Thursday, 27 December 2012

A Dog's Not Just For Christmas

Guard-dog Snowy, who lives permanently on board
On Christmas morning I grabbed a moment to dash down to the boat to check the bilge. It wasn't too bad, considering the recent heavy and persistant rain, but certainly in need of some attention. I was greeted as usual by Tin Tin's dog Snowy (who lives permanently on board while keeping guard) but this time he was looking rather damp and forlorn.

We spent a few peaceful moments together, looking forward to warmer and sunnier days to come.

We reflected on the several furry friends who have previously joined us aboard.

First there was Harvey, who was happy to sleep overnight, but sadly his owners Lyn and Wayne couldn't hack it, and they left at three in the morning.

Then there was Desne's Hector, who loves the boat so much he recently came on board for a second time to enjoy the astroturf.

Ruby, belonging to my step-daughter Laura, stole my heart - and I hope she spends many more future doggy days with us in Wivenhoe.

My sister's pooch positively enjoyed his trip down-river to Brightlingsea. And Dave and his wife's little darling felt very at home joining in with our picnic on the rear-deck last summer.

Sister's pooch
Dave and his wife's darling
So, it just goes to prove that a dog's not just for Christmas. On the Boat For My Potplants it's for any time of the year.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

3xM (Magnificent, Magical, Merry) XMAS 2U

It's now proven that anyone who sets foot aboard the boat goes on to find that love is in the air.

Earlier this year Trish and Geoff came aboard and then promptly got married.

And now Nenah and Paul, who joined us for a Guy Fawkes party on the rear deck, recently announced their engagement. Paul also helped me with one of my expedition on the High Seas Of Wivenhoe.

Blimey, it's catching.

I'll have to bottle and sell this formula, and then make my future fortune with Boat-For-My-Potplants-Potion.

 So, while the loved-up couples are busy making their future plans and preparations, it only leaves me to wish all my blog's readers a truly Magnificent, Magical and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Frosty - NOT!

The date came for the Fundraiser evening at the Sailing Club, endeavouring to raise money for the community ferry from Wivenhoe to Rowhedge and Fingringhoe.

Up early, I scuttled down to the boat to collect my faithful old record deck (a bargain at £24.99 from Aldi) that I used on The World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station back in August.

Brrr! It was brass monkey weather - the first real frost of the winter - and I nearly came a cropper as I slipped along the side-deck and just managed to cling on in time.

Seven o'clock and the venue filled up with people eager to have a good time. It may have been frosty outside, but inside the reception was far from it.

Rowhedge on the other side of the Colne
What a result! Reggae, Motown and a bit of soul on the turntable with Jerry from Radio Wivenhoe helping to twiddle the knobs in all the right places. Many happy faces, and around fifteen hundred quid raised.

Not only that...did I really volunteer to get involved with helping to operate the ferry next year? Will I really want to go to Rowhedge? Of course I will. The Anchor's a pretty good pub you know.

And a bit of practise on the river certainly won't go amiss.

Saturday, 24 November 2012


Being a humble painter and decorator I sometimes have lots of time to think while the paint-brushes are doing the work. I found my mind wandering towards 2013 and thoughts of what next year's adventures would be in store for me and my Boat For My Potplants.

Apart from going out on the river for the ocasional picnic, once again it is music that comes to the forefront.

Eurekakaka!!! The boat should be turned in to a studio so that I can record weekly radio programmes, and not only that, I can have guests being interviewed and playing their guitar, keyboard, ukelele or whetever the heck they like.

I can play other genres that I know nothing about, like gothic, hip-hop, jazz and reggae, and the boat can become the perfect platform from which to launch this voyage of discovery.

One favourite is Mama Rosin. They're first on my list. They're French speaking Swiss, playing Louisiana Cajun style punk. Wivenhoe has fallen in love with them and for some reason they've fallen in love with Wivenhoe - so much so that they've written a song about us.

Check this out...Mama Rosin: "Wivenhoe"
PS: Best played loud after a few pints.


Monday, 19 November 2012

One Thing Leads To Another...

I must have had a couple of drinks the other Sunday at the sailing club (of which I'm not a member, being the owner of a motorised Boat For My Potplants) when I was asked if I might recreate the golden age of Los Amigos's Pirate Radio days of yesteryear - or was it merely yestermonth?

I can't quite remember - it was all such a blur. But anyways, I said yes to the fundraising scheme to get some much-needed dosh for the ferry fund.

Yes, Sir-ree, we do indeed have a non-profit-making ferry that runs across the river when high tide permits, taking passengers from Wivenhoe to Fingringhoe and Rowhedge, all for the good of the local community. If one timed it right, one could even take a bike and cycle off to Mersea Island, go once round, and get back in time for the last return crossing.

So one thing has led to another, and I'm jolly well looking forward to spinning the discs yet again, I can tell you.

It's all go. All I need to do is dig out that smash hit chart-topper by Gerry And The Pacemakers "Ferry Cross To Mersey"                                                                                   
Did I hear a groan somewhere?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Cats And Dogs Opportunity

Finally I had a little time to spend some time on my Boat For My Potplants yesterday afternoon, and the geraniums were looking a bit sad. It's that time of the year again to be thinking about the winter pansies, so off I went to Deans Nurseries to get a load.

Not only that, the boat also needed a good old tidy up inside, and a clean on the outside. So, by the time I got round to doing the gardening, it was already dusk, and I may have looked a little eccentric going about my business in the dark infront of some pub-goers. Never mind, eh?

But when I popped down there this morning to admire my handywork, I couldn't help noticing how dirty the canopy was looking.

It was raining cats and dogs, and I saw that as a perfect opportunity to get the Fairy Liquid out and give it a good old scrubbing, hoping that the rain would do the rinsing off for me. I may be a little eccentric, but I'm not completely daft, you know.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Craic = Water And Boats And Music

Lucky enough to have planned to visit the beautiful Irish town of Kinsale (County Cork), we turned up and discovered that the 2012 Jazz And Blues Festival was in full-flow during the (Irish) Bank Holiday Weekend.

Regular readers of my blog will by now know that I'm a tad partial to a spot of music, a few potplants, a touch of the black stuff, and the boating life - so I was, I could say, in my element.

As if it wasn't enough, our accommodation was right on the water's edge, overlooking the magnificent harbour - scene of historic battles between Irish and English during years long ago.

Thankfully that was all history, and nowadays the two nationalities embrace with a common interest in all things boaty and all things melodic.

The craic was more than good. The music was outstanding - particularly Jaime Nanci...when he came on stage we expected bovver coming from his punk and teddy boy exterior, until he opened his mouth and began singing sultry jazz in the voice of Nina Simone. It was exquisite.

And being drawn to a river, I was taken in by the tranquility of the many boats, motor and sail, that were moored up here.

Anyone getting the chance to visit - don't hesitate. Jump in at the deep end and soak it up, to be sure.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Old Boat, Old Car. Slow Down Neil

It was great on Friday night when we caught the train one stop away to Alresford to have dinner with some friends, Sue and Ian.

It was especially good because Ian shares my interest in old boats and old cars. Ian races at Silverstone. He's actually pretty good, and he has the trophies to prove it.

Over an excellent curry we chatted about his classic MG and my old Fiat 124 (Sport Coupe AC 1400cc 1968). We discussed our respective boats and cars. We talked about our hectic jobs, and the lack of time we have to indulge in our passions.

When I moved to Wivenhoe I thought I'd be semi-retiring, but life has turned out to be the opposite, being more filled with work than ever before. Never wanting to say no to a job, in case it's the last time I get asked.

But whether it's a car or a Boat For My Potplants, there's just always something to be done, and it ain't gonna happen without some better time management from me.

So, as we ease towards 2013, I must pull my finger out and slow down a bit. The river is calling me.

Monday, 15 October 2012

It doesn't seem that long ago that I met up with another Wivenhoe Quay Character, Pete. He's a roofer, you know, so we call him Pete The Roof. He used to have the mooring that my Boat For My Potplants now occupies. He's been busy preparing and repairing his lovely old boat all summer. And last summer too. And now it's nearly done, so well done to you, Mr Roof.

As I checked out the photo taken with me, I couldn't help noticing that I'd been putting on a few excess pounds. My wife agreed, and decided to drag me, I mean take me, on a nice walk around Mersea Island. 'It's only fifteen miles', she said. 'And it's a nice day'.

'FIFTEEN MILES?', I protested. But before I could think of an excuse to get out of it, I found myself going along with her plan, somewhat reluctantly, I have to admit.

Back home I managed to muster some energy to get down to my boat and tend to the geraniums.  Exhausted, I reflected on the day. It had been magnificent, and I thanked my lucky stars to be living here.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Pinching Myself

Blimey. I've got to pinch myself. After last weekend's not-so-great experience on my Boat For My Potplants, I've been having the good - no, great - fortune to have been asked to make a neighbour's boat become just like mine.

Blimey. It's catching. Sooner or later all my nautical neighbours are going to want one.

Blimey. What an absolute pleasure it's been to have been repairing, sanding, preparing and painting the interior of my customer's boat, from which I merely need to glance up and view my boat just a few yards away. And not only that, it's been all of 60 seconds to fall out of bed and get to of the morning.

Blimey. I'm even getting paid for doing this job, whereas really it is I who should be paying for having been granted such a great privilege.

It's the Wivenhoe Magic, making its mark again.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

If I'm Honest...

I glanced up and saw Nautical Neighbour John sail past in his magnificent 100-year-old vessel, and I guessed he was going away for the weekend like he sometimes does.

'Ah', I thought. 'Here's an opportunity to take my boat out'. You see, I'm a tad nervous about bashing into John's boat on my return to berth, so if he wasn't't there, no harm could come.

And so I eagerly invited Paul to come out with me. He was up for it so we arranged to meet the following day at noon.

But soon after meeting up with Paul I spotted John making an unexpected early return. My heart sank and I nearly chickened out - until John offered to join us as well.

So the three of us went out on the river. We chugged along upriver but the motor cut out a few times while I was practicing reversing. I don't know why. And when we came back the wind and tide were strong and I had to abort my first attempt. Then on the second try we (or more truthfully, I) nearly hit the one boat I didn't want to - John's - just as the motor cut out again.

Thankfully Paul managed to fend us off just in time, and all ended well, except for my nerves, which were a little shot to say the least.

I need more practice, and I need to know how to handle the motor better. If I'm honest about today's trip, I didn't really enjoy it.

But there's always tomorrow.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Bin Lid and Emperor Ming

As I was waffling on to Jason yesterday morning about the boat's story thus far, I realised that the boat has indeed taken on a life of its own - with all the mullarky happening because of its own energy.

You can hear the chit-chat by clicking on the green triangle to the right - but I clean forgot to mention my plan to have an Indian restaurant on board. Oh well, that's for another time.

And I'm certainly looking forward to getting on with the serious business of taking the boat out under its own steam, or petrol, just as soon as I can.

But in the meantime I'd like to report that the grand sum of 147 Bin Lids (*) were raised during the 'pirate broadcasts' and donated to the Wivenhoe branch of the Royal British Legion, from members of the public paying for their requests to be played.

We even had folks from around the world sending in their choices. Among others, Kate from Minneapolis wanted anything by The Who, Jackie in Buffalo likes Phil Collins, Paul in Spain selected Billy Idol and Deborah in Barnet asked for Sparks.

The power of the radio, eh?

Emperor Ming!!! (**)

(*) Bin Lid - quid
(**) Emperor Ming - ker-ching

Saturday, 22 September 2012

It's Great To Be Back On My Boat

It seems like ages since I was last on my boat for the magical evenings that became the World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station's first two broadcasts (a financial report will appear in tomorrow's blog). 

Since then we went on holiday, and straight after that I've been working away and haven't had the chance to set foot on the deck to even tend the geraniums (which are looking pretty gaudy now, I can tell you, so I'd better tend to them, pronto).

But this morning that all changed when I went down to meet Jason on board for butties and a cuppa.

Jason (that's a microphone in his hand, you know) wanted to conduct a short interview with me, following on from the one he did a couple of years ago, for his rather wonderful Wivenhoe Forum, which serves the village with useful information and interesting comment about what's going on in the community.

We sat and chatted, the kettle boiled and the bacon sizzled. The sun shone and reflected gloriously on the river, and all was good on The Boat For My Potplants.

It's REALLY great to be back on board.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Can't Wait

I was pretty excited when I began writing this blog and discovered that five or ten people actually read it. And then the figure became one hundred. Wow, I thought, pretty good, and I metaphorically patted myself on the back. Then it became one thousand and I celebrated some more. And now the number has topped 22,000! Well, I never.

'Erindoors and I return home today after our summer hols in France, and I can't wait to get back to my Boat For My Potplants, to see how it is, to make a cuppa on board, and maybe even sleep a night on it before winter sets in. As usual there are some plans afoot - Jason from the excellent Wivenhoe Forum is going to come down for a follow-up interview; I'm looking forward to seeing Jerry from Radio Wivenhoe to see where we can go with The World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station; and I'll be submitting the boat's story-so-far to a mainstream magazine, hopefully for publication in January.

But mostly I want to go out on the river. I want to gain confidence. I want to learn about the tides, the wind direction, the weather. After all, that's what it's really all about.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

I Name This 'Ere Boat...

My Boat For My Potplants has had a few different names since it was built.

The editor of the magazine asked me to include a little of the boat's history, which got me thinking...

In the beginning it was a bit like decorating a room where you strip off layers of wallpaper and keep discovering new writings that previous owners had scrawled on the walls.

When I was given the boat it was officially registered as "KINGFISHER", named after previous owner Ron regularly saw such a bird perched at its mooring in Little Paxton.

Barely visible at that time was the previous name "SOLACE" in sweeping letters on the sides.

A few applications of paint remover revealed "TARKA", which I understand was its original name during its time as a holiday hire boat on the Norfolk Broads.

And now she (is it a "she"?) is "A BOAT FOR MY POTPLANTS". I'm certain I detected the lady at the boat insurance company giggling on the other end of the phone when I rang to renew the other day. I can't imagine why.

And of course, for the two weeks' duration of The World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station, "LOS AMIGOS" became the name of the day, but the sticker is still stuck to one of the sides - but only one, so that's okay then, eh?

Uh, oh. I've heard that it's customary to perform all sorts of rituals when changing a boat's name, but I'm afraid I haven't got round to that yet. And to smash good bottles of Champagne for no good reason is surely bordering on criminal activity, so I haven't done that either. Good grief.

Send me to the tower!

Friday, 31 August 2012

Anything and Everything

I'll be writing some pages for a major boat magazine. What a privilege it is to have been asked to do this, and I am really looking forward to putting pen to paper. The editor has suggested I include certain elements about the unfolding story so far, and I've already been thinking of some words to include...

Wivenhoe: Fantastic. Quirky, Beautiful
People of Wivenhoe: Interesting. Fun. Creative.
Boats along the quay: Historic. Different. Loved.
A Boat For My Potplants: Anything and Everything.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Another Tick Ticked

It had been a challenge set a long time ago - when I'd first been offered the wreck that became the Boat For My Potplants.

'I've had an idea!', I had said to Mark and Greg after a few too many Guinness's had been consumed. 'I could start a pirate radio station on the boat, and then I could play whatever music I like. It'll beat trying to get a request played on Steve Wright's Golden Oldies.

And so the seed was sown. And when I finally brought the half-renovated vessel and parked it outside the Rose And Crown, I even daftly allowed myself to be interviewed by Jason of the rather excellent Wivenhoe Forum, during which I outlined my plans for The World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station.

There - I had said it. In black and white and glorious technicolor for all to hear - so it had to be done and I couldn't back down.

It was bonkers. It was fun. We raised some money for charity, and we added to the Wivenhoe myth of being a 'nice place, but a bit quirky'. We made it in the press, and I got to choose some songs to play on my very own radio show.

And a bright future beckons. More radio madness will surely follow. But I mustn't forget the true raison d'etre of the boat and its potplants.

And that is to use the boat as a boat. So the next challenge for me is to sail to Brightlingsea for an onboard sleepover, and return the following day. It might sound simple enough for experienced boat-people, but for me it'll be the scariest thing I've ever attempted.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Oh No, Not Again!

We made it in to the papers, and we're doing it all again this evening at six. 

Mark Wesley, the world renowned  ex-Radio Luxembourg dj and ex-proper radio pirate came down and joined in with the mayhem.

I rang him the other day to ask if he'd like to take part again. He said something about not thinking that his broadcasting career could have gone any lower until last Friday, and then the line went dead.

So instead, this week's special guest will be none other than John Yates - Mark's next-door neighbour.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Radio Ga Ga

It was just a slip of the tongue when I announced 'the next record is Radio Ga Ga', when I meant to say 'Lady Gaga' - but I think I got away with it. When my friend Neil offered me his father's boat to renovate, I didn't envisage this happening. Or perhaps I did.

On Friday evening, The World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station went on air for the first (and very possibly the last!) time. The Jolly Rodger was hoisted up on the aerial mast (actually my decorator's pole from B&Q), on top of the newly named Los Amigos.

'Good evening the World. It's six o'clock in England, one o'clock in Montreal and nine o'clock in Moscow'. We were off.

I had one of those "Oh, F**K" moments when I glanced up from my "studio" inside The Boat For My Potplants and saw literally hundreds of people on the quay who had gathered to witness The World's Biggest Cock-Up. The next time I have a bright idea, maybe I should keep it to myself, I thought.

But in fact it all went swimmingly well, and the four-hour show went by in a flash of mayhem.

Able Seaman Martyn sauntered around looking for nice ladies to interview on his roaming microphone.

Jerry from Radio Wivenhoe kept things steady-as-she-goes inside the "control room" on top of the kitchen (er, galley) sink inside the cabin.

Folks sat at the pub's tables with their transistor radios adorned with skull and crossbones stuck to their aerials.

And 'Erindoors became 'Eroutdoors, as Jane went round with the bucket, doing a fine job collecting money for The Wivenhoe Royal British Legion, as people paid for their favourite song to be played.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Los Amigos

In the vein of Radio Caroline's MI AMIGO, I've decided to name my boat the LOS AMIGOS, at least for the duration of The Barnacle Bill Show coming live from the boat this Friday, and next.

But LOS AMIGOS also truly does mean 'the friends'.

Wivenhoe is full of them. It's a friendly boat indeed, and certainly a friendly place. I'm convinced that the boat attracts them.

Take, for example, Richard, who runs "Clear To See" - Print And Graphics Centre in Brightlingsea. I met him a few of weeks ago. I told him about my Boat For My Potplants, and a smile came to his friendly face.

I emailed him up a few days ago (on a Sunday), not sure whether he'd remember me, and asked if he could supply me some LOS AMIGOS stickers in time for the daft and bonkers radio show. He replied immediately, and as if by magic, the graphics arrived quickly, indicating a level of customer service that I thought had gone out the window many moons ago.

Thanks Richard, mi amigo - a song for you is on the turntable ready for a spin.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Lapping It All Up

My hat goes off to top chap and another Quay Character, Phil. He managed to bring me down to Planet Earth with his wise words of wisdom last evening, while I was down at the boat trying out the equipment for next Friday's Barnacle Bill show.

Just as I was thinking it's all just another fine mess I've gotten myself in to, and generally flapping about with little radios that didn't work properly around the pub's tables, Phil calmly said 'if it brings a smile to a few people, it will be worth it. And if it raises a few pounds for a good cause, then even better.'

After all, I'll be in good company; my mate Mark Wesley (ex Fab-208 dj) is coming down. Jerry from Radio Wivenhoe will be holding my hand on both the decks (boat and record). Able Seaman Martyn will be wandering around on the quay getting people to choose their favourite tunes in return for a donation to the Wivenhoe Royal British Legion (the better the song, the more it will cost; eg Donny Osmond = 10p, Led Zep = at least a quid).

And of course Phil will be the bouncer, holding back the hoards of people trying to clamber on board The Boat For My Potplants.

 I wouldn't want to pick an argument with Big Phil, so with that in mind, I stopped flapping, and decided to lap it all up.