Jump to content

Uncle Albert's Fireworks


Recommended Posts

Uncle Albert’s Fireworks


My Dad is an ex Humber Keelman, and ex Royal Navy, so it is not without surprise that you should learn he is known as ‘Uncle Albert’ in the small Lincolnshire village we call home. There is not a craft, military or leisure or commercial, that he hasn’t been aboard. Likewise there is not a body of water in the world that he hasn’t floated on...or more probably in Uncle Albert’s case, fallen into. The only thing that we have in common as father and son is a love of water, boats and fishing. Life afloat with Uncle Albert can be pretty stressful. Let me correct that, life anywhere with Uncle Albert is stressful...afloat is more so. You see Uncle Albert has dementia, as well as one lung, a triple heart bypass, and diabetes. I wish my dear old Mum had slept around a bit, you know... just to give me a medical chance in life, but unfortunately I look too much like my Dad for that to be the case.


A typical day on board our boat Royal Tudor starts early for me, and I do mean early!Typically I’m up in time to witness that curious phenomenon of the false dawn. A faint lightening of the sky then darkness again. A celestial application of WD 40 before the engine of the morning roars into life and the sun finally peeps over the horizon. This is the part of the day I consider to be mine. Even Dylly The Boat’s Beagle (DTBB) is still snuggled under the duvet as with a mug of fresh coffee, Old brown Java, in one hand and a roll up, a Burley and Virginia blend, in the other I venture on deck alone to enjoy some peace and quiet. Just as I finish my second mug of coffee DTBB pokes his nose out of the cockpit, gives me enough time to grab his lead and an empty plastic bag, before he makes his leap to the bank and we set off for our morning walk.


An hour and a half later we are back at the boat and the days work begins. The kettle goes back on, and I start to lay out Uncle Albert’s clothes. Jogging bottoms, t-shirt, gansey, Regimental Blazer complete with ‘Engine Room’ badge, and his Breton Sailors hat complete with RN cap badge. I often wonder what happens inside a man’s head when he reaches the point in life when he starts to dress like a complete tit without fear of social consequences? With my tablets taken, and Uncle Albert’s laid ready, insulin etc ready to hand it’s clock watching time. As soon as it is safe to do so...the engine goes on. I need hot water. Lots of hot water!


Fortunately Royal Tudor’s layout mean’s that Uncle Albert’s cabin is directly opposite the shower and by a clever opening and closing of doors means he has an on suite cabin with plenty of room for me to maneuver him. Donning my rubber gloves and disposable pinny I swing into action. Uncle Albert is out of bed and plonked in the shower. Bedding and night clothes are bagged and into sealed plastic boxes. Duvet is out onto the cabin top and scrubbed, before I scrub down the berth and mop out the cabin.


It’s usually at this point that someone will hammer on the side of the boat to complain about the engine noise. I do try to pick a mooring away from others but sometimes I will need the local services...shops or sometimes a chemist or doctor. I used to be apologetic in the extreme, I still make sure I go around our neighbours in the evening to warn them of the noise the following morning. However these days if the sun is up, I’m up and I’m busy. The sight of someone in their pyjamas hurrying away from an irate Yorkshireman in rubber gloves and plastic pinney is a common one around Royal Tudor. With the duvet scrubbed and everywhere mopped and dried Uncle Albert emerges from the shower and dressed. A slurp of his cup of tea to take his tablets and a jab for his blood test and another for his insulin and I use the remains of his cup of tea to coax him up into the cockpit and down into the galley for breakfast.


While Uncle Albert enjoys a leisurely breakfast it’s my turn to hit the showers and finish putting the cabins to rights. Then it’s time to do those chores around the boat, check fuel, water, clean the decks, stow everything away etc before planning the day’s activities. A final walk of DTBB and it’s on with life jackets...and we are away! First port of call to refill Royal Tudor’s water tanks and find a suitable rubbish disposal site.


Uncle Albert enjoys, occasionally, doing things for himself. However his activities are often ‘not boat friendly’. Should he make a cup of tea he will insist on allowing the kettle to blow steam while he potters about fetching cups, milk, tea bags...reads a bit of his paper, dismantles something, decides to trace a wire from an old electrical switch taking off cupboard doors in his pursuit. By the time he gets round to putting water in the cup the kettle has either boiled dry or the headlining has peeled off of the cabin roof. God forbid he decides to make toast while we are underway. He will invariably burn the toast then scrape off all of the black bits all over the galley worktop and floors.


By lunchtime I need to find a place to moor and locate a newspaper. Once he has his newspaper I can guarantee that Uncle Albert will be quiet for an hour or so as he reads his paper and then falls asleep. It’s at this point that I walk DTBB and then try and grab an hours kip myself ready for the afternoon.


It was after an afternoon nap last year that disaster nearly struck Royal Tudor and her crew. Before I go for a nap I shut down all of the gas, close the cabin doors etc. After a particularly arduous day my nap had gone on a little too long. Fortunately my eighteen year old daughter was with us and looking after Uncle Albert.  When I awoke it was dusk. Disorientated I made my way from my cabin, past Uncle Albert’s and up into the cockpit. Uncle Albert must have been pestered by midges as the scent of sandalwood joss sticks wafted up into the cockpit.

“Finally!” said my daughter as she pushed past me and into the heads.

I bobbed down to poke my head through into the galley to watch Uncle Albert who had reached across picked up the galley matches and the joss stick packet, strike a match and light another joss stick.


Suddenly the galley erupted into brilliant light. Uncle Albert chortled and started to wave his hand around in blinding white circles painting patterns on my retinas. It took me a while to work out what was going on. The galley was filled with acrid black smoke as I snatched the ‘sparkler’ from Uncle Albert’s hand and dropped it onto the bank.

“Fetch Holly!” exclaimed Uncle Albert “While I light another one!” he continued.

I grabbed the matches and packet of joss sticks from him. On closer inspection the packet of joss sticks contained six more ‘sticks’ two of which turned out to be more sparklers. The packet was consigned to the safe in my cabin and locked away along with the box of matches.


Back at home after scrubbing the black smoke marks from Royal Tudor’s galley all the while remembering how lucky we had been...I still have cold sweats...I researched the company that packaged the joss sticks. An Indian company that also packages fireworks. I contacted the importers and trading standards but have never heard anything back.


I think we are almost at the point now where Uncle Albert’s adventures afloat are at an end. I hope not, there may be one more voyage left in the old boy...that is me I’m talking about not Uncle Albert. Both Uncle Albert and I and Royal Tudor have had a rough year this year but we will see what next year brings.

  • Like 8
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think we are almost at the point now where Uncle Albert’s adventures afloat are at an end. I hope not, there may be one more voyage left in the old boy...that is me I’m talking about not Uncle Albert. Both Uncle Albert and I and Royal Tudor have had a rough year this year but we will see what next year brings.


As a tough Yorkie myself.........

after reading that

why have I got tears in my eyes


keep  :Stinky  uncle Albert

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That is a great piece of writing and very interesting Tim; you have my respect and admiration for managing to cope with all that. Like the others I hope you can get other trips on the Broads and I am to able to say a personal hello at some point in the future.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Sponsors

    Norfolk Broads Network is run by volunteers - You can help us run it by making a donation

  • Create New...

Important Information

For details of our Guidelines, please take a look at the Terms of Use here.