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Battersea to Falmouth, the missing episodes.
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.