Home' Afloat : AFLOAT February 2016 Contents Take monthly with water February 2016 57
with John Quirk*
*John Quirk has been writing about
and illustrating the joys of messing
about in boats for over half a century.
He is the author / illustrator of Foul
Bottoms, published by Adlard Coles
and available from Boat Books in
Crows Nest and from Amazon.
Doany of you have a favourite disease
or ailment? Something you have
been really proud to go down with?
Looking back over my widely acquired
collection, and leaving out accidents, I put
malaria at the top of my sick list.
A recent test revealed that I had TB at
the age of 13. I’m glad I didn’t know about
it at the time. TB, or consumption as it was
known then, was the popular early demise
of pansy 19th century poets like Percy
Bysshe (really) Shelley. Despite medical
suggestions at the time, long sea voyages
did not help. The fetid conditions below
decks made TB the main killer of all those
butch blokes in Nelson’s navy. Splinters
was the second.
When I was diagnosed with a mild
dose of malaria 45 years ago in deepest
Uganda, despite quaffing quantities of
quinine, I was elated. There were several
uncomfortable days of sweating, shivering
and wild deliriums – all the special effects
that Hollywood ever promised.
But on recovery, I felt I could now squint
in the eye all those African explorers of
history who had stared into a thousand
sunsets across the Dark Continent and
suffered from the ailment so essential in
the CV of any African adventurer. People
like Livingstone, Stanley, Stewart Granger
and Richard Burton. No, not the one as in
E. Taylor but Sir Richard Burton 1821-1890
the randy swat who spoke 29 languages
Quirky is laid up and discovers a film, previously unknown to him,
about the launching of a home built boat and its maiden voyage.
fluently and had similar interests. The one
that translated the Kama Sutra.
Which finally brings me to pneumonia.
I gave that a try recently. It really is a dreary
exhausting waste of time. There is nothing to
get excited about and there is no glamour in
feeling like an ancient Dickensian character
coughing themselves to death in a garret.
A 2.00am ambulance trip left me in
hospital with just the basics of modern
living: a wash bag, iPhone and charger. Not
even a bit of paper for scribbling. So how
do you stave off boredom, and unlike every
other inmate, do it quietly?
For me, catching up with old silent
movies on the iPhone seemed a good
start. Buster Keaton is perhaps an acquired
taste with his Great Stoneface deadpan
expression but you have to admire his
impeccable timing, particularly in the
classic railway film, The General.
I had not heard of The Boat, a 1921 short
where Buster launches a homemade thirty
something foot hideous clunker and sets
off for a maiden voyage with his wife and
two boys. I commend an online search to
all readers. The humour has dated in the
last 95 years, but the ghastly boat reminds
you of other atrocious wastes of innocent
material where the proud owner announces
that he designed it himself. And the kindest
thing you can think of saying is “Really? I
would never have thought it.”
This film was believed lost until James
Mason bought Buster’s old house in 1952
and found it in a pile of junk in the garage.
(It must have been quite a house, it cost
$300,000 to build in the 1920s)
Buster’s second wife claimed she did not
know his real name was Joseph Frank Keaton
until long after they were married. But in
this second marriage, it probably took a
couple of anniversaries before the bride and
groom sobered up ... You can’t blame him
after one of the most viscerally vindictive
divorces even in Californian history.
This film lasts about half the time it takes
for the credits to roll in some of the Lord of
The Rings epics. In Buster’s films, he – as star
and writer /director – got a mention as did
his brother-in-law producer, two cameramen
and an electrician. In The Boat, not even the
co-stars get a credit.
His wife is played by Sybil Seely, a
charming lady who would probably not make
it in today’s Hollywood. A few unflattering
camera angles remind you of Noel Coward’s
advice on Mrs Worthington’s daughter.
Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs
She’s a bit of an ugly duckling, you must
And the width of her seat
Would surely defeat
Her chances of her success.
There, now I know you are going to
Google it ... h
ALL AT SEA WITH
Links Archive AFLOAT January 2016 AFLOAT March 2016 Navigation Previous Page Next Page