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Dunkirk CS

I had no idea what the word ‘Dunkirk’ meant. This was 1958 and I was 5. We were on board Hugh’s boat, Laranda 2 and this was the third boat that I had known already.

We were all fond of this boat, she was comfortable, not too big and my mother pointed out the bronze medallion on one of the cross beams of the wheelhouse. She explained this this boat had been one of the ‘little ships’ that had rescued men from the beaches in the war. It still didn't mean a lot. My father, like all of the men who had fought, did not talk about it then. It would be another forty years before he told us any stories.

Laranda took us up the Thames to Sonning, where Hugh and Jodie lived, and over the channel for the summer ‘cruise’, parrot, pug, et al. She was a very pretty cabin cruiser and looked good at her moorings in Sonning. We didn't get up to much trouble on Laranda, well hardly any.

It was one very black night that we tried to get into Le Havre ( this was before we had radar). Poor old Jodie was on the prow with a boat hook as we really could not see anything. My father was steering, Hugh looking around, drink in hand as usual.

Jodie suddenly exclaimed , ‘what are all those floating lights ?’. There was a metallic prang. Flood lights came on and blinded everyone. A loud hailer screamed at us in French not to move. A huge black shape was illuminated in front of us.

Jodie had hit a nuclear submarine with her boat hook. As you do.

Boats flew at us from everywhere, we were escorted out of the harbour and down the coast. White faced, we realised how lucky we were not to be spending a night in France’s finest. You can imagine how often that tale was told !

Dunkirk CS


Laranda was finally retired and Hugh and my father went to Norfolk to look at a boat called Alida. Huge excitement. They arrived to meet the broker and having looked round the boat, he introduced them to the owner. It was none other than George Fornby, he of ’Cleaning Windows’ fame. A few drinks were quaffed as they listened to his love of boats and that he bought them for his wife. He loved the Broads. I wished I had been there,

So Alida took them down the east coast, turning right up the Thames and the long haul to Sonning.

Dunkirk CS

George Fornby, the original owner of Alida

Sonning will be ringing bells because of George Clooney now. Hugh and Jodie had the most fabulous ‘Scandinavian’ bungalow. Wood, with picture windows and for my eyes, this was mid ’60s, so glamorous. You could sit at one of the windows looking down the garden to where Alida was moored, or sit at the bar where Bertie, the parrot, would delight in knocking bottles of the top shelf onto your head. Oh how we laughed.

It was a great time. The swinging 60s were in full flow. Hugh's next door neighbours were the Boulting Brothers, the film makers, who joined us on cruises, along with fashion designers, journalists, and family.

Dunkirk CS

Dunkirk - from the Ealing movie

I felt sorry for my father as a good time was had by all, whilst he solemnly studied charts, steered the night and negotiated parrot seed in the pumps.

Carolyn George Formby

Hugh Cudlipp proudly greeting the arrival of his junk from Hong Kong

As senior fender manager I loved it. I was very spoilt. Of course now, with Dunkirk so firmly in our minds, the horror and bravery, I wish I'd had a photo of Laranda’s medal and understood the solemn meaning.

Meet The Author...
Carolyn Soutar
Who Am I?

A born and bred Londoner happily settled in the beautiful Scarborough. I love music. Since I was 6 , when I started to learn the piano, this love has stayed with me.

At 3.a.m. when you just have to write, then music is the key. Along with the inevitable writer's cats, 2, who allow me to use my computer, the desk, the flat. You know.

My background is in theatre. I started in opera at the ENO, as a lowly Assistant Stage Manager. What a dream. Serenaded at 10.30 each morning by world class singers 8 years later I diverted to straight theatre, and worked with Peter O'Toole, Alan Bates, Janet Suzman, and a long list of amazing people. In 1981, I was given the chance to Stage Manage the Rudolf Nureyev seasons. It was a roller coaster of 5 years of ballet with Rudi. Dave Allen was a completely unexpected opportunity. This followed two tours with Peter O'Toole. I am and was star struck. I don't believe that any of us old theatre folk lose the ability to feel very nervous in front of a dressing room door containing one of our heroes.

I am very proud to have an event for the National Trust on my resume. It was for their centenary at West Wycombe, and it was, "The Battle of Trafalgar". I wrote and directed this, and felt very privileged that I was the first person to be commissioned to create an event for them. This was 1995. More events followed, then in 2004 either I had had enough of events or they of me, and writing called. I have been lucky enough to attend the Edinburgh International Literature Festival and a book signing in Cannes, France, and many others.

I have written two biographies. My motivation Mr de Mille? I knew them, worked with them, and though not by any means an academic Biographer, I knew I had a lot of insight to offer. Maybe the next one will be backstage tales, and there are a few of them. Hollywood starlets who cannot cope with 150 year old London dressing rooms, to wannabees who can't go on because their nail polish wasn't dry. I wonder how many volumes?

But my work in progress has to come next. It is my biography on Peter O'Toole, 'Hell Raiser', maybe. So many ideas, so many dreams.,/p>

So love of reading has to come next, or equally. How can you write without reading?

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