My father was never happier than when he was tinkering around in the bilges. MY Alida had twin Perkins Dolphin engines. Big things; it was a big boat.
You knew when we were in trouble when he started whistling.
Eyebrows were raised, and we moved quietly to the pub leaving my father cursing, whistling and having a ball.
You can just about see his cage through the wheelhouse on the foredeck
On our return the words , ‘bloody parrot seed and dog hair’ would explain everything. A large Scotch restored my father’s equilibrium. Bertie, the African grey parrot, was a vicious thug.
He always came on the boat, hence the parrot seed in the engines.
I first met Bertie age 5 I suppose, and was warned not to touch. I didn't need warning I saw the bloody mess he had made of a woman's finger. Nasty. But Bertie adored my father and Hugh, my father's boss, his owner, and Bertie was a seasoned sailor.
He had belonged to a photographer who had trained him to say ‘read The Daily Mirror’. This phrase would be his life saver. Fluent in Siamese Cat, telephone rings, wine pouring, and the usual swearing, he was a huge part of our sailing lives.
George was the pug that caused the dog hair. A fat elderly sausage roll of a woofer. Another seasoned sailor. George belonged to Fling, a lovely lady, and mother to Hugh’s wife, Jodie. Fling had spent time in Chicago and had a great conversation stopper:
‘The only reason Jodie was born safely, was that I lost at cards to Al Capone’. True.
I really felt for her one day. For once we were on the Thames near Oxford, when she fell out of the dinghy. She was wet but fine. George had climbed onto her head. It was very funny.
Two boys were on the towpath and shouted, ‘look dad, there's an old woman with a dog on her head’. She just looked at us. None of us dared move. Poor Fling.
We were usually based at Hamble and I loved mooching in the chandlery. If you met an elderly black labrador at the entrance, you knew to let him in. He was there for his daily pork pie. He belonged to Robin Knox Johnson the round the world sailor. Great memory.