The capsize of The Herald of Free Enterprise with nearly 200 drowned

Another very eventful month: For Diana and I, a weekend in Brighton; for the family, a trip on The Lady cruising our favourite venues on The Great Ouse and for us all, various developments on the personal and health front. I had spent a long time preparing and renovating The Lady, had started planning my Koi Carp pool and conservatory and had the contractor already starting work on the quay-heading of my river frontage and the pool was back in action for a fine month of weather, after the flooding. The US/USSR nuclear arms talks progress was the most significant event for the world, with the risk of a trade war with Japan also significant, but in Europe the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise due to negligence was the most tragic. The South African regime are ever-more repressive and the Sri Lankan Tamil rebels are being attacked mercilessly

April has been a good month, but a mixed one, health wise: After a few recent problems (a bad back, cold, stomach upset, eye injury) at weekly intervals, I am now healing again and slimming to under 13 ½ stones by a good diet and the exercise from my projects. Debbie accidentally injured my eye and we spent the evening at Hinchingbrooke casualty department  and we had to give up our Cambridge Theatre Box to Di’s parents when I was unwell, but I was otherwise fine but Di was still getting some tummy pains from ovulation and still suffers with her hemorrhoids (piles). It was a trying day for her suffering with her condition, when she had the worry of our visiting French girls but more of them later.  Di and I enjoyed some outings together, just the two of us. We had a memorable trip and romantic trip to Brighton, touring our old haunts in Brighton Lanes (with me also buying High and Mighty clothes there) and surveying the surviving Palace Pier and rue the wreckage of the defunct West Pier before lunch in The Druid’s Head. On a sunny and warm day we enjoyed a family lunch at The Anchor in Tempsford  then came home to tend the kids and got ready to join Lynne and Nigel Smith at our favourite place, The Three Horseshoes at Maddingly, which was a great night. There was news of the new A1/M1 link past Huntingdon being given the go-ahead and I was also hearing of the £25.5K sale of my Linton Lordships. My mother is now out of hospital after being confined there all month. Her hip operation compete, she is now out of pain and her mobility is improving gradually. My Dad has decorated their home during her absence. No news from Freda and family.

Di’s parents are just returning after two weeks in Menorca and I think that they regret selling their villa. The children are fine, with Daniel getting some extra tutoring from me to help him justify his Maths streaming at Kimbolton. Daniel had a setback, losing things on his first day back at Kimbolton School but he enjoyed the new pool with Paul and his other friend friend Gary visiting such that they both enjoyed the girl French students, his new boat and the pool  until they were exhausted. Debbie had a long riding hack. We all went in fine and sunny weather for the open Good Friday  at Little Paxton Wood. The weather has been very dry and hot in the latter part and we had the warmest spell since 1945, giving me the chance to renew the varnish on The Lady’s cabins and to start on the side rails for the first time ever since owning it. This project all started when we first took winter covers off and then had our first trial trip around the island, which revealed the need to repair an engine water leak by hammering back in the ‘core plugs’ that had popped out during the winter frosts. We then tidied up the boat, fitted the curtains and ran the heating and lighting in preparation for our forthcoming Easter boat trip which is detailed below. I was also managing the chores of overhauling two outboard motors, repairing the Blue Peter dinghy and supervising Daniel’s maths studies as I gradually deteriorated with a chill and could only read magazines later when I became ill whilst also selling Kode shares for a good price. Work on The Lady had to share time with my other projects and, after a winter covered up, the garden play-things needed commissioning and swimming pool had to be back in action again. This was all about balancing the swimming pool chemicals and buying more sand for the girls’ sand pit. With Peter’s help, the gardens were again looking beautiful, the pool was filtering well, sky blue in colour and warm for daily swimming, which the children were doing almost daily and I with the children later some days when it was seldom too cold to use our 60degF swimming pool   The planning my new conservatory and koi carp pond was proceeding apace. I had a preferred design with several suppliers willing to do the work, but I thought that I might have to settle for polycarbonate roofing on cost and structural grounds. I had been taking advice from remote and expensive contractors about my moorings and river frontage but then a Mr Larkin came up the river and tied up for the lock and I was able to take advantage of a much better and cheaper solution. After a quick negotiation, the river contractor started work dredging and arranging for the steel interlock sheeting to be loaded on board via the Paper Mill wharf and the river frontage work was then well underway, with a section already piled. Then, as the month closes,  we were awaiting more steel piles a digger to arrive, contracted to excavate a 20ft boat dyke. During floods, we had to rush down and save the dinghy from the flooding on a breezy and chilly day. The Easter boating trip on The Lady was a successful outing as we cruised upstream to start with, through the Paper Mill Lock, to moor at Coneygeare when we  then took The Little Lady to St Neots for fuel and shopping. There followed a fine and warm day after a chilly night which was better for cruising upstream to River Mill, Eaton Socon, and then downstream dropping, by our own moorings for a few things before locking down through Offord and Brampton sluices to arrive at Godmanchester for a relaxing evening with us reading and writing whilst the children played alongside.  Again surviving a chilly night on The Lady but this time waking to a drizzly start to the day which thankfully gave way to a dry cruise from Godmanchester to moor at the St Ives Waites Quay where we enjoyed sausage and chips at Floods Wine Bar.  This, before taking the family swimming at the St Ivo Centre and then back to the boats for the night. Feeling chilled and under the cold and rainy weather again in the morning, as we tour St Ives then take a Little Lady trip to LH Jones boatyard before we set off in The Lady, locking back through Hemingford, Hartford, and then Godmanchester to get to our playing field moorings there again by early evening. A late start on a cool morning the day after with the children enjoying the playground and me suffering from a chill and then a trip on The Little Lady through Godmanchester Lock and into Huntingdon for the family to enjoy ‘time at leisure in resort’. It was just necessary to take the Little Lady back to join The Lady for the cruise back to Little Paxton where a range of jobs awaited me to complete before I could retire to bed a little under the weather. Once recovered, I was then working again on The Lady on a fine day, planing the rubbing strakes down to improve chances of navigating through Willington Lock  and then varnishing the resulting woodwork twice for protection afterwards. The next work session, saw me  then out to remove the port side pulpit rails and sand and varnish the toe rails before sealing the wood and re-fitting everything as a another good day’s work.   Over the days to follow, I was back working on The Lady using some ½ litre of  varnish in one go, and then applying varnish to make her look the best ever. Elsewhere the political pundits are united in their prediction of a June election, now that Thatcher’s Tories are firmly in the lead approving a 9 ½ % nurses pay rise. The City were already discounting a Thatcher victory but we shall see. The government is not without problems but  the NCB re-employ 135 Northern and Scottish miners after the strike was broken, There remains a threat for Customs officers to strike, BA buying the Royal Ordinance factories for £190 million, which the opposition say will threaten 3500 jobs and Westland Helicopters Westland unveil a new helicopter joint venture with Augusta but face 2,000 redundancies, and are already shedding 900 jobs after the Sikorsky takeover   The Labour Party appeal to teachers for a moratorium on strikes and to work for a Labour victory in the forthcoming election AS  teachers are bitter and sceptical of government plans and furious over their treatment. This as the Tory record on inner-city deprivation warranted scrutiny, Clyde-side Govan shipbuilders win £50m orders but Harland & Wolf have to lay off a 500 Belfast workers after another 800 already let go recently. Inflation is still at 4% and Ernest Saunders is fighting to save his assets from sequestration after more Guinness revelations with £5m unaccounted for but the Caterpillar factory workers near Glasgow end their plan occupation as redundancy still threatens.  General election speculation peaked with  Labour launching their General Election campaign, making Thatcher angry with Labour issuing ‘the secret Tory manifesto’, but refuses to deny her plans to increase VAT. An MI5 book confirms that the service undermined the premiership of Harold Wilson and there are also other allegations about MI5’s anti-Labour activities but it seems that there will not be an enquiry into the anti-Wilson MI5 scandal as the government wants truth to remain hidden, but at least a Tory bid to re-introduce the death penalty failed in The House of Commons. Fears of a trade war with Japan depress UK shares and the Tokyo Stock Exchange record a record one day fall as there is news of mounting tension in Japan as the UK seeks more access to Japanese markets, which plea is rejected and so sanctions may be considered. The governments’ policies in Ulster still remain controversially allied to their affiliated Unionist colleagues. IRA gunmen in Ballynahinch ambushed two policemen and protests in the Falls area in Belfast follow the frustration of an IRA funeral. Later, a cache of IRA weapons had been uncovered, the 75-year-old Lord Chief Justice Maurice Gibson and his wife are murdered in a car bomb attack, the callous execution of two young reservist policemen in Portrush is noted and so security review is underway in Ulster after more parcel bombs and letter bombs plague senior UK civil servants but are intercepted. An official at the Irish Embassy in London is caught producing forged passports for Arabs for £15,000 each but, on the other hand, the first meeting of the Anglo-Ireland pact take place after the Eire elections.   In other news, a huge heroin haul is made at a London McDonald’s restaurant , Princess Diana breaks a taboo by shaking hands with AIDS patients to prove it is safe to do so and the ‘sale of the century’ of the jewels of the late King and his wife has taken place in Switzerland, with many of the jewels fetching much more than their estimates. I was disappointed by the demise of our Grand National choices but especially mourned the demise of the handsome Grey, Dark Ivy, who had just won the ‘Best Turned Out’ prize for his mortified stable lass, Tracey Halstead. A big story this month was of safety failures emerging design economies prejudiced safety and led to the shocking sinking of ‘The Herald of Free Enterprise. It was eventually righted and hundreds of bodies were recovered after Gales in Zeebrugge broke the lines securing the wreck and delayed recovery of the bodies. There were very many British casualties and so the Royal family attended victims memorial service at Canterbury Cathedral   Lawyers for the bereaved castigate Townsend Thorenson safely procedures after witness statements and so their fleet will now wear parent company P & O colour but there was still another ferry incident later, it colliding with a fishing boat with the loss of three French fishermen. An American is jailed for 9 years for smuggling cocaine into the UK but the big International story is that the US & USSR seem on the point of reaching an agreement on intermediate and short range, if only Thatcher will let them. Thatcher and France’s Jacques Chirac have talks and agree that keeping their nuclear deterrent is paramount but the two superpower leaders have too much prestige at stake to end up without an agreement now. Nuclear and Chemical Weapons Disarmament in Europe took centre stage in the USSR/USA arms talks and last- ditch talks between Shultz US/USSR Foreign Minister look close to a successfully conclusion, The UK will still retain The Trident nuclear deterrent after any successful Nuclear Arms limitation talks. Then, on the first anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, there was a rally of tens of thousands in Hyde Park to mark the event and protest at the government’s approval of a new nuclear reactor for Sizewell B whereas Russia have scrapped plans for two of their own. The US Irangate scandal grows and Republican fund-raiser for the Contras, Carl Channell,  implicates Lt Col. Oliver North and others and there are critical breaches in US security as their new embassy in Moscow is found riddled with listening devices after the US Marine protection was compromised after the guards were seduced by Soviet operatives. The Russian space craft finally docks with the space station after problems are surmounted. Good news concerning six lorries of aid getting through to the Palestinian refugee camps by the arrival of the Lebanese relief convoy is tempered by the death of one of their escorts. The unpopularity of the South African government is highlighted as religious leaders sponsor protests against imprisonment without trial. There is resurgent unrest after firebombs are thrown and 16,000 rail workers sacked.   Then, on the anniversary of the state of emergency and detentions without trial, there are hand grenade attacks and strikes. South Africa then attack neighbouring Zambia and lapses in censorship show how brutal the South African regimes has been lately in attacking Zambia and repressing their own people as police fire tear gas at protesting students who were peacefully singing. Violence disrupted a mass by the Pope in Santiago and the occupying Libyans are defeated in Chad losing huge amounts of equipment during their unseemly withdrawal from an arms dump and the airport. An attempted coup took place in Argentina and President Raul Alfonsin has thanked the public for their support in overcoming the rebellion UN. Security forces kill 2-300 Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka  and Tamil bases near Jaffna are bombed again  afterwards, whilst, in The Lebanon, peace-keeping forces in South Lebanon complain of an Israeli ‘scorched earth policy’ but a Scottish engineer is freed after 15years jail in Libya