I was talking to an ex-boat owner who, over the years, has become a friend and kind of business mentor, and he referred to Neil and I as entrepreneurs. I laughed at this. Entrepreneurs are either rich or on The Dragons Den, trying to get rich, that’s not Neil and me. However, he was serious and said that he had been asked to give a talk on what it meant to be an entrepreneur. Him being one, it took three things, he said
Obsession; for the dream or idea you have.
Madness; because why would anyone give up the safety and security that a regular job offered to take the leap.
Courage; because while you feel the obsession and embrace the madness you will have to have the courage to ignore those that tell you can’t and shouldn’t.
I know that I definitely don’t have any of those three qualities. I’m here because I love Neil and Neil loves boats. But if I’m being truthful its not that simple anymore. For I love the boat yard too, because it’s a place where we look after people’s peoples boat and, more importantly, we contribute to their leisure time. I often think that boats are more like time machines, only rather than taking you back or forwards in time they lift you out of it, making the stresses of the modern world seem inconsequential, if only for a while. And I think its for this reason that most people love their boats. And if you don’t believe me that people love their boats then all you have to do is look at the name on the back. That name has been carefully thought out and considered, maybe its the name of a loved one, and then it’s been painted on the back for the whole world to see. Think about it, you might like your car but are you going to name it and then paint the name across the back? I love my Mini, I may refer to it affectionately, and in private, as ‘The Mighty Min-Waar’ but I’m never going to paint it on the back, I mean, that would be a step too far even for me. But boating people, they’re proud of this tradition of naming, some even break a bottle on the bow when launching which, to me, just seems like a terrible waste of fizz.
Anyway, there are only a few situations that will make me begrudge my love for the boat yard, when I feel the bind of the tie from the relationships that I’ve built up with the owners. The first and most likely reason for wishing of a different job is a falling out with Neil. The most common comment people make when they find out what I do for a living is “You’re so lucky to work for yourself,” followed by “Wow, you work with your husband, isn’t that difficult? I couldn’t work with mine!” For the most part Neil and I get on really well and by that I mean we bicker and laugh at each incessantly, but there are times when, and I don’t know how he does this because no one else can invoke this feeling, I just want to kill him. Those days in the office can be quite tense and I have been known to goad Neil, trying to provoke instant dismissal but it never works, and I’m glad it doesn’t. I’d miss the owners. I know I’m not the perfect employee for Neil Thompson Boats and I can make mistakes but by God I care if I, or anyone at the yard, lets down one of our owners. I worry about it for weeks and will move heaven and earth to right that wrong because our owners deserve that level of dedication. Would anyone else feel like that? Luckily, it’s a rare occasion that Neil and I get to that level of frustration with each other and when it does happen it passes quickly with neither of us able, or wanting, to hold onto a grudge for too long.
Another thing that can bring on a loathing of work is when it starts to seriously impinge on our family time. I’m not talking about time spent out on our boat. I’m talking about our annual holiday away from the UK. Holidays for us are a nightmare anyway as the only time we can go away is September, when the holiday season here is winding down and just before the boats come out of the water. This normally causes some raised eyebrows with the school when we take the children out for an ‘unauthorised absence’ and I wait with a mixture of anxiety and hostility for the post each day, dreading a letter and fine from the LEA. We didn’t get our family holiday last year as we moved house, that wasn’t the businesses fault, but we’re not getting our holiday this year as we’re moving the business. I’m trying to be grown up about it but I keep having moments when I am petulant. My longing for the Greek sunshine and beaches are pitiful and I really should pull myself together, especially as when the kids asked today, where we are going for our family holiday and I replied ‘Blakeney’ they cheered. This was genuine, heartfelt elation from the two of them because even though we live in Blakeney, for them the thought of holidaying here is exciting.
These are the things they want from their holiday in Blakeney:
1)Mud sliding in Blakeney Quay
2)Sleeping on the boat when it’s moored outside the Blakeney Hotel so they can see the twinkling lights and go late evening/early morning swimming.
3)More mud sliding in Blakeney Quay
4)Stay out on Molly in the harbour and playing on the sand when the tide goes out
5)Digging a big hole in the sand
6)Mud sliding in Blakeney Quay
7)Picking Samphire and selling it (the selling part might be a pipe dream as it’s too delicious and I know they’ll beg me to cook it all)
8)Sailing in the Pico
9)Motoring in the tender
10)Catching some Gillie crabs
11)Swimming in Blakeney Quay when it’s raining
12)Finding two Cockles to cook (it’s alway two that they find and then plead with us to cook, refusing to go and dig for more)
13)Floating in the shallow creeks at low tide
14)Mud sliding in Blakeney Quay
15)Drinking hot chocolates with marshmallows before going to bed on the boat
17)Mud sliding in Blakeney Quay
I should be grateful. Scrap that I am grateful. I can fulfil everyone of those requests. And I will. We will. Neil and I. We’ll save a small fortune and create some wonderful memories. I wont have to put up with ‘Airport Neil’ – he’s grumpy and likes to compare the airport experience to driving cattle. I won’t have the aeroplane anxiety that I seem to have developed since having had my children, and since the time a lady almost died on our flight home from Rhodes. In fact, every time I fly with Neil something happens. From flight delays, near death experiences and sleeping on small regional airport floors following emergency landings. So when I think of those occasions and of how easy it will be to pack for our holiday in Blakeney, how short our journey time to our destination will be, it does make me smile. I’m reluctant to share this secret as it may mean that we wont get our prime spot alongside the quay, but if you have a cabin boat why not moor up there for a day or two? We did it the last May bank holiday and it was idilic. In fact we managed to tick some of the activities off the list above resulting in a happy ‘Team Thompson’.
It was a morning/evening tide that weekend and we motored in to Blakeney Quay on the Friday evening. We tied up alongside a friends boat, we hadn’t seen her for ages and she was on board. So once the children were fed and put to bed we spent the evening sat in the cockpit of her motor boat, sharing a couple of glasses of wine and reminiscing. The evening air was unexpectedly warm and held the promise of long hot summer nights to come. The atmosphere on the quay was positively Mediterranean and enthused both the locals and tourist, who stopped to lean on the white railings close to where we were moored and engage in conversation with us, commenting on how we had the best spot in Blakeney which was impossible to disagree with. My concern was the toilet situation as we had taken our sea toilet out and hadn’t had time to put the Porta-Potti one in (a more environmentally friendly alternative). The toilets at Blakeney quay are normally locked up at night and I was delighted to find they remained open, right through the night. I asked the attendant the next morning if they usually stayed open or was this a one-off and he said that as he had never had any instances of vandalism he kept them open in the summer months. In the morning we had a cooked breakfast at the caravan on the quay. The children went swimming and mud sliding while Neil and I relaxed in the cockpit of the boat and watched them play. At lunchtime we pealed our children from their wetsuits, cleaned them as best we could with water and wet wipes, and then walked down to Wiveton Cafe for lunch with friends. After, we walked back to the boat and in the evening Neil walked to the spar and stocked up on supplies for supper, just a simple light salad. After we had eaten I read some Percy Jackson which enthralled us all and before we knew it, the sun had set and it was time to sleep. The following morning Neil went to the shop and bought fresh croissants for breakfast and a Sunday paper. The whole weekend was blissful and easy. Everyone was happy. A little mini-break from reality.
So, on reflection, even though we’re going to be busy moving the business over the next couple of months I need to have a word with myself and stop lamenting my Greek holiday and be grateful to Neil’s obsession, madness and courage because it gives me and my family unlimited access to one of the most beautiful holiday destinations in the world. And it’s right here on my doorstep.