Monthly Archives: August 2012

Gone Paddlin’

24th August 2012

I missed the 1123 by seconds so caught the 1223 instead. That was my first mistake.

My second was being pleased that my connecting train required no changes and was straight through to Glasgow. Hah! I should have suspected something when it turned up 40 minutes late, but no, I boarded, found a seat and buried my nose in a book. By Leeds I was feeling fractious and uncomfortable and really not chuffed when a large party of merry, middle-aged chaps infested my carriage. Not put off by being scattered around the carriage in different seats, they kept up a constant flow of chatter at the tops of their voices. Then the train broke down. For an hour.

When we finally made it to Newcastle, the happy chappies left but my joy at the sudden quiet was marred when I learned that my train would be terminating at Edinburgh… Scot Rail was going to honour our onward tickets so we could catch 2300 through to Glasgow. Good old Scot Rail. Shame the 2300 had to stop at every hamlet between Edinburgh and Glasgow though. I arrived in Glasgow at 2430 after TWELVE hours on a train. By the time I got a taxi and arrived at my ship it was gone 1a.m and the watchman who helped me aboard wasn’t sure which cabin I was supposed to be in. Never mind, we found an empty one and, though the bunk was unmade, I threw myself into it. Bliss.

25th August 2012

Doon the Watter.

It’s Cowal Games Day so it’s up and at it this morning. It’s nice being welcomed back aboard by friendly faces among the crew – and the regular passengers. It is ten months since I sailed on this ship.

Hundreds of passengers fill the decks as we paddle around the Clyde, dropping some off at this pier, picking up others at that pier. Whenever I go down on deck people say ‘You’ve been here all day!’ What do they mean? The whole crew has been here all day. Surely I’m not the only one that they notice?

Anyway, as the day wears on, many of the passengers are the worse for drink and one is escorted from the ship for being abusive and aggressive but mostly people are in good spirits despite the torrential rain that sets in during the afternoon. I even get chatted up a couple of times at the gangway so it’s not all bad.

26th August 2012

Doon the Watter again.

Last Sunday on the Clyde until October so the ship is full for most of the day. We’re carrying 700+ most of the time. Greenock, Largs, Rothesay, Lochranza and a cruise to Skipness Castle then back the way. When we return to Lochranza, it’s the last time Waverley will call there this year so it’s toilet rolls at the ready. Apparently this is a tradition that has crept in over the last couple of years. The people on the pier fling them at us and we fling some at them – only our loo rolls are large catering ones  and we need to avoid concussing anybody.

My hands are sore from steering the ship. I’m sailing as extra Mate this trip and so, to free up the regular Chief Officer, I’m acting as helmsperson for going alongside and sailing from the piers. The thing is, this is one heavy ship to steer. I have the muscle power but my palms are bruised from the spokes of the wheel. Not that I’m letting on, of course cos I’m tough.

I get two kisses today. On the mouth. But both the passengers concerned are known to me and are openly gay so I don’t think I need to confess all to my boyfriend.

I end the day by escorting a very drunk woman down the quay in Glasgow to the taxi rank. She had refused to leave the ship and had previously been abusing another family until I stepped in. I held her up as she fell over on the gangway and walked with my arm around her, steering her away from crew members that she’d taken a dislike to  and listened to her talking about her children. Then she asked me how old I was and I replied that I’m 47. She nearly fell over again. She thought I was younger than her kids who are in their twenties. Well, it was dark. And she was very, very pissed.

27th August 2012

Bye-bye Scotland, hello Irish Sea.

Bouncy. Uncomfortable.











28th August 2012

Hello Swansea. OK we’re meant to be in Avonmouth but this is close enough. Tomorrow we start plying our trade on the Bristol Channel. Let’s hope the weather improves and that many people will want to come for a day out on a paddle steamer. In the meantime, I’m just glad that my world has stopped bucking and pitching and rattling. Time for bed as Zebedee once said.

I haven’t snuck off to the ice cream kiosk, honest


Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Shedward Seawards


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Damp, Unoccupied, Unloved

I went into Shedward today for the first time in several days. My papers are curling at the edges and notes have come unglued from their Blu-Tak and drifted to the floor. I picked them up and placed them on my desk. Are those notes important? Will they have any relevance to future work on the novel I’ve started? Do I have any enthusiasm to get back to work on it? On any writing?
Well, I have written a couple of blog posts recently so that’s a good sign. And I looked up dates for submissions on the Mslexia website, so the bug is still in me.
My novel is ticking away in the back of my head – with every novel/story I read my mind is Hoovering up all I can learn from the style, characterisation and point of view of the author. At the moment, I’m in the middle of Dubliners by James Joyce and, while I’m enjoying each story, I’m also picking it apart and trying to absorb Joyce’s skill. I hook out certain passages or phrases or descriptions and hold my own words up against them. At the same time I’m pondering how to bring about the changes that my work-in-progress needs. None of that means I have any clue what I’m going to, though!
When economic and time pressures let me up to the surface to breathe, I need to sit down at my desk, reread the feedback on my dissertation, take some notes and then let my writer-psyche bubble up into my brain. She knows how to get this narrative going in the right direction. I believe in that. I believe that the answer already exists inside me – my biggest problem is self-doubt. Someone (who certainly knew what she was talking about) once told me that I have a fear of success. While the idea of being afraid of success makes no sense to me at all, I know she’s right so I must ignore or conquer the little voice in my ear that says ‘You’ll never finish this, who are you kidding?’ and jump into the glass half-full-camp. This would be aided and speeded up by finding a bag of cash under a bush but I’m not holding my breath on that one! It’s down to me to earn the money to buy the time at my desk so I’d better get on with it and head off back to sea. And the first thing I’ll do when I get back is give Shedward a dust and a de-cobweb (yes, again. Eight-legged fiends!) and make him a part of the family again.


Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Struggling Writers


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Insiders, Outsiders, Winners and Losers

My sister and I were bullied as kids. We didn’t belong. We still don’t but we’re old enough and ugly enough to deal with that now. Besides, we don’t want to belong – not if belonging means being like those who excluded us in the first place. Instead, we’re members of the Loser’s Club.

In Derry, Maine, a clown called Pennywise ripped children’s arms off. He tortured and murdered and eventually destroyed the place but he was defeated. By a group of kids. Bullied, friendless and unwanted, these kids found each other and formed the Loser’s Club. I’m a Stephen King fan and so is my sister. Not that she’s read any of his books. This is partly because she’s dyslexic and mostly because she’s a wuss. Instead she makes me retell her the story when I’ve finished reading it – with all the gory bits edited out. When I finished reading the novel IT, 20+ years ago and repeated it to her, we both identified with the lost children of Derry who dared to take on evil. We became members of their gang. We didn’t set out to find homicidal clowns but, looking back, I realise that we’ve always stood up against bad guys. Bullies mainly. And not necessarily for ourselves. Having experienced bullying we can’t stand by and watch someone else suffer. If you’re a bully, you’re a Pennywise and we will work to defeat you.

So why am I writing this? Am I just trying to convince you that we’re heroes? No. I’m giving you a bit of background so that you’ll understand why I want to write the next bit.

I’ve watched Big Brother. I like watching Big Brother and find the reactions of the house-mates to each other and to the pressure put on them by endless mind games of their captors fascinating (a kind of ‘sanctioned’ bullying I suppose but that’s another blog …). The thing that moves me to comment on it now is that for most of the show’s run, the house has been split into two groups. The Insiders and the Outsiders. The Insiders have bitched at and bullied the Outsiders relentlessly. The Outsiders have done some bitching too. And they’ve fought back when the Insiders have gone too far but what I have really admired about them is that they found each other and they stuck together. They have been loyal and dignified and now three of the show’s five finalists are Outsiders. One by one the Insiders were rejected and ejected by public vote which just goes to show – the majority doesn’t like bullies. The majority recognises a Pennywise when we see him or her. Well done us. And well done Outsiders. Last night, when they realised that they had made it through to the final and that they were now safe from their persecutors, they didn’t gloat, they simply smiled at each other and said, ‘we can enjoy ourselves now.’  How bloody nice are they?

Adam, Deana and Luke A, I hope one of you wins and … just like we gate-crashed Stephen King’s Loser’s Club all those years ago, my sister and I are now members of the Outsiders. I hope that’s OK.


Posted by on August 12, 2012 in Musing


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Normal Service Will Be Resumed …

Please be patient with me. My sister’s children are on their school hols and head-space is in short supply. I will get myself sorted soonest.


Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Uncategorized


He’s Too Sexy

The Birthday Boy

He’s big, he’s ginger and yesterday was his twentieth birthday.

My sister once lived and worked at a local college. She had a flat at the top of the main building and one day, in   a very hot summer, she had left her fire escape to the roof open in the hope of a cooling breeze. There was no breeze, instead the enormous ginger tom cat that had hung around the college looking for a free lunch for the last couple of days, wandered in. He has been with her ever since. He was there when she took a pregnancy test and found she was expecting my niece. He was there when she brought home my nephew from the maternity ward. And he’s here on my bed now.

Rufus (so named because he came in from the roof) is huge. Here in the West Country they build cats BIG. Not all of them, obviously, but many are too big to fit on your lap. Rufus is one of those. He’s also very clumsy. He was never one of those sure-footed felines who could land gracefully on a washing line. Whenever there is a loud thump on the floorboards we look around to find he’s missed the surface he was aiming for and landed in a heap. Hence his theme song is I’m Too Sexy as in ‘I’m too sexy for that window sill, or that chair-back, or that car bonnet and that’s why I didn’t stay on it.’ Not that the old chap leaps around much these days but he can still make it to the shed roof when he’s of a mind to.

Rufus is also a tart. He has a mistress. Her name is Betty and she lives next door. For the last decade, Rufus has shared his time between my sister and her neighbour. Betty never feeds him and she sends him home at a reasonable time each evening but Rufus is very loyal to her. In the warm months he will lie under her Hydrangea and in the chilly season he’ll sidle up to her hearth and stretch his considerable length in front of the fire. Every Christmas he sends her a cat-themed gift and a card that he graciously allows the dog and our other cat to sign. He is rarely so considerate to my sister. If she is watching television he will sit in her lap and make sure that she cannot see the TV screen. If she closes her bedroom door he’ll scratch to come in. If she lets him in he’ll scratch to go out. He insists on trying to sleep on her feet and she kicks him off. He gets back up. She kicks him off again. This will go on for some time until, in a sulk, Rufus jumps on her dressing table where (assuming he doesn’t miss his footing) he’ll sit and clean himself noisily. The dressing table rattles, he’s slurping away at his fur, and the noise ensures that my sister will not get any sleep. I think the cat usually wins this battle. My sister has described him as Chinese water torture in orange fur.

But what will she do without him? And Betty? Since Christmas we’ve lived with the worry of his declining health. He’s had many of his teeth removed and he’s sometimes quite unwell. Often we’ve set off to the vets with him and wondered if we’d be bringing him home again but so far so good. He is old and it shows but his health is better, he’s active and, on his really good days, he beats up the other cat so I’m not too worried about his quality of life. He’ll let us know when he’s had enough. Or we’ll find him one day, under the Hydrangea or on top of the boiler, and he will be still. Whenever I see him asleep I stop and watch to see if his chest rises and falls. We haven’t spoken about it but I know my sister does the same. We’ve cried buckets when he’s been ill and my sister dreads having to tell Betty when the day comes. More than that, she dreads the Christmas when there isn’t a present, with a large orange cat-print on it, to be delivered next door.

We suspect, but don’t know, that his previous owners dumped Rufus. A well-kept, five-year-old neutered, tom had to come from somewhere. Did they ignore the advertisements my sister placed? Maybe the cat just wandered off, his owners didn’t see the ads, and they always wondered what happened to him. Maybe his owner died. Whatever the truth of Rufus’s past, their loss was our gain. My niece and nephew have never known life without him and my sister and I consider life in two halves – BR and Annus Feline. We won’t have him for much longer, I suppose, and we must consider every day a blessing. We are sad but that doesn’t mean we don’t laugh when he falls off something (as long as only his pride’s hurt). It doesn’t mean that we overlook the fact that he is a total sod most of the time. And it doesn’t mean that we won’t tease him – like we did yesterday by surrounding him in the garden and singing Happy Birthday. He wasn’t impressed. He got up and stalked away with our three cheers ringing in his (mostly deaf) ears. We did refrain from chasing after him and giving him the bumps, though.

Poor old Doofus, you’d think he’d be fed up by now by but he’s sticking with us and we’re sticking with him. Every few weeks we load him into his basket and drive him to the vet. Each time is a quiet nightmare of asking will this be the trip when the vet says ‘it’s time?’ We’ll keep doing it, though, because he’s worth it. He’s our ginger dude who’s too sexy for everything and we love him. And so does Betty.


And, if you’re worried, Rufus has left a will. He’s listed all Betty’s presents for the next twenty Christmases. So that’s that sorted.


Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Family Life


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