntie Dickie, the woman that had saved Squires Ma, Boof, from the wife beating scumbag that she ended up with, (read that in the Family Tree write up), had decided enough was enough, it was time for Squire to start fighting his own battles, so she stood on her side of the front door, listened to a ten year old Squire fervently trying to bang it off its hinges in his effort to escape a potential beating, and told him to effectively, stand up for yourself mate. So there you have it, nowhere to run, he slugged it out with one of them, gave a decent account of himself, and won new friends, never having to run that particular gauntlet again. One of the friends he made as a result of that little skirmish, was Johnny Phelps, who along with one of Squires school mates, Pat Dalton, went on to be three inseperable mates in the coming years of the then, 1930's and '40's.


Pat Dalton was the son of Tom Dalton, who owned all the gaming machines on the Palace Pier. While Pat and Squire were best mates, Pats dad was a 'bit of a brute', as Squire recollects, but he was a brute that used to put a prize of half a crown on whoever would win in a scrap between the two boys. Unfortunately for Pat, Squire was a bit too useful for him in this department, and would pocket the money, while poor young Pat had to suffer for his fathers amusement, and to put the amount up for grabs into context, it was more money than Squire got for a weeks work when he first left school, "I was going to have that half crown", he recalls. While Tom ran the franchise for the gaming machines on the pier, his brother, Oliver, was the proprietor of the pier itself, which no doubt provided them with quite a handy, and not too little, income.


Compare the Clam, Compare the Scumbags


Most people probably go for a holiday to rest, but for those that like to slide down mountains for fun, rest aint on the agenda until they get back, and don't I just know it! It was one of the best weeks you could want for as far as snow boarding goes, plenty of snow already on arrival at Andorra, then building through the week as it barely let up, puking clam all over the place. Depending on who you listened to, it was the most snow they'd had in ten, twenty, or thirty years, filling the slopes continually with clam chowder (powder), at one point even the piste had a metre of the fresh stuff on it.


At the end of each day I was convinced, however much fun I'd had that day, that I'd need a days rest before going out again, but each day I'd creak, groan, get kitted up and head out for more, quietly dreading the pain I was about to put myself through, until we're off, and it's all forgotten again. Even on the white out day, when our part of the mountain was closed owing to the blizzard conditions, we took a bus over to El Tartar where they had chair lifts running, but I was adamant I wasn't going up in that visibility, neither was Sweet VV, so the meercat and me sat it out in the cafe, he struggles to see in the best of vis. One run and the boys came to get us, "you have to come out, it's amazing", Tim told us, and then convinced VV that he'd be ok to see, so that was that, and up we went. What a time, as soon as you got down and went back up, it had dumped more of the fresh stuff and covered the trails, absolutely epic.

For this years blogs, check new page on side bar, 'Blog on 2013/14'


The Gloves Are Off

I recently wrote a blog entitled, 'The Thin End of the Wedge', highlighting a scheme to replace a bungalow with a block of flats, a three storey affair with underground parking which would blight the existence of the neighbouring residents, (artists impression above). Last night at a council hearing for the proposal, thankfully it was voted down by five votes to one, and yours truly was given the job of putting the objectors views across to the presiding panel of councillors, a nerve racking experience for a first timer to speaking in public. I'd watched councillor Liz McKinney go on before me to object to another proposal before the panel, and noted what a pro she came across as when delivering her prepared speech, sitting down in the hot seat, arranging her notes, then barely breaking stride as she rattled out the words from the sheet in front of her, finishing with nine seconds left on the clock from her allotted three minutes. I listened intently as she talked of lorries reversing bleepers, buckets dragging along the concrete, and other general noise pollution coming from across the northern side of the river, potentially upsetting some of her Marine Ward constituents at Anchor Close on Shoreham Beach, and all very eloquently put. Whether you agreed or disagreed with councillor McKinneys viewpoint, you couldn't fault her presentation, and I knew the benchmark had been set, I would have to try and emulate her method, and at least make sure our points were made clearly.


We hadn't been given much time to prepare, only receiving the letter informing us of the hearing for Monday, in Saturdays post, but fortunately our arguments against this proposal have long since been formed and honed, it was more a case of making sure the salient points could all be made within the three minutes allocated for speaking, so I pared a few items down to be sure. In fairness, the panel stated at the beginning that they were recommending refusal, based partly on Environmental reasons, but the gallery had a large majority of objectors to the scheme, and they wanted not only that their voice should be heard, but that I should instruct the panel that I did indeed speak for all of them. I sat down in front of the Bench, introduced myself, watched Heather Kingston hit the clock timer button, and off I went, reading out my prepared statement for the opposition. Just as I thought I was hitting my stride, I was flagged down by the Chairman, my microphone wasn't turned on apparently, they told me there was a button to press to turn it on, and not wishing to lose any more precious time, I continued, going on to discredit the architects spiel, and the general manner employed by the owners in this process, finishing with a few seconds to spare, which I regretted at the time not having used to fit in the parts I had earlier edited out. Ding ding, end of round one.


After I spoke for the opposition, Liam Russell, of Liam Russell Architects, addressed the panel on behalf of the owners and proposers of this development. Mentioning the alleged supporters of this proposal, he was forced to lament their absence from the proceedings, basically a lot of the people that signed their names to the scheme had since expressed reservations, or been embarrassed by the weight of opposition. (Mandatory standing count, two points deducted). Either way, he will have been paid for his work so it would be no real loss to him, and quite possibly a good project to avoid being associated with were it to go ahead, as his is a local practice.


Having heard the for and against arguments, the panel then spoke individually, all but one member voicing concerns either at the size, location, or design for the proposed development. Two of the panel said they didn't disagree in principle with flats being built there, so this probably isn't over, another two were very much against it, one lone voice of approval being councillor Mike Mendoza, and it didn't go unnoticed by a few of us, that he used the very language that the proposers of the development used in their argument for their case, saying how he felt that this proposal would, "make a great Gateway to Shoreham Beach". At this point I'll steer you to the comments I edited from my prepared notes which I read to the panel:-(taken from a blog written back in October)


Of the approval letters,
'many of them talk of its position as being a, 'gateway', or 'entrance' to the beach, one even goes on to say, "The Beach Green area is looking tired and is not an attractive entrance to the Beach, this will make it so", this location isn't the entrance to Shoreham Beach full stop. Another contends that the design is in keeping with 'Shoreham Beach's historical and cultural roots in the film industry', what, as in when it was known as BUNGALOW TOWN ??'


On the one hand I was annoyed I hadn't read that bit out, which would have denied him the possibility, but on reflection it worked better to hear their words coming out of his mouth, leaving us in very little doubt in whose camp Mr Mendoza had pitched his tent, he was on their page, singing from their hymn sheet, and parking his car in their proposed underground garage.


Given that two of the councillors admitted they weren't opposed to flats at this location on principle, and that one is very much in favour of the design as is, I think it's reasonable to expect this will come back in a modified version, so I believe the process to counter this should already be under way. I totally disagree with flats at this location, it's completely out of keeping with that area, and would just add to the problems already being suffered by Beach residents as a result of the over development of the quayside between Shingle road and the Harbour club. The very last thing we need is to increase the population of Shoreham Beach any more.

And to finish on a lighter note, another joke courtesy of Macca:-

The Melbourne Zoo had acquired a female of a very rare species of gorilla.
Within a few weeks, the gorilla became very cantankerous and difficult to handle.
Upon examination, the Zoo veterinarian determined the problem.
The Gorilla was on heat.

To make matters worse, there were no male gorillas of the species available.

While reflecting on their problem, the Zoo management noticed Graham, a big Kiwi lad & former, All Black, responsible for fixing the Zoo's machinery.
Graham, like most Kiwis, seemed to be possessed with ample ability to satisfy a female of any species. So the Zoo administrators thought they might have a solution.

Graham was approached with a proposition. Would he be willing to have sex with the gorilla for $500?
Graham showed some interest, but said he would have to think the matter over carefully.

The following day, Graham announced that he would accept their offer, but only under three conditions:
"Fust," he said, "I don't want to have to kiss 'er."
"Sicondly, you must niver niver tull anyone about thus."

The Zoo administration quickly agreed to these conditions, so they asked what his third condition was.
"Wull," said Graham, "You gotta give me another week to come up with the $500.”



Stumbled Upon This

Here we are in the month of Shitmas, temperatures dropping, adverts on TV screaming at you to spend on yuletide nonsense, politicians telling us the country still need to tighten our belts, but they'd like us to go shopping and help the economy, while newly famous lending companies, like 'Wonga.com', and 'borro', offer ever more ways to put yourselves in debt at unbelievable interest rates, yep, it's Crazytime again! The Americans have a character they call the 'Grinch', and for those that don't know, (I didn't), here's the Wikipedia description of him:-


 ' The Grinch is a fictional character created by Dr. Seuss. He first appeared as the main antagonist in the 1957 children's book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. The devious, anti-holiday spirit of the character has led to the term Grinch coming to refer to a person opposed to Christmas time celebrations, or to someone with a coarse, greedy attitude.'


Well we don't need a Grinch, with the way things are going, we've got our own versions springing up like water out of burst mains, and none more prevalent than a mob called 'Atos', a private company taking on the job of forcing the sick and elderly off of the Government Welfare bill. The first time I'd heard of them was a couple of weeks back, now I'm falling over their horror stories, they are basically a private company sent by our Government to do their dirty work without conscience, and not by any fair means, just hit the most vulnerable and get them off the payroll, no matter what. The Guardian, and the Telegraph are two mainstream papers trying to lift the lid on these callous bastards, but if there's anyone reading this that knows someone being persecuted by these unfeeling villains, please write to your MP, or paper, they're a national disgrace, and breaking countless laws with impunity so far.


Our New Bridge

Locally, it's been all action in the last week or two, with Shorehams new Footbridge coming on apace, so I've been taking the opportunity to run around snapping away to document the construction as it happens, after all, it aint everyday you have a bridge built on your doorstep, and this is the second bridge to be built over the Adur in my lifetime. My brother, Stig, worked on the new Norfolk bridge when it was built back in the eighties, a time I remember well, especially as he got pulled over by an over zealous copper that thought he was me. I was banned from driving at the time, and Stig was driving a dumper truck back and forth across the bridge, carrying wet concrete among other things, when this one time, he was spotted by the aforementioned policeman, as he was heading back to the compound, and the copper, who was on his bike, shouted and gave chase to Stig. Obviously Stig couldn't hear his shouts over the noise of the dumpers engine as it chugged along, and was surprised to be called up once in the compound. The conversation basically revolved around the copper telling my brother he's banned and shouldn't be driving, Stig telling him he's got the wrong man, and then the copper demanding to see the site foreman, to prove his identity.


Going into the site hut, the foreman, Dick, a big burly Yorkshire man, did indeed verify that this over keen policeman had got the wrong person, and so the officer left to get his bike and leave, but was soon seen scratching his head and looking puzzled, where was his bike?. All around the site were laughing workers, all civil engineering trades, creasing up with amusement, looking at the bemused policeman, and alternately looking upwards, until the unfortunate copper followed their gaze to spot his trusty treader hanging in the breeze, suspended from the site crane. While he'd been trying to prove my brother was me, the lads outside had hooked his bike up and hung it about a hundred foot in the air, priceless, how I wish I could have seen the look on his face.


But back to our new footbridge, not such a big job as the Norfolk Bridge, but still a marvel of technology to see the equipment they have to build it with. I was a bit gutted to miss the landing section going in last Saturday, I was off to Brightons big game up at Crystal Palace, I really should have stayed at home! With a player sent off in the first six minutes, and going down three nil, it doesn't get much worse against your arch rivals. The police had intended to keep us locked in at the end too, but as the throng of fans built up trying to get out early, the gates gave way and we spilled out, even then they tried to kettle us in the road, it was ridiculous, the game still had twenty minutes left, no Palace fans would be leaving, perfect time to get us away down to the station. I was let out, with a few others, but I've never in my life seen so many police at a football game, 50 or more at the end of each road, all the way back to the station, miles more than they had for the Croydon riots. Thankfully I missed any nonsense, and got home to Shoreham by about six that evening, smiling at a couple of lads that had souvenirs of the wooden seats from the antiquated Arthur Waits stand at Palace, quite comical really, with all that heavy police presence, how the hell do you hide wooden seats under such an escort?


I'm grateful to be free of the hacking cough that beset me for the last couple of weeks, I was beginning to think I'd soon start coughing up bodily organs, even my ribs felt bruised from it. It's been a viral cough,which apparently only lasts for two to three days, but the damage it does keeps you coughing for another week or two usually, lovely! So now I'm back helping Fred out on the Fische for a bit, although I have a couple of other things to get organised, but am struggling to get my arse into gear and do, it's Shitmas wind down time after all, at this time of year, usually if I don't have a job on, I aim not to find anything until the new year. Unfortunately people are finding me, so my wind down time may be a little disrupted!


For the two of you that normally check up on my scribbles, you would appear to have been joined by a few thousand more interlopers from a site called, 'stumbleupon.com'. I was already getting good numbers, last month coming in with 45,000 hits, but now wolf-e-boy.com is getting over 2000 hits a day and rising, with many of them having been directed by 'stumbleupon', although a great deal are here just for the one liners on my 'Silly Witty One Liners' page, nonetheless, I'm always happy to welcome new visitors to my humble little website.


In my spare time I've been researching the family tree again, and while I've still come across no skullduggery as such yet, I'm digging up some interesting dirt, and hopefully, eventually enough to make a good story about the Victorian art world, mainly around Dickensian London. It really makes you appreciate what we have now when you look back and see how they lived even just a hundred years ago, ordinary people now have a life even rich people then couldn't dream of, or imagine. Check out my 'Ramus Family Tree' page for the story so far, but that's only the start, a fraction of what's to come. 


It's bloody cold out there today, frost covering everything, so wrap up warm you two, I'll be taking the camera with me to the houseboat later, can't beat a frost covered riverbank for decent images, cheers for now folks!!


And here's a joke to finish with, again courtesy of Macca:-

  A police officer pulls over a speeding car,

 The officer says, ' I clocked you at 80 miles per hour, sir.' 


 The driver says,'Officer I had it on cruise control at 60, perhaps your radar gun needs calibrating.' 


 Not looking up from her knitting in the passenger seat, the wife says:'Now don't be silly dear, you know that this car doesn't have cruise control.' 

 As the officer writes out the ticket, the driver looks over at his wife and growls,'Can't you please keep your mouth shut for once?'


 The wife smiles demurely and says, !'You should be thankful your radar detector went off when it did.' 


 As the officer makes out the second ticket for the illegal radar detector unit, the man glowers at his wife and says through clenched teeth, 'Woman, why can't you keep your mouth shut?' 


 The officer frowns and says, 'And I notice that you're not wearing your seat belt, sir. That's an automatic 75 pound fine.' 


 The driver says, 'Yeah, well, you see officer, I had it on, but took it off when you pulled me over so that I could get my licence out of my back pocket.' 


 The wife says, 'Now, dear, you know very well that you didn't have your seat belt on. You never wear your seat belt when you're driving.' 


 And as the police officer is writing out the third ticket the driver turns to his wife and barks,'WHY DON'T You just shut your flaming mouth up ??' 


 The officer looks over at the woman and asks, 'Does your husband always talk to you this way, Ma'am?' 


  I love this part.... : 

 'Only when he's pissed.'




Regulate This

There's a lot going wrong in this country, nationally and locally, and it seems that as the electorates complaints multiply, the politicians response is to strip away ever more existing laws which impede their ability to control, the latest one being involved with Planning Regulations. Apparently Mr Cameron considers the public to be a nuisance when they have the audacity to complain about, out of keeping, or over the top developments, he seeks to remove our right to object, under the guise of, "getting the economy going". Well, on Shoreham Beach between 8 and 9 o clock every weekday morning, we get to see just what such a lack of thinking lands us with, queueing traffic of half a mile just to leave the beach. There are a number of mitigating circumstances, but the basic reality is that building countless blocks of flats along the quayside has more than doubled the population of Shoreham Beach since the first block of monstrosities at Emerald Quay were started in the late eighties, with no thought of any kind to what effect this would have in the future. Now this Government seeks to make it even easier for any unscrupulous developers to do whatever they please, a green light for over development.

These schemes always come with the usual bullshit about, 'creating jobs for the local economy', which is patent nonsense, the firms come in with the same workforce they brought from their last building site, and when they're gone it means we are then left with far more  residents to compete for whatever local jobs are going. There really is no plus side for the already existing community. Overall though, isn't it about time someone started talking about trying to slow down population growth?, we don't need more houses, we need less people, so kick that immigration door shut for a while, and try to incentivise the populace to consider the virtue of family planning and contraception.


And now, with the Leveson inquiry, the politicians are keen take control of the regulation of the media. Don't get me wrong, the media needs regulating without a doubt, but not by the very mob that fought tooth and nail to stop the public finding out about their own fraudulent behaviour. Obviously M.P's don't want us knowing what they're up to, which is exactly why we should have the press continuously exposing any fraudulent activities. A recent quote I stumbled upon says, "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize", most people may think this could only be the case in some war torn, or dictator led country, and for the most part they'd be right, but I would just remind you of the 82 year old Walter Wolfgang, that got thrown out of a Labour party conference in 2005, for heckling Jack Straw, (just by saying, "nonsense"), with the police using powers under the 'Terrorism Act to detain him and forbid re entry to the conference. Once the laws are in place, they will be used, and often with nothing at all to do with the original intent of that law.


In between all of the above, we've just had the disastrous Police Commissioner elections, unwanted by the electorate, a dire turnout of around 15% on average up and down the country, with a large percentage deliberately spoiling their vote, which is as clear an indication of their objection to the  whole idea, as the ballot slip will allow. Once again, the political forces in the country erroneously believe that they know better than, (in this case), the Police Force, just how the Police Force should be run, and so they organised an election to impose commissioners to oversee the various forces and their budgets, on a fat pay cheque of course. In many of the authorities, the voters showed just what they thought of the political parties, and voted in Independent candidates. The most high profile loser being that fat bag of wind John Prescott, so there was at least one small bonus to be enjoyed. Basically, I don't really see how the election can even claim legitimacy with such a low turnout, although I look forward to following the fiasco as it plays out across the Forces up and down the country, that's presuming the press haven't been gagged from writing about anything other than garden parties and coffee mornings by then.


Amid all of this, just to put an industrial hose on my brothers fireworks, despite being vindicated by a panel of experts regarding his health, the DSS have told him they will be appealing, they simply could not care less how water tight his case is. I say the DSS, (they're actually called the 'Department for Welfare and Pensions' now, D.W.P), but it has come to my attention that this whole process had in fact been outsourced to ATOS Healthcare. For the pricely sum of £100 million, these vultures have been doing this up and down the country, and the internet is awash with their sickening stories. Only today, there is the story of Carl Lewis, a man suffering from terminal cancer, who is awaiting a major operation, has had his benefits cut, and declared fit for work by the ATOS Healthcare assessors. So called ATOS doctors are being investigated by the General Medical Council over allegations of improper conduct for not putting the care of the patients first, and therein lies the problem, ATOS is a private outfit, brought in with a specific agenda to reduce welfare recipients, of course they're not going to put the care of the patients first, I imagine they've been dangled a healthy carrot by the Government to get as many off the payroll as possible, and then the Government can feign ignorance of the situation even though it was completely their idea.  For those of you that would like to read some of the complaints, copy and paste the following link, and share it with anyone you may know in the same situation:- http://dwpexamination.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/hello-and-welcome-to-dwp-examination/#comments


I was going to do a little history piece, but I've run out of time for today, so I'll give it a go during the week. As this has been a less than light hearted blog, I'll finish with a joke my mate Ben sent me from Oz:-

An old German Shepherd starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that he's lost. Wandering about, he notices a panther heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.

The old German Shepherd thinks, "Oh, oh! I'm in deep shit now!"

Noticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther is about to leap, the old German Shepherd exclaims loudly,

"Boy, that was one delicious panther! I wonder, if there are any more around here?"

Hearing this, the young panther halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees.

"Whew!," says the panther, "That was close! That old German Shepherd nearly had me!"

Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree, figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he goes.

The squirrel soon catches up with the panther, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the panther.

The young panther is furious at being made a fool of and says, "Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what's going to happen to that conniving canine!"

Now, the old German Shepherd sees the panther coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, "What am I going to do now?," but instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn't seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old German Shepherd says... 

"Where's that squirrel? I sent him off an hour ago to bring me another panther!"

Moral of this story...

Don't mess with the old dogs... Age and skill will always overcome youth and treachery!Bull Shit and brilliance only come with age and experience.



One Doth Protest

With that magnificent Summer now just a distant memory, (but what a day it was), and the pitter patter of rain drops challenging the various Water Boards to impose another hosepipe ban, Winter is upon us as we clear away the spent fireworks from Bonfire night, put away the poppies for another year after Remembrance Sunday, and doubtless today there are a few hangovers being nursed, some worse than others no doubt, yep, and on top of all that, the shops are ramping up for Shitmas, 'oh tis the season', and all that jazz.


For myself, it's been quiet time for a while now, work very much on the back burner, other than a few hours here and there, some of which are on Fred and Polly's houseboat, coinciding with that time of year when my rust bucket needs an MOT. It needed a retest, but went through second time round, and I must have looked a little apprehensive, as the test mechanic told me there's, "no need to look so worried", and the old banger will keep on going for another year at least.


I Protest


On the sailing front, it's all over for this year, owing to a rather calamitous injury to the Devils boom, I could hardly believe the crack in it when I saw it, but there you have it. As a result of our early finish to the season, David volunteered our services for shore duty as race officers, so geared up with all the race officers paraphernalia, as well as brollies, blankets, chairs, sarnies, and flasks, the Devils crew, with David as Chief Race Officer, set up on the beach along the Old Fort Road for what is usually a straight forward task of giving the fleet a course over the radio, then checking all the tubs on the water and entering them into the log for the day, give them time checks, a start, watch them round, and call their yacht names out over the radio as they all come over the finish line, what could go wrong?.


It soon became apparent that at least one boat, Kingfisher, didn't understand the course given over the radio, and called up Race Control for clarification, and after an exchange of at worst, unhelpful, at best, ambiguous, questions and answers, the transmission ended, I believe, with precisely nothing having been clarified, but that is purely my opinion based on my memory of what I heard at the time. I normally write out the course when we're sailing, and the course set out needed no extra clarity in my mind, but that's by the by. Long story short, only one yacht in Group One, sailed the correct course, the lead yacht at the time, 'Bombardier', with the rest playing follow the leader with the second yacht, 'Yes It Is', and heading off in the wrong direction, possibly as a result of the Kingfisher-Race Control transimission on the radio before the race start, who can say why they took the wrong course, when Bombardier as the lead boat had already gone the right way? Perhaps we'll never know.


As a direct result of  the, by now, obvious misunderstanding which occurred resulting from that unfortunate radio transmission, and possibly some lazy thinking by yachts playing follow the leader instead of scrutinising their race instructions, only Bombardier sailed the course correctly first time, although two others later called in to ask if they sailed the extra lap that the others had missed, 'would they get a finish', to which David confirmed they would.


While this was going on, the clearly disgruntled skipper of Moonlight Saunter, called across to Race Control to ask why they hadn't been given a finish, and unhappy with the response he received, went on to radio Kingfisher, and ask if they would consider joining him in protesting Race Control, they declined the offer, so Moonlight Saunter protested Race Control on his own.


At this point I should say, I've long wanted for us to be involved in one of these disputes, precisely because it strikes me as so bloody childish, which would doubtless upset a few that take these things seriously. I love the idea of this frightfully polite system of complaining, where you raise a flag to signal your intent to protest someone for a believed transgression out on the race course, or that anyone would really give a shit for such a small event, (there were only seven yachts involved in the race in question). It struck me as funny that we finally get involved in a protest, and we're not even out there racing, but ashore as Race Control, brilliant.


This all happened a few weeks back, but the Tribunal/Court Hearing/Race Committee Inquest, was held just yesterday. Witness statements were read out, and an impartial panel presided, the verdict going against the protestor. Unfortunately only a chosen few of the protagonists were allowed to sit in on the hearing, so I missed that bit of the fun, but we joshed about the black mortar board coming out, and gallows erected ready for the accused. I wonder if I'll get protested for the herecy of calling the whole thing childish? I'd best get me wig, gavel, and law books ready in case.


Something New


I had a call from former travel buddies, Jim and Hannah, regarding a loft conversion at their place,  after a visit and chat, I'm doing the drawings for their proposed conversion, and if it goes well, I may be embarking on a new career path.

Jim used to lodge at my old place back in the nineties, and other than being a mate, was memorable for a couple of reasons, he managed to do a passable impression of a herd of elephants when descending the stairs, but mainly, who that lived there could ever forget his alarm system, it was his sound system, set to wake him up each day, at full blast. Consequently, I would be woken by the thunderous boom of his sound system coming to life everyday, but the only person in the house that it didn't wake up, was Jim. I'd have to come downstairs, go into his room, roll him out of the way to unplug the system, then go back to bed, without so much as a murmur from Jim, who slept throughout, complaining later how his alarm had yet again failed to go off.

A few years later they were out in Australia while I was travelling, and we teamed up in Queensland, going on to travel across Oz from East to West in their van, an amazing journey for anyone to tackle, and not without a disaster or two along the way, but there's a book about that, 'Bangkok to BC- Chasing Sunsets', if you want to find out more.

Regarding the architect stuff, I'll keep this blog updated as to how it goes.


We Were the Bridge


I blogged some time back about my old pool team mates making a comeback after a twenty odd year hiatus, and last week, against the Warwick Wombles(5-0), we had exactly the same team out that had won the Worthing Knock out Cup in 1985, against Ye Olde House At Home(3-2). They've all worked hard and done well for themselves, but once we're together, it hardly seems like anything has changed, apart from the obvious, receding hair lines, facial creases, and greying hair (where there is any!), not to mention the aches, pains, pulls, and strains, which we laugh about.

Tony used to work for Worthing Borough Council, emptying parking meters amongst other things, now he runs his own Fire Security company and drives a fifty grand Jag, Alfie used to work as a welder up in Smalldole, now he owns the company, Andy worked for a bathroom fitting company, now he runs his own, and Steve, his brother, works with him. Then there's me, ah well, we can't all be a success, although it's fair to say I never really made anything of an effort to be, so it would only ever have happened by accident.


Police Commissioner


I really don't know how this cock up of an idea has got this far, it's quite unbelieveable that up and down the country, people with absolutely no experience whatsoever, will be asking voters to elect them as Commissioners of their various police forces. If there is one thing you can be sure will never help an institution, it's a politician. The police force should be run by itself, by members of the force with a lifetime of experience, having worked their way up, just as the NHS should be run, and the railways, gas, electric, all of which were once run as national utilities/institutes. Their harvesting off as privatised companies has heralded no improvement in any of the services in any key areas, such as timekeeping on the railways, patient care in the NHS, and huge price hikes in gas and electric. This Police Commissioner situation is a toe in for privatisation of the police force, and anything involved in privatisation, has only one goal, PROFIT, and profit basically means, best possible return, for least possible outlay. The welfare of the customer comfortably last to the welfare of the shareholders.

Now we're going to see a risible turnout for something the vast majority don't even want, so a few individuals will be voted in by a tiny percentage of the electorate, and left to their own devices, but more worryingly, left to the purse strings without the first idea of the job they're in. They will however all be good at one thing, talking nonsense in front of a camera, the politicians art of saying plenty without saying anything.


Common Sense, and the 'Usual Suspects'


Well, it appears common sense does indeed exist at some level, and although it doesn't exist in the Government led hit squads that are targeting the more vulnerable members of society on incapacity benefits, if the victims of these hit squads hang in there, then providing their case is valid, it appears the tribunals are actually unbiased, and led by qualified professionals, at least they have been in the case of my brother. So despite the cold hard bullying tactics of the DSS witch that did everything she could to steer my brother away from going to his tribunal, he has gone through the process, and been totally vindicated, although it didn't do his health any good while he suffered the worry of not knowing.

I've been made painfully aware by a friend that works in the system, that there are indeed plenty of scammers that know only too well how to play the game, (although to most of us this has been common knowledge for many years now), getting undeserved benefits, and therein lays the problem, but surely the whole process needs looking at when genuine sufferers, who have been declared unfit for work by a variety of professional medical practitioners, have their medical records and personal testimonies almost completely ignored, not to mention the disgraceful way these arbitrary goon squads treat their victims.


Riverbank life


Workwise, it's all been quiet for some time now, feast or famine, it's famine time. That's not all bad though, it gives me the opportunity to catch up on things I wouldn't otherwise find the time for, such as rattling away at the keyboard again, as well as helping out on Fred and Polly's houseboat. I never get bored of being on the riverbank, and yesterday was a beaut of a day, spring tides, glassy river surface, semi clear skies, and wildlife abounding. I could stand on the back of their houseboat all day and just watch, it's so peaceful and relaxing. It also happens to be that time of year when the van needs its MOT, so Fred gave the old beast the once over and tweaked a few bits here and there, I just hope the rust doesn't derail me come the time, keep your fingers crossed for the old banger.



As the Shoreham Beach community begin to get used to the idea of having no footbridge link for the next ten months at least, I read with interest in last weeks Shoreham Herald, the comments of our constituent MP, Mr Tim Loughton, the very man that informed us that the new bridge would be going ahead, without so much as a bat of the eyelid when mentioning that it would be built for over three times the original estimate of 3 million pounds, finishing with, "thank goodness West Sussex County Council paid up". Now call me old fashioned, but I was given to believe that any money a council had, was gained from taxes paid by, oh yes, TAX PAYERS, as in, US. I really don't see any need to be thankful when a council decides to spend money it never did a thing to earn, especially if you're one of those people that thought a lot less money might be better spent making the existing bridge last another 90 odd years.

Regardless of that, the new bridge is going ahead, and we are told the old one will never reopen because of structural issues, well how about, in the name of disclosure, public accountability, and perhaps, (just a wild thought), giving the public a bit of transparency so they may be able to trust what they're being told, by making the structural report, which states the bridge is no longer fit for purpose, public. We already know there was no structural report to back up the original claims regarding the safety of the Footbridge before any work had commenced, so why should we believe what is being said now?. It's the classic court room scenario, 'if the witness has lied before on this subject, why should we believe anything else the witness has to say?'. There are rumours that during the construction process, one of their barges hit the bridge, which may be the reason it is now unsafe, who knows?, but either way, if there has been a structural report, then make it public and all the conspiracy theories will go away, (if one exists that backs up what they say).

Mr Loughton also rounds on what he refers to as the, 'Usual Suspects', "harking back to house building targets". It struck me as funny, because my last blog covered the ridiculous over development of Shoreham Beach in recent years, not to mention the Footbridge disaster, as well as the traffic nightmare which all Beach residents are now having to cope with as a result of the combined road works on the Brighton road and the A27 coinciding with the lack of Footbridge. He also talks of the, 'Adur Draft Local Plan', I don't profess to know too much about this, but if my experience of anything that has been left to politicians to decide so far is concerned, we all ought to be worried, so check out this Draft Plan, and express an opinion.

Image: One of the better things to come out of Shoreham Beach




Where do I start?!!




This week my brother goes before a panel to hear whether they consider his medical conditions sufficiently debilitating to declare him unfit for work, regardless of the fact that four different Doctors, (and that's just in recent history), have already made that call, based on their own findings, as well as his medical records. But he isn't alone, all across the country there are people with wide ranges of medical issues being targeted by Government led hit squads going for the most vulnerable members of society, in an effort to reduce the welfare bill.



No one in their right mind could declare my brother fit for work, but unfortunately, it appears that no one in their right mind has been chosen for this hatchet job, he's even been told that the panel to decide have been instructed that he should be declared fit for work, and that these Grim Reapers will challenge any alternate finding. It beggars belief that people with no medical background can override legitimate medical opinion. 



This is all part of a drive to eventually force this country into privatised health care, to the morally bankrupt American system, which cares only about what you can afford, driving an ever bigger wedge between the rich and the poor, a form of financial apartheid. Only today there is a story which should highlight exactly why we shouldn't privatise health care, a company set up as advisers for replacement hips, knees, and other bodily parts, caught in an undercover sting, quoted as  saying, "we are on the side of manufacturers and their products, not on the side of the patients", they were advocating the sale of parts made from materials already banned in most parts of the developed world, because of the potential poisoning of the very patients the new joint is supposed to be helping. And who are the people driving all these initiatives?, silver spoon fed gits raised on inherited wealth, that went to private schools, and never had a proper job, or did a real days work in their lives, Cameron, Clegg, Osborne etc, and the other mob are just the same party in the same suits, with the same backgrounds. What the fuck happened to this country that showed the world the way with the National Health Service, one of the greatest achievements of all of our lifetimes.






A Bridge Too Far



It's not a secret to either of you that read my blogs, that I have been no fan of the new footbridge which has been foisted upon us on Shoreham Beach. From the first time the OUTRIGHT LIE was perpetuated regarding the existing Footbridge being unsafe, based on NO EVIDENCE whatsoever, to the last minute bombshell dropped by Tory MP Tim Loughton, (just after the go ahead had finally been given), that the existing Footbridge may in fact have to be closed for the duration of the construction of the new bridge, if it was deemed unsafe by engineers after work had commenced. This little gem of information was only let out in Loughtons monthly constituents e mail, not so much as a mention anywhere beforehand, funny that. Perhaps, (and rightly so in my opinion), they were concerned that they would find opposition to the project were this information to be leaked any earlier. So regardless of what any of us think, it's happening, and we're stuck with the consequences, and at present, unhappily coinciding with road works on both the A27 and the Brighton road in Lancing, so we now have gridlock mayhem on a daily basis. 


I remember thinking back in my boat building apprenticeship days at Watercraft LTD, (picture above taken in 1982, when Watercraft won the Queens Award for Industry), wouldn't it be great if they bulldozed all these great places of industry along Harbour Way, replaced them with rabbit hutch design prison cell blocks, and double the population of Shoreham Beach, as we really don't have enough traffic, or people, and as an added bonus, make sure there's no infrastructure for the extra population, so they have to leave the beach regularly. I used to dream of having to queue in traffic, and now that dream has become a vivid reality, oh thank you Adur planning, please let me know if you should ever need ideas on how to further fuck up our little peninsular, although given your track record, it's hard to imagine how anyone could improve on your job so far.



Poor Devil



As you may be aware, I took a tumble while out sailing a few weeks back, and cracked a rib, it was blowing up to thirty knots at the time, and the Devil was getting slung around quite a bit. I was on mainsheet duty, which meant I had to pull the mainsheet in, and let it out, according to the conditions, the idea being, to reduce the impact of the more violent crash jibes, where the boom swings from one side to the other with a thunderous judder that shakes every inch of the poor old girl. Unfortunately, my cracked rib incident happened quite early on, so everything was a bit of a struggle, especially winching, but while I was feeling my injury, it appears that the Devil had sustained one of her own, and one crash jibe too many has bent the boom, now that's no mean feat, and an expensive piece of damage. The upshot is that the Devil is now out of the water, her season over for another year, and the staircase must be readied for action, sometime this week hopefully, updates regarding the condition of the boom to follow shortly. For those that believe in fictional deities, pray for Squires wallet, I fear for it.




Le Trough



We were pleased to have Jack back last week, having finished his last tour of duty in the Greek Islands with Neilsons, and this week we had the arrival of his significant other half, Kerry Ann, at the Trough, so it was a big day for Le Casa Ramus, I hope we were equal to it. The human waste disposal unit that is Jack Ramus has not lost his touch, seemingly inhaling the contents of his plate in the blink of an eye, while our Waltons with swearing dinner style thankfully didn't seem to phase Kerry Ann. We were reminded that it was Beach Dreams that was responsible for both, Jack getting his interview for the Neilsons job, and also for Nicks participation at the Trough. On the same weekend, Nick, (Hannahs boyfriend), had hit me with, "when do I get an invite to the Trough?", to which I subsequently issued an invite, and he's been coming ever since, I'm happy to say, also that same weekend I chatted to Paul Hudson, and Jacks interview was mooted, with the instruction to get David to contact him and arrange it. So to now have kerry Ann join us at the Trough, having met Jack through Neilsons, the circle would appear to be complete. See, there's more to Beach Dreams than just a few fantastic local bands.

Pots, Crackpots, n Cracked Ribs,
The Devil at a Disadvantage.


Work once again has been on the downlow just lately, but since I'm nursing a cracked rib I'm quite happy about that. The Devil has been getting back out again, (and winning a trophy!), except for the weekend just gone, when we were on shore duty as race organisers, and in between all of that we've had Reggie honing his brick laying skills in the back garden, giving Ma the layout she originally asked for a few years back. There is also the small issue of a crackpot idea to build a block of flats possibly about to be installed in place of a bungalow on Shoreham Beach, potentially blotting out a large chunk of the skyline for all the properties opposite on the north side of the road, so we are awaiting a date for the hearing in the hope of venting our opposition to the ridiculous scheme, unfortunately it has its supporters too, so it's going to be an interesting affair, watch this space.


Despite the best efforts of this miserable bloody weather we've been having, the garden transformation is coming along nicely, although if Reg brings the dog, Boofie along too often, the clean up may take a while, it's hard to believe how that mutt can get its incredibly muddy paws so far and wide around the place. I've banned her from inside the house now, it was becoming a canine version of Goldilocks and the three bears, with Boofie keen to leave her mud soaked mark on every stick of furniture, carpets, windows, doors, and even the kitchen table. She has a spot in the shed now, not that she uses it much, preferring to chase Reggie around barking at him with her squeaky little puppy yelp, especially when he's pushing the barrow. She's a gorgeous pup, but a messy, noisy, and extremely energetic wee pup.


The last two weeks aboard the Devil have given us some great sailing, and some expensive incidents, mainly occurring over the Autumn Regatta weekend, with a torn foresail, damaged transom, and a sail shackle coming adrift mid race, marring an otherwise good weekend of racing, notwithstanding the usual cock ups and heated discussions that ensued. It's mainly us brothers that are engaging in the verbals, leaving the guest crew mates to chuckle away at us, basically, if we don't agree with the judgement being passed down upon us from the helm, then let's just say we're not backward in coming forward with a response of one kind or another, generally laden with an expletive or two, depending on the temperature of the debate. Things always calm down quite quickly, until the next mistake or unforeseen disaster, but now and again we all surprise ourselves and things go so well we find we're crossing the line in first, the kettle's on, and all is fine in the world.


The Autumn regatta is over both days of a weekend, and it was the Saturday that proved the more disastrous in terms of damage to the Devil. We had noticed a slight tear in the Genoa (the foresail), during the first of the days three races, but other than curtailing our speed slightly, it didn't affect us too badly, until the last race of the day, when as we were going about, the sail got caught in the cross-trees, these are like side branches about two thirds of the way up the mast, they keep the shrouds, which anchor the mast, angled out from the mast head. As the sail went round, the tear we already had, got snagged in the cross trees and that was it, while we went round in circles trying to unravel the bastard thing from the cross tree, the Devil dropped from a promising podium finish, to about fourth or fifth, eventually crossing the line in fourth, having hauled in a few of the tubs that overtook us during that little pickle. Fortunately it was the last race of the day, so with the kettle on, and food in the oven, my only worry now was whether I'd get back in time for the Brighton game, which luckily was an evening kick off owing to the intake of new students at Sussex Uni. Well accidents being what they are, rarely announce themselves, so when we all heard and felt a crunch as we came in to the big lock at Shoreham, it was more a feeling of despair than annoyance when we surveyed the chunk taken out of the transom by a sodding great bolt, the bolt had been part of a timber rubbing strake, designed to keep vessels away from the concrete sides, this rubbing strake had been ripped from its moorings, presumeably by a fairly big ship, and the bolts that hold these things aint small, more expense.


I made it to the football ok, having to jump out while still in the locks, getting a lift from outside by Alfie and co, who detoured to pick me up. I then spent the trip to the game having to explain all kinds of nautical terms after innocently telling them of our day on the Devil. Turns out your average person doesn't actually know what a 'Cross Tree', or 'Forsell' (foresail) is, and your average football fan apparently can't resist turning it all into something else again, so before I knew it we were on to cross dressers, fishnets, and god knows what else. The game was a bit of a disappointment it has to be said, capping a poor return from their two home games against arguably two of the poorest form teams in the division at the time, just the one point against two teams that had only won four games between them all season up to then. At least I still had another day of racing on the Devil to come.


Sunday was altogether more brisk, with winds gusting over 30 knots at times, so an early reef in the main was called for, and a smaller more heavy duty Genoa than we'd shagged on the Saturday, plus we also had three Sussex Uni students for crew, Craig, Kevin, and Sam. What a bunch of star turns they proved to be, getting right into it and loving every minute. Craig volunteered himself for foredeck duty straight off, quickly getting drenched as the Devil pitched into a bow wave, he just looked back at us with a big smile and said, "awesome", Sam jumped on to winch duty in the cockpit, impressing David and Stig with her strength and keenness, and Aussie Kevin rotated with Sam to assist. All three of them were nothing short of outstanding in their commitment, and far from be bothered about the heavy conditions, they seemed to revel in them, which was just as well really, because shortly after David reported spotting 'something shiny' splash into the sea, we noticed that the Genoa had come adrift at the bow, the shackle intended to hold it down was missing, so once again the Devil is at a disadvantage. Pete and Craig took on the task of trying to fix down the tack (the leading edge of the lower part of the sail) up at the sharp end, braving the waves breaking over the bow as they worked.


At some point during the day, we had a bit of a tumble in the cockpit, and yours truly slammed into the side of the seat lockers, possibly with another body on top, it's hard to remember clearly as we were busy racing, but it soon became obvious that I'd injured myself, winching becoming more and more painful, until I realised I recognised this pain, another cracked rib, which put a dampener on my proceedings at least. Despite these various handicaps, and the fact that none of us could make sense of the course, David at one point countering Stigs pleas to follow the two lead boats through 'the gate', by telling him, "I know excatly what I should be doing thanks", only to find out that Stig was right, followed by a swift course correction and generous helping of humble pie being swallowed. There's nothing quite like being on the outside of a heated discussion like that, waiting to see who gets to eat his words, a touch of Schadenfreud, revelling in someone elses misfortunes. All in all, we had a cracking weekend of sailing in pretty decent conditions for the Devil, and hopefully the students enjoyed it enough to want to come back out with us. Poor Janet may have drawn the short straw given the conditions, as she was manhandled about the cockpit during the early tacks and jibes, but she said she'd enjoyed herself at the end of day.


Back at the bar afterwards, with land legs still a bit of a wobble, no one was more surprised than the Devils crew when we heard our name called out for third place overall for the weekends racing. So despite events conspiring to derail us, the mishaps, and breakages, we managed to snag a pot, a podium finish for the Autumn Regatta, and a damn fine couple of days on the water.



Thin End of the Wedge

There is currently a proposal to build a block of flats on the site of an existing bungalow on the corner of Beach Green and Beach Road on Shoreham Beach, and it has been submitted with a swathe of approval letters, the vast majority of which are from people not living close enough to be affected by this ridiculous over development, but curiously, all happen to be friends of the current owners of the property, many of whom having been asked to register their approval while at a party held by these owners. It is one thing to ask friends to back you in a move to improve your own property, but to use them to help you in such a blatant money making scheme is, in my opinion at least, less than ethical shall we say.


I know of this party, and the reason for it, because one of the invitees is a friend of mine, and she admits it was a mistake on her part to ever have agreed to back a scheme which she said she didn't even know the full extent of. I have other friends who were asked to back the scheme but refused, so far there are 37 letters of approval, all of which were stamped as received by Worthing Borough Council Planning section on the 11th July, one day before the cut-off date for letters of objection or approval, which was 12th July. The notification by letter to neighbours, of the development proposals for this property, was only received on the 21st June, which amounted to just 13 addresses, giving them one month to mobilise and react, some were on holiday so received it even later on return. The whole process appears to have been carried out by stealth on the part of the current owners, and with good reason I suspect, because I believe it would have been swamped with objections otherwise, and rightly so.


Of these approval letters, many of them talk of its position as being a, 'gateway', or 'entrance' to the beach, one even goes on to say, "The Beach Green area is looking tired and is not an attractive entrance to the Beach, this will make it so", this location isn't the entrance to Shoreham Beach full stop. Another contends that the design is in keeping with 'Shoreham Beach's historical and cultural roots in the film industry', what, as in when it was known as BUNGALOW TOWN ?? Two of the letters are word for word identical, yet come from completely different addresses.


One of the claims made on the proposal, is that the plans have been met with, 'Universal Support', this is nothing short of a blatant lie, it has the support of a coterie of friends, many of whom it appears may have been duped into supporting the scheme after a few aperitifs at a party.


The proposed development will be of six 2 bedroom flats, and one 3 bedroom flat, with underground parking for nine cars. According to the archtitects spiel, this development, 'looks to address a range of issues, including' :-


1:- 'Ensuring the right amount of development takes place in the right locations, including that needed for housing development'


This is complete rubbish for a start, they could hardly have picked a more unsuitable location, no matter how hard they tried.


2:- 'Co-ordinates the necessary social, physical and green infrastructure to ensure the delivery of sustainable communities'


Seven units potentially housing fifteen or more residents replacing one bungalow makes a nonsense of this verbose gobbledegook.


3:- 'Supports economic growth'


For who?, the Developers, the Council (tax), but certainly not the neighbouring residents who will be affected by it.


4:- 'Safeguards the area's environmental assets and enhances them where possible'


Go back to my response to item 2 for this one.


They go on to say:-
'Liam Russell Architects' proposal aims to adhere to these four principles by:'

1:- 'Maximising the potential of the existing site'

More accurately it should state- 'Maximising the FINANCIAL potential of the existing site'

2:- 'Contributing to the green infrastructure by including renewable energies'

How is changing one dwelling to seven dwellings in any way helping the environment?


It goes on to mention that, ''Each flat has an allocated parking space together with two visitors parking spaces'. With seven flats, my arithmetic makes this 21 parking spaces, some way short of the proposed 9 parking spaces, so where will the other thirteen spaces be located?


There is a great deal more of this kind of sales spiel in the proposal document, all of which can be accessed through Adur District Council's web site


Of the objectors, I have so far seen twenty objections received by the Worthing Borough Council Planning section, nearly all raising concerns about, 'Over development', as well as parking issues, extra traffic at a busy junction of the Beach, the fact that it is not in any way in keeping with the local area, increasing an already over populated Shoreham Beach, loss of privacy owing to overlooking nearby residents, loss of light to neighbours.

Shoreham Beach has already been blighted by massive over development along at the East end of the Beach, making traffic a nightmare at peak times, this would I believe, be the thin end of the wedge for the West Beach, giving the green light for many similarly over the top developments which benefit nobody other than the Developers and Estate Agents, leaving the existing residents to live with the consequences, including the disruption during construction, which with underground parking, would be immense.

If you feel stronly enough about this, then please make your feelings known to the Worthing Borough Planning Office. Despite the cut off date for objections having passed, I believe the nature of this proposal, and the underhand way with which it has been brought about, should be raised for the benefit of the majority of Shoreham Beach residents, rather than for the few   friends of the current owners who have a vested interest in the project.

I believe there is to be a hearing, as soon as I know the date I'll advertise it, and hope as many as possible will turn up to support the objectors to this ridiculous scheme.


It's all Going off

Well, here we are at Friday the 28th September, the last three months disappeared in a vapour, and now I have time on my hands, stuff on my mind, and no work to stress over, for the moment at least. It's all going off in Shoreham at the mo it seems, the new footbridge is under way, with heavy machinary aboard the temporary platform which has taken up residence in the middle of the river Adur, alongside the existing Footbridge, it's like a mini oil rig. I don't need to remind either of you how strongly opposed I was to this ridiculous waste of money, it started off at about 3 million quid, then we were told it would be 5.2 million, at which point I was asking why the hell no thought was being given to how much it would cost to upgrade the existing structure. After some public consultation, and a revised design to raise the height of the glass side walls, the job is given the go ahead, and then they casually inform us that it will in fact cost 9.8 million!. I need to get me some of this action, 'yes Mr Smith, I can build your extension for twenty grand, oh, you want an extra wall in there, no problem, call it forty grand while I finalise the quote, that's all done, that'll be sixty grand all in thanks'. What I find most unbelievable is that no one has uttered a word against that latest price hike in the papers, as if it's perfectly acceptable that the cost trebled the original quote, who worked that quote out, and how are they still in business? It's not like the design suddenly changed beyond all recognition, the only basic change was the amount of extra glass on the side walls, was the original quote based on a lego construction??


Meanwhile, not a million miles away from the Footbridge, there's a plan afoot to knock down a prominent bungalow on Shoreham Beach, and replace it with a block of flats, not necessarily big news you might think, and you may well be right, but there's a principle at stake here I feel. The people that bought the house some while back, have submitted their plans, and gone around their various friends asking for support for the planning process. They even held a party, and used it to lobby some of these friends to gain their backing, imagine that, you get invited round to a party, then after you've loosened up with a few aperitifs, you're asked to sign a petition to assist your hosts in making money, while being given just a cursory idea of what they wanted to do. So the only actual purpose of that party was to secure weight of numbers behind them when they go to planning, despite the fact that none of the guests had any real idea of what they were signing up for, nice way to treat your friends eh?. This is an ongoing story, so I don't have all the details yet, but when I do, you can be sure I will be sharing them here. 


It was a shame to hear of the demise this week of Andy Williams, the crooner with that warming voice that entertained us through my childhood, and many others of a similar age, how many remember 'Cookie bear' I wonder, halcyon days. But it made me think when I began to see the eulogies on Facebook, the Bush Telegraph of the 21st century, it is sad, but it isn't like we knew this person, and in fact his very passing means we'll actually see and hear more of him as a result, which is a good thing in my book.



So once again we're treated to yet more evidence of how obstinately some politicians will brazenly deny what everybody else already knows, they're born liars. This time it's the Governments Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell, more concerned with protecting some image he has of himself than admitting he called a policeman a, 'fucking pleb', for not allowing him unfettered progress on his velocipede, which he followed up with, "you'll be hearing about this", which in playground parlance means, "I'm gonna get you". This is all followed up with a lot of digging by the press, only to find out that, shock, horror, he isn't universally liked, and now his snotty past is being dragged to the forefront of the national media, putting an ugly yet worryingly accurate picture of a class of person that truly believe they are actually better than the rest, conveniently ignoring their privileged upbringing and the massive advantages it gave them. The saddest part really, is the fact that a politician lying is so commonplace to us mere mortals, that it isn't even news worthy, the story hasn't even been about him lying, but centred around the word, 'Pleb', which he continues to lie about, but he's apologised, or I should say, he's made sure he's been seen and heard apologising to the people he has been advised he ought apologise to for an expedient end to this storm in a tea cup. So all is right in the world again, a toff lied, and said sorry, he who lies and runs away, lives to lie another day. The job of Chief Whip is about as odious as it gets too, it's his job to use strong arm tactics to force his party members to vote the way the party tells them, regardless of the M.P's constituents interests, so it would seem that Andrew Mitchell is perfectly suited to the position, it doesn't matter who he upsets, as no one appears to like him anyway, and if the testimonies in the press this week are anything to go by, it's no surprise.

Image: Stig walking in the rain in St Valerie

George and the Donkey take the Devil to France

There's been so much going on lately, with the biggest construction job I've had to manage before, sailing on the Devil, the Olympics, Paralympics, a new football season, that I've struggled to find time to tap away at this keyboard for you two. What can I say?, well firstly, the Olympics far exceeded anything I was expecting, especially the support of the people for it, and now the Paralympics are reminding all us, so called, 'normal people', not to take anything for granted, so many amazing individuals with incredible stories of bravery and courage, showing the world what they are ABLE to do. One fine example was the 35 year old Houssein Omar Hassan from Djibouti, running in the 1500 metres, he finally crossed the finish line in 11minutes, 23.5 seconds, over seven minutes after the winner, but the crowd stood to acknowledge his effort as he went round, becoming ever noisier in their approval, working up to a deafening roar as he finished his personal race of pride and determination not to be beaten by the event itself. If we thought hard about who our role models should be after the Olympics, then I believe the Paralympics has taken that idea to a whole new sphere. Rather than looking up to some talentless wannabes from Celebreville, hopefully kids will be seeing this event and realising who the real Champions of Society are, and learn the lesson that nothing in life worth having comes easily, put in the effort and reap the rewards.


On site, Reggie's been keeping us amused with his outside work exploits, not that he admits to them until I find out for myself. I picked him up for work a few weeks back, and he was happy as, telling me what a good weekend he'd had, seen his mum, been out with his mates, all good. So I leave him on site working while I shoot off to Jewsons, and when I get back he's in a different zone altogether, then he drops into the conversation, "looks like I have to find somewhere to live again", and I'm thinking, 'where did that come from', "why's that mate", "dunno mate, had a call from me landlord, telling me he wants me out, he's gonna smash me moped up, and threatened me, we'll see about that". Now my mind's racing, "so what brought all this on then?", "I dunno Uncle Andrew, thought I'd had a good weekend, seen mum, had a few beers with me mates, that's it", "you're sure you didn't get up to anything, anything you can't remember?", "no mate".


Then he's all despondent as we sit down for tea break out in the back garden of the job, moody and down, and after I ask him why he needs to spend so much time down the pub, he bemoans the fact he's, "so fuckin lonely stuck in that little room all the time", and the thought of being chucked out and having to find somewhere again, "I feel like crying" he said, but of course he wouldn't let that happen, made me feel like crying though. So we continue discussing what he might do, and he's being bolshie, determined that he's fucked, but "I'll be alright, I'll sort something out", "no Reggie mate, you need to sort out staying where you are, go back and apologise",  then he's upping the misery stakes, " I could give up drinking, but that aint gonna happen" in a right surly attitude, so I ask him if he's still pissed, or on drugs, cos he clearly was still under an influence. Later on in the day, after the night befores intake had lost its stranglehold, he had a completely different spin on the subject, ready to go back and eat humble pie, and we talked about doing stuff together to keep him from getting too lonely, and away from the losers he's been knocking about with. Since that moment I've made it my mission to get more involved in his life, doing stuff with him, getting him more involved with the family too. 


Having dropped him off home later that week after we'd been down to the beach for a swim after work, when I got back I realised he'd left his phone at ours. Next morning he's not at the pick up at Buckingham park, opposite the Jacket, so I figure he couldn't get up without his phone for an alarm, so I shoot round to his place, driving past an old mate, Roger Grice, who was waiting for his labourer too. I shout up to Reggies window, and his tired face poked out the window, "come on Reggie, work mate, and I've got your phone boy", "right oh Uncle Andrew, coming".

 I wandered up and chat with Gricey while I wait, he tells me his boys lost his chance, and I tell him my boy's overslept, then Roger asks, "did you hear what went on up here the other night", "no, what's that", "some little pricks revving up and down this road on a moped with the baffles off  in the early hours", and I'm thinking I have a sneaking suspicion about this, then he goes on, "the police were called but didn't turn up", "do you know who it was?" I ask him, "some young lads" he tells me, then I look round and see Reggie walking up, and as I do, Rogers pointing over my shoulder towards Reg, saying, "that's one of em", I had to stop myself laughing, especially when Rogers parting shot to Reggie was, "you can't keep secrets in this town mate".


This made my morning drive to work a bit more fun than usual, "so Reggie, when you told me you didn't know why you were getting chucked out, you actually knew perfectly well didn't you", to which I get a sheepish "yes", "so the landlord had plenty of reason to want to throw you out", " I spose so, yeah, huh huh", I was smiling as I was grilling him, this was now just funny, and I'd be ribbing him about it for a while to come yet.


He told me he'd taken the moped to his mums now, to keep temptation out of the way, then he added, "I don't want to ride that thing anyway, it's dangerous", turns out he came off it twice while getting it back, "and it fuckin' 'urt" he laughs, "nah, fuck bikes".


Since then it's all been good, he even sailed over to France with us last weekend, to St Valerie. We were all up early to get down to the Devil ready for the 7 o' clock lock gates, wondering why it was that we were the only boat in the lock, for what was meant to be a race across starting at 8a.m outside the harbour entrance. It turned out that all the other boats had decided not to bother with the race, leaving through the night to be sure of getting across before the St Valerie locks close at 6p.m, shame none of them thought to let us know about that decision, or the reason for it. Squire and Ma, David, Stig, Jules, Reggie, and myself made the trip, a decent sail on our ear all the way across, with the wind on our beam, coming from the West, most, if not all, of which I slept through. We'd been racing against some foul weather coming in from the West, and David gave himself a rest for the trip, sticking on George, the auto pilot, for the most of the crossing, and with the donkey (engine) on to keep the speed up around the seven knot mark, so George and the Donkey took the Devil to France, for the most part at least. We got a bit wet as we arrived, but not too much, and we were glad to be within the haven of this little port, for the moment at least.


On arrival we find out just why they'd all been keen to ditch the race and leave early, we'd had a good crossing, but were too late to make the last lock in to St Valerie, and unbeknown to us, we were in a pretty dire situation. We moored up to some buoys in the shelter of the marina locks entrance, only to be hailed by a concerned local that we should not stay there, and to move back, but to where?, he didn't speak English, but his body language suggested we might be in bother. We contemplated mooring up against the Lifeboat that was outside too, but thought we'd better not in case it got called out while we were alongside. I said to David, surely he must have the phone number of one of the other skippers that crossed, maybe they could find out for us where would be safe. Sure enough a 'save the Devil' party turned up, and Alain, the French counterpart of our Commodore (I think), told us to tie up against the Lifeboat, on the side nearest the quayside, which we did, then settled in for a night on board with plenty of booze, but no cards.


In the absence of any cards, me and Reggie started playing 'Skinhead', where you stick a Rizla on the other persons head, but with a word on it, be it a place, person, film, book, or whatever else, then through a series of questions to the other players, you try and work out what is written on your forehead. Us playing piqued the interest of the others, and soon we were all in on it, barring Ma and Pa, who were entertained by us as we debated the value of questions asked, congratulated each other on good questions or guesses, and generally took the game to a level I'm sure it was never intended, but had us laughing pretty much throughout. My personal favourite was 'Musket Ball Bullet', that Reg wrote for David, which amazingly he got, but his questions were suspiciously accurate, and there was a groundswell of opinion that dirty work may have been afoot, though I'm sure that was just the alcohol causing such uncharitable thoughts. Batman, Horatio Nelson, Napoleon Bonaparte, Princess Diana, Winston Churchill, Lipstick, and Tadpole, are just some of the ones I can remember, but mostly I recall it as a most entertaining night aboard the Devil.


The following day, having been moved through the locks and moored up in the marina while I slept, me and Reggie yomped up to the top of the cliffs and walked through a farmers fields with rolls of hay set about everywhere, I said to him, "I'll bet you've rolled a few of these in your time boy", "yeah" he says matter of factly, adding, "set fire to em first though", no surprise really from a boy that was brought back by the police, aged 11, having set fire to a barn with his fellow arsonist girl mate at the time.


Later on we're all having a few beers at a bar in St Valerie, when they all shoot off to get some cheap baccy, and Stig comes back loaded up with French bangers of different varieties, telling us how he'd emptied the shop of them. Reggies eyes lit up when he sees this lot, so off he trots, coming back with an even bigger bag of allsorts of fiery intention, and I'm thinking this has all kinds of wrong written all over it.


It was a great weekend, even if the trips there and back were a bit lively, Reg and Squire hurling on the way back, probably more to do with the filthy beer at the French yacht club than the old 'mal de mere'. Jules had taken pictures of outside the marina entrance at low tide, and it was virtually dried out except where we had moored up against the Lifeboat, if we had stayed where we were, we would have been well and truly shagged, dangerously so.


As it was a Bank holiday, and we arrived back by Sunday night, we still had a day left, and Reggie says he'll be having a quiet one, doing laundry and shit. Tuesday I roll up at Buck park, and he's not around, not rising to my shouts outside his window next either, so I go to work on my own. Phone him mid morning and his phone's turned off, now my mind is wondering what he might have been up to, especially with all those fireworks in his grubby little paws. Turned out he'd gone for a couple down at the Ferry, took his bag of bangers with him, and they're selling like hot cakes, "made a few bob" he told me, "so let me get this straight Reg, you had a hundred quid, you sold all them bangers, and you still had to borrow from me for your sarnies this morning, who else were you buying drinks for?, half the pub??", "I guess so mate". Then he drops it in the convo that he'd let off this big mamma firework in the side road that leads up to St Marys church from opposite Coronation Green, "didn't do what I was expecting, started with a bang, then it started whizzing round and firing noisy rockets everywhere, whistling up and down the road, so we legged it". At least he didn't do it on his doorstep this time, so he still has his room, for now! There's rarely a dull moment while this boy's about.


I gave Simon my season ticket for the weekend we went to France, and we find out on the way back that Brighton beat Barnsley 5-1, and we're thinking, 'lucky little bastard', only to discover on return that he didn't go. I'd left him numbers for mates to get a lift, or travel up with on the train, he moaned, "no one answered, so I drove up", he couldn't get a parking space, so drove around in a red mist and finally went home in despair and missed the biggest score so far at the Amex. We have another rally on the Devil next week, racing down to Littlehampton, but fortunately Brighton are playing on the Friday, so I won't miss the game this time, and hopefully Craig Mackail Smith will still have his shooting boots on after his four goals in the last two games, and two absolute belters in yesterdays game.


Lastly, just in case there is anyone out there that's unaware of my book, 'Bangkok to BC, Chasing Sunsets', it's still available in a few pubs in Shoreham, (Marlipins, Buckingham), in return for a donation to the RNLI, I have just 100 copies left on the original 500, and it would be nice to get them sold for the RNLI coffers, and to get those boxes out of my room at last!! Great artwork by graphic designer Russell Watts, so even if you don't read the damn thing, it will definitely look good on your coffee table. 


I'd like to remind you both too, that this website has other pages you can check out, so look on the side bar and click away to read some of my short stories, lyrical rants, historical snippets, or the most popular page of all, the 'Silly, Witty, One Liners' page.


For this blog, I'll sign off with a joke sent by Macca to me:-


A farmer buys a young cockerel.

As soon as he gets it home it shags all of his 150 hens. The farmer is impressed.

At lunch the cock again screws all 150 hens. Next day, it's banging the ducks and the geese too.

Sadly later in the day, he finds the cockerel lying on the ground half-dead and vultures circling overhead.

Farmer says, "You deserved it, you horny bastard!"

The cockerel opens one eye, points up and says, "Ssshhh. They're about to land....."

Image: Squire doing a Usain Bolt impression in St Valerie

Radio Silence Over

Greetings to my dedicated duo of readers, it may not have escaped your attention that I've been 'radio silent' for about seven weeks now, this is entirely down to the grown up and sensible world of work, so please forgive me if I'm a little ring rusty. I shall endeavour to bring you both up to date with anything I deem worthy of repeating, and can only hope it keeps you interested.

The last time I sat down to tap away on the keyboards, I was about to embark on the biggest project I would have overseen thus far, and now seven weeks later, it's all gone surprisingly well, although the old stress levels have been well and truly tested, and the job still has a little way to go before completion, but all in all I'm happy with the progress, and more importantly, so are the customers.


The Triangle

Of the many things that have happened in the last few weeks, one of the more epic stories came from my brother, David, who along with his sailing team mate, Terry, took part in the Triangle yacht race on Terrys yacht, Bombadier. The Triangle is a double handed challenge open to cruiser and cruiser racer monohull yachts of 25ft or over. The event started at Torquay in the West country, sailing across to Kinsale in Southern Ireland, stay there for a couple of days, then race across to Treguier, in Brittany,  and the last leg racing back to Torquay, the distance is at least 620 miles, lasting 12 days plus.

They had a great start, coming in second in their class for the leg to Kinsale, followed by some Olympic style Guinness drinking sessions apparently, enjoying the Southern Irish hospitality no doubt, perfect preparation for the sailing to come. They were doing equally well in the second leg, with the finish line agonisingly close, when horror of horrors, the rudder snapped off and they were left adrift with no steerage in high seas and heavy weather, just eight miles from the finish line of that leg, not an ideal set of events by any stretch of the imagination. David and Terry are both experienced sailors fortunately, and not given to panic, but you wouldn't be human if it didn't cross your mind just how hazardous this situation could be, especially in seas with waves of forty foot plus. They had radioed for assistance, and one of the other competitors close by, Star Dancer, detoured to keep watch over them until assistance arrived, and to give an idea of the conditions, bear in mind the height of a yachts mast, and as David told me, as the swell rose, the mast of the yacht circling them disappeared behind the huge waves. The French lifeboat had been hailed, but for seven hours these epic lads, Rob Packham and Robert Hooykass, aboard the mission of mercy yacht, held firm and hung around to make sure David and Terry were alright, more or less abandoning their own race in the process.

Thankfully the lifeboat arrived and everything turned out fine, and we were spared the worry as we only found out after it was all over, marvelling at the human spirit of care and generosity that those two fellow sailors showed by watching over a couple of guys they'd never even met before this race. I believe their friendship was cemented back at the Treguier yacht club and beyond, with a sustained alcoholic assault on their bodily organs, a more well deserved slurp I doubt they'll ever have.

As far as Bombadier is concerned, I believe the makers have agreed to fund all repairs as a goodwill gesture, given the fact that two other of this design of yacht had also had the same thing happen. This also means we have the usual crew of Bombadier looking for a boat until she's fixed up, so the Devil has benefitted on a couple of occasions in the meantime.

Workwise, I'm still keeping up the 'make it count' policy, ticking off the 'to do' stuff, and even getting more done on top of that. The speaker boxes have been firing out of the garage, and all successful after testing apparently and going in to production, it's just a shame that I'm not allowed to show you pictures yet, but it's all very exciting. I can however tell you that they pack a punch, and I look forward to sharing the construction images once all the copyright and patent business is sorted. It's been a nice distraction from the site construction which occupies the daylight hours.


Olympic turnaround.

I have to say, I've long been a critic of the whole Olympic movement, mainly because of its contribution to the Greek financial crisis, and the fact that it makes the host country pay for the whole thing, it should be at least part funded by the Olympic committee. Given the current financial global climate, I couldn't see how this hugely expensive extravaganza coming to our shores could be anything other than a crippling disaster. Well so far, it has to be said, I've been blown away by just about everything to do with it, gripped from the first minute by that absolutely amazing opening ceremony, followed by the incredible reception the crowds have been giving to every event, I only hope this feeling is infectious, and that the rest of the world watching on TV can see and feel it too. I could hardly believe there would be negativity towards Danny Boyles fantastically orchestrated display of British history, and the superbly shown story of Britain, from a land of green pastures and agriculture, through the industrial revolution, and on to that maginficent establishment that is the NHS, not to mention a certain someone making her acting debut. I couldn't help but laugh when I heard how some Americans thought Isambard Kingdom Brunel, one of the greatest engineers in history, was actually Abraham Lincoln just because he had a top hat and big side burns. But then, they are part of a country that is fighting hard to deny Obama from bringing in free health care for all, citing our NHS as a reason not to have it. Anyone that stands in the way of free health care for those that couldn't otherwise afford it is a moron, someone that genuinely doesn't give a shit about his fellow man. But forget that for now, the positivity that is currently flowing from these games is like nothing I expected, or would have dreamt of, so fair play to those that have backed it all the way, I can't tell you how pleased I am to be wrong, and now I look forward to the rest of it.


Family Ties

Our dear old Da, or 'Squire' as we call him, is the last of his direct family, and recently we had a Silver wedding anniversary for one of his nieces to go to. Tina and Gary having successfully notched up the 25 years and counting, so I warned him on the way up that he'd be swamped by the girls, Uncle Mike had seven daughters with Manuela, so it's only natural that they love to see their Dads last surviving family member, Uncle Mike having been cruelly taken away from us all 14 years back. The party was held at Linda and her hubby, Robin's place, in a decent sized back garden, with gazebos and a marquee set up, all very well laid out, with lots of food and family. As soon as we arrived I could see the girls swarming towards Squire, (all seven of them), much as I'd expected, they were clearly so pleased to see him, it put a big smile on both our faces, and soon the cameras were out in force to capture the moment, especially when Squire was sat next to Manuela. We stayed for a good while, me having to hear the old boy tell them what a disappointment his lot have been by comparison in the Grand children department, or more accurately, myself, Anthony, and Simon, then I chucked in a couple of jokes, and Manuela told us about the time when Uncle Mike was trying to ask her on a date, while Squire was in the car waiting, calling to Mike, something along the lines of, "ask her for a date will you, I'm breaking me neck here", as he was busting for a pee at the time. Mike of course did get the date, and the rest of course is history, it's just such a lousy rotten shame he didn't get to hang around with us for a good deal longer, especially since I've made contact with their half brother through my family tree research, I feel sure he'd have loved that. When Squire said it was time to go, that seemed to be the cue for one last photo session, and all the cousins lined up with Squire and Manuela, while lots of expensive looking cameras snapped away at us. He said afterwards it was "heart warming" to get such a reception, so I'm hoping to make sure we don't leave it so long before we all meet again.


Wonga Wronga

I find it staggering that these unscrupulous money lending scumbags are allowed to advertise their Usury service on television, has nothing been learned from this recession that's now in its fourth year and counting? The biggest reason the global financial crisis happened in the first place was because of people being encouraged to live on credit, to think that you can now get what they call a 'pay day loan' with no credit checks, and money paid into your bank account within 15 minutes, it makes me want to scream. I had first hand experience of these Scheisters through my nephew Reggie, he had been out drinking with mates, and under the influence, thought it a good idea to get one of these iniquitous loans to continue his drinking. All he needed was his driving licence, bank card, a mobile phone, and bingo, fifteen minutes later he had £100 in his account, no questions asked, just incredible. Suffice to say, he didn't think about what might happen should he forget to pay in time, and sure enough he forgot, only to see the repayment demands jump to £148 two days over the limit, it makes me seethe just writing this down. They even had the nerve to send a text to Reggies mobile phone, thanking him for his payment, and telling him that they would be there for him in the future, a bit like a mugger sending his victim a thank you note, while assuring that victim that he looked forward to mugging him again sometime in the future. These parasites of society need wiping out, they aren't there to help anyone but themselves, they're an absolute disgrace, and clearly making fortunes out of peoples misfortunes judging by the amount of TV time their adverts get, and Nicholas Parsons who does the voice over should be ashamed of himself for allowing his voice to be a part of it. Doubtless there will be some out there that disagree, believing that the populace should be able to be trusted to make informed choices, well my answer to that is, if that were the case we wouldn't be in the shithouse state of affairs we're in now. People need to learn the lesson that if you can't fucking afford it, don't fucking well borrow to get it, whatever happened to saving up for something?, the childlike culture of see it now, want it now, should be consigned to the dustbin, stopping thieves like Wonga.com from advertising on TV would be a start.


Devil of a race

Although work has been pretty relentless recently, I've managed to get out on the Devil a few times, a couple of weeks back we had the Shoreham Regatta, a weekend of four races, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday. Unfortunately the winds were too light to suit us, but we still had a great couple of days on the water, and in excellent company, ending with a couple of second over the line finishes, a fourth, and a fifth, but anyone was a winner just to be out there as the weather was gorgeous, and with a full crew, I could turn my fullest attention to the duties of the Galley Bitch, keeping the crew fed and full of tea for the duration. I felt washed out through work before that weekend, so getting out on the water couldn't have been better timed, you really do forget everything once you're on board, and although you're involved in physical activity, it doesn't really feel like it, the more I sail, the more I want to sail, returning to work on the Monday I felt refreshed and ready for the fray again.

Yesterday was the Black Rock race from Shoreham to Brighton and back, with the winds blowing at around 15 to 17 knots in the harbour basin, looking good for the Devil, we hoped for a good days racing, and boy did we get it. With a south westerly wind, we would be reaching both there and back, as in, heeling over, taking a direct route with the wind on our beam. We didn't get the best of starts, crossing the line in fifth, but soon moved up to third, eventually taking second position from Barda a little way before the turning point to come back, but the tub in front, Extreme, was always going to be a tall ask, and while they never really pulled away too far, equally, we couldn't haul them in either. The main talking point after though, and during actually, was how rapidly we'd finished the course, an hour and twenty minutes to sail from Shoreham Harbour to the other side of Brighton Marina and back, averaging about 8 to 9 knots, it really was a cracking sail, and another second over the finish line, but the first Sussex Yacht Club boat  to finish, we'll take that.


I'm pretty sure I'll have missed loads that I wanted to write about, but I'm just happy to have managed to get anything down really, also, having just witnessed our very own Sweaty Sock turn over Federer in the final for a Gold medal, I feel quite happy with life, and have not the slightest interest in hearing the nay sayers that refuse to back him because he's Scottish, (I know a few, and their racist spew depresses me). I'm genuinely pleased for the boy, and hope this will be the springboard to future success for him, and it was a great interview after, listening to him talk of his pride, and inspiration drawn from seeing his fellow Olympian team mates epic achievements, special praise given to Mo Farrah the 10,000 metres Gold medallist for Team GB. With the end of this blog, I'm going to reward myself with a beer in town, already having done the Trough shop for tomorrow, work organised for next week too, I'm in a strangely comfortable place in my life, just a shame I had to leave it until I'm bearing down on the halfway stage to a century of years on this planet! Thank you both for bothering to read my stuff.


Teenage Rampage

Despite the lousy weather, my 'make it count' policy continues to bear fruit as I add ticks on my imaginary 'to do' list, and some semblance of order begins to emerge into my otherwise disorderly existence. The garage moves ever closer to becoming an operational workshop, while freeing up space around the house as my tools find a proper home, and next week electric sockets go in, after that, all I need then is a kettle and I'm in business. I've been keen to get it near completion as much as possible before we start on the latest project this coming Monday, a slightly bigger job than usual, so I'll be sharing the organisational workload with Ed, and it should keep us busy for two or three months, I just hope the weather is kind to us. 


I had a call from Alfie to give him a hand with his kitchen work top mitres, a perfect opportunity for me to repay a favour, he had fabricated some stainless steel fittings for the boat a while back, and wouldn't take any payment, so I was pleased to be able to help out, there was an added bonus, he had a skip outside, and let me chuck the last few bits of debris from the garage, so win win again. On one of the trips to and fro to his place, I spotted an errant youth swinging on a newly erected post down the road from our place, in the middle of the day, without a care in the world, leaning back and forth, dragging the post with him. I drove past and into the driveway, grabbed what I'd come back for, then set off again, but couldn't resist stopping by to have a word with the little angel, who had been joined by now, by Cailtyn, the young girl from around the corner, she was also one of the Shoreham Allstars that performed so well at Beach Dreams last week, I can only guess that she may have been drawn to this young rebel by his behaviour, who knows what kids think. I pulled up alongside them, and with a smile on me boat, said, "I'm guessing you're bored, but do you actually know why you're doing that?", he was still swinging on it as we spoke, then he stopped and paused for a second, and calmly replied, "I'm a bit weird", I asked him if it was his aim to rip it out, but this elicited no response, then I noticed it had a message on the top of it, 'Please do not park on the verge', and I mentioned something about it being ironic that the post itself was there to tell people 'not to do something', adults obviously, as it was aimed at car drivers, but I digress.


I'd guess he was about 12 or 13, he had the obligatory high peaked cap half way back up his head, more a statement than a necessary item of clothing, the long fringe hanging loosely under the peak and partly covering his eyes, worn jeans, and skaters trainers, all that was missing was the skateboard, straight out of the movie, 'Dazed and Confused', as in, in case you hadn't noticed, "I'm a rebel, yeah!" The fact is, he isn't weird, though he probably thought this sounded cool in an understated way, as if he is indeed some kind of rebel, and surely impressing the young lass next to him. No, he's just a kid, and hasn't yet realised, (nor will he for some time to come), that we all did stupid things when we were kids, more often than not, without a clue as to why. I finished up with, "I'm not ticking you off or anything, I mean, it's not my job, just curious to see if you know why you were doing it?", to which he replied, "I should probably stop", in a kind of pacifying, 'I think that's what the grown up wants to hear' way, then I congratulated Caitlyn on her singing at the festival, smiled and drove off, thinking, that ought to mess with their heads, but probably not.


I used to do ridiculously stupid things as a kid, in this very street I ripped up a tree from the garden at the bottom of the road on my way home from school, only to get chased all the way up the road by an irate mother, with the tree still in my grubby little paws, passing our house as I ran, witnessed by my brother Anthony and his mates from our sitting room as I belted past, carrying on round the corner into Mardyke before ducking into the old bags place, and hid in their walled bin store until I deemed it safe to come out again. I left the tree there and crept home, never really giving any thought to what the old bags would have made of finding a freshly uprooted four foot fir tree in their bin store.


Later that day, the irate mothers husband came a knocking at the door, and spoke to the old man, explaining how one of his sons had been the miscreant. I stood innocently alongside as my dear Daddy sternly suggested that this sounded like the work of my elder brother, Anthony, while I kept my silence, and looked for all the world as if butter wouldn't melt in my mouth!, "He'll be sent round to apologise". Silence wasn't going to keep me safe for long though, and on Ants return, the old man went to pull him up over the incident, and the game was up, "that wasn't me, that was Andrew", he not only knew it wasn't him, he knew it was me because he'd bloody well seen it happen, as did his mates, who all thought it hilarious, it must have looked a funny sight, the tree was bigger than me. Next day I had to go and apologise, looking as cherubin and remorseful as possible, I was about 11 or 12. She was very sweet about it, and I think she actually felt sorry for me, so you could probably add frightened to the list of facial expressions I was displaying at her doorstep.

That was by no means a lone incident of dumb stuff I did as a child, but it's up there with the funnier ones at least, I also had a good arm, and was a decent shot with an egg, so various neighbours would rue leaving their windows open if the mood took me, horrible little child that I was. I tell you two this stuff not because I'm in any way proud of those stupid actions, but it is my past, and I can't change it, just balancing up with what the young lad was doing. I have no idea to this day what the hell went through my mind when I did all the dumb shit I did, certainly none of it had a purpose, maybe that's why I asked him if he knew why he was doing what he was doing, but I don't think he had any better idea than I did as a kid.

Image: Black Bonds and the Shoreham Allstars


Beach Dreams, Old Fort Military Day, Processions, Pimms, n Picnics


Mondays, as some of you know already, is Trough Day at Le Casa de la Ramus, and my day of relaxing, early shop, followed by dinner prep, then tinker on the computer after all the prep work is done. This Monday I've opted for a good old Shepherds pie, (always a firm favourite with the Tribe), giving me time to upload a heap of pics from the weekend just gone, featuring, 'Beach Dreams', and the Old Forts, 'Military History Day', both of which were an outstanding success, despite the foul weather on Sunday afternoon. 

During the week, I had indeed continued my, 'Make it count', policy, and the garage is that much closer to becoming my workshop, things were ticked off the 'to do' list, and this week I aim to hopefully finish the job before the next roof job starts the following week. This blog however, is all about the weekends events on Shoreham Beach, 'Beach Dreams' at the Beach Green, and the 'Military History Day' at the Old Fort, the two highlights of the Shoreham Beach calender.

Beach Dreams is our own little music festival, featuring stages, beer tent, giant marquee, and side stalls, showcasing the many and varied musical talents that the town has, as well as enticing up and coming bands from the wider area, and this year they even had an extra stage for the young bands to play on, on what we used to call, 'Bog Hill', the sloping green between Beach Green and the beach itself. These youngsters are mainly the product of a fantastic operation called, 'Shoreham Allstars', (check them out here:- http://www.shorehamallstars.com/ ), and if you weren't lucky enough to catch them playing, well let me tell you, they are bloody awesome, you have to do a double take on occasions, as it's hard to believe kids so young could be so good.

There are many other great things about Beach Dreams, the family atmosphere, the fact that you'll keep bumping into old friends, sometimes realising the last time you saw them was at the last Beach Dreams, the picnics spread all over the Green, the Pimms in jugs, but most importantly, the smiles, they're everywhere, a huge amount of people of all ages just having a great time. I was lucky enough to be invited to join Lisa Durrant, Helen Bunker, and their families, they had their area covered in blankets, cold boxes full of drinks and food, all prepared by Lisa apparently, bloody marvel of an effort, there was heaps of grub. Between them, they are a perfect example of what exactly Beach Dreams is all about, Music, Drink, Food, Family, and Fun, all on our doorstep, our very own Beachstock, or Glastonbeach. Helen and Andy Bunker's three kids, Callum, Sam, and Millie, all play in bands, as does Lisa's daughter, Rooney, so they're providing a good deal of the entertainment as well as enjoying it, and boy do they enjoy themselves, most of my favourite moments involved one or all of them over the weekend.

The howling winds that had threatened the event didn't disrupt the Saturday, and the organisers had the stage moved so the its back faced the West, with the wind coming from behind it, this also stretched the viewing area to about twice its usual as when the stage is set North to South, I think it worked very well. I got down in time to see Sandweaver play, just after midday, a bloody good start I thought, good tunes and sun shining through the clouds. Demelzas Tea party were up next, and as you may or may not remember, they were one of my top two fave bands from last year, a ska influenced group of four girls, lead singer Flossie, Becky and Rooney as guitar/bass and backing vocals, Gabi on drums, plus the only male, Callum, on lead guitar. Pauline Black, of, 'Selecter', fame, rates them, so all I can say is, check them out, get Googling!, especially if you like a bit of ska.

Later, Callum had shown up carrying a jug of cider, so I promptly snapped a shot of him and his dad, Andy, for a classic, 'dat's ma boy', picture, wondering at the time how that might affect his guitar playing later on stage with Black Bonds, he cleared the bottle,  refilled it, drained it again during the afternoon, and was still bloody awesome when his time came to play. Ma had come down to join the fun, armed with her own chair, and soon enough was being treated to Pimms by Lisa and Helen, then I got chatting to Lisa's other half, Ben, who informs me that the Devils staircase has had an incident. Ben is in charge of boat movement at the yacht club, and the staircase I built for my old Da to make it easier for him to get on and off the Devils Advocate when it's out of the water, (also proving popular with other boat owners too),  had been left where it was for whoever may need it to use. Apparently Ben noticed it wasn't there while at work, asked if anyone had seen me take it down, then spotted it, plus the platform it was leading up to, in the river, those huge winds we'd been having had picked the whole thing up and unceremoniously dumped it in the drink, lock stock, the blummin lot. He managed to retrieve it all, with a few laughs along the way as he nearly sunk with it while trying to tie it up to get it out, and it's now safely stored until we need it next, but it gave us a bit of a laugh.


This event is always about the roaming for me, wandering around the whole Green, bumping into mates as you go, stopping to chat, share a beer, then move on, the 'Wanderthon'. That's the beauty of a community event, it's full of people you know, so you want to make the most of it, as well as enjoying the entertainment that's been put on. I bumped into an old friend, Trish, who asked me if I remembered seeing her on Friday night, my blank expression answered her question, apparently I'd spotted her while staggering back across the Footbridge, raised my arms in the air, as in, 'come 'ere', and hugged her. She laughed at my lack of memory, gave me a hug which I could remember, laughed some more when I told her I wasn't even aware I'd gone into town that night, then we both wandered off, but not too far, you never get far when wandering at Beach Dreams. I think I made it about ten yards when Sean Hawkey sidles up alongside me, the last time I saw him was at Beach Dreams last year, he was off to South America to interview victims of drug barons, telling me some pretty horrific stuff at the time. The trip came at a heavy price unfortunately, his marriage, but the what he told me next beggars belief, he has five kids, no job at present, and is ineligible for any state assistance because he's been out of the country for the past twelve months. If he'd been an immigrant to these shores he'd be fine, but let's not get too political here right now, I wished him well and we laughingly agreed to meet up again at Beach Dreams next year, I just hope some DHSS common sense prevails for him between now and then, though that departments record doesn't inspire you with confidence.


Shoreham Allstars

What can I say about this collective, the brainchild of David O' Connell, a guitar teacher who wanted to provide an outlet for kids that want to learn and play music, and this is their second year of showcasing their skills at this event, they also tour throughout the year, playing at various festivals around the country. Along with the skate park at Ham road, it's one of the best things out there for the children in our community, and this year they had their own stage, a kind of, 'Mini Me Beach Dreams', but don't let the size of some of them fool you, they can really play. There are 50/50, average age 12, Wookie Weekend, average age 11, the Funky Monkeyz, average age 11, going up to Demelzas Tea Party, averaging 19, and finally, headlining the small stage this year, the Black Bonds, who I saw for the first time on Saturday, and they blew me away, a real quality guitar based rock band, playing all their own material. Mainly though, when you watch them, and see all the other bands support each other, they just look like they're having so much fun, it's very infectious. I'm not a muso journalist, but have no doubt in my mind when I tell you that you'd enjoy listening to any of them. Another bonus about these kids, is seeing their parents going for it in front of stage, especially Andy Bunker and Si Knight, Si needed a cardiac treatment room after his minute and a half mosh with the kids, Andy eventually migrated on to the stage to show off his air guitar skills, and his self professed, 'money shot face', as he gurned for England while thrashing his imaginary axe, bloody brilliant. Towards the end, all the bands that had played, seemed to have joined the Black Bonds on stage, it was mayhem, and how the lads managed to carry on playing I don't know, but they did, and the whole thing had a carnival feel to it, everyone involved should feel very happy, and very proud to have been a part of it.


Military History Day

It's a shame that both events had to be on the same weekend, so I split the weekend to be at Beach Dreams on the Saturday, and the Old Fort on the Sunday, in time to see and hear the cannons and watch the historical military re-enactments take place. I took Ma n Pa along, and was happy we could park as close as we managed, but conversely sad as that meant the turnout was not what the occasion deserved, a combination of the lousy weather that day, and clashing with the Beach Dreams Festival. Nonetheless, it was by no means a washout, the cannon firing, and soldiers shooting their rifles, all went off well, and just before the rain began to come down a bit harder, as it soon did. 

Again, lots of people had put a lot of hard work in to this event, co ordinated by Gary Baines, and ably assisted by a small army of helpers running, the stalls, the 'Hold The Fort' tea hut, stewarding, and giving guided tours of the excavated tunnels. There were a few familiar local faces too, as would be expected, Judith Green popping up with her camera to document the occasion, although she was one of many in that respect, the place had more cameras than Dixons, so hopefully there will be plenty of great shots to choose from when publicising the next big day at the Fort. The re enactment soldiers were great, all looking mighty fine in their historic uniforms, and it's nice to see them in action at the Fort, having researched so much historical information about the place, it's good to have a glimpse of how things may have been on that spot over a century and a half back, and possibly make more people aware of what is going on at the end of Shoreham Beach too, I hope.


And then the rain came

With the weather turning, and the rain beginnng to get heavier, I took Ma and Pa back home, but we had at least seen the main attraction of the Military History Weekend, plus their were more bands to see at Beach Dreams, if the rain didn't wreck it. As it turned out, the rain did indeed curtail the main stage activities, just after The Denim played their set, and everyone ran for the cover of the beer tent and marquee, eventually the organisers set up a stage inside the marquee for the rest of the bands. Unfortunately this meant a few of the bands lost their spot in the line up, but at least the event carried on and people could enjoy some live music without getting drenched at the same time. I wandered in just in time to hear Richard Durrant playing guitar, much as I had been lucky to hear him along at the lighting of the beacon at the Old Fort earlier in the week. To give you an idea of how good he is, my mate Tim, a reasonable guitarist himself, said afterwards, "it makes me feel like going home and smashing my guitar into kindling, and burning it", but then Richard Durrant is a world renowned classical guitarist, we just happen to be lucky that he lives here and supports the local community events. I imagine some people pay an awful lot of money to see what I've seen twice in a week for free.

Image: Buglers playing at the Old Fort

Image: Watercraft LTD designed P20's as Honour Guard to the Queen


Making it Count

Once again my legendary slackness in the catching up department has kept me away from the keyboard, although in fairness, I have at least achieved a few things during my writing hiatus, or I should say, I've started to do a few things, time will tell as to whether these things move onwards to a state of finish, my record in this department, it has to be said, is pretty poor. In the last couple of weeks we've had some decent sailing on the Devil, including giving handicapped kids and adults a day on the water down at Brighton Marina, and crossing the channel this weekend, I've also emptied the garage of years worth of crapola, organised potential work, and generally tried to make sure that I'd got something to show for each day, which has been a theme I've been trying to edge myself closer to accomplishing on a regular basis if I can. This theme involves drinking less booze, eventually cutting out the weed, making life run a little more smoothly, and hopefully adding a few bob to the bank account along the way, oh, and badgering newspapers with my opinions in the vain hope they might make a difference. Wish me luck in my efforts.


PHAB Weekend at Brighton

The Race


This weekend is all about combining a race down to Brighton, with entertaining handicapped, and non handicapped children and adults, by giving them a day out on the water in the assembled yachts, rigid inflatables, and a display by the RNLI inshore team. We were a bit short staffed on the Devil, with David, Stig, Jules and his daughter Poppy, as well as myself, no Squire to navigate, and no Bunny as foredeck experience, meaning the spinnaker, (Gary), wouldn't be getting an airing, all that, then add a twenty odd mile course taking four and a half hours, and I'd have to say I was mighty thankful to see Brighton Marina's Kokoma ahead of us throughout, in case we'd somehow misunderstood where we should be going. We had two reefs in the main before we'd left the harbour mouth, as although it was hot and sunny, the wind was quite brisk, and the sea fairly choppy outside, but the conditions would do us just fine with winds hovering around between 17 and 20 knots, the Devil likes a decent breeze.

David got us over the start line in a good position as we headed up to the 3 mark, a two mile leg, watching as Major Clanger, somewhat ironically, was sailing back past us to the start, having presumably jumped the gun. Having established our second position, behind Kokomo, through the number three mark, and on to number one, it had become apparent to David that the Devil wasn't going too well, the wind hadn't built up to the earlier expectations, so the decision to shake out one of the reefs was made, on the way up to the newly relocated Ambex buoy, (number 4 mark), which cost us a bit of time as we faffed around with the lines, allowing Kokomo to stretch its lead, and the following tubs to make up time on us, but once the Devil was again settled, and David happy with the set of the sails, we started to put distance between us and our chasing pack quite quickly, but not enough extra speed to catch Kokomo up appreciably. As it turned out, the Devil seemed to be holding a much truer line towards our marks than Kokomo could manage, so we kept them in range with some astute tacking by David, and after we'd traversed the Brighton Marina buoys, heading east to the Friars Bay outfall buoy, it became apparent that Kokomo had some issues, stopping dead in the water for a little while, during which time we closed the gap. We found out later that they had one of their lines ripped out of the clew of the sail, unfortunately for us it didn't hold them up long enough for us to catch them before they fixed it, but still the Devil held a much better line to the mark than Kokomo could achieve, so we held out a vain hope that we might do them after handicaps were applied, and if not, well we'd be the first Sussex Yacht Club boat over the line, the next behind us being a good twenty minutes or more back. Final results have as yet, not been divulged, so I claim line honours here, regardless of what comes later.


PHAB Weekend

The Entertainment


Having berthed at the Marina overnight, and schlupped too much on board after the fish and chip supper at the BMYC bar, we were grateful not to have too early a start for the proceedings that lay ahead, and leaving me enough time to check out the 'Collective Spirit' boat, which was in Brighton marina as part of an Arts Fund project that's travelling the south coast to publicise its cause. It's an amazing sailing boat, constructed from donated items of wood, such as tennis racquets, cricket bats, hockey sticks, a bit of Jimi Hendrix guitar, among many other things, all put together like a jigsaw, shaved down to ten millimetres, and inlaid into a GRP fibre glass construction, it looks like a work of art, which is quite apt really, as I've always maintained that proper boat building is virtually an art form anyway.

Having snapped away and asked loads of questions, I got a call from David to let me know we had our PHAB crew on board, and I should get me arse back there pronto. We had three young girls and a chaperone as guests, ready for their day at sea, so it was a relief that the weather was so perfect for them, light winds and glorious sunshine, it was just a bit of a shame that there weren't as many PHAB kids this year as there had been last year, when the weather had been so poor that we didn't even make it outside of the marina. At least this meant that those that were here would get star treatment, and between the yachts, fast rigid inflatables, and the RNLI crew putting on a show, I think it's fair to say they had a great time, all the girls had a go at steering the Devil, much to the envy of some of the other PHAB kids out on the RIBs, (Rigid Inflatable Boats), and as such, an added bit of excitement was promptly arranged, swapping the girls over to one of the RIBs, in exchange for two of the lads, all done on the water as we bobbed up and down alongside during the change over. A lot of people put in a great deal of effort to make this event a success, so it was nice to see it all go so smoothly on the day, and most importantly, to see such wide smiles on our guests faces, especially after they'd decided that a fishing boat out there must in fact be a pirate ship, "absolutely it is", we agreed with them, followed by the time honoured poor pirate jokes being trotted out, 'what's a pirates favourite letter?- Rrrrrrrrrrr', or 'how much to pirates pay for earrings?- about a buckaneer'. 'Them's that dies, them's the luckyuns me hearties, ahaarrrr'. All in all, a great weekend, and a very rewarding one, as Bombadiers, Ann, said at the time.


Local Stuff

Anyone that knows me, or either of you that reads this blog, know my grievances over the Shoreham 'Jubilee' Footbridge scenario, I'm not against the idea just for the sake of it, but I feel very strongly that the wool has been Royally pulled over everyones eyes during the process. The most damning information to do with the whole project has been held back from the public, and the very reason for getting rid of the existing Footbridge is nothing short of an outright lie, no tests have been made to verify the structural stability of the bridge, therefore no one had the right to say it was at the end of its life, but they said it, in more than one paper, over and over. This to me is along the same line as that lying ex PM, BLiar, who unashamedly bullshitted the country into thinking Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass distruction, in order to allow him to wedge his nose as far up the Yanks arses as he could possibly get it, taking our country off to an illegal war in the process. Our small town version of this, is that the public were conned into thinking that, someone who actually knows what they're talking about, had declared the Footbridge to be in an advanced state of decay. The reality is, that no one that is in any way qualified to state an opinion has been anywhere near the Footbridge, other than to innocently walk across it. This is all part of the 'New Shorehamers' plan to poncify the town, using bullshit terms such as, 'Regeneration', or 'Renaissance Shoreham', they've come to our town, got themselves into positions of clout, and set about trying to make the town suit them, and their overtly sanitised idea of what they'd like Shoreham to look like. Shoreham is already a great place to live, and what's most appealing about Shoreham is its history, not its new buildings, take the Ropetackle building, quite comfortably the ugliest place in the town. The only crowd to benefit from these projects, are building contractors, and their idea of what's best, is purely what makes them the most money for the least effort, always.


My Family at War

A quick note regarding Radio One's, Sara Cox, on TV the past week in the My Family at War series, finding out about her Grandad who was posted to Shoreham's Old Fort during the Second World War, he was a Despatch Driver, and part of a thousand strong presence at the Fort apparently. The Radio One DJ was even filmed at the Fort for the programme, for those of you that are interested, you can find the programme at BBC online.


Making the Days Count

Despite my natural slackness, I've actually got the ball rolling regarding the garage, ripping out the door, a few trips to the dump, and a bit of construction to block up the entrance, with a door frame, and start the laying of a sub floor, all half done so far. This week will be the test of whether I get to the next stage, and eventually, a working area to create stuff, as well as a proper home for my tools.This is the bit I always fail in, the time between jobs, (paying jobs at least), when I should get stuff done, but never do. I've started taking notes, making lists of things I ought to get done, and it really is quite a satisfying thing, crossing off stuff on a 'to do' list, I just hope the crossed out items outnumber the uncrossed items by the time I start the next roof.



Eurovision with Ken Bruce again, the usual Mickey Mouse nonsense of a low brow Karaoke competition, where tactical, and political voting ensure competitors, that would be booed at a pub gig in this country, are in with a shout of winning the worthless first prize. These days it appears mainly to be about the rest of Europe making it known that they don't like the UK, but for many of us, the only appeal the Eurovision ever had, was about the utter fiasco of watching the numbers come in, after all, 95% of the acts will disappear back into the obscurity in which they belong once their lack of talent has had the audience it never deserved in the first place.


The Royal Escape

Sometime in mid october 1651,  Charles 2nd was assisted in his escape from Oliver Cromwells forces, fleeing from Shoreham to Fecamp in France, the story of this great escape being the basis for the 'Royal Escape' yacht race which has been going since about 1977, starting from just off the Palace pier, going seventy miles across the channel to Fecamp. It's a popular event, drawing competitors from far and wide, this years entry was over 80 yachts I believe, a fine sight when all assembled together at around 7a.m Friday morning. The crew for the race were, David at the helm, Stig, Phil, and Jules, as deck hands, Squire at the navigation table, Ma reading her book, and me keeping my sleeping bag warm. We'd had a few gargles and smokes on board the night before, so I was still fast akip when I was rudely awoken to get up on deck for the verification process, we had to be seen to be wearing our lifejackets and safety harnesses by the 'spotters' on the end of the pier. It's a good hour and a half to, get off the mooring, go through the locks, hoist the cloth, then sail along to Brighton, and I'd slept through the lot.

Typically, no sooner than the race had begun, and I was back snoozing in my bunk, it was another couple of hours before I was called to assist again, this time to help drop the Gary, about 10a.m 'ish, then promptly got my head straight back down again, sleeping like the dead. The next time I arose, it was about one ish, and we were sailing nicely along at about seven knots, in the middle of a mini sailing armada heading to Fecamp, I stuck around for a little longer this time, chucking a pizza in the oven for good measure, returning to my pit later for another comfortable doze, and drawing comments for my sleeping by now. When I came to a while further on, the wind had all but died, and the Devil, along with a clutch of tubs around us, were engaged in a war of attrition, a battle to prove who could be the most stubborn in their determined bid to sail the whole way, however long it may take. Despite the fact I'd spent most of the trip asleep, I had no qualms about stating my opposition to pointlessly slugging it out when we have a perfectly good engine to chuck on, not to mention the fact that even if we did tough it out, we had less than no chance of winning anything anyway, far better to get over there and get a decent mooring, and a beer up at the club bar. Maybe Phils comment of, "it'll be another 4 hours to go even if we chuck the engine on now", was the tipping point for David, either that or he just wanted to shut me up, the engine went on around 6.35, with 20 miles to go, arriving in Fecamp just after 10, amusing onlookers with our newly unveiled, 'instant sail drop and slab' technique, courtesy of Stig, quickest I've ever seen the mainsail dropped. For that last part of the crossing, the water was like glass, making for an eerie light as the sun set, then finally disappeared, anyone still under sail was in for a long night out on the water.

After cooking a rousing fry up breakfast on board, first thing Saturday morning, the crew began migrating towards the town square and beer, it may or may not surprise you readers to know, that I abstained from the drinking, and slept some more. It must be the sea air, but I sleep for England when away on the boat, although in fairness it was quite warm out, and I'm not a sun lounger, plus I hadn't brought much money with me, I gave walking around some thought, but in the end opted for yet more sleep.

The trip back on Sunday was a good deal more interesting than the race over, with heavy winds from the off, just the one reef in the main, and an extra four crew members, courtesy of Bombadier, who would be sailing elsewhere. Consider that we took around thirteen or so hours to get to Fecamp, and it took us just eight and a half hours to get back, averaging speeds of 8 to 9 knots, heeling over at about 45 degrees virtually the whole time, and you can see what a difference a bit of breeze makes. Not without incident mind you, firstly it was noticed that a line to the foresail was missing, Rick sorting that out while Jules held on to his harness, then it's spotted that the foresail itself has bits coming away, so David hastily organises needle and thread, going up front to stitch the cloth up enough to get us home, all in pretty choppy seas and heavy winds, Rick acted as boat security for David while he stitched, all done with the foresail part furled so he could get to it ok. Suffice to say I slept well again, although not for quite so long this time, so I read a bit too, 'A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away', plenty of crashes, explosions, and general death in the first couple of chapters, I await the rest with interest.


A Royal Interest

We heaved into Shoreham harbour still under sail, and doing about seven knots, roller reefing the foresail just as we approached the entrance, in the hope we might get to join Moonlight Saunter in the locks, they had arrived minutes earlier, having set sail from Fecamp about two and a half hours before us. Having squared away the Devil, we got home in time to see the highlights of the Jubilee celebrations, something I hadn't been bothered about seeing, until that is, that I noticed a couple of familiar looking tubs up with the front part of the procession, forming part of the Queens Honour Guard, two P20's, from a contract of ten, which were designed and to be built by Watercraft during my time as a boat builder there, before they went bust in 1986. The fact of the matter is that it was the contract to build the P20's which bankrupt the firm, but that's another story, Watercrafts marine draughtsmen designed the P20's, we made the plugs for the cab top mould, and all the other moulds except the hull, which was outsourced to North Shore Marine, (I believe). When the company went bust, the rest of the contract was completed by Vosper Thornicroft, having only completed the first three, but they had all been started at Watercraft, and as I was responsible for making many of the original plugs for the moulds on those boats, the sight of the P20's directly behind the Queens barge definitely peaked my interest. Then I was informed that the rigid inflatables either side of the Royal barge, were also designed by a certain Paul Graville, another Shoreham man, who just happened to be one of the design team at Watercraft when I was there, so I have no doubt he must be feeling quite a proud man right now. For myself, I'm quite happy to see Shorehams boat building legacy up front and central in one of the biggest engagements the world will see, witnessed by countless millions.


Beacon Blues

As part of the Queens Jubilee celebrations, there were a series of beacons to be lit around the world to commemorate the occasion, one of which was to be at the Old Fort at the end of Shoreham Beach. Gary Baines and his wonderful band of volunteers had arranged the whole thing, with local, (though world renowned), guitarist, Richard Durrant, entertaining the crowd prior to the lighting, which would be carried out by the MP Tim Loughton. I took Squire and Ma along for the event, but got the time wrong and arrived an hour early, but what a great move that was, otherwise we may have missed out on Mr Durrants mini gig at the Fort, I have to say, his guitar play was worth the trip on its own. He started off with some Elizabethan music, Greensleeves among the tunes, then played some slightly more modern, latin influenced stuff, culminating in the beautiful piece of music that many of us remember as being the theme tune to Jack hargreaves, 'Out Of Town', the 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra', written by Francisco Tarrega. There was a great crowd in attendance, bumping into lots of friends who had also made the effort to support the Fort cause, and I'm sure no one that was there will forget the guitar play of Richard Durrant, the undoubted highlight of the evening. The lighting of the Beacon, carried out by Gary Baines, and Tim Loughton, went comically enough, as the beacon proved reluctant to sprout into flame, but once it got going, there was an appreciable cheer from the gathered assembly. 


Stand To

This bit I just have to put in for amusement. When we got home from the beacon lighting, Ma and Pa began watching the Buckingham Palace concert on the box, and I just happened to be in the kitchen pouring a stiff drink, when the National Anthem struck up, marking I presume, the conclusion of proceedings, then I heard Squire say, "I don't care, I'm standing up for this", so I poked my head around the corner, and sure enough, bless him, he was standing to attention in front of the TV, so I snuck the camera round the door and snapped a shot of him. Ma says I'm a rotter, but she was giggling when she said it, I'm sure her Majesty would have been impressed by our very own Uncle Albert. 


Next week

Next week we have two big events on Shoreham Beach, so get yourselves along to either, the Beach Dreams festival of music, with live bands and a beer tent, or to the Old Fort for the Military History day, with live re enactments, guns big and little, explosions and plenty else. I intend to see as much of both as I can manage, I recommend you make the effort, you wont be disappointed.

Image: Idyllic sunset in the English channel

Image: Pete and On celebrate their wedding day


Wedding Bells

Sometimes it's easy to just sit back and take everything for granted, then a healthy dose of reality comes up and slaps you in the face, that dose of reality can come in many forms. Last week I went with my brother, Stig, to visit an old mate of his, Pete Jack, who's body is currently under attack from his own immune system, and he has been told his time left is running out. Pete has known this for some time now, and has been preparing himself, as well as his family and friends, for the inevitable, but he fully intends to make the most of every last minute that he's still here. We sat with him for just over four hours, and the time flew by too quickly, I've known him through Stig for a fair few years, but never had such a long chat with him, which is a real shame as he's had quite a life, travelled the world, and definitely not let the grass grow under his feet. Maybe I can convince him to let me share some of his stories, so that a bit of his life can be immortalised in print, or digital print at least.

Although Pete is hooked up to breathing apparatus, with draws full of various drugs to help him manage the pain, and under almost constant supervision by his other half, On, he also has a lap top, keeping him in contact with the outside world, via Facebook especially. He's also worked out how to use E Bay, and keeps his business head working by buying and selling stuff on there. He gave me and Stig a lesson on how to approach the auction site, informing us how you should check your opposing bidders buying history to see how experienced they are, and telling us how you should hang on until the last minute before under cutting a bid, giving the other bidders little chance to react in time. He's also busy uploading a lifetimes worth of photos from his world travels, they in themselves tell a quite remarkable story, taking in most of the worlds continents. Here's one small, 'for example', he just happened to be in Phuket when the Tsunami hit, they had to beat a hasty retreat up into the hills to escape, clearly there's more to that story, and I look forward to hearing it. Among the many things that Pete has done, he has sailed extensively around various parts of the world, so it was inevitable that we should get on to the subject of the Devils Advocate, and it turns out that his last yacht was in fact designed by the same guy that designed the Devil, Bruce Farr, unfortunately I got the name wrong and said it was, 'someone- Parr', finding out later from Squire what the correct name was.

One of the last things Pete has wanted was to get married to his long time partner, On, so when he invited me to come along with Stig to their wedding this Saturday, I felt very privileged to be asked, and on arrival you could see all their planning and efforts had been a great success. Their flat was a sea of colour for the occasion, and On had put on an amazing display of food, one of the highlights being a beautiful swan carved out of a fruit. It was a bit like a Shoreham Old Boys reunion, with many of his childhood friends in attendance, as well as family, and friends made through his life travelling the globe, all dressed immaculately for the big occasion, and in fine spirits. The cheers that went up after Pete and On were declared man and wife, were a heart warming endorsement of how happy everyone was for the newlyweds, followed by a short speech from Petes friend, George, then a rendition of, 'For he's a jolly good fellow' from the guests. I was lucky enough to be given custody of Petes camera for the occasion, so I hope I didn't let him and On down with my shot selection!, it was quite a tight squeeze in there, although I have to say, there were plenty of cameras in attendance, so I don't think they'll be short of good shots once everyone has downloaded their memory cards and uploaded them on to Facebook.

A Sobering Start

Having managed second place in the Winter pool league, pipping the 'Bar Next Door', from Worthing, into third place behind us, there were raised eyebrows when the Summer league fixtures came out, and our first game was away to them. It's been a bit of a grudge match between us since we rejoined the world of competitive pool, with us just edging the results overall, and finishing ahead of them each season so far. The ill feeling stems from the first season really, they turned us over 4-1 at our place, and it was all smiles as they enjoyed their victory, but that was near the beginning of the season, by the time we came to play them at their place, we were neck and neck at the top of the division, they were unbeaten at this point, we promptly spanked them 5-0 in their own back yard, and they took it so poorly that they wouldn't even offer to buy the usual drink, which is an unwritten law of pool matches, not that we cared much. That defeat obviously caused the wheels to fall off for that seasons challenge and they finished in mid table obscurity.

The BND is in Montague street in Worthing, right on a main town drag, so they have a lot of talent to draw on, and a large turnover of players from one year to the next, but they must pass on the tales of woe from one team to the next. When we turned up this week, one old boy asks us if we're the mob that are involved in the clothing industry?, then, as he surveys our puzzled faces, ready to impart his legend wit, "I heard you're full of stitchers", a comment on our supposed safety play, oh how we laughed. Well they had the first laugh, then promptly kicked our arses 5-0, and had the last laugh too, for that night at least. In all fairness, the guy that told the alleged joke wasn't one of their players, and the team were a decent, (and different, bar one), bunch of lads. Their landlady was very friendly, not to mention, very fit also, and the food they laid on was good too. We'd never been beaten 5-0 before, not in all the years we've played together, but it didn't bother me anything like I expected it to, and it almost felt like a weight of expectation had been lifted from our shoulders before the season has even got going properly, let's see how we get on.

Sunday Sailing

After our calamitous wee disasters last week on the Devil, it was fingers crossed for a slightly more incident free race this week, and the conditions were certainly a great deal better than had been forecast. With overcast skies, a brisk breeze, and another good looking course set for the day, the Devil was ready for action. It was touch and go as all the tubs were vying for the best starting positions, with us having to chuck a half turn in just before the off, to avoid being over the start line too early. Ocean Dream were bang out of luck on that score, being called back by race control as they were over the line when the start was sounded, unfortunately for them, they didn't hear at first, having to turn back and return to the start while the rest of the fleet was on its way. Laurence is Ocean Dreams skipper, and his unofficial but well earned alias, is Captain Tourettes, so I can only imagine how blue the air may have been on board at the time

We'd had a good start, and rounded the East mark in first, heading south to the number 6 buoy, where Highland Daughter pipped us round the mark, then promptly ran their spinnaker up very efficiently, and young Charlie Camp smiled at us and said, "see you later", as they eased away with the benefit of the Gary pulling them clear, while David had decided we'd stick with just the white sails for the day, as we didn't have our usual experienced foredeck hand, Bunny on board. We kept in mind young Master Camps comment, then watched helplessly as Kingfisher also slid by us with their Gary up too, so shortly after rounding the 6 mark, we'd gone from first to third, the challenge was on again. We kept close to Kingfisher, but could do little about Highland daughter widening the gap between us, until we'd rounded the Ambex buoy that is, on to a tacking run, heading up to the East mark. The Devil had retaken the lead coming up to the buoy, but for whatever reason, a minor brain fart occurred, and we took the Devil the wrong way round, keeping the mark to starboard, (the right side), when it should have been left to port. Will had an understandable smile on his boat race as they retook the lead, heading parallel with the coast to the number one mark, gleefully informing us of our mishap, just in case we hadn't realised, while we set about correcting the error.

As Highland Daughter rounded the number one mark, still in the lead, with the wind behind them, they chucked up the Gary again, but it was only a short run up to the number Three mark, and then a tacking battle commenced between Will and David, as we made for the West mark, with Will taking Highland Daughter north, and David opting to leave it a while, taking advantage of the decent winds the Devil was in, heading east. It wasn't easy to tell who had made the right move until we were almost on the mark, and then it was clear David had won that little battle, and the Devil was back in front, keeping the West mark to starboard, and heading on to the East mark, everyone jesting with David as to which side he might be leaving the mark to. Sailing north to the number Six buoy, comfortably in the lead by now, there must have been a sudden wind shift, and in a moment we had a great deal more power in the sails as the Devil heeled over quite dramatically, Ross's foot momentarily submerged on the gunwhale where he'd been winching in the foresail. Then I look down in to the saloon cabin, and there's Squire, sprawled star shape on the floor, apparently the sudden jolt launched him right out of his nav table seat, and unceremoniously on the deck, shaken, but fortunately unhurt. Barring that minor mishap, the Devil continued to maintain the lead as we made for the last mark, West, and the sprint from there to the Old Fort Line finish, to record yet another first over the finishing line for the Devils Advocate, while I was down below getting the oven and kettle on, kitchen bitch that I am. Back at the Club, and after handicaps had been applied, Kingfisher came first, followed by Highland daughter, but miracle of miracles, the Devils Advocate gets a podium finish with third place, hold the front page, run out the bunting, let off that ten year old French banger you've been keeping for a special occasion, we weren't last!!

Last week I mentioned Ann, on Bombadier, having launched a jacket when they flew their Gary, but I erroneously outed her and Devils crew member, Dave Lamb, as being married, Dave yesterday informed me of their amusement at having been declared a wedded couple, so here, in true publishing style, hidden away in a dark corner of the adverts section, is the retraction. We are terribly sorry for this misunderstanding, the aforementioned couple are in fact a pair of filthy sinners, living together out of marital wedlock, we sincerely hope this news doesn't put anyone off their beer.

Image: Ben and Jules drag the Gary back after the battle was won


My word what a weekend, a blur of alcohol, sailing into and out of the abyss, last minute football drama, and a load of sobbing southerners blubbing into their pints over a team that plays its home games three hundred miles away, it was a good time for anyone with Schadenfreud leanings, smiling at others misery.

Red Card Scenarios

I have to say, Friday night my tolerance for beer was equivalent to that of your average 14 year old school girl, so the red card came out early. Saturday morning, with no memory of the night before, I see my phone has three text messages, and one missed call, all around 9p.m. One of the messages asked where I was, the next informed me I'd left my top, jacket, and sunglasses at the pub, the last message lets me know all my gear has been put behind the bar, they finally realised I'd done another of my well known disappearing acts, it all sounds about right, but I have no recollection nonetheless, the funny thing is, they all swore I didn't even appear to be drunk at the time. Saturday was only meant to be about collecting my jacket, shirt, and bins, but meeting up with Stv, and Johnny A outside the Waterside soon put the mockers on that idea, and there went another night of lost brain cells, this time lasting a damagingly longer amount of time before eventually red carding myself, which wasn't the greatest of ideas considering we had an early start sailing the next day, I presume I had a good time.

Cross tree tear ups

Despite what I'm guessing was a heavy night on the tiles, I was up and about before7a.m, feeling decidedly foggy, but a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal seemed to pep me up for a bit before we headed off to the Devil for a long overdue day on the water. The forecast wasn't bad, and the weather was actually very pleasant down at the Harbour Basin, with the wind picking up nicely once we were out of the Harbour entrance, things were looking promising. We had swapped the heavy forsail for the light weight one, and coming up to the start of the race, we were looking in good nick and with a course which ought to suit us, nice long runs with a decent breeze to push the Devil along. Always expect the unexpected on board the Devils Advocate, and sure enough, with the race only a few minutes old, we're going about, (tacking), and one of the sheets is still around the winch, holding the forsail back long enough to snag on the cross tree, only a matter of seconds, but when you're going about and something goes wrong, although it's all happening very quickly, it seems as though it's in slow motion. I heard David say, "oh shit", followed his stare up to the now split forsail wrapped around the crosstree, and thought similar. But, and this is what surprises me the most about us, when these little disasters befall us, that's when there's the least amount of swearing, everyone just got on with bringing the torn sail down, and getting the other one up. We were comfortably at the back of the fleet by the time we were back under full sail, at which time David just said, "ok, time to have some fun, let's see how many we can pick off", we were last in a field of fourteen yachts at that point, but the conditions were great for a really enjoyable sail, so why not indeed just go out and enjoy ourselves, we're always relegated to last after handicaps anyway.

As we have Dave Lamb on board, and his wife, Ann, races aboard Bombadier, he's always keen that we finish ahead of them for bragging rights at the bar, and they must have been having issues, because we were on them quite soon, much sooner than we expected to be. We found out later that they'd had a bit of fun of their own, a jacket having been packed in the spinnaker bag, and when they ran the Gary up, they noticed a black object flying up with it, before departing to a watery grave. Apparently it was Daves wife, Ann, that had accidently packed the jacket, not hers I might add. You can imagine the owner, Rick, looking up at this jacket flying out to sea, before it dawns on him that it's his, probably not cheap either, sailing stuff rarely is.

As we navigated the course, slowly reeling in the fleet, it became apparent that the front two yachts were going to be a bridge too far for us, but third over the line was on the cards in the conditions, our last major obstacle appearing to be the swarm of dinghy sailors racing around our second to last mark, just outside the harbour entrance. As we got closer to them, we could hear the rule book being thrown at us in a high pitched trill, "water", or "starboard", but thankfully David negotiated his way through them without incident. I think we had about four yachts left in front of us by now, Barda, who went on to win, Higland Daughter, Moonlight Saunter, and Kingfisher, and we managed to get over the line in third, but not before one final nightmare. On the way down to the finishing line, David called for a spinnaker poll jibe, and somehow the Gary got wrapped around the forestay, so then for the next ten or fifteen minutes, the Devils crew were giving a passable impression of the Keystone Cops on water, as they grappled and fought with the spinnaker in an effort to get the thing unwrapped, and then down. How I wished I'd had a video to film it, there were seven of them clinging on, being chucked about, sliding from side to side, arms getting snagged in ropes, Dave Lamb nearly sliding into the green stuff. We crossed the finishing line with all that going on, I had the wheel, while David went up front to assist Bunny, Pete, Dave, Ben, Jules, and Ross, so I had a front row seat for the entertainment, you had to laugh, it's one of the most comical sights I've witnessed on a yacht. No one that was aboard the Devil yesterday will forget it in a hurry. I suppose the funniest thing about it is that we kind of expected that sort of mishap once, but not since the Devils rigging has been re done. Either way, I'd say getting third over the line was as good as a win after the troubles we'd had, and another damn fine days sailing under our belts. Squire even popping his head up occasionally from the nav table, to take a few snaps with his new camera.

Last day drama

After a few sups at the bar later, it was back to listen in on the drama unfolding on the last day of the Football Premiership season, and I have to say I laughed when I got in and saw Man City were losing 2-1 at home to QPR, wondering to myself what the odds might have been on that unlikely result. With Man Utd 1-0 up away to Sunderland, it was looking grim for City fans, so grim in fact, that plenty of them were spotted leaving the ground early near the end of the game, having accepted defeat before the final whistle. I really couldn't have cared less which one of them won the title, but it was amusing watching them all go through the ranges of emotion as Man Utd fans thought they had it, then saw it ripped away, while City fans, looking absolutely bloody miserable and downtrodden, contemplating another season
of failing against their Southern supported neighbours, before the eruption of joy as they bang in two goals in injury time, or 'Fergie Time' as some are mockingly calling it, and Man City became title winners for the first time in 44 years.

Image: Early morning rowers on the River Adur


Vested Interests?

Bloggage has been put on the backburner just recently, owing to a bit of toil inconveniently getting in the way of my free time, so now, with the latest loft conversion nearing completion, and awaiting prices before hopefully getting the next project on the go, it's nice to have a touch of the old spare stuff to spend tapping away at the keyboard. The Footbridge seems to be the big story in Shoreham at the mo, with a bit of action going on as the wooden structure on the east side was removed this week, while at the same time a potential row was brewing regarding the finances for the new, 'Jubilee Bridge', and the County Councillors decision to postpone commencement of work, owing to concerns that the project was going to, 'significantly exceed' the budget before the job has even begun. When the Shoreham Herald asked, "how much over budget?", they were told, "a great deal of work is still to be done on the current estimates", what??, how on earth is a project of this size, and so close to the supposed start date, not ready to go by now, and with all the figures long since in?.

As if that isn't enough, we are now informed, via MP Tim Loughton, that there may be a risk that the Footbridge won't be safe for use once the northern end has been taken away, leaving the possibility of having no bridge at all for the duration of the build of the new one. He writes:- "There is a risk that, following the demolition of the northern spans and installation of the temporary span, the footbridge will not be safe for pedestrian use. In this instance, the Footbridge will have to be closed for the full duration of the remaining works. The council cannot provide a reliable estimate of the level of the risk at this stage, as a decision will be dependent on the outcome of an inspection and survey by a qualified engineer when the temporary span has been removed."

That passage tells us quite a lot, the main bit for me being the admission that thus far, no 'qualified' structural report has been carried out as to the state of the existing bridge, because if it had been, then presumeably they would already have the answers to any structural problems. Should we not have expected that to have been done already, especially for a project expected to cost 5.2 million, which you can safely bet will cost a great deal more than that come the end of the job. So, knowing that no structural report had been done to assess the state of the present bridge, where does the argument for replacing it come from, the original line being punted out was that the existing Footbridge was coming to the end of its life, says who?. In the absence of a structural report, only hearsay could have driven such a belief, and if it was only hearsay, who was saying it?, and did that voice have vested interests in such a project going ahead?

The other arguments for a new bridge, that I've heard at least, are these:- a)-bike riders access, b)-the need for a wider bridge, c)-better lighting for safety at night, d)-it's ugly. These are issues which should definitely be addressed when designing a new footbridge, but not good enough reasons for replacing one that's there already. Having grown up on Shoreham Beach, I can safely say it was never an issue for me if someone cycled past me on the Footbridge, (but regardless of that, how much of a nuisance is it really to have to walk that short distance?, just because you have a bike, doesn't mean you have some undeniable right to pedal it everywhere), although I'd leave the law prohibiting it in place, but show common sense in its application, I don't really see a need for a wider bridge, it's not a main highway. Better lighting, well I'm sure that could be achieved on the present Footbridge, and as for the current bridge being ugly, not to me it isn't.

Personally, I hope the arguments rage long enough for the new bridge to be put off indefinitely, and as the current Footbridge isn't that far away from its own centenary, I wonder for how much less than the 5.2 million and rising cost of the Jubilee Bridge, this one could be made to last for another hundred years? After all, are we not currently in the middle of a recession??

The Garden Predators

Having mentioned our feline visitors to the back garden, and their varying traits, it would appear, from the feathers strewn around the grass anyway, that one of our moggs has been successful in its stalking, and bagged itself either a pigeon, or seagull, it's hard to be certain which, though what is sure is that it's an ex pigeon/seagull, or a very bloody cold one without a top layer, and significantly less flying ability! Garden watch will now have an added interest as I try and guess which of our three visitors is most likely to have been the culprit. My best guess from the off will have to be the fluffy, light ginger tom with the huge bushy tail, he's been the most regular, and I've had to shoo him away from our pond many times already, one time he actually dived in to the hole in the net at the bottom end of the pond, and had to make a mad and very unceremonious scramble across the net to escape as I came out to frighten him off. Since then I've seen him hiding under the decking to get closer to the birds by the bird feeder, looking hilarious as his head popped out from under the wooden skirt of the decking, well after the birds had bolted. And there's the rub, I definitely recognise his eagerness, his keenness to fulfil his role as a predator, but his technique thus far appears to be some distance away from matching his ambition. The black and white puss has been about a fair bit more than it usually dares, perhaps trying its luck with the other two, and he looks a tad more agile than our bushy tailed moggy, but he's only half the size of the two gingers, although who knows.

The Devils Cobwebs

We haven't been out sailing for a few weeks now, owing to bad weather, or lack of skippers. Hopefully we'll be out on the Devil come Sunday though, and brush off any cobwebs gathered during the hiatus. I must say, I miss it when we haven't been out on the water, and having had a few days off too, it'll feel a bit like being on holiday if we get out, let's hope the weather holds, and long enough to enjoy a beer at the club bar afterwards with Ma, Pa, and sailing buddies, with the sun dropping behind that lovely old Footbridge, while we still can!

Time for a rant

As anyone that knows me well will tell you, I have opinions, or as some would call it, 'issues', basically I'm not a conformist, and there's a lot of fucking shit in this world to make you bloody angry, politicians heading the list. I've mentioned my brother and his predicament with the DHSS before, basically the Government have sent out a mandate to start clearing numbers off their statistics sheets in the welfare system, and they're using morally bankrupt scumbags to implement this mandate, who aim for the easiest targets in the system, or in other words, the genuine claimants that will put up the least, or no, resistance at all, while the real cheats will sail through all their witless tests with impunity. I was talking to a paramedic friend of mine today, who told me a similar thing is happening in the ambulance service, he was in a car today, rather than the two man truck, (or Ambulance as we know it), owing to the Government led drive to improve 'arrival on scene' statistics, which has seen an increase in the amount of cars, and a subsequent decrease in the number of 'two man trucks'. He then told me of an incident where one of his colleagues arrived at an accident in his paramedics car within the eight minutes response time that the latest Government mandate demands, for a serious head injury, but had to wait over an hour for the desperately needed two man back up ambulance, but this was considered a success under the system, nothing at all to do with the patients survival or not. Hence apparently, it is a success if a one man vehicle gets there on time, (eight minutes), and the patient dies, but a failure if a two man ambulance gets there within twelve minutes, but they save the patient. This is just one more perfect example of why politicians should have absolutely fuck all to do with NHS decisions, on any level. That scumbag Tory in red, BLiar started all this shit with targets, and it has failed at every level to improve anything, (it failed in education, transport, and in the police force too), but still they will lie til they are blue in the face, determined never to admit the obvious.

I've sent three e mails to our MP, Tim Loughton so far, asking him to at least take a look at my brothers situation, all I have had by return so far have been three automated responses to let me know the e mails were recieved. Since it is his party responsible for what is going on at the moment, I can only guess he's hoping I'll just go away, to save him the embarassment of defending the indefensible, good luck with that little forlorn hope. I already view the politician class as more or less the lowest of the low, down there with estate agents, lawyers, investment bankers, and other society parasites, but I was hoping against hope that our representative might buck the trend, and show enough moral fortitude to stand up for one of his constituents, and sort this situation out, not just for my brother, but for all of those innocent, genuine, claimants that are being victimised by this regime. I won't be holding my breath waiting.


One short of the big five oh, and I get to cook me own birthday dinner, quite happily I might add, with the added bonus of nephew Jack being around for the occasion, fresh from his winter season over in the Alps, lucky git, and prior to his summer season in Lesvos, Greece, double lucky git. It was nice to have an even more full table than usual at the Monday Trough. As the big Manchester derby was being shown down at the pub that night, I wandered down after clearing the decks, to witness the unusual sight of a rammed pub on a Monday night. It's nice watching a game when you're a neutral observer, especially the pain the followers go through as they torture themselves for ninety minutes, it's also quite funny to witness so many 'ardent' fans showing loyalty to two clubs based over three hundred miles away, half of whom will doubtless be digging out their Chelsea tops quite soon for the FA cup, and Champions League finals. Apparently, on FA cup final day, the trains won't be running, so nearly half the fans at Wembley will struggle to get home, while the majority should be able to just jump on a bus back to the Home Counties, deciding on the way who they might be supporting next season, depending on how the result goes.

Putting your foot in it

I went along to the funeral of a friends mum this week, Beryl Morrill, with my brother Stig. There's no manual for how to deal with funerals, what to say, or how to act, but you go to pay your respects, and hopefully celebrate a life. It was clear that Beryl left her mark on this world, with a large, close family, and loads of friends in attendance, she was part of one of Shorehams bigger families, and very much a part of the town she grew up in. I was surprised at how many of her family I actually knew quite well, you don't always think about such things, or more likely, I'm a bit on the slow side at certain aspects, and I was in trouble from the off, without even knowing about it. I can't say how, but lets just say I put my foot in it gloriously while drunk, having said something about someone, to her daughter, who promptly told mum, and they were both at the funeral. I had no idea, as I'd been drunk when I said it, so when confronted and told what I'd said,(by the mum!), I was mortified. Thankfully she saw the funny side of it, but I imagine it'll be a while before I'm allowed to forget.

Later on that night, I managed to go one worse. Having gone on to Stigs afterwards, and had far too much to drink on a school night anyway, I wandered home, all suited and booted, only to bump into an old family friend. I said hello as they passed me, but instantly felt ill at ease, not knowing why because of the alcohol, and the questions then asked, slowly buried me. This family friend of many years, who's husband is currently battling cancer, asks where I've been, dressed so smart, as the words started coming out of my mouth, it was dawning on me the parallels of the situations, but somehow the words kept tumbling out, digging an ever deeper hole, until I finally managed to stop myself from blathering on, explaining that I shouldn't talk when this drunk, wishing that the ground would swallow me up. The shame I felt I cannot express, but really, just the worst possible luck, timing, whatever, if that was one moment in time I could change, I'd do it in a heart beat. Ever the fool, doubly so after a skinful.


A Taxing Time

It's that time of year again, when the Inland Revenue remind us all just exactly who we work for in reality, and with the Self Assessment forms, we can now mug ourselves on their behalf, although I forego that form filling joy and have proper accountants deal with my meagre earnings accounts. Last year was a shocker, so I doubt I'll have too big a bill, however, this year has started well, for which I'll be made to pay next time around. The bit that winds me up most though, is that they get to charge me in advance for the following years tax, for wages I am yet to earn, how the hell did that ever become legal?, what can possibly justify demanding payment of duty for earnings I may not even get. It's no more than an interest free loan to the Government, except the word, 'loan', implies that it was given by choice, and no choice is offered in this situation, in fact, if you don't pay up on time, they will actually start charging interest on the loan they're demanding from you. What a fantastic business that would be eh!, demand interest free loans from people, then charge them interest for every day they don't lend you the money, win win situation. And these pieces of work that implemented this situation are meant to be working for us, representatives of the people, makes me want to spit.

Eggs n Omelettes

At work things have been a little damp recently, almost as soon as the drought warnings and hose pipe bans were in place, the heavens opened and turned it into the wettest drought in the history of weather reports, still not enough to stop the hosepipe ban mind you. Unfortunately the torrents of wet stuff had an impact on our job, but only in as much as the customer discovered some damp stained cushions, I struggled to get interested in a few stained cushions, we are after all near the end of a potentially, forty thousand pound job, which will have come in at around just over thirty grand. On top of that, we traced the probable cause of the leak to the original front dormer, which at the clients request, we stripped and added four inches on top so that it would match the new dormer more closely. On the day that the roofers were given the go ahead to re weather this flat roof, it pelted down not long after we'd had it stripped, rainwater firing in through our tarps, and from the evidence of the cushions, down into the bay window below. The damage is nothing more than stains, and quite frankly not even worth mentioning, until it was brought to our attention with a long distraught face, and tears, as if, A:- it may be our fault in some way, or B:- like there might be something we could do about it, answer being no on both scores. It was the client that gave the roofers the nod to do that particular job, and against my advice to do it on that day, as bad weather had been forecast for the afternoon, (it came earlier than that, and slashed it down torrentially for a while), but nonetheless it all got done and weathered back in that day. The most important thing to consider when having building work is this, 'you can't make an omelette with out breaking an egg', and if one of your biggest problems on a forty grand job is a few stained cushions, well that'll do me fine.

Bunged it in

Me and Tim tidied site yesterday, (Thursday), having gone as far as we can for now, but near the end of the seventh week. The plumbers were in to hook up the radiators, and an interesting story unfolded as we chatted while working. It turns out that Tims ex employer, (I'll call him DJ for the sake of this blog), had put the plumber, (Rick), forward to one of his clients for a heating job, and demanded that Rick put on a 'bung' of nineteen hundred quid cash on top of his price, to be given to DJ when the customer shelled out. Tim mentioned that DJ still owed over four hundred quid to Mark, who also used to work for DJ, and that DJ would soon be upping roots and moving away, so how about Rick paying Mark off with some of that bung, after all, what could DJ do about it? I begged Rick to just give Mark his amount and give DJ nothing at all, I've heard plenty about this bloke, and he's nothing more than a professional bullshitter, a thieving scumbag that shouldn't be allowed to be in business. He's one of those idiots that believes his employees should be grateful to him for their jobs, even though he pays minimum wage while robbing his customers blind. One of his ex employess, Justin, had originally been his partner, using his own house as equity for the business, over a period of time, DJ eventually fleeced him of everything, turning him from partner to employee, often having the absolute nerve to tell Justin that, as his boss, he was paying his rent for him, (as Justin had since lost the house).

I worked for him a couple of years back, just for a week, doing a roof for him, and I've never come across such incredible ineptitude, workwise, the bloke is a moron, but one of those morons that wants to jump on the tools for a bit, then lord it up at the bar later, telling everyone how much he knows, and how he's a hands on boss. The reality is that he should never be let near any tools, his only strength is in the area of bullshit, he detects, or even induces, gullibility in others, then uses that gullibility to fleece them, with a smile. Rick has agreed to pay Mark out of the bung money, but I really hope he decides not to give DJ any of it, the job was only for 4000 on Ricks original price, so he had to re write it for 5,900 to accomodate DJ's bung, these customers only used Rick because they believed DJ to be such a loyal, reliable businessman, and it was on his advice they used Rick because of that erroneous belief. For me, the most staggering thing of all, was listening to how he talked to the lads at work, unbelievably rude, I just couldn't believe how he hadn't been decked by anyone yet, just the thought of scumbags like him makes me bristle. He's one of a type of boss that believe the company can't do without him, when the reality is that he's the one person they really could do without, and in my experience, there are plenty of his sort about.

Over Budget

On the home front, I see the proposed new Footbridge has been put on hold owing to spiralling costs, sounds like a familiar theme, think Millenium Dome, or the Olympics, to name but two projects that suddenly went way over budget after the original tender had been accepted. Bit like an ethic free builder, get in with a low price, then nail them with extras once your foot is in the door. Personally I'll be quite happy not to see the current Footbridge go, it's only eight years away from its centenary year, and I'll bet pounds to a pinch of salt it could be made to last another hundred years for a lot less than the 5.2 million and rising, cost of this so called, 'Jubilee Bridge' they want to replace it with. But hey, that's just my opinion.

The Garden Predators

We've always attracted visitors of the feline variety to our garden, mainly because of the well stocked pond full of Goldfish, but also because of the copious amounts of bird feeders we have dotted all over. Recently we've had a new arrival on the block, a light Ginger mog, with a huge bushy tail, and he's a proper character, his every waking moment seems to be spent on the prowl. He continually switches positions around the pond in the vain hope he'll eventually find a way through the pond net to the potential fodder below, or hangs around near the bird feeders for similar reasons. We also have a bright Ginger Tom that visits, 'Cattitude' is our name for him, he stares at you, defying you to do something, or often just makes you jump by landing on the kitchen window sill with a thud, then looking right at you through the window. I saw him miss a bird that had been sitting on our fence last year, only by chance, I'd seen the bird out of the corner of my eye, then heard a slam into the fence, just looking around in time to see Cattitudes paws and head over the fence for a split second, before gravity did its job and he slid back down the other side in true cartoon comedy style. I've never wanted a cat, but I do enjoy watching them when they visit our back garden, always good for a laugh.

Image: Tiles going on and taking shape, five weeks in.

Senior Moments

I was looking forward to a week off last week, but events conspired against me, courtesy of chicken pox and family issues. Tims nippers have both gone down with chicken pox, while his wife, Anna's, Gran is ill in Sweden, meaning he needs to be around to help out, while my week off is postponed for now. The chicken pox seems to be going round like a fury in Shoreham at the mo, so not only do you get minutely descriptive detail of the ravages caused by the disease, but in this age of camera phones, close up shots of the poor little sods pock ridden bodies, some even uploaded to Facebook accounts. The times they are a changing.

The plasterers were in last week, the main reason I was going to have the week off. It's not ideal to be working around the spreads, generally it's best to leave them to it, but not everything had been boarded for them, and they'd already been booked in to start, so with Tim unable to leave his family, and Mark apparently booked in elsewhere, it was left to yours truly to jump in, which I didn't mind at all. The roofing has also been a tad slow, owing to bad weather and Wes not turning up on the good days, which in itself was a bit of a bonus really, as it was a nice peaceful site for the week. Sean, the other roofer, remarked how blissful it was without the constant rattle of Wes drumming into him all day long, I know exactly how he feels, the novelty of roofers banter quickly wears off if you're subjected to it for prolonged periods.

Senior moments

I'd forgotten that I'd been meant to be helping Big Si with his bathroom fit on the Friday, so when I got the call from him asking where I was, I was already virtually on site at my job. He'd been texting and calling me through the week to make sure I hadn't forgotten, each time I'd assured him all would be fine, and I wouldn't forget, which of course, I did. Fortunately the two jobs are only half a mile apart, so I dropped off the gear for the plasterer to carry on, made my apologies to the customer, and met up with Si still on time to start on his vanity units. I was with Si in Australia back in 2002 when he made the dicision to ditch his trade of dental technician and take up plumbing, I said at the time he'd make a good plumber after the skills he'd learned in his first job, and such has been the case. But I also told him he would become like all plumbers eventually, and charge more than any other trade can, based on the fact that people get nervous with anything to do with water or gas leaks, and their initial call out rates soon enough become their standard rates across the board. He has long since arrived at this point, and with complete conviction, argues how he is worth 200 a day of anyones money, amusingly enough though, while he tells me I should charge that rate too, (I explain to him I wouldn't get any work if I did), he doesn't expect me to charge him that rate when I work for him. It's funny how people rarely recognise the hypocrisy of their ways. I asked him how much he thought I ought to invoice him for after Fridays job, 150 he said, "what I bill you for when I do your work", which is nonsense, I put him directly on to the client precisely because he charges so much, I can't add anything to that for myself, and I don't want them thinking I did, he then not only bills them at 25 an hour, but goes on to tell me how he was worth it. I make this point not against Si, but plumbers in general, (or at least, a great deal of them), and here's why:-

When someone has a disaster with water or gas, they call out a plumber, expecting to pay over the odds, and this is the 'call out' rate, but sooner or later, a great deal of plumbers then begin to blur the difference between call out, and everyday rates, eventually charging everything at the higher, 'call out' rate. A carpenter will almost never get an emergency call out, so we don't have a call out rate, hence, Emergency Chippy just doesn't trip off the tongue, you never hear it, but Emergency Plumber, you've heard of that, it sounds familiar, and you get charged accordingly. The fact of the matter is, there is far more to learn as a carpenter, it isn't even close, ours is a more skilled trade, but overall, there will rarely be parity in our wages, it isn't just, but that's the way it is and ever will be. I still wouldn't trade jobs though, life isn't all about money. I should also state here and now, that Si is actually a shit hot plumber, and the only one that I use, I've had this discussion with him many times, either at work, or in the pub, as we are also best mates, so working together is always a laugh.

Tommy's epic voyage

What can I say about this lad, he has just become the youngest person to row the Atlantic single handed, taking 82 days to do it. I've been following him through his blogs from the beginning, finally crossing the finishing line on Thursday 12th April, you can copy and paste this link to find out more, maybe read some of his blogs:- http://www.soloatlanticrow2011.co.uk/ It's been a simply amazing effort, especially when you consider he'd never really been out to sea proper until he crossed the channel with us on the Devils Advocate last year on the St Valerie rally. He did the whole thing to raise money for MIND, a mental health charity, having to overcome his own mental challenges no doubt as he spent all that time alone crossing the Atlantic.

The Albion

All too soon the season is virtually over, playing the last home game against Birmingham yesterday, a one all affair which on another day Brighton might have won quite comfortably, but the ball just wouldn't get in the back of the net. The Birmingham fans brightened the day up with loads of them turning up in fancy dress, super heroes, and Arab Sheikhs seemingly the main themes, adding to a colourful end of season match. We went up to the Swan Inn in Falmer before the game, where they have embraced this first season with a shrewd business sense, putting up marquees to accomodate the match day drinkers. I remarked how odd it seemed that it was the Landlord of this pub that had been so against the building of the Amex stadium here in the first place, only to be told that he had actually passed away, leaving the pub to his staff, and they had promptly decided to make the most of this Golden Goose situation and make a killing out of the huge upturn in business that the football supporters would bring. I can't help but wonder whether he'd have left it to them if he'd known what they were going to do, but then, 'business is business, my life already'.

Hit Stats

The company that runs this website for me, recently changed servers, apparently to get a faster something or other, unfortunately it has caused a few problems on the way, one of which was the site statistics, leaving me blind for a while as to what wolf-e-boy.com's viewing figures were. Having hit a high of 35,000 hits for last month, I didn't really want something like this happening just when the site was enjoying such an upsurge in hits and visits, but I am told this is the price of progress, so I can't say with any accuracy how the site is doing right now, although I am informed the figures will remain unaffected, I just don't have access to them properly yet. With the huge rise last month, I guess the two of you must be showing it to friends, so thanks for that, and keep up the good work.

Next Time

In the next blog I'll be mentioning Demelzas Tea Party again, a young upcoming local band that play a bouncy, energetic, version of Ska, and have recently been endorsed by none other than Pauline Black, lead singer of that well known Ska band from the eighties, Selector. I'll also update things on the Shoreham Fort Restoration project, so much has gone on there since I last blogged about it, all of it good too. Not forgetting the Rampion wind farm that is about to be located off our shores here, eight miles off to be precise. Opinions are divided, many think it's a great idea, many think the opposite, I'm waiting to see more veidence on the issue, but I'm definitely sceptical of any big business that tries to keep things quiet, and there's plenty of evidence pointing to just that. Watch this space.



Happy Days

Work has been shifting along at the job, roofers in and creating all sorts of mirth and mayhem, they're a breed apart, or at least this lot are. I always get the same abuse from Wes, the same short joke retold in the three different ways he knows, Yoda, Wee Man, or Dwarf, generally I ignore anything he says which begins with any of those appellations, in the forlorn hope he'll let it drop. They're a bit like the old comedians that had their acts found out with the advent of television, having only needed one act which they could repeat night after night to a different audience, along came television and after one show the whole country knew the routine, so they either got new material or disappeared into oblivion. For most people, they see these boys and it's hilarious, for us that see them regularly, we know their routine inside out, it's only fun when there's someone that hasn't met them before, and you get to see the combined look of horror, and hilarity as they take in the brutal madness of the roofers conversations, mainly about their relationships, and more often than not, just plain abusing each other, competing to see who can get the most creative with the abuse. Once you've witnessed them in action a few times, the only thing that changes is the manner of telling.

It's always a good sign that the roofers are in though, it means you're virtually past the worrying stage, once you're weathered properly there isn't much left that can go wrong. The Building Inspector came in to check off the insulation stage, allowing us to get on with the plaster boarding, and cheerily informs us that the guidelines for insulation are all going up by 30% next year, "you must be joking", I told him, these places are so well insulated under current guidelines that you don't even need heating once we're done, so now we won't be able to build dormer walls out of 4x2 because there won't be enough depth to get the thicker insulation in, absolute madness. Then he tells us that we're lagging behind, (pun intended), Norway and Sweden with our insulation, I should bloody well hope so, it's a lot fuckin' colder there. Tim joked, "what about Barbados?, they must be well behind on their thermal values". I wonder if anyone takes into account the extra timber now required, as well as the extra insulation, these things need manufacturing, doubtless using up fossil fuels in the process, as well as in the transport, not to mention the added work load on construction as a result, also increasing the price to the customer for labour and materials. Sounds like another scam to me.

I was supposed to go out for our pool team end of season meal on Friday, but the after worker beers did for me before it even got started. We were pipped at the post by one point in the end, owing mainly to the fact that the team we were chasing didn't even have to play their last game, because their opposition didn't turn up. You can call it sour grapes if you like, but they were also gifted maximum points for another game by virtue of a double header which they won 5-0 against the bottom team, so they had 12 points in the league for two games they didn't have to play, and still just beat us by the one point at the end of the season. We go up as runners up, but I can't imagine they can really believe they properly earned the Division title. We did however finish on a humorous note, one of the team got a bit leathered on our last game, and that night, his girlfriend was woken by what she thought was running water, only to find when she turned the light on, that he was taking a wazz in the bedroom. He compounded this unfortunate error of ways, by then telling another team member, who happily broadcast the whole thing to the rest of the English speaking world. As a result, we hatched a plan, as his birthday was coming up, to get him a present for the end of season meal, a pack of incontinence pants, all nicely wrapped up. I'm so gutted I missed out on that presentation.

Sunday sailing on the Devil resumed this weekend, with the Brighton Marathon going on at the harbour too, and what a peach of a day for racing it was. We had a crew of seven, Squire, myself, and brothers, David, and Stig, also joined by Bunny, Pete, another Dave, and young Ben, just about spot on really, not too few or too many. I delegated myself as Galley Bitch early on, brewing up for the crew while the others prepped the boat for the action ahead. The wind had seemed mild at least while in the harbour basin, but once outside it became apparent that things were gong to be lively, and so it proved, with most of the boats putting a tuck or two in their mainsails to reduce the windage. We didn't get off to the greatest of starts, crossing the line around the rear of the pack, but the Devil was soon picking up speed and tramping along well enough to bring us up to 2nd place by the first (East)mark. At this time it became apparent to us that Bombadier was struggling with the power of wind in its sails, nearly on its ear a couple of times, but it wouldn't be long before we were too far ahead of them to know how they were doing, only worthy of mention because they've been spanking us lately, so it was nice to see the tables turned. From the East mark up to number Three, the Devil really started pulling away, apart from Catch 22, who had the Gary up, but they also have very expensive looking cloth for sails on their tub, proper racing kit, though even they fell away eventually, leaving David to be master of our destiny from the helm. He did his rep no harm with his next decision, calling for an earlyish tack down to the West mark, while we looked on at the three behind us holding out for much longer before they decided to chuck one in themselves, we came to within spitting distance of the West mark, but giving us enough of a run to hit it at pace as we rounded the mark, easing the sails out to head up to the number Six mark, a comfortable distance first by now, the tack was a master stroke, entirely vindicated by our position and the extra distance added between us and the chasing pack.

Bunny had started putting his stop watch on the marks to see how far in front we were, two and a half minutes by the West mark, which increased to five minutes by the Six mark, we needed binoculars to see the rest properly by then, uncharted territory for us lot. It needs saying at this point, we were having a great time out there, and we knew this was a special day for the Devil, and whoever was on board would be glad they hadn't missed it. As we were coming back to the West mark from number Three, we could see Moonlight Saunter, Highland Daughter, and Catch22, all round the Three mark bunched together, wondering whether we may in fact be far enough in front to actually get a position after handicaps are applied. The other thing that was occurring to me, was that it was all going to be over too soon, this was one sail you didn't want to end, the conditions suited the Devil just about perfectly, along with a very able piece of helming by David, and hardly a mistake by the crew. Enjoyable as it was to finish so far ahead, it was also a shame that it was over, Moonlight Saunter managed second place, eight minutes behind us, with Highland Daughter third, and Catch22 fourth, with only seconds seperating them, but all of them comfortably ahead of us by handicap as usual.

There were lots of great photo ops out there, with the fleet heeling over on their ears quite a bit of the time, although as I gleefully pointed out to the Bombadier crew, it wasn't until we were nearly lapping them that we were close enough to get a picture of their tub. The chance for such barbs will be as rare as rocking horse shit, so you have to make the most of your opportunities. The drama wasn't quite over though, as we came in to the harbour, it transpired that we may struggle to get over the bar into the locks because of the low tide, scraping over it by the skin of the keel with the entire crew stood on the transom to help, behind David at the wheel, we could feel it grounding as he gently steered the Devil in, otherwise we would have had to wait another four hours before the tide would be high enough again. Tea and pasties rarely tasted as good as they did then!


Back to Reality

Like many Shoreham-ites, I'm always keen to promote all things Shoreham-wise, so last night I had the pleasure to be entertained at the Waterside, along with a healthy sized audience, by Demelza's Tea Party, a local band comprising of four girls and a lad, Flossie as lead singer, Callum on lead guitar, Rooney and Beckie on bass, plus Gabi on drums. I first saw them play last Summer at the Beach Dreams Festival, and they were one of the two best bands over the weekend, playing their own style of Ska music, very energetic, great melodies, and decent lyrics, basically they're very good, especially live. Since then they've been head hunted to sing on an album called, 'Specialised', which is a covers album of The Specials songs, with all proceeds going to charity, they've also had some good stuff said about them by Pauline Black of the band Selecter, another big name from the world of Ska back in the eighties, so far, so good.

Although they played Night Klub, their Specials cover, I still much prefer to hear them sing their own stuff, and Know Your World is probably my favourite of their tunes so far, you can copy and paste this link to hear it on Youtube:- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPX7ysfSuQ0&feature=related If you like that, then get Googling and check em out!! I think with a bit of backing and a decent manager they should do well, certainly better than a great deal of what gets air time these days.

Today it was back to reality with work, but with a bit of a thick head after the previous evening watching Demelza's, on top of that my phone died at the weekend, so I currently have a Blackberry to tide me over, although I'm not sure how long it will last, I'm not a fan, I struggle just to unlock the bloody thing. I've had heaps of missed calls and messages because I can't open it at the time, and such things tend to put my temper on red alert, followed by a breakage normally. With the phone already getting me off to a bad start, and the foggy head from the night before, it wasn't going to take much to tip the scales, so a roof full of people, (the plumbers are on site today, three of them and four of us), and celotex dust everywhere, was enough for me, so I left them to it. I figured tomorrow would have to be a better day, and a nice easy day today would sort me out for the rest of the week, hmmmm.

I'd told Tim I thought I'd check the garage at home for some 50mm celotex, as we were just the one sheet short, unfortunately when I opened up the garage door, it promptly fell to pieces, finally giving up the ghost. So my idea of leaving stress behind didn't really pan out too well, it's clearly got its sights set on me. With the aid of a crowbar, I've managed to jam it shut in the hole for the time being, if I try to fix anything at the minute, I'll just end up creating more work, turning myself into a combustible stress bomb. Best thing to do I figured, is to sit here and type up me grumbles while the stress dissipates.

Tonight I'll be along at the Amex to see Brighton play Reading, hoping they can get a result against the form team in the Division. Steering clear of beer to make sure the old grey matter isn't foggy tomorrow, and with this being a short week already, I think we should be on course to finish the conversion within a couple of weeks, then see about getting started on the next one.

Meanwhile, Tommy Tippetts is homing in on Barbados quite quickly now, as of today his last Tweet said he was just 89 miles away from Port St Charles on day 80 of his epic quest, an absolutely amazing achievement. I believe he will be the youngest rower ever to have rowed the Atlantic single handed, making it all the more remarkable. Google Tommy, or SoloAtlanticRow, to find out more, and maybe even donate to his cause, or just say hi and well done, which I bet he is after all those hours under the current bunshine.



Wrong Again

Following yet another glorious weekends sailing aboard the Devils Advocate, and despite the politicians trying to douse the flames of optimism which Spring is doing its best to encourage, this year continues to hint at positivity, I think it's fair to call it a good start so far. The weekend nearly fell at the first hurdle mind you, with a phone call letting me know the steel firm had dropped off our cranked steel on site, at 4.45 on Friday afternoon, unannounced, and on top of that, the guys that delivered the beam thought in their infinite wisdom to warn the customers not to leave it in view on their driveway. I got this call from Tim, (he'd been called by his Aunt, our customer, to bemoan the fact, and, 'what should they do?'), at a little round my third pint of Guinness, which while being too late to mar the taste, at least had the effect of spoiling the late afternoon ambience created by the beer and sunshine, so the following comment of, "can we get up there tomorrow, (Saturday), to move it", looked destined to ruin what would be left of my end of week after workers, and I'm not getting paid enough for that, so a swift, "no", sorted that little situation out. Normally I'll fold in such situ's, but with a few Guinni down me neck my resolve was stiffened, the situation was not of my making, no blame can come my way, and they are two intelligent people, they ought to be able to work something out, which they did apparently, parking their car in front of the steel, job done.

Having been informed by the weather oracles in the various media that it would be a cold weekend after the scorching week, it was a pleasant surprise to wake up on Sunday to find that they had all been collectively wrong once more, and the Devil would enjoy its third Sunday on the trot in near perfect conditions, although just a little more breeze wouldn have been nice. In contrast to the last two races, where we had four and five aboard respectively, this week the Devil was awash with crew, ten all told, so I quickly designated myself as 'Galley Bitch', keen to be out of the confusion that can reign in an over populated cockpit, in the early stages at least. Bunny had brought Hot Cross Buns with him, so they were first on the go after our initial brew of tea, drawing comment from one of our new crew members, Dave Mugridge, "I'm not used to this treatment", the Devil is after all a social boat, we're there to enjoy ourselves as well as race. Soon Bunny was recounting the time last season, when we had cups of tea coming up just as the start gun was fired in one race, when Del was at the helm, Dels words at the time being, "that's the first time I've had a cuppa while crossing the start line", said with a smile on his face, the point being that we're no ordinary boat, we may not win, well, anything actually, but we have a laugh.

Once again it was a duel between ourselves and Catch 22 for most of the race, and with the wind direction seemingly changing at will, the spinnaker was in and out of the bag like a yo yo, getting prepared, then as the wind changed, bagged back up again, others behind us were having similar difficulties, often with the Gary already up, making for some messy sights of giant bras hanging in the breeze. Because of the lack of wind, Dougie at Race Control called a shortened course, finishing on the West mark, little did he know what fun he gave rise to aboard the Devil. Squire wrote down what he heard, I remembered it, but what we thought we knew, and the reality of the instructions, turned out to be two different things, the upshot being that David, thankfully, ignored mine and Squires protestations, and took the course that made sense to him, and also proved to be the correct decision. At this point, believing myself to be right based on the radio information received, and backed up by Squires written confirmation of that instruction, I was a bit like a dog playing tug of war with its leash, I wasn't letting it go, oh fool of a boy!! So the louder my argument, the deeper I was digging myself into a hole. Many of the crew recognised this situation, two of us brothers disagreeing is not that unusual, and to them, quite entertaining, if only an alter ego could tap me on the shoulder in these situations to let me know to stop, but in fairness, when I'm in that annoying mood of believing without doubt that I'm right, it's unlikely I'd take any notice, can't help myself.

Regardless of all that, we crossed the line in first for the second week on the trot, with me dragging the argument all the way back to the jetty as we moored up, only finally finding out later at the bar, that David had indeed been right, although Dougie did tell them they were all wrong as it was April Fools day, but I couldn't carry it through and held my hands up. It was another great day out on the water, and a pukka afternoon for a drink outside afterwards, so that helped assuage my wounded pride, or more accurately, my wounded sanity, as it's these kind of things that make me question it. And as if to punctuate that last comment, I've just realised I hadn't put the clock forward on the fekkin cooker, so tonights Trough roast is an hour behind. Gibber gibber, Alzheimers here I come!


Rock on Tommy

It seems fitting that this blog should incorporate two marine based items, firstly, us getting line honours last week aboard the Devil on Ma n Pa's 54th Daffodyl anniversary week, and secondly, Tommy Tippetts, the amazing individual that is currently homing in on Barbados in his rowing boat, who shares his birthday with that Daffodyl anniversary, he obliged me by giving the aged P's a mention in his latest blog, I shall now return the favour by doubling my donation to the cause he is rowing the Atlantic single handed for, MIND, a mental health charity.

Last Sunday was another gorgeous day of bright sunshine, and although a bit more breeze would have been nice, the conditions were about as good as it gets for having fun on the water. There was still confusion regarding the mystery of the number four mark, the Ambex buoy, it simply wasn't there, we found out later that it is in fact back at the yacht club now, waiting to be relocated. We had a new crew member for the day, Dave Lamb, and a very humorous addition he turned out to be, and a quick learner it would appear, also our resident pilot, John, was back in the fold for the day, along with myself, Squire, David, and Ant.

After a good start across the line, we were soon leading the pack, always a nice feeling, but were taken at the number three mark by Catch 22 in what would be a nip and tuck battle throughout the race, while Kingfisher, Bombadier, and Highland daughter would be left to fight over the scraps behind us. I'd said quite early on that the light winds were likely to result in a shortened course, and so it proved to be, so instead of a sausage and two triangles, the course was cut to just the one triangle after the sausage, (for any of you non yachties, they're just the shapes created on our charts when you draw out the course). Despite the lack of experience on board, David decided to give the Gary a go on one of the spinnaker runs, and although we had an issue or two, she went up, and did the job, much to the delight of Mr Lamb, his wife races on board Bombadier, and he was most keen to show them a clean pair of heels, so you can imagine his euphoria when we eventually pipped Catch 22 for line honours, with Bombadier in the distance behind us, little things eh?. Of course we were only victorious as far as crossing the line first is concerned, the handicaps would drag us kicking and screaming back to second last, but we don't care about that, especially as we'd need a time machine to have any realistic chance of winning after handicaps are applied. After a great afternoon sailing, you can't quite beat a sup at the bar, and doubly so when celebrating Ma and Pa's 54th Daffodyl wedding anniversary, (it would be on the Monday, but close enough!), rounding off a great day in the fading sun.

Tommy Tippetts, what can I say about this man?, adjectives and superlatives abound I'm sure, but basically, he's a 23 year old bloke that got asked by a mate if he'd consider rowing the Atlantic with said mate, except when the time came, Tommy had decided he wanted to do it on his own, and set about finding out everything he needed to know, organising sponsors, suppliers, logistics, and a myriad of other details required for such a mammoth undertaking. By some quirk of luck Tommy joined us aboard the Devil last year, for a channel crossing to St Valery, along with myself, Squire, David, Stig, and Nigel, a friend of Tommy's. It has to be said, Tommy stirkes you straight off as an assured young man, while remarkably polite and affable, and bit by bit during that weekend, we came to know of his quest to row the Atlantic single handed. It wasn't easy to really comprehend such an endeavour, but I do remember thinking that if anyone could do it, this guy probably could, there's no bluster about him, he talks to you with belief in his voice, and as I've followed his blogs during his epic adventure, I can recall some of the things he was telling us that he'd have to overcome as he rowed that great expense of water, mainly the mental side of things, how to deal with being on your own in a little boat for possibly a hundred days or more, his latest blog was at day 67, with less than 500 miles to go, a monumental achievment already. I'd like to ask any of you reading this now, to check him out here,:- http://www.soloatlanticrow2011.co.uk/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=59&Itemid=15 (copy and paste the link), say hello, and perhaps even donate through his donations page. I can't speak highly enough of the lad, I know we've all been glad to have met him.

Workwise, the job in Worthing has moved along nicely, and the weather has been amazing for March, blistering sunshine throughout. We're setting out the studwork now, having constructed all the roof shapes, with just the plumbers to wait on before we can get the floor laid then finish all the walls, all within eighteen working days so far, so I would hope the clients are happy, they certainly seem to be, most of the time at least. I've always said that jobs would be so much better if you could just do away with the customers, not in a Tony Soprano kind of way mind you, but when they project their stress on to you it can be very disheartening, especially as their stress is usually caused by a general lack of knowledge regarding building procedures, (most people don't have the top of their roof scooped out and rebuilt too many times), but we have to try and remain tolerant of their misunderstandings nonetheless. The second half of the week has had us all commenting on the lemmings at the petrol stations during our tea breaks, mainly because it's been impacting on us in varying ways, either by holding up the traffic as these muppets queue to drain yet another petrol station dry, or as they hold us up while we try and get our morning sarnies and kick starting Costa coffee. I believe there is as much sense talked during our tea breaks as you'll ever hear from a politicians mouth, more probably, basically none of us trust any of them, some even citing this panic situation as being orchestrated by the Government to get money in the cash registers to boost the economy. You'd have to say, if that was their ploy, then it was one of their more successful schemes, but perhaps someone should drag Cameron aside and explain the meaning of the term, 'self fulfilling prophecy'.

Fridays 'after workers' at the Waterside ended up with me going back to my brothers place for an assault on my innards by 'Dark and Stormies', a vicious but tasty mix of Rum and ginger beer, resulting in my lack of desire today to see another drink for a while. Football up at the Amex looked as if it wasn't going to happen as a result, but thankfully I made it to see a pretty good game against some top opposition, Middlesborough, looks like we're in for a ding dong of a fight for the play offs, not too shabby for our first season at our new stadium. Tomorrow we're back out on the Devil, so keep your fingers crossed for us, report to follow.


Image: We are the Bridge, we are the Bridge, we are, we are, we are the bridge!! :)))



I don't think I've ever mentioned the pool team in a blog before, so it's probably overdue, especially considering the fact that we are currently back as a team, and hot on the heels of the division leaders with just one game to go, but it goes back a long way so I'll give you a brief summary first, then drag you back to about 1983 at the Bridge pub in the High street, Shoreham. A couple of years ago I decided it might be nice to catch up with some old friends, the Bridge Buccaneers, a motley crew of friends that came together as the result of the Bridge pub pool teams back in the Eighties, so I arranged a reunion at the Waterside and between twenty or thirty showed up, including our legendary Landlord from back then, Ron Priest, and his daughter, Rhona, who used to work behind the bar, and tantalise us testosterone fuelled young lads with her looks. The night was a great success, with most of us declaring we shouldn't leave it so long until the next time, and the original A team actually expressed their interest in getting the mob back together again, since that moment two years ago now, we've won our winter and summer division titles, and are currently just one point behind the division 3 leaders, with just one game left to play, and Alfie leads the player averages for the division too, just like old times. We were ten points adrift in third place a few weeks back, but have since beaten the team above us, and won our last two games 5-0 to claim the maximum six points, to close in to within one point of the top team, the Marquis of Granby. On the fifth of April we play the Farmers at home in the last game of the season, so we'll try to get maximum points there, and hope for a slip up from the Marquis, but either way we should be going up for the second season on the trot, it would appear none of us has lost the will to win!

We used to have two teams back in those early days, with Alfie Ashe running everything, as well as teaching us all how to play the safety game, and in my case, literally teaching me how to play, right down to cueing properly. We started off playing friendlies, which were memorable for so many reasons, such as the Landlords trying to outdo each other with the spreads of food they put out for us, full on schmorgesborgs of culinary delights, so we never went hungry on pool nights, but probably the defining night in those embryonic times, was the friendly away game to the Thieves Kitchen in Worthing, we turned up with a big crowd of supporters, and they had gone to the effort of making a huge flag, with the main logo being, 'Bridge Buccaneers', and under it they wrote 'Theives Eat Logs', that mispelling is not an accident, they mispelt it on the flag, bloody hilarious. It was a big rockabilly lad called Phil, or Ox as he was known to his other rockabilly mates, that brought the flag, and the vociferous support they gave us that night set a precedent, which would eventually culminate in a coach load going to support us in our first finals night, (up at the Cissbury Hotel in Findon, which is now a set of retirement apartments), at the end of our first season. We had been entered in to the second division, which we went on to win first time around, we also got to the final of the League knockout cup and won that too, with our raucous support bringing condemnation from Harry, the man that ran the league, telling us, "it's not a football match so keep the bloody noise down", over the tannoy. At this, our priceless Landlord, Ron, comes over, having driven to the game in his white Rolls Royce, dressed finely in his whistle n flute, adressing us in his overtly posh accent, "Listen here boys and girls, raaah, you've heard what the man said, raaah, (bit of a pause here as he surveys us all), so as long as you're winning, raaah, make as much bloody noise as you like!", to which we all cheered loudly enough to wake the dead, followed by a rousing chant of "Buccaneers".

Alfie had originally arrived at the Bridge with his girlfiend, Collette, the daughter of the Landlord, Eric, at the time. Alfie came from Chatham in Kent, he was a welder there, but moved along the coast with Collette and worked as a barman at the pub, from there he set about turning us lot into proper pool players. He had been Kent pool, and billiards Champions, already with pot fulls of trophies, so it didn't take us long to realise he was some distance better than anyone we'd ever come across, but it was only really after Eric and Maxine left the pub, and Ron and Jean came in and took over, that the Buccaneers legend began. Ron was a larger than life Landlord, and we loved him to bits for it, from taking us to away games in his white Roller, to spoofing at the bar, late night pool lock ins, a Buccaneers bath tub team for the Adur Bath Tub race, and a tug of war team, all with T shirts emblazoned with 'Bridge Buccaneers' over a skull and crossbones, I had mine for so long, I was gutted when I eventually realised I'd lost it years later. Ron was an ex insurance salesman, or something like that, and he had the pub walls plastered with motivational posters such as, 'P.M.A', - Positive Mental Attitude, or 'ACT', and 'Do It Now', even these days we fondly recall Ron, and mimic his posh voice with a rendition of, "P.M.A", followed by a, "raaah", he was, and still is, a legend. He was also reponsible for introducing the first video juke box in Shoreham, so we got to see the likes of U2's, 'Sunday Bloody Sunday', from their album 'Under a blood red sky', and Pat Benetars, 'Love is a battlefield', at the Bridge, which are two that stick in my memory from that time.

Although Eric and Maxine had moved on, Collette and Alfie stayed, otherwise that entire history of the Buccaneer pool team would probably never have happened, or at least it would definitely have been a very different history, thankfully they did stay. And with the combination of Alfies expertise at the pool table, Rons extrovert character, Jean's amazing culinary delights regularly served up on pool nights, and an extremely willing mob of pub patrons, the Bridge pool team stormed the Worthing League, decimating all opposition in the process, putting Shoreham firmly on their map, they didn't like us from the off, and we didn't care. I myself was given the dubious accolade of most hated player in the Worthing League, mainly because I was generally hammered, happy, and laughing at our Thursday night successes as they happened, no one likes having their noses rubbed in it, unfortunately, rubbing opposition noses in it was one of our favourite pastimes back then, and my voice just happened to carry further than your average, so I got noticed. We had little sayings, a bit like a code when a game was on, one of them was, "Think Bridge", which basically meant 'tuck em up', or, "there's a horse in the pocket", if a ball failed to drop in the hole, as in, "it's a mustang", or, the 'owl shot', meaning- "two hits to you". Mogadon Mick was nicknamed that because his game would send you to sleep, you didn't want to be refereeing one of his games, especially if he was playing someone like Gary White or Paul Harrocks, who played equally as tedious pool. We may have given the opposition some stick on occasions, but we gave each other far worse when we were practising at the Bridge.

After our first season in the Worthing Tarratt Pool League, 1983/4, we were now up there with the big boys in the top Division, but we hadn't read their script, and promptly set about writing our own, winning it at the first time of asking, and taking the Knockout Cup again in the 1984/85 season. I can't remember exactly which Knockout Cup Final it was, either the finals night of, 83/84, or 84/85, (actually, yes I can now, it was the 84/85 season), but we were 2-1 down having played three, in a best of five match, as they all were, when Alfie found himself at one all in his best of three game, about to lose as this old boy from The Old House at Home prepared to hit a dead straight black ball in the middle pocket, couldn't fail, but he couldn't resist a little dig at our fantastic support that had been roaring us on, much to their annoyance, so he looked up and gave us all the wanker sign before getting down to play his shot, which he then slammed in so hard that the white ball went straight in afterwards, the resulting cheers from us nearly took the roof off, two all and up steps Bondy for the legendary high point for the Bridge Buccaneers. I'd lost my game earlier, (and was reprimanded by team mate Andy Chipperfield for having thrown away a winning chance by taking the wrong ball when I had two shots), but redeemed myself a little by winning the Mixed Doubles Final that same night, with Julia Rawbin, my girlfriend at the time, a very satisfying win against Steve Sullivan and his girlfriend, there was no love lost between us, he also played for The Old House at Home, so when Steve Bond polished off the last game in the cup final, raising his cue to the heavens victoriously in triumph, it meant Sullivan would be going home with two losers trophies, oh how we celebrated, in their faces, on the coach back, and at the Bridge afterwards with champagne, singing, "we are the Bridge, we are the Bridge, we are, we are, we are the Bridge", at the tops of our voices. I know that all may sound a bit brash, but in fairness to us, we really were made to know they didn't like us, by a lot of the teams, basically because they didn't like us winning everything, not because we were unlikeable, (as far as I'm concerned anyway!). We were very much like Millwall supporters back then, "nobody like us, we don't care", it didn't matter, there were so many of us, there aren't too many pool teams that can bring a coach load of supporters to a match after all, and we were all genuine mates, still are in fact, even after all these years. Our B team had won the third division that year too, so with them along to collect their pots, as well as supporting us, we pretty much took the place over.

We won the League again in 85/86, but got knocked out of the cup in the fourth round to the Maltsters, who, along with The Old House at Home, were our biggest rivals. Things were getting a bit serious by then, half the team were now playing representative pool for various associations, notably getting to the finals of the County Super League, narrowly losing to Brighton in the actual Final, which was no disgrace, they had half the Sussex side in their team, and we led 8-6 at one point, eventually going down 11-8. But the times of the Bridge were coming to an end, Ron and Jean had already left, the next couple that took over, Alan and Margo, had to move on after getting caught for fiddling the gas meter, and the pool team moved on to the Lady Jane, which is now the Waterside, where we lost our stranglehold on the top division, coming second in the 86/87 season to another Shoreham outfit, The Crab, our arch rivals by then. In the early days, we'd been the only pub from Shoreham in the league, but Gary White, Paul Harrocks, Trevor Card, and others, made up their own team to rival us in town, and after a few attempts, eventually pipped us. We moved again the following season, to the Ferry, where we regained the title in 87/88, then won it again the following year, which would also be my last year with the boys, it wasn't the same fun it had been at the beginning, and turning up became a chore rather than a pleasure.

Despite parting our ways as a pool team over time, and the length of time that had elapsed since then, when we got together again in 2009, it was just like old times, with a few grey hairs, a few slap heads, and with so many great memories to recall, there was no shortage of conversation, the most popular story to recall would have to be the pool trip to Ostend in Belgium. Each week I would collect a pound off each player during the season, from both the A and the B team players, at the end of the season I organised the trip, and about 14 of us went, it was mayhem from the off. We were playing cards on the train up to London, and from there to Sheerness in Kent, by the time we got to Sheerness I'd already lost all my spending money, but managed to get a loan, get back into the game, and win back all my losses on the boat over to Ostend. Dave the Cue got stitched by Mogadon Mick after winning a big hand, Mick informs him it's tradition for a big hand winner to get a round in, obviously we all played along, lousy bastards, but Mick takes it a step further, Dave had been gullible enough falling for it, but he also handed the money to Mick to get the round, suffice to say he didn't see much change, and Mogadon suddenly had a couple of new packets of fags now too, but no one dropped him in it, so we can all assume equal guilt in a sense. I have another story to help explain Dave the Cues epic gullibility, but I'll save it for now, he wasn't the sharpest for street smarts, let's just put it that way.

We made it to our hotel in Ostend without drama, and were soon out on the town to check out the life. Unbeknown to us at the time, there was a lot of hostility towards any groups of young English lads in Belgium, as a direct result of football violence that had occurred sometime before with Tottenham fans, one of whom had been shot dead during the troubles, so a lot of bars wouldn't serve us, saying they were full, or closing soon. We found a restaurant which would take us, got settled in there, then the games began, first up was Wilf, one of the Bridge students drinkers, he'd taken the challenge to drink the vase water for a tenner, he drunk it, ran to the bogs and promptly threw up, coming back to find he wasn't getting paid, as the rest of us erupted in laughter. Next up we were trying to get old Hound Dog Bondy to neck a cup of assorted table condiments mixed with mustard, he was almost tempted, but made the right move and declined, you'd have to be some kind of mug after witnessing Wilf getting done, to then fall for it yourself, but when you're half cut you just never know.

By now things were moving along a bit, voices raising with the alcohol going down, and an argument started over someone giving the waitress abuse, the resulting row ended up with Alfie, Clarky, and Eddie having to be seperated, Eddie walked off in protest, I still can't remember who started what. As we left the restaurant, heading off to find more bars, me and Mogadon decided to go back to the hotel and drag Eddie back out, we'd meet up later at a bar we agreed on, or so I thought. Eddie had calmed down when we found him, so me him, and Moggie, trekked back to catch up with the others, only to find that the bar name I had remembered, was actually a brewers name, and every second fekkin bar had the name on its sign outside, brilliant. Given the situ, we just wandered in the general direction we thought they might be, until we heard police sirens blaring, so we followed the noise. You can imagine our surprise as we came round a corner to see our mates being rounded up by shit loads of coppers, with German Shepherd dogs straining at the leash, meat wagons everywhere, what the fuck could have happened in such a short space of time? When we tried to ask, the coppers just let their dogs, (which were already up in the air with just the back feet planted as they strained to get at us), a little closer to us, a sign I believe, letting us know it wasn't a time for questions.

I saw Alfie being marched down the road ahead, so I shouted his name, and he spun round, only to get smacked around the head by his police guard, dressed all in black leather, (as they all were), and with a gun in his holster, which we saw him pat with his hand after clouting Alfie, enough said. Wilf, Bondy, Alfie, and Somerset Andy, had all been nicked, soon to be banged up in the meat wagons, and carted off to the police station, where they spent a very unnerving time in blood spattered police cells, this was fucking crazy. Me and Jules Byrne went along to try and find out what had gone on, and if we could bail them out, we were basically informed that we could either join them or make tracks, message received and understood.

I suppose I maybe should feel a little guilty, but me and Jules decided that there was nothing to be done, so let's go and get hammered anyway, which we managed quite well on our own, discovering on our pool trip, that the majority of the bars only have billiard tables, no pockets, and just the two balls, both white, one with a black spot on it. We persevered, played this alien game, got on with the locals, and eventually staggered back to the hotel to discover what had happened earlier. Apparently, one bar after another had refused to serve them, and eventually, Somerset Andy just snapped, walking out of one of these bars, he grabbed the first person he saw, swung him round by his jacket, screaming at him, "why won't any of you fuckers serve us?", at which this guy grabs his jacket and opens it up to reveal a gun and a badge, talk about picking them, Andy had effectively assaulted a plain clothed copper, and with the not so distant football violence still fresh in their memories, the boys got the full treatment.

They were allowed out later, but only after the police had taken their passports, and put them on curfew for the rest of the night. When we left to get our boat home, we managed to miss that too, having to wait for the next one, I think it's safe to say it wasn't quite how we had planned it, but you can't deny it was memorable, much like most of our pool playing days.

Image: The B team show off their trophies too, Div 3 winners


Image: Tim, happy in his work


Glorious Springtime

What an amazing weeks weather for March, perfect time to be working on a roof. After the manic time last week, I was determined to try and make sure the rear dormer pull out wouldn't be quite such a hard day, so preparation would be the key to success, I had prepared well, or so I thought. A dormer is just a box effectively, so shouldn't test the brain quite like a barn end does, but that doesn't mean it'll throw itself up either, so calculations are still required, plans to be made, and then hope you can trust your measurements. You can imagine my dismay when the first thing I started on wasn't going according to plan, I'd set out for the main window, but the measurements weren't working for the window size, and at this juncture I'm wondering if all my prep work may be for nought, was I going mad, about to slide into a blithering mess, sweating and raving like a lunatic, certainly cursing myself, asking myself if this is what early Alzheimers is like. Fortunately for me, Tim and Mark are more than used to stress situations from their lease holder and rental work, where they are continually up against it, either by time constraints, or dwelling disasters, so a measurement being slightly out doesn't even begin to faze them, and their calmness is contageous, with two nails cut through with the saber saw, we were on track again, and all the measurements for the rest of the day were spot on.

It was the first time I've built a dormer on top of another dormer, a decision I made to make sure we got it all done in a day, figuring we could dismantle the existing one from inside the next day, without any pressure. As it was, the roofers turned up at precisely the moment we were wondering if they'd be there at all, and thinking we might be in for an extra long day if we had to do the weathering ourselves too. Thankfully, Wes and the boys came on site just after 4p.m, and got straight into it, myself and Tim exchanged smiles of relief that the cavalry had arrived, because that really is how it feels sometimes, a dormer day is a big day, without too much room for things going wrong, having a team of roofers on your side, even for just an hour or so at the end, can make such a difference, and did. As always with these boys, it's banter from the off, I'm, 'Wee Man', to Wes, but he also tries to con me into thinking others have conjured up new insults for me, generally as a vehicle for his own latest forms of abuse that he either, has been waiting for some time to unleash on me, or just threw itself into that sordid void between his ears at that moment, his latest jibe was to tell me his boss, Mark, had referred to me as the, 'White Dwarf', not one of his (Wes's) better insults. Wes though, is surprisingly easy to wind up, I only have to mention how alike he is to his dad and he's off, he really doesn't like that, but I resist the urge on the whole, preferring our banter to be of the enjoyably comical variety, not to put a scowl on his face, you save the nasty stuff for when they overstep the mark.

The day after a big day is always planned as a recovery day, like a bonus for having put in a hard shift the day before, unfortunately Tim and Mark weren't able to take advantage of the easy day, Mark, because of yet another pressing refurb for one of their clients, and Tim because of family illness at home, with babies throwing up all over the place, and his wife, Anna in the same boat. So as it turned out, it was just myself and Matt, the labourer, that got the relax day, and as it was Friday too, the after worker drink to look forward to, although in the end it was just me from the dormer/roof team there, joined by the sparks, Steve, sitting outside the Waterside pub in the still glorious sunshine in the early evening, always the best tasting pint you'll have.

I'd been buzzing all day Friday, mainly because our pool team had run out 5-0 winners the night before, away to the Lancing Legion, and are now just one point behind the division leaders, the Marquis of Granby, with myself playing better than I think I may ever have, clearing the table at one visit in the first game, and not taking much longer in the second, it's a nice feeling when it all comes together like that, you feel as if you can see everything, but without consciously thinking about it, so just for a moment, you're as good at something as you've ever been in your life, at the top of your game, and you want to savour the memory. I said afterwards that I thought someone may have taken over my body for the game, and whoever it was is welcome back the next time I play. I was dying to tell someone about it, but there's no point really, how do you describe a game of pool and make it interesting, you can't, it's a visual thing, but I can tell you two here that it made me feel pretty good for a bit, at least while I can still remember some of the shots before they're consigned to the recycle bin in my head. One bloke that was watching even came up to me after the game and shook my hand, I should have asked him to write out a witness statement. So there you have it, such little things that can make me happy. I'm in the process of trying to do a write up explaining the beginnings of the pool team, intending to be finished over the weekend, so I hope you'll both enjoy that when its done.

Tomorrow we're out sailing on the Devil again, and it's also Ma and Pa's Daffodyl 54th wedding anniversary, so I imagine we'll have a few slurps along at the Sussex Yacht Club afterwards. They call it their Daffodyl anniversary because they were married at a registry office on that date, picking Daffodyls from a local park beforehand, the wedding proper came along on May23rd 1958, so they celebrate both, Squire bless him has already snuck out to get a card and pressie.

That's it for now, hope I haven't bored either of you, next time, 'The Buccaneer Years', the story of a pool team and its legendary Landlord, Ron.

Image: The Devil at sea, courtesy of Hazel on Bombadier


The Devil's back

After last weeks exertions working on the loft conversion, it was nice to get back out on the water again aboard the Devils Advocate, and despite all the weather forecasters dooming and glooming, it was a gorgeous day for sailing, with sunshine, a decent breeze, and a good turnout for the second race of the 2012 Spring series. We were a little short handed, with just the four of us on deck, David at the helm, Bunny, Dean, and myself, as crew, and Squire below at the nav table plotting our course, but somehow it all worked fine and we made a good show of it. I think we were all just glad to be back out there again, although we weren't quite ready to risk the spinnaker on the day, a sacrifice which may, or may not, have cost us places. It's always a bit of a lottery with us and the Gary, sometimes it goes up smoothly, other times it's a bit of a nightmare as it's only really David and Bunny that have a clue with it, and given that David is the helmsman, you can maybe begin to see the problem.

As it turned out, we had a bit of a flyer at the start, with the Devil taking an early lead, and keeping it for a little while, until we hit a spinnaker run, then the other tubs stuck their Garys up and that was that. But a fortuitous twist in the tale allowed the Devil to garb an unexpected advantage, somehow or other, the number four mark, or 'Ambex buoy' as it's known, just wasn't where it should be, so as confusion reigned in the fleet, with only Terry on Bombadier sussing it had gone and adjusted his course accordingly, we followed suit and overhauled Barda and Highland Daughter in the process, giving us back second position. I seem to recall something similar happening last year, with the same mark, it was quite funny listening to the various skippers over the radio, trying to verify what the hell was going on, one of them even contemplated protesting the Officer Of the Day, the bod that sets the course. It always makes me smile when I hear the word, 'protest', mentioned while sailing, it's so childish, yet they take it so damn seriously, getting all puffed up and raising flags, yep, they have a flag just for protesting, brilliant, I want us to use ours just for the fun of it. My favourite for that would be the one Del told us about, protesting someone for not having protested us, a bit like huffing in Draughts, all for shits and giggles of course, but I do want to do it just for the halibut one day.

Anyroadup, we managed a creditable second over the line on the day, finishing in time to get back and drag Ma out for a couple of sherberts at the club bar for Mothers day, where Stig joined us too, and we would also get to find out how badly the Devil had been crucified in that race by the handicap system, as per usual. After the club, we thought it'd be a grand idea to have a Mothers day dinner, I already had a hot pot on the go anyway, and washed it all down with three bottles of bubbly, then polished off what was left of a box of white vino, before moving onto the scotch and ginger, suffice to say, we were all pretty merry by the end, but Ma and Pa were soon slumped in their respective chairs catching flies and snoring for England, job done.


Having done so well at work the week before, I hoped we'd built some bridges after the ceiling incident, so it was a bit of a disappointment to turn up on the Monday and be bitten by the frost straight away, although in fairness it wasn't me that had borne the brunt, Mark had that dubious pleasure. It turned out that the roofers hadn't run the felt paper into the gutter, and rain had found its way in, but when I checked, I could see no damage, there was none to see. Nonetheless, we had been informed that her other half would not be returning for the following weekend as a result, such is his fragile nervous state, exascerbated by us roughneck builders. I understand this part quite well, a lot of people can't cope with builders in their homes, I'm used to that, but we don't need to be told about it, the fact is, it's 'eggs and omelettes', as we say, you can't get an omelette without breaking eggs. If you take the scale of the job into account, it's gone very smoothly so far, and well on schedule too, ahead even, but that's the nature of the job, you can have a disaster happen and the customer can be as good as gold about it, then something trivial happens and that same customer can blow their top over it. Overall, these two have been fine really, but they defintiely fit into the 'little things' category of customers, it's only the third week we're in to now, hopefully we can keep the little things to a minimum, and put a big smile on their faces by the end, mainly by the fortune we're saving them, which I'm not sure they realise yet. Tomorrow we pull out a six metre dormer at the back of the roof, if all goes well I'm expecting to see smiles all over the place at the end of the day, watch this space.

Image: Before


Big Wednesday

Whilst it's good to be back in the thick of the action workwise, the old body is having a few groans about things as a result. It was also nice to be back after a weeks break from the 'ceiling down' incident, and moving the job on apace, although there would be a sting in the tail to come on the Friday afternoon, just to sour a little, what had been a terrific weeks work by all concerned. In the midst of those seven days, wolf-e-boy.com was going berserk in the ratings, clocking up over ten thousand hits in that time, it would appear my blogs of Shoreham Beach goings on had attracted some interest, spiking with nearly five thousand hits on one day alone, if only I got some kind of financial remuneration for it!!

Roof Out

Monday and Tuesday was all about finishing off the overboarding downstairs before we dared think about the action to come upstairs, so Mark and Tim got the tacking out of the way, while I set about preparing for the roof construction I had planned for the Wednesday. After a phone call to our roofer, Mark Hemsley, to check his availability, we were all on for a big day at the office, stripping off the existing roof tiles and feather edged close boarding on three sides, adding a 4.6 metre ridge board, extending existing rafters, putting in new ones, and forming a new barn end, sounds too easy when I type it up here, 'easier said than done' as they say. In fairness I can't remember too much going wrong on the day, if anything did at all, but with a mammoth task like that ahead, it was being built time and time again in my head the day and night before. However much thought you put in to these things, it doesn't stop you worrying whether you've missed something out, or got some critical dimension wrong in your pre cut timbers for the all important barn end hips, regardless of the copious 'coats of looking at' you've given the job. But you can't keep giving it coats of looking at, somewhere down the line you have to get on with it, hope it goes to plan, and save the back slapping for the moment when you're weathered back in and walking away.

Nervous Times

With six of us on duty for the big day it was going to test my wits to keep everything moving without getting bogged down with organising rather than working, fortunately, the roofer, Mark H, has been on quite a few of these types of job with me, so knows the score, don't look up, just crack on and it'll happen. The younger lads hadn't had an opportunity to get involved in a roof construction on this scale before, so were somewhat apprehensive when it came to morning tea break and we had basically deconstructed the clients roof on the east side, and stripped everything else off the north and south sides, you wouldn't want to be seeing rain clouds hovering that's for sure, and I wonder whether they actually believed we'd get this new roof up and weathered in the day, I was trying hard not to let any kind of negativity creep into the space between me ears, having to remind Tim on a number of occasions, (when he tried talking to me about some other job further down the line), that the only job I would be talking about that day, was the one we were on, I couldn't care less about tomorrow, let alone next week, and definitely not any further down the line. For all of that, it was pretty much smiles galore all day long, not a single harsh word, no complaints, and a general air of satisfaction as everything came together bit by bit.

Jumping In

One of the great things about Mark Hemsley and his roofers, is that whenever they join us for a big day, they don't think twice about jumping in and helping out with the construction, even lending us an extra paslode nail gun to help move things on. It's important to keep the roofers for the day, so that they can weather the job in properly at the end, rather than us wasting time with tarps, which is always a soul destroying task, I've never had a fail day when him and his lads have been with us, and their wit is legendary, often at my expense, but always with a smile. When it came time to build the barn end wall and plate, we'd be finding out if my calcs had been right as we offered up the pre cut full barn common, followed nervously by the barn hips, I could have danced when they all fitted snugly into their places without a hitch, but as I said to the boys at the time, "save the pats on backs for the end of the day", there was still plenty to do in the few hours left. At one point the neighbour expressed his concern that we'd built it upside down, such was its Ark like appearance, which became more amusing when I thought about the fact we had two Marks, a Matthew, Luke, with just John missing for this job of biblical proprtions, although I don't think too many god botherers would want to be listening in on our conversation through the day.

And, Breathe....

By six that evening, with the main roof constructed and weathered back in, we were all on the road home, a bunch of lads satisfied at a decent days graft with plenty to show for it. Even if they hadn't said how much they enjoyed the day, watching them all snapping away with their camera phones was evidence enough for me, every last one of them worked their arses off to make it happen, and enjoyed themselves in the process, can't be bad eh. I was stiffening up before I even got to the van, by the time I got home it was full body pain, but worth every bit of it. A nice hot bath, followed by a quick snifter of scotch, and I was out like a light.

The next couple of days after a day like that are generally easy, tying up any loose ends which inevitably get left after such a big day, and give the body a chance to recover. Come Friday afternoon we were all talking of the 'after worker' at the pub, a pint and a chance to blether about the week just gone, plus other bullshit, unfortunately the client chose just that moment to burst everyones bubble, her wardrobe door which had been slightly damaged when the ceiling fell in, wanted replacing she said, and we were expected to pay for it. No problem, I said, we would cash in the scrap from the job, which ought to cover the cost, but why bring that up right then?, if at all in fairness, after all, it's her job, with us working for her directly as individuals, not as a company for a price. I think it was just a case of her not thinking it through too carefully, and having watched us work so hard for her all week, to do that so close to the end of the week was a spectacular own goal really, because that trivial little matter became the after work pint talking point, and it took the shine off what had been a great weeks work, didn't put us off our beer mind.

The Devil is back

With Squires tub back in the water, and David back from his marathon of holidays, we organised the rigging of the mainsail for Saturday morning, ready for some racing on Mothers day. Me, Squire, Bunny, and David, assembled at the Devil, with the rain drizzling enough to be annoying, but not enough to put the mockers on the situation. With Squire on tea duty while we frigged with the rigging, all went smoothly, so the Devil will be back in action tomorrow, weather permitting. We don't have much in the way of crew for the race, probably because of Mothers day, but it's only a short race for that very reason, and I'm looking forward to our first outing, and the opportunity to meet back up with our sailing fraternity buddies at the bar afterwards. I'll let you both know how we got on in the next blog, and wish any mums out there a happy Mothers day!

Image: And at the end of the day, breathe.....

Image: Teh newest houseboat on its way through the Footbridge


The Opening

Following on from the last blog, 'Shoreham Beach Goings On', I can hardly believe my week off is virtually over already, and yet that last day ceiling collapse seems light years back now, I think we get to a point in life when it's all a bit like sliding off the top of a hill on a tea tray, it just keeps going faster and faster until you slam into something and it's all over! Ideally it won't be as dramatic as all that, but you get my drift I hope. I returned on the Friday to witness the Footbridge opening, joined by my brother, Stig, other intrigued residents, and a few promenaders that hadn't known their route to town would be impeded by the goings on of those pesky Houseboat people. Having hung around for a while, we were invited aboard a friends houseboat as we waited for the newest arrival to make its way up river, but once on top of Gav and Caroline's houseboat roof, I realised this was probably one of the best vantage points available to view the big event, so we stayed there.

It was a glorious day to be on the river, and a decent crowd had gathered, spread about on Coronation Green on the other side of the Adur, on the pavements on the Shoreham Beach side, as well as along the riverbank toepath, and on plenty of the houseboats too. Boat moving is a big community effort, with lots of the other boat owners reciprocating the kind of help they would have received when their own vessels were brought in, and not just on the day either, a lot of preparation work goes into a new arrival. Stakes are placed all along the route to guide the tugs pulling the new home in, keeping them in the deepest parts of the channel, we saw Luke early in the morning, hands on his hips, doing the old double teapot as he surveyed his efforts, up to his armpits in river mud, laying out giant warps ready to tie the boat up when it gets there. Fred from the Fische remarked that he'd have expected a lot of this prep work to have been perhaps done a little earlier, the voice of experience, but he'd be there in the thick of it helping out too, the Houseboat community is after all, a loyal, helpful collection of people, a wonderful example to society of how things could be done, something politicians would doubtless label, 'Big Society in action'.

The boat itself is a big old beast, battleship grey steel, with surprisingly nice lines actually, with a few bleeding rust stains here and there, pulled by a tug at the front, and one at the rear for steerage. I think it's around 160 foot long, or thereabouts, and they managed it through the Footbridge opening with no dramas, and steered her off up the channel of the tributary to its new resting place, it's size was enough to actually block Coronation Green from view as it passed it.

Tower Down

With that bit of excitement out of the way, (for that day at least, they would all be returning the next day to berth the new resident on a higher tide.), I trundled along to the Old Fort to see the continuing demolition of the old Coastguard tower, which had been built on top of the original Magazine building of the Fort. By the time I arrived it was almost done, apparently the issues of the day before had been resolved, allowing work to carry on, and the Edburtons men had made short work of it. Those workers have also become some of the newest devotees of the cause as a direct result of being involved in the demolition, owing to the fact it had to be taken down very carefully, which meant it had to be done relatively slowly, and gave them the opportunity to get to know all about the history of the place from Gary, as he had booked his holiday for the week so that he could be there while this important work was carried out. It makes such a difference to see the Fort without that imposing tower overshadowing it, shedding more light on the area below, and when all the rubble has been removed, the volunteers will then set about chipping off the white faced render, and bring it back to its original red brick look. The next stage is to get a strong door fixed to the entrance, and eventually Gary hopes to have that building as a museum to the history of the Fort, or 'Redoubt', as it was originally called.

Democracy in Action

On the Saturday I had read that our local MP, Tim Loughton, would be at the Farmers Market over in town, at East street, so I wandered over to bend his ear regarding my brothers shocking treatment at the hands of some DSS benefits assassin. Unfortunately, despite getting there by eleven in the morning, I ended up trawling back and forth for the next hour in a futile effort to find him, so I'll have to rattle off an indignant e mail, followed by stalking him the next time he states he'll be somewhere for his constituents to, 'drop by', as he puts it in his internet circular. I didn't vote for him, but he's still our representative, and I want him to sort this shit out, it's making my brother even more unwell and it bloody well annoys me that this situation could be allowed to happen in the first place, it's an absolute disgrace. I bumped into mates, Chris, and Comfy dad, at the beach side of the Footbridge on the way back from my fruitless labour, and told them of my morning, it was Chris that lauded my efforts, calling it, "democracy in action", although not so much on this occasion, and I ventured that the Doc that has caused my brother so much unnecessary grief, may need benefits himself if I could get my hands around his throat. They also had a laugh with me regarding my being 'outted', as an historian in the Argus, a source of much amusement ever since. The Farmers Market itself though, was a very pleasant surprise, an obviously popular attraction, heaving with people, loads of different stalls, musicians playing at the memorial, and decent weather for it too, the next time I go it will be just to enjoy it, hopefully!

Image: Tower Down!!


Shoreham Beach Goings On

Having started a loft coversion last week, I would have expected to be in full swing by this week, but as the lads I'm working with had a refurb to fit in, I gratefully accepted the chance for a weeks rest, following on from a busy few weeks previous. So, other than an irritating cold which currently stalks me like an unwanted guest, I have been doing some of the things I don't often either, get the chance to do, or have been too effing lazy to do when I had the opportunity. Hence, this will be my second blog in a week, actually filled with stuff of interest to me, and I hope for you two too, (ballet type reference humour unintentional).

Firstly, I'm happy to be able to say, that the prototype HM12, Horn Monitor speaker has been declared a success, and has been given the green light for production as a result, construction pics to follow, and I get to hear it in action later this week. This was the third prototype I've made for them, all completely different in design, but while the previous two gave a good sound apparently, it wasn't of the mind blowing calibre for which they have been searching, while the latest effort they told me, is "amazing", so I'm looking forward to hearing it performing. This is a relatively new line of work for me, but not a million miles away from some of the Research and Development stuff I've been involved in during my working existence, variety after all, is the spice of life, and certainly beats the crap out of hanging doors, or fixing kitchen units together, roof contruction is the only site carpentry left that gives me the same sort of comparable buzz and satisfaction.

I had a phone call from a friend, Ben Coe, this week, informing me that a photo op would be presenting itself today, (Thursday), with the Footbridge being opened to allow what will be the latest riverbank houseboat through, at around midday ish, so I hot tailed it along there. Armed with cameras and note book to witness and document what could prove to be one of, if not, the, last occasion of this Footbridge opening before it is replaced later this year, I set myself up and awaited this historical moment to unfold. Alas, after snapping away at wildlife for a bit, chatting to Gav, who had also come along to witness the momentous event, I checked my phone and spotted a new message, from Ben, it had all been postponed until Friday now. This is the second time I've had this happen, let's hope it goes ahead as planned tomorrow, and also that the weather is as pleasant as it has been so far today! Gav has invited me over to his houseboat for a cuppa prior to the event, so that's my mid morning taken care of, I think this week could actually qualify as a very leisurely, 'Staycation', one of the newer terms to come out of this recession, double dip or otherwise.

Having had my plans thwarted regarding river movements and bridge openings, I remembered that the old Coastguard station building was being demolished this week along at the Old Fort, so I drove down there to see how that was coming along. There were a good number of people busying themselves on my arrival, but the machinery was at a standstill, I presumed I'd arrived at a tea break, so wandered around taking pictures for a while, eventually stopping at the 'Hold The Fort' tea hut for a coffee and chat with the volunteers. Gary Baines, who has been the driving force behind the whole Fort Restoration project so far, then informed me that work had been called to a halt on the demolition while they awaited a risk assessor, as the workers had raised concerns regarding the structure coming down, and now someone from English Heritage with archeological knowledge would be coming down to assess the situation.

Now I realise health and safety is an issue not to be taken lightly, and preservation of existing 'Heritage' structures needs to be considered, but sometimes, I think certain people need to be removed from eyesight and earshot to allow a bit of Fred Dibner style deconstruction to be got on with unhindered. I'm sure we can all think of a hundred or more reasons why something shouldn't happen, and what might go wrong, but assessors won't be the ones footing the bill for a workforce sitting on its arse while the decisions are made, not to mention the machinery sitting idly by, it's a bit like flushing freshly minted notes down the toilet. Of course these assessors will have reams of evidence of previous disasters elsewhere telling you why you should beware, but they don't have any evidence of all the times that they weren't involved and nothing at all went wrong, but where if they had been involved the job would have been stopped dead in its tracks, firms gone bust waiting for the go ahead, and men holding their palms up declaring, "sorry mate, our hands are tied", but still getting paid while nothing happens. I have a friend who acts as an assessor for a bank on such issues, or has done at least, and he reads this blog, I have no doubt I will be informed of how wrong I am by him, and how it is all for our own good in the long run. I won't agree, and he will tell me I know nothing about such things, our latest disagreement revolves around the lath and plaster ceiling that came down last week, he insists over boarding should not be an option, I disagree, but regardless of what either of us believe, the customer will be given the choice, and the chance will be theirs to take, but I digress.

I also chatted to Gary about potential patrons of the site and its work, thinking mainly of Nicholas Lyndhurst, the actor, as his Grandfather, F.L. Lyndhurst, was the founder of the, 'Sunny South Film Company', which used to have its film studios on Shoreham Beach in the early 1900's, even having been known as Shorehams very own, 'Hollywood'. Unfortunately, it seems Mr Lyndhurst, while wishing the project well, would prefer not to be a formal patron, at this point in time at least, which, while being a shame, is not an entirely closed door I hope. If some bright spark could come up with a premise for a comedy drama invloving the Fort, its military history, and combine it with the film studio history, a decent script, and plenty of laughs, then I reckon we could tempt a return of the Nicholas Lyndhurst/ David Jason partnership, a bit like a Victorian Dads Army at the Fort, progressing with some tenuous link towards the Shoreham Beach Hollywood era, and a plethora of characters from the entertainment world that Bungalow Town had to offer, so if either of you reading this can write humorous scripts, or know somone that can, then please get scribbling, and let's see if we can't tempt a little TV money towards helping out the Shoreham Fort project!.

Fun and games on Shoreham Beach, who would have thought this little peninsula could be so full of drama?, well me actually, I'm forever promoting the many and varied reasons why I believe people should come and take a look at the stuff this place has to offer, and thereby to better understand the facinating history that goes with it. It isn't geeky, dusty book, history, it's get your hands dirty, (if you like), touchable, viewable, in your face history that kids and adults alike can enjoy, so if you haven't already, then get over here and have a look around, prepare to be surprised, and, hopefully, involved too. Bring the kids, bring friends, bring your enthusiasm, energy, a camera, and whatever else blows your dress up, I love this place, and I'm pretty sure you would too.

Image: The S15 Stage Wedge, ready for testing. HM 12 not allowed to be viewed quite yet:((


A Sound start

What an industrious start to 2012 it continues to be, on all fronts. I've been, 'outed', as an historian by Adam Trimmingham in the Argus, had a full page write up in the Shoreham Herald, both stories highlighting my recent 'Brief Maritime History of Shoreham and its Fort', which can be found in its entirety here at wolf-e-boy.com, I also had a great review by Mary at 'Meksmeanderings', of my short story, 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Gone Fishing', which is available to read on the web site too. And while all this activity was going on regarding my various pieces of writing, work has been conspiring to keep me even busier, so I've been converting a work unit, started a loft conversion, and built another prototype stage wedge speaker for an innovative sound system company. All pretty interesting stuff, if a little testing on the old grey cells, especially the stage wedge speaker, or 'HM12 Horn Monitor', to apply its official monicker, that one made my head hurt, but was bloody gratifying to see when finished and handed over, I just hope it does what they're hoping it will do, I dropped it off yesterday and they test it today, so fingers crossed. (The one pictured above was the previous, S15 Stage Wedge speaker)

The loft conversion had been going a dream for the first weeks progress, talking the customers through the weeks efforts on Friday afternoon, and they were pleased with both the work done, and the lack of disruption during construction. The husband especially, apparently had not been keen to be around at all while work carries on, so it's fortunate he lectures up at Cantebury through the week, coming home for weekends, and missing out on the joys of building upheaval, so I was particularly happy to have good news to report to him on his arrival. We were closing in on the end of the day, and had been talking of grabbing a couple of beers after work to celebrate the good start to the job, these are the times when your guard is dropped, everything is going just too damn well.

Holy Fuck

As I was cutting timbers out on the flat roof, I heard a sharp, loud, cry of, "holy fuck", and raced to look inside the roof and see what had happened. Tim was looking down, my eyes followed his stare to the now dusty floor of the customers bedroom below, where a large section of the original lath and plaster ceiling was now laying in pieces on the floor, wardrobe, bed, and other furniture, 'holy fuck' indeed. "It just went", Tim said, "for a minute it felt as if I was going up all of a sudden", it had understandably scrambled his senses for a moment, which he followed up with, "all I was thinking was, 'please, not the TV' ", but luckily it was above the bedroom instead of the lounge, if you could call this little disaster lucky. There was only one option now, get down there, clean out the bedroom double quick, send Mark off for some plaster board and long screws, and overboard the ceiling before anymore of it comes down.

Thankfully the customers were understanding, and that was the biggest slice of luck we had that day. It turns out that they'd had that ceiling replastered a couple of years back, so a decent amount of extra weight had been added, then the disruption of us working above it had proved too much. It's a tough one to call as to whether you should plaster over an old lath and plaster ceiling, personally I'd always advise overboarding first, but definitely if you think there will be work going on above it in the future. Either way, the ceiling came down on my watch, so I look the clown at the mo, we'll just have to make sure we regain any possible lost confidence on the part of the clients, and put a smile on their faces by the time we finish. Unfortunately I now have to sweat on whether the lounge ceiling has been overboarded or not, as it's a much bigger ceiling, and also right below where we're working, we'll be testing that next week when we return. This shit aint good for the nerves!

I've also had enquiries for other loft conversions, as well as work of a different nature, renovating a local pub up to fire standards, but typically they all want it done almost straight away, so I find myself pouring over drawings in my spare time, to price jobs I have little chance of getting, but it's a chance you have to take for the possibility of continued employment after your current job finishes. I think I could do with a personal secretary (unpaid of course!).

A New Addition

My sis, Lizbet, introduced us to her latest household addition, a four week old Staffy pup, which she's named, 'Boof', after our long departed Granny Boof, and instantly the wee pup has won all of our hearts. I spent ages trying to chase the little thing around the kitchen to get a decent photo, and managed a few good shots, but when Lizbet picked Boof up for a cuddle, I caught an absolute classic. She was holding this impossibly cute animal in position for me to get some pictures, when Boof decided to have a little nip of mums thumb, just as I snapped away, catching Lizbet in mid yelp while the, 'butter wouldn't melt in your mouth', pup looked innocently on, followed by a laughing Liz showing her bleeding thumb as evidence of the sharpness of Boofs teeth. Methinks fun times are ahead with that one.

Hold the Fort

Recent activity at the Old Fort along on Shoreham Beach has reached fever pitch lately, with visits from the local MP, Tim Loughton, and Adur councillors, all keen to confer their allegiance to the cause. The ongoing demolition of the old Coastguard Tower, ready to clear the way for more access to more rooms underneath, and plenty of coverage in the local papers to advertise what's going on down there. If either of you reading this would like to get involved, check out the Shoreham Fort Facebook page for details, they have volunteer days every second Sunday, it's a brilliant community cause, bringing residents and outside visitors together for the shared goal of eventually restoring the Fort to its original glory, culminating in a re-enactment day in June which will be amazing, and especially for anyone with kids, it's a must see.

Senior Moments

As usual I know there was plenty of other stuff I wanted to write about, but can no longer recall what it was, the joys of an aging brain perhaps? I certainly seem to have more, 'senior moments', these days, but reconcile myself to the fact that I have long struggled with the old memory, in the short term at least, while I have an almost photographic recall for things that happened years back. It's nice to be working on this loft conversion with Tim and mark, both in their mid twenties and still in full control of their mental faculties, so while they're grateful to be learning a bit about loft conversions, and roof construction, I'm equally grateful to have a couple of lads around that can remind me what I was doing, or where I may have left stuff! I'm looking forward to the next few weeks working with them on this job, I just hope it doesn't involve anymore cleaning ceilings off the carpet.

Image: Lizbet feels the pinch!!

Image: Hallsy offloading!


A Rosy Glow

Working lately has been anything but a chore, quite the opposite, I've been enjoying it, and the variety, but it interferes with the stuff I'd like to be doing, such as writing and taking pictures at my leisure. The only problem with that is, I can't earn any money writing or taking pictures, so the work must take precedent, although it does give me stuff to write about, when I can find the time. Which is why I'm sat here tapping away, ignoring the idiot box for once, mainly because I had a review of one of my bits of writing when I got back from work today, and it's given me a bit of a surge of enthusiasm. When you decide to do anything creative and want an audience for your efforts, you're putting your neck on the line a little, so life can be a series of ups and downs as you list from depressive self loathing, to bouncing off the walls, hyper keen, and all stages in between. Obviously I'd love to get paid to write, and take pictures, but could I put up with the stress of it if I were depended on to meet deadlines?, whereas, being a carpenter for many years, I've been at the point where nothing much is a struggle for some time now, plus I love a challenge to my abilities, it makes life a bit more interesting, so shouldn't I be content as I am?, yes, of course I should, and happily am for the greatest part. (In fairness it has to be said, some of what I consider to be my best writing, comes out of depressive states more than the happy times, go figure).

I can't remember if either of you like footy or not, but as the weekend just gone was such a big deal, I'm gonna take a chance that one of you does. Fifth round of the FA Cup, away to Liverpool, it doesn't get much bigger than that, and I was determined as soon as the draw had been made that I was going up there, one way or another. I'd hoped to organise a hotel and do it in style, but that didn't happen, and ended up getting booked on to a minibus with a load of mates, plus a few I'd never met, leaving Shoreham at 7a.m Sunday morning, ouch!

Stv and Gav had been out on a sesh the night before for a mates fortieth, so they were on eggshells from the off, then there were Barney and Hallsy, straight into their pre made Snake bite concoction, four, two litre bottles of the stuff, which they decanted into plastic pint glasses throughout the journey. Hallsy was bemoaning the fact that they were on the 'going home' beers before we had made it to Scouse country, but they also had a selection of real ales for the return, and a 'Joker', which would be played later. As I sat in my seat, clutching my bottle of water, and reading my book, Barney commented to me, "sensible darts son", and although watching them sup was eventually giving me a thirst, I held out until we reached our destination, Hallsy and Barney were reasonably well oiled by then, Hallsy considerably so in fact.

Barney had organised the whole trip, even down to finding us a great little boozer in the city centre, which we could park right outside. Coming into the city was much like a lot of busy city centers, shops shut up with metal roller shutters down, and a general air of menace, but in the middle of all that was this oasis of a real ale pub. We were guided in by phone technology as one of the lads used his phone as a satnav, couldn't fault it, while Barney bless him, did the old mother hen bit, begging us to be quiet while instructions were read out to the drivers, we had two, John, and Danny, they were sharing the driving as their payment for the trip, again, hats off to Barney, all his idea I believe.

A few bevvies in that lovely little pub did the trick a treat, soon shaking off any remaining cobwebs from the trip up, and looking forward to the game ahead, and the atmosphere which I'd only ever seen on TV, Anfield, and "you'll never walk alone", or, "you'll never work again", as the Brighton fans would be singing soon enough. Blue and white was everywhere, and there was a party feel in the air, but the four pints of Guinness were the main reason for my relaxed demeanour as we walked into the stadium. I have to say, Anfield wasn't quite what I expected, not at all daunting, and nothing like as big as I imagined it would be, but the Albion fans made enough noise to remind anyone of a significant presence in the away end. By this time Hallsy was annoying Barney, he was hammered and testing Barneys patience, we were just thankful not to be the ones baby sitting him, it turned out as I found out later, that this is almost a ritual between these two, and all would be fine whatever happened on the day, it was quite funny to witness really.

I won't bore you with the game details, you can read a paper for that, but despite the scoreline, which I will not be repeating here, the Albion gave a good account of themselves for most of the first half, before misfortune and poor defending undid any previous good work. The fans sung their hearts out, even mocking the Kop for hardly making a whisper other than to cheers their goals, half of which our boys scored for them, at least Brighton scored more than Liverpool on the day!
It was a sobering scoreline, and made for a quiet return, bumping into familiar faces as we mingled outside afterwards, but no one was disconsolate, we'd had our day, and know at least we can more than match any other following when it comes to backing our team, I especially enjoyed the mickey taking, "sign on, sign on", which Albion fans were singing in unison with the Kop singing, "walk on, walk on", tres amusent.

The trip home was unfortunately not the greatest, and not because of the result, which didn't help, but because of an intellectually challenged fuckwit on our bus, who thought it funny to fill cans with his piss, then spilling it on the seat next to him, fucking animal. Poor old Matt ,who had the misfortune to be sat next to him, then spent ages stood up before we knew just what had gone on, and in between, this retard was finding ever new ways to irritate, how we didn't leave him at a service station up there I'll never know. He looked and sounded like a Paul Whitehouse parody of an idiot football fan, you wouldn't have needed to add anything, except perhaps the final delivery of a spade into his face, followed by his oft said, "ha ha, but that's just me innit". In fairness, I didn't hate him, but he was a complete nause.

Barney had been apologising to everyone for this blokes behaviour, to which they were all telling him not to worry, "it's not your fault mate", "no, you wanna be asking who invited him", I said, which apparently was Barney, so we had a laugh at his expense there, and I ribbed him for it from there on, and doubtless will again. All in all though, bloody good organisational skills from the Barnster, and a day out I won't forget in a hurry, for all sorts of different reasons.

I had intended to write more, but it's late now and I'm cream crackered, so I'll have another go later in the week, updating you on Tommy's blog and his amazing Single handed Atlantic rowing exploits, as well as the new speaker boxes I've been knocking up, all very hush hush and on the QT.


The picture above was taken at sunrise on Shoreham Beach on 30th December


Daydream Believers

Recent events have brought things into a sharper focus for me lately, because although I'm having a reasonable and promising start to the year, some of the people around me are having a disastrous beginning to 2012. Someone I lent, what is to me a small fortune, has since lost his business, and now his house, courtesy of a banks repossession order placed on him, another person that chose to spend mine, and others wages, on his and his family's lifestyle, is now in the process of divorce proceedings, and gone from a position of looking forward to a promising future, to financial collapse and living with his parents.

The fact is, when things are going wrong around you, it's good for concentrating the mind on what's important in life, and while financial stability is nice to have, money and possessions are not what give me the most pleasure in life, far from it, but don't get me wrong, I'd wouldn't be upset if my numbers came up on the lottery!. Talking to my mate, Ben, who lives in Queensland, Australia, on the phone the other day, we generally chat until the phone battery dies, or someones credit runs out. He despairs at my stupidity in most matters of a financial basis, shaking his head and tutting form 13,000 miles away, "if I were there boy, I'd put you over me knee", as I tell him I've been working without billing on a weekly basis. We were business partners before he emigrated, so it was easy for me to let him be the hard nosed face of the business, while I concentrated on other stuff, although some of his ways have rubbed off on me, to my benefit, but I remain far too trusting, and Ben knows only too well where that will lead me, trouble, and more trouble.

Forgetting that though, Ben has been leading an interesting working life down under, employed as a general builder, carpenter, site manager, and oil rig labourer off shore out from Melbourne. The site manager gig was on Aboriginal communities up in the Northern Territories, trying to give them white peoples living conditions, which they don't even want, some of the stories he told me would turn your hair white, "you wouldn't last boy", he told me, and he may well be right, but he wasn't just referring to the harsh conditions, apparently the standard of work would have me in tears. As he said when contrasting life on the Abbo communities it's boiling hot and I'm running a load of fuckin' idiots, while on the rigs it's freezing cold and I'm working under a load of fuckin' idiots". The Aboriginal tribes have gated communities, and some of what goes on is beyond horrific, such as when they get their Government grant come in, and they go and blow it on big trucks among other thngs, which then end up not being able to afford to run, one guy they saw slumped against his truck one morning, high on petrol fumes with the cloth still hanging out from the petrol cap, didn't even realise his wife had been dragged off and gang raped during the night when a rival tribe had come on a raid for the women and children, or the bizarrely funny shit, where they go into the kitchen of one of the new units, and there's a hind leg of some recently butchered animal laying on the kithen work surface, which stayed there for days apparently, reducing day by day as they cut bits off which they would then cook on a fire outside, ignoring all the white mans kitchen facilities in the units they don't want. I can't do proper justice to some of the stuff Ben told me, and it's hard to believe such things go on in this day and age, it's a brutal situation, brutal stories, and brutal humour to deal with it all.

On the rigs it couldn't be more different, still hostile, but in an industrial way, with the rig going 24/7 without let up of industrial noise, sleeping with ear plugs but no escape. They eat like kings, with professional chefs turning out gourmet meals constantly, and excercise up on the heli deck, and have to go through stringent safety assessments, being shown examples of just what can go wrong on a rig, a sobering experience by all accounts. As a result, Ben has a renewed appreciation for life, and not wanting to waste any of it, you're a long time dead, so get busy living, and wake up to what's around you, which for Ben and his family, is one of the most beautiful parts of the world anyway, so if you're going to make the most of your surroundings, Noosa is one hell of a place to live.

Someone else we came to know through sailing, Tommy Tippetts, has become quite an inspiration to those of us lucky enough to have made his acqaintance. He sailed across the Channel with us on the Devils Advocate, to St Valery, looking to get experience on the water prior to his Atlantic challenge, which is to row single handed from the Canary Islands across to Barbados, and if successful, will make him the youngest person ever to do it, at 23 years old. The best thing for me to do here is just direct you towards him in the cyber world, if you look for @SoloAtlanticRow on Twitter, you can follow his updates and get the links to his blogs, he is currently on day 23/4, and over a quarter of the distance behind him. He's had pods of dolphins swimming alongside, ships detouring around him, fish flying over him, and surfing down huge waves at over ten knots of boat speed on occasions, he also tells you of the bright night light under the 'massive moon', when it isn't obscured by clouds, as well as the eerie sensation of rowing in complete darkness when the clouds do block the moonlight out. Please look him up, and maybe even communicate with him, he welcomes messages.

To finish up today, I'm going fictional, I often talk of being a dreamer, and how driving relaxes me enough to have these dreamers ideas, so I'll just run with this one, telling it as if it were a real event.


Sitting in my city studio, looking out at Brightons big wheel on the sea front, I often have to pinch myself, and wonder how things could have been so different, if I hadn't been held up by traffic long enough to notice that sunrise, that amazing, glorious, multicoloured extravaganza of light in the sky, and reflecting off the River Adur. It was just a normal day, heading off to work in my Sprinter van, held up as usual by the ridiculous queues as we crossed the Norfolk Bridge, a fairly soulless bridge, but with great views up and down the Adur when you're going slowly enough to appreciate them. I always have my snappy camera with me, taking it to work every day to record my jobs, and anything else that catches my attention, and that morning something caught my eye alright. It was mesmerising, the sun was over the horizon, but under a bank of fluffy clouds, lighting them up like a kaleidescope, while simultaneously illuminating the still river Adur with the reflection of those amazing cloud colours, it was a completely surreal moment in time, which I felt compelled to document.

I don't recall thinking too much, I just got out of the van and walked across the bridge to the railing, camera in hand, framing up and snapping as many shots as I could, oblivious to sounds of car horns furiously blaring behind me, I carried on snapping. I soon noticed I wasn't the only person looking down river at this fantastic spectacle, so I grabbed a few shots of them all looking at the sunlit river and skies. Unbeknown to me, there was a journalist in the queue of traffic I was now holding up, and I was already being Tweeted into the news, but also attracting the animosity of many of the drivers behind wishing to get to work. The arrival of the police soon alerted me to the fact that I'd better get out of there, so I quickly hopped back in the van and high tailed it out of there, unaware of the wheels I had inadvertently set in motion.

I didn't get too far before getting pulled over by the police, wanting to know what I had been up to, why I had held the traffic up for so long, did I have a problem with the van?, "no officer", I told them, and bullshitted them that as the traffic wasn't moving at the time I just wanted to take advantage of the situation and grab a couple of pics of the sunrise. As it turned out, the copper talking to me was a bit of a photographer himself, and appreciated the value of striking while the iron's hot when it comes to catching that perfect shot, and after showing him the fruits of my labour on my little snappy, he voiced his admiration for the shots I'd bagged, but suggested I might be better off not holding up traffic just to take pictures in future, "some people could get aggressive", he warned me.

During the day at work I kept getting text messages, but didn't bother opening them as I was busy, and by the time I'd arrived home later that day, I must've had twenty unread messages, a normal day might see me get three or four, generally unrepeatable jokes. Then as I open them up, one by one they're all telling me I've become an internet sensation, 'some doughnut that held up the rush hour traffic to take pictures of the sunrise', oops!, they even had a picture of my rusty old Sprinter circulating via Twitpic, up to 100,000 hits and rising, "bloody hell", I thought, I've caused a bit of a stir, so I decided to 'out' myself, and own up to being the guilty culprit on Twitter. I was also downloading the pictures I'd taken that morning, but knowing from other peoples misfortune that you lose rights over your photos if you upload them on Twitpic, some woman had been up in a plane when the last space shuttle was launched into the clouds, she took two pictures of it bursting through the clouds and off up into the stratosphere, uploaded them on to Twitpic and they got over two million hits in the first couple of weeks, unfortunately, because of the Twitpics terms and conditions, news agencies were at liberty to use her pics without her consent, and under no obligation to pay her for using them either, with that in mind, I just gave them one sunrise pic from that morning, with a link to my website to see some more. Once all that was done I left the computer room and set about making dinner, a nice easy pasta would do the trick, followed by a relaxing evening in front of the idiot box, phone off and charging as usual.

The next day when I switched the bloody phone back on, it was relentlessly beeping as one message after another kept presenting itself, I read a few, but had to stop as there were so many, basically telling me I was, 'trending' on Twitter, and all over the news because of my little adventure on the Norfolk Bridge. When I logged on to the computer to see what was going on, I found I had thousands of new 'Followers' of my 'wolfeeboy999' account, I only had 83 when I went to bed, my e mail inbox was full of journalists enquiries, and one that caught my eye, was from a guy claiming he wanted to see my pictures from that morning, with a view to using them if they're any good. I responded to his e mail, and left the rest to stew. Having sent him a few attachments of the pics, he said he was sending a car over for me, could I get all that mornings pictures on to a memory stick and come up to their studios along in Brighton?.

After a whirlwind of interviews, photoshoots, TV and radio appearances, it turned out that my story had grabbed peoples imaginations, not just the romantic fact of stopping the bus of life to get off and smell the roses as it were, but the idea that it could lead to fame and riches so quickly, a bit like coming up on the lottery, but much more fun. Now that I had been 'discovered', I could also start going through my back catalogue of photos from down the years, and not have to beg just to get them in the letters section of the local paper, or in the free magazines that pop through our letterboxes every couple of months. Suddenly I have to have someone manage all the requests coming my way, rather than spending the few spare hours I used to have, trying to upload and save all my pics onto the computer, in the hope of getting round to putting up on to Wolf-E-Boy.com sometime.

So as I sit looking out at Brighton beach now, deliberating over my, 'I'm a Celebrity, Stick Pins In Me', TV show invite, looking down at my rusty old Sprinter parked below, I couldn't bring myself to part with it, and the rust that I had wanted to rid the van of, has now become something of a statement, or more likely, a metaphorical middle digit to some of the neighbours. Yep, a bit like that Ordinary Boys singer that none of us can remember the name of, who shacked up with that bird they all thought was famous but wasn't, they're both comfortably off now, and out of the limelight, having had our moment, we can relax now and enjoy the rewards. A bit like you've climbed the cliff face to sanctuary, and it's all peaches and cream from here on in. Day dreaming, you can't beat it!

DSS assassins

My brother, recently had to undergo the unfortunate experience of being assessed, by an alleged medical practitioner in Dyke road, Brighton, to see if he was, 'fit for work', as part of a Government drive to get the most vulnerable members of society off the sickness benefit payroll. As if he didn't have enough on his plate with Ankylosin Spondylitis, Chrones disease, and Hep C, (which we believe he contracted from contaminated blood courtesy of the NHS), he was then made to add the extra worry of an interview with someone that knows nothing of his medical history, but the power to decide, after a half an hour meeting, whether he's fit to work or not.

After the 'interview', he told me how he didn't think it had gone well, this character had questioned him like a court barrister, only interested in leading my brother towards the answers he wished to hear, holding his hand up to stop him explaining anything, saying, "just answer yes or no", without even looking up from his pad. Later as my brother recounted his interview to me, he expressed his belief that the Doctor seemed to have only one agenda on his mind, to get him off the benefit payroll regardless of his health situation, but he would wait for his answer to come in the post and hope that common sense would prevail. I myself, as well as many of his friends and other family members, all tried to reassure him that he had to be ok, it's blindingly obvious to anyone with eyes how incapacitated his health issues make him, sometimes far worse than others.

My brother would give his eye teeth to be able to work, but there are some mornings when he simply isn't strong enough to get out of bed, such is the pain he can be in, other times he can't stray too far from his flat because of the effects of the Chrones, if he sneezes or coughs, it paralyses him with pain from muscular spasms which are heart breaking to witness. This was a man that was renowned in his younger day for being one of the hardest workers on site, as anyone that worked alongside him would readily testify to, his reputation is still not forgotten.

While awaiting the news, it would appear the wheels of bureaucracy had already begun turning, and his rent money had not been paid into his bank account, again, causing yet more worry. So now, weeks later, his original fears have been confirmed by post, he has been declared fit for work by that unfeeling, half witted, disgrace to the medical profession. I use such terms with good reason, because either he had all my brothers notes from the years of being assessed with all his problems, in which case this Doctor is a complete imbecile, or he made his own judgement based on a half hour meeting without referring to notes, which also in my book makes him a complete imbecile, or an incredibly nasty piece of work that should have no place at all in the health service. Isn't one of the standards of the Hypocratic oath, "do no harm" ?.

Yes, my brother has right of appeal, which will definitely happen, but why should he have any confidence of success given the hard hearted approach he is likely to receive on the evidence of his first encounter? And what about the effect the worry will have on his health?, especially with Chrones already. It says everything about the system being implemented that such eminently unqualified, uncaring, nameless, assassins are being used in this shameless attack on the sections of society most in need and least able to defend themselves.

And what about all the other poor genuine cases of people with health issues, are they all being treated this way?, as criminals by the system in the Governments bid to hit the easiest targets. The politicians will doubtless tell us that it's a necessary process the wheedle out the benefit cheats, but you can be sure that the cheats will be the one set of people almost totally immune to this draconian procedure, because the system is their business, and they have all the time in the world to find ways of getting around whatever is thrown in their way

Image: Doris and family, Easter 1933 Shoreham Beach. She's second from the right


Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

I've come to realise that since becoming a season ticket holder at the Amex, the match day goings on have somewhat taken over a lot of my recent blogs, and I'm not entirely sure if either of you even like football, so this blog shall have not a single mention of the impending fixture this evening, at home to Newcastle, in the FA cup fourth round, oops, well other than that last bit anyway. Seaaaguuullllls!!!

This coming year appears to hold promise, if the phone calls I've been having regarding future work are anything to go by, and all interesting stuff too. One lot I'm not even allowed to talk about at the moment, (very hush hush in the old patents pending department), I'm just looking forward to getting the drawings for that little project, and once the product has made it out into the world, then hopefully I can share the pics showing the fruits of my labour. These phone calls have been happening while I am actually working, which is always a good sign in January, so whatever happens in the near or distant future, this will have been a better than expected start to 2012.

Also this week I was lucky enough to be granted access to my neighbour, Allen's photo collection of his mums family, within which are priceless images of Shoreham Beach from nearly a hundred years back, and with some of the stories that go with the pictures, I hope to be able to paint a scriptual picture to add to the Bungalow Town recollections which we already have, some truly amazing yarns, as well as some lovely humorous tales too. Once you start digging into the history of this little peninsula it's easy to get drawn in further, lapping up every new bit of info you come across. One small snippet for now, Allen's Grandad and Grand Uncle used to like to nip into town of an evening when they were here on holiday, but the footbridge back then had a toll keeper, it was a penny to cross, but the toll hut closed at six o clock in the evening, so they'd stand there and wait for the toll keeper to close up, then cross into town toll free. These two used to like a bet too, one time after a good day at a racecourse, they disappeared across the channel to France, without a word to anyone, blew their winnings then came back, this was before the First World War! They were part of a family of publicans from London, and Shoreham Beach was one of their holiday destinations, a completely different world from the East End of London. More to come on this story in the not too distant future. The photograph with this blog was taken at Easter 1933 on Shoreham Beach, Doris, who sadly died some years back now, is second from right in the picture, she was Allen's mum, and our next door neighbour until she passed away, a really lovely lady with a zest for life, and I can't wait to tell her story. Between her and her husband, Bill, they lived an amazing life by our standards today, and I know all of us as kids loved having them as neighbours, and as adults too.

I had been led to believe that my short scribe about the maritime history of Shoreham, and the Fort at the harbour entrance, would be getting an airing in the Herald this week, but alas that seems to have been put on hold for the moment at least, but I live in hope it may yet make it into print sometime. There used to be a saying, 'todays story is tomorrows chip wrapping', (before the Health and Safety Executive began interfering with every aspect of our lives), but I'd love the opportunity to become somebody's chip wrapper tomorrow, even if only on a fleeting basis.

In the news this week was mention of one of our great institutions, Hornby toy manufacturers issuing a profit warning, and one of their ploys to attend to this situation in Olympic year, is to knock out cheap models of London buses and taxis, presumeably in the hope that the Olympic tourists will shell out for the iconic toys and bolster sales, then following that story they cheerily inform us that an asteroid soon to be passing close to the Earth, is, conveniently, the size of a bus. As Ken Bruce remarked on the radio, 'can we then expect two or three more to be following close behind that one?', you can't help but think someone is having a bit of fun when compiling some of those news bulletins, I'm surprised 'Planes, Trains, and Automobiles' didn't get a mention. Whatever the case, it will be a sad day that passes should Hornby ever cease to trade, where will we go for our boyhood dream making kits, always imagined with a small Hummel paint pot, tubes of glue, and collection of tiny paint brushes. I remember well the joy of walking around Gammons toy shop, north of the station, wishing I could have pretty much everything that was in there, if either of you are close to the same age as me, you'll doubtless be invoking a few similar memories right now just reading this bit, halcyon days.


This week oy av bin mostly buildin shelves for Imelda Marcos's shoes! It isn't the sort of work I encourage people to believe I can do, but in the current climate beggars can't be choosers. Add to that, the customers quote from a company that specialise in fitted bedroom furniture, running in to four figures, and we have a marriage of convenience, and a purpose built cupboard and shelving which according to Lynne, whose shoes and hats will fill the finished article, surpass the fitted bedroom company's design, which made me happy. Mostly though, it's nice to know you're back to work and paying your way in life, or earning my way at least for now. I was supposed to be helping a mate with some roofing, but they pulled the pin on the idea in fear of bad weather, so Tony and Lynnes job got moved forward, unfortunately I woke up with a cold the Tuesday I started, so was sneezing me tits off and getting through an unhealthy amount of hankees throughout the week. Right now I'm mentally hearing the old 'Manflu' bullshit term being raised in certain quarters, your office wallers may well pull a paid sickie in this situ, but not a self employed tradesman, I'd rather be working when I'm germ ridden anyway.

When Lynne told me what she wanted the space to give her, I had not the slightest notion of just how many shoes she could possibly own, so as I started talking shelf spacing, and how many tiers she might get in the quirky alcove we were designing around, it dawned on me that the doubtful look on Lynnes face was telling me something, "just how many pairs of shoes have you got then?". She wasn't sure, Tony had smiled and walked by now, he obviously knows his wife well enough not to have to hang around for the look of disbelief on my face when I hear her answer, which was, "eighty that I've counted so far", and she thinks there are more in boxes not yet opened. I should explain that they've just recently moved into this new place, so boxes litter the house while they settle in, "I'm building a shoe emporium for Imelda bloody Marcos!". For those that don't know of Imelda, Google her name and all will become apparent.

There are a number of things I like about working after a lay off of any amount of time, such as the drive to work, it's when I'm at my most relaxed and the mind ticks along with ideas, inspired by what's around me as well as by any current schemes of interest I may have been thinking of writing about. Also listening to the radio, both for the music, and also for any comedic potential out there, so generally BBC radio 2 with Chris Evans, then Ken Bruce, and later in the day a bit of Mark Radcliff and Stuart Maconie over on BBC radio 6, I like to be kept amused and informed at the same time, which that lot achieve for the most part. And I always have my little snappy camera with me just in case I might spot something worth snapping away at, and a notepad to jot down any little nuggets that may pop into the space between me ears. All these things are somewhat self indulgent I know, but when you sandwich work in between them, then it all becomes validated by the fact you've achieved something real, produced a thing of value to whoever you're doing it for, paid or otherwise, which allows you the opportunity to indulge your dreamworld existence. I've said before how I'm a bit of a dreamer, I can't see that ever changing, but it's nice to know I'm not on my own, the entertainment world is full of them, I'm much more in fear of becoming one of these hideous bores that are driven by personal gain, but let's not go there right now eh.

It will be no secret to either of you that follow my blogs, that I'm not a big fan of politicians, especially those at the top end, and it was with a mix of incredulity and mirth, that I read about a certain American political something or other, called Newt Gingrich, (a name in itself seemingly invented for comic purpose), who according to an ex wife, "lacks morals", no shit Sherlock!, but how the fuck is that news?, findind a politician that is even aware of what the word means would be news. The guy allegedly asked his second wife, Marianne, to agree to an 'open relationship', as he was already seeing someone else, she didn't consent to the idea, and he is now married, for a third time, to the woman he had been seeing, Callista Bisek. Second wife, Marianne, puts this information out there for the American media to consume, and Mr Gingrich calls it "despicable" for its timing, which in fairness he may have a point about, news corporations seemingly more interested in tittle tattle than real news. However, it doesn't change the fact that this is a man seriously going for the God botherers vote, in a country in the unhealthy grip of pious, worshipping, God botherers. Talking of his past indiscretions, he states that he has, "been very open about needing to go to God for reconcilliation", which, dissected, basically means, 'making sure that's what the religious electorate believe in order to secure their votes'.

It's much like a prosecuting lawyer would say to the jury regarding what he wants to paint as an, 'unreliable witness', "he lied before, so how can you be sure he isn't lying now?". How far do you take that way of thinking?, Gingrich has proven himself perfectly adept in the art of deception with those closest to him, why should he be trusted to be any different in a position of power?, why would he not seek to cover up any failings in order to get into, then hang onto, power. The idea that you can invoke some fictional deity that will forgive you all your sins is incredibly convenient, it reminds me of the joke where the little boy continually prays to God for a bike, but without success, then he hits on the idea of nicking one, and asking God for forgiveness afterwards, priceless childlike logic, but not what you might be hoping for from a potential world leader.

It was also nice to hear Radcliff and Maconie on Radio 6, committing the perceived herecy of stating their non affilliation to the Olympic movement, that hugely criminal waste of money arriving to our shores in a few months time, at something like triple the original estmated costs. So we will have the news filled with stories of who could throw some stick, ball, or disc, further than anyone else, or who could run in circles quicker than the other unhealthy looking nutters circumnavigating an empty space. Radcliff suggested some competitions which might be more relevant to us, such as an egg and spoon race, but the over riding emphasis was that there really are a lot of us out there that simply could not care less about the whole ridiculous waste of resources which are the Olympic games. The only benefits I'm aware of, are improved travel infrastuctures and stadia, but at what cost?, it's all very well to say, "oh look, I've got a lovely driveway, pool, tennis court, and running track at my new place, but I'm now officially bankrupt for the next few lifetimes so I can't use them anyway". Look at Darlington football club for a small scale version of that problem, a 25,000 seater stadium built for a non league club that struggle to get a few hunderd fans through the turnstiles, they can't even afford to run the stadium, so it will have to be knocked down and sold as real estate to allow them to survive. Why strive to own something you can't even afford the rates on?, just madness, cut your cloth according to your means.

Having worked the week, and with my away ticket for the Peterborough game on my desk, I figured I'd earned a couple of after workers at the Waterside on Friday night, with the intention of not overdoing it in preparation for an early start Saturday morning. Well, 'the best laid plans', and all that, not being my strong point, I woke up feeling decidedly under the weather, and didn't fancy the trip up to the Posh. It didn't take me long to regret this negative train of thinking, and at the last minute I raced off to see if I could get up there in time, despite the fact that it would cost me an eye watering sixty three quid for the rail ticket, but I'd made my mind up by then, so sod the cost. I got to the station in good time to grab the fast train to Victoria, and though it was busy, it's a great way to travel, especially as you cross the Thames, looking up and down this majestic river with its centuries of history and impressive bridges, something I never get tired of. Five stops on the underground and I'm at the incredible Kings Cross St Pancras station, a thing of beauty and marvel of engineering, it's this kind of stuff that grabs you in London, the scale and maginificence of everything, as well as the history. Then I make my way to the mainline station, just in time to catch the fast train to Peterborough, with just a minute before it was leaving, seventy odd miles non stop, can't beat that kind of luck, and what a train, smooth, comfortable, and even with plug sockets to charge up your lap tops or phones, it was like a technology convention on board, lap tops, iPads, iPhones, tablets, the first class carriages were rife with them as I walked through to the slightly less luxuriant peasant class further on, but still perfectly comfortable.

I made it in to Peterborough by 2.15, bloody amazing I thought, and an easy walk to the ground in plenty of time. The town centre itself is a nice peaceful, old looking collection of buildings with mainly pedestrian roads, and a feeling that centuries back this was a busy market town, with the best elements of its architecture now supporting the leisure and tourism aspect of the place. The ground itself harbours no such delusions of grandeur, looking like it's been set in a post apocalyptic bomb site, this really was like travelling back in time, I'd say very little has been done the London Road stadium for a good thirty years by the look of it, with perhaps the exception of the hospitality section sandwiched between the tiers of the main stand, it's a collection of patio doors, one after another, resembling some kind of Double Glazing company convention.

They have terraced stands behind the goals, so the Albion filled their East end with both numbers and noise from the off, while the rest of us occupying the seats in the adjoining North stand. It's actually quite a nice little ground inside, even if the plastic seats feel as if they were sized for children, but once the game kicked off that was soon forgotten, especially as Brighton began so brightly, dominating possession for long periods, playing great football to watch, and attacking in waves, which eventually resulted in Buckleys opener after Adam El Abd had been scythed down by Sinclair near the by line, a good thirty yards out, Buckers curled in to to the far corner to huge cheers of derision at their keeper from the Albion fans behind his goal, "dodgy keeper, dodgy keeper". The game wasn't all Brighton, with the Posh having a spell of attacking play in the second half, led mainly by their impressive number 26, Taylor, he looked a worry everytime he went forward, going at pace and taking on our lads with no fear at all. Eventually their play got them an equaliser, and in fairness it had looked as if they might during that period, but Brighton soon regained control of the game, and Buckleys clinical winner was just desserts for a great performance away from home.

As I had travelled up on my own it was nice to be among a load of contented fellow Albion supporters on the way back, as well as sharing in the benefits of their technology as they called out the other results and stories of the day. I found myself sat next to a Peter Kay lookalike, Dan, who as it turns out, being only a few years younger than me, has been to many of the same big games as I have down the years, so the trip back was a nice mix of past and present, enjoying talking of the game just played, then tripping down memory lane to Brightons former glory years of the late seventies and early eighties. Back in London the Albion fans were giving renditions of the Will Buckley song, which is basically a reworking of the Heartbeat song, and theme tune, as we all made for the underground. Through the underground it's everyone for yourself, but I would keep bumping into Dan, so by the time we got to Victoria he had introduced himself, and I had to ask him if he'd ever been likened to Peter Kay, "quite a few times", he told me, then tells me how he bemoaned the fact to his wife, when they went to see the comedian, that he wasn't as fat as Kay, but as the northern comic is a fair bit younger then he'll take it as a compliment, good lad, look for the positives in life!


The Devils bottom

Second week into 2012, and other than a couple of cyclonic blasts of foul weather it's been a pretty pleasant start to the year, with stuff of interest going on all around me. I had a message from the Herald letting me know they're interested in running my 'Brief Maritime history of Shoreham' story, maybe next week, so hopefully that may help the cause of the Shoreham Fort project, as that was the focus of the story, and the reason for me researching and writing it in the first place. Also, Ray, the Landlord at the Marlipins in the High Street, has agreed to put up copies of 'Bangkok to BC' for sale, by donation, in the pub, all proceeds going to the RNLI, so that's three pubs now doing that, he said there were three sales on the first day, one punter putting eight quid in the Lifeboat box for his copy, which is excellent, as it's a great cause.

Work on the Fische all got done in time for Sams fortieth birthday Science Fiction themed party, creating a toilet cubicle under the stairs which just got finished on Friday evening, even utilising one of the original mine sweeper doors for it, which was a nice touch. I left them to the pre party tidy up, with the parting shot of, "see you all tomorrow", for the party, before going off to meet up with my brother Stig, and a few mates for after workers at the Waterside that Friday night. The night ended up with me going back to Stigs and knocking back a few 'Dark and Stormies', end result being me hammered and staggering home in a blur. It's a dangerously tasty drink, and should have a health warning attached to each glass, maybe it's the ginger beer in it, taking you psychologically back to your happy childhood, and that Enid Blyton world of, 'lashings and lashings of ginger beer', either way, it may not feel like drinking alcohol, but it certainly slays you. The upshot of all that was that I didn't fancy another night of drinking on the Saturday, as is usual with me after a big session, or big at least by my ageing standards, so I didn't get to the party I'd been helping Fred prepare for.

I went along Sunday afternoon, to check on the aftermath of the party, and apparently everything had gone fantastically well, I even had the last bottle of beer, which Jake had just discovered, so I took part in spirit if not in body, and hung around for a while enjoying the acoustics of this newly expanded gig area amidships on the Fische. So with the pressure of getting everything ready for the party out of the way, I figured now would be a good time to have a go at the old mans boat, the Devils Advocate. She's been out of the water for a few weeks, and the old boy is keen to get work moving on her, so unbeknown to him I slipped along to the yacht club to see what I might be able to get on with. As it turned out, it was all quite easy, sanded down the hull, taped the waterline, scrubbed back, sanded and treated the rust on the keel, and two thirds of the anti foul done before running out of the stuff, we're now waiting on a delivery, then it's a couple of hours work to finish off the Devils bottom and get her back in the water, followed hopefully by some racing action again.

One of the great things about working at the yacht club, is being alongside the river, I always have my camera with me, because I just know at some point there will be something worth taking a picture of, be it sunrise, sunsets, wildlife, or boat moving stuff going on. Once you're immersed in the marine environment it's simply a different world to the rat race outside, I can see perfectly well why people seek to escape there, it's not quite as good as being on the water, but I can think of plenty worse places to go and forget any worries you might have. I call the boat the old mans 'Garden Shed', the place he likes to go, put on the kettle, pump the bilges, check the instruments, tapping the barometer and resetting the needle, listening to a radio station he complains about at home, but apparently is ok if it's on the boat! I know it's important to Squire to have his boat time, and once you spend a bit of time around a yacht club, you can soon see he's not alone. I often used to look on in bemusement at these people that would sink countless hours of their time into working on, or building, a boat over several years, decades sometimes, wondering at the madness of it, but eventually I think I've grasped a little better understanding of why they do it, and 'Escape' seems to me the word that best sums it up.

So it was nice to see the smile on Squires face when we rolled up at the Devil and he could see the anti foul was all but done, it would have been finished but the chandlers didn't have enough of the stuff in, it's been ordered though, so I'll finish the job once the gear turns up. While I was working on the Devil, I had a call regarding the possibility of work, a loft conversion in Worthing, then maybe some timber frame new builds on Shoreham Beach, working with some lads I've worked with before. We've met up, pored over the drawings, and it looks very promising, so I may actually find myself gainfully employed this year, and on interesting jobs too, which would be a bonus.

Today the Albion are at home to Bristol City, so I'll be off to that game shortly. I have no idea what to expect after that wonderful, yet surprising result against Southampton, followed by the crash back to earth result against Wrexham last Saturday. As usual, anything can happen in the funny old game of two halves, so I will remain upbeat, and hope for the best, hopefully coming home with a sore throat after celebrating a victorious result, fingers crossed.


North Stand Chat

Today I decided to have a look at the 'North Stand Chat' site, and chucked myself in at the deep end with a suggestion that maybe the North stand at the Amex could do with enlarging, so as not to be outdone by away teams that fill the South stand. Admittedly, I directed them to my blog, which I have since moderated in fairness to some of the comments, but what surprised me was how aggressive some of them decide to be in their tone of disagreeing, actually, just one that stood out, but if you trawl the forums, some of them get really heated. Thankfully there were enough reasoned contributors who were prepared to explain coherently how my ideas weren't practical, and eventually a voice that appeared to know what was going on joined in to let us all know that the club already have the situation in hand, by filling in the South corners of the ground, and moving the away fans to half of the South stand, and part of the South east.

Regardless of what happens at the Amex, the main lesson I have learned is, think very carefully in future before posting any thoughts on North Stand chat, but also give a little more thought to my blogs, and re read them a bit more thoroughly, then maybe walk away for a while and come back with a fresh head to see what I've written. The only issue with that is that I don't want to end up writing inoffensive turgid crap that doesn't either interest or upset anyone. I'm already only too aware that you will never please everyone, nor would I expect to, and fortunately I don't have to suffer comments directly on my blog, not because I don't want to, the site simply doesn't allow for it. I've noticed before on unrelated blog sites, and online newspaper columns, just how vicious and barbed some commenters can be, so I shouldn't really have been surprised I suppose. The funniest thing about it is that I'm normally quite happy to get in to a slagging match, but face to face preferably, and rarely, (though by no means always), for anything other than personal amusement, which means getting inventive, after all, if you're going to abuse someone, at least make an effort to be funny about it, any idiot can be just plain nasty.

Despite the mild venom, and I mean mild, I was only referred to as a 'plank' at first, then he mentioned my, 'ramblings of an idiot' in a follow up, he also informed me he wasn't trying to be funny after I applauded his 'shining wit'. The upshot of the whole thing is, I see he had a point, but just had an unfortunate way of putting it, I didn't rise to his bait. As one of the other commenters told me, the North Stand Chat forum is a steep learning curve, maybe, but as long as you can hold the moral high ground and not descend into direct abuse, I see no reason why I shouldn't air my thoughts and take it from there.


Close Harmony Blues

With the first week of 2012 behind us, the weather has been a bit like the economy, unpredictable at best, and it would appear by the evidence so far, that the football is going along in a similar vein. From the relative comfort of 1901 seats in the East stand, I witnessed the Welshmen of Wrexham make a mockery of the three divisions seperating the two teams, supported by, to paraphrase Blackadder, 'huge gangs of tough sinewy men, terrorising opposition fans with their close-harmony singing'. I don't know about the tough sinewy men, but their close harmony singing might well attract the attention of Gareth Malone for a possible new series, they did their team proud, although to those of us old enough, this came as no surprise. Back in the seventies, when our Lord Peter Ward was weaving his magic around defences up and down the country, Wrexham were riding high with the Albion at the top of the old third division, beating us two nil at the Goldstone in front of 22,695 fans, the year we began our charge up the divisions in 1976/77. They missed out that season, but went up as Champions the following year. Nice boots them shoes look you, izzanet.

Brighton didn't look particularly comfortable considering they're a Championship side playing against non league opponents, but Wrexham are top of their league and winning breeds confidence and belief. Plus the Albion have a fairly unhealthy amount of players unavailable, fielding three youngsters in the starting line up, with three more coming on as subs, two just after the Welshmen got the equaliser. I have to say here, some of Poyets substitutions appear odd to say the least, against Burnley he threw on his last two subs just after we went down to nine men, with seventy minutes of the game still to go, and today he had his subs lined up to go on, then Wrexham score, but he carries on and chucks them on anyway, leaving Mackail Smith on the bench, who I felt would have enjoyed having a go at their Dodgy Keeper, as the North Stand kept bellowing out. In fairness, all of these youngsters did really well once they were on, looking eager to chase everything, unlike Barnes, who seems afflicted with the same lacklustre spirit of Billy Paynter on too many occasions. Body language is important when you have twenty thousand fans watching your every move, and although the words footballer and intelligent will rarely be used in tandem, you'd think someone would notice and have a word in their shell likes.

Looking down from above the halfway line, a couple of things hit me, and stung a little I'm afraid, firstly, how insignificant the North stand looks from there, and secondly, but most painful, is how the away support drown them out with comparable ease. I've only been in the North stand before todays game, so could have no idea how mute we would appear to the away fans, much like we mock them in our ignorance when they decide to chirp up, suddenly I'm aware that the North stand seems inadequate, but not the fans I hasten to add, it simply isn't big enough. Among the building plans which the Albion wish to embark upon, maybe they could look at increasing the North stand capacity, otherwise the 'Home' end may become a bit of an embarrassment, a stick with which away fans will take great delight in beating us. The stadium itself has a good atmosphere, but you want a great atmosphere behind the goal, it should be the focus of support, not a sideshow to the much bigger West stand. For me, the game has always been about the atmosphere every bit as much as the football, a match without either is a disappointment. One of the highlights of todays game were the circling seagulls that distracted everyone for a little while, which however amusing, isn't saying a great deal about the football on display.

The plus points of the day for me, other than slightly wider seats with arm rests, free programmes and hot coffee, were the performances of the young players being blooded, Jake Forster Caskey starting after his great game against Southampton, Grant Hall looking for the most part solid in defence, Adgestein, and Rodgers both eager to get on the ball and be involved as much as possible once they came on, and with no inhibitions regarding running at the oppos defence. Sampayo looked pretty good on the ball, I hope we get to see a bit more of him in the future, while of the six younsters, Kasim was the quietist I felt, but I may have a different opinion if I were to see the game replayed from the comfort of an armchair. Another niggling point for me, was Lua Lua, one minute beguiling us all with his mazy runs and trickery, the next rolling around as if he's on his last breath with the vet marching out, shotgun loaded to put the poor beast out of its misery. He did it twice against Southampton, and if the management had taken notice of his pleas to be dragged off, he wouldn't have been around for the first goal he made, the second time in that game they did actually haul him off, or it could be he saw his number was up already so limped off to make it look as if it was an injury decision. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into everything! Overall there can be no complaints, Wrexham earned their replay, so Brighton will travel across the border on the 17th January for another rendition of their fans close harmony intimidation, bring it on.



Well that was a fine start to the New Year, the Albion turn the league leaders over by three goals after a run of four defeats on the trot, as I said in my previous blog, 'it's a funny old game of two halves'. And what sweet music to Albion ears it was, to hear their manager bleating about perceived injustices to his team, conveniently forgetting the outrageous decisions his side took full advantage of at their place, a penalty given when the challenge was a good yard outside the box, then another penalty after Lambert conned the ref into thinking Calderon had shot him. And their luck seemed to be continuing at the Amex, as Harding scythed through Mackail Smith in front of an enraged West stand, only to get a very lucky yellow, followed not long after by a challenge on Buckley, easily worthy of another yellow, but just gets a talking to from the ref. Adkins hauled Harding off minutes later, so he knew how lucky the lad was to still be on the pitch, and got him off before he was sent off. He also neglects to mention the nailed on penalty against Buckley this time around, turned down after one of his players floored Buckers as he was through on goal. No Mr Adkins, you just found out the hard way how, what goes around comes around, your team deserve no sympathy as they certainly didn't get to where they are without having more than their fair share of luck, whereas, Brighton have had precious little of that particular commodity in their season so far.

The one thing I would agree with Adkins about, was that after Lambert was sent off the game changed, you could see it almost immediately, although I'd say Harding coming off had a little to do with it too, he'd been giving the Albion trouble down the left flank, so with the both of them out of the way the tide turned quite noticeably, but before that Brighton had defended well to make sure Southamptons efforts didn't result in goals, Brezovan in particular looking assured between the posts, pulling off an outstanding double save at one point. But after Lamberts dismissal it was pretty much one way traffic, and waves of Albion attacks poured forward, Lua Lua in particular causing Saints all kinds of problems, the crowd sensed it too and ramped up the volume, willing the Albion to take full advantage of the situation.

There were plenty of highlights in the game, Brezovans double save, Sparrows 25 yards screamer into the top right corner, Lua Lua running their defence ragged in the second half, and the goal line clearances, not to mention the teenage Forster Caskey coming into the side and scoring. But it was the overall team performance which gave the crowd belief, Southampton were threatening in the first half, but nowhere near overwhelming, and considering they should have been down to ten men as early as the 23rd minute, they should consider themselves lucky it wasn't even worse in the end.


A New Year blog

Well here it is at last, allegedly the last year of existence according to some Mayan legend. Well as I'm feeling full of vim, vigour, and vitality right now, this is as good a time as any to stick two fingers up to that particular idea, I shall patrol the cyber lanes of Nerdville to find out the exact date, and be prepared with a bottle of bubbly for the occasion, possibly a hotel room, and leave the rest to your smutty imagination. If it's gonna happen, which it obviously won't, but either way, I guarantee I'll have a smile on my boat race, such is the life of the grand dreamer. I shall attempt to, if not emulate, then at least share in the spirit of a girl I met while travelling, who instead of adhering to the aboriginal request to not climb their sacred big red pebble called Uluru, hoisted the metaphorical middle digit by shagging her boyfriend of the time when up the top of the damn thing, now that's the sort of stuff you can't help but smile at. It did however almost cause her a bit of grief back home when she had to rescue the book from her mum before she got to that bit. Is that really nearly ten years ago now?!!, bloody hell, where did it go??.

Yep, I'm definitely in the sort of zone that could annoy people, but this is me most years, once the falseness of yuletide has been swept away, normal business can be resumed. And despite a few blips, I'm maintaining the non smoking better than well, it's been over two months now, with less than half a dozen lapses. The pub was always going to be the hardest part, but as finances are so strained that issue has been somewhat taken out of my hands, but the lapses I did have weren't at the pub anyway, the most recent being at Davids belated Boxing day bash, which was a bloody good night in damn fine company, so I'll treat that like the seasonal cigar box that used to appear on such occasions, and hope Mr Severs will forgive me for scarfing down the whole thing on my own without thinking!!

Later today I'm off to the Amex, the Albion take on Southampton, a top of the table side with mid table support, but then their fans have always been pants, while the team have mostly punched above their weight. Brighton are in the grip of a poor run, exascerbated by some dreadful discipline and sadly misfiring front men, suffice to say the bookies favourite will be the red and white shirts of St Marys, but as we all know, football's a funny old game of two halves, nothing is written, and anything can happen, so us fans will still believe our lads can get a result and play our part as the twelth man.

As far as resolutions go, no thanks, what will be will be. I'd like to think there might be more work around this year, but I can easily occupy my mind with the various writing projects I have underway if there isn't, though some kind of focus may not go amiss in that department. I tend to be easily distracted, so prefer to have more than one project at a time to work on, currently the Shoreham Fort project is front and centre, as well as the family tree, which is always hanging around one way or another. I'd like to be able to afford to travel around the country finding out more about the ancestors lives, but I'll have to make do with what I can glean through the internet for now. The Fort, or Redoubt as it was originally called, has proved to be a very welcome and unexpected distraction, allowing me to indulge my interest in all things historical, especially local history, so I look forward to continuing with that investigation and where it may lead. I also want to clean up and finish a short story I've had on the back burner for a few years now, most of the writing is there already, it just wants sorting out and editing ready for readers consumption. We'll see about that, no promises, but I hope I do actually get it moving again at least.

Also, the Devil needs a few things doing to it while she's out of the water, so a team needs organising for scrub down, and anti foul detail, general spiv, and get back in the wet stuff so we can sail again as soon as possible, which will also mean dismantling the Devils staircase once more, then finding room in the garage to store it for another year!! That's just reminded me I didn't get round to organising the bloody garage, again!! Bugger. On days like this, being out on the water is just bliss, so I look forward to that happening asap.

We've had unwellness in the house this Chrimbo, but health appears to be returning thankfully, which is the strongest pointer to my current jollity, and long may that continue. And I wish exactly the same in terms of good health to all who stop by and read my little missives, yep, both of you. Until the next blog, look after yourselves you crazy duo, and welcome to the end of the world, sorry, 2012 I mean:)))

Image: The Fische staircase turned aft


The Fische staircase

Me and Fred finally got the staircase out from its original position and swung it round into the new stairwell we'd created, with a bit of help from a block and tackle, an occasional mopped brow, and almost no swearing! We'd both been of the opinion it might need a few more bodies throwing at it, but come the time, once we'd given the job a few coats of looking at and worked out the logistics, we just got on with it between the two of us. Unfortunately, once the stairs were in the new position it was apparent we'd have to jiggle things around a bit to get some suitable headroom, but that would have to wait until the next day, so mission half accomplished at the time, but it had been a good days collar, and the main target of freeing up the midships for Sams 40th party had been achieved, all good.

One nil to the referee

Along at the Amex on Saturday the wheels had well and truly come off the wagon after just 12 minutes of play, with the Albion down to nine men. Play had been stopped by the ref in about the fourth minute, nothing seemed to be happening so the crowd began amusing itself, each of the stands singing across to each other, when suddenly you could sense something was wrong by the reaction of the fans closest to the situation, only to realise next that Vincelot had been given his marching orders, but what for? We could only guess it must have been words, but what was said we'll probably never know, there's only one word I'd like to hear the refs views on, and that's 'discretion'. He took the word of his fourth official apparently, and sent Vincelot off on the back of that, putting the Albion under the cosh just five minutes into the game. Then barely five minutes later Barnes is shown the door for a studs up challenge on Mc Cann, who should have found himself at least in the book for his reaction, right under the refs nose he's on top of Barnes pushing him into the turf, but it would appear Mc Cann was wearing the wrong coloured shirt get a card at that point.

Football fans are not known for their love of officials at the best of times, but you can just imagine how far down this refs stock had gone by now, and that well known tuneful ballad, "the referee's a wanker' was soon booming around the stadium. I have to say, there was no short amount of confusion among us when Poyet decided to make two substitutions after just 20 minutes, taking off Lua Lua and Harley, replaced by Noone and Navarro, it didn't make sense, down to nine men and with 70 minutes or more left, but what do we know?. Not long after that, Burnleys numerical advantage turned itself into a goal in the 32nd minute, it took only seconds for the ground to almost sing as one, "one nil to the referee", which soon faded to be taken over by the tune to the Great Escape which once it got going, seemed as if it was never going to end, the stadium was absolutely bouncing. I've never known an atmosphere so good for a defeat, it was pure siege mentality, and the Albion fans in every stand were behind it.

As one wave of attacks after another surged towards the Albions goal, so the team repelled all comers one way or another in a collossal display of guts if not glory, but towards the end it seemed as if a miracle might be on the cards. For all of Burnleys possession and time in our half, they hadn't been able to add to their lone goal, while the Albion began breaking out and getting upfield, with chances coming to Mackail Smith, and Tarricco in the last ten, with an absolute beauty of a chance falling to Mackail Smith right at the death, if he'd tucked it away the ground would have shook and the roof been lifted by the fans, but such was not to be. All in all, I very much doubt anyone that was there will forget such an atmosphere for a losing side in any great hurry, the best defeat I've ever witnessed.

Spilling the seed

I had the misfortune to hear of an incident where someone poured pure verbal vitriol and spite onto a person ill equipped through health reasons to do anything about it, other than leave the situation. It amounted to bullying effectively, and as we all know, a bully is just another term for gutless coward. My ears pricked up as the story was recounted to me, the offender actually believing that the ability to upload his seed amounted to a life achievement, and airing that worthless thought while simultaneously informing his object of abuse that he had achieved nothing, purely on the basis of not having sired a child. (He said far worse, but there's no need to advertise the extremity of his venom here). What kind of a fool actually believes that bullshit. Your achievement is as a parent, and how you go on to bring that child up, not the ability to perform an action that every single male member of the human species was designed to do. I've known plenty of blokes down the years that have displayed an ability to sire children, often all over the place, and a great deal of whom I'd say mankind would have been better served by them being neutered before they could spread their pestilent seed, it makes you weep for humanity that so many women fall for these bar fly fathers with their cock sure demeanour, pun intended.

Tommy Tippets Solo Atlantic row

Earlier on in the year, Tommy joined us on the Devil for a trip across the channel, as part of his training for the impending Atlantic crossing from the Canary Islands to Barbados. We've been following his progress ever since that trip across to St Valerie. He started off the week before last, unfortunately he's had a minor setback, and is currently back on the island of La Gomera awaiting his second bite of the cherry, but he keeps a blog, so here you are:-

Tommys blog:-

It has been 8 days since I set off from La Gomera at the start of the Talisker Whisky race and I must admit, I didn’t expect to be where I am 8 days on. It also seems much more like 8 weeks than 8 days. But, for all that has happened, I currently find myself sitting on the side of a small marina in the ‘Port’ of El Estaca on the island of El Hierro, currently without money, shoes or any respectable items of clothing (not that this is too much of a problem).

Before I describe the events of the last week I will say that things are looking up and although currently not making much progress towards Barbados, it is not all over and I am planning to be back under way at the turn of the year.

The start of the race was delayed for 24 hours due to strong wind conditions prevailing through and it was felt that with the weather turning calmer over the following few days, a 24 hour delay would be in everyone’s best interests. So on Monday 5thDecember 17 boats set out of San Sebastian harbour and started the long trip across to Port St. Charles, Barbados.

For me, I could not have got a better start. Moderate winds from the NE set me moving well over the first 6 hours. Boat felt good as did I, there was onslaught of sea sickness that created big problems in the initial days for teams, and for the time I was at sea I was not once ill, something to be said for solo rowers etc. It also wasn’t exactly benign conditions.

I had got down to the South of the island by nightfall and set about getting into my routine quickly, something that is important to do early. I got my head down (again something that some people really struggle with, I was sleeping really well at sea) and awoke to find the winds had shift SE and were pushing me backwards towards the South of Gomera. Not an ideal start, but something I would have to deal with during the trip. I got back on the oars and was able to row against the wind (and a .5 knot current against) and tried to then make a bit of progress.

By midday on day 2 (Tuesday) the E/ESE/SE winds had kicked in and were pushing me W/NW when off watch. I had the para anchor out and for the rest of the afternoon and would still drift West towards El Hierro.

These conditions continued for the next 2 days and chances of a proper routine being established quickly vanished. I ended up rowing from about 0400-1100 when the winds were the lightest, make up what I had lost and try and head South. For those of you following my route, you can see it wasn’t exactly plain sailing! It became hugely frustrating still being able to see Gomera to the North, and only by day 5 was I out of sight of land both at day and night.

Day 5 came in and the winds had dropped, the sea has a lot calmer and I was able to break out of the small area I had found myself in for the previous 3 days. I made good progress on Friday with no help from the conditions (although to me this seemed like bliss as it wasn’t wind/current against) and my aim was to get to the South of El Hierro before the strong NE’s kicked back in on Friday night. This would mean I could just run with the weather, rather than trying to fight it to go South to miss the island.

Friday night and I was set and ready for the big weather to really accelerate away.

I woke for my 0400 shift and started to make slow progress with little weather around to help. It was during this 3 hour shift that the weather built and by 0900 the NE’s were blowing 20-25 knots and the swell was rising to about 15ft. It was at this time that the problem on the boat was becoming noticeable. In the weather that we were experiencing, the only thing a rower can do is put the stern to wind and weather and go with it. This is where you will get the most miles and can reach over 10 knots surfing the big swells that you get. The problem I was facing was that in these conditions, by boat would not sit down wind and instead sit beam (side) on to the conditions. With the weather that was coming through, this was going to be a real problem as it is when the boat is beam on that it can be capsized (in most cases) For 24 hours straight I was trying absolutely everything to turn the boat stern into wind and face down the swell, but there seemed to be nothing I could do.

I spoke to Simon (Chalk, race duty officer) at around midday who offered some advice on getting the boat travelling forward, but none of his advice seemed to work. I also called one of the guys who rowed the boat last race and Charlie Pitcher, another solo rower, but none of the advice offered by these guys again seemed to work. At this point the weather was getting pretty big and a couple times there had been a danger of capsizing, so I was back on anchor, with bow to wind and all the weather hitting the bow and deck.

Saturday night was a long night. I found out later that the support boat had experienced gusts of over 35 knots . It was slow going moving things around the boat, trying to change the weight at each end to see it that would make a difference.

Simon had alerted the support boat of the difficulties I was in and arrived up at where I was about around 0630 Sunday morning, day 7. I had been through almost 24 hours without any sleep and hardly any food and was knackered. I wasn’t too far from the South of El Hierro island and with the wind/swell forecast to get stronger (a big low pressure system of the UK was sending 15m swells down this way) I took the decision to take a tow to the port than try and continue and risk getting lifted off a capsized boat which could well have set adrift. It was easily one of the most difficult decisions of my life by with the benefit of hindsight by all means the right one.

So this brings us to where I am now. Fortunately Woodvale still have a few cars down here with trailers, and I have someone coming across now to trailer the boat back to La Gomera.

I have spent the last 2 days speaking to everyone and anyone who has had anything to do with the boat and the common consensus is is that it is a weight issue more than anything else. What is quite likely is that being a boat built for pairs, it is just not heavy enough with just me in it and my kit. There is talk of centreboards and autohelms etc. It is also to do with the trim of the boat, where the weight is sitting. This obviously should well have been something I should have squared away, the problem is it is very difficult to train in winds of the strengths I was in as I would not have any way of getting back...this is the thing with ocean rowing, it is harder to train for it than it is to actually just go and head one way!

As I mentioned at the start, this is by no means the end. I am heading back to Gomera with the boat and will spend the next few weeks getting this issue of weight sorted out, and will know for sure if it is something more than weight that is the problem. There are a couple of boats leaving la Gomera in January, one is another Talisker entrant who had to pull out early, and with Woodvale’s work teams boat coming through in February, it is not going to be quiet out there.

It is early days with setting off in January, but I will know for certain by then if it is a problem I can solve, which hopefully it will be, and should be. Fingers crossed. Anyway 2 days ago I had it in my head I had another year to go before another attempt.

Charlie Pitcher, the guy who rowed JJ in 2009 in 52 days, offered some kind words. He said that in sailing it is not uncommon to have teams head out in big races with the wrong set-up on a boat and be forced back.

Will keep you up to date with my movements over the next few weeks, and how things are progressing.

Thank you to everyone for your messages and support, it is truly appreciated and has really helped over these last few days.

As I say, fingers crossed. I suppose this is all just another chapter in the book...

You can follow Tommy's progress on Facebook or Twitter, just tap in- soloatlanticrow and click follow when you get there.

Image: Squire on the Devils staircase


Latest goings on with Wolf E Boy
(Started 08-12-2011)

While my last blog was a bit of a rant over the current economical climate, I am aware that despite the shit we're in, there are still plenty of people that would rather not be reminded of it, and as promised, this one will be non political. Although I will soon be having a pop at the London Olympic scandal coming to rinse the nation next year.

The Devils staircase 2011

Once again it's that time of year when the boat comes out of the water for general maintenance, scrubbing, sanding, and painting the Devil's bottom coming top of the 'to do' list. But before any of that happens, the staircase had to be dragged out of the garage and reassembled alongside the boat, to allow Squire easier access, and provide the rest of us with peace of mind every time he decides to visit his beloved floating garden shed on dry land. Myself, Stig, and Simon took on the duty last Sunday, with Stig getting along to paint the thing during the week, weather permitting.

It was a tad lucky that the Devil was out of the water when it was, because the Shoreham Harbour canal where she is berthed had been having its lock gates repaired, but something didn't go exactly according to plan, and two and a half metres of water was being let out earlier than expected, now bear in mind that this canal is about two miles long, and that's a lot of water. Also, it meant a lot of yachts had to be moved across to the working dock quayside, where the water would still be deep enough for their draught, overnight. Next day, on the Friday, me and Stig hoofed it down there to witness the spectacle, but alas we were too late, and the tide had been coming back in to the canal a while already, now just half a metre lower than the usual limit. Apparently it had been quite a sight at its lowest, and muggins here missed yet another once in a lifetime photo opportunity!

The Fische and the Singer

Along at the Fische houseboat, me and Fred are moving ever closer to the target of getting the staircase changed around, we've altered the deck joisting below ready to accomodate the stairs, and begun the framework above deck for the stairwell canopy. Next stage will be to clad it all in ply and weather it with felt, as long as the weather allows us the opportunity, right now it's blowing a gale and intermittently slashing down with rain, not conducive to outdoor work. I've also now acquired an old Singer treadle sewing machine from Fred and Polly, as they haven't room for it in their wheelhouse lounge, all I have to do now is find somewhere to put it. It was manufactured in 1912, and even has the certificate of sale inside, as well as all the instructions, and bills for repair work over the century. It looks like an old bureau desk at first, but has the sewing machine underneath the desk, which flips up ready for use. With a bit of TLC I can see it will look quite smart, and who knows, it may even see some action if I can work out how it goes!

Family tree stuff

When I returned from Ireland the other week, with renewed interest in tracing my ancestors as a result of having found out new information gleaned from the trip, I had a complete surprise via e mail. I had been contacted by a Josh Ramus, informing me he'd seen my family tree write up on this site, and that he was indeed a distant relative, further to that, his Grandfather remembered my Great Great Grand Uncle, Benjamin Ramus, and the Ostrich Quill feather manufacturing business that the family operated in, among other dealings. This is a side of the family which holds some of the greatest intrigue, and to have him e mail me right after my return from having found out more stuff about Benjamins brother, my Great Great Grand Father, Joseph Ramus, was a huge coincidence, especially as I hadn't really done anything about the family tree for quite some time before the trip. So now I look forward to filling out the Ramus family history even further, and also sharing what I've discovered with the wider family.

The Albion

Last weekend the Albion pulled off a bit of a mugging on poor old Forest, putting one past them in the dying minutes. Don't get me wrong, I don't really pity them, that's just the way it goes in fitba sometimes, but they must be gutted, having lain siege to our goal for so long, although in fairness, if they had anyone that could get a shot on target it wouldn't have gone to the wire. From the Albions point of view, everything changed pretty much from the moment Lua Lua came on, immediately tearing down the flank and giving their defence all kinds of problems. The all knowing font of football knowledge in the seat behind popped up in a different position, but I was soon tuned into his annoying tones, although Stv swore it wasn't him. The thing is, there are two of them, they're brothers, and I believe here lies the confusion, all else remains the same, an irritant in the earhole. You wouldn't believe my luck, I only had him behind me up at Southampton too, Stv pissed himself laughing when I told him. As usual this muppet was imparting his perceived wisdom to the players, generally telling them they were doing it wrong, passing to the wrong player, even repeating the information after the event when things had gone quiet, presumeably in the hope they might hear and know better for the next time. I guess he either has thick skin or a hearing problem himself, as he never responds to the pleas for him to, "shut the fuck up", coming from around him. He did seem to quieten down following an exchange between Stv and myself which ended with me saying loudly, "the players need our support, what they don't need is advice from someone that has to pay to watch them". But come the end we were all laughing our tits off together as Buckley finished off that lovely move after the ever tireless Mackail Smith put the cross in to the box. Lucky perhaps, (the result, not the goal), but it goes both ways in football, and somehow I don't see Forest being at the bottom end of the table come April. And bloody good support they had for a side so low in the Championship too.

Giving up

I didn't realise it at the time, but my trip to Ireland has become the starting point from which I've given up smoking. There was no intent, I hadn't planned to give up, although I'd long been aware of the link between my smoking and drinking too much, mainly because I enjoyed a few scoobs in the evening, and didn't like smoking without a drink, so it got to the situation where I was smoking and drinking myself into oblivion, on my own, which is pretty sad in itself really. Then wake up feeling lethargic, not wanting to drag myself out of my pit, and giving myself a crap start to virtually every day.

Update (13-12-2011)

Well, it's a few days later now, Squire has been using the Devils staircase with its new non slip paint doing its job, me and Fred have completed the staircase canopy on the Fische, and today I opened up the well to accomodate the stairs, so it's all systems go now to switch the existing stairs around. Regarding the family tree, young Josh seems to have decided against contact, but just having his name was enough for me to trace his line back to my Great Great Grand Uncle, Benjamin Ramus, and solve a puzzle I've been hampered by for a couple of years now, so his e mail had a positive result for me and my investigations at least.

The Albion succumbed to Middlesborough up at the Weirside, but only courtesy of a goal keeping blunder, although after our result against Forest the week before, perhaps that's just things evening out, let's hope for better this weekend at home to Burnley. As far as the smoking is going, I'm in the fourth week now, but I have to admit to having lapsed three times so far, all with scoobs, and just a shared single skinner each time after a few too many beers. I've coughed up enough to tar a roof so far, and have been informed it's about two months from kicking the habit before that stops, oh happy happy joy joy!! I already feel much more awake in the mornings as a result, and have cut out midweek drinking completely, bar Thursday pool nights, so the old bod ought to be rejuvenating itself hopefully. I won't be taking up running or anything daft like that, but it's nice to know I'm lessening the chances of cardiac arrest if I have to dash for a bus, or chase a deep sea diver down the road.

Writing wise, I've decided to give myself a project to concentrate on, and I'll be using the family tree for the story. I've already started with the family tree write up on this web site, (wolf-e-boy.com:- 'Ramus Family Tree' page). I would be most grateful for any input, advice, or opinions, as it's just a beginning at the mo. The idea is going to be to follow the Artists, Fine Art Dealers, and Ostrich Quill feather dealers in the Ramus family, (of which there are many), during the 1800's, trying to follow the trades through my ancestors and their travels and dealings along the way. I'm in the research stage at the mo, but will post whatever I manage to achieve on the Family Tree page as I go.

Bankers, Usurers, & Strikers

Having recently been drawn into an online war of words with a student, I felt perhaps the time was right to revisit the subject of the recession, the varying implications of it, and seemingly vast differences in how people perceive where the fault lies for why we're in it, and what should be done about it.

The Culprits

I can't imagine too many people, other than those in the banking industry, doubt which institution is responsible in the main for the shit we're all in now. But they had plenty of help from a number of other groups, from governments that mistakenly helped that gravy train along by removing regulations intended to control the financial sector, morally bankrupt, parasitic estate agents fuelling the housing market gold rush by pushing prices up while enjoying ever better commissions as a result, stock market speculators, hedge fund managers, and other so called financial experts, whose collective behaviour would eventually drive the gravy train over a cliff, leaving everyone else to pay the price.

Clearly plenty of ordinary citizens put themselves in debt situations they should never have taken on, but these big institutions had been using the media to promote the idea that property was only going to keep going up in value, 'get in while you still can', being the message, at the same time as offering mortgages at five times or more of their salaries for 100% of the value, taking in no account for a downturn in the market. Then some unscrupulous bright sparks in America came up with the idea of Credit Default Swaps, or CDF's as they would soon become known, basically selling debt on as Triple A rated bonds to ill informed investors, after all, debt gives far higher yield in terms of interest, but not if it can't be repaid, and therein lay the problem, more and more people were struggling to pay their over extended mortgages, but it didn't stop these low life pond scum from carrying on selling the CDF's until the very last minute. The 'so called' experts call it a global problem and say it's not their fault, the same experts that had not a clue as to what was round the corner when this debt firestorm was building. They didn't want to hear the voices that were raising doubts, or in some cases, screaming from the rooftops about the madness carrying on, they just didn't care because they were coining it.

The financial sector has no social conscience, profit is king/God.

This is all history to us now, but the people responsible in the main, all carry on living a life the vast majority could only ever dream of, while the average working man and woman on the street finds life getting a little tougher with every passing day. At the same time we have people like Philip Green, owner of TopMan chain, and major share holder in Arcadia group, avoiding taxes by all manner of means, such as offshore accounts, or acquiring businesses in the names of family members, such as his wife, registered as living in Monaco, and therefore avoiding having to pay tax under British law. Green, and people like him, tax dodging scumbags, believe they already pay enough, while enjoying obscene wealth and lifestyles that no one could possibly work hard enough to earn or deserve in just one lifetime. They're a damn sight worse than any of the dole blaggers that governments love to demonise and point to as the cause of all our financial woes, but they both do the same thing, play the system, it's just that you won't find any dole blaggers swanning around in their own private jets , or gin palace yachts.

I believe social mobility should be encouraged, but in tandem with a social conscience. And there absolutely should be a limit to how much wealth one person can be allowed to amass, no one person needs billions. Maybe it's a mindset that needs changing, the whole idea of the private sector 'being a jungle', where the strongest survive, but generally with low, or no ethics at all. Then bear in mind the power these wealthy business people wield in the corridors of power through lobbyists, do we really want the lowest ethical pond life exerting influence over Governments, Murdoch and his venal enterprises being a perfect example of all that is bad in that department.

So the shit has long since hit the fan, and now a different Government is in power, with the heinous task of finding a way to get out of this huge national debt that we've been left in. Everyone, bar those that have lived in a closed box for the last few years, knows we're in debt up to our eyeballs, but a large swathe seem to think we can get out of it by borrowing more, and not addressing the situation. Well wake up and smell the coffee, because, much as I'd like to see the entire financial sector made to pay, it isn't going to happen, so buckle up, rein in the spending, and prepare for hard times to come.

One thing that winds me up amid all this shyte, is that there are still adverts on TV for all kinds of quick loans, or 'Payday Loans' as they've been named, these parasites offering their pernicious lending services, such as, 'Wonga.com', and, 'Borro', claim to be able to 'help' people struggling with debt. Has no one learned anything, if you're in financial shit, the last thing you need is to 'Borro' more. There's a name for this high interest kind of loan business, it's called USURY, look it up if you haven't seen it before, it might make you think. I don't believe they should even be allowed to advertise their Usury, on TV or anywhere else, or at least not without full disclosure of exactly how much that debt will become on repayment, and especially how much it would be over an extended period when the borrower finds they can't pay it back straight away.


As far as this goes, well a lot of public sector workers got some valuable early christmas shopping done by the sound of things, thus helping the economy a little, but they achieved nothing else. No awareness was raised, we all know already what the situation is, their situation has remained unchanged, and although I'm sure we'd all like to bury our collective heads in the sand and hope it all goes away, that isn't going to happen either. The fact is, for the most part, public sector wages have consistently gone up over the last 20 years, and rightly so in most cases, but the reason for the beneficial pension schemes they used to get, was precisely because their wages were often so low, the pensions were an incentive to take up an otherwise unattractive career. These days the public sector out performs a great deal of the private sector in pay, so why should tax payers fund their pensions on top of that. Obviously this will cause controversy, but a state must be able to afford these pensions, it's no good if these well meaning provisions for our public sector workers bankrupt the country further.

Private sector workers on the other hand, get no assistance, not only do our wages not go up, they topple down like a loose rock falling down a mountain in hard times. Look at all the private sector pensions that were lost at Equitable Life, who jumped in to save them, oh yeah, no one. I could go on, but as a friend rightly pointed out to me, we shouldn't be fighting each other over this, none of us ordinary working people caused this problem, some may have unwittingly added to it by not thinking straight when borrowing, but overall, the real problems came from the top of the food chain, but as usual, the rest of us have to deal with it one way or the other, unpalatable but true. Merry Shitmas !!

Next blog will definitely be politics free!!

I should add here, if you can't afford something, then don't try to buy it, and most definitely don't borrow so that you can have it. Don't bleat when you can't afford to cover a credit card bill just because you weren't thinking when you made transactions for stuff you couldn't really afford.

Image: Me and Phil Lynott outside Bruxelles bar, Dublin

Image: Fat Freddie


Things have been a bit too busy to write just lately, or at least that's how I'm excusing myself leastways! Workwise I've been helping a mate convert his roof space, by pulling out a gable end, as well as three dormers, and with the ever decreasing light it's been no mean feat to get it all done and weathered back in. There's also been the Devil duties, sailing her down to Southampton so that the riggers could put right the last lots efforts, a disappointing football match not far from there on the following Saturday, and finishing up with a fine few days over in Dublin, meeting up with travel buddies from my world tour back in 2002-04. Right now I'm back home and it's Trough day again, so with all the prep work done, I can sit and get a few words down, let's see if I can do justice to the events.

With Monday Trough all prepped and ready two weeks back, and stuff booked in for the week ahead, me and Fred had a window of a few hours to get some flooring down inside the Fische where we had framed and joisted out the week previous. It was tight, but we got the important bit done, allowing Fred to carry on in my absence, ready for the next step, which is the turning round of the staircase, and forming the decktop canopy cover for it. I'd promised them we'd get everything done for January and the big party, and we've still got December, so fingers crossed on that front. As we were doing it, I mentioned to Fred about us taking the Devil along to Southampton the next day, and he asked if there might be room for him, "absolutely mate", I told him, without giving a thought to the logistics. But as I always like to tell people, there are no problems, just solutions waiting to be discovered.

The Devil goes down to the Solent

Up bright and early Tuesday morning on a clear and sunny day, the crew consisted of the Old man, Stig, self, Fred, Bunny, and Dougie Beanland, who had offered his assistance when it looked like we'd be short handed. Fortunately it was a near perfect day to sail along the coast, with the wind behind us for the whole trip, we could even stick the spinnaker up as we had our foredeck man, Bunny, on board. I often wonder what some of the older, more experienced sailors think when they see us in action, marvelling at how I seem to have learnt almost nothing whatever during the decades that my old man has owned boats. The truth is that I never really had any interest in it, but in the last couple of years I've become more involved, mainly because the old boy won't go on forever and I want to make damn sure I make the most of the time he has left, which I hope is plenty. Nonetheless, you can't help feeling a bit stupid when someone that actually knows their onions is on board to witness your lack of sailing knowledge, Bunny has mocked me on many occasion for just that reason, always in light hearted jest, but he has a valid point, git!

As it turned out, the raising of the spinnaker actually slowed us down, but we persevered with it anyway. Doug handed over the helm to Stig for a bit, while myself and Bunny lent on the boom to keep the main out wide, scooping as much of the following wind as poss. When you're lent on the boom in such situations, you're looking at where you've been all the time, and notice by the trail of the wake just what sort of course you're steering, which was a fairly steady zig zag, so we gave Stig a bit of grief over that, to which he commented, "you can take over if you like", and I certainly didn't fancy steering the Devil with the Gary up, so fair play to him for giving it a go, which he did for quite a while before we relented and took the thing down, almost instantly increasing our speed as a result, the wind just hadn't been quite strong enough to suit it.

After an uneventful, but enjoyable cruise along the channel, we made our way up to the Itchen river, passing under the Itchen bridge very nervously, with Doug bringing the engine almost to a halt as we inched towards it with trepidation. The bridge is supposed to have 24 metres clearance, and the Devlis mast is apparently about 14 metres high, so you'd think it would be fine, well it certainly didn't look anything like ten metres clear from the cockpit, but she did slide under ok. By this time the sun was dropping behind the industrial horizon of Southamptons refineries, giving some cracking photo ops, and then we spot St Marys stadium, where I would be later that week for Brightons game away to Southampton, and Fred mentions that it was around here that he finalised the deal to buy his houseboat, what a small world. We moored up at Shamrock Quay with the light now fading fast, only to be told we have to take the sails off, but once again we had problems with the furling gear for the foresail. A guy from the riggers firm told me abruptly, "the sails have got to be down before we start", to which I responded by telling him it was his problem because they fitted the damn thing and we've had nothing but trouble from it since. I took his shrug of the shoulders and sheepish look as acceptance that they would indeed be taking it down themselves.

Owing to my inviting of Fred and Bunny along for the sail, David had to arrange a second car to get us back, Simon came along to assist, so once again, Solutions 1- Problems nil. Fred doesn't get many opportunities for time off, as the Fische is a full time job just to maintain really, so I was glad he had the chance to come along, and he's popular with all of us so it was a win win situ.


Dave shouted me up quite some while ago about helping him with his loft conversion when he got around to starting, just for the first fix stage, forming the shapes, ready for the roofers to weather it all in, leaving him to carry on the internal stuff at his leisure. I suggested a couple of mates I use as extra hands because you don't want to be caught under the cosh with the light running out at the end of the day, which pretty much happened nearly every day anyway, and tarping up in the dark is no fun, in fact, tarping up is never fun under any circs, just annoying dead time. The trouble is, even if you know it isn't going to rain, you can't take the chance, and you know if you don't weather up at the end of the day, it's going to rain, you also know that when you've done a bang up job of tarping up, there won't be a drop, sods law.

One of the first things that struck Dave when he saw Jez turn up with me, was how much he looked like this comic character from his beloved 'Freak Brothers' comic collection, 'Fat Freddie', as Dave soon showed us, is the comic double of Jez, or 'Slim King', as we know him, so now Jez has another nickname. There was a bug sweeping through Daves household at the time, but it never occurred to us that we might have caught it as we swapped our aches and pains stories at the end of each seemingly gruelling day of graft. On the Friday night we stopped in for a couple of well earned pints, and I felt like I'd been ten rounds with Mike Tyson, so here's alittle mini rant against a few certain women that delude themselves that they alone know pain or illness. All of us were under the weather, (I must've coughed up my own body weight in lung butter!!), but we put it down to working hard, we didn't phone in to bleat how we needed a day off because of it, we went to work, worked hard, got it done. This man flu bollocks that I'm fed up to the back teeth of hearing, is a myth, there are as many whinging women as there are men, it has fuck all to do with the sex of the person, it has everything to do with the person. End of.

I was a bit gutted that I had to miss the return journey with the Devil on the Thursday, but work had to come first, so David, Stig, and Simon brought her back, overnight as it happened, but that was an impromptu decision, Squire drove them down that afternoon. As it turned out, they had to make the trip with no sails, so it was a bitch of a journey, yours truly had gotten lucky by missing it, they had the wind on the nose, and no sails meant no stability, ten hours of being chucked around in heavy swells in the English channel, not pleasant. Fair play to them.


I went to the Southampton v Brighton game on the Saturday, which didn't go well for us unfortunately, although we had a decent first half, but in the second half they scored a cracker of a first goal, then the ref decided to give them a little help too, and in the end it was batten down the hatches for a bit of damage limitation. As usual the Saints fans were pants, two entire stands remaining silent bar the goals, and just those fans right alongside us making any noise at all, they're a reasonable side with crap support, and always have been, can't even fill their stadium when they're steaming away at the top of the table, while Brighton play to an almost full house week in week out from the relative mediocrity of mid table. I will definitely admit to being a little bitter in my analysis, but that is the nature of the game so I do not apologise for it.

The following week at Daves place, I only had two days to give him, as I would be off to Dublin on the Thursday, and Monday Trough day being sacrosanct, but two days proved enough to get the majority done, this time with Ed helping instead of Jez, and he would be there to assist Dave on the Friday for the finishing touches to the exterior. All told, it was eight days to pull out a gable end, and form three dormers, as well as sheeting up every night against elements that wouldn't come, so not a bad effort all in all, and Dave was happy, which is all that matters.


In my usual lacklustre way of carrying on, everything was left to the last minute for the trip to the Emerald Isle, but I made the plane in time, and once in my hotel room, could relax and move on to slow mode. With no plans, except to meet up with Donny and co the next day, I could just slob out and rest, which I have a definite talent for. Come Friday morning I was full of beans and purpose, the boys would be turning up in the evening, so I had a day to investigate the city, and an idea at the back of my mind regarding family history stuff, just an idea though.

One of the first things that struck me about Dublin, was that it feels less like a city than a town. It has virtually no high rise buildings, and while it has a fair amount of substantial buildings, with pillars, columns, and statues, the solemn greyness almost subdues their impact after you've seen a few of them, it's hard to properly describe the effect, but I felt comfortable, which is always a good start. The overall initial feeling was of a friendly place, easy to navigate, and not a bit overwhelming.

The hotel Central, where I was staying, is just as its name suggests, central more or less in the city, and a cursory glance at the hotel map showed the river Liffey to be within minutes walking distance, so that would be my first destination. It's not a wide river, at least not in the city centre anyway, and much like the buildings, its quaysides are grey stonework, and the bridges small and understated, they're every few hundred yards at least, and mainly quite similar in design, a humped bridge with low parapet walls. I've always had a fascination for rivers and bridges, ever since I was a child, and Dublins contribution are simply a different variety but no less interesting for it. The one thing that did occur to me mind you, was that if you were unlucky enough to fall in, I couldn't see how you'd get out again in any great hurry, as the sides are steep, and I didn't notice any steps down.

I ventured upon the Dublin council offices quite by chance, and decided to go in and see if they might be able to point me in the right direction for family heritage info, and while they didn't keep such records, the very helpful staff sorted me out with a map and sent me on my way to Pearse street library where they do have what I was looking for. It hadn't been my intention to yomp all over Dublin, but once I had the bit between my teeth and a purpose to spur me on, I covered a fair amount during the course of the day, a bit more than necessary at times as for some reason I kept turning right when I was meant to turn left, and vice versa, bizarrely convinced I would be going the right way without consulting the map in my pocket, duh!! But that's the beauty of having no time limit and no agenda to speak of, take as many wrong turns as you like, who knows where it may lead.

I made it to the Dublin city library and archive in Pearse street eventually, and once again the staff were incredibly helpful and friendly, so much so that I was in and out in less than half an hour, and marching under their directions towards the Irish Life Center over on the other side of the Liffey, where I would be able to pick up copies of the birth certificates I now had the info on. Once again the staff greeted me with smiles and advice, sorting me out with the copies I'd come for in about ten minutes, I could hardly believe how easily evrything had gone, especially as it wasn't something I'd actually planned. It turns out that my Great Great grand father, Joseph Ramus, was a comedian in Waterford from 1870, when his first born, Alfred Joseph popped into this world, and a Theatre manager there by 1875, the time he registered the birth of his daughter, Louisa Martha, so now I'll have to do some more digging to see what info I can glean from the theatre world of Waterford in the late 1800's.

Happy in my achievement, I headed back to the hotel in readiness for a drinking session with my Gaelic buddies later. Donny called and told me to meet them at Mulligans in Poolbeg street, where apparently you need to go if you want to try the best pint of Guinness in Dublin, not an offer you should refuse lightly. Now, if you go to Dublin for the beer, one of the first things you'll notice, is that the pubs all look as if they haven't changed in a century or more, and none of them are owned by breweries, they're all privately owned so Donny told me. Another thing you'll quickly notice in the majority of these old style pubs, is there's no music, yet the noise is deafening, and that's just people chatting, they're a lively lot and animated with it, you feel like you've stepped back in time, it's great. As usual I was first to fail, red carding myself quite early in the proceedings, much to the lads dismay I imagine, although they were far too polite to tell me. Unfortunately one of the lads had also reached and breached his limit without realising the fact, and I got a text from Donny later letting me know that Kal had spewed all over him, he said, "I was just telling Keith that Kal was looking at me funny, when he sprayed puke straight at me, lovely!". Poor old Kal was mortified, Donny, who had to curtail his evening as a result, told him not to worry about it, shit happens. It certainly deflected the limelight away from my shortcomings!

Next day I was up bright and early, and met up with Donny for a coffee, and after a couple of those we were going to have a quick short then an afternoon kip before the evenings hostilities. Seven pints later I left Donny, Keith, and Kal still at the bar, we'd made friends with some random Scandinavian lads, put the world to rights, debated the Gaelic Viking roots of the Irish, and generally talked nonsense until far later than I had hoped, I was by no means confident of fairing any better that evening to come than I had been the night before. As it turned out I did make it back out, and even lasted a good deal longer, I think maybe until about two in the morning, and I had to be up at six to get to the airport, which, god knows how, I managed. But as I sat in the taxi I noticed I'd had a text from Donny letting me know they'd just got back, when I checked the message details, the time it was sent was 05.36, Gaelic, Celt, or bloody Viking makes no difference, don't try to keep up unless you're one of them!!

Image: Tracey Emin posing with her 2012 poster. Oh dear, oh dear, shot a load of white.

Image: 2012 blowjob. Lisa and bart Simpson


The Art of Bullshit plus other stuff

Considering it's November it's amazing just how mild the weather has been this week, bar Thursday when the temperatures dropped and the wind howled, but other than that it's been T shirt weather, and few better places to be in such climes than the Fische on the riverbank. With the van now all done and legal again, thanks to Fred fitting all new brake drums, pads, and shoes on the old banger, we could crack on with the work on his houseboat. One of the joys of working along the riverbank, is the ever changing vista, courtesy of the tidal flowing river, as well as the wildlife. Fred called me up on deck, calling, "Kingfisher", so I sprinted up top in time to see this magnificently bright coloured bird sitting on the mooring ropes, it had a bright orangey red chest, and when it took off to investigate elsewhere, with its wings spread in flight, showing off its luminous green/turquoise back, you only had to look and admire. The area behind the houseboats is a wetland wildlife trust, so it has protected status, just imagine having that as your back door view.

The latest stage of work on the Fische has been the raising of the floor level amidships, to reduce the headroom and make the place easier to heat, as well as preparing it for the change around of the existing staircase, which currently descends forward, the idea is also designed to free up room forward of midships to increase the gig space for the occasional bands that they have come to play, and DJ mixing parties which Fred and Polly's sons Jake and Toby host, but the deadline for everything at the mo is for Sam, their eldest boy, so they can host his fortieth birthday party in January.

I see in the papers recently that Tracey Emin, has had one of her pathetic scrawls chosen as a poster to advertise the 2012 Olympics. Apparently Emin was influenced by Billy Childish after a four year relationship with him, which is quite ironic, as the talentless woman has trotted out nothing but childish crap throughout her career of being a non artist, or I should say, con artist. Only someone who aspires to to wallow in the slag heap would want to emulate her 'crapart'. Brit art ought to be called 'shitart', an embarrassment to the art world, and all those mugs who were taken in by the bullshit they called, 'conceptual art'. At one point, she destroyed all her paintings from her early period, one of the paintings that survives from her time at Royal College of Art is, 'Friendship', and when you see it you may have a better understanding of why she burnt the rest. Charles Saatchi was a finacial patron of Britart, and bought her 'Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995', which was basically a tent with names stitched on to the inside in letter squares, something like you might see at a childrens play group, but less interesting. Fortunately for Saatchi, a large part of his collection was destroyed in a warehouse fire in east London in 2004, before the world might wake up and recognise it all for the horse shit it was, or was it fortune? It wouldn't be the first time someone has used an insurance claim to cover potential losses.

But while I'm clearly not a fan of Emin's so called art, she does me no harm, the Olympics on the other hand, I'm absolutley no supporter of, but believe it will do significant financial harm to this country, just look at what it did to Greece. The only interest I've ever shown in the Olympics would be to look at the medal scores and see how well, or badly, the team GB has fared, although I'm perfectly well aware that plenty of people do enjoy it, my main bone of contention is simply that no country should be made to pay for an event that can pay for itself. I was desperate for the French to beat our bid when all that hoo ha was going on, let it drag them down was my abiding thought at the time, but now that we've been saddled with the poisoned chalice, it's like a tsunami heading towards you, whether we want it or not it's coming, and nothing will stop it now. I just wonder how many terrorists and extra immigrants it will wash ashore with it.

The only thing of interest left for me will be the stories created around it, something this big arriving on these shores will have an effect, it's just a case of waiting to see what kind of effect it will be, how the story plays out. Will London, already operating with the Square Mile ring of steel security, suddenly become more akin to Helmand province, or Kabul, as the security forces attempt to keep on top of any or all potential threats?

One set of the community that will benefit, will be the media, and real vermin, such as the insidious Murdoch empire. I see their latest threat is to close 'The Sun' newspaper after fresh allegations of phone hacking had been disclosed. Not content with having already closed one of the countries oldest papers, blaming everything on everyone else bar themselves, they are now prepared to close down the single biggest selling paper in this country for the last thirty years or so. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of these red top rags or the shyte they print, but the idea that they be closed down, for no better reason than to save the backsides of the very people responsible for the way they go about their day to day business, is a disgrace. How can you own and run a paper, and not be accountable for the way it carries on its business, a bit like saying, as a Pit Bull owner, that it's not your problem once it's off the lead, patent nonsense. Rupert Murdoch created the vicious, pack mentality, mob rule journalism that pervades his media outlets with their base level, sensationalist news items, so he should be found directly responsible and made to pay once they find themselves in the dock. I've said it before, but it's worth repeating, when you hear someone saying that cream always rises to the top, just remember, so does scum, the main difference being, there is far more scum than cream, bear that in mind when you look at the political and financial spectrum around the planet. The good guys are profoundly outnumbered by the scum.

Image: Verminart. Further proof of Tracey Emins lack of talent, or 'Friendship', as she called it.

Image: This is what our football genius in the 'Seat Behind', looks a bit like, but with much less hair, and no facial spider growth

Image: Amex pies, they're lovely!!


Fireworks and Football

Here we are at that time of year again, crisp November mornings, Gunpowder, Treason, and Plot, penny for the Guy, and remembering the fact that old Guido Fawkes very nearly changed history by blowing the Houses of Parliament in to the stratosphere. By way of a change, I celebrated the fact in another rather bleary weekend with a bit of fireworks and football thrown in for good measure, although I managed to turn up after the fireworks had finished and the crowds were streaming away from the Harbour club as I arrived, so straight to the bar then, can't fault that really. In fairness, as we sat outside by the river, there were fireworks galore going off all over the place, behind us on Shoreham Beach, as well as across the river in Shoreham and Southwick, so I could sup my Guinness and enjoy the various displays unhindered by crowds, all good.

The van scenario however, lingers on. Fred said he had reservations about the handbrake, but he'd tensioned it up, and I have to say, it felt fine to me, he'd changed the drums and pads for new, but at least this time I was prepared in case they failed it on the parking brake. I took the old thing up on Friday, grateful for the day off after a couple of hard days on the roof, and later came the call, failed on the park brake again, oh happy happy joy joy, not. A swift call to Fred, explain the situ, and today he's been out there disassembling all his work, and fitting new shoes, so hopefully with everything new regarding the brakes, I'll get a pass at last, they were at least good enough not to register the last retest, so that I'll only be charged half price as long as it's all done within ten days of the original MOT, small mercies. All I have to do then is scrape together the funds for the insurance and tax, bliss, again, not. At least I'll have peace of mind and a legal van.

With the Devil having been rested for this weekend, and Brighton playing on the Sunday, things worked out well I guess. Having been picked up by Alfie for the game, we also had two of the lads from his welding firm coming along, Paul and Vinnie. I've known Vinnie since we were kids, and this was his first time up at the Amex Stadium, as it was for Paul, who had struggled to find smart shoes and strides to wear, which is all to do with the dress code in the corporate hospitality of the 1901 club. When we got out of the car in the Sussex University car park, I had to laugh, the only shoes Paul had been able to get hold of, were white dancing shoes, straight away I was calling him Jimmy Melia, Brightons manager in the year they went to Wembley in the 1983 F A Cup Final, whose famous white footwear made the headlines. It's only a ten minute walk from the car park to the ground, but we were ribbing Paul pretty much the whole way, although he took it in good jest.

At the ground I left them to join the hoy paloy in Dicks Bar, queueing for about 20 minutes to get in, during which we were entertained by two comics in referee/linesmen outfits, doing their routine up and down the queue, as well as assailing any passers by that looked either interested or willing to join in. They had false goofy teeth, thick black rimmed glasses, and an overall kind of 1950's look about them, parodying refs and linesmens duties, talking about training methods, such as running with coins between their buttocks, or buns under the arms, displaying flag techniques for signalling the ref, all riotously overdone and bloody funny, they certainly had us all laughing, what a great idea to keep your mind off the waiting.

I met up with Stv, Kristy, and her dad, Rob once I got in, and the humour continued in there, turns out Rob's quite amusing company, always a bonus with someone you haven't met before. Poor Kristy was cringing at Robs swearing, while he was adamant that she ought to be used to him by now, me and Stv thought it was hilarious, 'carry on son, don't mind us', finding amusement at Kristy's blushes as Rob ramped up the swearing as if to emphasise his point, 'little things' and all that. We got into the North stand with enough time to get another pint before kick off, and for me to snag one of the new Chicken Balti pies they were rolling out for this game, and it was corking, so I now have a new favourite. I noted when we got to our seats that the football genius was behind us again, but we'd have to wait until the game starts before he begins telling us all where they're going wrong on the pitch. As it was, although he clearly believes he has some intricate knowledge of the game that simply has to be shared, he wasn't quite as vocal as usual, but he gave us a few chances to heckle him, then it's a mini battle between me and Stv to see who gets his shot in first, and I'm pretty sure he's onto us by now, but he can't help himself. There's a very real chance he may become something of a comedy hero without ever intending to, one of his shouts was, "how is it only me that's shouting it", in response to his own earlier comment, to which I got in before Stv with, "no change there then".

In between all of this was a game going on, and we went in half time one up, courtesy of a goal by Germaine (Gordon) Greer, she may be famous for her feminism tomes, but she can defend well too, as well as knocking in a goal every 54 games or so. The second half was memorable mostly for the goal which seemed unwilling to even occur, I'd love to see a slo mo of us lot going up and down everytime that bloody ball came back at the goal mouth until that Cockney Rebel, Steve (Ryan) Harley, finally stuck the damn thing in there, poor old Craig Mackail Smith must be wondering what he has to do to get on the scoresheet just lately, it was really down to his efforts that the goal came about. He is, in my books anyway, a legend for his commitment. 2-0, that'll do, and Southampton next week, bit of a turn around from last year when we 'done 'em' at their place. Much as my distaste for them is, I think the Albion need to be well above their game this time round, or it could be another embarrassment on a par with the debacle against Palace, and we really don't want that. I said on the way back, that the only really decent thing to come out of Southampton was Matt Le Tissier, only for the boys to inform me that the club have apparently fallen out with him, ha, I thought, bloody typical, would that ever happen with the legendary Peter Ward, I think not.



Dark Clouds and the Devil at sea

Dark clouds have once again decided to camp inside my head, courtesy of the MOT garage. Having had Fred working on the van beforehand, I felt quietly confident that if there was going to be a problem it ought only to be something trivial, so when I got the call to say the brakes just needed minor adjustment, I thought, ok, not too bad. Unfortunately the guy then informs me that it's about three hours work and they charge seventy bleedin' quid an hour, so 210 quid to find to keep my old banger on the road, but they couldn't do it until today (Monday), (this all happened last Friday). I phone them today and they tell me the brake discs and pads need replacing, and they're checking for prices, and doubtless their hourly rate on top of whatever they reckon they're gonna charge me for the parts. This is precisely the sort of shit that makes me want to terminate my membership of the human race, turns me into a dribbling, demented, raving bloody lunatic, desperately in need of this being someones fault. They can put forward any argument they like, it won't change the fact that their exorbitant rates are too rich for my pocket.

They called back later to tell me it'll be nearly 500 quid all up, so I told them to leave it, and I'll be along to pick up the van to take it somewhere I can get the work done without a metaphorical gun to my head, Fred. It's funny how vehicles seem to know when you've just filled the coffers up a bit, and then proceed to rinse you of those hard earned sheckles before you even have the chance to think about what else you might have spent them on.

Fortunately there's more work on the horizon, so I should be able to refill the once again empty bank account, and restore my sanity at the same time. There's definitely a case of cabin fever setting in after a while of not working, and likewise a feeling of novelty wearing off once I've been back on the tools for a bit, it's a delicate balance to strike in the bid for a happy medium. Either way, I'm hoping for good weather tomorrow, and a bit of roofing action with mates, perfect working scenario.

At the weekend the Devil went out for her last race of the year, prior to coming out for the yearly antifoul and general maintenance. Sunday morning was overcast and breezy, looking about right conditions for us, and a tad choppy once outside the harbour, with waves exploding onto the shore and covering vast swathes of it in snow white froth, this was going to be fun.

With a decent size crew, other than myself, David, Stig, and Pete, we had Squire back on board, as well as Del boy, Bunny, Ben, returning to us, with Dean, and Ann joining us to make up the numbers, meaning I could float around taking pictures and notes throughout the race, helping out where necessary. Del took the helm, and soon had us marking out, then tramping up and down a lane back and forth from the start line, tightening everything up on the sheets to power up the sails for a flying start, and the Devil was front of fleet and pulling away as we headed for the West mark. Coming up to the mark we had Moonlight Saunter a little behind us, but somehow let them slip between us and the mark, and Saunter went on to force us out, preventing us from going about until they had. The run from West to 3 was a tacking run, most of it on our ear, and we came up to the 3 mark a few boat lengths behind Saunter, with Yes It Is hot on our heels as we went round the mark and on to a spinnaker run to Delbuoy, the number 6 mark. We got the Gary up with our usual lack of finesse, and only moderate shouting, and soon were tanking along at 8 to 10 knots under 18 knots of wind, gusting to 25 on occasions, soon overhauling Moonlight Saunter, and putting distance between us and the chasing pack.

Having rounded Delbuoy in first, with Moonlight Saunter and Yes It Is, not too far behind us, we held the lead on the relatively short run down to the East mark and rounded it still in first, but Yes It Is, who had by now gone past Saunter, were having trouble with their foresail, it was stuck, while only half way out. We know only too well about such situations, so it was nice to see someone else rather than us having issues, it was also nice to see them holding up Moonlight Saunter too, which worked to our advantage nicely. While this was going on, there seemed to be confusion as to why the rest of the fleet appeared to be taking a different route from us, and soon enough, mine and Squires course was being questioned, not for the first time, by David. Determined to nip this in the bud, I came up top to scope for the next mark, number 3 again, and soon spotted it, to be told by Dean that I, "must have the eyes of a shithouse rat", "and manners to match", I told him, "I didn't say that, you haven't got the manners of a shithouse rat", Dean defended, but this was too good to pass up, "bloody hell, I don't EVEN have the manners of a shithouse rat now!, I've had some insults in my time, but that's a new depth". Dean continued to plead his defence to no avail, as I informed him, "that's the way I'll be telling it anyway", never let the truth n all that.

We rounded the 3 mark for the last time, still just ahead of Saunter and Yes It Is, into another spinnaker run, which nearly went wrong as Davids foot got caught between the spinnaker guy rope and the guard rail, as the Gary was filling and piling up the pressure on his foot, luckily Del had spotted it and pulled the helm to let the power out so David could get free, but from there on the Devil built steadily on her lead as we headed for the East mark again. The wind by now was picking up, and the sky gloomy, so the race committee ashore made the decision to shorten the course, which was a bit of a shame for us, as we need to have quite a big lead to get in the places after handicals are applied, and were looking good to have just that with another lap to do. Conversely, the extra lap could just have easily given us a chance to cock things up too, so we'll just enjoy the fact that we had line honours, rounding the East mark and tramping along to the Lancing Line finish in fine style, Moonlight Saunter and Yes It Is finishing a few minutes behind us. While we'd been concentrating on getting over the line, Ben had been overcome with a bout of seasickness, and hurled chunks all over the side deck, looking white as a sheet afterwards too, but he had a smile on his face despite that, a few buckets of seawater later and the debris was all gone, and another story to tell back at the bar.



Football, work, n Sunday Sailing

I know it's an often used analogy, but the old London bus adage is foremost in my little mind at the mo. Having seen the work dry up some considerable time ago, I now have a queue of people seeking either my carpentry skills, or quotes, site visits, e mails etc, and here lies the quandary. In my experience, the majority of effort spent on pricing and quoting, ends up as a waste of time, quite a lot of time too, so when you have an ongoing job then you give it priority because it's paying your wages, all else is just speculation, but you still try and snag the jobs you're putting the effort into pricing for, I'm not tapping away at the keyboard to hone my secretarial skills after all.

On site it's nice to be back working, and among friends too, which is always a bonus. Rory called me up to see what my availability was, so I had to tell Fred I needed to take the work, and put the houseboat stuff on hold for a bit, Fred was fine, and Rory was glad of the extra help. With my van MOT coming up though, I still needed Fred to get going on that, which is part of our deal, so he's been busy on the Sprinter while I borrow Ma's car in the meantime, which gets me a few funny looks at the builders yard when I go in for materials.

The job is a complete refurb and redesign, plus new extension, and I'm doing all the carpentry, from the flat roof construction, to floor joists, stud walls, doors, skirting and architrave, while Rory takes care of all the wet trade stuff, rendering, plastering, screeding, tiling, etc, as well as running the job. I first met Rory shortly after being made redundant at Watercraft LTD, where I served my boat building apprenticeship, he'd just left school and was working for his dad, Roy, as was I. This was an eye opening time for me, going from a boat building yard, where the standards are off the scale compared to house building work, to the world of building sites, and the mentality that goes with it, I would soon learn, (via a comical comment or two from Roy), just what was expected of me, and how far I would have to 'dumb down' to adapt to the building trade. Having put my foot through Roys ceiling when working in his loft, only to hear his voice below saying, "looks like we're starting the staircase early then", taken out a neighbours floral block wall as I fell in to a footing, with the barrow full of concrete on a job in Worthing, and generally taken forever to do most of the work I was given by him in those early days, the one thing that sticks in my mind is that Roys reaction would always be a grin, raise of the eyebrows, and then some amusing aside.

That was all 25 years ago, so it's been a nice surprise to not just meet back up with Rory, but also his brother Ryan, who was just 14 back then, he's fitting the kitchen, and Julianne, she was still at primary school, she's doing the decorating, and Roy himself, who lives down the road, and pops in from time to time to say hi. The speed with which this job is moving is pretty rapid, (in stark contrast to our labourer, Tom, or 'Lightning' as I call him), so the days go quick, and with old friends around, there's a laugh being had most of the time, and often, but by no means always, at Toms expense, although in fairness he takes absolutely no notice, maybe because he already knows he's destined for greater things, certainly he feels no great need to impress anyone by moving quick or working hard. I've said this before, but it's worth repeating, :- 'Your basic kid wants to know 4 things at work, 1-when's it tea break, 2- when's it lunch time, 3- when's it home time, 4- when do I get paid, whilst in between trying to wear the soles of his shoes in by dragging them around the site', and while it's impossible to dislike Tom, I'm afraid his destiny lies elsewhere, and my favourite weapon in these situations, Sarcasm, is a complete waste of time, it doesn't even register, although it gives me and Rory a giggle. He does however, make a cracking tea or coffee, can't fault him there.


Meanwhile, back at the Amex, Brighton secured a welcome draw against Hull last Saturday, a point hard won I'd say, but a good game to watch, with decent stuff from both sides, their keeper in particular looked very comfortable in his position. It was a game full of chances, most of the best efforts going to Hull in fairness, but the Albion had their share, and Craig Mackail Smith continues to be the man at the centre of the majority of those. Unfortunately, we have an issue with one of the seats behind us, it belongs to a dickhead, and when he isn't in it, his brother is, and he's an equal head of dickness. We first became aware of the problem at the Gillingham game in the Carling cup, but heard him say it was his brothers ticket so he wouldn't be there very often, only to find out later that they're every bit as bad as each other. The idea that they have to pay to watch, while the players on the pitch are professionals, seems to be lost on them, convinced at every touch of the ball, that they know better what our players should be doing, and not only that, these morons lack the restraint required to keep their oafish bullshit to themselves, so we have to endure their knowledge free comments spewing forth like sewage being forced out of a storm sewer. At one point this football genius began answering his own blather, after another misguided rant, he said, "why am I shouting from back here", "quite!", was all I felt was needed for that, then he follows it up with, "I know I've got a big mouth", first thing to come out of his mouth that we agree on. This guy looks a dead spit for one of the burglars in the film, 'Home Alone', with a face like a weasel, thin whispy beard, and a voice that has you reaching for an imaginary gun. An old lady in the seat in front of me turned at half time to ask who was swearing, "he only seems to know one word", she said, "he knows plenty more, and they're all nonsense" I told her. It's not a pleasant thought to know we'll have an irritating dickhead behind us all season, whichever one it is.

Sunday Sailing

With Sunday upon us and decent weather, the Devil was out to play, albeit with a slightly different crew to our usual. Phil is off fishing up in Sweaty Jockland, Bunny had family commitments, but Jack is back from his latest tour of duty out in Greece with Neilsons, and brought his mate, Jason along, while Pete brought Olivia with him, a young sailing cadet keen to try out the big stuff. David, Stig, and myself made up the rest of the days crew, Squire still being under the weather.

There were 15 yachts in the lock, so a good turnout, and once outside the harbour the wind seemed to have picked up a fair bit. The course for the day would be a triangle and two sausages round the marks. It was a one o clock start, and with the fleet at close quarters vying for start positions it was difficult to get off to a flyer, but we did ok, soon moving to within touching distance of the front pack, early excitement coming as both Bombadier, and Asterix were coming up on our starboard beam, bit of a sphincter contraction moment maybe, but David helmed the Devil in front of one and behind the other, like threading a needle, and on we went unhindered, by now under 15 knots of breeze.

As we rounded the first mark, (number 2-Beechams), alongside Barda, we were 2nd and 3rd behind Moonlight Saunter, and in to a spinnaker run on to Delbuoy (number 6), Barda had the Gary up immediately, David handed over the wheel to Jack, and jumped forward to get ours up with Pete. We got the lightweight Gary up eventually, during which the rest of the fleet had caught up with us, but Barda and Moonlight Saunter seemed to have stalled a bit, so no dramas, and we had managed without our usual forward man, Bunny. We managed to hold on to 3rd coming up to the mark, but as we rounded Delbuoy, heading to the East mark, Flyover took us, keeping their spinnaker up, as did Bombadier and Italian Job just behind us. The breeze as pretty brisk at this point, and Italian Job nearly broached, heeling well over, and looking impressive, Flyover putting distance between them and us, and we rounded the East mark just in front of, 'Yes it is', as we headed for the number one mark and a tacking run parallel with the coast.

We held on to fourth going round the number one mark, heading back to the East mark again, just about holding 'Yes it is' off, and straight into another spinnaker run, so up with the Gary again, but we'd prepared this time, and it went up quickly by our low expectations, Barda leading by now, from 'Moonlight Saunter' then 'Flyover', and Italian Job, then Bombadier, not far behind us. I had noted, 'calamity free thus far' on the nav table log I keep during the race, writing it, but not daring to say it! Positions were chopping and changing throughout this leg, and we were taken by Italian Job as we rounded the East mark, with a little verbal going on aboard the Devil, David hauling Pete over the hot coals over a supposed misdemeanour. I was down below but could hear it, and after the third repeat, I figured if I'd heard ok, so had everyone else up on deck, so shouted up "alright, you've explained, now forget it and move on!!", followed by, "wind your neck in down there", but I could hear the grin in his voice, and he then apologised to Pete, but not without reinforcing his point first. It's all shits n giggles, and bugger all compared to some of our spats.

By now Italian Job had finished, comfortably winning their group, and as we rounded the number one mark for the last time, we were in fifth, behind, Barda, Moonlight Saunter, Yes it is, then Flyover. Me and Pete had prepped the Gary for the last spinnaker run, and once again got the thing up in decent time, by our standards of course, and we were all quite happy that whatever the outcome, we'd done well as a crew. Olivia and Jason had got stuck in on everything, winching, tailing, stowing sails, trimming the sheets, anything they were asked to do really. The fleet seemed to squeeze up on the last run from One to East under the Gary's, and the lead positions started changing again, by now with winds of about 9 knots, so as we rounded the East mark and headed for the Lancing Line finish, we were second last in our group, in front of Bombadier. 'Yes it is', had produced a cracking finish to overhaul the lot of them and finish first over the line, followed by Barda, Moonlight Saunter, Flyover, then us, but we were all winners on a day like that, and hopefully our newest recruits had as much fun as the rest of us, I just hope Olivia doesn't repeat too much of the language she may have heard, although it was mild by our usual industrial strength dialogue.

Image: Bunny getting hoisted up the Devils mast


Wolfeeboys weekly update

It's October and the weather appears to be mocking all those people that are convinced we've had a poor Summer, yesterday was absolutely sweltering, with more of the same today. One distinct bonus about Shoreham during times like this, is that we don't get the packed beaches like they do along the coast in Brighton, when I see the pictures of their rammed shorelines it just makes me think, 'sod that', day trippers squeezed in like sardines on crap stony beaches and no sand. Add to this beaut weather the high tides we've had this week, raising the houseboats along the riverbank higher than usual, as well as covering all the reeds and grass that usually poke through the river surface, making the expanse of water between the riverbank and the High Street look like a decent sized lake, and it all adds to the appeal of our little seaside town.

Since my last update, things have turned from bad to worse for the Albion, beginning with the nightmare of being humbled 3-1 at home to bitter rivals Crystal Palace, for a football fan it doesn't get much worse than getting turned over in a derby match in your own back yard, but there can be no complaints. On that performance, Brighton got precisely what their play deserved over the course of the game, making an ordinary team look good in the process, and I couldn't help but wonder as the Albion fans were abusing ex Brighton favourite, Glenn Murray's, every touch of the ball, that all that abuse might come back and bite them on the arse, which indeed it did when he knocked in their third and final goal to bury any lingering hopes our boys had of retrieving the situation. I've seen enough good football played by the Albion so far at the Amex stadium, not to worry at this stage, although the 3-1 defeat away to Ipswich at the weekend, and the fact that the Albion were outplayed for the majority of that game, doesn't exactly bode well for the immediate future. The pies at least, remain damn fine!!

At home, Si finished off the boiler change and new rads, all systems go, followed by a few thick heads as we celebrated the completion of the job with a few evening beers in the sunshine, he's a big lad with a big thirst, and it generally ends in a mess when I go drinking with him, for me at least, and it's always the next morning that the payback is delivered. It's just as well I don't get out drinking with the boy too often, he'd be the death of me I'm sure.

We had hoped that Squire might come out on the Devil this weekend, but Ma's recovery has suffered its first setback, with hip pains from walking, so he opted to stay with her while we took the boat out yesterday. The advice given is that Ma's discomfort may be caused by over compensating for her back since the op, time will tell hopefully. With a crew of eight, blistering sunshine, light winds, and the scent of sun block filling the air, we joined what appeared to be one of the biggest turnouts for a race we've had for some while, fifteen yachts all told, so both locks had to be utilised to get them all out. While in the locks, we noticed Dougie Beanland was stripped to the waist aboard Italian Job, so the obligatory comment of, "put it away", echoes across the lock, which he responded to by holding up a pair of blue budgie smugglers for our amusement. Unbeknown to us, the Italian Job had something snagged around their prop while trying to leave their mooring, so Dougie volunteered himself to dive under and untangle whatever was causing the problem, bear in mind that he's in his seventies, and they even had Perry Rich, an ex England under water hockey player in the crew. Doubtless Dougie will remind them all of the incident over beers in the future.

The Devils crew for the day were, David at the helm, Pete, Stig, and Phil, as cockpit crew, Bunny on foredeck duties, Ben as ballast and occasional helper, Jo as deck jewellery, and yours truly acting as galley bitch and floating deck hand. The course set for the race consisted of two triangles around the club buoys, one big triangle, one small, but our eye wasn't on the ball for the start, and the Devil crossed the Lancing Line start in last position, while Barda were out the traps like a light, soon a long way ahead, but as Stig pointed out at the time, "it's ok, we're used to disappointment", and that may be true, but we were soon moving through the fleet, before our attention was seized by a noise to our rear, a kind of clump. Idle Wish had run into Mean Feeling, as Bunny informed us, some two hundred yards or more behind us, we all looked around to see what was going on, me and Stig instantly saying something along the lines of, "how the fuck??", there was nothing else near them, wind that wouldn't blow the froth off a beer, and perfect visibility, speculation abounded as to how. Nothing is ever straight forward, as we would find out later at the bar, but shortly after the incident, Idle Wish retired, I made a note at the time, 'jumped before pushed?', and sure enough, a few minutes later, Mean Feeling radio race control to record the fact they were going to protest Idle Wish, but there seemed little point now they had retired, all of this happening before we've even made it to the first mark, the East buoy.

It's as well it was such a fine day to be out sailing, or, "floating", as young Ben put it, because if it were possible for people to walk on water, they'd have comfortably walked past us, any of us. As such, the positions changed around with regularity throughout the race while all the yachts tried different things with varying degrees of failure. We approached the second mark, the number 5 buoy, in third place behind 'Yes it is', then 'Barda', only to be overtaken by Moonlight Saunter at the mark, followed by our usual issues with the spinnaker, watching helplessy as 'Bombadier' and 'Flyover' sneak past us too, dropping us from third to sixth. With the lightweight Gary eventually up, we discover we've got the pole on the wrong side, so then we have to jibe the pole, or I could lie and say we were just trying different strategies, in fact, of course that's what we were doing, I'm just the galley bitch after all, what do I know?

The leg of the course from number 5 buoy down to 1, was the longest of the race, and conditions were comfortably benign enough to allow for the kettle and oven to go on, and we contemplated how long it would be before the race control signal a shortened course, given the lack of breeze. Eventually the call came that the second triangle of the course had been scrubbed, so we just had to round the number one buoy then make for the finish line, but with tea, pasties, and sausage rolls being dished up, most of us were content to just enjoy the day, after all, with the conditions, and the way positions seemed to be swapping regularly, literally anything appeared possible. Suffice to say, any misplaced optimism we may have harboured, was soon put in its place as we struggles getting the spinnaker down at the last mark, only to watch as Moonlight Saunter slid through, leaving us to trail in their wake and finish sixth over the line. I believe Barda took line honours, followed by 'Yes it is', 'Bombadier', 'Moonlight Saunter', and, 'Flyover', with 'Kingfisher', then 'Italian Job' coming up behind us, but on a day like yesterday, everyone was a winner just being out there.

It couldn't end as easily as that though could it?, no, of course not. As we waited to get in the locks, we went to get the foresail down, only to find it stuck somewhere at the top of the furling drum, and it wasn't budging. For the entertainment of the other boats in the lock, we tried several ploys to free up the Genoa, each without luck, in the end resigning ourselves to the fact someone was going to have to go up the mast to have a proper look. Over the past few weeks, Stig has been up a few times, and last one up was David, this time Bunny volunteered for the job, and had to go up twice, first time for a recce, then down to grab some tools. There are lots of rather clever labour saving bits n pieces you can get for yachts, but when they go wrong you can almost hear the chandlers cash register going, 'kerching', at the thought of another impending yachty wallet about to be rinsed out. And the more gadgets you have on board, the greater the likelihood you have of something going FUBAR, boats can be, and often are, money pits, so beware.

Back at the bar, the main subject of conversation was of the collision between Idle Wish and Mean Feeling, but it had a twist. Laurence, the erstwhile 'Captain Tourettes', and skipper of Ocean Dream, found himself with too many crew at the start of the day apparently, and decided to jump ship himself, joining the crew of Idle Wish. It was, by his own account, his call to the helmsman to keep his course, despite the protestations of the crew of Mean Feeling that it was a bad call. Either way, Laurence didn't just convince the skipper to sail into any old boat, he had him run into the club commodores tub, if a job's worth doing eh?!! It was just a shame we weren't a bit closer at the time, to be able to hear the colour of the language permeating the air.

Image: Flyover going nicely


There went another fine weekend, and a reasonably eventful week previous too, so where to start? Si came round to start on the boiler change and new radiators last Tuesday, with yours truly acting as his bitch for the duration, so I've been getting an education in plumbing. Also, Brighton have had two midweek games at home, against Liverpool in the League Cup on the Wednesday, and Leeds in the League on the Friday, while at the weekend the Devil was out on the water competing in the SYC Autumn series, and a damn fine day it was for it too, but, as usual, not without a tale to tell. And during all of this, Ma has been rediscovering Shoreham Beach as she builds up her back therapy walks, allowing her inquisitive nature to run free.

Plumbers apprentice

It's long been on the cards for a boiler change at Ma and Pa's, not just because the water has to run for ages before any hot comes out, or because of the fact that the heating comes on with the hot water whether you like it or not, but only on certain radiators. Down the years we've had various issues with our heating, ever since we had a new boiler put in to replace the old floor mounted, gravity fed, Potterton which had stood us in such good stead for so many years. Since then we've had, at one time or another, clattering pipes that shook the house, water boiling in the pipes, radiators working, then not working, coming on of their own free will, and a number of different plumbers trying to tackle the problems, with differring degrees of success and failure. This time we're having the boiler changed and going fully pumped with a condensing combi boiler, losing the, now unnecessary, tanks in the attic, new radiators with 'Thermostatic Radiator Valves' on, all of which will hopefully lead to a more economical house, with hot water as soon as we want it, and even, (hope, hope, hope), a bath that won't take half an hour to fill!!

BHA v Liverpool (League cup)

On the Wednesday I told Si I'd have to get away early for the match against Liverpool at the Amex, Stv texted me that he was at the Waterside, and had already begun his pre match drinking by midday, I wasn't going to try and emulate him, not without either snoring all through the game, or missing it completely. Luckily I was getting a lift in, so we could get in a fullish day on the plumbing, and I could remain sober prior to kick off, especially with it taking us nearly an hour to get to the ground as a result of the heavy traffic, arriving with half an hour to spare before kick off, just enough time for a pie and a pint. You couldn't help but be impressed by Liverpool in the opening half, quick flowing, passing football, just the way Brighton like to play, but these Premiership guys are on a crazy wage scale, so it should be expected. The second half was a different affair altogether though, and minute by minute the Albion began to make their presence felt, showing Liverpool that they can play the game the way we all want to see it played, and when Poyet brought Lua Lua and Barnes on for Sparrow and Navarro, at the same time switching Noone across to the opposite wing and putting Lua Lua where he had been, he was making a statement, 'we're in this to win it'. It was unfortunate that the attacking approach gave Liverpool the chance to catch us on the break and take a two nil lead, but for long periods in the second half, a neutral observer might have been forgiven for not being sure which team was the Premier side. At least the penalty, won by Vicente, gave Barnes the chance to give us something to cheer about, and maybe make Dalgliesh twitch a bit for a few minutes. Overall I think most of the Brighton fans would have gone away happy knowing that the Albion have proved again that they can cut it with the big boys.

By the Thursday I had already come to the conclusion that I quite like this plumbing lark, or at least the pipework side of it, which is what Si has let me loose on, under instruction of course, just call me 'Pipe Slice Ramus', bending, cutting, fluxing, and soldering, give me a bit of copper and I'll be 'appy. We had hoped to be far enough ahead with the job to get in a full English breakfast on the Friday, but with me having the Leeds game to get to that night, there just wasn't time for it, but there's always this week to make up for it. As of Friday evening the boiler and radiators in position and piped up, feed and expansion tank taken out of the loft, leaving the main tank so that we still had hot water over the weekend, and everywhere tidied and ready for this week to finish, so with that in mind, I headed off to the match.

BHA v Leeds (Championship)

After Albions performances against Sunderland and Liverpool, I was quietly confident that we should do ok against Leeds, as such I made the prediction of a 4-2 scoreline, but football, much like the weather, can often foul up the most optimistic of forecasts, and when Leeds went 2-0 up on the 23rd minute, we were left to wonder whether the players may be suffering from only having played two days earlier against much more testing opposition. Poyet had made 5 changes from the starting line up at home to Liverpool, and if you include the away game to Leicester the previous Saturday, Brighton had six players that would now have started three games in just seven days, not that I'm trying to make excuses, none are needed after that performance, and at half time I felt perfectly confident that the Albion would recover, mainly because of the evidence of my eyes this season. As has been the case on a few occasions at the Amex, once again, the Albion came out in the second half an entirely different animal, with the ever impressive Mackail Smith scoring a peach within two minutes of the restart, and as he did, you could feel the atmosphere ratchet up a gear or two around the stadium. I should mention at this point, the Leeds support was far superior to anything that's been witnessed in the away end so far, with hugely vocal backing, and they were rocking when 2-0 up, which is always a tremendous gee up for any away side. But Brighton were dominating now and soon equalled the scores through a Barnes penalty, won by Mackail Smith, who else? The ground was bouncing now, with the North, West, and East stands trading chants, so when that third goal went in courtesy of Smith again, the whole place went wild, and I was wondering if my 4-2 prediction might be looking a good bet, not that I had any money riding on it. Unfortunately Leeds weren't planning on playing second fiddle, and had the last laugh by pulling one back in the dying minutes of the game, so the last view was of their fans going berserk up the other end. I'm pleased for them as football fans, but I hope I don't get to witness too many away fans enjoying themselves as much at the Amex again, and certainly not Palace this Tuesday!!.

Sunday Sailing

With near perfect conditions on Sunday, and an early start for the race, we were in the locks by 9a.m, with a few boats locked out, having to wait for the next one, meaning a decent turn out for the day. The crew for the race were David, Stig, Pete, Bunny, Phil, and myself, Squire still electing to stay at home with Ma while she recuperates after her back op. With the wind hovering around a steady 13 to 15 knots, and a moderate sea swell, the Devil ought to have a chance, we thought at least, to get somewhere across that finishing line in a halfway decent position, we thought.

Well we had a good start, David getting us across the start line in the front three, along with Moonlight Saunter above us, and Barda below. Soon the three of us were pulling away from the rest of the fleet, with Moonlight Saunter rounding the Beechams buoy first, the Devil second, and Barda behind us after dropping too low and givving themselves too much ground to make to the mark. This, I thought, was looking promising. Everything seemed to be going well, and as we approached the number three marker buoy, Bunny was preparing for the ensuing spinnaker run leg from number three down to the West buoy,completing the first triangle of the three set for the race course. We jibed around the mark and were welcomed back to the usual fiasco which besets us on most occasions we run the Gary up, eventually getting the damn thing up halfway through the leg, also having lost a place so now we were down to third, while Barda had moved to the front, rounding the West mark in the lead, ahead of Moonlight Saunter, then us, with Bombadier, and Flyover, both keeping in touch a little way behind.

The next leg up to the Ambex buoy, the beginning of the second triangle of the course, would test everyone, it's a long run from West buoy to the Ambex, 1.82 nautical miles, and we were holding the course well, but we couldn't see the mark as we approached it's apparent position, everyone was chucking in tacks, some, two or three, but one of the benefits of being a following tub, is that hopefully the lead tub will find the mark and we can then home in on it, such was the case. I have no idea how far off station the Ambex mark was, but it seemed quite a deviation from the course we had taken. Either way, the Devil had moved up to second place by the time we rounded the Ambex, into another spinnaker run, with Barda increasing their lead further with every leg, Moonlight Saunter still holding off Bombadier and Flyover not far behind them. We were metaphorically patting ourselves on the back for having got the Gary up so quickly by our standards on this leg, and looking as if we may hold on to second place, barring any disasters, hmmmmm.

As we came up to the East mark, for what would be the beginning of the last triangle of the course, we couldn't get the foresail to unfurl, eventually having to drag down the Gary with little more than a handkerchief showing as our Genoa, a halyard had snagged around the furling gear, and we just couldn't un snag the damn thing, having to helplessly watch as Bombadier and Flyover made the most of our misfortune and glided past us, building up a decent enough distance between them and us before we finally got the foresail out, having sailed the majority of that leg without it. The chase was on, the last triangle was the smallest one, so quite a challenge, but we were up for it, even in the knowledge that the handicapping would put paid to all our efforts come the time of reckoning, but sod that, give us them line honours baby. As it turned out, Bombadier had gone just too far ahead for us to catch, but Flyover looked a possibility, and we chased her down as we headed to the Lancing Line finish, coming within a whisker, but failing by inches in the end. We did however score a creditable fourth over the line finish, and would never have got anywhere near Barda anyway. We used to race against Barda in the Beneteau cup, it was raced by a young couple and their two daughters, it used to win everything in sight, so I've christened it Herbie, the marine version of the car, I'm saying no more.

Image: Test Card, for those old enough to remember!!


Memories, old and new

One benefit of the absence of any full time work at the mo, has been that between me and Squire, we can make sure Ma gets all the assistance she needs after her back operation last Tuesday, and make sure she doesn't overdo anything. The surgery appears to have been a rousing success, and already she's enjoying the fact that the continuous pain she had been enduring in her legs, is now gone, with just dull aches in her back, which the Doc said will always be around, but not all the time. The op had to be done privately, as Ma missed her original appointment with the NHS consultant because she was too ill to attend on the day, only to be told that she'd have to wait months for another appointment. I could go on and turn this into a rant, but as Ma appears to be in such good spirits since the old hat rack got sorted, who am I to vicariously scream injustice on her behalf.

We've adapted things around the house to make things easier for her, and doubtless there will be more alterations as time goes on, but the main thing is to see her smiling more, because that ever present pain that was, is no more, and we're at the end of week one of her six week recuperation period, only five to go. She has discovered that she can still knit while laying on her back, so with a half sheet of ply on the sofa to keep her back straight, and her sun chair cushion on top of that, this 'Sewing Sister' carries on producing stuff at her usual rate.

It's funny sometimes how things happen, call it coincidence, but I've been involved in a thirty day writing challenge through Twitter, and the first challenge just happened to be, 'Your Earliest Memory', which for me was, well, I'll copy it in here for you:-

{Your first programme/earliest memory

'It's impossible to say what the first programme I could remember would be, but one of the the first TV memories would have to have been the 'Trade Test Card' girl that would be on BBC screens when there were no programmes on, or 'Test Card F', as it was officially known.

Equally, I find it virtually impossible to remember much at all of my early years, it sometimes feels as if I must have come into this world aged 7 or 8, and even at that age I have precious little memory. I have vague memories of my Mother taking us by train into Hove, travelling in the Guards carriage on the old slam door trains, as that was the only place Ma could get the pram in to, and I can remember the steps down to the basement of the place we were visiting, with black and white tiled steps, and a white porcelain sandpit at the bottom. When I told Ma about the memory years later, she told me that we were visiting her sister, my Auntie April, from when I was about three or four years old.'}

Then after a chat with Ma about that memory this week, she confirmed that period of time as being when I was about two or three, around 1966, and she was indeed taking us to her sisters place in Hove, but went on to tell me why. They were both at a point where they had young children, but weren't expecting, so they decided to take the opportunity to learn to drive, so Ma would take me and my sister, Lizbet, by train across to Hove, to my Aunt April's place in Osborne Villas, so that while one of them was having her driving lesson, the other one would look after the children, she also confirmed my description, the steps down to the basement, and the white porcelain sand pit. Ma also went on to recall how she couldn't enjoy the fact that she passed her test until April had taken and passed hers, which thankfully she did, both at their first attempt.

When talking about this, we got on to the subject of the journey to Hove on which Ma would take me and Lizbet over to April's place, and Squire wondered whether the steps in and out of Hove station may have had anything to do with her back pain years later, as on arrival at Hove from Shoreham, the only way out is either under or over the platform, it has lines both sides of it. I mocked the old boy for thinking Ma's back injury could have originated so long ago, only to have Ma pinpoint her original injury to just that time, but a different location, she had slipped down the stairs here at Havenside shortly after moving in, in about 1965, but thought nothing of it. So there you have it, my earliest memory triggers Ma's memory of her back injury source in the same week all these years later when she's just had an op on it, tenuous perhaps, but it'll do for me.

With Ma recovering, Squire didn't want to leave her alone on the Sunday, so we sailed the Devil without our navigator/owner, though apparently they did manage to walk up to the beach and see how we were doing, Ma has to take a few short walks a day as part of her therapy. The weather looked pretty decent at the start of the day, but by the time we were going through the locks, the sky had bruised significantly, and was looking moody and mean. I must admit it seemed odd not having the old boy aboard, but he'd been down during the week, and left all the bits and pieces necessary for plotting the course, the job which fell to yours truley. David took the helm, Bunny the foredeck, with his young helper, Ben, our cousin Sally's lad,leaving myself, Stig, and Pete to look after the cockpit stuff.

In a day of reasonably light winds, and a long course set for the fleet, one square, followed by two triangles around the yacht club marker buoys, we had a slow start, with the conditions favouring the smaller boats, at least that's how I'm telling it, and we were soon a long way back from the leading pack. I imagine most of the fleet had a wary eye on the clouds, they were layered in varying hues of black in places, and over the coastline appeared to be forming into kind of some apocalyptic storm, reminiscent of the film, 'The Day After Tomorrow', it was odd really, you'd normally expect to have howling winds under such conditions, but the biggest pain was the swell, it was a biggun, and combined with light winds, made Davids job of helming a bit of a nightmare, as the Devil got thrown around, chucking the sails out of kilter no sooner had David managed to get them filled with wind. As some of the other boats pulled the pin and retired, there was talk of us maybe considering it, but we opted to stay out and sod the positions, it's Sunday and we're out to enjoy ourselves, even if that did mean making a few mistakes, swearing at each other, but also laughing quite a bit. We were the last to cross the finishing line, just as they were removing it!, but at least we did finish, I only hope we don't get into trouble with cousin Sally over the somewhat industrial language her boy Ben would have been witness to.

Image: Spring tide on the river Adur. Neil on his raft, taking steel beams upriver


Tales of the Riverbank

I really don't know what it is that governs how many hits wolf-e-boy.com generates, last month averaged over 900 a day, just falling short of thirty thousand for the month, by ninety one in the end, last December the site got six thousand hits for the month, which up until then I thought was ok. I've since realised that the more I write, the more hits I get, but I really have no idea whether the hit count is worth taking any notice of, and I've toyed with the idea of just sticking a blog up of absolutely unintelligible gibberish, and see what happens next day, as that's where the hits spikes occur, the very next day after I've posted something. The main problem with that approach would be that if I still got loads of hits, then I'd have to seriously think about giving up completely, as I would have been wasting my time all along. I know plenty of friends check out my blogs, but I don't have enough friends to get the totals the site is currently attracting, and when I check the site data for clues, the information which brings people to me via search engines can be bizarre to say the least, for example, someone typed, 'fred west barn rumour', into a search engine, and got directed to wolf-e-boy.com, and they get a lot more weird than that one. This month I'm down to averaging just six hundred hits a day, (which I'm certainly not complaining about!), maybe it has something to do with what I've been up to when I write, and things have been relatively quiet in the last couple of weeks, who knows?.

Briefly returning to the 'pikey' incident from last week, I could hardly believe my ears when, on going to answer the door bell this week, it's another one asking me if I want to sell my van, there must be a nest of the scum in the area. This time I didn't even break stride, giving him a curt, "no!", and walking on, I'd been heading to the van with Stig, but turned back to move his bike from the driveway, out of site into the back garden, then going round the house to make sure it was all locked up before we set off. I know there's a scam involved, as it can be no coincidence that so many pikeys have knocked at our door asking if I'd sell, but I can only speculate on what exactly the scam is.

This week we've had the howling winds and rain which apparently are the arse end of hurricane Katia, over visiting from America before it continues it's tour, taking in parts of Scandinavia. Coming as it did, during the spring tides, we've had some pretty spectacular seas hammering at the coastline defences, and slightly higher than forecast tide heights as a result of the low pressure system which brought that weather here. I headed down to the harbour mouth at midday on Monday, armed with cameras for some explosive wave action up against the harbour arm walls, I wasn't disappointed. The waves were smashing into the west arm wall, bouncing back out and meeting other waves on their way in, causing volcanos of water to sprout up, spewing white froth out of the top which was instantly grabbed by the howling winds and sprayed sideways, it's an amazing spectacle, I just wish I had a better camera to do the scene I've explained justice, hopefully you'll get the idea.

Along on the riverbank today, I cracked on with a bit more on the Fische, and took heaps of photos of the rising tide while we're on the springs. The river at this point, looks almost like a lake on the high spring tides, covering all the river grass which sprouts out of the mud, and encouraging ever more movement from the ornithological wildlife which normally inhabits this wetland conservation area. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, it's not a bad place to be spending time, working or otherwise, and as usual, there's always something going on with the tenants, either construction or destruction. Building regs, or health and safety, don't exist in this environment, so any madcap scheme that the houseboat owners can come up with, can only be constrained by lack of imagination, or the manpower to make it happen, and anyone walking the riverbank can witness just how wild an imagination some of the creations have used. Fred pointed out a timber framework being constructed further down from the Fische, and informed me that the owner intends to insulate this structure, then fill it with concrete and drag it out on a high tide to flip it over, then drag back to the mooring, ready to build two self contained flats on. I definitely want to be around to see that happen, and document with photos of course.

On a less ambitious scale, Neil, two boats along from Fred and Polly, had built a raft/ pontoon, for the purpose of transporting some steel bits by river, to the far end of the riverbank, where they're currently adapting another steel barge which has been dragged alongside their houseboat there. Today he was out on the river with his new vessel, powered by a small outboard engine, (avidly being watched by his dogs from the transom of his houseboat), and loaded with just two steel beams this time, maybe it was a test run before he undertakes the moving of eight foot by four foot steel sheets, which was the main point of the raft initially. Again, I want to be around for that little caper. It's all great to see in action, like they live in a parallel universe which doesn't have to play by mainstream rules, they may have red tape on the riverbank, but you'll only see it up if they're having a party!


Live and Learn???

Well, that old, 'live and learn', saying you hear being trotted out so often, clearly doesn't apply to me, I can even feel the collective head shaking of everyone that knows me, people that know that I should know better. How on earth did I allow someone who had knocked on our door, to even finish speaking, let alone go on to be talked into employing them, and a travelling pikey at that, I can still barely believe how bloody stupid I'm capable of being. I've written plenty on the subject of scammers, based on personal experiences of my own, and people I know, and the travelling pikey is simply someone you don't, ever, for any reason, invite across your threshold, you shouldn't even allow them the chance to speak, although that's quite a challenge in fairness.

Well, I did indeed give them an opportunity to remind me of why exactly they should never be trusted, idiot that I am, but this time it only cost me 100, and I consider that a lucky escape. Last Tuesday, when their Latvian labourer toiled for a few hours in the pouring rain and howling winds, will not be a day I forget in a hurry. From the moment I'd agreed to let them work on our drive, I was asking myself, "what the hell are you doing?", but the Latvian guy, Eddy, seemed like a hard worker, so I reasoned that perhaps the pikeys had found a way of using cheap labour to actually get the work done, make some money, but not actually do anything themselves, like many employers in these troubled financial times.

By about three in the afternoon, Eddy had run out of petrol for his steam cleaning machine, his two pikey bosses long since gone, doubtless out knocking on doors for more business, so I invited him in to dry off and have a cuppa while he waited for them to return. At this point the driveway was about three quarters cleaned, with all the muck that had been displaced on the remaining part, but for a few hours work, I could see the benefits of the machine he was using. Just after we'd finished our tea, Eddy's pikey twins turned up, saying how they'd finish up and come back next day to complete the job, and asking if they could leave their kit in our garage, which in itself I thought was a bit odd, as their van was actually closer, and empty. One thing you'll notice with pikies, is their incessant chatter, but all with a purpose, to set you up ready for the payoff, which will be a request for money, always a request before the job is done, after, it will be demands, and demands with menace if you don't appear to be coming across in their favour. A common story of people that have been had by these travelling con men, is the one of being frog marched to a bank or ATM, to get the cash out while being watched over, a very intimidating thing, especially for the elderly that these operators so often prey on.

Sure enough, having already tried to up the price of the driveway job, by pointing out 'extras' to me, and telling me how their machine cost 3000, and what a bargain I was getting, he finished up by saying, " I know I said payment on completion, but could yers see yers way to givin' us thurty quid for yer mans money", meaning Eddy, so I told him no, which was easy as I had no money on me anyway, showing him my empty wallet, but even then he noticed I had Euro's in there, I couldn't believe it, I didn't know they were there myself, so I checked, and sure enough, there amongst some old receipts were a couple of Euro notes from my last trip across the channel. I was expecting him to say that they would do next, but he didn't, and after a load more rattle, they drove off, leaving all the crap on the driveway. I wasn't really bothered about the mess, it gave me something to do while I mulled over my stupidity at finding myself in this situation. I also had to help Allen next door clean his driveway and soffits and fascia's, as they'd been caked in the cack that the steam machine had been removing from our drive. Once all that was done I felt a little calmer, figuring tomorrow would be a better day.

I was up bright and early on the Wednesday, not having slept that great, owing to my mind spinning around with all this unnecessary nonsense I'd brought upon myself, and the weather was fine so there was no reason for the job not to progress well. When no one had shown up by 11a.m, I drove down to see the old boy whose place they had taken me to see as an example of how they were working in the area, so could be trusted, but there was no one working there either. I went up and knocked at his door, he thought I was one of them at first, and once I had expained the situation, we had a chat about things, both concluding that we'd made a mistake, him telling me how his wife had thrown his own words at him, "if something appears too good to be true, it's generally because it isn't true", a wise and sound policy of thought. His price from them was for 1800, to dig up his concrete driveway and block pave it, and the Latvian guy had spent just a few hours on it, before they'd pulled him away to work on our drive on that foul Tuesday. They'd told him they would have the job finished by Friday, whereas they'd said to me that our drive would be done in a couple of days, with only the Latvian out of the three doing any work, it didn't add up, but by now this was just confirmation of what I already knew.

After both of us agreed we'd pay them off for what they've done, and get local firms in to finish, we swapped phone numbers to liaise on how things went. No sooner had I arrived home, than the phone rang, it was John, telling me the pikies had been, "I gave them fifty quid, and consider I've had a lucky escape", as he was talking to me, they pulled up outside our place, so I went to head them off before they got started. This time only one of the two original pikies was in the van, with another young lad with a strong Irish accent, and no Latvian Eddy. I told him just to finish off the clean, and I'd call it a hundred quid and leave it at that, at which point his attitude became aggressive, shouting to the boy to get their gear in the van, called me a cunt, and then tried to make out it was an insult, coming up to me, toe to toe and looking agitated, "are you telling me that's a hundred fooken quids wort of work", "actually no it isn't, but I'll pay you that for my peace of mind", "keep your fooken money, look here, I have plenty of fooken money", as he peeled out two fat rolls of cash, certainly not realising how this act basically reinforced my belief of what they are. I'd already checked with a builders merchant how much the cleaner would be to hire, and to buy, 75 quid a day, or 1500 to own, so when matey tried the old overheads song and dance, I simply hit him with the numbers, and made it clear that he was getting a good deal more than he was entitled, but his aggressive manner just made me calmer, emphasising what I already knew them for, pikey chancers.

"And yer's done us out of a t'ree grand job down the road too, takin' the fooken food from my babies mouths", "no mate, I went along to find out where you were, but he makes his own decisions, not my problem", I didn't bother telling him I knew that job was only 1800, or that I may indeed have helped the guy make his mind up. By now I couldn't care a fuck about them finishing anything, so I told them just to go, but insisted on paying the 100, I don't want to lay awake at night wondering if my tyres are going to be slashed. As he accepted the cash, still annoyed but not as aggressive, he asked, "what made yers change yer moind", "no land line, no fixed address, the mess left on the driveway yesterday, not turning up this morning, and now your attitude. And don't forget, you came to my door, I didn't invite you". As they drove off he said, "see yers", "I fuckin' hope not" was my reply, I didn't catch his last volley, but I don't imagine it was a parting nicety.

You may wonder why I would advertise my stupidity like this, but if even one person reads it and it saves them from a similar grief, or worse, then it was worth doing. Basically, never employ someone that just turns up on your doorstep, especially if they come out with the priceless line, "we were working in the area, and wondered...........", and definitely if they have an Irish accent. I have plenty of Irish friends, and I've worked along loads of Irish on site, and the vast majority are lovely people, a great laugh, and hard workers, but travelling pikies are a scourge, and I've seen far too many examples that all fit into exactly the same pattern. They hit you with charm initially, get uncomfortably close when talking to you, their eyes are everywhere, scoping out the surroundings, and they lie as naturally as they breathe, with an undertone of aggression which takes no time at all to find its way to the surface. You are nothing more than a mark to them, so if you are reminded by them that a job needs doing, just get out your yellow pages and find a local builder to do it, someone you can at least go back to if there's a problem.

There are plenty of other scams, and I've written about the ones that I know, to be found on the 'Scammers page' of wolf-e-boy.com, feel free to check them out.

Image: A rough day outside Shoreham harbour, Sept 12th 2011

Image: Bi fold doors fitted on Fische, weathering to do.


Here comes the rain again

I'm sure it's just my imagination, but something suddenly felt different this weekend, maybe because the mornings seem a little crisper than they have been, maybe it's what some parents have been calling their, 'new year feeling', with the kids going back to school, and daytime peace returning to many households, or maybe it's just the effect of the rain hammering away at the windows as I type this, who knows?, but whatever it is, I can feel it in the air.

Working on the Fische last week, we brought the job along a bit, so they now have a mini flat roofed extension with UPVC bi fold doors at the mid ships point, covering some of the reclaimed deck space that we'd created a few weeks ealier, and for the first time from inside, you could see the Adur wetlands and beyond without having to brave the elements, there was even a big Spring tide, as if to emphasise the benefits of the glorious views. This was something Fred and Polly had been keen to get done before any bad weather sets in, or at least to the point of being able to make it all watertight, and then continue work on the interior at their leisure, so hopefully Fred has stuck the torch on felt down on the flat roof over the weekend. It was a bit of a palava fitting the bi fold doors, as, in typical houseboat style, they were a trade for an old fire escape with the owners of the Shieldsman, one of the newest additions to the community of houseboats on Shoreham Beach, a steel ferry that used to operate up north on the Tyne and Weir. Suffice to say, there were no instructions with the doors and frame, and it's hard to know what might be missing if you didn't see the thing when it was last together. One way or another though, me and Fred managed it, discovering in the process which bits are lacking, something that Fred will doubtless overcome by manufacturing suitable replacements in his workshop below deck.

With the weather being little better than miserable at the weekend, no sailing, and no football programme for the top two tiers either, it was a perfect time for Bunny to have his house warming barbecue on the Saturday afternoon over in Southwick. Bunny is one of our fore deck crew on board the Devils Advocate, so most of the rest of the Devils crew were in attendance too, a good chance for everyone to catch up over drinks and nibbles without having to pull ropes, grind winches, haul sails, or get wet in the process, and a fine afternoon it was too, weather, surprisingly included.

Last nights Trough saw the return of Hannah and her fella Nick from their travels in South East Asia, welcomed back by the pitter patter of raindrops in September, accompanied by howling winds, how much more fondly will they be remembering Thailand now I wonder?!! It was nice to have an almost full house again, and it wasn't too long before the usual dinner table banter was in full swing, inducing Nick to say, I can't remember exactly what, but something along the lines of, "aah, how we've missed the Trough", doubtless meaning the acerbic wit that cuts across from one side of the kitchen to the other on a weekly basis, a journey to the Ramii top table is not one for the faint hearted.

Today was meant to be my day of tying up loose ends, finishing the little jobs that have been put indefinitely on the back burner, but as the wind howls, wheezes, and whines through the windows, and the rain batters the glass panes, I feel just a little less inclined to go anywhere. As I type though, we now have a workforce cleaning the block pave driveway, using a mighty handy piece of kit which blasts the dirt out using steam power. An Irish bloke turned up on our doorstep yesterday, asking if we'd be interested in having the driveway cleaned and resealed, which in fairness is something the old man has been wanting done for some considerable time now, but my default reaction to door knockers, is go away, without listening to anything they have to say. This lot have a sign written van, with free phone and mobile phone numbers on the side, but no land line, and no address, which instantly make me suspicious. I pulled them up on this point, and they made the excuse that they'd had problems before because of having an address on the van, and went on to show me headed paper without address or land line numbers on it either.

I can hardly believe myself that I've let them loose on our drive, but I did drive up and down Shoreham beach to check some of their work, and even found a mate of mine has had his drive done by them, plus half of his street, they all looked good, and I phoned my mate Dave, who told me what they'd done and for how much, which is why I eventually decided to go with it, that and the fact that no money will change hands until the job is completed. I stll have no doubt these boys are just the sort of tinkers we've come across before, by their behaviour, language, and the questions they ask, "Jezz, dat's a noice Beamer there, do yers wanna sell it?", and of my beaten up old Sprinter van, "how much do yer's want fer it?". White vans, I've discovered, are like magnets to travelling paddies, I've lost count of the number of Irish accented blokes ringing our bell to ask if I'd be interested in selling, and they are, always Irish accents, I really can't make it out, perhaps they have forged notes to get rid of, who knows.

As far as the work is concerned, they have a Latvian guy doing the work, so maybe that's how they keep costs down, he's out in this awful weather now, but doesn't mind, I asked him in for a cuppa, and he turns out to be a well travelled, pretty intelligent person. I couldn't help but wonder why he'd be doing this kind of work, but a life on the buildings has taught me that this is by no means unusual, I've had University degree graduates cleaning up after me on site, and they all cite the same reason, work without pressure, the stress that can come with high powered, high paid jobs, aint everyones bag baby.

So there you have it, today they clean, and when the weather is a bit more clement, they'll return to finish off, sand and seal what they've cleaned, and then they'll get paid, presuming the job looks as it should. I'll let you know, but I won't deny there's a little voice chipping away, saying, "what the fuck are you doing?!!!"

Image: The unmade Desktop. Tracy Vermin eat your talentless heart out


This is just a quick rant, for the sake of one last blog for the month, in the hope I might reach and breach the 30,000 hit mark for August, as of this morning, Wolf-e-boy.com has had 28, 694 hits, so let's see. The rant is genuine though, and it's long been a bugbear of mine, but feel free to abuse me at wolf_e_boy@hotmail.com if you disagree strongly enough!!

The Art of Bollocks

It's long been a bone of contention of mine that art is a load of bollocks, around which so called educated people talk wank in their mission to make it sound important. If I see a picture I like, I see no good reason to write paragraphs, adopting some superior sounding bullshit language, describing why, I either like something, or I don't. A great deal of the time you hear these 'experts' pontificating about the meaning of the picture, as if they know what's in the head of the artist, a belief built no doubt on the back of an art history course, where they've been taught just how they ought to think about it. Some art I see, especially abstract art, looks like a blindfold child painted it, it reminds me of a wall covered in bad graffiti, and engenders the same response, making me want to move on and try to forget I ever saw it, or just wipe it away, like a hungover mind the day after a big session.

The real venom within me though, is saved for the likes of Damien Hirst, and Tracy Emin, who took things to another level with their talent free art, having basically sussed, god knows how many years after Marcel Duschamps first confused the shit out of the art world with that toilet, that you could put whatever irrelevant shite you wanted up there, then all you then had to do was give it a, 'conceptualised' idea, call it art, (or 'Brit art', as our little 'Brit pack' soon became known for), and charge a fucking fortune for it. Sharks, cows, unmade bed, list of lovers, please!!, what a load of BOLLOCKS, but when you've got Saatchi and Saatchi on board, mega expensive bollocks.

To the average person in the street, the art world is simply a place we have no need of, not necessarily that it's an unattainable place to reach, just that we have no interest in trying to be involved in it. That doesn't mean I would never walk in to an art gallery or museum, just that I wouldn't want some puffed up expert attempting to explain to me what it is I'm looking at, I have a pair of eyes with which to see, and I don't need to hear the opinions that they learnt to have from an art course education. Nor do I believe that art can be used to explain era's through history, or at least not from the majority viewpoint, it most often represents an elite, because they're the only ones that could afford it, either to own, or to have commissioned, so once again, in terms of giving a picture of humanity, it is for the most part, yes, you've guessed it, BOLLOCKS.

This is not intended to be an affront to all things art, just the con artists, or should I say, 'non artists', who seek to hypnotise you into the idea that their concept is worth buying into, and the world of 'artwank' speak, where some educated voice yammers on in the unintelligible language of academia

Image: The Devils crew in St Valery en Caux


St Valery en Caux rally

Up bright n early, 5a.m Friday morning for the sail over to St Valery en Caux on the north coast of Normandy, going through the lock gates at 7, along with four other yachts, Highland Daughter, Esacape, Mean Feeling, and Flying Fish. As well as Squire, David, Stig, and myself, we had two new crew aboard for the crossing, Nigel, and Tommy, and they proved to be fine additions to the Devils contingent, keen to get stuck in, and good company also, which is always a bonus.

We hadn't even made it through the locks before discovering I'd forgotten to pack the milk, disaster! Fortunately, Escape, and Highland Daughter came to our rescue with enough milk to get us across the channel without going short of tea, disaster averted. Outside of the harbour we had very light winds, an overcast sky with on off drizzle, and within half an hour, three boats had pulled out of the race and chucked the donkeys on, not wishing to get across too late that evening, leaving just the Devil and Highland Daughter to battle it out. After a couple of hours of painfully slow progress under sail, and a conversation with Will from Highland Daughter, the decision was made to stick our engines on too, we wanted to at least make it in to St Valery in daylight if possible, if it had been down to Squire, we'd have just left the donkey on as we came out of the harbour entrance.

As we got further out, the wind picked up enough to stick a reef in the main as a precautionary measure, and the Devil was making between 7 to 8 knots under sail now, without the engine. Both Nigel and Tommy had taken a spell at the wheel, seeming quite at home with it, while I had taken the opportunity to get the first of many kips in down below. Twelve hours on a boat with new people gives you a good chance to get to know them, and it was our good luck that Tommy and Nigel turned out to be a very interesting couple of blokes, with no shortage of stories between them, sharp wits, and sense of humour, and from early on it was the humour that stood out, however accidental that may have been. My self and Stig had been talking to Tommy about the new Amex stadium, how well Brighton had been doing, and how great the pies there are, to which Tommy asked, "what's the capacity like", and both myself and Stig answered something along the lines of, "haven't tried the pasties yet, but the pies are good", illiciting a beaming grin from Tommy before he eventually managed to help us understand what he had actually said. This is usually a game we play with Squire, as he often mis-hears what we've said, our standard response being, "sausages at 11.30", it would appear that we're following in our Pappies footsteps in this regard.

As if to reinforce the whole mis-hearing scenario, while I was laying in my bunk, I heard Nigel ask Squire of me, "is he still asleep?", "oh yes, everyone will have a tea", he responds. I couldn't see Nigels face, but I could imagine his confusion at this point, so jumped in to explain, laughing as I did. The second half of the crossing was a decent sail with the wind forward of the beam, maintaining seven knots of boat speed or above, coming into St Valery with the sun setting behind us, with me taking over from Tommy at the helm for the last few miles.

I should tell you a bit about Tommy really, at 22, he's already a man on a mission. Recently at the Sussex Yacht Club, we've noticed a specialised rowing boat among the yachts and dinghies in the boat park, it turns out that this is Tommy's boat, and he intends to row the Atlantic in it for charity, single handed. The day he joined us on the Devil, was precisely 100 days to cast off, and counting, and this trip across trhe channel was to be part of his acclimatisation process, his first step in getting used to being at sea for long periods, and an ideal opportunity to win over friends in the mission to spread the word, and hopefully encourage some sponsorship, which we will be happy to play some small part in. When he was 17, Tommy climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, he has also trained with the Royal Marine Reserve Tyne for 18 months, competed in the 2010 Mongol rally, and recently completed the Paris marathon in 3 hours 40 minutes. In his build up to the solo crossing, he trains six days a week, under the guidance of an ex Royal Marine, to prepare himself for the task ahead. One of the reasons for joining us was also to test his susceptibility to sea sickness, convinced as he was at the beginning, that he would definitely throw up at some point, but would deal with it when it came, as he will have to when crossing the Atlantic.

Coming into St Valery from the sea, I was struck by what a beautiful place it looked, set in a valley between the cliffs, with typically French architecture, and an almost, untouched by time feel about a lot of it. There was also the minor bonus that we were the first to arrive out of the five boats through the locks together earlier that morning, first over the line bragging rights to the Devil. That evening we went into town to check out the bars, settling on the Le Surf Bar, and a chance to relax with a beer or three, continuing back at the Devil, where Tommy introduced us to the idea of Gin and Ginger beer, we in return introduced him to the Dark and Stormy, which is Spiced rum with fiery Ginger beer, and pizzas in the oven to soak it all up. Next morning I designated myself as 'Galley Bitch', and got weaving with brekky, realising what else I'd neglected to pack, eggs and mushroooms!, so we made do with sausage, bacon, beans, and toast, washed down with tea, not too bad really.

Later on we went to find a bar and settle for a few beers outside a cafe bar in the intermittent sunshine, but I opted to go and take a look at the 51st Highland Division memorial that I'd been hearing about since arriving. It's a short walk up to the cliff tops overlooking the valley, and the memorial is a granite obelisk with 51HD carved into it, as well as a tribute to the men of the 51st that fought so hard to keep the oncoming Germans at bay in June 1940, eventually being forced to surrender on the 12th June, having been surrounded, and with a division of Panzer tanks shelling the beaches to make any coastal escape impossible, as well as heavy aerial and mortar bombardments. 10,000 men were taken as prisoners of war by the Gemans in this action, but the 51st were the last to capitulate, with the French having already given up the fight by then. It's a tremendous view from atop those cliffs, but also a stark reminder of just what an advantage the Germans had by holding such a position over St Valery in that engagement.

When I rejoined the crew at the bar, a colourfully dressed black guy had arrived with a pile of hats to sell, which on inspection were mock leather. He'd already tried his patter on some others, then turned his attention to us, settling on David and Stig, "60 Euro's for the hat", while they were trying on these pork pie hats for size, eventually selling one apiece to them for 30 Euros each, even having the nerve to suggest to David that he should also give the guy an extra few Euros for a drink on top of the sale. The problem with these kind of tinkers, is that once they sniff a sale, they won't stop, it's easy to see why some people completely lose their rag with them, and soon he was offering us two hats for 20 Euros, obviously not bothered about the fact that David and Stig were basically being shown that they'd already been had by him. Eventually, having asked if everyone had had enough, Nigel got this blokes attention, and gave him the old, 'fingers to the eyes', look at me signal, and said, "finis, au revoir", as in, DO ONE. It was entertaining, mainly because it wasn't my wallet being lightened probably, but overall, that kind of sales technique is more of an irritant than an opportunity.

Later on in the afternoon, all the SYC crews convened aboard the 'Escape', for drinks and nibbles, prior to the evening do up at the Yacht Club, where we were entertained by a jazz trio prior to eating. Our hosts were so friendly, full of smiling faces and genuinely hospitable, showing us heathens how to deal with the 'Fruits de Mer' dinner they'd laid on for us, and then plying us with Calvedos on top of the 'vin de jour', we'd had with the main course. David had bailed earlier, having over imbibed of the hospitality on board the Escape beforehand, flying one minute, before the realisation dawned that he was running low on fuel with the airfield barely in sight, a crash and burn on the cards, so he red carded himself.

Next day you'd expect there to be a few thick heads, I for one just still felt pissed, but that was soon forgotten when I saw that Nigel had been on Galley bitch duty, and a fine cooked brekka was awaiting us all, with eggs! A sound start for the journey ahead, as we went through the lock at 9a.m, sails set by quarter past, and an ealry reef in the main as the winds were quite strong from the word go, at 20 knots or more. As usual, once we were on the way, I put my head down for a few Z's, coming to later, to see that another reef had been put in on the main, and the Devil right on her ear, and slamming into the waves, causing regular soakings to anyone up on deck. We'd also picked up a new crew member for the trip back, Dean, but he's a bit new to the sailing game, and subsequently spent the first three hours up in the forward toilet, dealing with sea sickness, eventually recovering enough to retreat to the rear cabins for some much needed kippage. A little later Squire went to use the forward bog, only to see that Dean had left the sea cocks open, and that section awash with seawater, most lucky he spotted that when he did.

Despite the fact we were on our heel and slamming into waves, the Devil was making good time on the way back, heaving along at between 8 to 9 knots all the way, and at one point, Tommy decided he'd like to have a go at a sitting down version of Leonardo Di Caprio in Titanic, legs over the very front of the Devil as she ploughed into the waves, and film it with his phone camera. He sat up there for quite some while, getting dumped, showered, and immersed in the oncoming waves, and all greeted with a big grin, as me and Squire witnessed when he showed us back some of his footage later in the cabin.

I slept for most of the passage, eventually waking in time to see we were almost there, and a blood red sunset to greet us back in Shoreham. Dean was by now up in the cockpit, fully recovered thankfully, and the Devil was still heeling right over, so the wind didn't abate one bit, calm only returning once inside the harbour mouth. All in all another cracking weekend, and although we may have put Tommy's strict health regime in reverse for a short while, he had joined in everything with a willing smile, perhaps for which he'll pay with extra hours in the gym, but since meeting Tommy, I have no doubt he'll do those extra hours with a smile on his face too.

If you'd be interested in sponsoring Tommy, find him at www.soloatalanticrow2011.co.uk , his full name is Tommy Tippets, and the race is the Woodvale Challenge Race 2011. Please check this out and help spread the word for him.

Image: David, Dean, Stig, and Tommy, almost home


The Seat Behind

Football has always been a game of opinions, with armies of hugely varying voices airing their particular perception of events, to whoever they can get to listen, be it on the terraces, seats, pub, phone, at work, or on the internet. Many of these voices clearly convinced that they know better than the professionals, despite the fact that the vast majority of these armchair experts never managed a better playing standard than that of a Sunday pub side, if they played at all. I used to watch Brighton back in the Goldstone days, almost solely in the North stand, where we were pretty much one voice, and our only motivation was to get behind the Albion and create an atmosphere, but every now and again, for whatever reason, I'd end up in one of the other stands, and be subjected to the moaning contingent. There's a brand of supporter, probably at every ground in the country, that believe they know better, and insist on verbalising their opinions to all those around them, clearly in the misguided belief that we enjoy having their irritating commentary assaulting our ears. I know a lot of fans say they've paid for their ticket, therefore they have the right to voice their opinions, and to a degree I concur, but the other fans also paid for the right to enjoy the game without having to listen to continuous demented ramblings of an armchair expert throughout the match.

Fast forward to 2011, and Brighton and Hove Albion now have the magnificent Amex stadium in Falmer, and through my mate Stv, I have the prized possession of one North stand season ticket, right behind the goal. After the three games I've seen there so far, the atmosphere has been fantastic, the first game at home in the league, against Doncaster, was like a mini FA cup final, and the only downside was in the Carling cup first round against Gillingham, when a bloke sitting behind us spent virtually the entire game shouting coaching advice to the Albion players, what wasn't horseshit, would just be a statement of the blindingly obvious. Clearly the axiom of, 'better to have someone think you're a fool, than open your mouth and remove all doubt', was lost on this one. Me and Stv exchanged aggravated looks regarding this football genius on a number of occasions, he also had an irritating pitch to his voice to add to the annoyance. The only saving grace was when we heard him say his brother owned the season ticket, so we wouldn't have to endure his presence too often.

While the early games have had a party atmosphere in the stands, on the pitch they have a job to do, and they've done fairly well, but on Tuesday night against Sunderland we saw the best football so far, against top opposition. The first half was even stevens from where I was sat, which was impressive enough I thought, considering they're a Premiership outfit, but in the second half we controlled the game for long periods, while playing wonderful possession football. Brighton looked organised and comfortable, not in the least bit out of depth, despite some particularly aggressive challenges coming in from the muscular Premier side on occasions. There were chances for both sides, and it's hard to say, without impartiality, who had the best of them, but Brighton certainly had some pearlers, with Mackail Smith at the heart of most of them, firstly inside ten minutes, with a shot parried by the keeper, into the path of Barnes, who at a stretch put his effort over the bar, then later Smith beat their keeper only to see his chipped effort hit the post and slew across the goal mouth to safety. Since first watching Mackail Smith I've been hugely impressed, his work rate is phenominal, he simply doesn't appear to believe in a lost cause, chasing down every ball, harrying the opposition at every turn, eventually being rewarded on Tuesday with the goal his enterprise deserved in the sixth minute of extra time, heading in a sweetly flighted cross from Navarro.

There should have been a penalty to the Albion early in the second half, when Calderon was brought down by the Sunderland keeper, right under our noses in the North stand, and since I've seen the TV replays, it just looks more obvious with every viewing, but far from give it, the ref then decides to book Calderon for diving. I for one have long been frustrated by the play acting and diving which has poisoned our game in recent years, and I welcome the idea of referees trying to penalise the cheats, but it's a bit galling when you see such a stonewall penalty not awarded, only to have insult added to injury by the ref booking the victim of the challenge, instead of issuing a red card to the keeper for his blatant foul in what was a clear goal scoring opportunity. Fortunately the Albion got the result and that decision didn't cost us, but it was a shocker by the ref, especially when you see he was so close to the incident when it happened.

The one thing left that needs addressing quite soon, is the transport situation to and from the ground, the trains are rammed from ten miles away going to the game, getting more packed the closer we get to the ground, but so far the party spirit of the new stadium means everyone is enduring the cramped travel conditions with a smile. However, with a station which can only accomodate four carriage trains, the queueing to get out has been ridiculous, and the car parks are no better, taking more than an hour just to get out of the car park and on to a road. Hopefully the Albion will take note and do what can be done to ease the situation in the near future, it's not a major issue at the moment, but it is one of those things that you could easily see becoming a problem if nothing is done about it, especially when some of the big London clubs come here.

All in all so far, it's been a great start, and if the football we saw Brighton playing against Sunderland is anything to go by, we've got an amazing season to look forward to, not just for the results, but the manner in which they are being achieved, dare I say, Barcenal esque. We have Peterborough on Saturday, fresh from their seven goal haul against the hapless Ipswich, but I'll be in France for that game, so my younger brother Simon will keep my seat warm, and sample the experience of the Amex for his first time, if the Albion maintain the recent standards then he's in for a treat.

Image: Aerial displays and grotty yachties racing


A busy week

I've had a crowded head just recently, too much stuff going on around to take it all in properly perhaps, but I'll give it a go anyway. I haven't blogged about the pool team before, I don't really know why, but recent events have given me pause for thought. Me and a few mates decided to resurrect our old pool team a year or so back, as the result of a reunion night which went so well. Without going in to a lengthy history, we weren't a bad team, and often put noses out of joint, not just with our success, but our rowdy manner of enjoying it, I was at one point, labelled the most hated man in the Worthing league. Looking back, it was all a bit sad really, getting so bothered over a game of bloody pool, but since playing again, I can see that very little has changed with some people's mentality when it comes to anything competitive.

A couple of weeks back I found myself being questioned, or interrogated rather, by the Landlady of the Alexander pub from Worthing, we were at home to them in the league. Apparently I'd corrected her on a point of grammar earlier on, I have no recollection of it, but Alfie told me later that it shut her up at the time, and clearly from then on she was brooding over it, so she started earholing me every time I went out for a smoke, (my drinking weakness!). "So, what's your job here?", she chucks in as a starter, "sorry?", not having a scooby what she was talking about, "what do you do here, in the pub?", she followed up with, "drink", I told her, still bemused as to where this line of enquiry was going. For a while she probed away, for what I realised later, was her, 'in', to begin her verbal campaign of attempted ridicule, and that, 'in' apparently, was the fact that I helped get the team going, from that she deduced that I thought that I ran the pub, "no", I told her, "I'm only involved with the pool team", "no", she says, "you think you run this place", "right oh, whatever you say", "yeah, you do". I should say now, that this 'lady', probably coursed with more testosterone than all the lads in her team, and had a voice and tone which gave me the impression that she believed to be intimidating, bless. Once she had established that she knew me better than I know myself, she felt confident enough to move on to round two of my character assassination, "you're a nobody, nothing, do you know that?", was her next volley, "I don't believe I said I was actually", seemed an adequate enough answer to that, after all, what the hell does that line mean anyway?. Just ask yourself, are you a somebody, or a nobody, it's a nonsense comment. But she had the bit between her sharpened canines now, and decided, "you've got small man syndrome", this was priceless, all I replied with, was, "you really don't like me do you". And it didn't stop there either, unbeknown to me, while I was playing my match, she was chipping away with more jibes, one of which was that I looked like a Bulldog chewing a wasp while I was concentrating on my shot, that may well be the one thing she got right, but overall, I think I'd rather be a nobody in my world, than a somebody in hers.

Looking back on it, I find it quite funny, but a little surprising that I can have such an impact on someone without even trying, because I'm only too well aware of how much I can wind people up when I actually put my mind to it. Since getting involved back in the world of pool though, I've been determined to hit it with a charm offensive, trying to make friends of our opponents, and generally it's been a success, with a few of the teams keen to play us in friendlies, but clearly, it would appear some teams, or individuals, prefer a bit of antagonism. I can say from experience, the situation only comes up when we're winning, and only with a couple of teams, last week we were up against the only team above us in our division, the Bar Next Door in Worthing, they'd beaten us soundly, 4-1 at our place, and had a one point advantage over us going into this game. For us lot, every week is another reunion, with wives and girlfriends coming along too, so if the oppo's aren't feeling chatty it doesn't make a lot of difference to us, but the BND had been chatty, friendly, and obviously happy with their win over us before, so it came as a bit of a surprise to see how grizzled they would become when the tables were turned. Other than the first player, who offered to buy Dave a drink after his defeat, in what was a closely fought and friendly game, the rest of them capitulated with one sour face, and comment, after another, and no more offers of the courtesy half pint to the victors as we cruised to a 5-0 win. This time we were accused of, cheating, playing more snooker than pool, (as in, playing a safety game), and finally, which made me laugh when I heard it, "none of the other teams like you lot", well at least it's the whole team they don't like this time, rather than just me, maybe I'm losing my edge! If things are going to carry on like this, then maybe I should start up a seperate, 'soap opera pool team blog', and entertain you all with some of the petty minded bullshit that we occasionally encounter on a Thursday pool league night.

Work wise it's all been quiet for a while now, so a good chance to get things moving on the Fische houseboat again, and hopefully get Fred to sort out the vans oil leak in return. We've now added a small flat roofed extension over the decking we fitted a few weeks back, so the tarpaulins that had been cloaking the Fische for the last couple of years, could at last come down, and the ex German naval vessel can again be seen in all it's glory. There's something very relaxing about working on the Fische houseboat, watching the river and wetlands in their different states as the tide rises and falls, the much and varied wildlife that occupies it, and also the community spirit that riverbank boat dwellers seem to have. They all pitch in to help each other, and take recycling to another level entirely, anything that looks like it might come in useful, is kept, somehow, somewhere, a commendable ethos.

Other than Fred and Polly's Fische, I was helping Ben and Lisa with their kitchen, they had solid oak work tops which they wanted me to fit, Ben had fitted the rest of the kitchen, but didn't have the tools for the work tops. Straightforward enough job, but as is so often the case, another good chance to catch up with friends you don't get to see too often. Ben works at the yacht club, and is also a member of Shoreham RNLI crew, so he often has a story or two up his sleeve, and this week was no different. There had been a call out during the week, the lifeboat had been called up by a trawler, to let them know that a yacht was in need of assistance in the shipping lanes of the English channel, at night time. Somehow or another, this Beam Trawler was working, with it's outriggers out, and came alongside the yacht, scything its mast and rigging through as it passed, they were incredibly lucky no one was killed. The skipper of the yacht didn't want to call the lifeboat out, the trawler made the decision on his behalf, after all, any yacht caught in the middle of the shipping lanes at night time, with no mast, lights, or navigation, is in serious danger. When Shoreham Lifeboat arrived, they had to cut away all the mast and rigging before they could think about towing the yacht and crew back to port, but somehow or other, a woman on board the yacht, who had been holding a line, got it snagged around her arm, while the sea swell caused it to pull tight and break her arm, so now Newhaven Lifeboat had to be called out to get her to hospital, as the tow back would take five hours or more.

There will be an enquiry to determine if any action should be taken, and to find out where any potential blame may lie, but it was somewhat ironic that the skipper of the yacht is also a recently appointed safety officer, so I imagine he's a little red faced right now.

And on to the weekend! A full weekend of racing on the Devil, at the same time as the Shoreham Airshow is on, top banana. With a very civilised 11a.m meet up on board the Devil, hangovers shouldn't be an issue, and such was the case. The crew for the day were David, Del, Pete, Ross, Jules, and his daughter Poppy, Squire, and myself, and the conditions while not brilliant for the Devil necessarily, would at least be conducive to an enjoyable day on the water. Unfortunately the racing had to be delayed a while, owing to the fact that no one had asked the lock keepers how much water there would be over the bar as we went through the locks, at least, not until we were already in the locks and sluiced down to the low water depth outside. The upshot was, that everyone had to wait until there was enough water for us to get over the bar and out, a little embarrassing perhaps, but not too calamitous.

(For those that don't know. Gary Lineker = Spinnaker (also known as 'silk knickers, knickers, hankee') The big coloured sail occasionally seen up in front of the pointy bit of a yacht)

Once outside the harbour, we were joined by a number of yachts that came along from Brighton marina for the racing, they stood out with their expensive looking sails, and it soon became apparent that these boys knew their onions in the racing stakes, with Jeneral Lee, not for the last time, showing the fleet a clean pair of heels from early on. We'd had a good start in the first race, Del helming us over the line as one of the lead yachts, but that advantage soon melted away and we dropped back to mid fleet position, then having seen Jeneral Lee round a mark on to a spinnaker run, with the Gary up as soon as they'd completed the turn, we then had our usual fiasco with the silk knickers, finally getting the thing up halfway through the leg. The thing is, the Devil is a family boat, with an ever changing crew, so we know our limitations, and as a result, when things go wrong then perhaps we're better prepared for it than most, more ready to laugh than spit nails. You get to hear some pretty colourful language while out on the water, one of the skippers is even known unofficially as Captain Tourettes, but there are plenty more like him, and it's hilarious to listen to sometimes, and always forgotten later at the bar.

There was a bit more wind on the Sunday, and a slightly different crew, with our foredeck man, Bunny, back on board, and with him, young Ben, our cousins boy, Pete, but no Ross as he was working, Jules brought his other daughter, Florence along, and Janet rejoined us after her travels. Between them they had filled the fridge with grub for the day, as always. All of the serious racers unload as much weight as possible before setting off, while we have Squire filling the tanks up in case we run out of water for our teas and coffees when we're out, priorities. Del at the helm again, with David playing the sails, Squire at the nav table, and me taking notes in between winch monkeying, or being galley bitch. We had a flyer of a start in the first race, rounding the second mark into a spinnaker run in a creditable 3rd postition, it was just a pity that we only realised where our next mark was after we were sailing past it, with the Gary up, going full steam. This went on to have a knock on effect as we got the spinnaker down, turned back to head for the mark, watching as boats we'd been quite close to were now in the distance, then jibe round and into the next leg, only for the spinnaker to be called for again, having only just been packed away. Everyone had been so busy concentrating on the spinnaker, that we lost sight of the fact we were the wrong side of the next marker, and once again steamed past it, thus handing over half a dozen positions to our competitors in one fell swoop, it was all a bit, 'Mr Bean'.

The last race of the weekend was a different ball game, with a simple course, stronger winds, and another decent start over the line by Del. We were approaching what would be a spinnaker run from number 3 marker to number 6, me and Bunny had been instructed to get the smaller Gary out of the forward sail locker. With the Devil pitching into the waves, a soaking was always on the cards, and sure enough, just as we got the locker open, the Devils nose plunged into an oncoming wave surge and drenched us both. Laughing at our misfortune, we looked into the locker, only to see the sail we wanted was beneath two others, and it's not a big locker, "bollocks to that", was our mutual opinion, "we can do this leg under white sails", we shouted back to the cockpit crew, all smiling at us drowned rats. As it happened, we used the spinnaker pole to hold out the foresail and Goosewinged that leg, hooning along better than we had done all weekend, then we rounded the second to last mark error free, finishing fifth over the line for our best result, and the most enjoyable sail too. Jeneral Lee won every race, over the line at least, and well done to them on a fine effort.

Comedy moment of the weekend came just after we'd finished the last race. I was on galley duty, getting stuff into the oven, but Squire was too hungry to wait, "I'll have my sos roll cold", he told me, so I chucked him one across the cabin, it went a bit above head height, and Squire reached up with both arms to grab it, just as he he did that, the Devil lurched, changing direction, and as it did I could see a mixed look of surprise and panic in his boat race, before he flew forward towards the saloon toilet door, while the sos roll landed on the floor between his feet. Fortunately he came to no harm, but I just roared with laughter at the sight of it all, the expression on Squires face was a picture I won't forget in a hurry.

Throughout the racing on both days, we were enjoying the aeronautical displays from the airshow above us, as all kinds of aircraft, old and new, performed for the crowds, and keeping an ear out for the Test Match Special commentary on the England India game on the radio down below. There were biplane wing walkers, dog fight re enactments, Spitfire, Hurricane, World War Two bombers, Jet fighters, all sorts of smoke trails, and no shortage of boats on the water just to see the show, while being alerted to the Indian wickets tumbling by the TMS team. All in all, another fine weekend had in the company of friends and family.



I'm not exactly sure which year it was that we first entered the Beneteau cup down in the Solent, but the first clear memory is of taking Siesta, a First 35, and the old mans, (Squire), first Beneteau, in 1990, I'd bought a small portable TV so that we could follow the World Cup football from Italia '90. As it turned out we couldn't get any reception in the marina, so any football I did get to see was in a pub, no harm in that eh. The main thing for me about the Beneteau cup was, once I'd been to one, it became the highlight of the sailing calender, looking forward to the event above all others. Sailing along from Shoreham on the Thursday or Friday, armed with bin bags full of fancy dress stuff, heaps of booze, and cameras primed and ready for a long weekend of racing, eating, drinking, and partying with our annual friends that we've made since getting invloved all those years ago. It's about an 8 to 10 hour sail to get from Shoreham, weather permitting, and it's a nice feeling as you round the headland of Selsey and make your way towards the unmissable big round Napoleonic forts at the entrance to the Solent.

Just staying on the boat in Cowes is special, different to anywhere else, you can feel the maritime history of the place all around you, through every inch of the town, and one of the first ports of call after arrival at the West Cowes marina is generally the Anchor pub, often soaked up later by fish and chips from the chippy a few doors along. On the morning of the first day there would be Bucks Fizz layed on for all while the weekend race packs were handed out, I may have some of my timing out with these memories, but that could well be a combination of alcohol sunk back then, and an ageing memory now! The fancy dress night is always the highlight, and over the years we've built up quite a stock, often helped along by the second hand fancy dress shops in the town, we've been, Carribean, Angels and Demons, St Trinians, and Filmstars to name a few, and virtually everyone gets into the spirit of the occasion.

We rarely troubled the trophy cabinet, but did manage a 2nd in the pursuit race one year, Squire got the 'Old Gits' prize a couple of times, until they stopped awarding one, and Ma managed to win a bottle of Freixenet when it happened to be her Birthday over the weekend, oh, and not forgetting on the last Beneteau Cup, held in 2009, we won best fancy dress crew with the Devils Advocate, a First 45 F5. It's hard now to differentiate between each of the years, so I'll just pull out a few recollections to try and give a flavour of why this event is so much fun. In the early years they had a treasure hunt, but not just a piece of paper and off you trot around town, but a map which took you all over the Solent, lasting most of the day, involving water fights, pirates, and plenty of high jinks on the waterways as skippers worked out just how agile their Beneteau's were while chasing or running from other competitors up the Beaulieu river to Bucklers Hard as we searched for answers to our clues, and of course our little bottles of Mount Gay rum. Not forgetting the committee boat, all decked out in pirate colours, event organisers included, duelling with the competitors in water fights, and bear in mind there were about 30 or 40 yachts involved in the early days, so it was chaotic fun at some of the more narrow stretches of the rivers. One year, the director of operations, (and chief pirate), David Tideyman, was carried and launched into the marina water by a cheering crowd of Beneteau cup contestants, fortunately I had a camera on hand for that. Another time, myself and my brother Stig, in our St Trinians girls school outfits were seen chasing a couple of the crew from Fandango up the old High Street, skirts a flailing as we ran after them. It had started all quite honestly, the Fandango crew were all public school types, and one of them asked for my St Trinians tie, to which I said, "fair enough, I'll swap it for yours", his facial expressions, coupled with his retort of, "I don't think so", gave a clear answer, but at that moment, his compadre leant over, nicked my straw boater from atop my head, and legged it, quickly followed by Little Lord Fontleroy, one beaming look between me and Stig was enough, the game was afoot, and off we ran after them, Ma and Pa commented later on how funny it all looked from behind. We got the hat back, and later Stig claimed the prize of their table name tag.

Obviously a bit of racing is squeezed into the weekend, and where better than the Solent for a spin around the cans. While we rarely finish near the front, we give it our best, and love the competition, a beer never tastes as good as it does when you've come in from a race, but it tastes just a little better when you're drinking it in Cowes after a day on the water there. On our last trip, in the Devils Advocate, we had the added bonus of having Davids boy, Jack, with us, so we had three generations of the Ramus tribe aboard, something that made Squire quite proud, and the photo of us all in fancy dress that year, now takes pride of place in Ma n Pa's lounge. It's a cracking photo, with big beaming smiles on all of our faces, a perfect advert for the Beneteau cup, shame we only have it on canvas! I can't scan it.

The Devils Advocate is Squires fourth Beneteau, his last one, Crazy Daisy, was a First 48, a gorgeous, beamy yacht which was definitely built for comfort, but far from wishing to slow down in his old age, Squire decided to chop her in for the sleak lines and racing pedigree of the Devil. While there have been a few problems with the Devil, I've never known one of the old mans boats to be out so often, we even have people queueing up to crew on occasions, and we've finished first across the line in a number of club races too, which was pretty much uncharted territory before, (obviously relegated a long way back after handicaps applied!). The highlight for Squire since owning the Devil, I imagine must have been when Sussex Yacht Club members chose her to race in the Round the Island race in 2010, coming 98th over the line, and about 300th after handicap, not bad out of 1800 or so, and there probably weren't too many 83 year old skippers out there either.

We continue to race a much as possible, but it would be nice to have a Beneteau Cup to look forward to, if for no other reason than to prove to all the people I've told about it, just what a great time it is, and to be able to create more fun memories for the future.

Image: Jack, David, Nige, Squire. 3 Generations

Image: The Devil at sea


Babylon is Burning

It's hard to know where to begin after the last week of greed filled opportunism, hard maybe, but impossible to ignore. Last Thursday, 4th August, police in Tottenham shot Mark Duggan, alleging at the time that he had fired at them first, initial reports from the Independent Police Complaints Commission indicate that this was not the case at all, in fact as it stands, their investigations so far state that it appears his gun had not even been fired. Family and friends of Duggan gathered on the Saturday to peacefully protest against the shooting, but at some point other elements took this as an opportunity to start something much more aggressive, and with the aid of social media such as Twitter, texting, and Blackberry messaging, the word spread, very soon the flames of anarchy were going all across London. Add to that the TV coverage, and the fact that anyone watching the footage would be instantly aware the the police, for whatever reason, were doing nothing to stop it, and in no time at all it became a free for all for criminals. Perhaps one of the most distrubing factors for many people, was the amount of children involved, I'm not so sure about that really, given that it's school holidays, this mayhem has kicked off on their doorstep, they can see nothing is being done about it by the police, while the internet is alive with reports of where it's going off, to my mind it was clear things were going to get far worse before anything starts to get better. The TV and internet were basically advertising the fact that if you wanted to, you could trash and loot any of these areas with impunity, one interviewee after another relating the fact that the police were doing nothing, and not just that they were doing nothing, but that they looked incapable of doing anything anyway, such were the numbers they were up against.

Children were recorded, telling reporters, 'what a laugh', it all was, and, 'great fun'. It struck me as it was all playing out, how quickly the youths had cottoned on to the Chinese idea, that 'Crisis equals Opportunity', and also the book, 'The Lord of the Flies', and what depth children can sink to, and how quickly, once order is removed from their lives. To my mind, the most worrying aspect of the whole nightmare, is that this was done for no better reason than, just because they could, and when all the cases have been heard, I have absolutely no doubt at all in my mind, that there will be a lot of ordinary, 'so called', decent people, who just saw a bandwagon and jumped on it. The next thing to keep an eye out for, is whether this will continue to spread, and where to, because the same ingredients that allowed this situation to come about, were in use during the recent uprisings in the middle east, not the reasons obviously, but the means with which they rallied followers to their cause, such as Twitter, mobile phones, Youtube, etc. It's easy to imagine that what we've witnessed happening in London, Manchester, and Liverpool over the last few days, could alert criminal minds to the fact that it could be triggered wherever they are, and quite quickly overwhelm their police forces too.

A great deal of the worst aspects of human nature have been played out on our TV screens, greed, stupidity, and opportunism, mainly, but nearly all with aggression, and comically, (and I couldn't help but laugh when I read this), now Colonel Gaddafi has sent a message to David cameron suggesting he should stand down, in the face of, 'this popular uprising', claiming he wasn't fit to lead, having used, 'violent repression', on, 'peaceful protesters'. Perhaps some of our little darlings out looting might consider how bad life could really be under someone like Gaddafi, who knows a thing or two about violent repression, the hospitals and morgues would be littered with the victims of his wrath.


Fortress Amex

Following on from my pre match blog, in the comfortable glow of three points in the bag, a somewhat lighter wallet, but most importantly, a barrow load of Fan tastic (see what I did there?) memories of the first league match at the new Fortress Amex. I may now possess kidneys and liver that only a distillery could use, but it was all well worth the effort after that saturday just gone. It's been the talk of the town for some while now, and on Saturday morning as we converged at the Waterside for some pre match liveners, the excitement of the occasion was building nicely, cars and foot traffic decked out with blue and white flags and scarves steadily streamed past, leaving Shoreham Beach, and already talking of maybe organising a coach to get us to the games in future, such is the strength of support from around here.

A few of us had been offered a lift to the game, but I for one wanted to get the full experience of the day, which meant getting the train, which we all did. The platform at Shoreham station was filled with blue and white shirts, and when the train pulled in, there was more evidence if it were needed of how big a day lay ahead, it was rammed with Albion fans already, we squeezed in though for a cosy ride to Brighton breathing down each others necks. There was a party spirit on board, lots of smiling faces and banter, no one really cared about the over crowding, and thankfully one of them had a bottle opener so I could get in to my Speckled Hen. I think perhaps that sooner rather than later they need to think about laying on more trains on match days, as the novelty of being rammed into railway carriages every home game will wear off, not to mention the poor sods that aren't even going to the game.

At Brighton station, where we have to change trains, the crowds were multiplying massively, all in a happy mood given the occasion, but at the back of a few of our minds were the games ahead such as Palace, Pompey, West Ham, and Cardiff, just for starters, where policing will be awkward to say the very least, let's hope they plan wisely, not something we naturally expect the police to do, but fingers crossed. After a while of being coralled behind the barriers, (I'd already been seperated from the mob I was travelling with when they closed the gates to prevent overcrowding), we were through and on the platform, every few minutes seeing another old face that's made the effort to come and witness this great occasion. I know we often used to get 30,000 plus gates at the Goldstone, but something about this Saturday seemed very reminiscent of the cup run in 1983, especially when we were walking down the middle of the road to Highbury for the semi final against Sheffield Wednesday, bumping into old mates, and full of optimism amid a sea of blue and white, and we even managed the same 2-1 scoreline. Coming out of Falmer station and up onto the walkway towards the new Amex, is like Brightons version of Wembley Way, cameras and phones being held aloft to record the moment for posterity.

Once inside the Amex, having swiped my gold dust season ticket card over the scanner, it was a sea of blue and white flags, they'd put a flag for every home seat in the ground, fans had also brought their own local renditions of Albion banners, draped over the barriers and down the walls of every available space. Stv had charged his seaon ticket card up online, so he didn't have to bring money into the ground, also getting 10% cashback on all sales made using his card. We got our pie and a pint on his card, 6.50 each, and quite probably the best pies in the football league, made on the day by our own version of the 'Mrs Miggins Pie Shop', they compare with the pies we used to get in Manly, Australia, which I had always considered the best pies I'd ever tasted. Suitably sated, we went to find our seats, I'd already heard about them, but to actually sit down in a comfy padded seat to watch football, well, pleasure overload, and the ground was reverberating with excited Albion fans working out just how noisy they could make their new home. For the last fourteen years, if you wanted to get any atmosphere at a Brighton game, it had to be at an away game, with the best will in the world it simply wasn't possible at Withdean.

As far as the game itself went, first half honours went to Doncaster, and pessimists might have been worrying about how the side, made bookies favourite for relegation this season, were outplaying us in those first 45 minutes, although in fairness, the ref seemed to be having a shocker, sending off Poyet for venting his anger at the outrageous booking of Lua Lua for diving after he'd been sandwiched to the floor in the box, and I doubt that he failed to notice the vigorous abuse being leveled at him by three sides of the ground as they let him know in a robust show of Anglo Saxon fury, "the referee's a wanker", booming out in perfect pitch. The second half was a different affair, with Buckley being sent on for Sparrow, and instantly calling across to Noone, (who had earlier replaced Lua Lua), to switch wings. Noone had been running Doncaster ragged, and now with Buckley on the opposite, right flank, as well as the Albion retaining possession and moving the ball around much better, the second half was a different performance. With two of Doncasters players stretchered off after heavy tackles, it's possible that the ref had totally lost his bottle by now, and perhaps Brighton benefitted from that, as they may have had sendings off on any other occasion. Regardless of all that, the Amex kept behind the players, and were finally rewarded when Buckley banged one into the bottom corner and the stadium went berserk, I think relief was the overwhelming feeling at the time, so imagine how we felt when Buckley latches on to Noones sweet pass to sweep the ball past the oncoming keeper and send the fans delerious with joy. I expect a neutral may say the draw would have been fair, but how often is football fair?.

Relieved and happy to have gained three points at the first time of asking, we headed for Dicks bar, the stadium ale emporium, more to escape the ridiculous queues heading towards the station really, but it turned out to be a cracker of a move. Not only were Dick Knight and Peter Ward in there on a meet and greet mission, but the Piranhas band were playing too, as well as Atilla the Stockbroker, the Albions designated 'Peoples Poet', and Paul Samrah, who fought for so long to stop the Triscumvirate of Bedson, Archer, and Belotti, from destroying the club. On a cheeky note, a lot of us commented on how Wardy has been under the burner for so long over in Florida, that he's looking decidedly sub continental these days. To anyone not an Albion fan, Peter Ward is probably not a name that springs from your lips too readily, to us he's a living legend, a link from one of the greatest eras of football that brighton have ever known, how fitting that he should have been here for what I believe, and hope, is the beginning of another great era, and we were there too!!


The Phoenix risen

April 26th, 1997. Brighton and Hove Albion versus Doncaster Rovers played each other at the Goldstone Ground, Hove, in the last game ever there, thanks mainly to the much hated triscumvirate of Bryan Bedson, Bill Archer, and David Belotti, Bedson, (the then chairman), for selling a controlling stake in the Albion to Archer for 56 quid, and then Archer and his lap dog Belotti for going on to try and asset strip, then destroy the club, which they almost succeeded in doing. The dismantling of the Goldstone was begun that afternoon by the fans, determined to take away a keepsake from their shrine, our place of worship on a Saturday afternoon, seats were taken, bits of turf, the clock, gates, signs, anything basically that could be detached and removed by human strenth, was. Me and Guzzi watched at varying intervals, as three young lads struggled to drag a big wrought iron gate along with them, stopping for breath every fifty yards or so, while me and Guzzi went pub by pub with our little clumps of Goldstone turf in our pockets.

Fourteen years later, after ground sharing 70 miles away with Gillingham for two years, then another twelve years playing at an athletics stadium in Withdean, the ghost of Archer is not lain to rest, that will only come about when we get to read of his passing to a much more uncomfortable existence in the pit of Hades, or made to walk around Whitehawk with a Palace shirt on. Today Brighton fans everywhere will be at the new Amex Stadium in Falmer, either in body or in spirit, and I expect to see a lot of old faces as I make my way to the new ground, armed with my pocket full of gold dust which is my season ticket.

It's almost fairy tale material that we actually happen to be playing Doncater Rovers in our first game at the new stadium, the last team to play us at the beloved old Goldstone, and in the League cup 1st round we drew Gillingham, can there really be a guiding finger from above, mapping out a glorious return to the lime light, no, of course not, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. Every game from now on is a little part of a big dream, one which all Brighton fans have been dreaming for at least the last fourteen years, bring it on!!!!

Image: Coming into Fecamp

Fecamp, July 2011

As we came closer to to the day, I had been wondering about the wisdom of going across the channel with just myself, David, and Squire, which it soon became clear was going to be the case. Squire was determined that he wanted to go, declaring that he'd take the damn thing on his own if he could. Given the trip we had, there was nothing to worry about though, for once the weather forecast was pretty much spot on over the weekend. It was supposed to be the Pactolus cup weekend, but owing to lack of interest the race was cancelled, but such was the old boys determination to get across to Fecamp for his beer in the square, and Davids assurance that we'd be fine with the three of us sailing the Devil, I could hardly be the one to put the mockers on it, despite my reservations regarding doing anything based on a Met office weather report. To say, 'what could go wrong?', would be to underestimate the endless myriad of calamities which have tended, on occasion, to stalk us one way or another in our sailing experiences, and not only confined to when at sea by any means, to properly answer the question, would be to say, "pull up a chair, grab a pint, and how long have you got?".

There was a low sea mist first thing on Friday morning as we went through the locks, but it soon cleared by the time we were motoring out of the harbour, and as we ran up the sails outside, I was amused to hear some Dutch guy on the radio conversing with the lock keepers, "hello sir, what can I do for you?", "hello, we are on de inshide, and we should like to be on de outshide", in that classic, 'shmokin da weed', Dutch accent. Little things please this particular little mind.

With the cloth all up, and the wind on our beam, we were soon shifting along nicely at around 6 knots with George at the helm, (auto pilot self steering), so I took the first opportunity for a bit of kippage down below. After some fairly lucid and bizarre maritime dreams, I came up in time to see us approaching the Meridian light station at about midday, a third of the way across one of the busiest shipping channels in the world. Land now out of sight, just the sound of water rushing past the hull, with hazy sky and a mild breeze, our speed was down to between 4 and 5 knots, with a gentle heel on, all very pleasant. Squire was at the nav table, keeping his log updated every hour, sticking his head up every now and again to see what's going on, while, other than david adjusting the sails to suit any slight wind changes, all we had to do was keep our eye out for shipping traffic, two seperate 'collision' courses avoided with slight adjustments to the heading, the second of which changed their course too, perhaps unwilling to gamble on whether we had a clue or not.

After another kip, I came to about 6pm, the stark, relentless, high rise cliff faced north of France already in view, about ten mlies off. The last few miles approaching the French coast were perfect, with the wind just forward of the beam, doing a steady 8.5 knots, a nice lean on the old girl, clear blue skies, and the approaching cliffs lit up by the setting sun, a nice way to finish the days sailing. We just added a bit of time at the end as we turned into the wind to get the main down, and drifted eastwards, only to have to punch the tide coming back once the cloth was all wrapped up and tied, and the it's a fairly bloody strong tide running along that part of the coast, so you appreciate the calm of the harbour entrance once you're in it, even on such a fine day, and all the more so when coming in from rough weather, happy to be in the haven of this busy little fishing port set into the cliffs!

Moored up alongside a Bavaria 48 (ish), it was about 9pm French time, so we opted to stay on board and start on our not insignificant bar stocks, a few Dark and Stormies later, and our day was over.

Waking up to the smell of bacon can only be a good thing, David was under way with the breakfast, although somehow I ended up finishing it, either way, a grand way to kick off any day. On all the trips to Fecamp I can remember, the square has always been the focal point of the weekend, where everybody congregates to begin the drinking proper, and despite the absence of any other SYC crews on what David had earlier renamed, 'The Apathy Rally', this weekend would be no different. I'm sure Squire was there as early as last week mentally, so when me and David suggested a walk to the market first to work off some of the breakfast, Squire said he'd see us when we got back, he had no intention of passing the square with that, long dreamed of, first beer on his mind.

We joined Squire outside the Big Ben cafe bar, armed with our purchases, and relaxed in the ambience of the Gallic surroundings, where the majority of the girls seem to wear scarves, and smoke their cigarettes in a certain way, with the ciggy between their outstretched fingers, held down, away from the body, like there's a cool way to smoke, and it's French. And then there are the Gerard Depardieu lookalikes, with their Gallic beaks, and jumpers draped over their shoulders, reassuring you that you are indeed on a different continent. And what a pleasure to be back there, we soon noticed the new red lines that now adorned the edges of the squares steps, and wondered whether they may be as a result of Squires accident on his last visit, when his chair fell off the edge and he split his noggin, ending up in hospital on that occasion. It was a bit overcast, so jackets required, but we sunk a pleasant few sherberts, and the Current did eventually show its face, although by then the beer had caught up on the old fella. We should have realised, he's no spring chicken after all, so having watched him wobble unsteadily to and from the toilets, declaring himself, 'a bit pissed', then as he's rolling himself a fag, a pigeon wanders past him, and with a cheeky grin Squire looks at it and says, "and you can fuck off too", at which me and David rolled up, and wisely determined it's time to go. With elbows linked we assisted our Daddy back to the Devil, stopping en route for him to get his breath back, needless to say he slept like a baby when he hit the pit back on board.

There's something you just have to love about the French too, the fact that they retain the age old values of common bloody sense, they don't condescend you by erecting barriers everywhere you look, they credit the average person with having sense enough to not be dumb. I think the nimrods that pass for Health and Safety Executives back here would have a fit of apoplexy if they were to walk around Fecamp, but guess what, you don't see random lemmings falling off all the unguarded edges every five minutes, funny that. The drop from the barrier free quayside to the water at low tide can be as much as thirty foot, yet it's strangely unlittered by corpses of the recently living that couldn't resist the urge to get too close.

There's definitely a feel about Fecamp that tells you it hasn't quite caught up with time yet, the age old brick laid streets, just as old architecture, ancient looking crumbling church buildings, all old but lived in and still in use, and a general feeling that they're in no rush to try and catch up with the rest of the world any time soon.

That afternoon as we were sat in the Devils cockpit, while Squire was akip, I noticed a familiar sound, the whir of a light aircraft. I said to David, "I don't recall having seen much in the way of planes round here before?", to which he informs me that there's an airfield close by, and within five minutes there are no less than six of the damn things buzzing across the skyline, as if to goad me. Fifteen minutes later and the skies are clear again, and remain so, hmmmm!

It's a shame we didn't have an extra day, to be able to relax properly, as it was we went out for a meal that evening, but knowing we had to leave by about four in the morning, we had to get our heads down early, and we overslept that too, getting out by about 04.45. No sooner were we out and sails up, George was on and we could get our heads down again for a couple of hours before hitting the shipping channel. There was very little wind though, so the donkey was on from the word go, which made for fitful sleeping with an engine drumming alongside my berth, but I've slept on speakers in night clubs before, I managed. Not before I watched the sun come up mind you, snapping away with my trusty Fuji.

Coming to later on, about 09 ish, Squire was playing with the sails, plenty of ships filled the horizon, it was a bright sunny day, and David was on galley duty, nice. It's fair to say we didn't lack for food this weekend, or booze, or sleep. We were joined by a few dolphins a bit later on, Squire had spotted them off our port beam as they broke water, and soon after they were under and alongside the Devil, flitting about, holding position under the bow for a while, then sprinting off and back again. I tried to take a few pics, but the one enduring pain in the arse with digital cameras is the time delay, so all the pics I do have, are the second after the shot I wanted. Nonetheless, it was still a joy to see, as always with dolphins.

The journey back to Shoreham was sunshine all the way, and engine unfortunately, but still very pleasant. We got back in time to catch the 3.30 afternoon lock, meeting up with Bombadier and crew, who'd all been down to Brighton marina for the day. Terry chucked us a four pack of Guinness as we moored up alongside them in the locks, and I thought, not a bad way to finish up the weekend, I'm glad that Squire had been stubborn enough to want to go regardless, and that we made the effort to do it. I look forward to the next time.

Image: Fecamp harbour at low tide


Where to start? Well, somehow or other I've managed to lose my camourflaged floppy hat and 99p plastic fake Ray Ban glasses, I think last weekend when I was out drinking with Donny. I'd bought the floppy hat in Macquarie on the East coast of Oz in 2003 when I was travelling with Jim and Hannah, and the glasses further back than that. I know I only paid three bucks for the hat, and that their combined value wouldn't buy me a cheese burger and fries, but money aint everything. Oh well, to be honest I'm amazed I held on to them for as long as I did, I lose most of my hats when out drinking, it's something of a minor miracle that I've never lost a phone that way, and with that comment I've probably just cursed myself on that score too!

On the Tuesday I was back at the dentist, having been told on the last visit that I needed a 'bite razor', to wear at night as I've apparently been grinding my teeth during my sleep and worn away all the hard surface enamel on the back rows, top and bottom. I'd presumed this bite razor would be some state of the art piece of kit, worthy of the 140 quid I was going to be relieved of for it, so you can imagine my irritation when I find out that not only is it not much different to a five quid gumshield, the like of which I already have from my days of boxing, but it's actually thinner, and there's only a bottom half. The dentist also told me to expect to find it next to the bed for the first few times of wearing it, "it'll come out while you're sleeping", he said, no it bloody won't, it came out because I had to take the damn thing out just to get some sleep. Every night so far, I put my 140 quids worth of half a gum shield in, then lay there, hoping that I'll eventually nod off, until the realisation that it aint gonna happen, so I take it out and bingo, sleep. I hadn't seen a dentist for over four years, and then over two visits, which amounted to no more that 40 minutes between them, and I'm down 204, and I've been told that that's quite cheap, I'd sugggest on the basis of my experience, that dentistry is the modern day version of a gold rush.

For anyone not living under a bush in this country, Rupert Murdoch and News International have been hogging the headlines just recently, and while I've always been a critic of the red top rags and the shyte they run for news, they do have a huge readership, and now on Sundays, ex News of the Scews readers can be seen in newsagents trying to decide which of the rags left they should plump for, possibly checking out other ex readers to compare notes on their choices. It should be noted that all the other red tops on Sunday have seen an increase in their readership, it'll be interesting to see who comes out on top as the winner of the most new readers, and whether they custom their rags to attract this wealth of extra revenue suddenly available. Obviously at some point a new rag will be punted by News International to reclaim their custom, the 'Sun On Sunday' domain name has already been claimed by them apparently, so I imagine it isn't far away before their particular version of journalism returns to the news stands on Sunday.

Doubtless politicians have been enjoying not being the butt of everyones grievances for a change, and also having the chance to turn the tables on the much demonised Murdoch empire, but I still don't see much difference between the two, and I certainly don't want to see a state of affairs where politicians get to decide what papers can and can't do, it's already been proved far beyond doubt that they can't even be trusted to keep their own house in order. Boiled down, the Murdochs pretty much showed disdain for the whole proceedings as they faced the Parliamentary Affairs Committee, choosing which questions they would answer, or not, Rupert ate a bit of shaving foam humble pie, his Mrs showed off her lightning reactions and volleyball skills, an idiot calling himself Jonny Marbles tried to hijack events to make a name for himself, and overall, nothing came of it. Then came Prime Ministers question time, and the joke that is our 'House of Representatives' (Commons), shows the world through live TV, the Punch and Judy show that is our politics, as they all do no more than try to score points off each other with their clever (rarely) remarks, Cameron giving a passable impression of Murdoch with his evasion abilities. And they wonder why so few people bother to turn out come election day.

Amidst all this, we had the rather sad news that a not so old boy that lived on his boat along from the Devils Advocate, Paul Watson, had fallen into the marina, either getting on or off his boat, Harebelle, and died. I'd been speaking to him a few weeks before, when we had a working crew on the Devil to sort out some of the much needed jobs on board. I was in the cafe bar, Pebbles, awaiting some bacon sarnies, and Paul was telling me of his accident at work, where a young lad had knocked him out with the forks of his fork lift truck, then panicked and run him over, not once, but twice, it beggared belief. I could hardly believe what Paul was saying, but it was all painfully true, and as a result he had trouble making new memories, his marriage had broken up, and he had moved on to the boat to live, although he informed me he had had a big insurance payout for the incident. It was mid morning as we chatted, and Paul kept asking me if I'd like to join him for a beer, but as we were working on the boat I declined, and then we were interrupted by a fire alarm, "what's that?" I asked the girl behind the bar, "your bacon sandwiches I expect", was her reply, I thought she was joking, but it turned out later she hadn't been, as we crunched through the crispy black bacon in our sarnies. That payout did Paul no good in the end, and the injuries he sustained no doubt contributed to his tragic end. I'm writing this mainly to show there are more important things going on around than a bunch of idiots in suits arguing over who said what to whom.

This week has been full of pretty grim news, with that lunatic in Norway killing all those people in the name of some right wing agenda, and somehow the media have found a way to link this psycho with this country, because he had shown an interest in the BNP, a retarded group of right wing fascists that operate here. There is no rational argument for that kind of mindless murdering lunacy, but the reality of the global news world we now live in is that there is something like this being reported on every single day, but who decides what we get to see?, I'm not making a judgement here, just raising a question.

Amy Winehouse has died, and the internet is alive with confrontation already, with some pretty unpleasant things being posted about the girl. As far as I'm concerned, the people that matter most here are her parents, and anyone feeling the urge to bad mouth someone no longer around to defend themselves, might think about what are the actually trying to achieve. There's a grieving family left behind, and I very much doubt they did anything to warrant having to hear or read some poisonous comment by a random halfwit that never even knew Amy Winehouse the person, but thinks they have a right to slag her off in the public domain, and I'm not talking jokes here, after all, let's be fair, with a first album called 'Frank', and 'Rehab' as a single, the material was writing itself before she died. But like my brother Stig said, 'she's only just stopped being a child', forget her talent, there was still a life to be lived. Perhaps there's a lesson for any celebrity wannabes out there, be careful what you wish for. Pete Docherty take note?

Well after that fairly miserable week of news, it was nice to get out on the Devil yesterday, in almost perfect conditions. Del was back with us after working away, so he helmed, with, David, Stig, and myself as pit crew, Bunny on foredeck duty, Squire at the nav table, while Sue and her lad, Harry came along for the ride. Del gave young Harry a go at the wheel on the way out of the harbour, he could just about see over it, and kept his concentration fixed under Dels watchful eye. Once outside, with the course mapped out by Squire, we hit the start line going like a train, nose to nose with Bombadier as we headed for the first mark, by the time we rounded the second mark, we had a small lead which we went on to stretch through the race, picking up to between 8 and 9 knots boat speed with the Gary up on the long run from number 3 marker buoy to number 5 of about two and a half miles. Bunny got his usual dousing up front, Harry took a bit of a fright near the end after the boom swung across making a loud bang, but unusually for us, the race was incident free and we made it first across the finishing line some five minutes ahead of Bombadier, who had some bad luck with their spinnaker pole snapping in two after the Gary went in the drink. All in all it was a great mornings sailing, but there was a sting in the tail, we should have expected it really. The recently new fitted furling gear wasn't working, and on closer inspection, it was found to have issues, although I'm not entirely sure what the full extent of the problem is as yet.

Image: Sun rising on the way home

Image: Cambered joisting on the Fische

Image: First ply layer going down

Image: Second layer almost done


Following on from the cambered joisting that me and Fred had done on the Fische houseboat, last Tuesday we got the two layers of 12mm WBP ply on, that's Weather and Boil Proof, for either of you that were wondering, not quite Marine ply grade, but certainly good enough considering it's a houseboat, and that it'll be painted and covered in torch on felt after. We had Jake and a neighbour of theirs, Stuart, helping, plus the weather held off for us, allowing us to complete without getting a dousing. It hadn't occurred to me until now, but I think the lurgy that Fred had been suffering at the time, had most likely jumped ship and began its assault on me, I know there are differing schools of thought on the subject. I was on the blower to Macca on the Friday morning, as I was waiting for the arrival of Donny and his family, and I mentioned I felt rough, suspecting a bit of dodgy Ruby from the night before after our pool match, Macca laughed at the fact that I wouldn't even consider the fact it may have had something to do with the eleventeen pints of Guinness, washed down with Jack Daniels.

I met Donny in Chiang Mai, Thailand, when I was travelling the world, I was staying at the Royal Guest House after a three day jungle trek, and we ended up sharing a few Thai bucket sessions into the early hours of the morning, which, as I noted in my journal at the time, 'other than minor internal pain and wallet damage, were a good laugh'. After that I kept bumping into him and his mates, Keith, and Kelvis, in Laos, and Thailand, so we swapped e mails and kept in touch, that was back in 2003. Since then I've been to Warsaw in Poland for his stag weekend, the only Englishman among about a dozen Paddies, and what a great laugh they all were. I also got invited over to Edenderry, County Offaly, for the wedding, my first trip to Ireland, again having a great laugh and extremely warm welcome. So when Donny said they were visiting the outlaws in Peacehaven, it was only right that I should roll out the welcome mat.

Donny and Sara arrived around mid morning with their two boys, Pierce, and Dylan, thankfully the weather was still good, despite continual warnings from the Met office during the week that it would be anything but, at least on their three day forecasts anyway, it was in the post however, we weren't going to miss out on our quota of heaven sent shyteness. There was a plan for the day, though I knew with two younguns involved it would have to be a changeable plan, which was no problem, but I think in fairness, in the end, my itinerary wasn't really suited to keeping two young lads happy and involved, although between us I think we got away with it. You can't really fail, in my humble opinion that is, with the new Lifeboat Station, and Shoreham Airport, but, much as I enjoy showing people Shorehams highlights, or at least my idea of what they are, the playground at Shoreham Beach was clearly the winner as far as Pierce and Dylan were concerned, and at least gave Donny and Sara the chance to see some of the more unusual houseboats along the riverbank while the boys were playing.

I have to say, the walk across either side of the the lock gates at Shoreham Harbour was a particular disappointment for me, I hadn't realised just how savagely they've ruined that walk with all those offensive spiked railings everywhere, just another reminder of how, since common sense was outlawed by the Health and Safety Executive, no one can be trusted to not wilfully throw themselves into any potentially dangerous situation whenever it presents itself. I had hoped to show them aboard the Devil too, but when we got there she was off her moorings, as it turned out David and Stig had taken her out with friends to scatter a dear departed's ashes.

By three in the afternoon, Sara took the boys off back to Peacehaven, leaving me and Donny to contemplate a nights drinking ahead, and the fact that it was too early to start, certainly as far as I was concerned, if we were to survive the distance. Having attempted afternoon kippage with limited success, I introduced Donny to the Waterside, for everybody's favourite, the Friday 'after workers' session, which usually for me means four or five pints and an early night, schoolgirls blouse that I am. Fortunately Stig, David, Adrian, Stv, and Gav turned up to say hi, because I was flagging from the word go, I'm afraid I wasn't the best drinking partner for the evening, but others took up the slack on my behalf, and no doubt somewhere further down the line I will be reminded of my shortcomings on this occasion, and be deservedly mocked by my Gaelic friends.

The Saturday finally brought the filthy wet stuff the Met office had promised, according to the old boys Blackberry at least. Donny had commented on how well Ma and Pa looked and acted for their age, amazed that Squire still goes in to work too, and when I told him how the old fella loves his new Blackberry phone since he found out he could access weather reports on it, he thought that was fantastic, loving that an 84 year old was keeping up with technology. And Ma with her relentless industry of sewing, knitting, and travelling around with her 'Sewing Sisters'. There are of course plenty of senior moments too, but that's all part of the fun, growing old disgracefully.

With the little time left I suggested we nip along to see the things we couldn't fit in the day before, the Old Fort at the end of the beach, the Widewater Lagoon, and Lancing College, before dropping himoff in Brighton later. The Devil was supposed to be out racing, so we'd be able to see them out from the Fort, but the weather had put paid to that, which I was grateful for, because when we got there it was howling and blowing a gale with sheeting rain going almost sideways, certainly outside the harbour mouth didn't look like somewhere you'd volunteer to be, although there was one crew of die hards out there, but they had no sails up. I'm glad to say Donny seemed quite impressed by Lancing College, you can't always be sure people will share your enthusiasm, although I can hardly imagine anyone not being impressed by that place, the chapel is more like a cathedral. The whole place really does look like something out of Harry Potter, it's hard to believe it's taken me so long to bother to check it out properly, it's been on my doorstep for my entire life!!

Saturday night was the Carribean night at the Sussex Yacht Club, and Squire was looking forward to having most of the Devils complement at the table with him and Ma, a few having made the effort to dress up in theme. By now the race committee had decided to cancel the rest of the racing programme for the weekend, which meant everyone could concentrate on their drinking without having to worry about getting up early to go to sea, and when it comes to the sailing fraternity that can be a dangerous thing! The evening went well, with Ben Coe from our table winning the fancy dress prize, great food, and a quality young band to entertain us after. There was plenty of laughing and general amusement, but I think the most memorable giggle was when Oz the taxi arrived to pick up me, Squire, and Ma; Squire mentioned that he couldn't remember having met Oz before, to which Oz replied that he didn't think he'd taken him anywhere, and for a second there was quiet, as Ma joins in, "you've taken me before", quite innocently, until I looked at her and said, "would you like to rephrase that Ma", and everyone roared, Ma smiling and saying, "you're all very rude", or something along those lines. Another grand night out with the aged P's.

Trough night tonight, given the miserable fekkin weather, the Shepherds pie looks like it was a good choice on my part, let's see who's here for it. Bon et de douche, a la brouchette dear Rodney!!

Image: Lancing College chapel, Harry Potter style


Trouble Overhead

This will be a familiar line to those of you that keep up with my scribes, but there went another rather liquid weekend! Not planned around events so much as a compilation of random sessions, which actually nearly had me missing a 25th wedding anniversary over at Shoreham Airport, that I'd long since been invited to, I really should know better than to think I could just have a couple at lunch and be sensible. I made the fatal error of meeting up with Sweet VV, and Tree Dog, in town on the Saturday, which in itself would have been fine, and indeed was. But when I later got the call from Stig to say, "where the hell are you?", it was gone 10, then he tells me, "they're about to open the bottle you gave them at their wedding 25 years ago", "shit!, I'll be right over". I'd gone home to kip for the afternoon before the evening do, trouble is, I can sleep for England after a couple of beers, and did. I made it in time for the opening of the Moet & Chandon, 25 years later, Alan and Sue giving me a most undeserved part in the proceedings after my despicable lateness. Alan twisted the cork screw in, and the cork broke in half, but he persevered, and soon we were pouring the old sparkling stuff into glasses, and here the fairy tale ended. I wasn't too sure about its 'bouquet', but one taste sealed its fate, fortunately they've got a good sense of humour, it tasted like vinegar. I did take the glass around the place and insist everyone had to suffer a go of it, however reluctantly.

Being Monday, I'm all prepped for the Monday night at the Trough, meat seasoned, wrapped, and ready, veg washed, peeled, and chopped, all good to go for later. Last week however, things were a little different. 4th July 2011 is a day that many of us on Shoreham Beach will not forget in a long time, and unfortunately, not for a good reason, despite the fact that it was a gloriously sunny day with clear blue skies. The day had started as per usual, Trough duties, but after that I had a meet up with Fred on his houseboat, the Fische, regarding some work I was going to do in return for him sorting my old banger of a van out, this has been much talked about for some time, so I was becoming impatient to just get on with it, and get my van road worthy too. Well we got timber ordered, and agreed I'd start the next day after it's delivered, so feeling happier about being a little closer to having my wheels sorted, I went home and cracked on with the Trough detail.

Now, living near to an airport, we get a lot of small aircraft traffic overhead all year round, but on Monday afternoon, I became aware that we seemed to be getting buzzed directly above us by a helicopter, the old man was already out on the driveway looking up to see what the fuss was about. We could see the 'Search and Rescue' chopper hovering over the beach, so after a quick check on the food, I grabbed a camera and shot off up to the beach to see what was going on. The tide was about halfway down, the Shoreham Lifeboat was trawling up and down parallel with the coast, and the old bill were crawling all over the place. First person to put me in the picture was Emma, up on the beach with Duchess, (the American Boxer I'd dog sat for the other week), apparently there'd been a plane crash and she had seen the explosion coming from over the Adur recreation ground. Much like many people I'd talk to later, she'd been upset to see the whole thing.

Next up came Brian and Jo, a friend of theirs, Coco, told them a bit of one of the planes had landed in her garden, by now the beach was filling with curious spectators, eager to know what all the fuss was about, and an ever increasing contingent of police officers moving up and down, asking questions of any one that may have witnessed the incident. As I was looking on, a young couple approached a police officer, they had come from the east, and were pointing back to where they'd come from, then using their hands to gesture the size of something, quickly followed by the copper speaking into his radio and all the boys in blue, (black actually these days), heading off over to check this latest report out. It turned out that two planes had collided, and one had lost its propeller, the prop falling to the beach, mercifully without hitting any sunbathers. One of the planes went on to make it back to the airport, but the other was not so fortunate, and ditched into the Adur Rec, consumed by a fireball which was witnessed from half of Shoreham.

As it was such a gorgeous day, there were no shortage of witnesses, and from all over Shoreham. We're used to aircraft buzzing about all the time here, and as a result, locals recognise the sound of the planes engines, one common report of the crash being the cutting out of the engine, quickly tuning in to a different sound to the usual, or lack thereof. Witnesses from all over town saw or heard something, and the internet was alive with people either trying to find out what had happened, or give their own accounts of it, at one point it was pointed out that Shoreham was 'trending'on Twitter, I believe this means a lot of cyber traffic using the word 'Shoreham' at the time, but I'm by no means certain of that.

The information that I've gleaned so far, is that the poor guy that died, was an ex British Airways pilot, while the two in the other plane, were part of an air training school at Shoreham Airport. Somehow they managed to connect with each other over Shoreham Beach, above the east end of the beach huts opposite Beach Green playing field. Of all the reports I've heard, the one with the best view, appears to have been Fred, on his houseboat, the Fische, he said he saw them collide, then the plane that lost his prop carried round in a full arc, heading back towards the airport, but sadly, without a prop, had little chance. So Fred, like many others, looked on, powerless, to see the explosion. The pilot had by all accounts, done everything in his last moments to avoid a further tragedy, he'd already taken his plane over houses, and at the last minute had to keep control to be sure he missed the parents and children on the recreation ground that he crashed in to at the end.

For most of us, the big question is, how on earth do two planes collide on a sunny day without a cloud in the sky. I could speculate that as one pilot had been a vastly experienced airline pilot, while the others were part of a training school, that the smart money might be on the trainees being at fault, but that's pure speculation until all the evidence is in. But as we live underneath the flight line of these aerial scooters, it would be nice to know how this happened, and be assured that it really was some freak accident that will rarely, if ever, happen again.

Me and Fred did get around to starting the work on their house boat, a job I've been looking forward to getting going on for a while. The Fische is an old German naval vessel, and comfortably the biggest houseboat along the riverbank. At the midships, there is a raised section of the deck, which used to be the engine room hatches, the idea is that we bring the level down to the same as the rest of the boats deck, allowing for a sheltered area which they can use for barbecues, or just lounging in the sun on late summer evenings. We've got all the joisting done, next up it's two layers of 12mm WBP ply, and weather it with torch on felt, possibly tomorrow, depending on the meteorlogical situation!!

Next up I have Donny, my Irish mate that I met travelling, coming over to visit with his family on Friday, so I'll be giving then the dime tour of Shoreham and surrounding areas of interest, followed by an evening session around my home town with the big fella. Better have my drinking boots on for that one!

Update on the plane crash
Apparently it was the prop and gear box from the plane that landed, that fell on Shoreham Beach, the pilot brought it in with no prop or gearbox and the leading edge on the port wing was shredded to pieces. It was the first flight in the RV7 after the owner had built it, the test pilot was flying it to get its certificate of air worthiness.

The Diamond Star trainer had just taken off and was on a banking turn towards brighton, the test pilot in the RV7 had been doing some aeros, (tricks), over the airfield and joined back into the circuit without permission and flew straight up into the Diamond Star.

Apparently this is what they think down at Shoreham Airport, but obviously we will have to wait until an official report.

When anyone builds their own plane, it normally has to go through 5 hours of flying from a certified test pilot, ex or current airline pilots are common as its their way of toying about.

They don't think the actual pilot that died would have had much in the way of control when he went down, and it may have been more luck than judgement that he landed in adur rec.

According to my information recieved, Air Traffic Control were released from fault just three hours after it had happened.

The Duchess, The Devil, and the Paddle Round the Pier

I'm sure everyone on the South coast will remember the storms last week, however short they were. One minute I was tapping away on the keyboard, then I heard distant low rumbles, but paid little attention to, and gradually the rumbles became louder and sharper, the light rain became heavy and pounding the windows, until it all built up to an impressive crescendo of huge claps of thunder with lightning at the same time, it was overhead. Summer rain is the best, add thunder and lightning into the mix, and I was out the door, camera in hand, heading for the beach up the road in the hope of getting some classy storm shots. I got to the corner of the road where I stopped to look up, just as I was about to carry on up to the beach lightning hit the road just yards in front of me, immediately followed by a massive clap of thunder. If anyone had been watching I'm sure it would have looked bloody hilarious, instinctively I jumped off the ground, while at the same time wrapping my arms around over my head, then thinking better of the situation I legged it back home, laughing out loud at myself as I ran. The funny thing is, there was a part of me saying, "you might get hit, don't go out there", about going out in the first place, but it was only a small part, and although they say, 'curiosity killed the cat', well not that day.

As weekends go that was a very pleasant one indeed, although the Sunday on the water had all the signs of an impending disaster writ large in the morning, luckily such was not the case as it turned out. At home I've been labouring over the keyboard for the last week in an effort to start getting the family tree written up, so that the work I've done tracing it all can at least be shared with the rest of our family, or those that share the tree that is. I'm starting with the Ramus side, but eventually hope to get all four sides up on the internet, that's my four Grand parents trees in case either of you were wondering. It's on the bottom page of wolf-e-boy.com at the mo, a work in progress.

Hard at work on that tree on Saturday, making my eyes bleed in front of the screen, when the doorbell goes. It was Fletch, our neighbour at the bottom of the garden, his dog, Duchess, had let herself into our lounge a few weeks earlier, having leapt the garden wall, and introduced herself to Ma and Pa one evening. Having told him and Emma how impressed they were with Duchess, Fletch remembered and wondered if we'd like to look after her for a night as they were off to a Take That concert, he didn't have to ask twice. Duchess is an American Bulldog, which is nothing at all like the English version, a slimmer, taller, faster hound altogether, and clearly one that missed her 'Dad', Fletch. For most of the time after he left until I fed her and took her out for her walk, she sat with her nose pinned to the door he'd left through on his way out. However, dogs are simple creatures, and while you can't buy their affections overnight, you can certainly tempt them on a temporary basis with food and walks.

The last time I got to walk a dog was when Davids better half Mandy brought her Labrador down to stay with us, I miss my early morning and evening walks with hound and camera on Shoreham Beach, so it's nice to have an excuse to get back down there now and again. especially at low springs on a beautiful sunny day, which Saturday was. Duchess is a little Tornado of energy, and fortunately I managed to get a couple of shots that actually reflect this, a minor miracle considering the snappy camera I was using, not to mention the fact I dropped the bleeding thing on to the wet sand and it stopped working. Thankfully it came to later on after drying out. With the tide out a long way, there was plenty of sand for Duchess to belt along, generally chasing seagulls, one way then the other, into the sea, right into the sea, and back out when I called to her, which I was quite impressed by. Also there was something quite funny about walking along the sand, calling, "Duchess", it had me inwardly laughing. Of course there were dog incidents, but other than a few growls of disinterest, no problems, and almost everytime I called her, she came first time. Later on, after I'd dried the sea drenched Duchess down with the bath towel, a winning game with any dog, I could do no wrong, and all the dog tricks started coming out, the hooking of the paw over your arm, draping the drool filled jaw on your leg , foot, or arm, and finally the sleeping on your foot to make sure you can't go anywhere without her knowing. Hopefully there'll be another time, and Duchess will be at home straight away.

Sunday morning and the Devil's crew had to be up early, ready to go through the locks at 9 o' clock, and with a much depleted crew. David is away in Greece, Del is attending to his business in Nigeria, and Bunny is on some, (shakes head in disbelief), Mod revival Scooter rally, so that's the backbone of our experienced crew effectively filleted, but no matter, 'we can work this thing', was the general consensus, how hard could it be. There were, Pete, Ross, Stig, Jo, Janet, Squire, and myself, and for the next hour or so, we set about showing anyone that might have been watching, just how hard you can make things. I'll shorten it for you by saying we had the forsail up and down a few times, followed by having to hoist Stig up the mast on the Bosuns chair to unwrap the forsail sheet from around the furling equipment, all this before we'd even cast off.

It was lucky we'd turned up at 8 that morning, and that the lock time had been put back to 10, as it had been deemed there wasn't enough water for the yachts with a deeper draught to get over the lock bar because the tide was still too low outside. Fortunately it would seem, even though we were cocking up almost everything that we could in the process of getting ready to sail, no one else appeared top have noticed, when we balls things up on the Devil, we have a knack of doing it quietly, which tends not to attract attention. Jo's pilot hubby, John came to see us off, and gave Jo their flash camera to get some good shots for the day, which came in very handy later.

Going through the main lock, I felt a little glow at the sense of achievement at having made it this far, which is ridiculous really considering all the other crews, (and ours normally), do that bit virtually with their eyes shut. Once we were outside, and got the mainsail up, not so much like a well oiled machine, more like a bunch of well oiled Irish labourers, but up nonetheless, and we could start to relax and enjoy ourselves. The conditions were absolutely perfect for a days racing round the cans, so we all decided we'd head down to Brighton for a jolly, sod the racing, we'll go and check out the 'Paddle Round the Pier', we got there too late for the main event as it turned out, but got there in time for what I think would have been the most entertaining, 'Paddle Something Unusual'.

The best we could see being a DeLorian car, (I think) like the one in Back To the Future, an Inflatable Dragon, but the outright winner, especially as it was Wimbledon weekend, had to be the Tennis Court, complete with marked out court, a net, swingball pole so they couldn't lose the ball, and thirteen of them on board, five each side rowing, two players at all times, and one spare player, absolutely hilarious. The other great thing about the day for some aboard, was that this was the first time they'd seen Brighton from out at sea, and how impressive so much of it is from out there, also we had the Shoreham Lifeboat alongside for a while, so got some great pics of their shiny new boat, which was there as part of the days events. Most of all though, other than just being able to enjoy the sailing without worrying about a course, or other competitors, was that Squire got to helm his boat for a good long time in lovely sailing conditions, and he had a big rosy smile on his boat race for all of it.

As we weren't racing, we could drink and eat whenever the mood took us, and Jo and Janet had done the business in the catering department, Jo turning up with a Bakewell tart she'd made the day before, and Janet had made a load more of the samosas that had proved so popular the last time out, so it was quite pleasant to be out at sea having delish grub, and crafty bottles of yellow beer, as we looked on at the crazy fools bobbing about on their various amphibious contraptions.

There's always a healthy smattering of humour on board, much of it just unwarranted abuse for the halibut, and with Ross being the youngest, suffice to say anything goes wrong and it's his fault, not because it is, just because we can, all harmless stuff. Poor old Janet wasn't aware of that, and jumped in to defend the poor put upon lad, after one more time of me shouting out, "bloody hell Ross", while he was laughing as much as we were. No one is immune from this kind of verbal attack, and it comes in many and varied forms, Ross's old man, Pete, oft referred to as the, 'Northern Monkey', and more, while he calls us , 'Soft Southern Gits', but he obviously does it in a dodgy norven accent. Well Janet got some from a most unexpected quarter, we were discussing the buildings ashore, and Hove Car Spares, or HCS as it's known, came up, and Janet says, "I'm always going in there for a car bonnet", in an instant, and hardly able to believe I beat Stig to it, I answered, "how many car bonnets do you get through then Janet??". She clocked straight off, and while quietly remonstrating that it was just the one bonnet, shot me a wry smile as I grinned back, "you are a wicked lot", or something along those lines, but yes we are, wait until the beer comes out.

Wolf E Boy can be contacted at wolf_e_boy@hotmail.com
Please feel free to drop him a line if you have any comments or questions.

Image: Paddle Round the Pier Wimbledon


An uneventful time?

After the excitement of last weekend with its high winds and cloudy skies, we were looking forward to a hot and sunny one this time round, according the the weather forecasts anyway. With work done for a bit, Wimbledon upon us, no racing on the Devil as half the fleet are either in or following the Round the Island race around the Isle of Wight, I was expecting a somewhat uneventful time ahead, ahem!

After me and Bunny cleared the bilge pump lines and filters on Thursday, we arranged for a crew meet up on the Saturday to take the Devil out and run her around a few times to get as much of the remaining debris out of the bilges as poss. Thankfully it was an afternoon operation, I'd gone for a few after workers on the Friday, so the old bean was not the clearest come Saturday morning.

Motoring up and down the Harbour Canal gave me an opportunity to get a few shots of parts of the harbour we don't normally get to see, it's surprisingly long, stretching as far along as Hove lawns where it ends, adjacent to Fat Boy Slim and Zoe Balls place, not to mention the one legged witch that used to feed off an ex Beatle. You're also reminded of what a busy port Shoreham is, a veritable hive of industry supplying steel, timber, aggregates, as well as harbour to a thriving fishing industry here, long may all of that continue without some businessmen coming up with a new scheme to turn it into a high end marina housing complex. Bunny brought our cousin Sally's boy, Ben along, he'd been getting the lad involved in dinghy sailing and thought he might like to get out on the Devil. This was only a motor around inside the canal, but a perfect opportunity for Ben to come along and get to know us and the boat while carrying out the worthwhile boat maintenance at the same time.

We had the Devils bilges pretty much sluiced out and pump filters cleaned through a good few more times, so hopefully we've sorted the worst of the problems in that direction, but as we were motoring back to our mooring, David noticed the newly fitted digital compass display in the cockpit wasn't working, in fact it was wildly out, only actually giving a true reading when heading dead north, so that put a bit of a kipper in the kit bag, one problem almost resolved while another comes up to take it's place, this one however would have to be referred to the guy that fitted the equipment. As we came back to moor up, I was ready on the transom for the jump on to the jetty and fend off as David parks the Devil, and things didn't quite go to plan this time, can't say how really but I managed to get snagged up between the boat and something solid, taking a crack in the ribs before getting back up. I would now appear to have a cracked rib, and a nice black bruise to go with it, but other than that little abberation it was worth getting out, sorting and detecting problems, as well as involving Ben as potential new crew should he so wish.

Without having much time to think about my freshest injury, we were out on the town and heading up to the Red Lion for Jamie Pinders 40th, a good chance to catch up with old friends, and anaesthetise myself at the same time. There's nothing like going out on a boat for giving you an appetite, so we were grateful to see the spread of food laid out at the Lion, with special mention going to the pies, they were made by the same mob that have the contract to make the pies at the new Brighton and Hove Albion Amex stadium. Apparently they'll be made fresh at every game on the day, that'll be quite some logistical nightmare I'd have thought, but the pies are great so here's hoping it's a success. Halfway through the evening as I was chatting to Eliza, some eastern european sounding bloke came up and asked if I wanted some cheap baccy, I just bluntly said no and carried on talking to Eliza without giving it a second thought. A bit later as I wandered over to the table where Stig and a few others were sat, I could see he had a face like thunder, then he nods towards this black bin liner and asks if I want some baccy. Then he tells me to look inside the bag, which I did, pulling out slices of white bread with a confused look on my face, "that's eighty quids worth of cheap baccy there", he says with a look of violent intent, followed by, "David bought it", then the penny dropped. This Polish geezer had been trying his scam all around the pub and beer garden before he found my eldest brother, David, and obviously the appeal of a bargain coupled with a few ales under his belt led him to a bit of a blunder of a decision, and before any of us knew it, he'd gone outside and handed over eighty quid to these random scumbags waiting in a car who could doubtless believe their luck as they handed him a bin bag full of Hovis finest white bread before speeding off into the sunset.

This scam is a variation of a time worn version where the mark is usually shown the real deal, but never sees the switch until too late, I've blogged about scams a long while back, check out 'The Scam page' on the web site. Fortunately David saw the humour in the situation, it is annoying, and they are scum that do it, but once it's done you can't change things, so we offered slices of this very expensive bread around the pub, surprisingly enough there were no takers, but the story will doubtless be a cause of mirth and merriment for the immediate future.

Waking up Sunday morning the full realisation of my rib injury hit me, accompanied by a nice black bruise, and I had a days cricket ahead. The last time they saw me I had ruined their game by pulling a muscle and having to be carted off the square in an ambulance, a couple of months later and I return to the fray with a cracked rib earned just the day before. I'd swear at one point during my first game I heard one of our players call me A&E!!

I didn't cover myself in glory, getting carted for 27 from my first two overs, but in fairness after the lay off I should have expected no less. Everyone at the club was very supportive though, as they are for the most part throughout, creating a very friendly atmos, although despite the overflowing bonhommie, when it came down to the actual game, that old competetive streak shone through brightest, and a few short tempers gave themselves away, but that's to be expected at any sport to a degree. As long as you can have a giggle about later at the bar, which I missed I'm afraid, I'd stretched things further than maybe I ought to have by playing at all. Pain killers a hot bath and early night beckoned, but the discomfort had been worth every minute, looking forward to more of similar next week, even though I'm stiff as a board and ache like a bastard today!!

Image: Making waves!


Devil of a time!

Well there went twelve days in a heartbeat, or so it seems now I'm out of the other side! On the last blog I was bigging up the world of Dreamers, and in a quite content state, whereas since then work had reared its ugly head and taken things over somewhat, but once again I am returned to the blissful world of relax and chill for a bit, so I can sit and write, which I like!.

Carrying on from the last blog date, we had one of our Australian cousins, Liz, over to stay for a few days, she'd been bouncing around the rellies during her three and a half week trip up over, and had determined that she'd be at our place for the infamous 'Monday Trough' night. It was only the week before that Hannah had introduced her fella, Nick, to his baptism of fire at our 'Waltons with swearing' roast dinner Monday. Nick had collared me at Beach Dreams that weekend, and mentioned the fact he'd never had an invite to the Trough, "well consider yourself officially invited then", I informed him, and credit to the boy, he turned up. He slotted in just fine, at one point, as me and Stig were arguing with each other, not sure about what really, probably something along the lines of black being white, or not, depending on who was saying what, but the generaly idea being that whatever it was, we had to be in disagreement with each other, right or wrong having nothing to do with anything. This is a situation that will ring loud bells with anyone that knows us well, especially at the Waterside. Anyroadup, as me and my dear brother were going at each other, doubtless raising the ceiling at the same time, I just glanced across to Nick and said, "welcome to the Trough", which I think brought a smile to his face. David brought his better half, Mandy, along too, and the look on her face told me that she'd found the experience most amusing, nine at the table that time.

The baptism of fire obviously didn't deter young Nick, and the following week there he was again with Hannah, Davids little Princess, as well as cousin Liz, and also little sis, Lizbet with young Reggie. It was just as well I'd cooked a tad extra for the occasion, with eleven at the Trough it was cosy to say the least, but a great show for cousin Liz to meet almost our entire brood, with just the one exception, Jack, away working in Greece. It was a bit of a shame that Liz didn't get to witness any of our not entirely infrequent fireworks, as the dinner passed off very smoothly, although she did get a minor slap from the BF cloth as I fired it across from the sink. This is a fairly common occurrence, Hannah's been slapped in her face by it on more than one occasion as she sits right in the firing line between the table mat clearing area and the sink. For those of you wondering, BF stands for Bacteria Farm, origins uncertain, but from either Stig or Simon, or both, they have a kind of double act that stems back to the days when they worked up front at Opas when it was still in Shoreham, and they were collectively known as the 'Rottweilers', keeping unwanted time wasters away from the front desk, as well as reciting old Mark and Lard classics from Radio one of years back, but that's another story.

Liz stayed with us on Tuesday too, allowing her to take in Ma's weekly 'Sewing Sisters' event, which was an away fixture that week, a group of them get together every Tuesday and 'Stitch n Bitch' as they say, taking it in turns to host the occasion. On return Liz got to sample part two of the Roast/Trough experience, which is the 'Roast dinner curry'. I always make more than enough for Trough night, so that there will be something left to chuck in the slow cooker, along with curry sauces, and gravy from the roast, combining to make a very palatable Ruby, and all washed down with a box of vino collapso. I even had the curious honour of explaining to Liz, an Aussie, what an 'Abbo's pillow' was, which is the empty foil bag from the wine carton, blown up, and oft used by Aboriginals as, you guessed it, a pillow. Although it's entirely possible that she may have been pulling my leg, and knew perfectly well all along.

I had the attic of doom to return to next day, and Liz was going to be whisked away to meet up with yet more rellies and do stuff, but for the Thursday, I'd delegated Neil for the lovely job of insulating, giving me the day off. Cousin Nicola dropped Liz back to us that morning, and they were in a boystrous, mischievous mood, laughing heartily about all sorts of things, my favourite being Nicola's story of her 94 year old spinster neighbour, who they have determined should have written on her headstone, 'Returned unopened', which made me chuckle. After Nicola bade farewell, and considering this would be Liz's last day before heading home on the Friday, I suggested a whistle stop tour of our locale, to which she jumped at the chance. I won't go too in depth as I've blogged this tour before, but we showed Liz Shoreham harbour, the Old Fort next to it, then the Widewater Lagoon at the other end of the beach, took a spin up to Shoreham Airport and had a coffee and cake in the cafe there, as well as showing her around the Art Deco main terminal building, followed by a walk over the old wooden Tollbridge, Shorehams oldest existing bridge, onwards up to the magnificent Lancing College buildings, which blew me away. I could hardly believe how breath taking their cathedral like chapel is, like something out of Harry Potter, but on a more epic scale than even that, not to mention the surrounding buildings and quad area with its cloisters, if you live round here and you haven't paid it a visit, then go, you have to see it. After being mesmerised by the College, I took us along to Coombe farm, and its little church there, which dates back many hundreds of years, set snugly in the Sussex Downs, with gravestones dating back to the 1600's, and a history going back to William the Conqueror and the Domesday Book. The last leg of the tour was along the Adur Flyover bridge, down underneath it and past the horses paddocks before heading home. We may not have fitted a huge amount in, but Liz's time was never wasted while she was in our care.

Me and Neil worked hard to get the attic space ready for the plasterers, and opened up for the staircase which would be coming on Tuesday, so there had to be big days to get everything where it needed to be, but I wasn't going to work Sunday, the Devil would be out playing, and I wasn't going to miss that. Saturday had pretty much been howling all day, gusting up to 45 miles an hour, with mighty choppy seas too, so we were hoping for a bit of a respite from the weather on the Sunday.

The first thing that struck me as we prepared to go into the locks at Southwick, was that there appeared to be the complete fleet of big bastard fishing boats moored up along the entire quayside in the harbour basin, they obviously weren't going out in those conditions. The next thing was that there were only six yachts in the locks to go out, as opposed to the 12 to 16 that usually take part, and as we fought to stop the Devil being blown up against the lock walls, I wondered what it was going to be like in open water, we would soon find out.

The decision had been made to stick a reef in the main, reducing the sail area, and roller reefing the forsail to do the same again, but it soon became apparent that one reef only in the main was a tad ambitious, so true to our form, we were fighting in brutal winds to get another reef in as the race had already started. By the time we'd got it all done, three yachts had already retired, and the other three were far off in the distance, but at least we knew which way to go. The Devil was on her ear for much of the time, with waves often breaking across our beam, liberally soaking everything in their path, notably, me, Bunny, and Ross, individually, and collectively. Every time one of us got a dousing it was a cause of much mirth to everyone else, as well as each other, but we had our time when a couple of beauties ploughed straight into the cockpit and soaked Stig, Jules, Janet, and David all in one hit. I think it's fair to say, that if David had pulled the plug on the days racing, no one would have argued the toss, but it was in fact fantastic bloody fun being out there, I can't remember having so much fun when out sailing, even though at times my feet were almost in the sea while only on the toerails, so far was the Devil heeling over. Poor Janet had to be harnessed up in the cockpit, with Stig hanging on to it while she was seasick over the side. Bit by bit we clawed back the distance between ourselves and the remaining yachts in front, still fourth of four by now, but closer. Then disaster for Shark Bite in second place, they'd put their Gary up, (Gary Lineker=Spinnaker), to which David commented, "That's a bit ambitious", only to speed down one wave, with a following wave picking up its rear, and pitch poling, catapulting the crew all over the shop. I was blind sided by our main sail, so had to rely on the cockpit commentary for what was going on, thankfully nothing too major, but one hospital case, one shredded Gary, and the top of the mast busted, so a bit of an expensive day out for Shark Bite. Now it was just two in front, and we soon overhauled Bandito to claim second position, but Kingfisher was just too far ahead for the Devil to reel in. As we were heading towards the coast on our last run, the Devil was absolutely hooning along, a huge smile on Davids boat race as he claimed we must have hit 15 knots as we crested down a hefty wave, certainly the wash alone was telling an impressive story. Crossing the finishing line felt mighty satisfying, and more so when we heard that Bandito had decided not to carry on, thus handing us second place no matter what the handicaps said afterwards.

I'd been a bit concerned about Squire on a day like that, but, warhorse that he is, 84 or not, he said he'd loved it too, and just wished he could have been up top for it rather than down at the nav table, but given his recent track record I'd say it's a good job he was where he was. Once inside Kingston Bay, with the sails down and oven on, it was beer and samosa celebration time, and I was already starting to feel the effects of our day out, god alone knows how David must have felt after helming that race, knackered I assume, bloody good effort by all concerned, and especially Janet for the mountain of home made samosa's at the end.

Today me and Bunny returned to the Devil to deal with the bilge pump dilemma, ever since the boat came back from having work done at Osmotec, we've had issues, owing to the oxygen thieving toe rags having royally ballsed up by either half doing, or not doing at all, jobs that they were contracted to do, and have been paid for doing. There are differing arguments, but none that hold water as far as I'm concerned, other than the fact that they didn't do what they were paid for, and the only thing that should have happened, is that they should have insisted on having the boat back, so that all their own balls ups could have been rectified at their own expense, and the Devil returned in the pristine order that it should have been in the first place. If I were to write them a letter, it would be signed,

yours, FUMING.

Image: Well heeled and keeping busy


Work on Friday morning was enlivened with Michael Caine being interviewed by Chris Evans in between songs throughout the entire show, or at least all the time I was listening anyway. I've always liked Michael Caine, or Mickey, as Liz Taylor used to call him, (but not because it was short for Michael, I will explain later), and to listen to him just chatting away with Chris Evans that morning was like a breath of fresh air had just blown in. Not surprisingly he has a tale or two to tell, and the main reason for his presence was for the unashamed plugging of his autobiography, 'The Elephant to Hollywood', which has presumeably just been released, and after that show I am definitely going to get a copy of it. From start to finish I was being entertained by the unaffected manner, and generally humourous nature of Mickey, the one time Maurice Micklewhite from the Elephant and Castle in London, (hence the Elephant in the book title), this man has starred in hundreds of movies over decades, rubbed shoulders and been friends with people that many consider icons in their own status, but when Mickey mentions them it's with a knowledge, warmth and casual manner that tells you how real those relationships were, like any of us would be when talking about our own friends, "they're just lovely people, you don't get scumbags", he said at one point as Chris barraged him with "do you know ", and "what are they like" names such as Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Jude Law, Johnny Depp and more. I was laughing so many times during the interview, not least at his slight indiscretions, where he was so at ease in the studio that he let out a few fairly harmless swear words, the first one being 'greedy bastards' during a natter about the tax situation in this country, and other peoples misconceptions of him and other movie stars. Chris had to chime in just after, doubtless under instruction from above, to apologise to listeners for any offence taken for the heinous crime committed.

Talking about the inspiration for some of his roles, Mickey mentioned how an old Sergeant Major of his had been what he based his character of the butler in the Batman films he was in. This piece of information in itself says so much, he'd been conscripted for national service, as everyone had to be when he was younger, hard for us to imagine now, but a fact of life in those days. He also explained how he'd seen how Prince Philip stood with his hands behind his back, expressing power, and how people with power didn't need to wave their arms about to attract anyones attention, where as, needy unconfident people would be prone to doing just that. It's these little things that tell you that Mr Caine, like any great actor I suppose, has to study different types and mannerisms of people in order to ply his trade well in front of the camera. He'd been given a seven year contract with a film maker prior to the making of the film, 'Zulu' in 1964, where he used his, 'hands behind the back' routine, only to have a double barrage of misfortune fired his way as a result, firstly from some of the film making department saying, 'get rid of him, he doesn't know what to do with his hands!', and then having his only recently garnered seven year contract ripped up because he, in the eyes of the man that gave him the contract, 'came across as gay in Zulu', and they couldn't market 'gay' in that era. Michael Caine adds in here the fact that soon after that he played 'Alfie' in 1966, ironically enough, a womanising 'ladies man', putting any gay theories firmly in their place.

I almost forgot, why Liz Taylor called Michael Caine 'Mickey'. They were on a film together, and playing lovers, but someone decided she needed to be seen as the same size as Mr Caine, which she was nowhere near. So Michael said to Liz, "everyone knows you're short, they're gonna think I'm Mickey Rooney", and from then on she called him Mickey. For those of you too young to remember Mickey Rooney, google it and you'll understand.

One of the things that struck me most of all however, was his take on 'dreamers', and how it was a good thing to have a dream. This struck a chord with me, because I've always been a dreamer, but without any clear dream really, it can change from one minute to the next. I feel a bit like Billy Liar, where he sees a real situation developing in front of him, but then daydreams an entirely different chain of events which all lead to his benefit in one way or another, I do that constantly. I hadn't given it too much thought after the interview was over, Jeremy Vine had by then invaded the airwaves, so I switched channels before he eroded my will to live, thus destroying my earlier built up joi de vivre, courtesy of Mr Michael Caine, and from then on worked along to the masterful selection of XFM knocking out top indie tunes. However good the start had been, and great though the music I was hearing was too, (bar the Wombats, who are depressingly awful), I was driving towards the irrefutable fact that it was day three of a job I'd only priced to take three days, and there was still going to be at least a days work left to do, this was starting to bring one of those dark moods which can beset me in such situations. I can quite literally go from super keen and blissfully happy, to furrowed brow, spitting nails, and thinking the whole world is against me, just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not after you!

So now all the different scenarios are whizzing around in my head, do I have to come back and effectively work for nothing for a day, do I phone up the customer and tell him I've blundered with the price and hope for the best, I've been there with that one before, and the customer didn't give a shit, telling me blankly, "well that's the price you gave me", which you can't really argue with, and I was preparing for. People in full time PAYE jobs never have to barter for their wages, but imagine their reaction if the boss came up and told them they'd be expected to come in for an extra day but without being paid for it, I'd love to hear a union rep's take on that, and the colourful language that would accompany it. By late afternoon I was of the much furrowed brow, dark and stormy moods shifting around in my head, I'd also opened the door furniture packs to discover they're all full on lever locks with keys, so much longer to fit than your usual latch and handle pack, I think I might have started insanely dribbling at this point, steam venting from my ears, and a general red flush of anguish. All this going on, and ahead of me is a working weekend in someones loft space, so my head was the proverbial shed, the kind of shed that's been untended for about twenty years, door hanging off, rusted tools, and home to many varied species of wildlife, all of this is occurring in the space between my ears. Right now I'm ebullient, full of beans, a head full of unlikely ideas which will result in me achieving Nirvana, but even fortified with all that positive energy, I can feel the pull of the events in my head yesterday, trying to drag me back to that shed, crazy fool!

I'd been working late everyday in an effort to get this job done, only to finally realise it simply wasn't going to happen, and eventually I resigned myself to the fact and just got done what I could, leaving a note to apologise for not being able to get it all finished, explaining that I was already committed for the next week, and that it was more work than I had anticipated, thus leaving myself at the customers mercy. Bitter experience has taught me that most customers tend towards the whole, 'set in stone' scenario when it comes to prices, and an innate mistrust of 'builders' as a result of so many of these 'Rogue Traders' type programmes on the TV. The thing is, I'm not a builder, I'm a carpenter, a time served 'City and Guilds, Ships Joiner, Yacht and Boat Builder', and I sell my labour at a set rate, not like some of these robbing bastards that are only interested in the customer like a con mans 'mark'.

Well the smile was returned, like an eagerly awaited item of lost property, when I got the phone call from Carl to say, 'no problem mate, if it costs an extra day it costs an extra day'. I can't tell you how sweet those words were to hear, all those pesky dark thoughts banished in an instant, I was knackered from the last few days efforts, and contemplating the working weekend ahead, but none of that could bring me down after hearing those magic words. I've always said that work would be so much better if you could just do away with customers, but Carl has gone some way to restoring faith in my fellow man, I shall enjoy the moment.

This morning I was up and ready for I knew not what, Neil was picking me up so that was a good start as the van is making worring noises at the mo, it always knows when I've found work again, and it responds by acting strangely and finally costing me money to attend whatever it turns out to be ailing the beast. It might be a collection of metal bits n pieces, but it's a cunning bastard collection of metal bits n pieces! We get to the job and introduce ourselves, ascending to the roof space for a recce, my heart sank on inspection, roof spaces are rarely clean and tidy dust free areas, and this was no exception. The customer had ideas, and acting on those ideas, had filled his back garden with 250 metres of four by two's, with which he hoped I would be able to implement his strategy for the room in the roof. After Neil explained to me what it was the customer wanted, I had all kinds of 'you must be joking' running around the old barnet. It's an old place, half of the supporting roof struts had already been taken out, and now he was expecting us to remove most of what was left to make more room, including dropping the all important purlins further down. I was about prepared to just pull the pin and leave Neil with a parting, 'good luck with that son, I'm off', but after giving the job a coat of looking at, I formed my own strategy, and this strategy involved Neil taking me home, for him to return and take on the shitty job of stripping out ready for us to carry on tomorrow. It also involved telling the customer that he needed to go out and get some bigger timbers, that his plan had been consigned to a best forgotten history of bad ideas, but most importantly, it meant I was going home, YAY!

You're probably thinking, 'where's all this going?, roof work, so what', well it does go somewhere, so stay with me. Having prepped Neil with what he'd have to do to get the job ready, he drove me back, but after crossing the Norfolk Bridge, going past the car boot sale that was on the Adur recreation ground, I spotted Big Ben going in, "pull up Neil, I'll get out here". I phoned the northern munkee up, "alreet tha lad, ah know what thee's doin' ", "does tha lad? where art thee", "tha's crossing Floodarch bridge son", and so on with the dodgy accents until we established visual contact. It's been a long time since I last attended a car boot sale, never really having been a big fan, but having found what I thought were a couple of bargain pictures, and eventually parting with five quid all told, I wandered back with the big fella with all kinds of new ideas zipping around the old bean, 'if you can get bargains like this at a car boot sale, there must be fortunes to be made selling them on', and having found out through the family ancestry that the name Ramus was at one time synonomous with the world of 'Fine Art Dealers', I'm thinking how me and my brother Simon could resurrect the original, 'Ramus Brothers, Dealers in Works of Art', as advertised in the British phone books between 1900 and 1910. I realise it's all a bit far fetched, but as Michael Caine had reminded me on that Friday morning, it doesn't matter if your dream never comes to fruition, don't let that stop you from dreamimg anyway. As I've always been a dreamer anyway I don't even have to try, but who knows, if one day you notice a new shop front in Shoreham called 'Ramus Brothers, Dealers in Works of Art', then you'll know that eventually one dream really did become a reality.

Image: Beach Dreamers 2011


Beach Dreaming

After an unpromising start to the days weather, it brightened up in time for the first band, Denim, (winners of the Battle of the Bands in the Beach Dreams marquee on Thursday), to kick start the Beach Dreams big weekend and get things rockin' and rolling, which they did in fine style. What came in the next couple of hours surprised the hell out of me, mainly because they were all kids bands, and bloody talented at that. There's always been a healthy amount of talented musicians coming out of Shoreham Beach, but various people have got together in recent years and organised the fountain of young emerging local talent under the cloak of Shoreham Allstars, go to www.shorehamallstars.com to check out some of their stuff.

The 'Funky Monkeys' were next up, age 11, they're a six piece band, one of whom is one of my next door neighbours boys, Louis, and I have to say, I was so engrossed in listening to how good they were, I didn't make a note of what tunes they were playing, but I can tell you that what they did, they did very well. They were followed by another 11 year old, Caitlyn King, my friends and neighbours daughter, and she was amazing. Up on stage, completely unfazed by the crowds, she strummed perfectly on her acoustic guitar, singing a cover version, which to my utter shame I can't remember the name of, but it was brilliant and the crowd loved it. As soon as she'd finished, she just turned round and bolted back off stage to play with her mates, leaving the compere wondering where she'd gone while the crowd were still applauding. Next up were 'Wookie Weekend', again, just 11 years old, but so comfortable up on stage, with lead singer, Millie Bunker belting out their tunes, often erupting into a big cheeky grin, and laughing at the end of some of her lines, which all seemed to add to the joy of seeing these talented kids entertaining us.

As Wookie Weekend walked off to yet more loud applause and whoops n whistles from the appreciative audience, back came young Caitlyn, this time to sing Green Days 'Time of your life', again just herself and her acoustic guitar, absolutely sensational. By this time I was bewildered, how could I have not been aware of all this musical talent right on my doorstep, I know the parents of a great deal of them, well I know now and look forward to hearing more of their up coming stuff. Caitlyn was off like a greyhound as soon as she'd finished her song again, and in fact sat in front of stage with her friends looking up before the compere had finished congratulating her on her performance. That's one of the things that struck me, they were all completely at ease up on stage, but as soon as they'd finished, they'd be back in front of stage dancing to the next band up, supporting each other and having fun, as kids do.

Demelza's Tea Party, 17 to 19 year olds, came next, with Flossie on lead vocals, Rooney on bass guitar, Callum on lead guitar, Becky on rhythm guitar, and Gabi on drums, Callum being the only lad in the group, even though the compere had introduced them as a girl band, for which she shyly apologised after. I had been impressed with everything I'd seen and heard so far, but I think it's fair to say this lot really got the party going with their really beaty bouncy soulful tunes. I have no doubt in my mind they already have enough to entertain any music lovers anywhere, they certainly have a new fan in me, and plenty others I'm sure. Flossy has a fantastic voice, and real energy and character, creating an infectious stage presence, while behind her the whole band just click. Callum put in a couple real classy guitar solo moments within their tunes which just put a huge smile on your face, especially when you can see it in their faces just how much they're enjoying themselves too. They finished their set with an as yet unnamed tune they've recently written, it should be called 'Know your world' I reckon, as that was the line that stood out when listening, and I said as much to Flossie later, but whatever they call it, it's a great tune.

At this point I still hadn't had a beer, not very rock n roll eh! So I took the opportunity to leg it home and grab some of the cans of Guinness I'd earlier stuck in the fridge. As I walked off the Green I could hear some very Thrash sounding Heavy Metal getting started, so I'd timed my departure well, I think they were called 'Blank Revolution'. I've checked them out on their Myspace page since, and once again, very very good at what they do, listen to 'Breakdown', and 'Girl next door', I think this lot are around 12 or 13 years old, it's just ridiculous. All of the above mentioned bands are part of the Shoreham Allstars project, so get Googling and check them out, you won't be disappointed.

And then came 'Tin Roots', who were, for me anyway, the outstanding band of the entire weekend. As soon as they got going, the place was bouncing to their Ska based tunes, with lead singer and guitarist, Ruby Taylor, I can only say, if you don't get to hear her voice over the airwaves, well I think you will, they're that good it's only a matter of time. They're a six piece, with Trombone, saxophone, three guitars, and the drummer, and their music took you back to the ska days, but it was fresh, new stuff to enjoy for the first time, and Ruby bounces around the stage too, much like Flossie in Demelza's earlier. It's fair to say they put a big fat smile on my face.

Up until then I'd stayed rooted to spot in front of stage, and Beach Dreams is all about mixing as well as the music, so off I wandered. You don't get far before meeting friends at this event, I had in fact been surrounded by loads of proud friends and parents while up front. I bumped into Paul Hudson and got chatting about his new job as a self employed consultant in the leisure industry, and we get into that whole trust issue that goes with being self employed, as I said to him, we give our labour in advance of payment everytime we go to work, trusting that we'll get paid, which doesn't always happen. And having been self employed most of my working life I've heard plenty of excuses for why I'm waiting to be paid, money that I've earned, they've been paid for too, but somehow they're waiting for another check from blah blah blah. Warming to my subject, I added, "basically, once you know that their aim is to tell you you're either gonna get paid late, or not at all, you really couldn't care less what the excuse for it is, why not be honest and just say 'you're getting shafted again' ", or better still, just pay me!. The kind of people that do this also have extremely thick skin, and eye wateringly double standards, when they want paying it's a whole different ball game, and they will bitch like crazy to whoever will listen about how they're getting fucked over, which generally they aren't, just hypocritically impatient.

Having made Paul laugh with my vented spleen, and given him a line or two to use for future situations, I continued my roam and was soon in the rug city which radiates out from beyond the dancing area in front of stage, the 'picnic zone', all the time snapping away at anything and everything as the carnival atmosphere and sunny weather maintained the smiles on everyones faces. Chatting to Andy and Helen Bunker, beaming parents of Callum and Millie, who were playing in 'Demelza's Tea Party', and 'Wookie Weekend' respectively, as well as Ben and Lisa, Lisa's girl Rooney also in Demelza's, babbling by now as I probably was, keen to impress upon them just how good I thought their offspring had been. The last couple of bands that I can remember were '2 Spot Gobi', who have been to Beach Dreams before, and remain popular, and finishing up with the 'Bootleggers', who had the crowd pumping at the end with all classic covers. By this time everyone was part or totally sauced, and raving away in front of stage for the last hurrahs, a great end to a very successful day. If ever proof were needed that Britains Got Talent, the XFactor, and all the other media pop bullshit should be trampled beneath the feet of ACTUAL, GENUINE, UNFILTERED, NOT FOR THE CORPORATE MACHINE, TALENT, Saturday at Beach Dreams was it.

Unfortunately the Sunday was all but drowned out, I went along and stayed in the pouring rain for an hour or so, thankfully long enough to see Cody, from 'Blank Revolution', with Curtis, both playing Ukeleles. They played two tunes, and I was amused to hear the lyrics coming out of this kids mouth, of a quite adult theme, but done superbly well. Eventually I slithered off like a drowned rat, and that was my Beach Dream over, but not forgotten, never forgotten!.

Image: Lisa and Flossie 'avin' it !!


Taking it easy
(written between 10.15a.m to 12 midday on Fri 6th June)

It's funny quickly you can jump from 'full of beans' and bouncing around in rude health, to an uncertain, calmness, if that's the right word. It feels more like I've been tranquilised at the moment, with dulled senses, until I cough or sneeze that is! It came out of nowhere the night before last, waking up in the early hours, in pain around the chest, sweating. I felt bruised, but hadn't done anything recently that could be attributed to it. Perhaps it happened in my sleep, but what?. The pain got a sight more uncomfortable yesterday and I was beginning to get a little concerned, so I racked my brain to think of who I could ask, telling myself, 'it's the right side, it can't be the heart', but the not knowing is the real enemy, the unspoken voices you're trying not to hear, 'what if?'. I'd already tried the online NHS Direct 'symptom checker', far too ambiguous with its answers, and all pretty much blindly telling me to dial 999 Emergency.

I tried Bucket, he's a paramedic, he'd know, but as usual he wasn't answering, I suspected as much so was prepared. Then it occurred to me, Bucket and Si's brother, Rick, he plays drums in 'Absent Elk', just one lucky break from the big time, he'd know. Rick used to work in the Cardiology department at Worthing hospital, he looked after the old man whenever he was in for his ticker check ups and pacemaker maintenance before chucking it all in to go full time chasing the dream. Why didn't I think of him straight away?!! So then it's a call to Si to get his little bro's number, and shoot the breeze with him for a couple of minutes. He didn't ask why I wanted Ricks number thankfully, I felt a bit silly, but calling Rick was a better option than going and sitting in A&E for hours, and probably catch something while there, only to be sent away having been told I have trapped bloody wind, or something equally pathetic, and to take a couple of paracetomols, plus I hate waiting rooms!

I tried calling Rick but couldn't get through, so I sent him a text, "Hi Rick, this is Andy R, sorry to bother you, but I need some advice re chest pains". Within minutes he'd called me, great lad that he is. I went to my room but the reception was breaking up, so I walked through the house, talking to Rick, "can you hear all right yet?", "you're crackling a bit mate", "yeah, this place is a bit of a mobile Bermuda Triangle, I'll go outside". I hadn't mentioned this to anyone, no need to until I know something myself. We're all worriers when it comes to each other in the family, but rarely for ourselves. Outside the reception was clearer, but not perfect, and there was a brisk wind blowing down the driveway making things just a little more of a strain on the ears. "Alright mate, so what's the problem?", I explained the pain in my chest, on the right hand side, and that I'd had no recent injuries there, or that I know anyway, how it had started the night before and woken me up, and how it was becoming increasingly uncomfortable, even hurting when I cough or sneeze. "Ok, where exactly is the pain Andy?", "it's on my right",- holding the place as if he might see it down the phone, - continuing, "on the, is it my pec... toral? muscle, level with my armpit", "ok mate, sounds likely you might have something going on with that muscle, unless you're 'Dextrocardia', where the heart is on the right hand side of the body". I knew about this as I'd seen it in an episode of CSI on the box. He went on, "the heart itself has no pain receptors, but it's in a sack, and that may have somehow had something going on with the muscle next to that side, best thing is to take an Ibruprofen for the moment as an anti inflammatory, and make an appointment with your GP tomorrow".

I thanked Rick for at least putting my mind at ease before the actual anxiety gave me a real heart attack, and promised I'd stand him a beer down at Beach Dreams at the weekend. Then we got chatting and he told me how his band, Absent Elk, are doing at the mo, apparently they're covering a track of David Bowie's, 'Fame', for an advert, "ah, one of his 80's revival tracks", I said, adding, "not one of his finest moments, but hey!, Nick Kamen came out of nowhere on the back of a Levi's advert mate". We nattered for a little longer before saying our goodbyes, promising to meet up at Beach Dreams at the weekend.

After popping a Cuprofen on Doctor Ricks advice, I felt the anxiety dissipate, and gathered myself, ready to head down to the Beach Dreams marquee for that nights Battle of the Bands, where Ricks one time drumming mentor, Ade, was playing in his latest band, 'Denim', which is basically one of his old bands, 'Birdhouse', but with a lead singer now. Seeing loads of friends, combined with the still unfinished collection of real ales in the beer tent, and my earlier worries were soon behind me. As I sit here now, on a park bench in Victoria park, Portslade, bathed in glorious sunshine, waiting for a call from the garage to say they've fixed the wing mirror, and I can pick up Ma's car, the world is a more pleasant place again. I've had the call from the GP, a lively sounding young thing she sounded, and pretty much rubber stamped everything Rick had told me, and to keep on with the Cuprofen, take things easy, but be sure to call if breathing becomes difficult. All common sense really, but it's nice to just have your mind put at ease. Now if them buggers at the garage can pull their fingers out, I can get home and continue to take things easy. It's a hard life.

Escape weekend

I have to admit I was on the verge of pushing the boat out just a tad too far this weekend gone, and my feet didn't leave dry land. A collection of disparate events conspired to pickle a few more of my ever diminishing grey cells, chuck the extra day for the Bank Holiday in the mix and the wallet has been hammered as badly the the internal organs, ah well, it was at least fun while it lasted!.

The Devil set sail for France on the Friday, competing in this years Royal Escape race, I was supposed to be going but once again my hopeless memory had let me down, plus my almost non existent organisational abilities when it comes to anything social. I had a wedding reception to attend on the Saturday, or so I thought, it turned out to be on the Sunday, meaning I could actually have made the trip across as they were back before I'd left for Marc and Jodi's do, also having managed to miss an afternoon barbecue I'd said I get to for Celia's 40th, although that was 50% memory and 50% hangover in fairness. None of this is uncommon behaviour for me I'm afraid, and quite possibly a healthy contributor to me being single still, girls don't go a bundle on blokes that are as slack as me, and I'm almost professional at it.

Although I was missing the sail across the water, the marquee was up on Beach Green ready for the seasonal 'Beachstock' activities, complete with a beer festival this year, as well as the Champions League final between Barcelona and Man United. I had a few other ideas, but given the way things went it was probably for the best they didn't come to fruition. The weather wasn't great for the Beach Dreams unfortunately, blowing a hooley and overcast, but the bands did their best, while me and Stv did our best to work our way through the list of ales in the company of a determined few, who were unwilling to have the weather put them off from our yearly local jamboree. Fake That were giving it their best shot at making themselves heard above the weather, with a committed crowd of little nippers bouncing around in front of them, no work for the security there, even though we could all have possibly had our own personal bodyguard at one point. It's hard to say whether the message didn't get out far enough to advertise the event, or if perhaps the weather combined with preparations for the nights big game to scupper things, but it was certainly a shame to see so much effort not being fully appreciated by a large crowd, I expect next weeks main event will be a different kettle of fish, especially if the sun comes out.

As we approached kick off time, me, Stv, and John Akien set off for the Waterside, Johnno quietly praying that his boys can hold their own against the formidable Spanish mob currently being eulogised as the greatest team of all time in various quarters. I was having doubts about my ability to just stay awake having been through a hefty chunk of the ales in the beer tent, but in fairness there's nothing like a big game of footy to sober you up in a shot, adrenaline taking over all else. It was like an England game in the pub, heaving with footie fans in eager anticipation of the fixture ahead. The match itself flashed by in what felt like a never ending heartbeat, when you're in it, living through every pass, consuming beer like it's water until that final whistle goes and what seemed like it was going on for ever suddenly was a finger click from start to finish, and Messi and co had done it again. There could be no arguments from the Man U fans though, Barcelona had played the kind of football we all want to see, and without throwing themselves to the ground every five minutes to deny us even that argument on the big occasion.

Disappointed though we were, those of us that aren't Man U fans could take solace from the fact that now we can concentrate on giving them a ribbing about the defeat until the next season begins, the jokes have already started bouncing around the internet, such as Giggs wife asking if anyone can verify his whereabouts during the course of the game, and Barcelona having a flag made up for Man U, with the number 19 on it to commemorate the amount of times they touched the ball in the match. This is the way of the football fan, endless banter.

While all of this had been going on, I received a text from my bro Stig, informing me the old man had had an accident over in France, quickly informing me not to worry, 'he'd been to hospital and was ok'. Apparently as they were enjoying a beer in the square at Fecamp, his chair had been on the edge of a step, and somehow or other my Blessed Pop had managed to take a tumble backwards, smacking the back of his noggin on landing. I just sent a text back saying, 'please tell our indestructible Daddy to stop injuring himself', just as well it was his head really, the stongest part of the Ramus anatomy. How he's so fit and healthy at 84 defies belief, but robust old bugger that he is, he takes a licking and keeps on ticking, long may it continue, (with a few less injuries hopefully!).

Waking up at some ungodly hour on Sunday afternoon, just in time to catch the end of the Grand Prix, another fiasco for Hamilton, and disastrously poor luck for Button. Feeling rough as old boots, I then realise I have the birthday barbecue to attend, but there's no chance with the wedding reception too, I need my recovery time, weak was not the word for it, so one pleading apologetic phone call to Steve, "sorry mate, won't make the barbie", pour a bath, and pray for the life to return to this cadava I'm carrying round with me.

I have to say, if there's one person among my friends you don't want to find yourself in the company of when you want to take things easy in the drinking stakes, it's one Simon Wilson, the very person I was meeting up with to go to the wedding reception. Appointed to meet at around 5-5.30 at the Buck, we arrived at the same time, agreeing that we should make the 6.45 train from Shoreham to Durrington, four pints later we'd missed that one. Get to the off licence for a couple of cans for the journey, and miss the next one by seconds as we chat to a mate coming the other way. Eventually we got on the 7.35 out of there, and discover that Si had left the card on the wall outside the station while we were having a quick smoke, what else could go wrong?. It was only at the last second that I remembered you have to hit the 'open doors' button, otherwise we'd nearly managed to fly right out of there and on towards Littlehampton to add to the calamities.

Outside of Durrington station, "right, which way?", "I dunno, don't you?", what a pair, wandering around with cans of Kopperburg cider like a couple of tramps, barely a clue as to where we should be going. I spotted a sign with 'Field Place' on it, "that sounds familiar", the big fella tells me. It was only as we walked across the lawns of this rather plush establishment that I suddenly became consciously uncomfortable, here I am dressed in jeans and a Ben Sherman casual jacket, with a can in my hand, while everyone else was dressed up to the nines and not a can in sight. I got as far as the bar before P Dog, (Marc) decreed the can had to go, politely, and with a smile, but "ditch the can fella".

P Dog, Row (Best man), Billy Boy, Sweet VV, Tree Dog, Si, and Eddo, used to spend large amounts of time at my place, (among many others), in Crown road back in the nineties, for countless sessions of smoking and playing cards, many a time heading into Brighton to the Escape club, Shark bar, or Zap, often finishing up at the Sub Cafe under the arches, listening to banging tunes as the sun came up. But now they're all grown up and sensible with decent jobs and kids, so these days we mainly get to meet at picnics, barbecues, or weddings.

At least from there on we had no more dramas, at the reception at least, and had a cracking night with old mates, dancing badly and singing horrendously during what was a great night among great friends. You'll doubtless shake your collective heads when I tell you that, when back in Shoreham, we sent Oz the taxi on a mission to bring us back some Jack Daniels from Brighton just after midnight, while Sweet VV stuck some old school tunes on the decks as we tried to ignore the fact one more night was coming to an end. I guess things will eventually change, but I'm by no means sure of that.


Hook, Line, and Sinker!!

Fridays funeral was a big day, masses of old friends gathered to pay their repects to Carl, and the Waterside bar staff were rushed off their feet afterwards at the wake. Unfortunately for me, I'd red carded myself by 8.30, having reached and breached my limit sometime earlier, that's the problem with meeting loads of old friends in a pub, you're chatting away while barely noticing that your glass is never empty, then before you know it your trainer's thrown in the towel, the ref's standing over you waving his hands saying no more son, and the red card is pulled from the top pocket. I hope to fuck it doesn't take another funeral for me to catch up with some of those faces again.

Saturday morning after my marathon sleep I was bright as a button and ready for the day ahead, which this weekend meant sailing down to Brighton marina, the race starting at middayish. Before that though, we had a hound coming to stay for the weekend, Sam, a 12 year old Golden Labrador, which belongs to bro Davids other half, Mandy, who was coming racing with us. Needless to say the folks were looking forward to having a mutt around again, however short the stay, and I was keen to take the old boy out for his constitutional at the first opportunity, which came a bit sooner than I anticipated. Introducing Sam to the garden, I just happened to glance down and spot the distinctive sight that is fox shit, but before I could react Sam had planted his front paw straight in it, and me running about trying to stem the damage, Sam took to be a game. I just about managed to beat him to the back door, preventing him from stomping the filthy stinking stuff through the house, quickly grabbing his lead I took the old fella down to the beach, where mercifully the tide was out so he could bound around on the sand and clean his paw out, blissfully unaware of the reason for this impromptu late morning walk. Then on the way back, thinking how well that situ had been dealt with, as if it was Sams intention to test whether I was up to this dog minding business, he stops at the house on the corner of our street, lifts his hind leg and promptly hoofs out a triple whammy turd in rapid fire right on their driveway. I had prepared, poo bag out and mop up, all the time the angelic pup looking at me, tail wagging, as much as to say, "I do other stuff you know!", oh the joys of dog walking.

With the hound settled in I made my way to the boat, for what I had intended would be just the day, but best laid plans and all that. The early morning had been beautiful and sunny with a light breeze, by midday clouds had settled over us, but it was still fairly pleasant, and a good days sailing beckoned. The crew for the day was, David, Mandy, Del, Phil, Jules, and myself, the old man, who would normally be at the nav table next to the radio, decided he wasn't up for this one, but no matter, it's only along to Brighton, what could be easier. Tea and biscuits were flowing freely from the galley, and all in all a very relaxed feeling overall, until we realised we'd missed the course being read out over the radio, and the start gun was upon us. Now generally, after the ten minute warning has gone, or even before, Del would have had us practicing our run up to the start line, and then by the one minute warning we'd be vying for our start position, tea and biscuits very much conspicuous by their absence, not this time. There was no actual panic as such, just a quiet realisation that perhaps we'd been a little too casual in our approach, punctuated by Dels comment as we started the race, "I've never been over the start line with tea and biscuits before", with an amused grin on his boat race, followed by something along the lines of, "now that's what I call relaxed".

The next problem we faced was another altogether new experience for us, we had no idea what the bloody course for the race was as we hadn't heard the bastard thing, so now we had no choice but to blindly play follow the leader, and quietly pray we don't find ourselves in front anytime soon. This plan sorted itself out in the early stages as we went round the cans prior to the spinnaker run down to Brighton, as we were some way off the lead boat, the Italian Job, with Doug, Jason, Barnie, and co. But as we approached Brighton the Italian Job was having some kind of strategic ding dong with Terry's yacht, 'Bombardier', and we quickly overhauled them both until we were joint first with the Italian Job, and the nightmare scenario of taking the lead without knowing where the fuck we had to go. We bounced strategies for finding out, until I made the decision to just ask them, casually, or so I thought, "it is the Portobello mark we go round isn't it?", "no!, Newhaven", came the swift reply. Steaming off into the distance, we debated the options, and settled on the opinion that Barnie and Doug would be far too honest to give us a bum steer, so as we reached the Portobello mark the decision had been made to carry on to Newhaven.

I can only say I'm glad we were so far ahead that we couldn't hear the cackling laughter that would have been roaring from the Italian Job as they rounded the Portobello buoy and headed back towards Brighton marina, Jason and Barnie in particular, we took their bait, hook, line, and sinker, "someone's getting a soaking later", I shouted in frustration, concealing the fact that were the boot on the other foot, could I really say I wouldn't have done the same, I doubt I'll ever be handed the opportunity. It took us 25 minutes or so just to get back to the Portobello mark, still in second position mind you, but with no chance of catching Doug's tub by then. Moored up in Brighton marina, we consoled ourselves that this was a funnier story to tell at the bar, Jason pleaded that he only had the one set of clothes with him when I told him to put his phone somewhere safe prior to his imminent dunking, I probably should have chucked him in anyway.

I had intended to go back that evening to walk Sam, but the beer had started flowing, so a call to bro Simon and arrange cover sorted the dog out, followed by a trip to the supermarket to stock up on more booze for the night ahead. Somehow the Devil ended up being the party boat, and through the night our misfortune was told and retold, while the ample stocks were eaten into, as well as the copious amount that our visitors brought with them. I did get a morsel of revenge on Barnie that evening, as I ruined every joke he tried to tell by finishing them all off before he could spit out the punch line. It was a fine end to a thoroughly enjoyable day, despite the mischief.

The main reason for the journey down to Brighton, was for the PHAB organisation to get some of their members out on the boats the following day, and enjoy a day sailing. As it's website says:- 'The ‘Aim’ of Phab is:-
“To promote and encourage people of all abilities to come together on equal terms, to achieve complete inclusion within the wider community”.'
Unfortunately the weather on the Sunday was absolutely foul, so there was no chance of taking anyone outside of the marina, or even off our moorings as the wind was so strong. So little parties of our Phab guests came and joined us on board, got shown around, supplied with food which had been laid on for them, and were taken out for rides inside the marina on Ribs, (rigid inflatables), which they seemed to love. David got the chance to steer one and take out the group that had been on the Devil with us, much to their amusement, they'd been asking, 'why so slow', to which David informed them that there's a strict 4 knot speed limit within the harbour walls, and then promptly opened the throttle up for a short burst and made their days, as they excitedly told us when they got back. The RNLI crew put on a rescue mission display for them later on, a cameraman was on hand to get the all important publicity shots, and all in all it looked, and sounded, as if they had a great day out, as did everyone involved in putting it all on. What a Phabulous cause!!



It was only back in March that I mentioned I didn't want to see the inside of the Findon crematorium again for a long time, well life is a bitch sometimes. When I was on the train back from the Brighton game a couple of weeks ago, I got a phone call from my sister telling me the tragic news that Carl had had a fatal accident in his van. We'd been having a jolly up on the train, celebrating Brighton being champions of Div one, but at that moment all the joy evaporated in a heartbeat and I took myself off up a few carriages and had a quiet sob up between the connecting doors. I'd only been working alongside him a couple of weeks before, his face and voice fresh in the mind, we hadn't seen each other in a while so it was a good chance to catch up and swap bullshit, ever since the worst news came in I've been trying to piece together that day, keep the memories fresh. He was cursing whoever moved the pipes for the radiator he had to put back on the wall, it put his day back and he was supposed to be taking his daughter Rachael out to look at a car he'd be buying for her, he phoned her to let her know he wasn't going to make it that day.

We spun the breeze while he was there, talking allsorts, we've known each other for 30 odd years, both Shoreham beach boys originally and share loads of the same friends. But he was a family man so inevitably our paths hadn't crossed regularly for a while, but when we did it was always the same, big smile, "how's it going?", and then crack on about whatever latest news either of us had on our mutual mates ups, downs, or general goings on. It's hard knowing we won't get to blather again, but hardest of all for his family, I can't even begin to imagine their grief right now, he was only 49 and should have had plenty of years left to enjoy with them.

So once again I made that trip up to Findon, this time with my brother Stig, picked up by Steve Williams, then just Rob to collect from along the road. Rob told us he'd seen loads of plumbers vans go past with the drivers in suits, obviously heading the same way, we all knew it was going to be a big turnout, if anyone had a bad word to say about Carl, well I never heard it. We found ourselves behind his hearse on the way up, and drove past the place where he had the accident which was a bit sombre, eventually taking a different turn to get ahead of them so we could be there for the arrival. The place was filled already when we got there, and a who's who of Shoreham's yesteryear alongside the family and friends, all waiting for Carls final appearance. And the ceremony, though obviously heart breaking for his young family, celebrated his life well, retelling his stories, filled with plenty of minor calamities, like accidently nailing his hand to a shelf he was fitting and having to saw the shelf in half and get to A and E with it stll attached. His son and daughter, Craig and Rachael, got up to give a tribute to their Dad, one of the most moving, and funny tributes I've ever heard as they reeled off his little sayings, like "there's been a bit of a misdemeanour", and, "I've been thinking", which would mean 'look out, he's thought of yet another crazy scheme', they told us how he'd been to Goodwood and came back with these special shoes that are guaranteed to knock off milliseconds from your gear changing through the clutch control, only for them to remind him that his car was automatic and had no clutch pedal. And they told us that he'd taught them to live life for the moment, don't waste it, enjoy yourselves. When Craig and Rachael had finished, the whole place erupted in applause, and tears were flowing all over the place, especially poor Rachael who fell into her mums arms and wept, but I know how proud their old man would have been of them, an absolutely amazing testimony to what a great job him and Lisa have done bringing them up, I barely held it together myself.

Towards the end a poem that Lisa had written for Carl was read out, telling everyone just how much he had meant to her, and how badly he'd be missed, then in a final touch, after his nearest family had laid flowers on his coffin, the rest of us were invited to lay a single rose each and have our own moment to reflect with him for one last time before he's taken away. I wasn't sure whether I deserved the honour, but I wanted to do it, so walked up, put the rose on his coffin and held a hand on it for a second and just said "goodbye mate", allowing my hand to brush along the side as I walked off, oblivious by then to anything around me. Then to finish the service, the song, 'always look on the bright side of life', from Life of Brian, played out and smiles lit up as we all knew it was a message to say exactly how Carl lived his life.

I'd already told Sharon, the Landlady at the Waterside pub on Shoreham beach, that the place would be rammed for Carls wake, and sure enough it was wall to wall with black suits and dresses, as mates of old mixed with family, and those of us that never went away. The main line of conversation being, "wish this wasn't the reason for us getting together, because Carl would have loved to have been here", all his favourite music playing, mainly eighties stuff, Madness, The Jam, UB40, and more, plus a beautiful rendition of the Dido classic, 'Here with me', which had the whole pub silent as we listened to Lisa's sister singing what must be a particularly emotional tune for her now. It's a rare situation to see most of your life through the faces of the people around you, like a zipwire through time, and the last time tragedy brought us together in such a manner was for another former beach boy of ours, Paul Elliot, who died aged just 28, about 22 years ago, they knew each other well, as we all did. I'd love to think that they're somewhere shooting the breeze now, having a laugh and telling the rest of us not to rush up anytime soon, but there'll be a welcome if we do.

R.I.P Carl Mason
12-10-1961 to 07-05-2011
Missed by many many people

Image: @Stefmara picture of the space shuttle flying out of the clouds



While there are a great many people unaware of Twitter, the expansion over its short five year life span has been nothing short of phenomenal, and this week one of the finest examples of its reach was the photo of the Space shuttle launch coming through the clouds above the Kennedy Space Centre, the picture taken by Stefanie Gordon, (@Stefmara is her Twitter name), while flying across America to visit her mother, and uploaded to Twitter via Twitpic, here's her Twitpic comment:- (on16 May 2011):- 'Three things about my flight: I can lay down across 3 seats just fine, it was freezing & I got to see this.', followed by, :-'Here's another Photo of the shuttle from my plane'. At the last count her two pictures had amassed 770,000 views between them on the Twitpic application, all through 'retweeting' on Twitter, and that's just after two days, since then she has been sought after by all the major US news organisations for her story.

Unfortunately for Stefanie, according to Twitpics terms of service, media outlets need only to ask for permission to use the pictures, but are not obliged to accredit the photographer, (which was all she asked for), and cut throat business that the media can be, inevitably some organisations have decided not to bother. On the plus side, Stefanie has become a media celebrity of the moment, and her Twitter following has gone from a fairly decent 1000 or so followers before the famous pictures, to nearly 6000 at last count and rising as her fame goes viral around the world, courtesy of Twitter, while all she is asking for is a job from somewhere. One minute she's kipping on a plane on her way to visit 'mom', the next she's woken to notice a plume of vapour trail heading out of the atmosphere from her window seat, taken a pic, uploaded it, and now she's famous for rather more than fifteen minutes.

The first time that the phenomenon we now know as Twitter came to light in such a grand manner via one picture, was when an airliner crash landed in the Hudson river on 15 Jan 2009, with Janis Krums, (@jkrums), uploading his picture to Twitpic with this comment :- 'There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy', at the last count his picture had over 727,000 views on it. Another use which Twitter has become renowned for in recent years is what has become known as 'Citizen Journalism', where real time reports start flying across the net, updating followers on ground breaking news, a perfect example being the Mumbai terrorist attacks in India, where both the terrorists,and the victims were 'tweeting' their activities to the outside world. This kind of citizen journalism has since been quite commonplace, a little while ago my mate Timmy, known as @Trekkygeek on Twitter, reported a minor siege going on somewhere in Hove, as he was nearby in his works van at the time, unfortunately his pictures didn't really convey enough drama for a flood of hits, but it was just one more example of the far reaching tentacles of the Twittersphere. On an even lower and pretty insignificant level, I tweeted the rescuing of a pigeon from our chimney last year, and was surprised at the minor upsurge in 'views' on my Twitpic page at the time, the grand sum of almost 30 people followed the drama unfolding as our feathered friend was eventually carried off in a box by the friendly RSPB chap.

Twitter was originally the realm of geeks only, but has since been overtaken by celebrities, wannabes, and ordinary people that just want some kind of contact with their favourite celebs. Recent discussions have seen the site valued at between eight to ten billion dollars, which is incredible really when you think about the fact that it currently operates for free. The latest media furore created by Stefanie Gordons space shuttle picture has brought Twitter once more in front of the media headlights, doubtless increasing its value even further, but it also continues to drive terminology into new areas, we've already become used to, 'Tweets', 'Tweeps', Twitterers' etc, since the shuttle pic I've noticed yet another new term arrive over the cyber waves, 'Iphonographer' to label @Stefmara after her famous picture taking exploits. Where will it all go next?

Image: @jkrums picture of the plane that crash landed in the Hudson river, New York

This Strange World

It's a strange world we live in really, while Japan continues to battle against the after effects of earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear meltdowns, our media outlets are filled by Super Injunction stories, who might have been shagging who but no one can mention names, the annual music industry joke that is the Eurovision song contest, with the continual hooha surrounding its alleged vote rigging, and todays newest stories which involve a minister getting his wife to take his driving penalty points as hers, and a French IMF chief accused of sexual assault in New York. Then there are the Greek riots over their national debt, struggling economy, and general public displeasure concerning the hard times ahead, while we have riots in Bristol over a new Tescos Express which apparently poses, "a real threat to the local community", stop me for a second here, am I missing something?

Back in my world the concerns are of no national importance, but for those that share that world, well, important to us at least. There was no sailing for us this week because the boat has too much which needs to be done in preparation for the channel crossing at the end of the month, so it was all hands on deck as we tried to mend and clean the Devil. It isn't just the crew that have been getting broken recently, the Devils Advocate herself has been walking wounded for some time, despite the repairs that were supposed to have been carried out last year. So with a decent crew, all kinds of tools and gadgets, brawn, brains, and plenty of tea, we set about the various tasks required to bring the Devil back up to scratch, with limited success unfortunately. Next weekend we have to hope our luck will be better.

I got a call from T.C on the Saturday morning, "I've got a few of us together going out for a meal for my birthday tonight, are you interested?, I know you're not normally bothered eating out", "nice bit of warning mate, but yeah, sounds good". It was more like another pool team reunion really, and other than the fact it cost me a fortune in cider because I kept going to the bar for my drinks, while everyone else was sticking theirs on the tab, it was a great night of catching up, getting drunk and trotting out the old stories to any at the table that hadn't heard them already. One of the great things about being in the company of mates you've known for years is the way it all just clicks, no pretence, plenty of piss taking, and very little maturity on display. Having a round glass turntable for the food was always going to be a recipe for potential disaster too. I'm sorry to say it wasn't me in control of it when a bowl did eventually fly off and deposit its contents in front of Tracy, next to me, but it was quite appropriate really, as we'd already had the story of Wilf drinking the vase water in Ostend back on our pool team tour of 84/85, then promptly running to the bogs to throw up. As well as the cup filled with all kinds of sauces and condimemts which we couldn't quite convince Bondy to drink on the same tour, not to mention four of that tour spending the night in cells, courtesy of the Belgian constabulary after Andy Schiffer grabbed an off duty armed copper later on that first night. Me staring down the tonsils of some heavily toothed German Shepherd police dogs, and later being offered the chance to join the four who had been banged up for the night, but that's all a blog on its own for later. Can't beat a bit of reminiscing with old friends.


Wetherspoons away

Feeling a little fragile after the weekend just gone, having tested my recovery so far with a trip up to Robin Hood country for Brightons last game, sailing with the Devil yesterday outside of Shoreham Harbour, a reasonably unhealthy feeding regime for a couple of days, and alcohol consumption beyond my usual limited capacity, perhaps I'll be somewhat economical with the true set of events when explaining to the Doc tomorrow how it's all coming along. And amid all of that, the tragic news that Carl Mason, yet another old friend, died in a road accident, just to put a bit of perspective on life and make you think about how easily and cruelly it can be taken away.

As I walked along Shoreham Beach early Friday morning to meet Stv for the train up to Nottingham, three joggers were heading my way while the rest of the world seemed to be going to work, as they got closer I recognised the front runner in my usual 'senior' manner, got the face but can't place the name. It was Tim Jarman and his two lads, over from Australia for his mums 80th birthday, I've only known him and his brothers since we were kids, pass me the walking stick and Saga brochure. It was good to see him, but a bit like one of those comical mirrors, and I'm the out of shape reflection, I had a sweat on and I'd only been walking for five minutes. It's always awkward when you bump into someone you haven't seen for ages but you need to be somewhere else, so I explained I was off to the football, albeit a day early, and off they jogged leaving me to ponder just how far downhill my fitness has deteriorated by comparison. I'm sure I'll do an impressive job of convincing myself I'll get round to doing summat about it, without actually translating that thought into action.

"Twenty three quid for a one way to London?!!, we could get a fuckin taxi for that couldn't we?", peak time travel rapes the wallet, "cost you a couple of hundred for a taxi mate", the ever so helpful ticket booth man at Shoreham station informed me. My head was swimming with possible retorts, all of which I knew would be a waste of time, and Stv was grinning, yeah, note to self, 'can it'. We did at least have seats, so it wasn't all bad,and I kept entertained by watching and listening to the suits on their way up to the office, talking shop in their well educated accents and expensive looking whistles. I don't envy them having that as a daily routine, no matter how well it pays.

I love going up to London, I revert to tourist mode, always in awe of its impressive architecture, and the massive scale of everything, so as soon as we arrived in St Pancras station I was like a Jap on acid. Couldn't hang around too long though as Stv had pre booked our tickets online, so we had to get on the 10.30 train up to Nottingham, 30 quid each for the return trip, as opposed to the robbing bastards on Southern rail, (or whatever they're called these days), who rinsed us for 23 for half the distance and one way. I guess there's some irony in the fact we were heading off to Robin Hood country, having had our wallets relieved before we'd even left Shoreham.

I have to say, Nottingham is a lovely old city, heaving with history, and nice shiny new trams. I'm afraid I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to trams, I think they're great, and expended a good deal of effort trying to convince Stv that we should use them for just about any journey ahead of us for the duration of our stay, it became a bit of a joke with some of the other Brighton fans after a while, like I might stay up there and become the local window licking saddo tram celebrity.

Brighton away, I've come to realise could more accurately be called 'Wetherspoons away', as they always congregate at wherever the Wetherspoons pub is in the town or city the Albion happen to be playing at. It's a reasonable shout though, because no self respecting home fan would be drinking there, favoured as it is by the lower rungs of society, like an Aldi's version of a boozer. Let's just say you get some pretty 'special' drinkers in your average Wetherspoons, and is it at least cheap.

I'd managed to get us booked in at a place called the Park hotel, which turned out be really nice, and right next to Nottingham Trent Uni, WIN WIN situation as it's surrounded by loads of fit looking students, and a tram line straight into the city centre outside, Stv was pondering the appeal of going back to school, I could think of plenty worse ideas. As with pretty much any occasion which involves drinking from an early start, I was first to fail, red carding myself from the proceedings and catching a tram back to my room by about 11 ish, and some of the faces I witnessed on the Saturday morning back at Wetherspoons pub were ample evidence of the wisdom of my move. It was raining but a nice fresh kind of rain, and not particularly heavy, all the talk was about the death of Seve Ballesteros on the news that morning, with the Grand Prix qualifiers on the box behind us, and a couple of the lads opting for curry as breakfast for 3.99, while a few were just 'drinking on through', having tied one on the night before through to the early hours. I was drinking water and smiling at them as they tried in vain to berate me for my efforts, or lack thereof, we still had a good few hours yet before kick off.

Eventually we moved on to another pub up the road, The Bank, where they were showing the Palace- Forest game on the screens, and we're only in there a few minutes before the place erupts as Palace go one down, followed by loud renditions of 'we hate Palace' booming through the place. As if that weren't joyful enough, they then get a player sent off, and by now the Bank was heaving with Brighton fans expressing their approval of the situation. Also by now, I couldn't help but notice a lot of familiar faces from my past, a past which saw us climb through three divisions on our way to the old division one, but these old familiar faces now had grey hair, but the smiles of recognition seemed to melt those years away, especially with the atmosphere in the place. At one point I was called on to rally the mob with a song from a few of the lads, "Wolfie Wolfie give us a song", so I duly obliged and trotted out the old favourite 'my eyes once saw the glory', which had the rafters rattling, not long after which Forest bang in another and the place was delirious with joy, their day already made. Just before we left to get to the ground for the game, Forest widened our smiles by banging in a third. We had by now attracted a mild police presence outside the pub, but it all passed off in good humour, helped greatly by the Palace drubbing witnessed inside.

Inside the ground Brighton took up one side of the stadium, with about four thousand travelling fans there, in one of the pubs earlier I'd been telling the younger lads some of the stories of how good things were in the 70's and 80's with Wardy, Mellor, Mullery and co, and what a special era it was, when Ben, a rather tall lad asks me if I think we're on the verge of another great era, "damn right I do Ben, especially with the new stadium coming". It was as if script writers were planning our day when Barnes knocked one in to go one nil up to really get the party going, but to be honest, other than the goal, the game was nothing special, and the atmosphere was more of a party spirit with the fans here to celebrate the season, and quite a few left by half time, hangovers kicking in and a long journey home ahead with the fear as company. A load of us met up at the Bentwinke pub outside Nottingham station, conveniently next to a Tesco Express, (or not, depending on your outlook), where we stocked up for an alcohol fuelled trip back down south.

Lady Helm day (Sunday 8th)

Sunday morning if I must be honest, I've felt better, so was grateful that the days sailing wouldn't be starting until the afternoon. Jo was our 'Lady Helm' for the race, her new hubby John banned after his fractured ribs from the week befores calamities, although he came to see us all off. Me, him, and Stig joked about being the trio of 'raspberries', all 'hors de combat', although me and Stig had healed enough to risk going out as ballast at least. All the inappropriate women driver jokes were being pedalled, "excuse me dear, you're getting in the wrong side, that's the drivers side", moving on to the Challenger space shuttle, 'nought to six thousand pieces in 37 seconds', and the last radio contact being, "just handing control over to the woman". Once we were out of the harbour though, Jo was now 'Skip' from there on, and we set about the business of racing in what were reasonable conditions, if not particularly favourable for the Devil, perhaps. I'm not experienced enough to know how well we ought to be doing, but I'll bet no other crew has more fun aboard than we do, mirth being the order of everyday. It felt a bit strange knowing I'd have to try and keep away from any of the action, or heavy stuff at least, and the same for Stig, but there are plenty of other things to occupy yourself, galley bitch for one.

Bunny, our ever impressive foredeck hand, took young Ross under his wing to verse the boy in how things should be done up there, only for everything to be done entirely different when the time came, Ross looks at Bunny, who smiles, shrugs, and shows the palms of his hands as much as to say, "well maybe not that way everytime". We also had Chris, son of our tactician Del, aboard, a relative novice but he enjoyed himself, and Janet, another yacht club member aboard as 'weight', and not forgetting the wounded soldier himself, the old man, fresh from nearly hanging himself last week, at the navigation table as always. David and Del worked the cockpit, advising Jo as we raced the course, there were a couple of tense moments of strained patience towards us crew from the 'eldest' proginy, and amusement as we heard 'Captain Tourettes' Lawrence over on Ocean Dream airing his tonsils near the start.

Finishing fourth over the line out of a fleet of eleven, we were quite happy, but more importantly Jo had loved her time at the helm, "ya ya", and "what he said" being her stock answers throughout the race, all with a beaming smile. Chris and Janet had a good time too, and nobody got broke this time, a successful days sailing all in all. With a couple of beers at the club afterwards, I have to say I was washed out, so that pretty much was the finish of me for the weekend. It's family trough night again tonight, brisket in the oven, and veg all prepped, with the Doc, and physio tomorrow, fingers crossed I get the all clear to get back to work. But spare one last thought for my mate Carls family, I can't imagine what they're going through now, it was only a couple of weeks ago I was chatting to him at work, telling me about taking his daughter out to get her first car. He's a Shoreham lad, just a year older than me, and had a smile that literally lit up his face when it cracked, with a big laugh and happy nature. Like Stig said today when we were talking about it, why is it always the gooduns?

Image: One nil to the Albion

Image: My indestructable Daddy! Check out the bruising round his Gregory


Squire, our indestructable Daddy

That old saying, or belief, that bad things always come in sets of three, could well have been applied to us just lately. The week before last on a gloriously sunny Thursday, as I was working on the speaker wedge in the driveway, I glanced up to see my brother Stig walking unsteadily down the driveway towards me.
His body is often giving him grief for one reason or another, so I just enquired if he were a bit stiffer than usual, it turned out he'd taken a tumble the night before and cracked a rib. NUMBER ONE. His hip had given way as he got up, resulting in a fall forward onto the corner of his rather solid lounge table, damage done, he swears blind it wasn't an alcohol related incident. In typical stubborn Ramus mode, Stig decided to go to bed and see how it was in the morning, and then rather than call someone to come and pick him up, he walks ten minutes round to our place to see if Ma's car was around to get a lift to hospital. Now this isn't unusual to us, when he broke his hip after slipping in the bath at his place, he slept on it, (or tried to at least), and waited until the morning before calling me to ask if I could drive him to hospital. He was in agony when I got there, and I drove the car right up the pavement to the main doors of Accident and Emergency at Worthing hospital, this is Stig, and I've come to learn that nothing is easy when it comes to this boy and accidents. The original hip accident, back in Australia in the 90's, was caused by some retard on a building site laying a sheet of plasterboard over a manhole, which Stig went through while running a half hundred weight bag of sand, or cement across site. One leg went down the hole, while the other one, rooted on terra firma took the brunt as the weight of the bag on his shoulder helped push him down the hole until with one leg up and one leg in the hole, his hip was pushed out, I can't even imagine how much pain that must have put him in. But, small glimmer though this is of my brothers life, you can guess he's pretty much a walking accident waiting for somewhere to happen.

NUMBER TWO. No more than three days later after Stigs broken rib and I have my rather embarrassing cricket accident, from which I am now recuperating nicely, if a little stir crazy from not being able to do very much, and nothing whatever of a strenuous nature. So after all the family sailing we've been getting in, me and Stig are suddenly not involved just when there's a weekend Regatta full of races. So on Friday, the day some big wedding was happening up in London, Squire set off for an afternoon start out on the water in the Devils Advocate, with a crew of thirteen, while I stayed at home and enjoyed the snooker on the box. I'm not sure what time it was that I got the call to come and pick the old boy up after they'd finished racing, but the sun had been setting for a while. The first crew I was greeted by were John and Jo, the recent honeymooners, and they looked soaked, but smiling as always, and inform me of how they got a drenching and nearly launched overboard in what sounded like pretty hostile conditions, John thinking he may have damaged a rib as he got slammed against the guard rails. But what they told me next I could hardly believe, "wait til you see your dad, he nearly got garotted", just before he comes into view, I was horrified inwardly as I saw him gingerly making his way towards the car, blood stained bonce, neck swollen like a balloon, and a general air of frailty. NUMBER THREE.

Apparently he was standing in the saloon cabin, on the steps up to the cockpit, with ropes hanging down from above off the boom, when the boat jibed and in an instant, the ropes took up as the boom swung across, but wrapped around Squires neck and damn near hung him. I wasn't there, and can only retell it as I've been told by those that were there, but I can tell you all about what I've seen since, which is the cuts, bruising, and his obvious discomfort. Bear in mind for a second, that this is an 84 year old man we're talking about, but he, much like Stig and the rest of us, is stubbornness personified. The accident happened before they had even started the race, so when the crew suggested they take the Devil in, the old man was having none of it, insisting that they carry on and race, stubborn old git, but our lovely stubborn old git. He is, I think, possibly bullet proof.

This was far from being his first boat related accident, in fact I could quite possibly fill a book with nothing more than Ramus accidents, a good few chapters dedicated solely to marine related mishaps. The first major one for the old boy, being when he got taken out by the boom, knocking him overboard and sparko, followed by a trip to Accident and Emergency, with me, (ever caring number three son) there to document the incident by photographs on his return home from hospital. He had to have a plastic surgeon to stitch his forhead back together on that occasion, with black eyes, and swollen nose, but you can detect a bit of a smile in the photo I took at the time. To put things into context, it would be no surprise to any sailor to hear someone didn't survive being hit by a boom on a yacht, the surprise is that they'd make it out at all.

The Devil is out racing again today, but David is the only family member aboard, the rest of us being 'hors de combat' for the time being. Squire is resigned to watching the snooker, and putting up with me photographing the colourful changes to his Gregory, which I shall post with this short blog. Let's just hope that's it with accidents for the time being, 'will everybody please just stop getting hurt!!'

Image: Gregory colouring up a treat


One short!

With the first half of the Easter bank holiday weekend having been taken up sailing in glorious sunshine, I had my first cricket match for a good few years to look forward to on the Sunday. A combination of two days on the Devil in blazing sun, coupled with a few jars down at the Waterside on Saturday night, meant a good nights kip in preparation for the inter club match up at Beeding and Bramber. The weather looked to be fine again as I set about digging out my cricket whites for the occasion, something that perhaps ought to have occurred to me a while back, especially after trying the trousers on. My waistline not being quite what it was back in the nineties, surprisingly enough, so a belt had to be chucked in with the kit. This is I'm afraid typical of me, no forward planning, just wing it as I go along.

Macca came round to pick me up just after 12, and up to the ground in Bramber, still enjoying these early summer conditions and contemplating a hot afternoon in the field. After surveying the pitch and changing rooms, talking bullshit, waiting for duties to be dished out, we joined in setting up for the game, me and Macca selected ourselves to jump in on sight screen duty. The screens have heavy guage steel frames, which we had to lift to get the wheels on, ready to transport to their positions, unfortunately there must have been some kind of communications mix up, as I ended up with the frame on my foot, and no short amount of wincing and cursing. Good start I thought, possibly out before the game's begun through a sight screen incident, off I went to hang me foot under a tap for a while. When I came out from dousing my foot, Eddie lets me know we're batting first and I'll be number ten, 'right oh skip', suits me fine for the first game back, maybe I'll get a bit of a bowl when we're in the field.

Well the game got off to a fairly somnambulant start, racing up to eight runs after four overs, when the call comes from Eddie, umpiring from square leg at the time, for a shovel, we all looked at each other a little bemused before I went to the container to grab the required implement. 'What's it for Eddie?', 'dog shit' he said, pointing to the offending article. Quite the comeback so far I thought, cricket whites about four sizes too small, had a sight screen dropped on my foot, batting at number ten, and now I'm shovelling shit, what next for this great sporting renaissance. I took over from Macca umpiring, getting an up close view of the proceedings as everyone attempted to shed their collective cobwebs as they embarked on a new season. There were some fine examples of cross sweep slogging, bowling hand grenades, full bungers, daisy cutters galore, intermittently disturbed by a straight ball, or finely executed on drive, however rare. In the April sunshine it felt good to be involved once more in the dual between leather and willow on a village green.

By the time Macca came out to bat, Eddies brother Colin was bowling, launching reasonably well aimed hand grenades up in the air, with good effect according to the score book. Umpiring at the the bowlers end, I nudged Macca to look at where Colin was planting his front foot as he bowled, on the stump line, so bowling an extra yard, to which Macca says, "oh god, imagine, bowled out by Colin Edwards", I raised my eyebrows and grinned at the prospect. How I wished I'd had the camera ready when it actually happened later, just after I'd finished my umpiring spell. By now wickets were tumbling, even I was padded up ready, and when my time came there were nearly thirteen overs left still, Eddie making sure I was aware of the need to see the out the overs, while I'm just thinking don't get out to a silly ball, try and survive at least. Ben, who had been doing well with his batting, greeted me in the middle, and we agreed we should try and hang in there. Well I did at least occupy the crease for quite a long while.

Having defended a couple of balls, not sniffed a couple more, then been called for a single by Ben in the next over, I was greeted by a long hop down the leg side, coming down with jackpot alarm bells attached to it. My eyes lit up and I swung across the line, it was a bit wider than I'd anticipated but I connected. The next few seconds happened in a mixture of fast forward and slow motion, the shot was fast forward, but the snap I felt in my back, followed by the inelegant slump to the deck, happened in agonising slow motion. This caused confusion all round, the batting side remaining initially in the comfort of their deck chairs, while the concerned fielding side gently mocked their opposition for a seeming lack of interest in their team mate. Laying on the crease I couldn't really see too much, so relied on the running commentary I was getting from the lads surrounding me, I could hear them discussing the wisdom of Greeners, an ex army man, rushing towards us with a wheelbarrow. "He surely doesn't think he's gonna take Andy off in that?!", clearly he did, I can understand the thinking, get him off the pitch so we can carry on with the game, perfectly reasonable train of thought, but all efforts to move me in any direction by then had only resulted in enhancing the pain I was in, and eventually an ambulance was called. A first aid kit was produced, bags, and jumpers pressed around me to hold me in a comfortable position, and an ice pack squeezed alongside the painful area, I was wondering whether anyone would keep time of how long I had been in the middle for no runs. The subject of tea had been raised by now too, I'd obviously thrown a spanner in the works by holding the game up, someone suggested bringing the gazebo out to the middle so they could keep me covered while they had tea, I'm sure there were probably some novelty suggestions chucked in there too for amusement.

While all of this was going on I was thinking to myself how I'd be taking pictures by now if it weren't actually me on the bloody deck, happily though, unbeknown to me, Macca had had the same thought, and grabbed my camera out from my kit bag. There he was snapping away, and getting dirty looks from some of the other players, making him feel like a bit of criminal, but he carried on I'm happy to say, although I wish he'd have got a bit closer! I had a guard of honour keeping the sun off me, a lovely lady keeping me talking, and sorting out an ambulance, and all kinds of first aid advice. The worst of the situation though, was the humour of it, however much it hurt, even I could see the funny side of this, but laughing made the pain ten times worse. Once I started, pretty much anything was making me laugh, even the fact that the laughing hurt, was amusing me, like some kind of sado masochism. Normally humour is one of the best ways to take peoples minds off their pain, but not when it induces muscle spasms, trouble is, as a crowd we're always trying to make each other laugh, usually with varying degrees of success, but this time, ironically, everything seemed to be hitting the spot.

When the ambulance arrived, driving right on to the wicket, I was soon on 'antinox' as they called it, nitrous oxide with some anti something mixed with it, basically a mouthpiece through which I could inhale the anaesthetic gas. For the first time I could relax a bit while they figured out what was up with me, and how to get me on the stretcher, retreating after inducing a hefty groan when they tried to roll me, eventually using 'scoops' to feed me onto it, with a few squeals I'm afraid, but once on the stretcher I had the strange sensation of falling into a coffin wrapped in a carpet, just like in the film Trainspotting, I could see it as well as feel it. Talking me through all the up coming road bumps, dripping some liquid morphine into my mouth, I was on my way to Worthing A and E department in a blurry psychedelic haze. Here I was given my own bottle of the 'antinox' stuff, then a little later a morphine injection into my thigh, all part of 'pain management' as they called it. There was just one slight issue as far as I was concerned, not too much communication after the ambulance peeps left, so every new nurse had to try and move me, to hear for themselves how much it hurt me before deciding against further movement without assistance. One doctor, and three different nurses, all insisted I try to move with their help, all of whom on hearing me squeak in pain, then tell me to take deep breaths and calm down while I inwardly cursed.

Apparently there's nothing they can do for the damaged muscle, so it's all down to pain management, dose you up and send you home, but as I appeared to be in so much pain, they were going to admit me for the night, though they had one last thing to try, a Diclofenac enema. Brilliant, the final ignominy to cap a lousy day, getting a bullet shaped pill shoved up me arse. Well it did at least work, and I was allowed to leave just after nine that evening, getting picked up by the aged P's.


Image: Prototype speaker wedge, done in the sun


Hot Hot Hot

Well the Bank hols are upon us, the sun is belting down, flesh is a showing, and my work is done for the time being, hmmmm, what to do??. Under normals circs I'd be off to expose myself somewhere while slurping an ale or two, but we have an early start sailing down to the Solent tomorrow, curses! But I'll spare a thought for the poor buggers I've just left who are embarking on a six hour drive up to Leeds in this searing heat, to set up the sound systems for Carl Cox on his tour of the UK. Great sounding gig to be at, but a high price to pay for it, plus they'll be working anyway so probably not as glamorous as all that. I'd been asked to build a prototype speaker box, or 'wedge' as they call it, for Flare Audio, an innovative sound system company, and knocked it up on the driveway between yesterday, (Weds 20th), and the next day in the lovely sunshine. All done, I took it along to their home base, but no one was around, so quick phone call, no answer, leave message, get ready to hoof it outta there, then my phone goes, convo follows along these lines, "I'm here at your unit", "yeah, sorry mate, we're on our way to do Carl Cox sound up at Leeds", nice, I thought, lucky gits, "ok, but I've done your speaker box, I've got it here with me", "you've done the wedge, blimey that was quick, ok, well we're actually only round the corner grabbing a bite to eat, we'll spin back and meet you in a minute". I guess that speaker wedge prototype holds some value.

They seemed pretty pleased with my efforts, and will test the wedge up at Leeds, so that's all good, plus, he's so impressed at how quickly his idea became a reality that it looks like I'm going to be getting a few more prototype designs to build for them in the not too distant, sweet, I love variety. I did suggest that should they need a roadie for any future Carl Cox gigs, I'd be happy to carry shit to and fro for them, but it's all up north at the mo, I was however assured they'd keep me in mind for anything closer to home, again, sweet. Once I work out how to rig these wedges up and get them working, I'll have to make a couple for meself, I can just imagine them on my mates houseboat for a start, yee ha, Fat Boy eat ya heart out.

In between that, I've been back on the family tree trail recently, and have discovered some University lecturer that's been researching art and antique dealers from the 1900's, so I slung out an e mail to him on the off chance some of my ancestors might have come up on his radar. He wrote back to say he thought probably not, but sent me a copy of his work so far for me to check through, and bingo, three of my family line are in there, two of whom he had down as one person. After a bit of double checking to be sure, I rattled off the necessary info to steer him right, plus a load of other family research I'd done which I ventured ought to be included, as it fits his criteria perfectly. Turns out he agrees, so looks like there could be as many as dozen of my ancestors finishing up in his :-'BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF NINETEENTH CENTURY ANTIQUE & CURIOSITY DEALERS WITH FULL EXPLANATION AND PLATES' as it's called.

The main reason for me contacting him though, was in the hope that he might have something that would help my tree, unfortunately he doesn't have anything that could add to my family history at present, but with the extra info I've sent him, hopefully as a professional researcher, and full time academic, he may yet unearth something which could help in my investigations.

Twas a Dark and Stormy night 23-04-2011

With work up to date, a long bank holiday weekend, and the Solent rally ahead, as well as my inaugural cricket match with Beeding and Bramber CC on the Sunday, it looks like a busy time ahead, excellent. I got Wilson'd on the Thursday afternoon, the big fella stopped by to see what I was up to, we met up with Dez on the houseboat, Fische, then began supping over at the Waterside. I remember getting a taxi from the Buckingham later on, and then waking up at 4 in the morning to get ready to go sailing, Squire bless him had set his alarm so he could drive me down there. In my usual lackadaisical way, I had prepared nothing, so just lobbed a few things in my little rucksack, confident that I'd probably forget all the essentials until too late, and such was the case.

We had an idyllic morning for the start on Friday, real picture postcard stuff, but not a lot of wind unfortunately, so Steve Thomas, the race control boat for the weekend, asked everyone to motor along the coast to Rustington in the hope of finding some more favourable breeze there, with the added bonus of having time for David to turn galley bitch and knock us up a fried brekky, which was delish. As it turned out there was just enough blowing for the fleet to give it a go, we all manouevered our way along the designated start line, a transit line between a green gas tower ashore, and the Rustington outfall/ weather station beacon, until ready for the off. As the start is sounded we were alongside Ocean Dream, with their skipper Lawrence indicating his displeasure at their situation as they wrestled with the Spinnaker equipment, "FUCKING SPINNAKER POLE", we heard as we laughed, enjoying this ringside seat for the entertainment. While Ocean Dream were sorting their kite out, we were doing likewise, only for David to spot that we'd actually hung it upside down, 'ermm, right oh, best get it down and changed around then', all very quietly and without the effing and blinding often so prevalent with yachties under racing conditions, and in stark contrast to the 'Tourettes Master of Ceromonies', Lawrence. Meanwhile, Will Camp and his family crew aboard Highland Daughter had stolen a march on all of us and took an early lead, and so began the duel between us and them. I should add in all fairness, the Devil is very far from being some angelic 'oath' free zone, but Lawrence really is very amusing to witness in all his Tourettes pomp and glory.

The run down was going to be with the Gary Lineker, (Spinnaker), up all the way with the wind behind us, and it soon became clear that Highland Daughter had the advantage over us, as we struggled to make any ground on them until we reached the Mixom bouy signifying the start of the Looe channel, but just before that we were all entertained by a lone dolphin which took a liking to the boats. Highland Daughter was greeted first by our aquatic friend, and kindly radio'd us to let us know to look out for it. We soon saw it, racing up and down the sides of the boat, diving under the bow, doing forward and backward rolls right under us, then coming up and out of the water before diving back under for more tricks. Me, Bunny, and Jules were up at the sharp end marvelling at the show, relaying back to David and Del in the cockpit what was going on, and Bunny took some awesome footage of it all on his phone, which hopefull he'll upload sometime soon for us all to see again. One by one the dolphin went on to play with most of the yachts in the fleet, leading I'm sure to much drunken retelling for some time to come.

As we came to the end of the Looe channel, having rounded the headland of Selsey Bill, we were neck and neck with Will and crew, even thinking he may have taken a risk by heading too far up before turning to head for the two castles at the Solent entrance, our finishing line, but with the aid of their rather large Gary, they overhauled us and went over the line just a couple of minutes before we did, not bad after all that distance. Then it was sails down, fenders out and lines ready as we headed in to Haslar marine, and a few well earned gargles to cap a fine day. As one by one the rest of the fleet came in, more entertainment as you get to witness the varying degrees of skill in 'parking' the boats, and then the cockpits are filled with little parties as everyone winds down in the customary fashion. This is where David comes into his own, well known 'Boat Whore', he sets about visiting every cockpit party available. As we were sat on the Devil, Del asked where David was, I told him just to listen for a while, you'll hear him eventually, then you'll be able to see where he is, to which Tracey, on Truant, the boat next door, laughs and agrees, just in time for David to nail the point by the sound of his booming laugh from across the marina. "There you go", I said, nodding across to Del.

I have to say I was flagging a bit by now, it had been a long day under the sun, and the beer was giving me a comfy glow, but a visit to the Castle pub five minutes away, and a fine steak and ale pie with chips helped revive me somewhat. After the pub, it was back for what I had hoped would be a couple of shots and head down, oh well, best laid plans and all that. Steadily the Devil filled with visitors, and the Dark and Stormies were being poured, Spiced rum and Jamaican ginger beer, a dangerously tasty drink. I'd already announced myself as most likely to be 'first to fail', but I got a nudge from Jules, with a smile on his face, "you're not the first this time", gesturing towards the chart table, where Dels face was planted, zizzing away. Eventually we all succumbed to the Dark and Stormy night, and as I went to hit the hay, realised I'd forgotten to pack a bloody sleeping bag, bugger.

I had to leave them today, to could get back for the cricket match tomorrow, so off they motored up river to Lymington and a jacket and tie dinner later tonight, just as well I had to leave really, as I hadn't packed any smart stuff either, not that I have much that could be declared smart anyway. Tomorrow I shall see how the old body holds up in a cricket match for the first time in a couple of decades.

Image: The rest of the fleet steaming up behind us, sedately!


That Summer feeling

Am I tempting fate by thinking Summer has arrived?, who cares, I'll just make the most of it while the Sun's around. Work has died down again so I guess it's time to feel guilty again about all the jobs there are to be done around the house, not to mention the jobs I've promised people I'd help with when I have the time spare. Perhaps I should have added a caveat that if the sun's shining all deals are off, but things don't work that way, so I'll have to get my lazy arse up and start ticking some of these jobs off the 'to do' list. The job over at Ferring will carry on without me, the carpentry work apparently to be done by Daves mate Hing, an engineer. I'm as confused as ever about that job, and glad to be away from it really, it's not easy to see things being so badly run and having to bite your lip about it. Dave said at one point how he hated working for customers because they could be such a pain, completely missing the irony of that statement and the fact that he is possibly one of the worst kinds of customer for any of us that are actually proper trades. It was nice to pay one last visit to the site to drop off my invoice, knowing I wouldn't have to deal with Daves stress making way of doing things any more, and listening to the other trades moan to me about the nightmare running of the job, even the young labourers had picked up on the vibe and were saying how the job only seems to be stress free when he isn't there, "no shit Sherlock".

Our cousin Sue came to visit last week, before she flies out to stay with her brother in California for six months, and brought her Collie called Mollie with her. Being some while since our poor old Aero snuffed it last year, I asked if I could take her out for a walk, which Sue was more than happy about, giving her extra time to catch up with Ma n Pa, her mum Sheila was the old mans sister, and he's the last of that generation left now as Sue reminded us all. I must admit, taking the hound out to all of our local dog walking haunts did make me wonder whether I ought to get another one, but things aren't as simple as that, or are they. I know from the old boys reaction to a dog in the house again that he misses the company, and the soppy devotedness that these daft animals give us, I'll give it some thought. We managed to convince Sue to have dinner with us then stay overnight, which gave me another opportunity to take Mollie out in the morning. I'd forgotten how relaxing dog walking can be, as you let your mind wander, but always keeping one eye on the mutt, I hadn't forgotten their filthy habits, how they love to find anything that stinks, then sniff, lick, eat, or roll in it, and Mollie was no different, but too slow thankfully as she's a bit of an old lady now and struggling with arthritis. I was a little surprised she didn't have a dump while out walking, but found out why later on when scooping up her best efforts from our back garden, a bit of manure should help the flowers along. Sue departed later that day, still nursing a hangover created by the large dent we put in the whisky the night before, our house is not a 'dry ship' !!.

The last week of indoor cricket nets saw me limping out at the end, with an annoyingly bruised foot of all bloody things, by all accounts an injury common to some bowlers, so now I have a minor limp at times. It all seemed to have been going so well too, improving week by week, and we have our first actual game coming up this weekend, so I'll have to invest in some proper cricket boots for the occasion. I'm looking forward to it, but also a little nervous, it's the whole 'age' business, and the realisation that your body is no longer willing, or able to do the things it used to, but if you don't try you'll never find out. As it is I've already got the Solent rally on for that same weekend, so I'll be racing down on the Friday with the Devil and crew, then more sailing on the Saturday, plenty of drinking on both nights, and get a train home on Sunday to make it along for the cricket match in the afternoon. Doesn't really sound very sensible, but I don't want to miss the weekend sailing, and I haven't been putting meself through the mill every Friday at nets just to not play when the time comes, fool of a boy!!

This Sundays sailing lacked the vital ingredient once more, wind. And so on a beautiful, almost breathless day of sunshine, we set out on the Devil and sailed very slowly around the course with yet more new crew. We had Del at the helm again, and new recruit Ollie, another knowledgable racing sailor to help improve our team, also Jules, alias Shovel Skate, back after a long absence, and recently married Jo, back from her honeymoon with John, he's off piloting an aeroplane somewhere, but hopefully back on board soon. The rest of us, me, David, Stig, Phil, and Bunny, completed the crew, each knowing their own role to play once things get going, (not that anything really did get going yesterday!!). It was at least a decent day to get pictures of the other competitors, as well as soaking up the rays, I can think of much worse ways to spend a Sunday. It seems to have developed into a competition between some of our crew to see who can bring along the most food, we always seem to have enough to feed the whole fleet, indeed I think we've become quite a popular boat to moor alongside in the locks at the end of the days racing, having plenty of food to hand around after we've sated our appetites and started on the beers. The Devils Advocate was originally designed by Beneteau yachts as a specialist racing yacht, which is why we always get crucified by the handicap when the results are worked out, but it also means some of the more race oriented sailors are quite keen to come and have a go aboard her, it's just unfortunate that we haven't had any decent weather to get her going since she's been back in the water. Ideally a force four or five wind would be nice, enough to get the Devil going, but not too much for the old boy, who yesterday celebrated his 84th birthday out in that glorious sunshine. Afterwards up at the club bar balcony we raised a glass or two to the old boy, with Ma now along too, rounding up what was, if not the most memorable racing, quite a fine day.

Today I had a meeting with a company director of a cutting edge speaker technology firm, Flare Audio, with regard to making some prototype speaker boxes for them, so they can test them before going into production. It looks like quite interesting stuff, and the drawings they've given me don't look too daunting, so tomorrow I'll set about creating some state of the art speaker boxes. If all goes well I may have another outlet of work to keep me occupied, it's early days yet, but I'll upload pictures for any of you interested in either carpentry, or sound sytems.

And last but not least, CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!! Brighton and Hove Albion are champions with 3 games left, and so will be moving into our lush new stadium next season as members of the Football League Championship division, I already have my season ticket, can't wait. Well done Gus Poyet and the squad, but feck off to all them prying gits that would like to lure him away from here. Seagulls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Image: Highland Daughter roars past us in a bit of a blur.

Image: Dormer constructed, ready for tilers

Image: A fine looking yacht on a fine looking day

Grand National weekend, I lost my shirt


The days and weeks seem to be spinning by just lately, maybe because I've been quite busy filling my time up with stuff to do, as well as work of course. I was back at the job in Ferring to put a cut and pitch dormer at the front of the roof, a bit arse about face really, but they didn't want to risk a planning application until they had all the other extension work more or less completed. So there I was, getting baked in this early Summer warmth, and doing my favourite work, roofing carpentry, at least it usually is. I should have been ready for a banana skin, but when the sun is shining and all seems to be well in the world, your guard can understandably be down. Because of the previous traumas of not being able to rely on pretty much anything the architect had drawn, (not the architects fault, check previous blogs), I asked Dave up to talk through the dimensions and placing of the dormer before I set the plates out. After explaining the scaled off measurements to him, shown him exactly where the dormer would start from, Dave gave it the nod and I commenced creating the dormer in the glorious sunny weather we were basking in. Young Tom was my assistant for the day, so I set about showing him the ropes, stripping tiles off, stacking them, denailing timbers, and telling him how all these jobs are 'character building', a building site euphemism for 'shit job', but someone's got to do it. But he's a good lad and willing to work so he didn't mind, and just to make me really feel my age, he informs me that his girlfriends dad is an old mate of mine from Shoreham cricket club before it folded some years back. This sort of thing seems to be happening a little too often these days, I shall have acquired an official 'old fart' status soon. Is this a possible symptom of 'mid life crisis in the post?

At about 3 in the afternoon, out of the corner of my eye I could detect Dave and Hing looking up at where I was working, which I didn't pay too much attention to, until Dave invites me into the little discussion. "Don't you think it looks a bit tall and thin?", my brain had been pretty well basted by the current already, dribbling dementia was about to add to it, "what?!!" (thinks bubbles, "here we go again"), and Dave calls me down to join them for what I knew would be nothing more than a rubber stamping of a decision which was going to result in me dismantling my work. "But you must agree Andy, it doesn't quite look right", I wasn't going to be agreeable about this, not that it was going to make the blindest bit of difference, so once again I found myself being asked to ignore the drawings and wondering why the fuck he even bothered paying to have them done. It's not my business to suggest to people that they ignore coucil passed drawings, I could go on with this, basically I swore quite a bit, and pretty much just fell short of telling Dave to fuck off as he stood there while I was pulling my work apart, sweat pouring off me, large crowbar in hand, and him trying to justify his decision to me, I told him to just go away and let me get on with it. Really it's a shame we didn't have a camera team here for the duration of the job, it would have made a perfect example of how things shouldn't be run. Later on, after Dave had left the job, Hing came up to me all apologetic, saying, "sorry mate, I hope you don't think this was my fault, Dave just asked me what I thought so I told him", I already knew this to be untrue, it was Hing that decided he thought it looked wrong and brought it to Daves attention.

Despite all of that, I had the changes all done before leaving that day, and the following day, with blood pressure back to normal, completed in more hot and sunny weather, and after that I was off to fit some rather nice oak stained doors to the attic cupboard space I built a couple of weeks back, just round the corner from home, can't beat that, oh, and now sporting a T shirt tan!. A couple of days later Dave came up to me, " I hear Hing told you it was all me with the dormer because he didn't want any grief on site, it was Hing that noticed it and told me, but I'm glad he did", I was already past caring as it had been done by then. But I'll think carefully before I decide to do any other work for him after this job, however charming a bloke he might be.

I also fitted in a game of badminton as well as the cricket nets last week, slapped 3 games to love by Macca, and the amount of sweat on me was a fine indicator of who had been made to run around the most, but without any physical repurcussions after, thus far at least, so with the weekend upon us I felt ready for it. And what a busy weekend too, the Grand National on the Saturday, and the Brighton marathon on the Sunday. As usual my yearly wager produced no rewards, and a pretty unfortunate days racing for the two nags that died, kind of put the mockers on proceedings, so I guess I'll have to wait another year before I walk into a bookies again to put a curse on whichever beasts I decide to back.

The weather for sailing on Sunday was a belter first thing, and we had the added bonus of witnessing the crazy fools running the Brighton marathon as it's route took them around the Shoreham harbour power station, the 22 mile mark apparently, so that would explain why they looked so flogged, poor buggers. I snapped away while we waited for the lock gates to open, and we also got held up in the locks because of the weight of pedestrian traffic crossing over to see the runners. As the lock was going down, we noticed one of our lines had been made off and if we weren't quick there would be a problem. Now I'd taken my top off just before to catch a few rays, so shirt in hand I raced to the cleat to loosen the rope, but David beat me to it, and somehow at the same time I let go of the shirt in my hand, only to see it drop in to the lock and disappear before I could get hold of it, so there you have it, I lost my shirt on Grand National weekend.

Eventually we got out to sea, and were immediately being tested by our new helmsman for the day, Del, (David usually helms, but handed over the reins for the day), this guy has clearly done some serious racing in his time, but not for a couple of years apparently. Well that two year absence didn't appear to have dulled his taste for the sport, or his racing knowledge and competitive spirit, and I was soon hearing terms I've never heard while out sailing, and I don't mean rude ones!, I'm sure we've already covered most of those bases! Big Ben was out with us for the first time in a while, all six foot seven of his well fed northern monkeyness, working as fine ballast, or "weight over", soon to be shortened to just 'weight' for him. With the old man down below plotting the race course, Del had us going through the paces, tacking, jibing, getting a feel for how the 'Devil' sails, while calling out to Squire, (the old man), for the start line so he could work out his preferred approach come the start gun, and "establish a lane". He's also working the crew, getting Bunny, up front, to walk the genoa sail (foresail) around by the clew, (bottom point of the triangle at the back of the sail), when we tack or jibe, telling him it's for a smoother transition, helping get the air in the sail quicker and not lose too much power. Mine, Phil, and Stigs turn came soon enough, as winch monkeys in the cockpit, we winch in the Genoa as we tack or jibe, and had always just gone hell for leather to get the bitch in quick, but now after instruction it's a case of get it most of the way in, but not too tight until the sail is filled and powering up, then tweek her in a bit until the tell tales on the cloth let you know she's set right.

While we're all being put through our paces on deck, Del's keeping Squire on his toes down at the navigation table, asking him for updates on course, speed over ground, next headings, speed to mark. I was getting giddy with all the terms, but enjoying learning the what fors and whys, even if it did make me feel a bit of a plum for not knowing a lot of it already after all these years. In fairness, before now I've been content for others to know, and just do as I'm told while relying on them being correct in their decisions. Del boy was having none of that, no reason why you shouldn't understand why you're doing what you're doing, and how to do it to the best effect, so I now have a new outlook and look forward to soaking up as much as I can learn from him while he's around. Del also has a curious habit, he keeps a packet of mints and a packet of fags, and we soon learnt that the moment he pops a mint in, it's time for a fag to go with it, and as he's at the wheel, can someone light it for him, David took on that role. Towards the end, it kind of comically became a 'mint rattle fag alert'.

The start to the race was a peach, Del had us coming up to the line, letting the sails out so we didn't arrive on the line early, and then, bang goes the start and we harden up and steam into the lead, pulling away nicely, (can't help but think those last few lines sound a bit like some low rent porn dialogue!!). This was uncharted territory for me, I've never been on board for such a flier of a start, and quickly had the camera out to document the rest of the fleet behind us for posterity, with an excitedly childish burst of, "eat that suckers". It was obviously too good to last, and with the luck of the wind on their side, Moonlight Saunter overhauled us, tragically just before the wind all but died. The rest of the race after that was like pulling teeth, watching paint dry, and basically only really any good for sun bathing, despite David and Bunny's determined efforts with the new spinnaker. We eventually drifted over the finish line, only after the course had been drastically shortened owing to the lack of breeze, and we came a very creditable second. So then it's fire up the oven, get the grub in, kettle on, bottles cracked, sails down, fenders out, and head back celebrating what almost seemed like the dawning of a new era. I'm pretty sure everyone aboard the Devil last Sunday appreciated the benefits of Dels sailing knowledge, and also the fact that even with top knowledge, when it comes to the wind you also need your share of luck to go with it. But as some top sportsmen know, the more you practice, the luckier you seem to get!!

Image: A fine start!! From left:- Phil, Del, David

Image: Flat roof joist in, solid bridge noggins fitted, and firring battens on

Image: Ply going down over the cross battens


April fools

With time on my hands, and an ever expanding waistline, it's become ever more apparent just how unfit I am over the last few months. I'd blamed it on the altitude while snow boarding in France in February, but in reality you shouldn't be getting out of breath while trying to lace up your snow boots, let alone having to take a breather halfway through each boot. I've recently begun going to cricket nets up at Lancing college on Friday nights with Macca, an old mate from a way back, as much to keep myself away from the pub as anything, and it never occurred to me that I'd struggle with such a pedestrian sport, how wrong one can be. As if it wasn't bad enough that me and Macca couldn't even finish the sessions, last week, (April 1st!), we both had to stop halfway up the stairs to the mezzanine gallery which overlooks the nets, he laughed back down to me, "this aint right, we haven't even done anything yet!", shocking but true. As if that weren't bad enough, we've booked ourselves in for an hour of badminton tonight, up at Lancing leisure center, I dread to think what sort of a state we'll return in, and I'll be scrambling up a roof the next day to cut and pitch a bloody dormer, I must be mad.

April fools morning itself was going without any foolery, despite my best efforts to coax young Tom the labourer into stitching the others up with, well anything really. I'd explained how it all works to him, how the 'planet of the apps' story in the Sun rag was an April Fool story, but perhaps he just wasn't confident enough to try it. In fairness I'd already been trying out the 'long stand' standard site joke on him the day before, so it's entirely reasonable to think he just didn't trust me after that, or was wary at least of being conned again. To anyone not of the building site world, the 'long stand' is one of many tricks to pull on new recruits on site, you tell them that the band stands we use for scaffolding aren't long enough for the job, then send them off to ask someone in authority for a 'long stand', at which point that person twigs immediately, and says "ok, wait here while I go sort it out for you", or words to that effect, then you just leave them until they either get bored or suss it out. The 'long weight' is another version working on the same lines, or send them for tins of 'striped paint', 'buckets of steam', 'skirting board ladders', you get the picture.

So when later on I could hear a bit of a commotion going on at the back of the job, I wandered along to find out what was up, and they're all in deep discussion about Toms brother Conner. Rory and Colin, both old enough to have known better, with grave looking faces as they tell Tom his brothers life is over before it's begun, "why's that?", I asked Tom, "my mum's just text me that Connor's got his girlfriend pregnant, I don't understand, he says he always uses condoms". Rory jumps in here, saying how hard it'll be, Colin chipped in with a comment, Sam wasn't saying much. Once they stopped for a second, I pulled out my phone to check the time, it had gone noon, "you know what day it is, but she's a bit late really", then the collective penny dropped. "What you want to do now mate is call her up and say, 'bloody hell mum, I've got my bird up the spout too, but I didn't know how to tell you' ". He'd already had that idea, but his mum was way too sharp for that little trick and just laughed down the phone at him. A little light amusement for the day.

Workwise, Sam is on his way to another firm, it's fair to say he didn't really work out, struggling with the carpentry side of things, and not exactly making the boss happy with his attitude. The thing is, when you're a confident chippy that knows what he's doing, then maybe you can afford to piss the boss off, but when you struggle with anything more than basic first fix carpentry, you need to bite your lip, work hard, and hope you'll pick up the rest eventually. Unfortunately Sam can come across as a little surly, or he just doesn't like criticism, like most kids. He is without doubt a likeable lad, but at 23 he should be polishing the fine edges of his trade by now, not still finding it difficult to do the easiest things. They've been pretty good to Sam, raising his money to 80 a day, more than he ought to get anywhere else, and bought him a car on the condition he work til six every night, and take Rory to and from work, but come 5 o clock, he pulls a long face, drags his size 12's around that much more than usual, and gets, well, just childish, like he's got the strop.

In fairness to him, he takes a lot of stick from Dave (the boss), and Dave is no trade himself, although he considers he is, (rather insultingly for me), a carpenter. He's what I'd call a DIY chippy with a bit of financial clout, wouldn't survive alongside full time chippy's, but as long as he holds the purse strings, he can call himself what he likes. Ideally I'd like to encourage him away from the tools, (and the job actually), let me run the jobs, and make him more money, while earning more for myself by making it all more profitable. He likes to have a say in every aspect of everyones trade, regardless of the fact that they all know better than him. Rory told me that he'd upset Dave one night in the pub after work by saying, "is there anyone you haven't pissed off on this job?", after he'd necked a few ales. It may have hurt Daves feelings, but it was a fair comment, and probably needed saying, although I somehow doubt it will make any difference in the long run. That's enough bitching, the reality probably is that I'll end up working for them both while still having made nothing for myself!

And to the sailing, on a misty Sunday morning we set off out for the first race since the Devil went back in the water last month, fortunately the mist cleared once we'd got out through the harbour mouth, and we had a fine breeze to blow the cobwebs off her. We didn't have the greatest start, as per usual, but soon worked our way through the fleet until we reached the heady heights of third position, behind the second placed Barda, and the winners, Highland Daughter. They both have very experienced crews, much more so than us, so we were more than happy with that, although once the handicaps were applied we were relegated to last again. I think with the handicap we have we'd actually have to finish the race before everyone else has started it, (some kind of time machine maybe), and even then probably not win. Regardless of that, it was a great days sailing, and good to get the old man out in his pride and joy again.

I shall now mentally prepare for the badminton ahead, and hope that I'll not be too damaged for work tomorrow! Getting old is rubbish.

Image: Flat roof formed and ready for the roofers

Monday lovely Monday


Here we are again, another weekend over and Monday is upon us. I can't remember a time when I had the 'horrors' for a Mondays arrival, but there's a fairly well documented distaste for it to which I've been witness down the years. Far from having a distaste for it, it's actually one of my favourite days of the week now, for varied reasons, but the main one being the fact that I make sure no work is in my diary so that I can concentrate solely on the family dinner that evening. So Monday is a day of celebrating the survival of another weekend, looking forward to drying out for a few days, and the feeling of a returning to sanity which that brings, but also the preperation and cooking of the weekly Monday night family dinner, (usually a roast), which reunites the Ramii from the far flung corners of Shoreham and Southwick, which will be between 6 to 10 of us.

Today I've elected to knock up a Shepherds pie, a- because it's been a while, and b- because it's so easy and gives me time to do other stuff in between, like ramble away here. The week just gone was about as pleasant as a working week should be allowed to be, a few days of carpentry in someones reclaimed loft space, a visit to the Brighton Dome to see the Australian Pink Floyd, continuing cricket nets, and getting the old mans tub, the Devils Advocate, back in the water, camera at my side, (or rather, in my pocket), for most occasions.

Work recently has been sporadic to say the least, so I've been grateful to Rick for putting a few days here and there my way, he's been a valuable source of work during these last few work scarce years, and all of it local, which is even better. It's a very cosy place to be, working for someone else, not having to deal with customers, or worry about pricing up jobs. I've always maintained work would be so much more enjoyable if we could just do away with the customers, not in a Sopranos/ waste management mafioso kind of way of course, (although their are inevitable moments when you allow yourself the luxury of imagining it!!), but generally you just want to be left alone to do a job without all the attendant stupid questions, mistrust, clock watchers, and not forgetting the, "while you're here, couldn't you just", as if you're just going to do all the extra work for gratis because you're there anyway. I should state now that my most recent tasks have been for lovely punters, expressing their gratitude for my efforts, and kettle ever ready, can't complain.

The last week has also been a beaut for weather, with sun shining throughout, and daffodils now in full bloom everywhere, you can feel the optimism in the air, that cruel time where we allow ourselves to believe this is the start of things to come, a decent Summer ahead! Halfway through this idyllic week I got a call from my mate Ades, did I fancy taking advantage of a spare ticket to see the Aussie Pink Floyd at the Dome in Brighton? It would prove to be a squeeze on time, but still a no brainer, despite my last trip to see them at the Brighton Center which I walked out of, having lost the will to live as they were doing 'The Wall'. This time it was a greatest hits tour, and they were fan bloody tastic, and with a light show that was equally impressive, which despite the best efforts of the 'camera nazi' to our side, telling us we couldn't take pictures, I got some quality shots which I'll upload with these words. The giant inflatable pink kangaroo came out especially well, but the funniest thing about the night really, was the ageing audience, as you looked around some time into the gig, there were the occasional heads dotted here and there, drooped forwards, gently rocking back and forth, as if they were dancing in slumberland, zizzing away. Oh to have had a camera with zoom enough to have caught those moments. I wonder if this is a common phenomena when you get to a certain age, because I've noticed with the parents how they'll wait for their favourite TV shows to come on, only to fall asleep during the programme. Maybe it's because you become relaxed once you're in that comfort zone, and then the 'Sleepcatcher' gets you, or not, just a thought.

Work next day had to be curtailed for the returning of the old mans boat, the Devils Advocate, into the water, always a pleasurable experience. Each year the boats come out for a spell of general maintenance, drying out, and anti foul the hull against the following seasons marine fungi, the laying up period I believe it's called. The yacht club have a rather impressive big toy for the moving of the boats now, which is a mighty relief to the old boy as he was getting stung for over a grand a time in crane fees before. It's a giant remote controlled boat cradle, see the pics with this blog, and you can't help but marvel at the simplicity of the idea and the technology that makes it possible. A full house of brothers were in attendance, so David, Stig, meself, and Simon were all on hand with our old Pappy, and it was another fine days weather for the gentle amble up the river to the lock gates at the east end of Shoreham Harbour, a perfect time to snap away on the high tide and bask in the suns rays. A lovely day to post in the mental archives.

There was a bit of pressure on after that because I hadn't expected to be most of the day moving the boat, but fortunately we caught up on the Friday, so no dramas there, and a happy punter too, which is always nice. And as part of my ongoing attempt to find things to keep me away from the ale houses, Friday night I was back at cricket nets, wondering how much pain it would leave me in this time, especially after the last effort where I could barely breathe without feeling something pull! I'm happy to say that my health survived far better than my ability with the bat did, I appear to have gone backwards but I shall persevere nonetheless. My efforts at bowling, while tame at best, at least show signs of improvement by my own low standards, and most importantly I'm enjoying it as well as seeing old friends and making new ones, win, win situation.

Image: Taking the Devil for a walk

Image: Brothers Grim and the venerable Da




Feeling it

After the reasonable start to the year, work has once again slowed up to a halt, but I've kept busy with bits and bobs to while away the free time, and also started going to cricket nets again, sixteen years after I finished playing the game! I didn't really consider what it would do to me, I'd never found it to be a strenuous sport in my playing days, so it should just be a bit of fun, right?

Macca was going too, he'd hung up his bat and pads just six years back, but through another mate of ours, Eddie, we'd been invited along to Beeding and Bramber CC's net session up at Lancing College. I was really looking forward to it, especially when I heard I was going to be reunited with my old 'Duncan Fearnley Rapier' cricket bat, which I'd sold to Macca many years previous during harder financial times. I'd always regretted having to sell the bat, it was a birthday present from Ma, it had the sweetest middle you could wish for, and was the envy of many batsmen at Shoreham at the time. It was a standing joke that all the so called experts could go out and try all kinds of different bats in their quest to find the perfect piece of willow, while my Ma, with no idea what constitutes a decent bat, goes out and brings back an absolute peach. Tony Goss was the first player to try and convince me to sell it to him after he clubbed a hundred runs with it in a 20 over evening league game, he offered me a 100 there and then, but I wasn't interested. After that, Paul Harrocks borrowed it and scored another ton, and once I sold it to Macca later on, he also hit the three figures with it, probably more than once I expect. For me, my highlight was a 55 run effort up at Goring, or Findon, not entirely certain, but either way, the bat hath returned, and it feels like an old friend has come home.

The first net session started off pretty fine really, I expected my radar to be way off in the bowling, and I figured the wicket keeper would be seeing a fair bit of action behind me when I was batting. What I wasn't ready for was the pain that enveloped my left shoulder after I'd slung a few overs down, the batting came as a welcome relief for a while, and especially as I was actually laying bat on ball !! As soon as my batting sesh was done, I had to return to bowling, and was in trouble. It's a funny thing about any kind of sports training, when you haven't done it for a while, you ache in places you'd forgotten existed, Macca was having similar problems. I can't use age as an excuse, as I was far from being the oldest there, but I felt every one of my 47 years, and a few more on top of them. The following few days were an eye watering wake up call to the joys of aching, long since dormant muscles, coughing and sneezing became a tense affair, bringing a wince making pain each time. Nonetheless, me and Macca survived our first net, then joined our new team mates for a well earned beer at the Rising Sun afterwards, where we regaled them with wholly inappropriate jokes and stories. It's too early to say, but I got the impression we'll have to suss out just exactly who we should tell what jokes to, the club even have a 'welfare officer', he was sat opposite Macca in the pub, fun times ahead.

Fortunately I had just a couple of days work for the following week, hanging doors at the place I worked on at the end of last year, a nice easy time while my aching body recovered from the cricket net session, and walking distance from the house, not that I did mind you.

As the aches and pains dissipated through the week, I was looking forward to the next net session, as well as keeping myself out of the pub on a Friday night. My last two outings to the pubs have led me to a self imposed pub exclusion zone, for their, and my benefit, I can't remember half of it, and the half I can I wish I couldn't. So the Friday evening cricket nets have provided a most welcome sanctuary from my own foolishness, I'd much rather look an idiot with bat and ball, than dribbling all over some poor lasses as I stagger around town propping up bars.

I was told to pad up first while the nets were being set up, which was an unexpected bonus I thought. Once again I was miraculously laying willow on leather, surprising myself again, but any joy was short lived after Macca dropped in a short 'dolly', as my eyes widened and I shaped to pull it across the line, I felt a sharp twinge in my side, 'bocking fullocks!!', and from then on it was a battle of attrition, working out which shots I could play without more pain. I had a good long session batting, which despite the discomfort I thoroughly enjoyed again, but obviously have a long way to go before I reach anything like match, or even net fitness, I was sweating like a gerbil in a gay bar. When it came to bowling I pulled up lame after less than a handful of chuck downs, jumped ship to some easier looking fielding practice until I felt fit enough to tackle bowling again, which would be some while if I could help it!!

Apparently Macca was suffering somewhat himself, and before the nets had finished we were both packed up, tails between legs, not fit enough to net! Poor old Macca was mortified, cursing his lack of fitness, I had already resigned myself to the fact that this is going to be a long and occasionally painful process until I reach an acceptable condition to play the game, but it's early yet and I am enjoying it, so that's good enough for me.

This week I have a funeral and a wedding on the Friday, so no nets, and perhaps a bit of a chance for the old body to recover ready for next week. In my next blog update I'll write about this 'Two Funerals and a Wedding' week, a double dose of sadness, not to mention the catastrophies besetting Japan, and ending on a happier note with a wedding.


Two Funerals and a Wedding

It's been a while now since I first noticed that I was going to more funerals than I was to weddings and christenings combined, and while I'm not immune to the effects, the impact of seeing those curtains close around the coffin has lessened through the years. I tune out when prayers are being said, preferring to idly trip through the memories I have of the latest unfortunate friend or relative who I've come to 'see off'. This week however, is the first time I've had two funerals in a week, within three days actually, and the second of those on the same day as I had a wedding to go to, which meant a bit of logistical juggling, and the missing of the wake back at the Crown and Anchor.

Bill Skinner, Husband, Father, GrandFather, to an extensive family that I've been lucky enough to know through his son Paul, or Skins, as we all know him. Paul lived at my place for a while in the nineties, and there are enough tales of that time to get me in trouble, but after Paul left to live in London, we'd keep in contact, travelling up to visit him, always getting plastered and creating yet more stories to turn hairs grey later on. But Paul would always come back for Chrimbo to stay with the family, and I'd come up to say hello, have a few jars with them at the Royal George before returning to theirs for chrimbo drinks, snacks, and Scrabble, which if I recall correctly, Bills wife Mary, would always win. But the thing that hit you the most was the lovely family atmosphere at their place, and plenty of laughs all the time, hectic, with so many young Grandkids about the place, but in a fun, happy hectic way, and Bill was the 'Daddy' of all this, although Mary clearly ran things, as all great mums generally do. When we went over to Ostend for Pauls stag so, back in the year when Tim Henman managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Goran Even 'e's a bitch, Bill managed to get seperated from the stag group, and wandered aimlessy in this foreign city until, hopelessy lost, he flagged down a cab, gave him the card, that Paul had so wisely distributed to everyone in case of just such a mishap, with the name of the hotel we were staying in, and the cabby promptly does a u turn to the other side of the road, and points to the hotel right there, "there you are sir", priceless!!

And a story they told me at the wake, which I'm sure they won't mind me nicking and telling here, was of one of their many holidays in the Canary islands at their Timeshare apartments. It was Paul and Gina's honeymoon, and the whole extended family went along, Bill was sat at the bar surveying his large family out in front of him on the beach, probably with a roll up ciggy in one hand, and a beer or short in the other I imagine, when he puffs his cheeks out, and gives his best Marlon Brando impression, saying, "no one messes wid my family", which had them all in stitches. You see, Bill wasn't a demonstrative person, quite quiet in fact, but he had the ability to come out with something that would just slay you for that very reason, and you'd be in hysterics laughing afterwards, which would then result in his face lighting up in a smile.

The tears that were shed by so many at the crematorium last Wednesday, were the result of many broken hearts, remembering a wonderful life cut short at just 66. The service told us the story of Bills life, including the fact that he had even been a bit of a rock star in his younger day, a revelation to me. They played Jerusalem at the beginning, which had been a favourite of Bills, page 83 in the hymn book, for those without the order of proceedings pamphlet. With so many young faces there, I imagine this is the first time for them to have to attend a funeral of someone so heart breakingly close, and the tears you could hear were a testimony of just how well loved Bill was, and what a wonderful family he and Mary have created, a better legacy you could scarcely dream of.

When I heard about James Knight, it was second hand, through an old cricket team mate, but we weren't sure if it were true, and hoped it wasn't. I had my worst fears confirmed later that week, he had drowned after slipping down a riverbank while on a night out with friends, I guess they must have got seperated. I still don't know the full facts, but I know the only one that matters, a life cut tragically short, and the amount of people in the crematorium said everything. I couldn't get near the car park, having to walk half a mile to the service, and then like so many others, stood at the back as there wasn't enough room for everyone to sit. Lots of drawn, sad faces, many of whom I've known for years, some you didn't even realise knew Jim too, and probably many others looking around and thinking the same. When the priest announced that we were about to sing Jerusalem, I just lent froward and picked up the hymn book, opened it to page 83 and there it was, he hadn't mentioned that, assuming everyone had an order of service. Maybe this triggered something, I'm not sure, and as the song began I started singing, but didn't make it to the end of the first line, bottom lip trembling, tears rolling down my cheeks, and I could hear I was by no means alone. Try as I could to join back in, it just wouldn't happen, I'd like to think that if Jim were watching he'd be happy to see so many of us to see him off, but he'd probably call me a poof for crying like a baby.

The readings told most of us what we already knew about Jim, he was a live wire, a funny man, loved a good drink, and clearly had a huge amount of friends. I can hardly believe we'll never get to see his smiling, mischievous face again, and how his family are coping I can't imagine. They were amazing, taking time at the end to speak to every single on of us, thanking us for coming. You never know what to say at this point, all I could say was how I'll always remember his happy smiling face, which as Dave Rose commented as we looked at Jims picture on the back of the order of service, "generally with a beer in one hand and a fag in the other".

Jim came along and played cricket for Shoreham for a while, and although he was anything but a natural cricketer, he was an infectiously funny guy to have around, and livened up many a days cricket for us. He wasn't in the least bit bothered if he'd had a disastrous time with bat or ball, it would never dent that broad smile, always seeing the humour in the occasion. Unfortunately I couldn't attend the wake as I had a wedding to go to. You want to go to the wake, talk to each other and remember that mate, friend, brother, son, and just reaffirm that he'll never be forgotten, carried forever in your hearts and memories, but sorely missed.

From Findon crematorium, a place I sincerely hope I don't have to visit again for a long, long time, if ever, I headed west along to Midhurst, and then south from there to Farbridge, and a lovely converted barn, where John and Jo were getting married. I'd missed the wedding, but made it in time for the reception dinner and speeches, so with a couple of glasses of champers down me neck, and a few brief introductions, I was settled into a happier occasion. John and Jo crew with us on the old mans boat, the Devils Advocate, John joining me and Stig in the cockpit as winch monkeys, while Jo acts as moveable ballast and very fine deck jewellery, while also snapping away with her camera when the situation permits. They're a lovely couple, and they hit it off with the whole family from the word go, so we were honoured to have been invited to their wedding, me and my brothers, Stig, and David that is. One of Johns 'Best Men', Andy, or Bunny as we know him, also crews on the Devil, and he assured us that he and Richard, the other Best Man, were going to shred John in the Best Man speeches. To spare Johns blushes I won't say what the story was, but it involved a roll of cling film, and the look on Johns face when the story was told was an absolute picture, "I thought you weren't going to tell that one", he said, while still looking in a stunned state of shock. I think Johns reaction may have brought the bigger laugh, perhaps because we couldn't hear fully what Richard had said, but Johns face certainly told you it was something he'd have rather kept quiet about.

John is an airline pilot, and he had me and the bro's sat with two of his pilot friends, one of whom was Richard, one of the Best Men, so we got some of the inside dirt on John at the table, which went on to us organising an impromptu photo shoot in an attempt to re create a passable impression of the 'clingfilm incident'. Suffice to say there were some disgusted faces, as well as some proper belly laughs, I'm not yet decided whether I ought to put the pictures up here or not, in fairness, my camera didn't get the best pics, Martin's, (the other pilot), camera phone took a much better shot.

Later on as the evening guests arrived, some of the friends that had been at James' funeral earlier turned up, grateful to be at a happier event, and telling me how it had all gone at the Crown and Anchor, another sombre moment, but not for too long. The combination of Champagne, wine, and Guinness was oiling me up nicely, and I was on a mission to seek out new friends and chat, in that wonderful zone where you've lost your inhibitions, but still have the power of speech and thought combined, if only someone could invent a pill that could pause that moment, to prevent us descending into that babbling, slurring, memory like Swiss cheese, repeat youtself half a dozen times, state of semi consciousness. I'm happy to say I didn't get that far down that particular road last night, and the whole evening went swingingly well, not as in the Pampas plant in your front garden type of way mind you!!

Someone had the presence of mind to order a mini bus for the trip home later on, which was a right result. So we poured ourselves into that last thing, and bounced jollily home, reminscing over the strangeness of the day, grateful for the happy end to it, except it wasn't over. I got dropped at the bottom of my road some time around one in the morning, and there was a crowd of lads hanging around, noisily enjoying themselves, when one approaches me and says, "where ya going?", "home", I told him. "No you're not, you're coming in to our party", fair enough I thought, can't beat a bit of random party action. So in I go and assist them in the removal of their alcohol stock, while watching on in mild amusement as they careered about the place, mimmicking a WWF wrestling competition. I knew enough to keep well clear of being roped into that, this is the only suit I own, and I break easily these days. They were good fun to be around for a while, and I don't really remember leaving, but it probably coincided with them running out of rum. A fine end to the day, Jim and Bill would have been proud of me, I hope.

Image: Shim n Chris, the Old Fort behind

Sight seeing Shoreham


I've always been keen to promote what's great about the town I've lived most of my life in, often listing what I consider to be some of its finest points to strangers to our shores in a bid to impress upon them its qualities. Shim Shimminy has long been convinced of its worth, and at the first opportunity relocated himself from Norven Munkeeland in Bolton to come and live in our fair town, having been visiting before whenever he could. So when the big fella had one of his Norven Munkee mates, Chris down visiting for a few days, I offered to give them the dime tour to fill one of those days.

This agreement had been made during an alcohol fuelled cards night, so Shim called me up next day to see if I'd remembered. I could remember being asked by Lamb to keep the noise down, I could remember getting through a couple of bottles of JD, with help, I couldn't remember getting home that night, but vaguely recalled the offer to show Shim and Chris my home town, all good. I said I'd pick them up at 9.30 the following morning, first stop Carats cafe over the lock gates at Shoreham harbour to get things going.

Things don't always go according to plan, and this was one of those times. When I went to start up my van, the battery was as dead as a doornail, and after a couple of attempts to tease life into the beast without success, had to admit defeat and bell Shim with the bad news. As it turned out the lazy git was still in his pit when I called him at 10 ish, informed him he'd have to do the driving, then waited for them to turn up, they arrived sometime after 11.

Swift change of plan, as they'd come over to Shoreham beach to pick me up, then we'd better start the tour there, so first stop was the Old Fort, or Fort Haven as it's been named. Situated next to the West arm of Shoreham harbour, this was built in 1857 in response to fears of a French invasion, owing to the advances in steam propulsion, and the prospect of a hostile foreign fleet arriving at our shores. It was an impressive looking state of the art fortification in its time, but was soon outdated as technological advances forged ahead, and the fear of war dissipated leaving it unnecessary. To us as kids though, this was just another giant adventure playground to enjoy, and many an hour was spent exploring the place, inside and out. Not to mention the harbour mouth itself, the West arm pier which juts out into the sea protecting the harbour entrance, or the wooden pier just inside, which we also used to clamber all over before 'Health and Safety' ruled it out of bounds. And then there's the view out across Kingston Bay, the Lifeboat station, the old Lighthouse, and continuous marine traffic that passes in and out of the harbour everyday. Shim and Chris seemed to be enjoying the tour so far, or my keenness on the idea that they should enjoy it at least. It was a bit of a grey day, and with a blustery wind blowing, but as I told them, this actually was a better way to see the harbour, with waves crashing over the harbour arms, much more interesting.

Image: Shim n Chris, West arm pier behind

Image: An artists impression of how the fort would have looked when it was still in use

Image: Widewater lagoon

Sight seeing Shoreham-2

With experience numero uno under the belt, I directed Shim along to Widewater lagoon, at the other end of the Shoreham Beach peninsula. It's like a long thin sea water lake, with a car park next to it and beach huts behind that, which seperates a stretch of beach from the mainland. A great dog walkers and bird watchers venue, and another part of our great adventure playground as kids, coming down with our little nets to catch Stickleback fish, or lizards in the summer, and drink and smoke later on in years. Chris and Shim remarked how cool it would be to live in one of the houses overlooking Widewater Lagoon, but were surprised when I took them over the bridge to see what was on the other side, a long ugly mainroad which gives no hint of its scenic other side, quite a contrast.

The houseboats and the toepath which runs alongside the riverbank would have been on the list of 'must see' items, but Shim had already shown Chris. But for anyone new to the area, they give Shoreham Beach a very bohemian feel to it, with the many varied types of boats, and weird and wacky designs built on top of them, always worth a look.

Next stop, head for Carats cafe

Image: Shim n Chris at the on the lock gates, heading for Carats cafe

Image: Shoreham Harbour Lighthouse, Kingston Bay, built circa 1846

Image: Shim n Chris getting the Shoreham Lifeboat station tour

Sight seeing Shoreham-3

Carats cafe on Southwick beach is an initiation for the first time visitor, park somewhere around the Lady Bee marina, then walk across the two sets of lock gates which transport sea traffic in and out of the East section of Shoreham harbour, passing the Prince George dry dock on the way. It just seems to make the breakfast that much more of an experience, especially for your land lubbers, which these two aforesaid Norven Munkees certainly count as, and then on up to the promenade, passing yet more beach huts, to walk along the seaside under the shadow of the new gas turbine Shoreham Power station. Other than a cracking brekky, Carats have some amazing pictures of the old West Pier in Brighton, in varying degrees of disrepair, and in the summer where better to sit outside and eat.

Heartily fed we traversed back across the lock gates to Shims wagon, and drove the short distance down the coast to the new Shoreham Lifeboat station, which is set in Kingston Bay in the harbour mouth, with its own beach, wooden breakwaters, and wooden pier, or Thruppenny bit as we called it as kids, a popular fishing venue at the end.

Recently finished, having replaced the previous station which was too small for the latest Lifeboat to make Shoreham its home, I had intended to show Shim and Chris the impressive new station, take a couple of pics and move on, but the lovely Lifeboat people gave us a full guided tour of the station and its boats. We were in that magnificent place for nearly an hour, being told of the main boats carbon fibre construction, state of the art technology, the donation only funded status of RNLI, which Shim and Chris had apparently been unaware of, meaning no governmental interference, and the rather surprising fact that the coastguard can only request their presence at a 'shout', they're not obliged to go, but always do, never ignoring a seafarer in distress. Getting on for around six million pounds was the cost of the new Lifeboat station and the boats, the main Lifeboat , a Tamar class, called 'Enid Collett', being around 2.6 million quid, and what a piece of kit she looks too. As we were shown around, I was snapping away, determined that the boys would have a pictorial memory of their day, and another guy who had tagged along on our tour began calling me David Bailey, almost every time I took the camera out, but I bit my lip. We also got shown the inshore lifeboat, and the lifeboatmens kit room, the ramps down into the briny, and had the sytems explained for who got on when, depending on what kind of a 'shout' the call was, as they normally have more men than they need everytime the pagers get called, not forgetting that every Lifeboatman is a volunteer. Suffice to say Shim and Chris came out with a new found respect for that amazing organisation.

Right next to the station is the old Lighthouse, built in 1846, and very much an icon of the area, as lighthouses the world over are in any marine community, so more photo opportunities for the lads, "right boys, it's David fuckin' Bailey time!", which had them laughing, it hadn't gone unnoticed.

Image: Lifeboat front view


Image: St Mary's church, Shoreham by sea, built circa 1200 AD

Sight seeing Shoreham-4

After the Lifeboat experience I wanted to show the lads Shorehams very own museum, the Marlipins, but it was closed unfortunately, so we hoofed it round the corner to St Marys church, an 800 year old beauty of a building set pretty much in the heart of the town centre, and now about half its original size. History is apparently unsure of what happened to the other half, or more accurately why it happened. But you can see the traces of what used to be there among the graveyard, what's left is impressive enough, so the original building must have been overwhelmingly impressive 800 years ago, back when Shoreham was a major sea port on the south coast of England, supplying many ships of war to the regal heads of the country for centuries. We had a slightly odd moment while in the church looking around, some bloke had been engaged in conversation with this woman, when they started talking to us about the history of the place, the brutality of the Normans after the conquest in 1066, and general distaste for religion. Suddenly he says, "do you mind if I sing you a song?", well me, Shim and Chris exchanged slightly unsettled glances, muttering, "I suppose not", before he belts out what turned out to be a fairly decent anti religion song, in a pretty fair voice I'd have to say, then informs us it's his own work. Feeling relieved and stunned at the same time, we made our excuses and wandered off, remarking how odd to be hearing that particular song in such a place of worship, rather apt I thought.

On our way back to the car I pointed out the plaque of a certain Captain Roberts, who sailed with Captain Cook on one of his round the world voyages back in the late 1700's, the plaque was over the front door of the house he used to live in, just to add to the historical flavour of the tour.

Image: Shoreham airfield

Sight seeing Shoreham-5

After the church experience I decided we should head upriver, to the old Tollbridge, opposite two of Shorehams oldest pubs, the Red Lion, and the Amsterdam, just for a quick view, as time was running out, before heading across to show them Shoreham airport, another little jewel in Shorehams crown. With its Art Deco terminal building, Shoreham airport has long been used by film productions from Inspector Poirot episodes on TV, Tenko, and more recently for Dan Browns 'Da Vinci Code' with Tom Hanks, where it doubles as Le Touqet airport. Again this was somewhere we used to play around plenty as children, with its gun emplacements left over from the second world war, the river bank between the airport and the Adur, the railway bridge, and the many buzzing little aeroplanes scattered all over the airfield. I walked Shim and Chris along the riverbank to one of the gun emplacements I used to play in, telling them what we used to get up to, how much time we'd spend around there, especially in summer, and just the overall view, the Sussex Downs to the north, with the fantastic gothic looking Lancing College set in those Downs, river, fields, and all kinds of different planes. I may have been over cooking it, but I guess I was showing them, rather than telling them, just what a great place to grow up Shoreham had been to me and everyone I grew up with.

We finished up with a visit to the main terminal cafe, a beautiful place, with a just as beautiful view to enjoy as you sip your coffee or tea.

I'd love to have had time to do more, show them more, but as we said at the end to Chris, "you'll just have to come back again won't you", and I'm sure he will.

Image: Shoreham airports Art Deco main terminal building


The Lazy Git returneth:- Part one

Second month into the year, and the slack git is back, not that I've been particularly slack, just with the writing. Having approached, survived, and come out of christmas with an unusually apathetic disregard for the whole affair, a sea change from my normal active distaste for the time of year, I've had to admit, to myself at least, that perhaps I'm mellowing with age. Maybe it was because I've actually been working consistently for a while, after the disastrous first two thirds of 2010, and on interesting jobs too, as well as being local which is always a bonus.

So 2011 kicked off with a call from an old mate, Dave, asking me if I'd do the steels, joisting, and roof construction on a refurb in Ferring for him. Nice job, decent money, not too far to travel, ticked all the right boxes, but things are never quite that black and white as I would soon enough be finding out. Dave said at the beginning, "this isn't a rush job, I want it to be relaxed, so we get an unhurried, decent finish", a noble enough idea.

To assist me, Dave had recruited a young improver carpenter, Sam, an eager lad it appeared, and a happy go lucky nature to go with it, good start. Dave had said he welcomed any input, advice, and recommendations I might have during the build programme, and then promptly ignored all of it in the set up, telling me, "I've got a pal who owns 'so and so', gives me great discount", or "I've dealt with such and such, they've never let me down". Fair enough I thought, it's your job, your money, and you're paying my wages, what do I care? I didn't really.

Next thing that made me think, was after we'd begun the roof construction, "why did you set out for a velux window there Andy?", "because that's what it shows on the drawing Dave", his reply to that turned my head into a confused mass of questions, "don't take any notice of the drawing Andy, that's just something we had run off to get things going". I could hardly believe what I was hearing, "I'm a chippy Dave, the drawing is what I work from, what am I supposed to do?" Not to mention, why pay someone to produce a drawing that has no resemblance to what we're meant to build, and how the fuck am I supposed to know now what I can and can't take any notice of? I don't expect a great deal from architects drawings overall, but I do at least expect them to bear some kind of likeness to what we're building!!

After that we had the rather bizarre sitution of Dave coming up and marking out where he'd like velux's to be, where he wanted walls to be located in the dormer, and, "oh, by the way, I had the ground floor walls lowered, so your roof pitch will be different from that on the drawing". Fortunately I do my own calculations for my roofs, and had already changed the pitch to accomodate the required headroom, and just presumed the architect had made a mistake with his assessed pitch, not that unusual. Other than these alterations, Dave left me and Sam pretty well alone as we set about construction, thankfully, until Dave then informs me, "I've got the roofers and window fitters coming in on Thursday", before we've even finished the roof. I said nothing, even though he'd originally asked me to run things, I'd long since realised he was going to run it his own way regardless, so I just figured, let him get on with it. Both the window fitters and the roofers said it was madness, and I was left thinking, "what happened to the, 'no rush' situation"

Well the overall shape was all but done before I had to shoot off on a snowboarding holiday with mates, leaving some bits and pieces for Dave and Sam to finish off, and the simmering discontent which was already brewing on site. The fact is, Dave's experience of the building game is more on the side of sales, ideas, and dealing with customers, organising a site is not his forte, and a great deal of his decisions just advertise that fact, routinely trying to tell trades how they ought to be doing their jobs, thinking he knows better, and winding them up a little more with each daft comment. He's a lovely bloke, and means well, but all his issues should have been discussed with the architect before any of us trades had even begun, and then with a properly thought out set of drawings, we could have been left to get on with the construction without him around.

Young Sam probably bore the brunt of my dissatisfaction towards the end, snapping at him for taking too long to pick things up, honing my sarcasm skills on the poor lad. "I'm quite happy with that" he said at one point as he stood back admiring a piece of ply he'd just fitted, "you ought to be more fuckin' relieved than happy after the amount of time you took doing it", I snapped at him without even looking as I carried on with my work, "you're relentless" he said with a smile on his face. I grinned inwardly, but wasn't going to let him see it, I like the boy, but he still has to learn, and sarcasm is my weapon of choice on site. Your basic kid wants to know 4 things at work, 1-when's it tea break, 2- when's it lunch time, 3- when's it home time, 4- when do I get paid, whilst in between trying to wear the soles of his boots in by dragging them around the site, reciting meaningless health and safety shyte to you because, it would appear, that's all they got taught at carpentry college. Somebody shoot me please, I went and got old!!!

Image: Joisting done, roof started

Image: Front view bay extension

Image: Simon, Jim, Adam, and Si


Snow boarding in Flaine, France

The weather reports weren't inspiring for the trip, and we were a man down already as poor old Ollie's dad just passed away the week before, so he'd be staying back to view the body, spirits weren't exactly high for this one. I figured I could do with the rest though, snow or not, and as it turned out we had an ok time, despite the conditions. Jim turned up for the bus to the airport pretty much smashed, armed with a bottle of 'energy drink' which his better half, Sazzle had set him on his way with, methinks she had a wry grin on her face as Jim departed. He may have been candidate for 'first to fail', but he survived, even if he did have to be prised off the plane at Geneva.

On arrival we were informed that they hadn't had any fresh snow since before christmas, but apparently the piste bashers had been working overtime to keep the runs going and we should be alright. The runs would prove to be hard, and painful when slammed into, but the sun shone everyday and afternoons were the best of the time there.

Flaine is a great looking resort, and with plenty of powder on it would be absolutely killer, with so many great looking runs to choose from, when there's a load of powder!!, which there wasn't. I knew from the word go that I'd be hard pressed to escape the 'gay' label, because I really couldn't care less about hard icy runs, pain aint my bag baby, I'd pretty much convinced myself before we started that I may not even bother to go on the slopes, but it wasn't quite as bad as all that, and I had enough fun runs to make it worthwhile, a good deal less than everyone else mind you! Surprisingly I got no abuse at all, perhaps they've just got used to me at last.

We sussed straight off that eating and drinking out was expensive, so organised a kitty for food, and cooked all our meals in the apartments through the week, breakfast and dinner, and we ate like kings for a little over 50 Euros each, utilised the Happy Hour at Whites bar each night, then bought supermarket beers and drank in and played cards every night after dinner, with a bit of Bassett that Si had managed to snag on the second day at Whites, no surprise there from the big man.

On the third day we met up with Ben and Adam at the main chairlift after just one run off 'La Grange', which had a load of us on our arses sliding down the mountain, they'd been out all morning. Asked about the conditions, Ben said it was pretty much icy everywhere else too, which was all I needed to hear, so left them all to it. Later on that day the walking wounded limped back, Eddo taking the biggest slam, and booked himself in for a massage the next day to ease the pain, as well as dosing up with all kinds of pain killers. That night we pre ordered 4 cooked chickens, which Si knocked up side dishes for, and washed it all down with beer, scotch, and cards til very late.

Me, Guzzi, and Jim opted out of day four after the heavy night before, and cleaned up our 'bomb site' lounge from the previous evenings jollities, then boiled up the chook debris ready for a feast of a chicken stew that night. De-boning four chickens is a test of your patience, but worth the effort once we'd spiced up the broth left with all sorts of bits n pieces, creating a beautiful chook, sausage, and veg stew.

The fifth day I was surprisingly chipper about things, we'd left it til late morning to start, so the sun could soften the slopes a bit, and the runs were fine, keeping to the sides for the softest powder, we were heading over to the button lift up to the terrain park. The queue was ridiculous, but we were there so waited our turns, watching with interest how the boarders got on with it. I wasn't filled with confidence as I saw one lad fail three times, getting dragged halfway up before letting go and sliding back down unceremoniously. After a good half hour queueing, and seeing most of our crew make it up the hill, except Guzzi, who bailed after the one failed effort, my turn came for this brute of a button lift. I'd watched carefully all the boarders, and how they got on, but obviously learned nothing, the first thing that strikes you is the force with which it initially pulls away, followed by a second lurch after six to eight yards up, then smooth after that. So I wrapped my legs around the damn thing and clung on, hoping for the best. It yanked, I flew forward, and without knowing too much about it I was off it but hanging on by my arms as it dragged me along, legs and board trailing behind until I had the good sense to let go, wounded pride perhaps but otherwise undamaged. The lift attendant offered me another pop at it, which I unwisely took him up on, mistake.
It was all a bit of a blur really, the initial tug seemed have gone better than previously, but the second bastard ripped the thing from out between my legs, lifted me up and gravity did the rest as I slammed hard into the icy surface on my arse, or more precisely bang on my coccyx. I just lay there for a minute, trying to decide how much fucking pain I was in, while unbeknown to me, Guzzi was crying his eyes out with laughter, desperately trying to get his camera out in case I was fool enough to go for a third attempt, I'm happy to say I disappointed him. Jim was the last of our mob, but he was on ski's, for which the button lift is designed, he checked if I was ok then headed off to meet the others. To put things into context, I still can't sit down without discomfort a week later.

Licking our wounded pride, me and Guzzi set off down the hill and back up the mountain, with me cursing my stupidity for taking that second go as I sat out the long gondola ride wishing I had one of those bloody ring cushions! But hey ho, down the mountain we came, briefly forgetting what went before, until halfway down the board goes from under my feet and I slam it again, guess where? Effing and blinding with raging irritation at the world, this had to be someones fuckin' fault, get up and get down this bloody hill, after all no one witnessed it, or did they? When your lucks out it's really bleedin' out. At the precise moment I slammed it, Si Wilson was overhead coming up in the gondola, more laughter and merriment at my expense. I didn't find out until later when we caught up and he happily informed me my tumble wasn't wasted. So there ended my boarding.

As mates, we've all known each other for years, so we know each others ways, and banter flows with ease and regularity, be it regarding snoring, belching, farting, misfortune in a very Schadenfreud way, drinking inabilities, or anything really, but never so excitably as when we're playing cards in the evening, or more precisely, Shithead. This game is all about the loser, and giving that person unveiled grief by little more than the beaming smile on your face which tells them you're out, fuelled all the more by the alcohol consumption. This for me was the most fun of the week, mates swapping bullshit, getting drunk, smiling and laughing together, can't wait for the next trip, but preferably with some fresh powder next time. I've had a fair few nasty slams since I took this beautiful sport up, and many's the time I've said never again, but now I'm back I know I'll be going again, but preferably somewhere with heaps of fresh powder, please, please, please!!!

Image: Dinner time!

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