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 (10)

April 14, 2014

(Cont…..) Part Ten

Welcome to the Truman Show!

"Essential flood supplies and more!"

“Essential flood supplies and more!”

After the usual unsettled nights sleep, upstairs on ‘Gilligan’s Island’ (We could only refer to upstairs as Gilligan’s Island now as downstairs was strictly speaking, completely underwater!) Wednesday 12th February 2014 began with my usual check on Bracken (my dog) to let him out onto our flat roof for his early morning ablutions. But that morning I was overwhelmed with a horrendous stench, ‘what the hell was in that Thames water?’ I thought. It took me a moment to realize, the smell wasn’t coming from the stagnant water downstairs, instead it was clear that the chemotherapy which Bracken had started five days ago was beginning to make it’s presence felt, there was s**t everywhere, the kind of s**t only chemotherapy could cause, which is on a whole new level! Trust me, I’m a former oncology nurse.

I began trying to clean up the evidence before my wife woke up, when I spotted one of our two cats downstairs stood in water up to her stomach, drinking it! Clearly this was no place for her, the water would kill her, unless we found somewhere for her to live for a while. Then it occurred to me, if she had to leave anyway, why not blame her for the smell and diarrhoea.
Genius I thought, as I sat drinking my first coffee of the day. Now I don’t know if I’d contracted dysentery overnight or my trench foot had began spreading to my brain but this random thinking was increasing in frequency. I began to seriously think perhaps all the events connected to the flooding were not real. A bit like the Truman show! (a film about a man who’s life unbeknown to him, existed in a TV world where the whole world watched him face challenging situations which were thrown at him one after the other by the studio directors. Truman and how he reacted to those challenges were the only real things in his TV world)
It was all beginning to make sense now, the camera people everywhere, the hero Dave Francis, the heroine Su Burrows, the environment agency as the villain and an army with rubbish army costumes (no wellington boots and hair too long it wouldn’t fool an Iraqi insurgent). I was convincing myself the floods, Bracken’s cancer and everything else was just like the Truman show! (The Truman show – Wikipaedia)

As I had my fourth coffee I began to think I could hear some studio director or plot writer saying “The flood is not enough, I want more pain, I want more emotion, I need to see more suffering!” Thinking to themselves ‘How can we push this guy to the limit? We know he’ll break soon……… let’s try feeding his dog some poison while he is asleep and see how he reacts to diarrhoea everywhere.’ I decided that if my growing paranoid assumptions were correct then the best plan of action was to try and ‘not give a s**t’. After all, the whole world could be watching me.

Over the next few days, a sequence of events followed that would challenge even the patience of a saint!

With dwindling supplies and barely enough coffee-mate for my fifth cup of coffee, (fresh milk had long gone, since we had no refrigeration) I could hear the studio director calling ‘Cue elation!’ as our daughter arrived with essential supplies and yet more supplies. I had never been as pleased to see her, well not since the last flood four weeks ago. As she staggered across the front garden in her waders, thigh deep in water bringing everything a flood victim could need and more, I began to well-up, just how desperate a situation had this become that I was so emotional seeing my daughter carrying a box of everyday essentials?

Our family was disappearing!

Our family was disappearing!

We had a good couple of hours with her before she had to make the forty mile journey back home. I’m not sure who felt worst, her for having to leave her normally coping parents in such a desperate situation or us because she brought with her optimism and strength, which would shortly be leaving.

But there was one more job to do before she left, take the cat! I don’t like thinking that our cat is fat (well who would?) but she’s a big girl and quite heavy. Our daughter couldn’t get her car any closer than the village at least half a mile away, which was a long way to carry a ‘big-boned’ cat. I looked up and down the road for signs of anything remotely looking like someone who could help us. Then I spotted them, the ‘Water and Animal Rescue’ team parked in a van a hundred yards from our house. Perfect, I thought as put on my waders and made way towards them. There were six burly gentleman sat in the van as I reached it. The driver wound down his window for me to tell him what I wanted. ‘I have a cat that we need to get to the village, is there any chance you could help us?’ I asked. ‘Sorry mate, we don’t do that’ was the reply.
I didn’t even wait for a further explanation, not that I thought there was one coming. ‘Excuse me! I kind of thought my cat would qualify as an animal, my mistake’ I was really on the brink of kicking his van, to this day I don’t know how I stopped myself. All these people pretending to help and I had yet to experience any of it first hand. It was just like everyone was saying and doing things to push me over the edge, just like the Truman show! ‘I know what you mean mate’ he said. What the hell did that mean? I chose not to pursue things further and ignored him heading back towards the house.

It was a sad time carrying our cat all the way to the village, not just because she’s ‘generously portioned’ but also because it was as if we were giving in to the flood. Until now we had managed to convince ourselves we could carry on as normal. The reality was slowly kicking in. Our family was disappearing. Our son had already left home many days ago as a result of our comprised electricity supply and sewage system.

We said goodbye to our cat and our daughter, not knowing when she would get time off work to be able to visit us again. We slowly made our way back home. Perhaps it would not be long before Bracken could no longer cope with all this……or even us! (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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