Children’s Book Launched

December 11, 2017

Dear Gilligan’s Island Blog readers,

Book launch cartoon linked

For the past three years I have been writing and illustrating a children’s book called ‘DRIFTING’ and it is finally done! I thought I should let visitors to my blog know it is now available for download on Kindle books and an interactive version is available on Apple iBooks.

The few hard copies in the first print run are pretty much gone. However, if there is sufficient demand for hard copy versions, I will look into getting more printed. Any positive feedback or comments would be very welcome and may inspire me to write a sequel!

Inspired by real life events during flooding in a small leafy village on the banks of the River Thames just outside London. ‘Drifting’ is an incredible story that should appeal to both children and adults alike. It follows the adventures of an ordinary couple who went to extraordinary lengths to protect their beautiful home.

Recent climate changes and the ever-increasing threat of flooding to us all, makes our unlikely adventurers’ story a truly relevant and enlightening experience. As we are taken on their journey of self-discovery and survival we see friendships, both old and new put to the test, as confidence and belief diminish with the challenges they encounter.

In a light-hearted manner with full colour illustrations, the story will inspire and educate children to recognise the true value of friendship and self-belief. As we see how important and rewarding it can be when we trust one another and never lose hope, no matter how bad things get. Reminding us that sometimes hope will be the only thing we have.

Perhaps you could indulge yourself in some ‘DRIFTING!’ over the festive period.

here’s a taster of the book, just follow this link: ‘Drifting !’ Launch video

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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (16)

August 1, 2014

(Cont……) Part Sixteen:

“You have two days to move home starting………..now!”

"We don't normally store things here!"

“We don’t normally store things here!”

We knew the flood would impact on our lives for some time to come but we naively hoped as the water subsided and things started to dry out that we could perhaps begin to get back to some sort of normality……how wrong we were!

Despite our determination to stay in our beloved home through the recovery process, we were eventually persuaded by our insurance company to look for temporary accommodation. We were told that drying the house would require many industrial-sized de-humidifiers working 24 hours a day for around six to seven weeks. Even though our ears had pretty much become desensitized to noise as a result of living under the Heathrow flight path for the past 10 years, we knew that the noise itself would be reason enough to move out for a while.

Within a short time of looking for nearby houses to rent we discovered the ‘panic-buyers’ who bought all the wellington boots at the first sign of rain apparently were also ‘panic-renters’. It turned out much to my surprise that some of the insurance companies had received phone-calls from residents in flooding areas requesting re-housing and due to the scale of the flooding the companies were just checking policyholders postcodes and then agreeing to 6 month leases. However, when the floodwater eventually subsided and the surveyors arrived to assess the damage, they discovered that some of the ‘panic-renters’ hadn’t actually been flooded and were able to move back home! This undoubtedly contributed to the scarcity of rental properties we were experiencing. During many visits registering with estate agents we experienced the indignity of being considered undesirable tenants, firstly because we had our dog Bracken (who I have to say is much better behaved than many children I see these days!) and secondly, because we could only agree to a six-month lease at this time.

We soon got disheartened and frustrated, as we had to look further afield. Eventually we found a house in Old Windsor, which had just come onto the market. If we were successful we would be the landlord’s first tenants. Dogs were allowed and a short-term lease was not a problem.

Within ten minutes of viewing the property, we decided to take it. Although it wasn’t within walking distance of our house it did have a large garden and was unfurnished that meant it could accommodate most of our furniture that we had fought so hard to save from the flooding.

Once the insurance company had agreed that the rental price was in line with the value of our own house we had an agonizing wait for contracts to be exchanged and agreed before we were certain of moving. We hoped it would not take long as the drying process could not start until we were out of our house, besides staying there was really taking its toll, the sight of everything in disarray, the compromised electricity and being surrounded with damp, was only adding to our desperation.

Finally, on Tuesday 11th March 2014 we were told we would be moving, on Friday 14th March 2014. Packing should begin the day before that on Thursday 13th March. Ready, steady…..go!

Our kitchen before the floods

Our kitchen before the floods……..

As if the floods themselves hadn’t caused enough stress, we spent the next two days trying to sort out which of our belongings could go with us to our temporary accommodation and what needed to go into storage. I have to say I don’t know anyone who has had to move out of a home they’ve lived in for ten years, with only two days notice, it was horrific!

........and after the floods!

……..and after the floods!

We would never have achieved it after what we had been through, were it not for the excellent service provided by the removal men. We were so impressed with them we booked them for our return trip, although I’m not so sure they were particularly happy at the prospect!

I doubt anyone can really understand and fully appreciate the distress that comes with being forced out of your home and watching everything you have worked so hard for being gradually destroyed. The Environment Agency for one will surely never fully appreciate the suffering they caused that fateful moment they decided to do whatever they did with the Jubilee Relief River. Questions remain unanswered!

(to be continued………..)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned may have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near the River Thames. All content is copyrighted to Bracken


The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (14)

May 27, 2014
"An eerie night-shift"

“Midnight in the Wraysbury triangle”

(Cont…..) Part Fourteen:

The Night Shift

Increasingly residents of Wraysbury were worried about looters. Many houses had been evacuated and the west side of the village was beginning to resemble a ghost town.

Most evenings during the floods I had donned my hi-visibility vest and patrolled the streets. One particular night I left my flooded home armed with my vacuum flask, head torch, hand torch and mobile phone. There would be no looting that night, not on my watch!

My two-hour shift began at 23.00hrs, It was a cold and miserable night, the water on the roads was still at least 2 foot (60cms) deep. It was an eerie sight, empty houses everywhere and not a soul around. For an hour I walked down the three roads that formed what I called ‘the Wraysbury triangle’ occasionally shining my torch at abandoned-looking houses.

I felt very proud about what I was doing. I thought if I knew someone like me was patrolling the streets, I would sleep a little better knowing their presence might just deter the opportunistic burglars who were growing in threat as the flood continued.

Halfway through my shift I found a good vantage point where I could see at least two of the roads and more importantly my house, where I had left my wife alone and pretty much in darkness due to our compromised electricity supply. As I drank my coffee I was thinking how abandoned our house must look, which might just catch the eye of any prowler. Just then, a small 4×4 jeep came towards me very slowly.

Despite my hi-visibility jacket and driving close enough for me to see there was a male driver and at least one other passenger, the driver seemed not to see me. I finished off my coffee as I watched him drive very slowly further down the road.

After a few yards he stopped for about 30 seconds and set off again and then stopped again, this time for much longer. I was convinced they were up to no good. Why were they stopping? What were they doing? I decided to follow them. Despite the deep water, I was gaining on them and had to quickly think what I would say to them. I checked my phone was at hand but then remembered I had used up the battery earlier messing about trying to make a video of the surreal situation of patrolling alone in the middle of the night, in a flooded village. There was not a soul in sight despite just about every rescue service in the UK claiming to be here, helping!

Undeterred by something as futile as no means of communication, I decided to keep going, besides they were in my sights now and I was totally convinced they were up to no good. I was within thirty feet (9 m) of them when the car moved on again very slowly.

As I reached the house they had stopped at, I quickly scanned it with my torch. Just then a window opened and someone shone a very powerful torch at me, lighting up my hi-vis jacket like a firework. Before I could tell him he realized and switched it off. “Why the hell is he doing driving so slowly?” he shouted. “I don’t know” I replied, “I’m trying to catch up with them, can you call the police for me?” He agreed to do that and wished me luck. By this time the car had stopped again so I was gaining on them once more. My heart was pounding, I knew the Police would take a while to get there, if they came at all. I was speeding up whilst also trying to be as quiet as I could. I nearly fell twice, tripping over submerged bollards at the side of the road.

The car took off again. I wasn’t sure if they’d seen me or not as they turned left onto a quiet road. Despite living in the village for ten years, I had never been down that road and so had no idea if it was an escape route or if they had just pulled out of sight.

I stood listening to the car engine, which suddenly stopped. It was just around the corner. I was close, ‘I don’t know what to say’ I thought to myself. ‘Maybe I should just wait for the Police’. Instead I decided to confront them.

"Strangers in the night!"

“Strangers in the night!”

As I turned the corner the car was just there at the entrance to a driveway. The driver’s car door opened and a tall guy wearing a head torch got out. “Hello” I said. He said nothing he just switched on his head torch and shone it right in my face, so I quickly did the same. There we were in the middle of the night trying to blind each other with our Tesco ‘buy one get one free’ head torches. “Do you live here?” I asked. “Yes” he replied. I didn’t expect that, I quickly retorted “What number is this house then?” hoping he would crack under interrogation. “Number eight” he said. ‘What should I say now?’ I thought, I had no idea what number house it was. If I said okay and it wasn’t number eight then he would have the upper-hand. “That may well be” I said. “Only there has been a lot of looters coming round here, so me and the other volunteers are just keeping an eye on things”. I was trying to create the impression that I wasn’t alone. “Are you on your own?” he asked. “No, of course not” I said trying to make light of it, “there is another team just around the corner” Just then his passenger appeared behind me. Trying to not look too startled I turned round slowly to see a woman dressed in a full-length wet suit carrying a large ‘empty looking’ rucksack!!! Now I am no detective but something did not look right to me. They were very intimidating and both standing very close to me, one behind dressed like a scuba diver and the other in front of me trying to burn out my retina with his head torch. I was surrounded!!

The man in front spoke out “Well, if I was who you think I am, someone like you would not last two seconds” I was pretty scared, now being threatened with no means of communication, all alone and practically freezing to death I decided to go for the sympathy vote. “I’m just trying to help, keeping an eye on things, you know, doing my bit for the community. Anyway, good night” I said, beating a hasty retreat not daring to look back to see if they were following.

It took me about ten minutes to get home through all the water, I was furious. Why had I not topped up my phone battery before I went out, why had I messed about trying to make a movie and why was I so crap at dealing with confrontation?

As soon as I got into the house I grabbed my wife’s phone and called the Police. I was delighted to hear my suspects had already been reported, presumably by the chap hanging out of his bedroom window and the police were on their way. Phew!

After my near death ‘night-shift’ experience, I decided I would concentrate my home guard efforts just to my own street from now on, at least there I knew the house numbers!
(to be continued……….)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned may have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near the River Thames. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (13)

May 10, 2014

(Cont…..) Part Thirteen:

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”

"Will someone please help?!!"

“Will someone please help?!!”

Saturday 15th February 2014 brought with it some terrible winds, thankfully however the re-flood we were bracing ourselves for never appeared. The water in the garden was still quite deep though at around two feet (600cms) which meant that many of the bushes and trees resembled something out of the everglades with the ground below them just very soft mud.

I was getting increasingly concerned about two sixty feet (18m) pine trees at the bottom of the garden that over hang an outdoor hut which we had recently purchased as a Christmas present to ourselves. As the wind got stronger, I became more and more obsessed with the trees. Watching them constantly from the living room window I reassured myself  ‘Surely we do not deserve any more bad luck?’. Eventually I could stand it no longer and put on my waders to venture down to take a closer look. I was horrified to see the roots of one of them totally exposed!

I ran back to the house (well perhaps not ran exactly, the water was still a couple of feet deep plus I had put my wife’s waders on by mistake) I had no idea what to do. Reluctantly I decided to phone the bronze control centre but was yet again told there was no help available.

I found it really difficult to just stand and watch the trees get blown over towards our lovely thatched hut, partly because I was still wearing my wife’s waders and partly because I wasn’t sure if it would be covered with the house insurance. I kept trying to think of ways I could prevent them from falling any further.

After about an hour of head scratching I was delighted with the arrival of six firemen from the London Fire-brigade who had come to see if they could help. For forty-five minutes we all paced up and down the garden in our waders, trying to figure out how the trees could be restrained and be prevented from falling on the hut. Strangely I was pleased to see their concern, it was reassuring me I had not over reacted about the situation and had done the right thing asking for help.

After much deliberation over winches and pulleys they finally came up with a plan and called their watch commander on the radio to get his approval to execute it. For an agonizing fifteen minutes we waited for their commander to give the go ahead. Unfortunately the long awaited call back brought bad news, apparently for health and safety reasons it was too risky for the firemen to get involved. Besides my tree was not on a public street and so not a threat to the community!?

I was disappointed but not surprised. I think the firemen were more frustrated than I was as they repeatedly apologized and said they wished they had just gone ahead and done it without asking for permission. Nevertheless, I thanked them for their efforts and assured them we would sort something out ourselves, after all that was what we had been doing for the past month.

By now the storm had gone away, however the degree of lean of one the trees meant that the threat of it falling, had by no means gone away.

I tried to ignore the trees for the remainder of the day deciding to put on my volunteers fluorescent jacket and do my anti-looter rounds, which I had by now become accustomed to particularly when I was pissed off. Secretly I was hoping I might catch a looter to take out my aggression on.

"Can you help us, we have a blind cat and a dog on chemotherapy that need saving"

“Can you help us, we have a blind cat and a dog on chemotherapy that need saving?”

The following morning the weather was pretty good and more water had gone from the garden. However, the worst tree now looked as if it was about to take out the hut, next doors fence and a large Acer tree! But not quite a threat to the community yet, sadly.

Unexpectedly our son and his girlfriend arrived offering to help sort the problem. I watched as my son waded down the garden and produced from his arsenal of gardening tools he now stored in our barn, an implement I had never seen him use before.

With great expertise and dexterity he systematically worked his way through every single branch on the tree, cutting each one slowly with a saw attached to a pole that he gradually extended to at least sixty feet (18m). He finished the job by cutting about ten feet (3m) off the height of the tree. Despite being devastated that such a beautiful tree was now just a fifty foot (15m) log sticking up out of the ground, I was relieved and very proud of my son for helping us make it safe, God knows no-one else was willing to help.

We celebrated with a beer and spent the rest of the day chopping up the branches and joking about things we could ask for help with, which might just get a ‘yes’ response.
(to be continued……….)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned may have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near the River Thames. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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The Great Wraysbury Floods – 2014 (6)

March 2, 2014

Part Six

“Keep Calm!………. We Know What To Do!”

IMG_0257

‘Not even enough time to implement my ‘flood friendly’ house modification plans’

Overnight the water had continued to rise in the back garden. It was different this time, it was quicker. We hadn’t even had time to implement a few home modifications I had thought of since the last flood. By Saturday afternoon on the 8th February we had positioned the sandbags we had carefully stored from the last flood, around the garage door and had created a polythene and sandbag dam both at the entrance and exit of the garage. I knew from experience that the water would not come up through the concrete floors in the annex, instead the threat would be from water gushing across the road and into the drive if the field opposite flooded again.

Doing something different to the flood just three weeks ago gave us a feeling that maybe this time we’d beat it and perhaps this time there wouldn’t be as much water anyway!

The next job was to build the dam at the entrance to the driveway. I couldn’t handle the prospect of being woken again at some ungodly hour to be told that there was a river where my drive used to be. By evening we were exhausted, let’s face it, we’d not really had time to recover from the last flood and the clear up, let alone being in a fit state to be doing it all again………not at our age anyway!

We collapsed into bed and prepared to see what daylight would bring. Besides, it was a big day tomorrow, there was a village meeting to discuss the last flood.

In the morning our worst fears were confirmed, this was not going to go away any time soon, but we were still hopeful the water levels would not be as high as last time. At 2.00pm on Sunday 9th February, along with our neighbours, we descended on the village school for the flood meeting.

images-10

Councillors, Colin Rayner, Andrew Davies, John Lenton, our head flood warden Dave Francis and Simon Dudley from the RBWM. Click on the following link to hear what we had to hear. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boU3on_Oif0&sns=em

The school hall was packed, all our Flood Wardens were there along with a representative from the Environment Agency and local councilors.  It was standing room only so we made our way to the back of the hall and waited for proceedings to commence.  The mood was tense but optimistic.  There were jokes about the events of the past few weeks, Brits putting on a brave face, the old “War Spirit” I guess.

The meeting was called to order, a hush weighted with anticipation descended.  We were told that an emergency meeting had been held earlier that day with the powers that be and that we were on the brink of catastrophic flooding. There was a stunned silence around the room, neighbours exchanging glances of disbelief. A few people even left at that point. We were told the Army were being deployed to help with evacuations and were descending on the neighbouring village of Datchet that evening to begin constructing a sandbag wall of defence. The school was going to be utilized in the coming days as a relief centre and then a very nice gentleman took to the stage to give us hints and tips on protecting ourselves and our possessions.

We set off for home in silence.  What was there left to say?  Once in the house we had a stiff drink and began the process of raising everything off the floor, wrapping what we could in bin liners, wrapping up the bottoms of all our doors like Christmas presents and collapsed into bed at about 1.00am after a bowl of soup. Maybe the Environment Agency were being over-cautious after the debacle in January…..let’s face it, they have often been wrong before!!

If you enjoy reading my blogs, any contribution, however small, towards Bracken’s now in excess of £6,000.00 chemotherapy bill, would be greatly appreciated.

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned may have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near the River Thames. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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The Great Wraysbury Flood – 2014 (1)

February 4, 2014

Part One

Captain Gilligan

Captain Gilligan

It all began on Tuesday 7th January 2014. It was my son’s birthday and the last day of the festive break, which every year taints the celebratory mood we should all be in for his day. Being born in June myself I have always felt sorry for people whose birthdays fall just after Christmas, probably the most depressing time of the year, until of course I read ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell and realized it was probably my classmates at school who were born in January and were therefore six months older than me that took my rightful place in the school football team!  That and the fact that I was crap at football!

Suffering the usual shock following a three week vacation with the realization  that tomorrow I would have to be up at 6.00am and adopt the work mode approach to life at an already depressing, cold and wet time of year, I decided to distract myself and take my dog Bracken for a walk to check on the level of The River Thames at the end of the road.

For the past few weeks the weather had been atrocious, after a dry start to December it seemed hardly a day had passed without a deluge of rain or horrendous winds in some part of the UK so I knew the river would be high.

Before we reached the river, which is about 400 yards from our house, Bracken dug his heals in and refused to go any further despite not being able to see the river yet. After unsuccessful attempts to coax him down the path leading to the slipway I gave up and decided to walk around the neighborhood. Good job I did. Already the river had burst its banks and had flooded many of the gardens that back on to it. I’d never seen anything like it before. As we walked around the block I felt a huge amount of sympathy for the poor residents, many of whom looked like they were evacuating their homes, I felt sorry for them and for the many people who had not had heating or electricity in their homes in other parts of the country over Christmas. It helped me stop sulking about having to go back to work the next day.

As Bracken and I walked further down the street at the back of our house the water became deeper. Before we bought our house in 2004, we had done the necessary research and knew that the house hadn’t been affected during the last flood in 2003, so I was relatively calm and assumed this was probably what happened last time and that things would subside before I needed to worry. Despite my relative calm on returning home, I ventured out again before bedtime just to check we were safe and helped to move a Porche for a friend who lived closer to the river, which I did with great enthusiasm….and caution! By bedtime I was certainly distracted from work and keeping things nicely in perspective. (To be continued………………)

Disclaimer: The content in my blog is provided for entertainment purposes only and as such is in no way reflective of any recognized sailing regulations or guidance. Whilst all the stories are factually correct, the identities of the people concerned may have been changed to protect me from any liability. Please consult a sailing book, preferably endorsed by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), before going anywhere near the River Thames. All content is copyrighted to Bracken, in the hope it might eventually pay for his chemo!

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