Yesterday should have been the Annual General Meeting of the Society for Sailing Barge Research, which would have been at Leigh-on- Sea.
For now we have had to postpone and we all go on in our present posts. The Society is solvent and membership subscriptions have come in well despite all the difficulties. Members will have received the recent excellent Spring issue of Mainsheet, which Charles must be complimented for putting together against all odds and Studio Six must be complimented for getting it out in the post. Richard is at work on this year’s Topsail although I guess he may have problems in obtaining some of the pictures, etc, he needs. Nevertheless, knowing Richard, he will overcome those problems. Tim has been busy banking subscriptions and keeping our accounts in order and John deals with queries from members, the public, TV companies and learned institutions. We all work from home except Don, our Archivist. These days he can do much of the cataloguing from home, but anything else would involve a journey from Maldon to North Fambridge, impossible in the lockdown but perhaps allowable now. He would certainly be alone at the Archive. Visitors would not be possible. It is so crammed with our over 35,000 items that no way could anyone else be two metres apart.
Between us we will continue to look after the Society, and we look forward to seeing everyone when conditions permit.
SSBR was at Fambridge River Festival yesterday in its fourth year. But no sunlit pictures this time. We were all drowned SSBR rats, and the picture shows two of us together with hastily boxed up books, sopping wet table covers, wet posters shredded by the high winds, and plastic covers over the tables.
From opening at 10.00 to about 11.45 everything was lovely: fine weather and lots of people; Pudge and Ironsides on the pontoon, together with Pioneer, Marigold, the tug Barking and the Burnham on Crouch RNLI inshore boat; a classic car show; a climbing wall; music from the stage so old that even I knew the lyrics; Kevin Finch with some of his shipwright tools, “I just went round the workshop and picked up some things I thought would be of interest”; lots of food and drink stalls from Posh Coffee to Pimms, from lamb shank to hot dogs, from crêpes to ice cream – and no, I didn’t have an ice cream, too wet and cold; yes, I did have a crêpe. We sold a very respectable number of books including Jimmy Lawrence’s new one, “London Light, a Sailorman’s Story,” and the last “Sailing Barge Compendium”. We took some membership subscriptions and found some potential new members.
But by 12 noon the rain was steady. Can’t sell books and magazines in the rain. We covered the table tops with plastic sheets. The high wind seemed determined to rip the SSBR banner away from its pole – the usual two cords tying it to the tent frame had to be increased to four and still the wind pulled the metal pole out of shape. We tied our splendid new gazebo by its legs to the tables, themselves so heavy with books they were unlikely to move. We stuck it out for well over an hour while the wind increased and the rain got heavier. Surprisingly the visitors stayed for quite a long time, all getting drenched, but eventually they drifted away and the place became deserted
We packed up and took all the stuff back to the Archive. There are a lot of things that now need mud removed and drying out – not least me. Clothes went straight into the washing machine. Still, at least we were all home much earlier than expected.
Many thanks to Don Wright, Graham Dent and Tim Mileson who all responded to the plea for help, and to Dilys Renouf who also came along.