Thick as a…

I was five when I decided I’d leave my Balham flat and head for the high seas.

In the early ‘60s, on Sunday afternoons, I’d watch the ITV series Sir Francis Drake.  I was hooked (no pun intended with the sea-faring Peter Pan character).

I’d only just started school and a chance to explore exotic lands and get into fights with Spanish people, seemed an idyllic life to be had.  I was desperate to be transported back to the late 16th Century.

However, at the SW17 Naval Recruiting School, I was informed of the possible disadvantages outweighing the fact I could earn my own body weight in Doubloons.

Did I like rum?  Well, as a five-year-old, I’d have preferred Ribena; what’s my view on scurvy?  Having had both Scarlet Fever and Chicken Pox, more itching didn’t really appeal; walking the plank if punished?  Well, my singular inability to swim would prove hazardous; how was my Spanish should we have to negotiate?  I could say ‘Do you know the way to the library?’

At the end of the interview, which was tricky as I was still quite small and kept slipping off the cushion I’d been given as a booster seat during the interview, thereby not giving my ability to balance (key on board ship), I had no credibility left at all!

I was encouraged to come back in twelve years’ time, but only after I’d got a certificate from the local Duckling Club.

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