Bill Mills' room

Bill Mills

A Classic regatta

by  Bill Mills

Up at Inverary in Argyllshire for a Classic Boat Regatta just before the main race we were introduced to the organiser’s wife. A lovely tall, slim, mature lady who looked relaxed and comfortable in an expensive summer dress, narrow high heeled shoes and a wide brimmed straw hat that protected her from the hot June sun that was staring out of a background of deep blue.

          Our first impressions of a rather aloof lady were dispelled when she told us that she would rather be out sailing with us than being the feted, important, big-hatted lady of the day. We said “Why not-surely most of the handshaking and other duties will be after the racing.”. Our wide brimmed new friend suddenly said “God! –I suppose I could-my husband will cover for me but I’ve no oilies.”. We told her that between us we had a spare jacket and trousers that she could borrow. “Can you give me half an hour?- I’ll be back in time to start the race.” She took off up the quay at a rate of knots, one hand holding onto the big hat and the other managing to control her handbag and flowing skirts.

          When she rerurned, the dress and hat had been replaced with jeans, tartan shirt, big heavy sweater and a pair of trainers.

          She clambered into the boat holding onto a plastic bag that clinked of glass as it was laid carefully in the cockpit. “ That’s something for while we are sailing. An I’m Mary and you have no idea how grateful I am to be invited on this beautiful old boat. How old is she?”

Stephen, the owner told her that Vilia had been built in 1901. Then almost right away we had to leave and make our way out to the starting line.

          Mary managed into Stephen’s oily jacket alright and my trousers fitted except for length, as the legs only came to just below her calves.

          No matter, she looked great with her eyes shining with pleasure

          We had a pretty good start and once we had settle down to the business of racing, Mary opened her plastic bag and produced a bottle of champagne. “Can you find something to put this in” Mary asked. “What a silly question.” I said and went into the cabin to get some glasses. We did rather well as we scooted over the course and with Stephen’s practised hand on the tiller and –perhaps- some assistance from the champagne-induced light-hearted banter, we overhauled most of the boats in our class and some others as well. As we jibed at the far mark to head back to the finish Mary dived into her plastic bag again –“ If it’s  OK with the Skipper I’ve got one here for the run back.”

          Stephen smiled as he eased the tiller towards him –“By all means- it doesn’t seem to have done as any harm at all,” And we passed another of our competitors.

          Back at Inverary we got Mary up onto the steps of the quay. She turned round and told us she had thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon and wouldn’t have missed it. Then she was away along the quay heading back to the official world of the big hat.

That evening there was a tremendous reception and the prize giving was followed by traditional music supplied by crew members off the Classic and Traditional boats that had sailed from far and near to take part in the regatta. Conviviality is a good word to describe the festive ambience of music, song and laughter.

What a good day it had been.

The next day the Inverary Festival was in full swing with the streets full of parked cars and people and the sun was still shining as if there was nothing unusual about the weather. The pubs were slaking folk’s thirst inside the premises and outside and if there wasn’t a table or a seat to be had on the pavement then there was always window sills and the kerbs.

The pier was full of kids fleecing their parents of as much cash as possible for ice cream, chocolates, hamburgers and every other kind pf gooey, fat forming fast food. Stalls, with people in light clothes and bright colours all trying to make their way either up the pier or down the pier, eager to see the rows of wooden traditional craft but finding it difficult with the press of hundreds out on a beautiful day. The Coastguard and the RNLI boat crews were having a well earned rest after conducting and impressive rescue exhibition. There was even a seaplane giving trips.

In the middle of all this packed humanity, a large limousine with an Official Car sticker across the top of the windscreen, slowlymade its way through the tight throng, then stopped. The drivers door opened and a slim, very elegant lady, carefully emerged. A wide brimmed hat with a flowing scarf tied round the crown, ducked out of the doorway. Slowly she pulled herself up to stand on the seat revealing a gorgeous. Gauzy, rainbow coloured dress that matched her hatband. She stood with one white gloved hand holding onto the car roof and the other up to her eyes to shade the sun, obviously looking for someone. With practically everyone of the densely packed crowd watching her, she slowly looked around from her vantage point. Then came the moment of the most acute embarrassment. Mary started waving something yellow around her head as she called across to me-“Bill- Bill darling – you forgot your trousers.!”

How could all those laughing cheering people know that it really was an innocent return of a pair of old waterproof trousers?.

Timber Surgery .

At the old Club House the Committee were all working hard at various jobs on a cold and frosty Saturday in January. Two of us had been detailed to investigate defective plumbing in the ladies toilet. For some reason this had been classed as a priority by the lady members.

We found that it would be necessary to inspect the pipes running under the floor. The floor was of very large section chipboard with no access trap. We decided that a square would have to be cut out to allow initial inspection. We had a small circular saw but were a bit apprehensive about possibly cutting into the pipes that had been laid close under the floor.

My friend and I were just discussing what would be the best way to avoid a watery catastrophe, when the Club Secretary came in to see how we were getting on. Our Secretary was a respected surgeon, a bone specialist. He enquired what the hold up was. We told him that we were a bit reluctant to start cutting in case we went too deep and cut into the pipes     

Our Secretary knelt beside us on the floor and said “ Here – give me the saw. “ As nice as nine-pence he cut a section out with the whirling blade going through at floor thickness and no more.

He smiled at us and said  “ I’m not allowed to go too deep.

         Bill Mills