The Worlds Spinning too fast n I’d Like to Get Off!

You know sometimes you get that feeling, a bit like dejavu. Almost as if you’re on the outside of your own life looking in at whatever it is you’re up to and you think “how on earth did I end up here?”.

Well that was the entire of April for me….come to think of it it’s been most of May too. It seems to be an unwritten rule that comes into play with each new day of grownup hood that there seems to be less hours in a day 10x as many things to do and not enough days in the week to do them. It feels like it might be Christmas tomorrow.

Now I have returned home to the slipway after the restoration of Peggotty, things are back to the way they used to be. The cold hard adrenalin filled world of boat building. Since moving back into the drafty tunnel that I used to call home I’m now on my 2nd boat bottom and its planking galore. With deadlines that are shorter than me it’s been high speed planking with no rest for the wicked, the life and times of the dirty little planker continue on.
We had the entire boat yard working on one boat in the slip which is a rare occasion for us although it has its ups n its downs. It’s nice to work in the company of others rather than quietly muttering to yourself all day but we do spend the entire time tripping over each other and incurring more injuries than usual. With 5 days to replace the entire transom, 15 planks and 16 ribs there was no such thing as personal space. The boss man was on the transom, I was on the planks and Guy was on the ribs. Clamps were flying everywhere and sawdust was being shot in all directions (it was like the boat building version of pearl harbour in there). With Steve hurling clamps and wood in all directions, Aidan blowing up plug sockets on heat lamps in an attempt to get the resin to set fast enough to keep up with us and Guy demanding that with every plank I put in I must take another one out to make room for a new rib, it’s safe to say that by the end of each day we were all exhausted. In the midst of all the madness I stopped for a few seconds to ask how my boss would like me to finish something off, he said “well what happened to that bit? If that bit was there, then it would look neat n tidy”, over worked, under paid and a tad exasperated I replied with “well let’s not dwell on where it’s gone or how it got there, it’s gone now we just need a new solution”. Without fail my pants were consistently full of sawdust for the entire week….needless to say you could have built a whole new boat out of what I had collected in my bra that week (the bit id snapped off n lost was probably in there somewhere). As usual, despite the impossibility of the task we had it finished in time and it was all perfect. She’s now floating in the river with the other 13 boats that are next on the list. My marking finger is missing several layers of skin and has collected nearly a whole plank of Iroko and I’m surprised you can’t see bones on my knuckles but it’s all part of the fun. Nothing like a good bit of hard fast character building.

 

Typically now that the worst of the winter has passed I’m now safely tucked inside the gloomy workshop just in time for summer, replanking a Bates boat, originally built just up the river from the yard. Unfortunately, all the planks that need doing are under the bilge keels so 2 days was spent crawling in cupboards, undoing bolts and prizing the dam things off with an array of wedges and a sledge hammer. I couldn’t feel my shoulders for the next three days but I do like jobs like that, when it finally drops to the floor with a thud you get a huge sense of satisfaction and it makes me feel well ‘ard. Nothing quite as satisfying as getting a good rhythm going with a hefty hammer.

So that’s a brief taster of what life at the yard has been like lately, it’s enough to make superman need a fucking holiday. On top of all that (remember folks, this is just April) I’ve also spent a weekend meandering round the docks of Gloucester; which was lovely but I was visiting all my friends with babies so there was a considerable amount of time spent staring at the ceiling whilst they discussed the benefits of washer dryers and the ups n downs of cloth nappies versus pampers. This was followed by a heavy weekend of celebrating the invention of cider in Essex which left me passed out in a smoking shed built of pallets by Sunday afternoon as I’d rather over done it and forgotten the fact that I can’t party like I did when I was 17. Then due to the serious drain this all put on my wallet I decided to undertake 2 big private jobs that have completely taken over my weekends and evenings. After working on nothing but boats for a few weeks I decided a trip to London and a night in a fancy hotel to watch a football game with my friendly folk from Essex was needed; I had absolutely no idea what was going on and have precisely zero interest in football but it does mean I don’t have to endure a train trip all the way to Essex just to see my people. In my left over spare time I decided to build a beautiful toy barn for my nephews 2nd birthday. Then regrettably I dismantled all the cabin sides of my boat after being lulled into thinking it was summer after a brief 2 day sunny spell, its rained ever since and for the entire month and the foreseeable future I now have no windows or walls with the weight of the roof being supported by a medly of carefully positioned sticks, which of course are all in the way. It’s a bit like living in a forest of branchless saplings at the moment…I’m not even sure when this happened, its all been a bit of a blur. Needless to say after all this fun and excitement I had cleaned out my wallet and have been living of museli for 3 weeks coz I cant afford to fill up my gas bottle.

If that doesn’t sound like quite enough for one person to do in 4 weeks then read the next paragraph.

The night before the big London football match I had been invited to “The Fitting out Supper” for The Accosiation of Dunkirk Little Ships. This was quite a privilege and I was only invited because of the work I had spent all winter doing on Peggotty. As the date for the supper drew nearer I got more n more nervous and a few times thought I might just ditch it an do two nights of football. I had never been to a black tie dinner before and had no idea what to expect never mind what to wear. After a few carefully worded questions round the yard I discovered that despite the name “black tie dinner” you didn’t actually have to wear black. One geezer turned up in a velvet tartan suit with frilly bits n everything! After much consultation with my big sister I finally found a dress and a jacket, the dam thing cost me half a weeks wages though so I left the tags on and took it straight back to the shop afterwards. I also discovered that if you can’t walk in heels then it’s best not to bother…it only accentuated my natural boat building swagger and made me look like some kind of London barrow boy in fancy dress.
The whole shindig was held at Eaton College Rowing grounds where they did all the Olympic stuff so it was just a tiny bit scenic. I was hoping there would be a bit of casual banter on the journey there to calm my nerves but alas the Bosses wife’s zip had broken on her dress so as “once twice three times a lady” played on the radio we bumped along in an awkward silence whilst my boss tried to calmly sew her into the dress, while the rest of us tried very hard not to laugh. As we drove past the schools of ex priministers and other posh people I had one of those “what the fuck am I doing here moments”.
When we arrived I made a brief attempt at mingling with the some people but it became pretty obvious that absolutely no one recognised me in my ridiculous outfit so after a couple pints of cider I decided to just declare my name and position, it worked! Once they’d all realised I was the chick that was usually black with dirt and hidden under a boat they were all really friendly. Much to my relief I had an awesome evening, at one point I decided that it would be sensible to switch to a glass of water after having mixed bubbles, port and cider all night. My bosses dad quickly noticed, glared at my glass of water and said “that’s for putting boats in, not for drinking” and so the merriment continued. I was doing pretty well at mingling by this point so I ambled over to a nice looking bunch for a bit of a chat, it was entertaining, all lovely folks but it became pretty clear they were used to a very different life style when they started comparing their hotel in Windsor to being like a dirty weekend in Blackpool.
When I woke up the next morning with my first ever champagne hangover it goes without saying that a rowdy game of football in the back streets of London was a bit of a contrast. I’d like to say a big thanks to all the folks at the dinner for letting me in and being so friendly, it was quite the experience.

I’m glad I’ve done it all and it’s been great fun but by fuck I need a rest! Oh what I would do for a day in my pants watching Netflix and eating bags of food with “sharing” written on the packet.

Only boring people get bored. Until next time folks

7 Comment

  1. Harry waddingham says: Reply

    Abbey, I have just read your latest memoirs and there was a big section about my Dad’s boat Nandura which you and your colleagues have just rebuilt! Great reading and thank you for all your hard work on the boat! Remember, black tie do’s are for old people anyway!
    Harry jr. (aged 45 1/2!)

  2. Ben says: Reply

    Great writing and enjoyable to read and looks you had been quite busy with the Boat Restoration work which looks great – keep up the good work.

  3. Abbey, it’s great reading you. It makes me consider stopping this work I’m doing and getting back to thé yard, building another little sailboat, go sailing with friends, have some pints… Live life. Really great blog. I’ll be back.
    And by thé way, you look great in that fancy dress and red jacket.

  4. Jon-Lee Paul Butler says: Reply

    Only you can make the vision of building boats as sexy to say (quote) “boat bottom and its planking galore”. How do you do it? It’s like listening to a butcher who seductively talks for pork sausages and chicken breasts!
    That dress though, I wouldn’t say a London barrow boy in fancy dress. Certainly an east end chick making an effort to stand out, like Peggy Mitchell behind the bar of Queen Vic.
    From my experience with black tie dress code, is the women tend to be in long silky frocks. Or is that just an army thing of military wives enjoying the awards ceremony on winning golf at the clubhouse function, I just so happened experienced while working there?!
    Just as long as you never still had the sawdust in your bra, no one suspected you with a chip on your shoulder?! lol

  5. canyon h. says: Reply

    I’m wondering how your blog, rich with detail,humor,real calluses..the rareness of a woman,wood chips everywhere,dripping of sweat,blood and tears,has taken this long to enter my view-shed … so thanks for poking you head into my port !
    Not only are your shares richly written,accompanied by equally tantalizing snap shots,bordering on not so ‘snap’ but thoughtfully framed etc….. plus richly placing us reader’s in the element we’re passionate about… hard work,about hulls,old wood,the sea nearby,cider,a girl busting her bones to get into the once ‘only man can do’ arena,plus,plus plus…. you rock as a writer. I’ve enlisted and will make you my companion over the mornings’ 1st rich Calif.coast brew’d stove top espresso . ~Canyon

  6. Lola from Wiv says: Reply

    Great stuff

  7. john paul says: Reply

    Abbey- great to see you back blogging. I knew you were busy planking. but it’s important to have a bit of side life too! Cheers, Boston!

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