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The Voyages of the Princess Matilda
Format: Paperback|Change
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on 25 January 2018
If you have watched the television series or DVDs of the voyage of the Princess Matilda from the Thames around the coast of Great Britain you will notice the first series starts inexplicably with them leaving Cornwall and the preceding section from the Thames down is not shown as if the camera was dropped overboard and the film editor decided to just not mention it and hope no one noticed.

This book fills in the gap up to the point they reach Wales. It is the story of the barge being built and their first tentative steps aboard where it becomes apparent that Captain Spall is going to need more than an AA road atlas to circumnavigate the British coastline. It suits the television for viewers to think that this is Barry from Auf Weidershen Pet who has just brought a barge from a bloke on a cut near Wolverhampton and set off. The book explains the boat is a purpose built sea going barge designed for coastal trips and it is also clear that the captain may be self-taught but actually maintains a reasonable standard of navigation.

But the book is more, much more than that. Interspersed with the story of their circumnavigation is Shane's diary of her husband's leukaemia which is the event that led them to get a barge almost ten years beforehand. This second story is typeset in italics and slipped inbetween the pages of the voyage like a ghost book with a separate timeline and in a very different and darker dimension. Whilst the writing of the voyage is funny and breezy the journey through the illness captures the anger, fear and visceral pain of anyone who has suffered loss, or come close to it, will recognise. That part is not easy reading at times.

A wonderful mix of nostalgia, adventure and warning that life is the thing that passes by you while you are living.
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on 18 May 2012
Having seen all the programmes about the voyage that Shane & Timothy Spall undertook in their Dutch Barge and with the programmes beginning with them being in the West Country and then going around Land'sEnd; then onwards to : Wales, Lancashire, Cumbria, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Western Scotland and into the Caledonian Canal and then out into the North Sea and down the Eastern side of Scotland and the Eastern side of England and back into the Thames and the Greater Lodon Area...great voyage, but on screen the first part from london to Cornwall is not there as there was no filming, but the book by Shane Spall fills in that gap and what a gap it fills.
The other factor is the long process that Timothy Spall endures with his various treatment of chemo and other things, coiple that with Shane placing on record her thoughts of how she felt at her husbands situation and the book is a fantastic read, humourous throughout and sad when Timothy's hospital stays are included in a very clever bit of writing...the book incidently takes you only part way round and thus i hope for a further edition.
Well done Shane on your book and well done to the both of your on your couragous approach to live and sailing a Dutch Barge around Britain...hope the series also comes out on DVD...Recommend the book.
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on 22 April 2015
I didnt realise there was a book to accompany the tv series...I only caught a couple of episodes but I knew I had to have the book ! How on earth the family coped with Tims awful illness I will never know... The detail about the illness is interspersed in the book,, I think it would to too much if it was included in every chapter, I think the balance is right.

Its not all sadness though... you will need the tissues to wipe tears of laughter from your eyes as Tim and Shane bumble along our waterways . All in all its a lovely book .
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on 20 March 2012
I was drawn to the brilliant BBC4 series (all three of them!) by my lifelong love of boating and of Tim's impressive body of work, most of which I re-watch frequently on DVD. I found the programmes immensely enjoyable, informative and inspirational - reality TV, if it can be so termed, at its best.

Shane's book had me hooked from the start. Her writing is amusing and wonderfully anecdotal, and her searingly honest accounts of Tim's battle with Leukaemia - interspersed creatively throughout the book - are raw and heart-breaking. This book succeeds on so many levels: as an autobiography, as an account of the most amazing adventure - with all its highs and lows - sailing around the UK and as a glimpse into the world of two very likeable (and very real - not a mention of hair extensions or fake tans) people who, together, stand strong as more than the sum of two parts. But, ultimately, this book is about LIFE and how we deal with whatever it throws at us. For this Shane and Tim deserve the utmost respect. And we are privileged to be able to share it with them and learn from it.
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VINE VOICEon 23 May 2013
A well written book about Tim and Shane Spalls adventures on Princess Matilda built to their specifications, in-dispersed with the story of his being very ill with cancer and receiving life saving treatment.
The craziness of setting off on their journey around the south coast of England with no sea going experience and navigating with a road map. Scary stuff, but Tim learned quickly and graduated to proper navigation. I guess nothing could be scarier than cancer and they were now living the dream. A great read.
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on 15 July 2012
My wife will tell you that I have a history of taking a long time to complete my reading of a book (the record is 3 years). So it was with a sense of astonishment that she saw me complete "The Voyages of the Princess Matilda" in 4 days. Once I started reading it I got completely engrossed and couldn't wait to read of each new passage that Matilda 'sailed'.
As someone who has been treated myself for leukaemia I also found the short sections where Shane Spall included her diary extracts from Timothy's time in hospital deeply moving and captured exactly what my wife had gone through.
I cannot recommend this book strongly enough - not just for those who have been ill and wanted a light at the ends of the tunnel (which is what Matilda represented) - but for anyone who simply wants to follow people living out their own adventure and dreams. It is so well written and engrossing - a must read in my opinion.
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on 27 July 2014
I have thoroughly enjoyed every page of this book. I have laughed out loud and wiped away tears as I've read about Shane and Timothy Spall's adventures on board Princess Matilda. Shane writes so well and you can feel her pain and lonliness when she describes Tim's Leukaemia. I really enjoyed hearing about the town's and cities they visited on their way to Wales and some of the people and characters they came across. I'm certainly more aware of how dangerous and unpredictable the ocean is now. You'll love this couple by the end of this book. Highly recommended.
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on 4 June 2012
I watched both series on TV with Shane and Tim. I really enjoyed watching their adventures so was also keen to read them. I read the Kindle version whilst on a recent holiday travelling the coast of Cornwall. Without realising it, I often found myself reading that The Princess Matilda had been moored in the places I was visiting. I almost expected to bump into Shane and Tim! I loved the book, reading the story of Shane and Tim enjoying their special times aboard their special boat. Shane also shared very personally about her time sitting at Tim's bedside whilst he was so desperately ill. I couldn't put it down until I got to the end and then was able to see some of the photos of the peopel Shane wrote about. A great read. Shane, if you are reading this, thank you for a lovely book, thank you for sharing your story, I am looking forward to the next book of Wales to returning to London. P
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on 17 July 2012
Well I guess the Spalls would admit themselves that they didn't have a clue how to go about taking a boat round the British Isles - and they had quite a few interesting incidents on the way - but regardless they learnt a lot and they made a lot of friends including amongst professionals - and that says a great deal about what spirit and humility they have. This is a wonderful book that just does not last long enough, we have all read it in our family and now want to read the next instalment! (even though we know what happened!). Shane writes from her heart with an easy style that just makes you want to keep on reading till the end. It is a wonderful mix of the diary of a frightened woman and an adventure story. Looking forward to the next one Shane!
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on 20 December 2013
This book was written by Timothy Spall's wife and shifts between her diaries during his life-threatening illness and their travels about in a narrow boat following his recovery.
Shane Spall shares her anguish at her beloved husband's illness, sometimes difficult to read, and her acutely observed characters in their peregrinations about the waterways. She comes across as a funny, strong, loving woman and someone one feels one would much like to call a friend.
Read it - parts are laugh out loud and parts are crying with her.
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