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Spare RIBs

A few weeks ago we had the Olympic torch through Ipswich and it came through the marina at work. It boarded a boat there, sailed to the Orwell Bridge for a photoshoot, then sailed up to Ipswich where it was taken ashore and was carried around town. We went to see it as it was trotted into Christchurch park and managed to get pretty close to it as it went by. It was shiny. Very shiny.

This info will become relavant soon. Keep it in mind…

So anyway, it’s contest time. Who’s having the most fun in this picture?

I (personally) can’t tell, but what I can say is “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE”

Several people at work own RIBs and one of the guys took us out for a spin in his over the weekend. It was two hours of heading down the Orwell, round Felixstowe/Harwich, up the Stour towards Manningtree and then back. And yes, we both had a go piloting it. Fortunately, we had a cracking day for it as its been a bit wet and ‘orrible lately. The sun was there but not too bright and the rain managed to hold off the whole time.

Leaving Ipswich behind us.

We saw Jabba the Hutt’s sailbarge outside the docks at Felixstowe.

The lightboat in the mouth of the river, there are some nasty sandbanks there apparently.

Loverly old boat for putting about in. I do like the old wooden things, they have some great character.

Of course where boats are involved a certain puffin had to come along. Hes been aboard a Royal Navy Destroyer and he’s stowed away on board a luxury yacht on a trip from London to Ipswich and now hes carried an Olympic torch further along the River Orwell than the real torch ever did.

The cheeky young scamp even took time out from his duty to sit on the side and enjoy the view while posing for a photoshoot.

(I told you to keep that info about the torch in mind)

Shortly after Harwich is a huge building which has spare blades for the sea based windfarm off the coast of Essex.

Some really nice boats are on the river.

The Royal Hospital School which has nothing to do with hospitals marked our turning around point.


It was very windy when we went at anything like a fast speed, but highly exhilarating as we bumped and jumped our way over the waves and wakes of other boats.

We had a fantastic time and it was more tiring than you would think, clinging onto the boat with wind blasting around you and sucking up lungfuls of fresh air when my natural habitat is a dark cellar with the smell of chemicals and paints and only the glow of an imac to see by. When we got home we both burst in on the missus (who had elected to stay behind in the warm and do some vacuuming) and still had huge grins plastered over our faces, but then spent most of the evening looking like a right old knackered pair. I don’t know about her but I slept like a log that night.

Saving the world one fathers day at a time

I don’t think I’ve ever saved the world before.

Well, technically it wasn’t just me, it was a group of visitors to a historical exhibition in town and the kids in the group did most of the work, but it was nice to be a part of such an Earth shattering event. Well the Earth wasn’t shattered, so actually it wasn’t an Earth shattering event but you get what I mean. No? Ok, I’ll try to explain.

It was fathers day yesterday and the daughter and I went to have a look round an exhibition called “Crash of the Elysium” which has information and artifacts from the Victorian steamer Elysium which ran aground in 1888. The daughter wasn’t too happy at being dragged into some boring old museum tour but, as it was fathers day, she put on a brave face. It didn’t help that it started with us waiting in a holding area for about 10 minutes where it was hot and a bit crowded. Due to the size of the exhibition they could only let us through in small groups and there seemed to be a lot of children around so I suppose they all had the same idea as us about fathers day. When our group was shepherded through to the first section there was a set of display cases with bits recovered from the Elysium which, despite the signs saying “do not touch”, some of the children started to poke and prod. A curator wandered out and began to give a presentation of the history of the Elysium along with photos taken while she was in production. During the presentation an alarm started to sound and a group of four army soliders burst through one of the side doors and started yelling orders, the curator was dragged out and the rest of us had to line up to be moved out to a different area which I had assumed would be due to safety reasons, but it actually turned out we had been drafted! They didn’t look like normal army types so I did wonder if they are part of UNIT and the ranking officer (who was a wee bit chummy with his corporal, much fist bumping and hugging went on) was yelling loudly about an alien spaceship crashing (I wonder if they had anything to do with that UFO over London on Christmas day back in 2005) and we had to help them out with checking the wreckage. I know there are budget cuts in the army but blimey…

Anyway, we then had to run (yes run) up stairs to a section nearby, don rather natty white paper coveralls, dust masks (it was like being back in woodworking class at college) and line up to be issued a number. The daughter got 9 and (un)lucky old me got 13. We got shouted at a fair bit by the ranking officer (I didn’t catch his rank properly) and the other three (one was called Ripley but was a man, maybe Ellen’s great great grandfather?) a lot. I did bite back the urge to ask if this was going to be a stand up fight, or another bug hunt.

We then got quickly hustled out of the mustering area and what happened next was a bit of a blur so I won’t try to give too much detail as most of it could be wrong, we were led to the crash site of the spaceship that had been mentioned. Yup, a real, live, alien spaceship. Well, the spaceship wasn’t alive but you get my drift and I don’t know which is harder to believe, a crashed spaceship or that it crashed in Ipswich.

The military team had recovered a black box from the crashed ship with a recording from what the corporal claimed was the ships doctor and, when they to played fragments of the recording, he really did look exactly like a normal doctor (bowtie, floppy hair, tweed jacket, slightly eccentric way of talking) but he didn’t look like anything I expected from an alien spaceship.

We then had to get inside the ship and for the next hour we ran through the rather dark and scary corridors (as I was number 13 and found myself at the back a few times I’m actually shocked I survived), we carried out experiments to check for signs of an object called a TARDIS and even ended up travelling back to a fairground in 1888. It was all very frantic and the kids seemed to know a lot more than the adults which just shows how well educated they are. Most of the time the adults got shunted to the back while the kids scrambled around fixing things and searching for information, they even knew something about not blinking but I think I was too scared and traumatised by that point to take it all in.

After being pursued by a shape lurking in the darkness, we got back home by all holding hands to focus some kind of energy and the daughter held onto a TARDIS key that we had discovered, there was a bright blue light and then we had to run (we did a lot of running) to a time portal where we managed to escape back to the outside and sunny Ipswich. (Ipswich? Sunny? Must have been the wrong place).

A massive thanks to the team behind the day for getting “Alpha squad” out safely in one piece and it looks like they shut down the Elysium exhibition as it was all closed up as we went by on our way home. Probably due to security fears or other kind of military mumbo jumbo.

I know all of this is pretty hard to believe (time travel, alien spaceships, shadowy army types) and I wouldn’t believe it myself if it wasn’t for the letter we each received at the end from this Doctor (Who? I didn’t get his name) chap. I’d post a photo of it but everytime I take a picture the words don’t appear on the paper so I think the camera’s broken. As we couldn’t have our phones on during the exhibition I didn’t have the chance to take any during our escapade. As well as the letter we did have our wristbands (aqua I believe) and our amazing memories of the event. It was also pretty hard to tell who was grinning more when we got home safely.

Oh and we went out for a meal that evening at Arlingtons which is a brasserie in the middle of town we hadn’t been to before and there was one strange moment when a lounge/jazz version of Soundgarden’s “Blackhole Sun” came on.

I’ve also given up pretty much on counting the days I’ve cycled into work. Lets just say I’ve not used the car yet ok?

having my bubble burst

Writing is a long, hard slog. It takes a long time and a lot of practice to get good at it, and it takes even more time and even more work to get someone to recognise that you’re any good at it.

I read that in a post this evening on Nicola Vincent-Abnett’s blog which reminded me of something from my misspent yoof, so I’m going to put down a teeny tiny tale of how I had my early attempts to be a writer was popped at an early age, but please read her blog post first.


Done? OK.

My very first Saturday job was working in a rare/second hand/antiquarian bookshop in Littleborough and I was there from age 15 to around 18 and loved it. To walk through a building stacked with huge piles of books, shelves groaning under the weight of paper and the smell… aaaah the smell of napalm in the morning may be one thing but the smell of thousands of secondhand books is truly the thing to love. I would mainly carry boxes of books around for the owner and help him with cleaning or sorting out for bookfairs and was paid about £5 for a days work along with a few paperback sci-fi books from his old stock. The stuff I was paid with was mainly in a second building that customers wouldn’t normally be allowed in, it was for his stock or for traders and there was a small corner of one room which was filled with old Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke and other pulp writers. I would grab a few and try to read as much as possible before the next weeks collection. I would be filling my mind with the vivid golden era pulp nonsense that much of todays sci-fi has lost in its attempt to be an all serious genre with its posh, no sillyness rules and it’s far too clinical nature. I think its one of the reasons I still read some 40k fiction these days (in between reading Hunter S Thompson and HP Lovecraft) because a lot of it with its ideas of genetically engineered supermen in spaceships that are huge floating cities in space and all encompassing evil aliens is the stuff that EE ‘Doc’ Smith would churn out write.

At one time I was studying my English A-Levels under the delusion that it would help my attempt to break into the film industry by being able to work with scripts better… hmmm. Mainly it taught me that babies make ‘biological noises’ when growing up and that the English language we all know and adore is a bastard language made from the raping, pillaging and invasions of the Danish, Dutch, French, Normans and other assorted Europeans out for a good time in the early 700’s. As part of my course we had to write some form of creative writing and it seemed natural that I write some form of pulp.

It was an obvious story, I know it now. Spaceship turns up in a busy park, hideously strange being gets out, army turns up (sounds like I’d watched the day the earth stood still too many times) and the big twist at the end is that its a spaceship from Earth and the pilot is a man. The story was supposed to be written from the POV of an alien (I think I gave them three eyes and tentacles in the final description just to round out the BEM element). So its a hack story, I was young and still trying to flex my writing muscles and as an attempt to get some form of creative feedback from someone other that my teachers and classmates I gave a copy to someone who came into the bookshop every Tuesday to have lunch with the owner, a Mr Trevor Hoyle. Trevor wrote sci-fi, he had written an episode of Blakes 7 (Ultraworld), several B7 novels, a series of alternative dimension books called Q and a smattering of other books so he was established. He was a curly haired, mustachioed shortish guy who would shuffle in but to me he was an item of awe mainly because he was connected with Blakes 7 and he once told me a story about how he met Philip K Dick and there was snuff all over a table. So I got a copy of the story printed off and gave it to Trevor for assessing and nervously waited.

To say I was shot down in flames would be an understatement.

Its easy to excuse it, that I was young, that I was new to all this and I had yet to find my own writing style but his comments pointed out it was all very cliché, that it was badly done and just basically said that everyone could write but not everyone should write. Sheeeeeeet… how do you counter that?

To this day I do not resent Trevor for his criticism, in many ways he helped me by making me face criticism at an early age and the maturity to deal with it rather than throw a hissy fit but I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t shown him. Would I have become some form of hack writer? Would I have practiced and practiced until I became the greatest pulp sci-fi schlock writer ever? Could I have been one of the people scribing one of the Horus Heresy books? No effing way as I was far too dedicated to getting into film making but by ditching writing early on I tried to focus more on story telling through other means, which was one way I enjoyed animation and film making at college so much. I own many of Trevor’s books and have enjoyed reading them. Many are signed to me and I remember enjoying a radio play that was on BBC4 (I think) that Trevor wrote and was set in the hospital that I could see from my bedroom while growing up. Ultraworld is one of the more bizarre and experiential episodes of Blakes 7 that was made and was only let down by the budget restrictions at the time. He is a good writer which is probably what made the letter he wrote me harder to digest. It sat under my bed in a place that most boys of my age would have kept porn magazines, but this one came with it’s own brand of shame burning a hole in my psyche.

The core point I’ve taken from Nicola’s blog is something I’ve tried to tell myself many times, never give up, but to this day I’ve never been able to put words to paper in any kind of story format because at the back of my head I have this teeny tiny Northern Kurt Vonnegut lookalike telling me I was crap.