Getting to the Bottom of Things and Le French Trawler Catastrophe

What a week! Clive and his siblings spent last week sorting and clearing their dad’s flat in Great Dunmow, a mammoth task despite being a small flat. Suffice to say the local Oxfam shop has many more books, suits, shoes etc.

In the meantime I was scheduled for a little ‘procedure’ to ensure my bowels were healthy, having had some concerns since suffering with a few weeks of campylobacter in 2014. So a colonoscopy was requested by my doctor and to my great relief the NHS referred me to Springfields, a private hospital in Chelmsford, which resulted in me getting a phone call just a few days before an appointment last Saturday. My aunt Sheila and uncle Peter kindly offered to look after me before and after, and Clive, having finished at his fathers flat late on Friday night, drove me over and stayed with me throughout. Having had the procedure about six years ago, my lasting memory was how revolting the mixture you have to drink in advance tastes, how tiring the sprinting to the toilet as the medicine gets to work and how painful the colonoscopy itself is, even though you’re sedated, as they pump you full of air as the camera does it’s job. My poor bowels were in spasms and I was writhing in pain for about two hours afterwards, alleviated greatly by finding out all was well and healthy, hurrah. I can’t believe people actually pay for colonic irrigation! They must be bonkers.

I felt a great deal better by Sunday, and mightily relieved. Clive headed back to DD in Dartmouth and on Monday I bade a fond farewell to auntie and uncle and headed over to Broadway to see my parents. It was my mum’s 88th birthday and I was hoping to surprise her – no chance, she’d guessed I was coming. En route two odd things happened. Just outside Milton Keynes and heading for Buckingham, after bemoaning the state of Britain’s road to myself, the main A road was closed and no diversion was signed. I followed my instincts and went south and took the first right turn I could, following a B road parallel to where I needed to be. After a few miles a sign appeared saying ‘Dislodged Road Surface’. Not one I’ve seen before. I slowed down in anticipation and voila, rounding a corner, no tarmac surface, just potholes, mud, gravel, bits of old stone work and yet more potholes, for about half a mile. The road blended into the verges on either side and it reminded me of driving in a remote part of Kenya years ago (1990) except this was worse. Another half a mile and I popped out onto the road I needed again.

The second odd thing was about an hour later in my journey I was flying down a hill and slowed because cars and trucks ahead seemed to be moving round something at the bottom of the hill. As I got close there was a small dog in the road, just standing there. Unlike my fellow travellers I stopped, put my hazards on and hopped out of the car. Little pooch had moved and was now standing by my passenger door. There was one house at the start of a drive and I noticed the fence and gate were covered in chicken wire, so quickly assumed the little tyke had escaped. As I approached the gate, he followed and ran into the garden barking madly. By this time a red faced farmer had driven up the drive and with my car blocking his exit, he wound his window down and I explained what had happened. He leapt out and following the dog went to knock on the house door muttering happily as he went.

It was a beautiful sunny day when I got to my parents and I spent a couple of days with them, fixing the fire, helping dad buy a new TV and after a Tuesday night deluge of biblical proportions, managed to unblock a drain by the back door at 7am (in dressing gown, driza-bone, wellies – you get the picture), preventing a flood from rising over the door sills into the porch and sitting room. Long industrial gardening gloves are the thing to have in every household. They were just the right length I found out as I plunged my arm into the icy stream, lapping just millimetres from my elbow. The relief when the flood water began swirling and rushing away was great, especially for my parents.

I drove back to Dartmouth yesterday through floods and gales, via Taunton where I met my lovely pal JenJen for lunch and a solid two hours of chitchat.


Taunton School, where my dad and uncle went in their youth


Taunton School cricket pavilion

Only as I descended the hill to the higher ferry in Dartmouth did I spot the illuminated sign, “Ferry Closed”. Aha! I thought. What to do?


Looking down the Dart from the Higher Ferry road

Then an old chap exited the railway signal box by the ferry dock and told me the river had been really rough all day and asked if I was going to Kingswear where the lower ferry plied its trade. I gave him a lift as it’s a bit of a hike between the two and lo and behold, no lower ferry either. I parked in the marina carpark and caught the foot ferry instead which dropped my off on the pontoon right by Distant Drum, perfect. The first thing I saw was three French Trawlers from Caen, two moored opposite us on the town pontoon and one on the harbour wall, which had been towed in by the lifeboat. We spoke to a couple of the exhausted fishermen who in French explained how terrible the sea was, force 10, and they’d come into the Dart to take shelter until the storm died down and the seas calmed.

First thing this morning I was up to catch the ‘flyer’, the first ferry over to Kingswear, to retrieve my car. As I emerged into the cockpit I let out a loud gasp….. One of the trawlers had sunk in the night!


The sight that greeted me first thing this morning


Saint Christophe under water and the Sagittaria on the pontoon


Mon Dieu!

Apparently as the tide went out, the crew had left the ropes long, however it was almost on the highest spring tide (far higher and far lower than neap tides) and as the inaptly named Saint Christophe descended with the tide, it touched the river bed, which if had been flat at that point might not have been an issue, however the bed sloped off dramatically into the river, so the trawler started to list and the exhausted crew didn’t take any action, then one of its ropes snapped and it went over at midnight. Thankfully all ten crew managed to escape with only their pride in tatters.


Near low tide – the orange floaty thing is to contain any pollutants, diesel and oil



What are we going to do now?


The tired skipper being posed for a photo by a local journo (take 3)


BBC Spotlight on the spot

It’s still there and the tide is rising again so more drama righting it tomorrow…. maybe…..


Distant Drum in the early morning sun with the Sagittaria behind



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