houseboats holidays

Vintage Post : How The Scribble Bug Started

So I went to Dorset, down to the ‘lonely sea and the sky’ that I spent all my summers growing up. It was just me and dad, on the worst driving day I think you can have without there being a typhoon, heading through the quarries and the heathland of the New Forest towards Poole Harbour and the houseboat. We’d donned our longest wellington boots and layer upon layer of tatty clothes and then finally wrapped ourselves up in oversized Cuba Sails jackets that rustled around us in the steady wind.

I didn’t want to go to Dorset, I was quite sullen on the way down (although I cheered up with a Simply British cocktail – ahhhhh Hendricks) and was relieved when, much to both our surprise, we saw shadows waving at us from Sea Snail.

That sentence probably makes very little sense to someone who doesn’t know what the houseboats are… Well you see: over the ferry in Bramble Bay (that’s where we – the houseboaters – all like to stay) there were seven houseboats all in a line, stretching from White Wings to Caroline. Now there are six because Dawn broke apart and the owners tried to replace her with a river boat but that was an epic fail as soon as the weather turned bad. So now there are six houseboats all in a line, stretching from White Wings to Sea Shanty. We’re all moored up along the beach, four floating and two fixed (Kleco and Sea Shanty) and we’re all slightly different. Our boat, Bounty, was originally a Life Boat, launched in the 1890s and savign 57 lives in her time. When she was ‘retired’ she was bought by a family who turned her into her new form – the houseboat. She’s lovely, an old wooden girl with a smiling red stripe around her middle and a white ‘box’ on the top. My parents bought her and did her up nearly 25 years ago now when they saw that she was off the water and in a sorry state.

I think I have a photo somewhere. Let’s see…. Well if I find one I’ll stick it up asap. I know I have some down stairs that I can add. AH HA!! Actually I just stalked my brother’s facebook and found this!!

This is Bounty, lovely thing that she is. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a colour one because EVERYTHING he took seems to be in black and white or sepia. But you get the picture.

Anyway, so that is where this begins. In the cool grey seas of Poole Harbour. Now to introduce some key characters. The waving shadows from Sea Snail were Terry Fisher, travel writer and an original houseboater from when my dad and his family used to holiday down there as kids, and her two trickster sons George and Timmy. The two boys, with their skinny knees and and sandy feet are both cheeky wee things – the eldest George is a keen sailor with that amazing gumption that seems to be so crucial to naturals like him and my sister Vicky, they lack fear and I bet he goes down a ski slope with that same fearlessness. His little brother, Timmy, likes to simply paddle – and by that I mean he likes to sit on the full-sized surfboard and use a spade to push himself through the chilly waves. A little further down the beach lies White Wings, on our arrival occupied by Jonathon and Maria. They have three children now: Sophia, David and Simon. Simon’s two and very sweet with blond hair and blue eyes and so pale like his dad where as the other two are more like Maria with sandy skin and honey hair. Jono, like Terry, was one of the original houseboaters and he and dad were always very close as young sailors on the big blue wet thing. And my god the stories the three of them have behind them.

I wonder if there are any photos of the three of them.

This blog, strange as it, starts with them. There’s no electricity down there, just wind generators on the roof to power the meagre lighting that we figured was a tad safer than the original gas lamps (wooden boat… gas… hmmm?) and there’s no running water, just a hand pump that can be used to pull water up from the plastic jugs underneath the sink. So how does a distinctly electronic dot-com thing come from them?

Well that means I have to introduce myself. You can call me Scribbler, I’ve been coming to Dorset since I was months old and I was part of a second generation of houseboaters between my dad and his friends and Timmy/George/Sophia etc. I grew up with AAMilne and the Swallows and Amazons. My favourite poem, as quoted above is by John Masefield, and my favourite book when I was growing up was Kidnapped (quickly followed by the Wolves of Willowby Chase but that doesn’t quite fit with my point). By the time I was eight I had decided I wanted to be a writer and started my first novel. When I was 11 (?) I was published in a book of poetry and at secondary school I was published a number of times in the school magazine before I took over as the Editor. There are two things, therefore, that permeated my childhood, the Dorset sea and writing. The two are almost inextricably linked.

Of course, both are much extended now. I’ve sailed with my family across the Channel, through the Med, in the Atlantic around the Caribbean and even up in Scotland. I’ve written a great many stories and poems and books, all of which need much editing and TLC (truthful, like-it-is criticism). And I’ve tried and failed, numerous times, to keep a blog. I keep a diary almost religiously and yet typing up words on here has always been a struggle.


In August I’m going to the USofA to the University of North Carolina for a year. I’ll still be studying philosophy and english literature like I do back in the Jekyll and Hyde City but I’m going to be over there in the plus degrees and sunshine. It was Terry’s idea, when she discovered this little fact about my future plans, that spurred me on to therefore start a blog and do it properly. It’ll be like travel writing I suppose, but mixed in with a lot of those typical musings of a literature student that have always been part of the way that I write. I also suspect that I’ll put plot ideas and queries and creative moments etc up as I go. Furthermore, I plan on making this something that different people might take different things from, after all I’m sure many of those who might read this won’t want to hear about how I’m totally obsessed with Joyce’s Ulysses and the letter O and others might only really want to read about the places I go or the things that I experience out in the States rather than stuff about the people I meet or the ideas that I have. So I’m going to have each blog post (if it’s of any length) start with a blurb and a list of headings so you can sort of skip to the bit that you’re interested in. I’m also going to start making a list of places that I want to go to in America, things I want to do and people I want to see. Feel free to send suggestions about those things if you like.

Congratulations if you managed to read all of this. I know it’s been quite long and waffly. Let the games begin!

Je serai poète et toi poésie,

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