A perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire
04 September 2021 | or Out of my league
I blame Chubby Checker. If it hadn't been for The Twist, I'd have learned to dance properly (i,e, with someone rather than at someone) in my formative years, when I had the hormone levels to motivate me, the agility to make it physically attainable and the coordination to make the resulting spectacle less overtly embarrassing than is the case now. "She looked me over
Prior to The Twist, in the days of the Local Palais, you needed to learn to dance with a partner if you wanted any degree of success in the human mate-selection ritual as carried out in sweaty dance halls and tacky-carpeted, eardrum-shattering discotheques. Pre-twist, (1960) you needed to be able to jive. Post-twist but pre Saturday Night Fever (1977) all you needed to do was stand in one spot and wiggle various bits of your anatomy.
Once SNF hit the screens, things got a little more difficult. You had to do all the twisty wiggling stuff, but it had to be co-ordinated, and you had to strike dramatic poses at intervals. Just to make things even more difficult, you were expected to do all this in time to the music. If this was all a bit too taxing for you, you were best off getting into the emerging punk rock genre, where all you needed to do was shout, spray copious amounts of spittle about, and lay on your back twitching your arms and legs in the air. Post punk & SNF all you needed was to get off your face on MDMA. Everyone was so luvved-up that you'd be in with a chance of pulling even if you looked like Johnny Vegas, sounded like Janet Street-Porter, smelt like a bad case of giardia, and had the dentition of Shane MacGowan
I had quite happily come to terms with my singular lack of expertise in the terpsichorean ambit - it was yet another of those things that I had resigned myself to as being one of the many unavoidable gaps in my life experience.
Not so Liz. She is made of sterner stuff and has, for some considerable time, been hassling me to learn to jive. I had countered these overtures with passive resistance, regretfully bemoaning the absence of classes teaching Jive, and assuring of her my deep and heartfelt anguish at the unavailability of certificated training courses for such a valuable pair bonding activity. Samba, salsa, tango mambo, even capoeira and the like all seemed to be well catered for. Foxtrot, pasa doble, jitterbug and military two-step? Ten a penny. American line dancing? Couldn't move for the buggers. Morris dancing? Couldn't hear yourself think over the jangling bells and fluttering handkerchiefs, but jive? Nary a peep. "If only we could find a jive class, dear heart" I would declaim, shamelessly, "I would be down there hammering on the door before you could say 'American Spin.' " Liz, however, circumvented my cynical machinations. She found a jive club in Javea that had a beginners' class and called my bluff. Cornered, I feigned enthusiasm and we went along.
It took us a while to find the place, and when we did, first impressions were not encouraging. It was on the outskirts of the less salubrious part of town, down a rutted, unlit track, hemmed in on both sides by tall chain-link fencing. The place itself originally served the mothballed go-kart track that sat alongside it. We found the door and tentatively walked inside.
The interior was even more dismal than the approach road. We peered through the Stygian gloom, trying to get our bearings. Ignoring the two pinch-faced alcoholics sitting at the bar mumbling bitter, disjointed, incoherent profanities to no-one in particular, we scanned further into the interior, where we struck lucky. The jive club was gathered in all its motley ex-patriate glory, on the dance floor.
We walked over, an action that proved an assault on all the senses. Everywhere reeked of old tobacco smoke and stale beer, a combination that had, over the years, laid a fine dark patina over all the ceiling, walls, furnishings, bar staff and clientele, accentuating the general air of seedy decrepitude. Every lifted foot from the carpet sounded like Velcro being ripped open as we struggled to overcome the adhesive power of decades of spilt beer and Cuba Libres. I felt like a rat struggling out of a glue-trap. The wooden dance floor continued the theme with patches of high adhesion, but these were now interspersed with lethal, freshly christened areas with coefficients of friction on a par with that of wet fingers holding a bar of soap liberally doused in baby oil. (1) We introduced ourselves and surreptitiously took stock.
There are about one million British ex-pats living in Spain. From our experience they are generally drawn from a fairly limited demographic. The majority are retired or of independent means. Servicing this majority is a stratum of ex-pat entrepreneurs running businesses such as bars, restaurants, British food shops, estate agents, swimming pool installers and development companies. Servicing both strata are a rag-bag of assorted chancers scraping a living from their (usually imaginary) abilities as electricians, plumbers, hairdressers, satellite dish installers, fitness instructors or Feng Shui advisors. In general, the only ones that manage to show any real talent for their professed occupations are the time share touts, most of whom would make Arthur Daley look like Forest Gump.
Javea has a substantial ex-pat community, the majority of which are British (2). The rest is made up of Dutch, French, German, Scandinavian, East European and Russian. Despite its multinational membership base, the ex-pat throng has a recognisable demographic profile.
Our new-found friends fitted this profile of being over 60, retired, of independent means and primarily British, with the exception of a sizeable contingent on the distaff side, who were in their forties/fifties or so, glammed up to the eyebrows, and Russian. The male detachment stood in stark contrast to the bunch of self-assured women standing opposite them. Looking at the confident, detached, open looks of appraisal on the women's faces, a Paul Simon song popped into my head:
And I guess she thought
I was all right.
All right in a sort of a limited way
For an off-night."
It would have certainly had to have been an off night. In poignant contrast to the carefully clad & coiffed, meticulously made-up and artfully accessorised women, a good 50% of the men looked as if they'd just been rudely roused from the depths of their afternoon nap. Nattily attired in rumpled cardies left unbuttoned over baggy trousers and vests, some of them had even come in their slippers. I was half expecting to find one or two still in their dressing gowns. They stood, unshaven, unwashed and unkempt, exuding a dejected air of utter defeat and learned helplessness, hunched forward with their hands clasped protectively over their genitalia as they shuffled across the slippy-sticky floor. My gait and posture are better than that, and I've got Parkinson's.
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with their song still in them." (3)
The non-Russian women were obviously those wives who had managed, like Liz, to bully, blackmail or bribe their reluctant husbands into taking part in this exercise in public self-humiliation. They looked at the Slavic interlopers with undisguised hostility. I don't see why; their assembled menfolk weren't exactly a cornucopia of testosterone-fuelled masculinity and were hardly trophy spouse material. Nah! I reckoned they were safe.
As was I. Glancing across the dance floor, I glimpsed a new figure through the gloom. "Another one" I thought to myself "Sad, slouched wrinkly loser." Shame it turned out to be a mirror.
The fiasco started off OK(ish). We began with the aptly named First Move. Martin (4) & his lovely wife Jackie talked us through it and then walked us through it. First Move - sounds benign, simple and forgiving huh?
It has 16 or so steps apiece, 4 changes in direction, and two under-arm turns, one clockwise and one anticlockwise. As if that wasn't bad enough, we had to learn some sort of arcane hand-to-hand braille whereby I was supposed to relay instructions to Liz as to what we were doing next. There was a significant problem with this, namely that 'next' would inevitably be 'same again' as this was the only move we knew. In addition, what's with all this soft tissue morse code business anyway? Our heads were only centimetres apart. All I had to do was whisper the moves in her ear: "American Spin in three - two, three and turn, two, three and back." Lot easier.
Nevertheless, we persevered and vaguely got the hang of it. "Great", we thought. "Half an hour's practice and we'll have this one cracked."
I neglected to mention that we were arranged in two concentric circles, women on the inside facing out and the men vice versa. Just as Liz and I were starting to get the hang of things, Martin called out 'Rotate!' and the rest of the women all moved one space clockwise, leaving Liz scrabbling to catch up.
Liz got the club Lothario, who was notable (and noticeable) for a number of reasons:
He was under 60. (Just)
He was clean shaven, well-scrubbed, appropriately well-dressed and generally kempt.
He could dance.
It turned out he was a past jive champion (East of England) (and bits of the Midlands).
I got Anoushka. Well, I think it's more accurate to say that she got me. I, too, had been thrown by the 'Rotate' instruction, and was gormlessly turning in circles, wondering where Liz had got to, when one of the glammed up Russian squad glided into my field of view. She stopped about half a metre in front of me and struck a pose, right arm in the air, left hand on angled hip, with her flexed, bestockinged, left knee protruding through the slit in her dress and pointing straight at my groin. She reinforced this entrance by holding eye-contact for about two seconds longer than was really comfortable and extending her left hand to me.
I froze in panic like a rabbit in the headlights, so she decided to save the situation by taking my hand and jerking me sharply towards her. My head snapped back, and my neck made a noise like someone screwing up bubble-wrap. Just as the pins and needles in my limbs were on the point of triggering quadriplegia, she changed tactics and started throwing me around the dance floor like an overgrown rag doll. I recovered my composure and held out my right arm, which she took in her left and deftly pirouetted in, winding first her arm, then mine, around her. She ended up with her nose almost touching mine, made prolonged eye contact and raised one eyebrow. I trod on her foot.
Recovering valiantly, I teetered for a second before taking up the start position for the next move, only to feel her hands clamp on my shoulders from behind before snapping me round through 180o so that I was facing the right way.
The torturous indignity continued unabated. We were supposed to be executing a move called 'octopus', but I reckoned that Anoushka was going for two falls, two submissions or a knockout. Her technique is difficult to explain, but if you've seen those street entertainers who have a weighted dummy sewn into their outfit, which they then throw about and dance with,/flirt with/fight with/indecently assault then you'll have a pretty good idea. I'm just grateful that we weren't doing a tango.
By the end of the evening, I still only knew the one move, and that barely to the level of 'Just about recognisable'. To cap it all, I felt like I'd just gone the full six rounds with Giant Haystacks. I resolved to give up on this Jive lark and go for something gentler, like alligator wrestling.
Goodbye to all that...
27 August 2021 | or 'The Whine of the Ancient Mariner
They call it 'Swallowing the Anchor'.
"What do they call 'Swallowing the Anchor'?", I hear you cry in a 50:50 mix of inquisitiveness and frustration. "And anyway", you continue reproachfully, "What a silly name. Nobody can swallow an anchor. Even a blue whale would have trouble." (1)
Let me put you out of your misery. This colourfully surreal, if anatomically challenging, term refers to that sad point in the life cycle of the full-time liveaboard yottie when he finally accepts that the game is up. It's over.
No more relaxing drinks on the aft deck in an idyllic Turkish anchorage. No more snorkelling over Roman-era ruins, just a few metres off the boat. No more exploring Roman amphitheatres and bronze age sarcophagi. No more romantic, candle-lit meals at the waterside restaurant, watching the boat bobbing peacefully while it waits patiently for your return. No more ghosting along in light winds, the only sounds being the hiss of the water against the hull and the lapping of the tiny wavelets. No more sharing the night watch with a pod of playful dolphins cavorting and barrelling round the boat. No more early morning standing on deck with your first cup of tea, watching a huge loggerhead turtle flopping lazily round the hull.
On the plus side, no more anchor watches in crowded hurricane holes. No more wrestling with jammed sheets as a sudden squall knocks the boat on her beam ends. No more contorting yourself into a bucking locker to try to find out why you've suddenly lost steerage on a rocky lee shore. No more white-knuckle climbs up the 12-metre mast to free a jammed halyard. No more peering myopically at the radar screen when the visibility drops to five metres in the middle of a busy shipping lane. No more leaving at sparrow-fart so you can get into your next mooring before it fills up with preening Italians in minute budgie-smugglers. No more having your anchor lifted five times a day by people who really should know better. No more wriggling into a wetsuit that might, just, have fitted you twenty years ago, so that you can spend 45 minutes under 16 tonnes of violently pitching boat, surrounded by jellyfish, while you cut free the wrist-thick rope that's welded itself to your propshaft.
Nope - that's it; our yottie concedes (to himself if not to anyone else) that the great publican in the sky has called Time Gentlemen Please on his peripatetic nautical lifestyle. The proximal cause can be almost anything, among the favourites being: failing health, fading fitness, slowed reaction times, the arrival of grandkids, suddenly finding some potentially disastrous and unaffordably expensive flaw in the boat, losing your house and pension to some dodgy boiler-room scum in Nigeria or the Cayman Islands or Mrs Yottie running off with a 23-year-old Greek fisherman who knows how to make her feel like a woman (2). The distal cause, though, is almost invariably Anno Domini in some guise or other.
The term swallow the anchor has undertones of sudden, probably short-lived, finality. It implies a purposeful decision, a cogent plan, firmly carried out with regret, yes, but also with grit, determination, and honour.
Not us, though. We can't even do that right. It wasn't so much that we swallowed the anchor, more that the thing slithered across the deck and wriggled itself surreptitiously down our oesophagi while we were mentally engaged elsewhere; extracting the cat from the water, or trying to work out why the bloody fridge has stopped working again. Our change of circumstance has been inordinately drawn out, ill thought out, badly planned, woefully researched and appallingly executed.
Same as all our other important, life-changing decisions, then.
Throughout our lives, however, this arrant foolhardiness has, fortunately, been well mitigated by far more than our fair share of luck. Things always seem to work out. (3) Our move to the inland waterways was supposed to be a gentle staging post. We were still going to be full-time, water-borne nomads, just in a slightly less frightening environment.
Things started off as planned. We sold Birvidik to an upright couple who we judged could be trusted to look after her properly (4) and then drove to, and around, the Netherlands looking for our dream canal/river boat, which we found in a mere five days.
We spent our first winter in Amsterdam, and it was here that we experienced our first little nagging doubt as to whether we had researched this rather drastic move as thoroughly as it warranted. We had blithely assumed that liveaboard life on the inland waterways would, in general, follow the patterns, norms and activities of life on a sea-going boat, only with much smaller waves.
We were wrong.
Liveaboard life on the inland waterways is qualitatively different from that on the open sea. These differences are particularly pronounced in the areas of freedom of movement, overwintering and social interaction. The first of these is driven by geographical imperatives. The last mentioned is a numbers game. The middle one bridges the two.
In terms of freedom of movement, comparing the inland waterways with seagoing is like comparing the French legal system, based on the Napoleonic code, with the British one, based on precedent and Magna Carta. In Britain something is permitted unless specifically prohibited by law. In France, something is prohibited unless specifically permitted. At sea, a boat can go wherever it likes as long as the water is deep enough and the area isn't, for example, a live firing range (5). It's like driving a car on a gigantic, completely empty car park. The inland waterways are more like driving down a narrow, single track, country lane with occasional passing places.
The weather plays a starring role in the yottie's existence. The seagoing yottie is primarily concerned with wind direction and strength, and the subsequent sea state. Consequently, he always has one nervous eye on the weather. (6)
Mr Inland Yottie, on the other hand has different priorities. Wind and sea state don't usually bother him that much. He can tie up virtually anywhere, and you can't build up much of a seaway with only a ten metre fetch. No, what bothers him is rainfall or, if he paid attention in geography lessons, snowfall. Or, if he got 'A' level geography (before it metamorphised into 'O' level geography with four re-treads and a sprayjob), snowfall and melt rates in countries other than the one in question. It is mainly the winter accumulation of snow in Switzerland and Germany that that acts as the reservoir for maintaining the water levels in the French inland waterway network.
For the inland yottie, water level is all. It can vary (depending on the geographic position) from as dry as a bone to more than eight metres above standard reference height. Either way, you're stuffed. If it's too low, you ground in the channel and you're stuck there until the water rises again. This could be months. If it's too high you ground in the middle of the high street, just opposite Intermarché and blocking the entrance to the Mairie. That's assuming that you've been lucky enough not to have been rolled sideways over a weir beforehand by the 10-knot flow.
And I used to worry about the Alderney Race.
The other geographical feature that looms large in defining the differences between the two cruising styles is climate.
Seagoing yotties, as the name implies, tend to stick close to large bodies of water, or The Sea as we nautical types call it. The sea acts as a heat buffer and keeps temperatures more or less in the Goldilocks zone. The inland waterways, as their name implies are, well, inland.
As in not near the sea.
As in away from the moderating influence of large amounts of water.
As in having a continental climate.
As in blistering hot summers and (more importantly) absolutely ball-achingly cold winters, with temperatures dropping down to -20 degrees C or even lower, and snow drifts you could lose your boat in. In fact, in which you could lose the entire bloody waterway. It becomes impossible to differentiate between the canal or river and the surrounding countryside. It's very disorientating to arrive at your boat and see it poking up from the snow, in the middle of what you thought was a field. And this leads us to the numbers game.
He's a sociable cove, your average yottie, especially if it involves alcohol and especially in the winter, which is generally regarded as R&R time. The Med has a finite number of top-notch wintering holes, which therefore tend to be well patronised, frequently warranting reserving a spot up to a year in advance. As a result, most good overwintering holes have a potential winter social pool of anything up to 400 yotties. In Amsterdam there were a total of two.
You can see why. Amsterdam is a compact, lively, stimulating city. It has a first-rate public transport system, friendly, almost universally anglophone people and an endless cultural cornucopia of things to see and do. The winter weather, however, is absolutely bloody vile. The default setting is howling wind, driving rain and temperatures hovering around freezing. Rest easy, though. Amsterdam has a temperate climate. Toul, where we have wintered, is heading for fully fledged continental climate status.
Virtually no-one overwinters aboard in inland Europe. We certainly didn't. We hauled her out, winterised her and buggered off to Spain for five months, book-ended with flying visits to Portugal and Jersey. We were now only on the boat for six months out of twelve. By default, almost without noticing, we had lost our exalted status as full time, liveaboard cruisers and were now downgraded in the yottie hierarchy to part-timers.
OK - I can live with that. At least we still lived on the boat for more of the year than we did anywhere else.
Then Brexit lumbered over the horizon, closely followed by covid. Between the two of them they effectively put the kybosh on cruising in any incarnation. We haven't even seen the boat for two years now.
So, after nearly two decades of being Cock of the Walk, we're now plummeting down the yottie pecking order. At this rate, by next year we'll be on a par with vermin - just below resort speedboat hirers and fractionally above jet-skiers.
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
I am Ozymandias, King of Kings. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.
(1) You're more right than you think, sunshine. A blue whale's oesophagus is a mere 10 cm in diameter. It couldn't swallow a whole grapefruit, let alone an anchor. And certainly not Jonah.
(2) This, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with the fact her miserable state pension brings in more in a month than he gets from his entire yearly catch.
(3) Luck, good or bad, plays a much larger part in the affairs of men than is generally recognised. Napoleon, when selecting new generals, always opened with the question "Is he lucky?" Napoleon, obviously, knew bog-all about statistics.
(4) It is surprising how anthropomorphic the majority of yotties get about their boats. When we sold Birvidik I, it felt like a betrayal. See
(5) We have failed on both these counts
(6) This is expanded upon at:
Just a Minute
16 August 2021 | Found in marina toilet, torn into squares and nailed to door.
The Old Fogeys Mediterranean Winter Liveaboard Yacht ClubMinutes:
(Incorporating the Chipping Norton, summer cruising only, Jessies Association)
Patron: Albert Steptoe (Deceased)
Commodore: Captain S. Morton
Weekly General Meeting
1. Quorum / call to order.
2. Apologies for Absence:
(Medical / Dead / Piles Playing Up Again / Went to Wrong House (or boat, or bar) / Fell Asleep / Fell in Marina / Forgot.)
3. Minutes of last meeting.
4. Report of Neighbourhood Watch Sub-committee
5. Report of Finance Sub-committee.
6. Report of the Everything's Going to Pot Sub-
7. Report of the Covid 19 Special Temporary Ad Hoc Sub-committee. (Now in second year)
8. Q & A Session.
9. Any Other Business.
10. Close of Meeting.
In the Chair: Captain S. Morton S/Y Matador
On the Floor: Captain A. Du Beke S/Y FT
Under the Table: Most of the other members
Minuting secretary: Captain R. Newbury MV Birvidik II
I/C Tea & Biscuits (& Beer): Mrs S. Morton* S/Y Matador
First Aid & Incontinence Precautions: Mrs E. Newbury* MV Birvidik II
* = Ladies given special dispensation to attend on the grounds of their possessing specialist skills.
Item 1 - Quorum:
The Chair reminded the meeting that, in view of the unfortunate outbreak of amoebic dysentery and the limited provision of toilets in the marina, it had been agreed to reduce the quorum to five. After three recounts it was agreed that the quorum had been reached once Captain Pebbledash and his Jack Russel, 'Vector', both of S/Y Both Ends Now, had finally arrived.
Item 2- Apologies for Absence:
Captain Stroppygit of MV I Know My Rights - under arrest for lèse-majesté following a full and frank discussion with the local Chief of Police regarding the taxation status of said motor vessel, and the correct lane to use when going straight on at a roundabout.
Item 3 - Minutes of last meeting:
Passed nem con. (Although Captain Newbury wanted it officially noted that whoever took the last minutes was an ignorant cretin. Said minutes misused 'fewer' and 'less' three times, contained two instances where a sentence was ended with a preposition, split four infinitives, generally played fast and loose with apostrophes, peppered the whole document with unnecessary exclamation marks and sported no fewer than seven spelling errors. The fascist chair told him to shut the fuck up and get on with today's minutes.
Captain Clenchknees of S/Y Dribble made a correction. His absence was not due to his piles playing up again, as minuted, but to prostate problems. His Chalfonts were fine at the moment, thank you very much.
Item 4 - Report of Neighbourhood Watch Sub-committee:
Captain Shrivel of MV Yes Dear reported that his wife told him that a woman at her yoga class had been told that her sister's boyfriend's cousin had seen three suspicious types in dark clothing and big boots, carrying what she could have sworn were firearms, casing the boats and obviously noting down their vulnerabilities on a clipboard. After lengthy discussion it was agreed not to raise the matter with the Port Police on the grounds that it probably was the Port Police.
Captain Shrivel's wife further reported that 'Er who was no better than she should be, Mrs all fur coat and no knickers from MV Slack Alice was continuing to bring the cruising fraternity into disrepute by entertaining gentlemen callers on board, and what, she wanted to know, was the committee going to do about it. Several members visibly reddened, and Captain Cakewalk of S/Y Absolute Doddle stammered that it was all probably very innocent, and they were in all likelihood merely workmen, brought in to fix the plumbing in the aft stateroom, which was in a terrible state, you should see it.
This interpretation was agreed nem con, Mesdames Morton and Newbury being disqualified from voting on a technicality. Something to do with hormones - PMT? HRT? PTSD? OCD? Menopause? HGV? - I don't know. Woman stuff.
Item 5. Report of Finance Sub-committee.
Captain Pivot-Table of MV Spreadsheet Too reported that, in real terms, marina fees are going up, pensions are going down, prices are going up, availability of goods is going through the floor, and taxes are going through the roof. He essayed that, in his professional opinion, and with the unique insights afforded him by 25 years as an accounts clerk, this was hardly surprising in view of bloody fucking Brexit. The chair reminded Captain Pivot-Table that, after the disgraceful language and intolerable physical violence shamefully displayed at the 'Getting to Know You' dinner, the committee had agreed that the organisation would be studiedly neutral vis a vis this matter and that there would be severe consequences should anyone mention Brexit again. A voice from the floor (unidentified) said "You just said Brexit" at which another unidentified voice called out "So did you!" The minuting secretary said he couldn't be arsed to minute this drivel and would merely cross reference to the script of The Life of Brian.
The Chair further reminded Captain Pivot-Table that in the light of the recent bloodbath following the resolution 'This house believes that Brexit should not be allowed to divide the cruising community' the group had agreed unanimously (if sullenly) that 'This house is Brexit neutral and that from now on the B-word is forbidden in speech or writing at any gathering of the said group'.
Mrs Morton snorted that they could all make a good start by making it gender neutral and get some testicle-toting twat to serve the bloody tea and biscuits. The lily-livered chair expressed sympathy with this view, but then he would, wouldn't he?
Item 6. Report of the Everything's Going to Pot Committee.
The report was delivered by Captain Amanuensis of MV Palimpsest, on behalf of committee chair Captain Max Bygraves (absent, Dead). Having established that he wanted to tell us all a story, Captain Amanuensis set the scene by explaining that Fings Ain't Wot they use' ter be. (Murmurs of approval from the floor.)
Captain Newbury enquired as to what progress had been made in combating the atrocious decline in the standard of English in common usage, extending even to those on the BBC, let alone Yer Yoof, innit? Mrs Newbury rolled her eyes, grimaced, and gave him one of those looks of hers that could incapacitate a lesser man at twenty paces.
Item 7. Report of the Covid 19 Special Temporary Ad Hoc Sub-committee. (Now in second year)
This was deferred as the entire Ad Hoc Sub-committee was self-isolating after the secretary's wife had a bit of a tickle in her throat and someone sneezed in Lidls. The pathetic, lily-livered Chair moved Next Business but was interrupted by Captain Hingeless of S/Y Hidden Motive, who proposed a motion of no confidence in the sub-committee on the grounds that the deferment was the result of a conspiracy between Dominic Cummings and the current Chair, with the intention of planting fake news in the group's annual newsletter.
When asked by Captain Newbury why such busy people should waste their time manipulating a publication with a circulation of 12, none of whom actually read the bloody thing, Captain Hingeless argued that it was an attempt to manipulate influencers in the nautical community to counter their growing concern that Brexit - sorry, the B - word had been an unmitigated disaster for the influential cruising community. All this would never have happened if Ted Heath had still been in charge.
In a supplementary question Captain Newbury asked Captain Hingeless why he (Captain Hingeless) was still wearing that colander on his head when he (Captain Newbury) had patiently and clearly explained to him (Captain Hingeless) that plastic cannot form a Faraday cage. The fascist, incompetent, pathetic, lily-livered Chair (Captain Morton) then ruled his (Captain Newbury's) question Out of Order on the spurious and vindictive grounds of personal attack.
Item 8. Q & A Session:
The minuting secretary notes that this consisted mainly of longeurs of terminal tedium broken all too rarely by far too short intervals of light relief. He made an executive decision to record only the latter.
(Medical): Drs Hacker (MB, CHB) (Luton Technical College) & Quack (Dip. Med. Hom.) (aegrotat) (Prince Charles Academy of Homeopathy), with the more outlandish and wildly speculative advice ably corrected by Mesdames Morton & Newbury.
(Financial & Legal): Captain Pivot-Table, assisted by Captain E. Saunders of MV Miraculous Recovery.
(Local Matters): Signor Spietato Bastardo, corporate problem solver.
Captain Playdough of S/Y Droopy asked (on behalf of a friend) whether viagra or cialis was more effective in treating um.. you know...'thingy', er.. wotsit, down there. Dr Hacker said that, in his extensive experience, each had its pros and cons, but he could arrange an appointment with a specialist on MV Slack Alice. Dr Quack added that an aqueous solution of bull's semen at a dilution of 4.5 million to one taken sublingually was more effective than both of them put together. Mrs Newbury interjected that that was a load of old bollocks, and she should know.
As a supplementary question, Captain Stirwell of MV Agent Provocateur asked if it was true that the EU was deliberately obstructing the flow of essential medicines, such as Viagra, in order to undermine the grit and resolve of our valiant negotiators. Dr Hacker replied that there was no firm evidence, but he wouldn't be surprised at anything the sneaky underhand foreigners got up to.
Dr (?!) Quack interjected that, in the case of vaccines, this would be to our advantage as vaccines were lab-manufactured toxins that were specifically designed to cause covid (and, probably HIV, ADHD & RSVP), weaken the immune system and make us all gluten-intolerant, sterile, autistics. The only proven treatment for covid, he averred, was a solution of extract of foetid dingo's kidneys at a dilution of twelve million to one, administered per rectum.
At this, Mrs Morton uttered a low, guttural growl and flew across the room, grabbed him by the hair, and drove her elbow into his face, whilst screaming an incomprehensible torrent of disparaging epithets. The only ones clear to the minuting secretary were "Unscrupulous little needle-dicked fraud" and something involving dangly objects and a pair of rusty secateurs. Before the minuting secretary could ask Mrs Morton for clarification, she was pulled off by Mrs. Newbury, shouting "Leave 'im Steph - 'E ain't worf it!"
Once order had been restored, Captain Homesick of SY Brave Blighty asked Signor Bastardo if anything could be done to alleviate the effects of the recent shortages of essentials such as baked beans, marmite, lorry drivers, and coherent, informed and internally consistent Government Policy. Signor Bastardo replied that the last-mentioned posed a bit of a challenge, but in general, there was always something that could be done about anything, and where there was a demand then supply will always find a way. Indeed, he and his associates had already been engaged to resolve these very issues by a number of influential organisations and plans were well underway. He was sure that members would be receptive to his offer of a piece of the action in return for the use of their boats and seamanship skills.
Captain Tangle of S/Y Red Tape asked the panel for clarification on the covid requirements and visa regulations appertaining to travel between the UK and the boat. General mayhem ensued on the floor. Opposing interpretations were argued vociferously but without rigour, knowledge or understanding. The subsequent interminable, uninformed guesswork masquerading as fact was excised in its entirety by the minuting secretary, on the grounds that it breached the Geneva Convention.
Item 9. Any Other Business
A formal motion was proposed by Captain Agent-provocateur and seconded by Captain Stirwell:
'This assembly instructs the committee to set up a Brexit (There, look. I said it) Sub-committee (Groans from the floor) tasked with investigating its effects, justification, history, future and implications for the cruising fraternity. (Catcalls from the floor. Shrieks of indignation from Mesdames at the use of the word 'fraternity'. Signally unsuccessful calls for order from the chair. Smug chuckling from the minuting secretary.)
Item 10. Close of Meeting.
Unable to restore order, the pathetic, lily-livered, incompetent, fascist Chair closed the meeting just as the first ashtrays, beer bottles and sets of dentures started to fly. The minuting secretary was unable to ascertain exactly what was said as the soon-to-be-ex Commodore & Mrs Morton left, but he was sure the words "That bastard Newbury", "Sore loser" & "Set this all up" floated above the melée.
The minuting secretary, (and Commodore-soon-to-be) smiled quietly to himself, tapped his papers into a neat stack, and softly left the room, deftly dodging the hail of ashtrays, beer bottles and folding chairs. All that behind-the-scenes negotiating had paid off, and the final motion was a stroke of genius. Mission accomplished.
History is written by the winners.
And by those who write the minutes.