MY BROTHER, Alan, and I have been working on our old Seamaster Admiral cabin cruiser, Terra Nova, to get her ready to go back into the water.
We’re much later than usual this year getting around to it because (a) my brother had a hip replacement towards the end of last year, which slowed him down for a while (not for long fortunately – he’s got a constitution like an ox, has my bruv) and (b) because it was such a rotten Spring and its only in the last three or four weeks that the weather has started marginally to improve.
But now that we’ve made a start, I’ve remembered what a lot of satisfaction I get from improving the look of things.
It started when I was a teenager.
I grew up in the 50s and 60s and I was a Mod – for those who don’t remember that era, Mods were the ones who used to ride scooters – Lambrettas and Vespas – sporting crash bars loaded with mirrors and spotlights, parkas with American Army sergeants stripes and badges all over them and the obligatory fox tale fur on a long, whippy aerial attached to the spare wheel holder on the back.
From the moment I bought my first Lambretta LI150 for the princely sum of £32, I spent hours polishing it, rebuilding it, re-spraying it and generally taking incredible pleasure from just tinkering around with it. It got to the point where I’d be changing the bike every few months or so just so I could start all over again with the makeovers.
That continued into my car-driving days,
My first car was a 1957 Ford Prefect with a side-valve engine and vacuum operated windscreen wipers.
They were a really piece of genius, those wipers. They were operated by a servo fitted to the inlet manifold on the engine. When you were standing still at traffic lights with the engine on tickover, the wipers would be hammering back and forwards at incredible speed. But pull out to overtake something by putting your foot down on the accelerator (this causing a vacuum in the manifold) and they’d stop – really helpful if you were trying to overtake a heavy lorry throwing spray all over the windshield in the pouring rain…
That minor blip didn’t stop me working hard to shine up the bodywork and refurbish the chrome (or what was left of it!)
And so onto boats. I’ve owned quite a few during my lifetime and every one has had the same pull on me – a drive to get them into the best condition possible.
With Terra Nova I’ve spent hours washing down her cabin roof and topsides, polishing the glass fibre to try to restore it to its pristine best.
Cleaning the windows and chrome work until it sparkles and, most recently, helping my brother to strip the peeling old varnish from the grab rails, mast, and forward bitts mounting so that we can re-coat it and get the old girl back to her summer best.
I once had an interesting conversation with a psychiatrist at Ashford Hospital who was trying to help me overcome a bout of depression.
He got me to talk about my background and the things that I enjoyed doing and when I told him the story about liking to improve the look of things things he decided that I was suffering from something he called Anancastic Syndrome.
He explained that it was one step below Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – a compulsion to put everything in good order.
My wife and children certainly agreed – they used to nickname me ‘Tidy Up Ted’ because of my tendency to put things away neatly, thus making it impossible for anyone else to find anything in the house!
Whatever the reason, I still get a real buzz from giving things a makeover but if the end result is that Terra Nova looks her best, I’m certainly not going to apologise for it.