2017 spring and summer

This gallery contains 44 photos.

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Era start or era finish?

So, is this the start of a beginning or just the end of a beginning?

Mum died on August 14th. She was 82, had dementia and a right leg shorter than her left leg by some three inches and ………  she’d picked up clostridium difficile from somewhere and that’s what killed her in the end. The end of an era.

Bro was booked to be away from his Western Australian home for a while, closest of the older cousins were in a similar quandary and allatsea was due to be, allatsea on the Dogger Bank.

The end result was that the funeral took place some six weeks after her death. It was in two parts, a short service at her local RC church and then a civil secular service at the crematorium. As these things go, both were poignant and heartfelt and, thankfully, well attended. She was a popular lady known, to many, as generous and kind-hearted. Her send-off was fitting. Hopefully.

Now all is quiet. The last of the visitors from afar have gone, memsahib allatsea is back at work. Allatsea will get of his lazy bottom at the end of the week and travel north to Newcastle for a two week spooling attendance. Crushingly boring usually, but fitting in this case and frankly, welcome. Life, as it is, will become ‘normal’ again, probably.

Over the last five years or so, with stresses put in place by the needs of our two oldies, a great desire for a state of play, notionally referred to as ‘normal’, has been expressed here at the Towers. The concept of a ‘normal’ life seemed as out of reach as it was hard to imagine. Now, with both oldies gone (UB in March and mum recently), the spectre of ‘Normality’ looms large and, sad to say, does not seem as utopian or as tangible as was expected.

Yet another lesson to learn it seems.



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There’s a chap I know who works down the chipshop

He often writes a rhyme

When I asked for battered haddock

He said he didn’t have the time.

Richard hard at work NOT!

Driving in DP, it’s nautical but not as we know it!

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Mmmmmm yum yum yum

Liver, bacon and onions, mmmm.

Bacon, liver and onions mmm.

Just onions, mmmm.

Oooh the liberals don’t like this at all, ooh no. Far too ‘offal’, far too ….. meaty. Apart from the ‘just onions’ option, obviously.

I still think she’s ‘off track’, that woman (what woman?) and I wonder, frequently, why we tolerate it?

Probably because we’re not bothered, either way …..anymore. There’s no point to being bothered, it makes for  a frustrating and disappointing life. Adaption, evolution, acceptance, despite qualms, acceptance, the all governing term, acceptance. It sorts everything.


Kind of? Now then, lets talk bollard pull trials, off the Ligurian coast. Paradise  if there there is such a thing,  Liguria. If there is a god then Italians are God’s chosen people, the custodians of Liguria……aaaah. That said, Sardinia will run it a close race. Also Italian of course. God really really really liked them. Not so the residents of Middlesbrough I fear.

Maersk Beater 8



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Windy farms, windy botties.

We’re on cable burying duties on a windfarm. Foundation A08, our target, is a tantalising 120 metres away. Up until a few minutes ago we were making good progress towards it, then there was a bit of an event that brought things to a halt. T

he giant subsea, multi-million pound burying machine, the ‘Trencher’ croaked and groaned a bit and then with a great melodramatic shudder, shit itself. The trenching supervisor used the term ‘Cattle trucked’ to describe its operational state. Despite the proximity of a very fast and welcome CTV despatched just recently from Shoreham to take yours truly back to shore, I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere soon. Sigh!

At such times of duress and frustration I find the urge to write poetry. Here ye be, straight from the heart.

Burpy bottom
Bottom burp
Lunch was lovely
Slurp, slurp, slurp

Dad RN posed

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Sea passage south.

Heading south from Hartlepool to the south coast for a bit of array cable installation at a windfarm. The weather’s good and the ship is making good progress. It’s mainly the same crowd that were here last season, rough and ready in the main but good at what they do. They’re loud a lot of the time and this comes hard to the ears, especially if used to more gentle surroundings.

The ETA is tomorrow afternoon, a couple of hours of DP trials on arrival and then, all being well, they’ll start the first cable. The tides are just of full springs and that throws an element of complexity and risk into the mix. The currents will run hard at times and getting caught beam on is a bad place to be, very bad. Very risky. After a jittery event or two last season the lessons have been learned, at least on paper they have. They were mentioned in the pre operational briefing just now, fingers crossed those that matter are fully aware.

I’m here to see that the first few (of sixty two) cables get installed as they should be. As per the agreed and approved procedures. If they do then I’ll observe the first three of this batch and then come back in May once the crew have changed out and observe the first three that the new chaps install. That’s the plan.

The journey up from the sarf to Hartlepool earlier in the week was unusual in that it was the first trip I’d done away from home since UB died. UB was a major part of my (our) life, in character forming, value setting, standards, appreciation, bantering, eating, caring …….. living. I didn’t realise how big a part, how massive a part he’d been. Now he’s gone and I know or rather I’m realising, learning, just how much. At one point on the train journey, just north of Peterborough, I burst into tears, the sadness and realisation just too much to deal with on a busy rattly Edinburgh  bound Express. The tears didn’t last long, English sense of duty and all that malarkey came into play, but the sadness endures, of course.

Mucker Geoff is keeping an eye on the tree removal contractors at 143. It’s a fair guess that the garden at said property has been neglected, in varying degrees, for at least a decade. Overgrown is too gentle a word for it. One dead and fallen tree turns out to be not a tree at all but an old fallen metal Rediffusion (a very early cable TV provider from the 1980s) mast that has become entwined and camouflaged with vines and other garden growth. Not quite sure how or if they’ll be able to take it away. If not then it’ll be a job for the disc grinder and Makita reciprocating saw and half a dozen trips to the local tip….sorry….re-cycling centre in the old jam jar.

If all goes well on this fine vessel, then another four or five days should see me back in Fannit and dealing with said Rediffusion mast and re-acquainting with those fine and friendly fellows at the council tip. While dwelling on visits the tip, it brings to the fore the question of what to do with UB’s ashes? Just what do you do with the ashes of someone who meant so much to you? Leave them in the casket and keep them at home I guess?

Suggestions please?

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UB=Uncle Brian

Brian James Howell

Born in Erith in 1938, brought up in Dartford the youngest of three boys, his brothers were  Collin and Roy. Brian was a grandson of the infamous Erith bargee Robert  ‘The Devil’ Austin.

Attended art school from  1955 until 1958 at Gravesend initially and then at Canterbury School of Art where he qualified as a Silversmith in 1958. A career in art and silversmithing was delayed by National Service in the Royal Engineers where he served, following initial training, in the BAOR. His army service provided him with training in electronics as a signalman technician and also taught him to drive HGVs.

He used his HGV qualifications, following departure from National Service, to earn his living, as a long distance lorry driver although he did spend many years driving and operating large mobile cranes for West Street Hire, based in Gravesend.

Following the death of his mum Violet in 1985, he moved from Dartford to live at his brother Roy’s house in Cliffe Woods and then in March 1986, following his brother Roy’s death, moved to Margate to help his sister in law Gwen , nephew Richard and niece Carolyn in their pub the Quart in a Pint Pot.

From 1988 – 1993 he moved to Northfleet and resumed a career as a HGV driver with the COOP dairy. In 1993 redundancy brought him back to Margate where he lived in his house at Fort Mount. In November 1995 he moved to Birchington to live with his nephew and niece again. That family unit moved to Westbrook, Margate, in May 2002 and then finally Brian moved to his last address in Millmead Road in August 2009 where he remained until his death. He was happy for those last years, living with his cat ‘Spot, receiving visits from his lifelong friends Roy and Sheila.

Brian was a talented artist as well as being an accomplished silversmith. He designed and crafted silverware for use in Canterbury Cathedral . He was a gifted cabinet maker and model ship builder. His DIY skills were of the very highest order and he was in great demand to assist with decorating projects and furniture making.

He was also a competent pianist and though self-taught could sight read musical notation. His natural shyness precluded him from ever playing in public, his audiences always consisted of family members, close friends and the cat.

Brian never married but did have did have a long lasting relationship with Iris.

Brian was hospitalised in QEQM on February 1st and was transferred to a nursing home under the care of the hospice palliative team on February 17th. He died in Shottendane nursing home at 0545 on Monday the 20th of March following a short but brave battle against bladder cancer which had returned following a previously successful battle in 1998. He was 78 and much loved by his nephews Richard and Martin and niece Carolyn.

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