A Boat For My Potplants

My nautical project had taken me to places I’d never previously been. Metaphorically speaking, that is. Despite renovating the boat that was given to me, and even receiving a free new motor along the way, I admit to being too scaredy-cat to venture out on the open river. My goal is to one day conquer that illogical fear.
In the meantime, I saw an advert for an old motorhome. What an excellent home for Churchill, our nodding dog, I thought.
Being very nervous of driving such a large beast, (and the fact that it's 35 years old, and needs a bit of fixing here and there), I reckoned it should be just perfect for taking to music festivals in, although we've never been to one before.
This, and other stories from Wivenhoe, (including the tales about Alfonso The Second - my deliciously beautiful poor-man's classic car) is all about my mid-life crisis well and truly kicking in.







Monday, 28 July 2014

A Blog About My Blog

It occurred to me that some people may actually want to see pictures of the old Boat For My Potplants, old Tallulah The T-Reg Motorhome, old Alfonso 2nd Fiat Coupe and even the old woman 'Erindoors, so I've been busying myself with updating this 'ere blog with some gallery pictures without me in them.

Whilst beavering away I couldn't help notice that the view count is coming dangerously close to 50,000.

Who would have thought that so many would have bothered to click their mouses, (or should that be mice, or even mices?) over A Boat For My Potplants.

I'm wondering what day the count will reach 50,000, and I wonder who will be the 50,000th clicker to visit my story.

Whoever you will be, WELCOME ABOARD!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Power Of International Goodwill

This week the Netherlands have been truly in the news for terrible reasons. On a lighter note I would like to thank Rene from that country for responding to a Facebook message I posted about the central console needing a repair job on Alfonso The Second.

He sent me some veneer, beautifully packaged and free of charge, despite me asking where I could send payment to him.

My poor man's classic is currently at the garage awaiting some welding work to be done in order to get this year's MOT certificate.

As soon as it's back with me I will be fixing the central console with the new woodgrain, thanks to Rene.
Veneer, ready to be cut into shape for the central console, thanks to Rene from Holland

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Rollocks! Saturday Night And Sunday Morning

Friday evening on the back of the Boat For My Potplants I met with Alison my health lady. I'm on a free NHS course to help me bring down my cholesterol level and reduce my alcohol intake. We sat and discussed what I ought to be doing as we downed a cheeky bottle of Rose and consumed a packet of pretzels. That wasn't quite the right idea in mind - but it was the end of the week, so that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
Saturday evening

After Alison had left, Jane came down and we decided to take out my little tender behind. By the time I'd walked home to get the buoyancy aids from the garage and we had faffed about with untying the ropes, finding the oars and ROLLOCKS, and all that mullarky, we sat in the dinghy about to cast off.

Sunday morning
No sooner had we settled down with oars in hand we could see that the tide was rapidly departing, and that was that. We barely had enough time to clamber back aboard the big ship and dash off to the pub where I proceeded to not do much good to my health campaign for the rest of the evening.

Sunday morning came, and I began Tallulah's make-over with a paintbrush. What a difference a few drops of Hammerite can make.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Sound Of Noisy Silence

I was concerned that my little tender behind was perhaps not tied up as well as it could have been. I awoke early this morning and decided to go down to my Boat For My Potplants at high tide so that I could adjust the ropes.

I wanted to wait for the tide to go out and make sure that I hadn't tied the ropes too tightly, so I sat on board and waited.

Usually I have some music on, but at 5am I was content to sit in quiet.

Although I can tell you that at that time in the morning the silence is very loud

I listened attentively to it.

There were the gulls and egrets. I'm sure I could hear fishes popping up here and there. In the distance I could hear a plane. Or was it some rolling thunder? The air was still and it began raining - gently to begin with, and then harder for a few minutes. The birds' calls became louder as if they were competing with the noise of the heavy rain drops splashing on to the river's water.

The beauty of it all was deafening.

It was a magical silence.


Monday, 14 July 2014

Music And Words

The future international best seller was created here
I had a couple of hours spare, so I used them wisely and went to the Boat For My Potplants armed with my iPad, upon which I am furiously writing my first novel, called appropriately Muddy Water.

I don't mean that I was furious when writing it, just that I was writing quickly as my fingers on the keyboard struggled to keep up with the words appearing before me in my tiny brain.

To calm myself down I put on some soothing music, thanks to the new inverter that I recently installed to replace the one that bust a few months ago.

Now I can listen again to my on board hi-fi as I 'become' the characters in my book.

I was Stanley Markland the horrible wealthy landowner's son, Tristan Thomas the gay politician, and Constance Markland who's desperate to have another baby. All at the same time.

It's a confusing and tiring occupation being an international best selling author. Or so I'm told.

The soothing music was listened to here (the round thing is one of the speakers)

Friday, 11 July 2014

Coded Message

I was up with the larks, up to the Co-op, and bringing back the bacon. And the beans. And bread, butter, tea, milk, mushrooms and tomatoes.

The Boat For My Potplants opened its doors, er, canopy, to its first (and very probably last) paying customers this morning.

Four gentlemen left with their bellies full, ready to face their day of trekking across the Essex countryside after sampling the breakfast, cooked exclusively for them by Yours Truly.

I was pleased with myself that I managed not to scramble the eggs (they were in fact supposed to be fried), but it was jolly difficult bringing everything together, having only the one ring burner.

They must have been happy 'cos they gave me a tip! It was 'don't give up your day job, Neil'.

But as I pocketed their payment(*), and grinned for becoming a few pounds richer, I'm now thinking of renaming the boat 'Cafe de Los Amigos'.

(*) =  coded message...THE DO MAN TAX NOT TELL

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Our Maiden Voyage In Tallulah - The Big Blog Post

Our first night's dinner, after a trip to Tesco's
Six days and 300 hundred miles may not sound much of a maiden voyage to you, but to me it represents a major excursion, especially in a 36 year old lumbermobile van with a gear stick that feels like it's set in pea soup, no power steering and a top speed of fifty mph.

Jane's cousin's civil ceremony to her partner Sarah gave us the perfect excuse to have a holiday and travel up to Lincoln Registry Office for the wedding of the year.

The glorious Secret Garden
This was our very first experience of staying at motorhome campsites and I feel it's my duty to pass on my unbiased opinions about each place we stay in from now on. It may come in handy to other motorhomers.

After calling in to Wivenhoe Autos to find out EXACTLY where the oil and water goes, we set off on Wednesday for the first leg to Thetford Forest Camping and Caravan Club Site, the most expensive one on our tour at £31.90. It was an open plan field affair in the middle of nowhere, but within wonderful countryside. The nearest shop was Tesco, about seven miles away (their own 'shop' was nothing to write home about) so off we set for our provisions.

The next morning, keeping 'Erindoors 'appy was the foremost thought on my agenda, so we went for a bike ride within the aforementioned wonderful countryside. On our return we packed up and drove off on our second leg to Wisbech.

Ta dah! Awning success.
The two sisters before the wedding
On arrival at that evening's destination, The Secret Garden, we nearly passed out at how spectacularly great the place was. Our choice of plot was in its own secluded area, the showers and toilets were immaculate, there was a micro-brewery (their superb beer sold on site) and also lots of lovely piglets waiting to become grown-ups so that they could become our breakfast (sausages sold on site). We were met by the friendliest of hosts (Leslie Pollington) who showed us our plot. I would give this place a ten (out of 100). No, only kidding - it was a definite 10/10!

Being there also gave us the perfect opportunity to work out for the first time whether we had all the things for our awning that came with Tallulah when we bought her. Have you ever seen two adults staring confusedly at a variety of poles, ties and materials, not having a clue as to what goes where? But eventually we succeeded.

Me with the two sisters at the wedding
The morning after - pop up concert BBQ
We were there for a wedding at Lincoln, and it was undoubtedly the wedding of the year, of the decade and very possibly of the century, but for now I will leave details about the wedding for a future post. This 'ere post is about the motorhoming experience.
Huntingdon, and we arrive in time to catch The Clones
We had a lot of fun at Oakhill. My sis-in-law Ann joined us, and that was fun in itself as we discovered whether Tallulah was big enough for all the three of us (it was), and on our hastily put-together BBQ for our last morning we accommodated some of the previous night's wedding guests for a pop-up private uke and guitar concert.

Then it was time to pack up and leave for our next venue at Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire, and to pay a visit to the Huntingdon Boathaven. Apart from the continuous drone of nearby motorway traffic, the place was another delight. The River Ouse a few yards away from our plot, the shower and toilet block had piped music from the sixties, and our visit coincided with a free concert in the park by a Rolling Stones tribute band. On exit we discovered an Indian restaurant from where we ordered a top-notch curry to be delivered to the campsite, and so we gave ourselves an evening off from cooking.

A bike ride was the order of the day for the next morning, and we found a wonderful ride alongside the River Ouze (the very same river from where I got my Boat For My Potplants nearby at St Neots.

Last morning of the voyage
Now being dab-hands at all-things-awning, we dismantled it and were ready for the off within half an hour of our return for our final leg of the journey back to Wivenhoe.

Now, I feel it is my duty and a pleasure to pass on details of our favourite campsite so far, so that fellow motorhomers can enjoy it too. It is at The Secret Garden, Mile Tree Lane, Wisbech, and I would bet a tenner of the Queen's English that you would not be disappointed! And what's more, it was the cheapest of our stays, at only FIFTEEN POUNDS sterling!

Bike ride along the Ouze

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

We're Off On Maiden Voyage

Tallulah, our T-reg motorhome will be taking us on our maiden voyage, beginning tomorrow. Or should it be WE are taking Tallulah on HER maiden voyage?


Jane has been busily preparing the on-board cupboards with all the things that we may be using on our travels. I will be tidying up the boot and cleaning the roof hatch.

All we really need is our toothbrushes and bottles of wine for our overnight stops en-route at Thetford Forest and Wisbech before reaching our destination just south of Lincoln for a further two nights.

First things first though, and so we will be calling into Wivenhoe Autos in the morning for my appointment with the chief mechanic.

I've asked him to show me where the water and oil goes. I know it's somewhere around the engine area, but I want to know EXACTLY where.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Preparing For Glastonbury

Today we took Tallulah to the Little D

ragons Pre-School Summer Fayre. We saw a bouncy castle, a shiny red fire engine, some dancing children and bales of straw. There were burgers in buns and cups of tea. And lots of rain.

And next Wednesday we are setting off for our biggest motorhome adventure yet - a round trip to Lincoln for Jane's cousin's civil ceremony. It's gonna be a blast being there, it's gonna be a blast getting there, and it's gonna be a blast coming back too.

We're allowing three days for the journey there, averaging 50 or so miles each day, staying at Thetford Forest and Wisbech en route, and I'm looking forward to finding out how the awning works, if indeed it actually does.

I'm sure that 'Erindoors and I will become happy campers.

And what's more, I've been invited by top motorhome journal MMM to write something in their mag, so our mammoth voyage will be an excellent way for me to finally get the hang of the gear changing. It really is like stirring pea soup.

Who knows? If this trip goes well we could well be looking at Glastonbury for next year, being the old hippies that we are. But in the meantime I am lucky enough to have a new co-driver, Beatrice.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

More Tea Vicar? Not Likely When There's Some Wine About

If someone had told me five years ago that five years after moving to Wivenhoe we'd be invited to the vicar's garden party for wine and sandwiches, I would have laughed at them.

Ha ha ha ha, I would have gone. But today it came true, thanks to the gorilla (named curiously by Jane's cousin Melanie as Vasco de Gama! Huh? What on earth was she on??) who adorned the Boat For My Potplants for the Wivenhoe Open Gardens.

Today the cheques were presented to the church and local charities benefitting from the record £4000 raised during that weekend, and participants were thanked for their gardening efforts, including 'Erindoors and yours truly.

I particularly enjoyed the very agreeable refreshments today.

Or did I particularly agree with the very enjoyable refreshments?

Whatever. Hic.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Never A Dull Moment

I'm so sorry, dear blog readers, to have been away from there 'ere pages for so long. I've been a busy bee with lots of things 'appenin'.

'What might they be?', I hear you ask.

Well, to start with, there's been a fair amount of painting and decorating work to be getting on with. That pays the bills, so has to take pole position.

Then on Wednesday evenings I've been meeting up with my mentor David, who's helping me write my first novel, Muddy Water, and in between our meetings I have been enthusiastically putting pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard these days), sometimes at two or three in the morning. Sad old me.

And our friends Vinny and Jay held their Silver Anniversary celebrations in Mersea, and they let us park Tallulah outside their house. It was great catching up with old friends like Pat West from where I used to live in North London.

What's more, preparations are now under way for the next World's Smallest Pirate Radio Station outside the Rose And Crown on the day after the Wivenhoe Regatta, on August 3rd. Jerry and I will be spinning the discs, pop-pickers. I'm waiting to hear back from Tony Blackburn, but I guess I may still be waiting a little longer.

And as well as all that I've slept on the Boat for My Potplants on not just one, but two occasions in as many weeks. It sure was a glorious sight looking up at the sky through the hatch in the early hours.

So, it's all been go, go, go. There's never a dull moment around these parts.


Thursday, 5 June 2014

Writers' Retreat

Last week I rushed out and bought the Colchester Gazette. Actually I bought all four copies that were in our local Wivenhoe newsagent. You see, I'd had a tip-off from those in the know that 'Erindoors and I would be featuring in the Home and Living section within the hallowed pages of the paper.

And sure enough we were! It was a nicely written piece explaining how we'd turned our boat into a 'roof-top garden'.

If only the paper had seen us in action at the weekend - they could have written about the roof-top garden being taken out on the river under the power of the Suzuki motor - which I have to say performed most magnificently. It didn't cut out once, and just purred along very nicely thank you.

But on the subject of all things prose, I godda tell you folks, an' I mean this most sincerely - the Boat For My Potplants will most definitely be featuring in the novel what I'm writing.

I'm already up to Chapter Three, and I only have another twenty seven to go before the mighty publicity machine will kick in and kick ass.

I can already see the headlines in the Gazette..."Murder on board potplant boat in Wivenhoe"

Woops! I'm giving away the story! I'd better go and make a cuppa coffee before I spill any more beans.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

In All The Excitement I Forgot To Ask His Name

I stepped off the Boat For My Potplants and a kindly gentleman approached me.

'Excuse me', he said. 'Are you the man who writes the blog?' He explained that he was from Loughborogh, and had recently discovered the delights of Wivenhoe, gone home to learn more on this thing called the internet, and came across my blog, which he then read from start to finish.

How nice of him. But sadly, in all the excitement I forgot to ask him his name.

Now, you may ask 'What excitement can there be in tending a roof-top garden on a boat?'

Well, you see, dear blog readers - I went out with the boat ON THE RIVER!!!

With enormous thanks to Paul and Mike who persuaded me to overcome my fears, we actually went a-sailing. And not only that, upon our return (thankfully with no crashes, bangs or even wallops), Paul helped me to bring round my new little old boat to its new home at the stern of my old old big boat.

So now I can truly say I HAVE A LITTLE TENDER BEHIND.

It's a crap joke, I know, but I love it!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

I Didn't Get Where I Am Today...(Part One)

I didn't get where I am today without preparation, and preparation is exactly what I was doing yesterday, bringing Tallulah out from her storage barn and taking her to Wivenhoe Autos for her annual MOT. And giving Churchill The Nodding Dog a ride out along the way.

This is all in readiness for two major trips coming up in the not-too-distant future. The first one is next week, to our friends Vinny and Jay for their anniversary bash at their home on Mersea Island, only fifteen or so miles away. They said we can park on their drive, so we can stagger out from their party and into bed without much walking being involved.

So I've asked the garage to check Tallulah over to make sure she's up to the challenge, and while they're at it, please would they sort out the intermittent starter switch problem, and also fit electronic ignition to replace the points. I don't know what that means, but it sounds good.

All this is good preparation for the second trip coming up in July, which will be the furthest we've ever taken her.

More about that in Part Two.

Monday, 26 May 2014

You Can Have Your Money Back

Carol the museum owner and me with the Fiat 1200

The 124 Sport
Enough of gorillas. Enough of Snowy. Enough of Tallulah.

It's about time I turned my attention to Alfonso The Second, so named because Alfonso The First was my inaugural car after passing my test back in 1979. It was a heap of junk then, and I vowed to get a decent one when I grew up.

I'm now well on my way to growing up, and Alfonso The Second is definitely one of the loves of my life. I hope it will remain faithful to me for the rest of its life, which should be long and fruitful so long as I give it the care and attention it deserves.

The museum wasn't only full of old cars
I recently hyperventilated whilst on a cycling trip with Paul, Martin and Mike in Malta. I'd heard that there was a classic car museum. We negotiated a hefty 10% discount off the entrance fee (normally €8.50) with the owner of the museum, Carol Galea. He even challenged us, when we jokingly said we should be let in for free. 'If you don't think this is the best classic car museum, you can have your money back - but you have to be honest'.

The exterior of the museum 
It was simply stunning inside. Not only were there incredible cars galore amidst the cavernous 3000 square metres, there were old gramaphones, old vinyl records, old televisions, old costumes, old all sorts.

As well as a fine Fiat 124 CS, there was a beautiful Fiat 1200, the older uncle of my 124. I was salivating profusely by this time.

The museum was magnificent and one of a kind, and I would urge anyone remotely keen on old cars to make the visit if they are holidaying in Malta.

And no, we certainly didn't ask for our money back.

One of the loves of my life

Friday, 23 May 2014

Snowy Overboard

I went down to the Boat For My Potplants to return some of said potplants to their rightful owner (B&Q, Colchester), and the star of the show, the gorilla, back to its home at Mill Race Garden Centre.

Special thanks to both shops. They positively reacted to my request for their loan. It just goes to show that if you ask nicely, sometimes people say 'yes' - especially when the now-famous boat is involved.

But I very nearly had an absolute disaaaster on my hands as I accidentally knocked poor Snowy the dog into the mud.

Luckily for me - and Snowy - help was at hand in the form of a fishing net quickly handed to me by Quay Character Mike Downes.

And not a moment too soon. Another two hours and the tide would have come in and Snowy would have been a gonna, washed away past Alresford Creek and Brightlingsea, ending up in France.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Record Breaker!

I understand - partly thanks to the magnificent weather over the weekend - that this year's Wivenhoe Open Gardens has broken the record for most attended and most money raised.

Okay, the adjudicator hasn't yet finally adjudicated, but I reckon it's a safe bet to say that 2014 has been the best so far in the history of Wiv Gardens.

I'd like to think that it's been all thanks to the Gorilla In The Midst atop the Boat For My Potplants - but I can't legitimately lay claim. It's been down to the hard work and dedication of those who took part and opened up their gardens to the public.

And of corse The Wivenhoe Society, ably abetted by Jeannie and Pat.

If my gorilla could raise its Captain's hat to them, I'm sure it would.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


I promised to come clean about the gorilla, so here goes.

This weekend is the Wivenhoe Open Gardens, and I agreed to include my Boat For My Potplants among the 26 gardens taking part.

As well as having a display of REAL and ARTIFICIAL plants and flowers, against the better judgement of a peeved 'Erindoors. But once she got into the spirit of things she suggested that we get a gorilla for it.

'Don't be daft', I said. 'Folks will laugh at me.'

She muttered something inaudible under her breath.

I considered things for a moment.

'Brilliant! And we can have palm trees and everything. We can call it 'Gorilla In The Midst Of The Wivenhoe Open Gardens'.

Sometimes I even surprise myself with how my brain works.

So, I'm off now to Mill Race Garden centre to borrow a gorilla, and then to B&Q to borrow some palm trees.

Just another normal Wivenhoe day.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

My Open Garden Is Closed

A while ago I was invited by Jeannie and Pat of The Wivenhoe Society to include my boat in the Wivenhoe Open Gardens. The Wiv Soc raises funds for the St Mary Church and a local charity by selling programmes and tickets to the event. What a damned fine coup to include a boat for the first time in living memory, despite the fact that I'll actually be away for that weekend (carrying out very important research of the restaurants and local wines of Malta).

I thought long and hard. Another damned fine idea came to me. I will integrate artificial plants with real ones so that viewers can try to spot the difference from their quayside viewpoint.

But how could I prevent the pots from falling overboard? The solution came to me in a fit of genius when I visited the local Aldi and saw a picket fence for only £3.99. Now I like brands, but I love Aldi better, so I snapped up the little bargain like a shot.

Now all my problems are solved. My garden is closed in like a sheep pen, except I couldn't find a sheep to put in it. But I did find a gorilla.


To be continued some more...

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Writer's Retreat

I've decided to write a novel. On the Boat For My Potplants. It will become my office, my writer's retreat. Everything will be there - lighting, music, tea-making facilities, toilet, nice view, solitude.

The novel will have everything - mystery, murder, jealousy, revenge, action, excitement. So, just a normal Wivenhoe day then.

I'm all set up with my table. And I've already begun writing.

"Once upon a time..." is as far as I've got so far - but it's a start.

In the meantime, 'Erindoors has been busy helping with preparation for the Wivenhoe Open Gardens.

It's all go go go around here.