You are reading the vinceunlimited Autobiography page, with true stories and anecdotes from a future publication about my life story called My Poynter View. In time this page will be fully populated with all the vinceunlimited life story content.
Please note that autobiographies, by their nature, are factual narratives. The whole thing would be vacuous without naming names so I have not shied from this, however only forenames are used to prevent libellous thoughts from the protagonists. If you think that I have been disingenuous then email me to advise and I'll consider your thoughts. Just remember though that this is my web site, my autobiography, my life. And that means my point of view.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.321 21 Jun 2021
First Published: Version 1.02 in Mar 2004
2021 website updates [see website page for full details]: Version 5.321 21 Jun 2021
My Poynter View
From the autobiography of Vince Poynter
Herein lieth the autobiography of the late and dearly but not departed Vince of vinceunlimited fame.
Please noteth that the document in question is a work in progress and clearly incomplete. In fact hardly startedeth. This will eventually be finalised (or at least the first installment will be as no-one really wants their autobiography to be completed) and then publishedeth.
At this point there will be a printed version, a film, a mini-series, it will be subsequently translated into 43 languages and a rip-off sub-series will be commissioned starring an ex-popstar.
The whole document will only be completeth upon the final demise of said subject. Deatheth.
P.S. Note the term lieth at the beginning of this article. If you feel like suing over a matter of stated fact within the text below and on related pages I will reliath on thiseth.
Great Scott. Or rather Great Vince. One great man. On a great bridge. Being great. Great
Imagine the beginning. Nothing. Nothing but two men. For it was several years before #MeToo. Two great beings in body and mind. Two great forces, born leaders with unequalled ability, immense strength and pretty fine teeth. So clever they both knew how long a piece of string was, how to set the clock on an eighties VCR and even the point of a BMW iDrive system.
Despite all this they had nothing. Nothing to challenge their intellects, nor stretch their considerable abilities. Nor, as an aside, any clean tee shirts to wear. In short an unfulfilled void.
So one day, I believe it may have been a Tuesday, these two decided to set about creating an existance within a universe of their own.
They set about creating stars, planets and moons, which for reasons known only to them they decided to name after their favourite chocolates. Galaxies were formed. The Milky Way was devised. And the bits in between were filled with dark matter, which when finally discovered will be called Bournville.
They competed to build bigger and more magnificent structures and populated their space with every conceivable form of planetary type. Plus a few others that weren't quite to standard pattern. Rings and wot not.
After a while and with an awful lot of universe to show for it the two of them decided to form the most stunning star system. Then within that system the most beautiful planet.
Which they called Mars. After their favourite chocolate. But they agreed they could do better. By making a planet so fantastic that it would embody every conceivable thought. All ideas. A super planet. A perfect world which they put in the solar system just left of the Aurora Borealis and within sight of Ursa Major.
They then had a right old Barney about the name, trying to choose between Twix and Kit-Kat but couldn’t agree so called it planet Earth, named after all the muddy stuff they put all over it where they got fed up with adding sea.
Although relatively small in size this celestial body was packed full of extremities. Cold, hot, arid, damp, rocky, plain. And any other adjective they could think of. It was simply idyllic.
But it lacked movement. So they whipped up wind, rain, snow and seas. Then, for a bit of a giggle, they spun the thing on its axis so each side would share the light of the nearby sun star to create warmer days and colder darker nights.
But it still lacked life. So they set about creating creatures to roam the lands, to fly in the air and to swim the rivers, seas and oceans. Tens of thousands of life forms were formed to provide noise, movement and energy. From microscopic life forms and tiny insects to enormous whales. And inexplicably, the wasp. They even included a baboon with a bright red bum, although later each denied that one.
The two had indeed created a utopian dream but still it lacked something. So whilst sitting back in their Parker-Knowles and sipping on Glitterberry J2Os, they thought of creating a creature in their own image. An ultimate user of the planet. Mankind.
This humanoid life form was given full biped status to rise over his contemporaries and an opposable thumb was added to help handle his environment and significantly aide in bum scratching. And his brain was enlarged to cope with thought, understanding and the detailed instructions on the side of a Pot Noodle.
Every type was introduced. Colour variants. Age differences. Ugly and handsome. Charming sweet people alongside those that refused point blank to laugh whilst reading an amusing anecdote. Every type indeed.
Something was still amiss so they added another fundamental difference. A peculiar variant, which they called a ‘woman’. Then they thought that she might get a bit busy. So they created many, many more. One indeed to match every man.
She too was thin and fat, annoying and nice, patient or snappier than an alligator with his tail caught in a gorse bush. And had every conceivable hair colour. That's the description of each of them, not just the collective.
In time it became a place of majesty, a real wonderland to explore and so inviting both men wanted to be there. The longer they watched the more fascinated they became as their created mass developed a life force of its own. Decisions were made and actions taken that couldn't have predicted. It all became fun and they wanted to join in and be a part of it.
The problem was the whole shebang took a smattering of admin but as each were both stupendously powerful, clever smart arses that really only one was needed to run the system. In fact they could do it blindfolded. And fortunately for them no blindfold was handy to actually prove this boast.
So one day, a Friday on this occasion, they devised a set of highly complex, harrowing, dangerous, difficult and challenging tasks to determine who could go there. The tasks would take over six million years to complete and probably involve quite a few chocolate biscuit fuelled tea breaks so they decided instead just to pull straws. But they couldn't be bothered with that sort of competitive complexity either so they just tossed a coin.
Well, God lost and the other guy went down to Earth, to be born a man and live a life. And my name is Vince. Welcome to Twix.
And I didn’t do the Baboon.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.321 21 Jun 2021
First Published: Version 1.02 in Mar 2004
Foreward and Links updated plus YouTube link added: Version 5.287 21 Feb 2020
The image depicts Vince Poynter stood on a bridge in Eton and was added in Version 5.052 5 Jan 2018
Click here to see me reading the Foreward as a comedy routine, as uploaded to my YouTube channel
My autobiography will be subdivided into chapters, provisionally entitled as shown below. You can see I was most inventive in their naming. I hope to complete them generally in sequence, that would suit my logical mindset. The first chapters are already up and running and a flash of inspiration may inspire me to make another erupt out of sequence first. Colours will indicate which are live and I'll advise those that have altered and which are yet to germinate. If you want to hear about one particular section then I suggest you give me a good badgering. And that doesn't involve the placement of dual-tone, nocturnal mammels in my rectal passage.
Start Working - The whole story will be completed eventually but the first part of the formal version can be found via this link here
Action Vince - Various general stories about doing exciting things as an adult
Other Chapters - Will be completed eventually or after notable stuff has happened
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.108 27 Apr 2018
First Published: Version 1.02 in Mar 2004
See individual chapters for dates of publication
The Baby Years from the autobiography of Vince Poynter
Mark thinking: Now what do I do with this funny shaped thing
When I first envisaged writing my autobiography I imagined enjoying recounting all the strange and amusing things that have happened to me during my life so far. However, moments in this chapter happened before my brain had actually developed.
So this first part, intriguingly entitled Oniscus Asellus, can only be a mish-mash of anecdote and fiction.
At least history has allowed me to set the scene. It was cold.
Allegedly, I was born around the witching hour on a Monday morning at the end of October 1961. I can't verify this as I wasn't wearing a watch at the time and my eyes were full of afterbirth so I couldn't read the bedroom clock.
For those that care about these things that makes my star-sign Scorpio and my birthstone Topaz, a rather mucky orange hue. The Chinese would say I was born in the year of the skunk, or something like that and certain religious sects would swear I used to be a toad. I've checked between my toes and I don't think they could be accurately described as webbed. I was certainly born Animalia, Chordata, Mamalia, Primates, Haplorhini, Simiiformes, Hominidae, Homo sapiens. Not newt.
The unreasonable o'clock in the morning home delivery meant that Mum could have a bit of a rest afterwards but I do not expect Dad had much rest himself. I had to be educated to 'A' level standard by breakfast after all. Just kidding. I doubt that it would have been even to 'O' level standard. Come to think of it I doubt it was to 'O' level standard when I passed my 'O' levels. But I might just be getting slightly ahead of myself here.
The location was in the South of England in a little known hamlet called Southampton, county of Hampshire within the United Kingdom, Europe, Northern Hemisphere, Earth, Solar System, Galaxy. Although you could leave out the last parts of that locale if you are terra-bound.
Southampton is a city with a long history and a struggling Premiership team, although when the town was first formed the sport was probably hog-back riding. Now it boasts a fine heritage of glistening shopping centres and poorly used docks. It rose to it's prominence by virtue of having two tides, a phenomenon caused by the adjacent Isle-of-Wight apparently, although I've never seen the island shifting about myself.
Southampton in the early sixties wasn't like the romanticised view of London during the period. For a start I wasn't born in Carnaby Street. It was a modest lane in the Maybush area. Hardly the best start in life.
A modern estate agent may try to describe the building as a retro-style apartment block featuring balconies with views across the city. In truth it was and is a pretty grim ground floor flat featuring a tiny balcony with a view across the street.
Yes, a balcony on the ground floor with a drop all of three inches! But it's still standing now and someone out there in the world of non-virtual actual reality may well be in that room today.
My parents were working class when the word was literal. My father had followed his own into the Post Office and I'm not talking about collecting a few stamps.
Grandad had started his career as a Post-boy at fourteen delivering telegrams by his company vehicle - the pushbike. My laziness at genealogy prevents me telling you what his father did although there was some sort of dock's policeman in the family once.
My father joined the Post Office and was a Telecommunications Engineer. My mother, at the time, was flat on her back. She was far too busy, along with most of the other good women of Britain re-stocking the nation after the war years had depleted the number.
I was the second born, having been beaten to the post by my older brother, Mark. He was two years old at the time giving him a head-start I shall never regain.
Until my sister was born, I would be the cute baby of the family. The blond hair helped, along with the dumbfounded expression shared with so many other babies. And owls.
Lovely chewy strap but not my favourite food, apparently
Many people claim to recall things from their childhood. Not me. I can hardly remember anything from before puberty and am, quite frankly, a bit hazy about things further back than last Wednesday.
However, a story has been told so many times that I now feel I remember it clearly. Nothing exciting or comparable to what was going on at the time such as the commencement of space travel and the onward trips to the moon or Twiggy or the first skirts named after a car.
Personally, I was discovered, I am reliably informed, chewing on a woodlouse.
If it happened today my mum would be in front of social services before you could even say "Can I have ketchup with that Oniscus asellus please?"
So that's it. An entire childhood beginning summarised in a debatable woodlouse scoffing anecdote.
I guess if you want to know more you'll have to ask my parents to write their stories.
For me I'm moving on to the next stage of my saga but you will have to wait until I write it. Ho hum.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.062 29 Jan 2018
First Published: Version 1.03 in Feb 2005
The images depict Mark and Vince Poynter taken around 1961 and were added in Version 5.062 29 Jan 2018 along with minor editing
Letting The Genealogy Out Of The Bottle
The Family History from the autobiography of Vince Poynter
Genealogy is a growing pastime and I am a mere amateur at it. I have only managed to trace my paternal family back for four generations and that data came from one family Bible source.
The trail leads to a couple who were probably born around the early 1800s, a mere 200 or so years ago, still some way off William the Conqueror. Mind you, I have no grand illusions and probably trace back to a mere woodsman rather than a King or even Courtier.
My blond hair and fair skin would suggest Germanic or Northern European roots and my accent places me square in Hampshire.
However, I never personally knew anyone that I could call great or great-great in the grandparent sense so my particular family story starts with my grandparents.
It’s all their fault. My paternal grand-parents. Blame them, not me. Planning Ye Olde Oak Ham sandwiches, no doubt
One of my fondest memories of being young is the visits to my paternal grandparents. They lived in Bassett, a posh part of the city and it is surprising the positive effects of fitted carpet and Ye Olde Oak Ham could provide.
I recall sitting in the bay window with my brother Mark for hours on end watching the traffic ebb and flow at the junction. It was my first taste of being a petrol head and I could name every car that passed by. Eric, Fred, Davina, etc. No, not like that!
This vehicular voyeurism was interrupted by the call of afternoon tea on proper china, followed by the card game whereupon the adults had to contrive to stop me winning all the cash. As a kid I was unaware of all this blatant cheating against me but I still came away with pocketfuls of old pennies. Financially it was the luckiest period of my life - the Pools and then Lottery never repeated this good fortune.
Grandma and Granddad were excellent in their roles. I only knew the very nicest side of these wonderful people. To me and my siblings they were warm, generous and funny. We only visited once a month and at Christmases so they, like us, were on their best behaviour.
Granddad started his working life at fourteen as a cycling telegraph boy and worked hard to forge a career in the Post Office, making Manager before his retirement.
His work was not interrupted for the various wars that his generation seemed to have at frequent intervals due to being in a reserved occupation although he once recounted a journey during a blitz where the bombs obliterated each building he had just vacated.
Another war-time story saw him shoved headlong into a bunker by an enormous clump of earth that had just been liberated by a local bomb. The earthy clump had landed square in his back. What a sod. The earth, not Granddad.
Grandma, to my knowledge, never worked. She must have done something for the war effort but its significance never warranted a mention that I recall. She did produce my Dad though so that counts and she had a smile to melt chocolate.
My father also worked in the Post Office although it had become BT, via British Telecom, by the time he retired.
His early years were disrupted by National Service where he trained, then tutored at Catterick Camp in Yorkshire.
He also changed his career collar from blue to white and retired with a reasonable pension and a lot more time for his beloved bowls.
It all started with a whistle. The wolf is the one on the left. My parents
Dad hooked up with my mother in the mid-fifties. Apparently the grinning, wolf-whistling cyclist swayed her and they married shortly afterwards, bearing three children, including my older brother, the aforementioned Mark, and younger sister Dawn. It must have been a successful whistle as they still remain together, ready soon to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.
Mum also worked, although sometimes part-time whilst we were all young. A series of shop, waitress and petrol attendant roles in the early years then mostly administrative roles for the NHS. But unlike today's parents, she was always home before her children. Which from my side of the fence was a bad thing - no after school parties.
My mother's father died relatively young. A disease causing an imminent blindness gave thoughts to being unable to support his large family and in the late thirties that was unacceptable. He elected to take a cowardly way out in the confines of his gas oven and left my maternal grandmother alone to bring up several children.
She was a hard working woman who later married the man I knew as Granddad. A giant of a man with huge weather-hardened hands and a booming voice.
They were the chalk to my paternal grandparent's cheese. Hardship was a memorable feature of their lives but I'm convinced that things wouldn't have been so bad had 'Nanny' not spent so much on trinkets and cigarettes.
Their home, for a large part, was a centrally located flat in a major town. Nowadays someone would rip out the guts, call it Manhattan Loft living and charge a fortune. In those days it was a cold, concrete, council owned property with nasty metal railings following the urine-aroma'd stairs. I still find it hard to reconcile the modern trend of apartment living without invoking those earlier memories.
Although splendidly rich in aunts and uncles on both sides, with all their attendant siblings I called cousins, the extended family were not overly close.
A couple of times a year we would visit or be visited by my mother's closest sister and her pack and at Christmases we did the rounds but the fact that the families roots' stretched all across the town and my family are inherently localised meant that we never really grew up together.
For the large part family only meant the five of us in the old house at the end of 'The Close'.
Although the three-bedroom house I called home was not my first residence [see the chapter entitled Oniscus Asellus to read about the first] it lasted long enough to remain a fixture in my thoughts where I guess it shall remain forever.
It was a semi-detached sixties built house with cold walls and horrid metal framed windows that would freeze inside on most winter's mornings. Central heating in the sixties and seventies was restricted, by law I believe, to my Grandparent's house.
All we had was electric storage heaters. Apparently, these enormous tin blocks were full of house bricks that were roasted at night when the electric bills were low and emitted their heat the next day. Or rather the next morning. To be precise for about six or seven minutes in some ghastly hour long before I got up.
I lived in that house during the long, hot, drought infested summer of '76 but can still only really recall the cold.
Benchmark children. Mark, Vince and Dawn. I blame the parents
I shared a bedroom with Mark, who was, and still is obviously, older than me by two years. We shared that room for the best part of twenty years and always got on well. Our murmuring together late into each night was not appreciated by the rest of the house and when Dad hadn't quite got fed up with the nattering our younger sister, Dawn, in her separate bedroom would squinny until he shouted. Girls eh.
In fairness it was always harsher for Dawn because, due to her gender, she slept alone. The late night boys conversation was probably a sad reminder of her loneliness at night.
Not that she had a right to complain. I spent more daytimes playing with her than Mark. She was two years younger than me so being the middle kid I had a choice of playmates. I would often be torn between playing toy cars with Mark or teddy bears with Dawn. In that respect being the middle child was an advantage. Other things weren't quite as useful.
Because I had an older brother I often had to make do with cast offs. Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a regular thing but enough to irritate. Dawn, being a girl, had none of my cast offs so at times it seemed I was the only one with used items. It may explain why I always prefer new now, from goods to houses.
Talking of new, in my family sense, the newest additions are my nephews and niece. Mark married Alison and together they had two boys, Simon then Alex. The niece part is Jenny, daughter of Dawn and her husband Andy.
I, myself, chose not to have children. A choice made far easier by the concurrence of my wife, Lynda. So the family Bible won't be getting filled up with my descendants and in theory when I properly research the genealogy it will at least have a conclusion.
Just like this chapter.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.093 3 Apr 2018
First Published: Version 2.01 in Jul 2005
The first image shows the author's grandparents, William and Rose Poynter, taken on the Isle Of Wight around 1965
The central image is of the author's parents, John and Lilian Poynter, enjoying a meal at The Vine Inn, Cadnam in May 2009
The final image shows the author with his older brother, Mark and younger sister, Dawn, sat on a bench on the Isle Of Wight around late 1976 and was picked to amuse you. So feel free to snigger
All images were originally added in Version 3.00 around Mar 2010
The School Years from the autobiography of Vince Poynter
Clearly a genius child, with his mother in the background
It is one of the most dramatic times of our lives. In barely over a decade you start school, graduate to two completely different ones, learn about money, relationships, fighting and sex, get progressively smarter, meet hundreds of other people, decide on what floats your boat and suffer the indignation of a growing army of zits on your body. And everyone tells you it's the best time of your life.
I'd disagree but suggest that childhood might be the busiest. You may have no money worries, because you haven't got any, nor any concerns over time, because you haven't any idea that it might stop one day. And no clue what to do about anything. But there is one overriding factor about childhood that dominates the time - children.
Unless you chose a career path that involves them such as a teacher or Scout Leader [those poor fools] you will never again associate yourself with so many of the little blighters. And by and large they are the most evil, deceitful, mean, bullying individuals you are ever likely to meet. Alright, I might be being a bit harsh and by now all those little urchins have now probably grown up to be nice, rounded adults. Rounded in more senses than one. Children will constantly taunt, wind up and bully each other until someone bigger says stop. And as a very young person I was in the thick of it.
My schooldays are not full of happy memories and although I fully listed myself in the first real social media site, friendsreunited [a now defunct, previously popular gathering spot], complete with picture and 1600-word narrative, as that was the social thing to do, plus I felt I had a good story to tell, I have no real wish to meet up with most of the old characters again.
My first school, Shirley Warren Infants, has now been demolished. In fact I did own one of the apartments [read flats] which were built there and successfully rented it out. It became a lovely little oasis in the grime of the surrounding area and handy for the hospital and my letting aspirations. It used to be a single story building filled with screaming youngsters.
I recall the basic layout but not much of the detail. I cannot really remember the classrooms, the other children except when they became older or any of the teachers even though I spent five years there. Some memories from the Infants school included the attention I sometimes got from the 'older' girls. I remember being cuddled a lot - it was a blond hair thing. And I recall once pretending to be dead so I could peek up the skirt of a teacher. I couldn't get away with that now.
Other than that my only memories were the walks to school with my mum and strangely the bike shed. No, let me re-phrase that, before everyone jumps to the conclusion that the pre-schooling preamble was in the company of a mother and some sort of strolling bike shed. I recall walks to school with my mum and I recall the bike shed, which I duly tested the back of with a couple of volunteer kissers. Kissing girls behind the shed, not my mum. Oh, sort it out yourselves!
Sister Dawn [no, not a nun] and Vince in an obviously school posed photograph
The little Infants school was not too far away from the main school which brought together the Junior and Senior elements and I duly graduated to the Junior side. I do actually recall one of my first days there and the pairing that kids do during the first break so we all ended up with a best mate. I chose a similar looking friend to me called Kevin but he was soon shipped off to a strange remote location that he referred to as 'Lester'. Near to the moon I gathered at the time. I had lost my first best friend. All the others had already paired up and I never again had such a [male] relationship.
The school details and geography are much clearer to me. I could probably accurately trace the whole school layout with its several classroom, play areas, tin huts, assembly hall and car park. I returned to the site a few years ago and was saddened by its demise. The boys playground had obviously not been used much and weeds had ripped through the surface of the tarmac. In the early seventies they wouldn't have stood a chance from the incessant pounding of football feet every couple of hours. The football games were quite fun with teams of about 50-a-side fighting over whatever ball someone could smuggle into school.
It was never a proper leather ball, in fact often just a tennis variety but the game was always fought with passion. I even recall days where a stone was used as no one had a ball. Of course, by the end of the playtime session I had 'introduced' several other stones to add to the pace, and cut shins. Formal games held on the green near Lordshill were never such fun. Although I often found plenty of space away from the massing defenders I would rarely be passed the ball as my team-mates would hardly involve the chap that was last to be picked for the team. I was so distrusted in sport that if there was an uneven number they would argue about who would have to suffer the indignation of an extra player! Can't think why I bothered to do all their homework for them now.
I used to have to do the homework for several other boys. I was gifted academically, which set me apart from the other kids. Couple this to a my timid personality, at the time, and I'd be bullied into assisting the lazy slobs. I recall having to 'grade' the homework so that these unintelligent pond mammals would seem to have done the work themselves. However, one thing I could never comprehend was how a teacher could think that some toad getting 35% when he normally got 15% was so good, when next to the toad was a smart little chap with [yawn, another] 95% score. Even more surprising was later in the playground the idiots boasting of how well they did.
In my opinion teachers do not like clever children. Perhaps they don't like the competition, or losing their superiority. Gifted though I was I had yet to understand the complexities of personality and was constantly derided for something I thought was good. I would sit at the front of the class showing great keenness in their efforts but couldn't understand why the teachers would be annoyed by me volunteering to answer any question they posed. I'd be dismissed with comments like "Can anyone but Vincent answer this question?"
During one term a set of laminated cards were issued on the first day. These colour coded cards would get exponentially more difficult as the term progressed. The first colour, yellow, was duly issued and within five minutes I returned mine saying that I had completed them. The teacher was shocked at this because it was designed for the first three weeks work. My score was 100% correct so she reluctantly gave me the next set, green, and went off to assist the others in the class, quite reasonably on their first yellow quest. Within another fifeteen minutes I had correctly completed the green and asked for the next. I was told to wait until the next week before she would issue the blue ones. A week later and by the end of the class I had completed the course, blues and reds. All with a perfect score. You could see the astonishment in her eyes. I asked what I was to be offered next and was informed that nothing else was forthcoming and I would have to wait in every class for the rest of the term, doing nothing, to let the others catch up. I ended up being a teacher's assistant for those weeks assisting others.
Another example was a lesson we had whereby the teacher would try to raise awareness about understanding with a word association game. The teacher would say a word and ask the pupil to say whatever word came into their mind. For example, the teacher might say 'tree' and expect the child to say 'forest'. As ever, I had to wait until near the end to have my say, despite my arm thrust up in the air so hard it had grown two inches longer than the other had. Having waited [im]patiently for the other automatons to attempt to formulate a word it was finally my go.
"Alright, your turn Vincent, your word is rabbit." Instantly I replied, "Rabbit". The teacher was aghast. Perhaps I had misunderstood? Was the blond boy human after all? She re-explained the rules, then repeated "Rabbit." And "Rabbit" was what she got in return. She enquired why I had just repeated her. I explained that "When you said rabbit the first thing to come into my mind was rabbit, the word you had just said. What you meant to say was 'What is the second word that springs to mind?' In which case I would have replied carrot, or even warren." Smart-arses are never appreciated.
I couldn't loose my skills so I had to start hiding them and did this in my next school. Smart eh?
A spud. One of dozens and dozens of privileged smart arses
I graduated from Shirley Warren Juniors to the finest school in the vicinity. King Edward VI Grammar School was my saviour from the certain 'ducking' I was promised on the first day of Senior School at Shirley Warren. I comfortably passed the entrance examination and started life as a 'Spud' along with a hundred other smart-arses.
One of my first actions was to stand up to the first bully. It worked and I was no longer the weakest link, but I was also determined not to be the brightest as well. I drifted toward the back of the class in lessons. Until my eyesight weakened and I found myself drifting back to the front again.
I recall a lot about the characters there, and even a few teachers but cannot recall any good yarns. There wasn't many things funny about the school or having to travel half-way round the county to see your friends when I wasn't allowed a bike and there's certainly nothing funny about not having any girls at the all-boys school. I can't even amuse you with stories about public school initiations because it didn't happen.
In fact the only story worthy of mention is the skiing trip to the French Alps, where I got badly sunburnt. Under the chin of all places, because snow reflects. As a result I missed half the holiday but I was determined not to let that stop me attending the black run on the last day but was too inexperienced to handle the highest ice slope at the top. So my friend and I [apologies for not recalling who] jumped off the ski lift one hundred metres from the top. Into six foot of powdered snow. It took us three hours to traverse the twenty metres back to the run.
King Edward VI supplied me with enough education to pass nine 'O'-levels, my only failure being French. I would have had half a dozen more had I stayed with the Warren as they didn't restrict entries to ten, or more likely I would have been stabbed as did happen to someone during the time.
I didn't have enough money for the independence I was seeking as a young man and my fantasies of becoming a Veterinarian were being dismissed from every angle. My parents were concerned that failed Vets have nowhere to go and the school looked at my failed mock exams. In fairness I had cruised all the way through King Edwards using minimum effort in an attempt not to look clever but knuckled down in the last month to pass the main exams. This must really grate if you are the sort that tries hard to achieve your results. Sorry, can't help it.
As I had no need for Oxford or Cambridge University the school was disinterested. I left the school under a cloud. Only at a Grammar school could nine 'O'-levels be seen as a cloud and they refused to acknowledge my status as an 'Old Edwardian'. That is, until they wanted some cash when they went private of course.I left the year they brought in girls. Just my luck.
But I had finally achieved my metamorphosis. No longer a smart kid. I left school, grew my hair and left behind the side parting. I opted for a trendy centre parting style that nowadays they would call a mullet. In fact they still do! And to top it all the spots started getting worse. I had become a teenager.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.290 10 Apr 2020
First Published: Version 2.01 in Jul 2005
The first image shows the author being silly at a Christmas visit to relatives, around December 1966. The author's mother sits in the background
The second image is a formal photograph of the author with his sister Dawn, taken by Shirley Warren Junior School around 1970
The final image is a formal photograph of the author, taken by King Edward VI Grammar School around 1975
All images added in Version 5.091 31 Mar 2018
Teenage Years from the autobiography of Vince Poynter
I have already recalled the metamorphosis of my school years in my previous chapter but that experience pales into insignificance when you consider the bigger changes I choose to undergo in the next decade as I developed from being a teenager to becoming a man.
At sixteen or seventeen, or maybe twelve nowadays, you start to work out who you really are. Music choices, fashion sense and identity all need maturing and this occurs in conjunction with the friends you choose to associate with and the things you do with them.
As a teenager I grew up too late for the free love sixties but too early for the real freedom of the eighties. Too late to be a real boomer but really predating Generation X. A non notable epoch.
The End Of Education
I had finished with full time education by the time I was sixteen, despite the vast majority of my peers going onto further education. I had poor parents who did not trust their own children with fiscal responsibility in case they made independent spending decisions, i.e. I would have bought a bike if I had the cash. However relying on individually requested hand outs for anything I needed from those who could ill afford it always felt wrong. I couldn’t see myself carrying on as a charity case until the end of education in my mid twenties so decided it was time I sought independence.
The school’s employment department was particularly dire because it was not often used. The grammar school system was designed to line kids up to enter the sixth form, take a few 'A' levels and secure the finest university entrances. It appeared I wasn’t bound headlong to the major universities or even the minor ones, nor even any of the many polytechnics yet to be rounded up into university status. My alternative was to find actual paid work and as far as I recall there were only about a dozen laminated page dull job ideas in the designated section at school. None of which inspired any form of creativity.
But I needed a job. Starting out so early may cause you to think career rather than job but a managed working life stretching far into your future when you are sixteen is as likely to be considered as is the first option to pay into a pension that will probably never come. Spoiler: it does.
I considered what I actually enjoyed at school, understood because I was incorrectly told that biology was no basis for a career and had to look at my next most interesting option. Art was a lowly second choice but the only thing I could think of so set about finding a job based on drawing but it seemed with my particular skills the options were better for technical drawing rather than creative art.
The start of a career. The cleanest part of the job
There were many apprenticeships out there at the time and with my grammar school education I had a far better chance than average to get a place. The first attempt was with Condor Engineering. They were making their name in designing and constructing steel frames for buildings and were based in Winchester. This was about as far as I had ever travelled, save for holidays, so seemed exotic. The beautifully printed, glossy brochure offered on site facilities such as sports events and a canteen along with lots of pictures of boring straight line bright yellow steel frames. The only thing they didn't offer was an interview. So I took the next option. Pirelli Cables were in Southampton Docks and they offered an interview. I was just sixteen years old and lacked every form of social confidence. I even recall sat in the waiting room for a meet up and thinking this floor is set too high. In hindsight it was almost certainly that actually the chair legs were cut too short. I recall virtually nothing else, not even what the job was, except the stale dank smell and no promise of sports events or canteens.
My second interview was with a much more local company. Situated barely a mile or two from where I lived was Johnson & Baxter (Southampton) Limited. This small to medium sized company of about twenty or so people was much less intimidating. I cannot recall how I knew about the job but found myself in front of the Managing Director, Peter Hannay, who saw something in me and offered a five year apprenticeship there and then. I would leave school and go straight to work. Year out travelling to discover myself? No chance, not even a day off. A Friday school finish with a start on Monday.
The job was actually the start to a career in an industry but one which I knew nothing about. I was attracted by the thought of working on my own drawing board. I just didn't realise it would involve drawing toilets. The industry was construction, the speciality heating and ventilation services, the reality pipework and components. In those days a very male dominated industry where men ran projects which employed the services of other men doing hard but technical work in the filthiest environments that buildings would ever be in. I eventually grew to hate it and it didn't take long to start on this journey.
I did enjoy the clean, office based part of my work. The small office of a handful of engineers and managers didn't intimidate but did restrict the opportunities for progression - dead man promotion. But I did particularly like working and interacting with the women who served supportive but vital roles in administration. Plus I enjoyed the growing responsibility that was conferred upon me.
Music And Fashion
The hair had been changed to a centre parting and was freely growing. The jacket was leather. The attitude was set
As I grew up my music choices developed. Growing up in the sixties I had a diet of fifties and sixties music and cared more for the late sixties ballads with sustained notes and understandable lyrics than overtly poppy noise or old fashioned fifties rock. When I had a chance to choose my own listening it was carried out on an old portable gramophone player playing 'Top Of The Pops' or 'Hot Hits' albums purchased by my family. In particular I recall a favourite was the 1974 hit 'Billy Don't Be a Hero' by Paper Lace, or whoever did the cover version on the album. I recall playing it over and over trying to sketch out and learn the lyrics. I did similar things to many of the Abba songs that I enjoyed starting from their first UK single Waterloo following the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest win, although in my case from their 1975 Greatest Hits album.
The first single I purchased with my own money was 'Rocking All Over The World' by Status Quo, released in 1977. This represented a development of my musical choices when soft rock started to dominate my choices, along with the double denim fashion and longer male hair styles prevalent at the time and this may have heavily influenced me for the next few years. I was becoming a sort of rocker. Not in the classic fifties sense, obsessed with music and the hatred of mods. The rock music I enjoyed was more subtle, more mainstream.
My favourite band during my late teenage years, proved by the amount of singles and album music I owned if nothing else, was Status Quo. Hardly heavy metal but heavier than the more easy listening, late sixties ballads I grew up with and also liked listening to. My enjoyment of newer music from the likes of Queen and Fleetwood Mac was yet to develop and eventually I choose more Meat Loaf performances than the Quo. However it was always denim and leather than polyester, which matched my choice of travelling.
On my Honda CB200 commuter bike all loaded for the next adventure. Note the spare helmet in case I got lucky. Or rather two because I am optimistic beyond ability or... my mate Jeff needed a spare lid
Something outside of work had become far more integral to me. My salvation did eventually come on two wheels.
Although my father steadfastly prevented my older brother, Mark, and me from having a bicycle on alleged grounds they were too dangerous he did not share the same thoughts about motorised transport, arguing that this kept up with fast moving traffic, ergo was more safe. He had grown up with full experience of bicycle ownership, graduated to clip on powered motors and then to small and medium sized motorbikes so had no fears of riding itself and loved bikes. He had only given up riding due to having a young family and needing better transport than his motorbike and sidecar.
He cited his concerns as the ever increasing amount of traffic in the seventies. However when my brother turned sixteen and went on to do his 'A' Levels at the same grammar school that I would follow him into he was allowed a moped. In fact Dad bought him one. A brand new 'ped of his own choosing, with fathers input of course. He rode this to school each day and I was promised the same upon reaching sixteen myself.
I was always suspicious of my Dad's motives for this radical sea change from no bicycle to allowing a moped. Mainly because this gave Dad an excuse to purchase two wheels himself. When he bought Mark a moped he bought a motorbike, albeit a small 125cc Honda.
A couple of years on and I had just started work, I was sixteen and offered the same choice as my brother. I could also have a brand new moped at sixteen or instead choose a second-hand motorcycle to a similar value at seventeen. By now Mark was eighteen and using his moped for nothing more than commuting to school, then college. He had no money as he was still in education not employment so hadn't upgraded to a motorbike or car but did allow me to ride his vehicle, a kindness I shall remain eternally grateful for. I could use it when it was parked at home not doing anything else, such as transporting him to school or the very occasional social event. On most evenings or weekends it was available. This is why I opted to take the second hand motorbike option at seventeen, using Mark's moped in the meantime.
I should have made a better choice. by taking Mark's wheels this prevented him from joining in with my new found group of fellow young riders and the chance of further brotherly bonding. I also missed out on enjoying the delight of owning something so relatively expensive, so brand new and so exciting when I was so young. Plus, when I was seventeen and heading out to buy the motorbike with my father he still had the chance to heavily influence my ride when I could have probably afforded it myself having been working and so earning for the better part of a year.
His influence meant that I couldn't choose a 250cc bike, the common starting point for seventeen year olds at the time. He suggested the power difference from the moped I had been riding for a year would be too much to handle so steered me toward a 175cc off road style trail bike. Then because it was 50cc larger than his he upgraded to a 250cc road bike himself. Then to continue a pattern that would develop, when I traded up a year later he strongly advised against a matching sized 250cc bike he suggested and influenced me to buy a 200cc commuter model, wholly unsuitable for a fashion conscious late teen. He was a competitive man, even against his children.
Notwithstanding my poor choices of bikes in time being a biker would become a deep seated passion to me. For years afterwards I owned a succession of two wheelers and even today, without current wheels, still consider a being a biker one of my basic life adjectives.
My group of friends shared similar transport to me, starting at 50cc mopeds, going through a few light motorbikes then onto big bore machines but when we drove cars this transient community started to fracture. Cars did eventually share their place with bikes for me because from relatively early beginnings I was actively encouraged to start using the company provided vehicles to do my job so got to drive a lot of fairly new machinery, even getting my own company car around the age of twenty one.
A holiday in France with my red Honda CX500 and mate Spike on my Dad's old yellow Honda CB360. There was sunshine and new friends and importantly at least one girl
There was another factor in the gradual transition from two wheels to four, the passengers we took along. Girls on our pillion seats were replaced by young women in our front seats. Teenage romances replaced by young lovers. Close male friendships usurped by heterosexual coupling heading toward life-long paired partnerships. This also influenced our choice of accommodation.
At sixteen I had joined a company and started a formal five year office apprenticeship. After a year I was commuting to work on my 'new' second hand trail bike and was busy managing contracts and visiting construction sites in company cars. Each Monday I would have to attend a technical collage to learn more about the technicalities of my industry and carry out interim homework to suit. Weekends and evenings were spent riding out with my mates and attempting to pick up girls. I had more spending money than my peers, who were still at 'school' attempting to get to university, although I never enjoyed their long summer breaks.
This pattern would continue into the next years, soon with me on a 200cc Honda then a 500cc mid sized bike because 750cc was clearly too big in Dad's opinion, particularly as he had only just taken charge of a 360cc Honda and only wanted to upgrade to a 650cc Suzuki.
Biking holidays were a respite from the monotony of work. I had no real savings because although my pay increased at each birthday and on each anniversary of my joining the company it was still feeble and upgrading my bike each year took a third of my money, another third went towards fuel and entertainment with another going towards rent to my parents.
Some of the entertainment was clearly the further pursuit of females, which sounds a great deal more predatory than the reality. My girlfriends were usually friends of my sister or of other male friends. The few parties and discos attended amassed very little increase in my social circle. I needed to seek more independence.
I had shades, the bike and the matching girl. But what I really needed was the independence
I was now around nineteen and had served the first half of my apprenticeship. I was still living at the family home with my family, sharing a bedroom with Mark, just out of college and starting work but making no apparent effort to vacate our space. I had three years work experience, an impressive large motorbike and a younger sister whom I had exhausted all her friends romantically if not physically. I also had a new serious girlfriend, Karen, with whom I had developed a more adult relationship and someone I was spending a great deal more time with including late night stays.
The situation sometimes became tense. Three adult males under one roof didn't help. Arguments sometimes ensued and it was becoming time for us to not always accept the strict control that fathers tend to operate. In fact one day I was accused of causing late night disturbances when returning from my common soirées. My motorcycle boots clumping upstairs at three in the morning were the catalyst of blame and my father challenged me on this. He cited that it was his house and I was showing no respect, the discussion flared and he raised his hand to me.
Up until now I have not spoken of his anger as it wasn't particularly relevant nor of any real importance to my upbringing. Yes, he sometimes had a temper. After all he was trying to raise a family, maintain a relationship with my mother and keeping us safe. Occasional outbursts were observed, mainly over money with mum but he was hardly ever physically violent. A couple of slaps were felt by us kids, much like many children of that period suffered. But no punches, kicks or beatings. More threat than thumps. A lot of noisy outbursts but nothing more, partly because the noise and threat worked. His physical superiority over his children saw to that. But now I was as big as him and possibly as strong. His fist threatened down on me and I choose to raise mine to match.
It was clear to us both that this was an impasse. Something had to give. Within a few days I had moved out. Into a shared house that a few of my peers had rented. I had independence at last. I had metamorphosed once again.
Author: Vince Poynter Version [First Publication] 5.290 10 Apr 2020
The first image is of the first office desk I sat at within Johnson & Baxter (Southampton) Ltd. The image is a screenshot from a video filmed by the author around 1979
The second image is a passport photo of me taken by around 1978
The third image is of me about to set off on a holiday, possibly to the Isle of Wight, atop my Honda CB200 'commuter' bike, taken by a family member around 1980
The fourth image shows me with my red Honda CX500 accompanied by my friend Dave 'Spike' Reeves on his yellow Honda CB360, which he purchased off my Dad. We are set to leave a French campsite, flanked by a couple of the guys we met there, taken by another newfound friend around summer 1981
The final image shows me and my girlfriend Karen Smith astride my CX500 taken by one of her family members outside her parents home in the New Forest, also taken around summer 1981
Top Of The Pops were a popular series of long play records produced by Pickwick Records on their Hallmark label from the late sixties to mid eighties which used session musicians and uncredited singers who reproduced popular hits intending to replicate the original sounds as accurately as possible
Hot Hits were similar to Top Of The Pops albums also using session musicians and uncredited singers produced under the mfp [Music for Pleasure] label, issued in the early seventies. My recollection is that the Hot Hits albums were more competitively priced than the similar Top Of The Pops albums, though not as respected. Except by me
You can read more about my biking and associated life experiences by checking out the stories I have written about them under the Bikes section
You are at the Action part of the vinceunlimited autobiography where I will spill the beans on all the exciting stuff I get up to. And you can bet that a lot of beans are spilled when partaking in such active stuff.
I am not the sort of person who specialises. In play, as in work, I tend to occupy a variety of roles rather than opting to be a specialist in one. This is why I can list a plethora of experiences that would grace a Red Letter Day's event manual. Plus it seems I can never seem to do things normally. Most would complete their experiences by saying something like "Climbed Mount Everest. Got to the top. Nice view. Came down again." If I went the rope would fray, I'd get stuck in a crevice, my boots would leak and I'd meet an abominable snowman that would invite me to tea. That is why I present this section.
On the water I have sailed dingys, traversed lakes, canals and rapids, experienced yachting and had a few cruises on luxury liners, as well as water-skied and dived. I have been in the air in helicopters, light planes, gliders and jets [albeit commercial]. On the road I have sampled cars from Beetles to Bentleys, driven tractors, diggers and off-road racers plus I have studied advanced road craft with the Police.
Events I have seen include the Wimbledon Men's finals, various concerts and even a Soho strip show. I was once seen on TV by over 16 million viewers, I have done paid work as an extra, written and performed stand up comedy plus have acted, sung and danced live in front of thousands of people, including performing my own original material.
But am I happy? ... You can bet your socks I am.
I'll get around to recounting all the interesting stories relating to the above list but start off with a few tales as shown below.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.290 10 Apr 2020
An action page was first seen in Version 2.02 Sep 2005
You can find the stories about my vehicles including cars and motor bikes here
You can find the stories about my stand up comedy here or on my YouTube channel
A True Fifeteen Minutes Story
I used to be a big fan of internet auction sites, or rather one in particular, namely eBay. I used it to sell on all my unwanted items and was mostly rewarded with an above average financial return. So I always read with interest any stories of unusual sales. The sort where someone offers two pounds for a pound coin or when a wife tries to sell her husband. To this end I always wanted to do a spoof of my own. I figured that I'd try to get a definitive answer to the perennial question - What's the price of fame?
I set up an auction offering, to the highest bidder, a news story submission to their local and national media about the bid. I envisaged the story tagged with 'At last, we know the price of fame. Mr. Winningbidder bid £x to have his name in the papers and get his 15 minutes of fame'. So I set it up on the ubiquitous site and waited for a reply.
The auction would last ten days so that there was plenty of time for the world's media to find it. Unfortunately, not one picked up on the story. I tried to excite interest by emailing eBay and notifying them of the opportunity of free advertising but the chap in a garage that runs the whole site was having a burger at the time, or counting his profits. I presume. A few souls found the site and in the end I think about 150 people actually visited to see what it was all about. Probably mostly geeks not actually getting a life. And one of these actually started the bidding. I was in business.
Now anyone who has used these auction sites knows that the bids come fast and thick toward the end of the auction particularly if one person has taken the plunge. I prepared for an auction battle. I said prepared but this was more in the mental rather than physical way. There is little one can do whilst the auction is live, other than answer the dumb questions that the viewers think of, such as; "Can you tell me how many of these single items you have please?" Or, "What colour is the red post box?" Or "You say the postage to the USA is £6.00 so how much is it to Texas?" None of these particular questions were asked during this auction though, unsurprisingly. Finally the auction ended and I was left with a winner.
I emailed him straight away congratulating him on his impressive auctioneering skills and requesting the winning pound. I explained that all I needed was his name and location so that I could honour the auction promise and contact his local rag as well as the nationals. I had a reply. Only it wasn't of the nature you expect from someone who just won an auction whose prize was fame. He asked how I was to maintain confidentiality, refusing to tell me his real name, even after assurances that I wasn't out to belittle his achievement or pass on his details. He was adamant and asked; "Can I do it anonymously?"
So there you have it.
The price of fame is one pound. And the winner is anonymous.
Not that I ever received the pound, he still had reservations about his fame being made public. But I didn't give him a negative comment on the auction site. After all, why mock the afflicted?
Of course, all this got me thinking about other auctions I could devise. Some might say that they are nothing more than a scam on the gullible but my motives would be purer - Entertainment. After all we all enjoy the newspaper snippets and forwarded emails about these silly auctions. So my next idea would be to advertise 'Absolutely Nothing'. Yes, this ten-day auction would lead to the biggest anti-climax in the history of auctions with the winner getting Sod All. Or if that idea proves unpopular I could run an auction advertising 'A Little Piece of History'. This time the winner would get something but the reward may not meet the hype I would imply. The winner will be sent a copy of yesterday's newspaper.
Finally, I could offer 'The Chance to be Completely Ignored'. I would send a message to all those who placed a bid but will completely and utterly ignore the winner. No acknowledgement, no invoice and no replies to any correspondance whatsoever. Certainly not any comments. I figured this may be of interest to Captains of Industry or Prima-Donna rock and movie stars who are fed up to their back teeth with sycophants.
As far as I know the above suggested auctions have never been tried. I will not try them myself but anyone is welcome to use the ideas providing that it is done at your own risk and under an understanding that no responsibility is accepted by me. It would be courteous for you to acknowledge source with a phrase such as 'From a suggestion by the inventive wit of the vinceunlimited web site' and to send me at least ten percent of anything significant made. Incidently I define significant as anything over three quid!
Anyway the original idea is now passing to you readers. I'm offering to extend the auction for fame indefinitely. Do you want your 15 minutes? Email me an offer, over £1.00 please. Every time the bid increases I'll carry out my first promise, updating details on this site as well, just as long as you pay up. Just please don't do it anonymously!
And as they say - Send no money now!
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.290 10 Apr 2020
First Published: Version 1.03 in Feb 2005
Incorporated into the autobiography section of the web site in Version 5.290 10 Apr 2020
QE2 - Properly Crossing The Atlantic
A long story of a transatlantic cruise on board the magnificent Queen Elizabeth 2
In some ways I felt a bit of a fraud.
It was only exceptional circumstances that led me to be able to savour the delights of crossing the Atlantic the 'proper way'. Sure I could afford it if I really wanted to, provided a few other luxuries were forsaken. And I had previously figured that one day I might part with the thousands needed to make the trip. But I would probably be a lot older. Much like the other guests queued in the bleak warehouse that Cunard seemed fit to welcome their clients onto the most sought after ship in the cruise business.
The few tri-colour balloons did nothing to enhance the surroundings and the shabby makeshift desks that processed us out of America seemed cheap and tatty. It was the last I would see of cheap and tatty for the next six days. I had an opportunity to live on board the magnificent Queen Elizabeth 2 ocean liner for a week at a fraction of the normal cost and snapped at the chance with immense enthusiasm. I would travel the four thousand miles from New York to her home town of Southampton living the millionaire dream
It was close to the first anniversary of September 11th so the 1,791 spaces were only occupied by about 1,600 guests. I studied these travelling companions as I stood patiently in the line awaiting my chance to be photographed for the on-board ID card. I thought I had come to the wrong place, convinced I had accidentally stumbled on a SAGA holiday outing. The average age, as confirmed later, was 65. Some of them were lying.
The waiting photographer hurriedly set up each couple and took his shot. Standing next to an endorsed rubber ring with the backdrop of the warehouse and the next impatient passengers I instantly vowed not to purchase that picture and slipped quickly on board.
When boarding, at a proper terminal that is, one enters the ship in the room they appropriately call amidships. It's like a hotel lobby without the ceiling height, a circular arrangement of comfy looking sofas surrounded by hand painted murals depicting the major events of Cunard's illustrious past. A small sign prompted me to play hunt the cabin. A task that I am sure some of the American guests were still carrying out on the fifth day.
The cabin search took me to three deck. To the uninitiated this is the highest row of portholes on the black bit. To the initiated this meant dining in the 'Caronia' restaurant. Although initially opting for nearly the cheapest of cabins I had already been upgraded twice, firstly out of the 'Mauritania' restaurant, then, on boarding I received a pleasant surprise that I was up another deck.
The brochure suggested that cabin 3113 should be hosting a 'Princess Grille' passenger but I was still allocated the 'Caronia'. I wasn't about to complain. My few hundred pounds had secured me in a cabin some would pay ten times the amount for. And anyway, the standard tipping rate was higher in the 'Grilles'.
The restaurants on board are the first introduction to the quaint class divisions that the QE2 still proudly hangs on to. The basic cabins and lower decks eat in the 'Mauritania'. Not that this is a problem. The 'Mauritania' resembles a five star restaurant and all guests eat the same food anyway. The other restaurants and grilles only provide fancier plates, presentation and fawning.
Lynda and Vince dining in the Caronia restaurant as the sea slips by
The next 'class up' eats in the 'Caronia' and as an occupant for a week I can declare that I wouldn't mind if I never ate better in my entire life. For those on the higher decks, the ones with white painted exterior walls, the 'Britannia', 'Princess' and 'Queens' Grilles await. Entrance to the esteemed 'Queens Grille' is subtly through the 'Queens Grille Lounge', discouraging the general hoy-poli from gracing the presence of on-board rock stars, captains of industry and those rich bastards secretly treating their lovers to a week or two of luxurious shagging.
You might like to note at this point how the company trades on it's glorious past. The names of the old White Star Liners, which merged with Samuel Cunard's own vessels are bandied about with great enthusiasm. 'Mauritania', 'Britannia' and 'Caronia' proudly adorn the restaurants and all around the ship you discover maritime heritage artifacts from the most famous liners ever to grace the Atlantic. Although I couldn't locate the Titanic bar - "Ice with that, sir?". Mind you the careful marketing of the past is unsurprising. Even the vessel proudly claims to be a Cunard when in reality it is now owned and operated by Carnival Corporation. I think they are wise to keep the name Cunard. More class. More style.
Things move surprisingly quickly on board. I expected a lot of hanging about and gentle moseying along the Hudson out of New York harbour. But the ship was built for speed and designed to cross the Atlantic in a shade over three and a half days. The six day trip taking the northerly route up the east coast of North America past the Coast of Maine and Newfoundland, before heading east to the UK was designed to allow those on board more than a couple of days living it up but the docking and maneuvering was well rehearsed and efficient. Typically the ship would berth in the early morning and set sail before sundown. Considering the enormous tally of items to do in this time, including cabin swapping, provision loading and static maintenance we should all hail those individuals who organise the turnaround. My guess is that they train with Ferrari's Formula One wheel changing teams. Mind you a cynic suggested that the daytime turnaround is due to the high cost of overnight berthing in New York or Southampton. Just pity the poor traveller who gets only six or seven hours to see New York. However, two to three is quite enough for Southampton.
One of the very few reminders you get that actually you could be plunged into a freezing Atlantic at a moment's notice
We were scheduled to leave at 16.15. Unfortunately, this was the time that Herr Capitain decided all the new passengers on board had to prove they could master their safety equipment and get to their muster stations. I wanted to stand proudly at the head of the vessel and watch the magnificent splendour of New York's skyline drift away but was stuck at the muster point wearing a hideous shade of orange and sniggering at the Americans who couldn't work out how to get in a lifejacket. It only had one entrance as far as I could see. At least they had found the muster station, some were still playing hunt the cabin. And as a minor comfort the muster station for all cabins around 3113 was the on-board pub.
It only took a couple of minutes to de-robe the orange lifesaver and return it to my room then hare up to the observation platform. I got a front row view. Don't be impressed, I only had to beat a few pensioners. Some didn't reach the front until we were in the Gulf of Maine. Not that we were at the true front of the ship, or the bow to you hearty sea dogs. There was no imitating Kate Winslett in the film Titanic. The front deck area was off limits to the passengers, crew only down there. Passengers had to slum it in the rear. On the teak covered multi-decks with the pool, hot tubs and no chance of a freak wave giving an impromptu shower. An interesting place to spot the well heeled Atlantic traveller. They are the ones sunbathing fully clad and wearing sunglasses. I'm sure that by the end of the six days aboard I spotted quite a few pale faces with shiny brown noses.
The other, braver souls sat imperiously in the hot tubs. Quite impressive until their last minute dash to recover the towel and dry themselves before the Atlantic chill took its toll. Then there were the swimmers. Hardy individuals moved to try to swim in a heaving lake of semi-warmed seawater. At least you have been warned. I thought it freshwater until my first and, I might add, only open mouthed dive.
I returned to 3113. My home for the next week. A pleasant room of similar quality to a 4 star hotel. The cabin itself was quite long, if not wide, with twin portholes at one end. The main sleeping area was separated from the bathroom by a walk in wardrobe. I walked straight back out again and only went back to use the fridge or safe.
There was enough accommodation in the main wardrobes for my light travelling. If my wife was a normal woman and not a mannequin for Levi Strauss I'm sure we could have made more use of the third room. In any event, the beds were single but well sized and placed together, the linen crisp, fresh and white and the bathroom well stocked. Ben saw to that. Ben was, and probably still is I would wager, a small, cheerful man ready to dive into my room whenever it was vacated. Not that this was a problem as he was the assigned cabin steward. Had he not have been I would have been less impressed with his eagerness to be there when I wasn't. He ensured that the bathroom was cleaned and restocked, the vacuuming done and the bed turned down at the right time. He even supplied champagne and strawberries on arrival, fresh fruit daily and left a small chocolate at night. Although I think everyone on board benefited from this and it wasn't just my friendly deportment. I introduced myself as Vince and he duly ignored that by referring to my surname for the rest of the journey. His strict training didn't allow for such personal contact.
Such was Ben's efficiency I wondered what else the private Butler's did for the penthouse suites. I mused, perhaps they didn't turn the bed down, instead accepting it into their hearts and cuddling it all night. Ben even secured a mock credit card to allow me to operate the safe. A rather pointless design which needed a credit card to swipe it shut. As there was no cash transactions on board, apart from the casino, the best place to keep the credit card was inside the safe. I wish I had remembered to bring the Harrods card to waltz around with. Or even the Texaco fuel card. The fridge was much simpler, needing only a short tug to get at the contents. Trouble is there were none. No mini bar drinks or bars of chocolate. Room service would have to cater for such urgent necessities, if you couldn't wait the long thirty minutes to the next scheduled meal.
Despite images to the contrary there is nothing fishy going on here
Meals. Eating. That's what transatlantic cruising is all about. And boy do they do this well. You have to be prepared to dress well to eat at dinner so judicious use of a tuxedo will be balanced with a smart suit, unless your great grandfather was clearly very wealthy in which case you need to buy a second hand corduroy suit then sleep rough in it for a month beforehand, it seems. Not having a tux didn't prevent me from eating on the more formal nights as the dark suit blended well, but I'll get one the next time I go. And you could wear pretty much what you wanted for breakfast and lunch. Although Ian Thorpe may have had to change out of his daywear.
The first meal of the day was breakfast. Served in your room or in your restaurant it was a grand affair. Like all meals the finely dressed waiters personal to the few tables around you presented a leather bound menu. A touch pompous for two Weetabix and toast perhaps but suited to the five course selection you could have. And the service wasn't any less proper because of the time of day. The napkin was laid politely on your knees and one didn't need more than a nod to accept the grinding of black pepper onto the meal. The waiters even knew not to offer it on the Cornflakes. Real class.
And the food was superb. The omelettes were light and tasty, the mushrooms tasted organic but without the hideous manure twang and the bacon was served thick and tender, unless the crispy old dried Canadian version was requested. The only strange item was the oatmeal substitute which resembled wallpaper paste. To look at, that is. Funnily enough, I never tried hanging paper with it. Felt it wasn't the time or the place.
Breakfast usually finished around ten, if you started early at around eight thirty, so it was a long and arduous wait until lunch, at midday. Again the leather clad menus were offered but this time there were about six courses, if you felt so inclined. The future shape of my stomach demanded I take just two so I generally opted for the starter or soup course followed by a main meal. I'm not that into puddings and cakes. I paraphrase when describing the selections, the soup could typically be a coconut and lime consommé with a fruits of the sea filo pastry ball, or something like that. Well to be honest, nothing like that. If I were a sous chef I'd be well and truly sued. But the geniuses in the ample kitchens knew what they were doing and accordingly worked their magic to produce the some of the best food I have eaten.
Lunch typically finished around two so it was quite a wait until the evening dinner served from around six-forty-five. One might get peckish so the crew rallied around at four thirty to present afternoon tea. This, I liked. It's the Englishman in me. We all took our places in the 'Queen's Room'. She wasn't present herself, only her bust, but she would not have felt uncomfortable. We sat awaiting the stroke of four-thirty when all the waiters, dressed princely in their full whites, emerged brandishing silver salvers ready to take an order for tea or coffee. Immediately, following these were the next wave, offering finely crafted, crustless sandwiches. The final onslaught offered cakes and pastries. The enemy was defeated. We all sat about trying to digest the food in time to get dressed for dinner at seven.
Dinner was the most formal meal of the day. The head waiters would unveil the gold plaque announcing that Gentlemen must wear jackets. No mention was made of trousers but I didn't push the point.
Waiters Anders on the left and Majic on the right. This is not a political comment
Our two waiters, Majic, a charming and professional man from Gdansk, in Poland, near to where 1983 Nobel prize winning Lech Walesa famously toppled their government and Majic's efficient assistant Anders, a polite and helpful Croatian, made a special effort to ensure our needs were well catered for. The usual placing of napkins and pouring of iced water were carried out, one on the knees, the other into the sparkling crystal glass and in fairness most times the napkin was the one that went over the knees. Then the menus were offered, presenting another mouth watering feast to savour select and gobble up.
Do order the fish if you go. My wife did and Anders immediately offered to squeeze her lemon. At first I thought it may have been an unprofessional approach and prepared to hit him, but he pricked his fork into the lemon segment, used another to hook out all those irritating pips then with a dexterity which would have made a card shark gasp, gently squeezed the juice into a spoon. With two forks and a spoon, he carefully pressurised the segment into releasing its contents without squirting it all over the table. And he only had two hands. I felt like applauding.
Of course all this high-foluting doesn't suit everybody all the time. If you want a quicker feed or can't be arsed to change out of those baggy shorts for dinner you could always dine in the Lido. This was the sixth restaurant and had that noisy tray clanging feel of a summer camp. It was too casual for my liking and the self service seemed far too manual. Our money was paying for the fancy restaurants so it was dumb to eat in the cafe. But that didn't put off many, it was always busy. I guess many of them were the Americans, having spent all morning trying to find the pool area they didn't want to risk having to find their cabins again to change and then their restaurant. They might miss an important meal and at a rough guess I would say seventy percent were anorexic. That is, if you define anorexic as standing in front of a mirror and thinking you are fat.
Stunning ice carvings. Note, the two in the seats are real
I wasn't a big fan of this place, except when they held the midnight feasts there. The midnight feast was a semi-misnomer. True, it could be a feast, and fairly unwanted at that time of day. But starting at eleven-thirty was hardly midnight. I think the guests may have gotten too hungry if they left it until actually midnight. But even if you were thinking of sleeping on anything other than your back you had to go just for the spectacle. I'm not mentioning the magnificent ice and butter carvings (not together, I add) nor the spread of fresh salmon, crab and lobster. Nor even the wide range of cakes, pasties, breads and chocolates. No, the sight of one hundred chubby, sequined clad ladies elbowing each other out of the way to reach that last strawberry. Well, they hadn't eaten much I suspect.
Despite all this gastronomy there were a couple of hours free to wander the liner. For the more adventurous it was advised that five laps around the decks equated to a mile. This route was charmingly called the jogging track, although really it was the only way around. Not that many jogged. A quarter never ventured on deck, a quarter were frankly the wrong shape for such activity, a quarter too old and the rest were probably eating. The only jogging I saw all week was the races from the lounge to the Lido at eleven twenty-five.
The other problem was that the front section of the ship was off limits to anyone wishing to maintain some sort of hairstyle. Twenty six knot winds in the mid-Atlantic can be very strong. Expect to walk at an angle of about forty-five degrees. Other deck sports included a golfing net. A pity really as I was expecting to fire a few out to sea, straight off the deck. I guess the environmentalists have had their say and fear the Atlantic is being undermined by small white balls. Another option is soft tennis or basketball. Equipment was supplied although I only saw one hoop. And it was far too high. Frankly, I'm not the right height for this game, being less than seven foot three. I did have a quick go at deck quoits though. Well you have to whilst on board, don't you?
If you didn't want to brave the bracing winds outside there was plenty to amuse inside. The theatre was used for the guest speakers and ours included Elaine Stritch, of West End stage fame and a retired Concorde pilot giving an interesting, illustrated talk about flying the most beautiful of aircraft at twice the speed of sound. One American woman asked why it was that when she was on board she couldn't hear the sonic boom. Mind you, on deck mid-Atlantic, I heard it pass overhead on one occasion.
The theatre also doubled as the cinema, where the latest releases were played using full surround sound equipment. It was like being at the movies. In a rocking chair. But that's the nature of being aboard. Even walking the aisles one tends to adopt the on-board swagger, moving along but gently veering from side to side. By the end of the trip you have learnt how to judge your own jaunt to nicely coordinate with the sway of the person approaching. At first there is just a lot of incompetent leaping from side to side at the last minute followed by the "Sorry. That's OK" exchange.
If you feel up to it you are welcomed at one of the many on-board classes and talks. I noticed things ranging from computer lessons to needlework. Card games were popular and everyone had a quick go at the on-board jigsaw. Pity all that was left was that complex bit of grass with all the bits looking just the same. I wondered how many people had actually stopped and checked a few pieces then trotted off muttering that they could have helped if only someone had not stolen that clear white piece in the middle of the thatched house.
A regular feature each morning was the art auction. Conducted by two professional auctioneers who spent their evenings in the pub and got increasingly friendlier with the audience as the cruise went on. Most sales were described as lithographs or serigraphs, often of a limited number with the artist's hand signature. Many looked like they had been brought from Athena. Except you don't find may hand signed Picassos in Athena.
The brightly coloured Astahov painting gets home safely
The auctions were light hearted and fair. There wasn't many on board prepared to pay $25,000 for the Chagalls or Picassos but a few of us brought minor pieces. Personally, I invested in an Astahov original. Whoever he is. At least he made sure all the numbers were fully covered by the paint.
The auctioneer typically gave a detailed and loving three minute pitch on each piece. By the time they had finished I wondered why they were selling them at all and not adopting the work as one of the family. All the frames were delightfully matched to the piece and glazing was included. The shipping, a suitable term given the circumstances, prices were reasonable and they even offered to provide an independent valuation for insurance purposes. All one had to do was bid. They would always start reasonably high, to see if they could feed the idea of spending a fortune. "What will someone offer for this fine Norman Rockwell?" they would ask. "$20,000". Silence. "Ten?" they proposed tentatively. Still silence. Not even the faint sound of a nose scratch. "Five?". The audience front row tended to look around at this point to see if others were awake. Or had left the room. Then a tentative finger would be raised. The skilled auctioneer would pounce on this communication. "Is that a thousand to start me off?". "A hundred." would be the reply and after strenuouse effort the Rockwell would remain unsold.
Not that everything went unsold. Fairly brisk business was made when the pieces were punted around the one to three hundred dollar mark and the audience lapped up the original Disney cartoons. Even if the prices were a bit Goofy.
Not all of the daily activities were quite so sedantary. I joined 'Cruise Host' Thomas on one of his historic talks. Thomas was an interesting, ebullient character who seemed to work hard all week. His enthusiasm was tested by the itinerary he kept. I was never sure of his native country. At first I had assumed he was Scandinavian, the name suited and his strong accent seemed to fit. But then I saw he was holding elementary French speaking lessons on another day. On another he was listed as your German host Thomas, holding elementary German lessons. My wife had none of this and categorically said he was Spanish.
Whatever his background he knew a lot about Cunard and held a highly entertaining talk whilst whisking his crowd through the ship. About thirty had gathered initially at the designated meeting point but I reckon only twenty-five made it to the first point of call in amidships to see him start the talk. He would enthuse about the humble beginnings of Samuel Cunard whilst colourfully reliving the past. After a few minutes he would say that we should all turn round to see the next exhibit and when you did there he was again, continuing the fascinating story and highlighting all the interesting artefacts on board. This was to continue throughout the guided tour, so I did eventually wonder whether there was more than one Thomas anyway.
His tour took us through quite a few areas of the ship and as we went to each level the crowd size visibly diminished. Not that they were bored by the talk, you couldn't be, it's just that at their age, climbing and descending all those staircases takes its toll. There were only seven of us at the end. And that included all the Thomases.
Thomas did recount a few stories of old including the Royal visits on board and the other famous passengers. He also said that the passengers were known for trying to steal things from the liners of the past and in some cases actually tried to disembark with some furniture. Although I did not witness this spectacle some people did appear to be keeping to this tradition. How else could the missing white jigsaw piece be explained?
All in all I had a wonderful experience on board and although I have tweaked the nose of some of the traditions my overriding memories will be good and I will return. The crew, ably led by the captain, did us all proud and I thank them all. And just to put some icing on the cake, halfway across we had an announcement that the ship had passed her five millionth mile, so we all got a certificate. A piece of maritime memorabilia to remind us of the journey. It made me feel a proper transatlantic traveller. No longer a fraud.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.034 8 Dec 2017
First Published: Version 1.00 Oct 2003 and reproduced here, unedited
Images added in Version 5.034 8 Dec 2017
Incorporated into the autobiography section of the web site in Version 5.290 10 Apr 2020
Water Skiing One
My first experience with water-skiing was at Thorpe Park. Here, the skiing is done from a moving line rather than from behind a boat so for a first timer the challenge is intense. A line circulates at about 15mph with trailing wires that snatch onto the loop and ferry the skier around the lake.
The problem is that as the line is revolving continuously the take off speed is zero to 15mph in a blink of the eye. And blinking is advised because as soon as you launch off you are dragged through a wall of water which, providing you don't let go, clears to reveal a sedentary tour of the lake. This is providing the skier has kept upright and many find the first twenty yards taken horizontally. hese souls eventually let go and bob away until the rescue boat gets to them.
I mastered the start after the second pull. A combination of good upper body strength and ability to do 15mph under water whilst involuntarily drinking five litres of lake for thirty feet helped.
Of course this is fine until the first corner. The course designer considered anything such as a curve to be too easy so each of the four sides had a sharp 90-degree angle as a second challenge. Just when you thought that 15mph eastwards was comfortable the line drops away loosely then flies over your left shoulder at 15mph in another direction.
The experienced skier ensures a curvaceous trajectory is followed keeping the line taught. The inexperienced gets another ducking and ride in the rescue boat. I eventually got the idea of the corner but Lynda, my wife, never did. In fact, after a while the rescue boat actually set off after each of her runs, knowing that he had business to conduct.
Being a clever-clogs at this game he never watched me so when I did fall off at the furthest point no one came to my rescue for 30 minutes. Because of this it started to get late in the afternoon and amateur hour was soon ending. We each had five runs, no matter how far one got and on run four I got round completely. At the end I dropped the line and majestically skied back to the starting pontoon. When emerging the instructor said I could have stayed on for my next run so when I got round on lap five I did just that - trying to get an extra circuit for free. All would have been O.K. were it not for the fact that the beginners session had ended and the organisers wanted to move on to the professionals. I had not dropped the line and was stealing a free lap. They initiated plan A.
Plan B was not needed as plan A was simple. They sped the circuit up to an experienced level and watched me fly. I made the first bend but the speed had reached 250mph [actually 25mph] by the time I got to bend two. Despite my best efforts and leaning at about 5% I couldn't make it and ended up back in the drink. This time I had to wait over 45 minutes for the rescue boat.
Water Skiing Two
My second experience water-skiing was less successful than the first. This time I had had enough of wire pulls and persuaded my new friend Richard to take me out in his speedboat.
Because of his father's successful business Richard was a wealthy young man whom I met through his girlfriend Rachel. She in turn was a friend of Lynda through the mutual act of working together. I had already earned my place in Richard's boat by videoing their wedding and we all chose a lovely summer's day to take to the Solent.
Our entourage caused a stir at the launch site as Richard's twin in-board motored speedboat and trailer linked onto his 4x4 was about twice the size of other craft, a veritable ego boost for us all, which explains the posing when we climbed in the back. The motor burbled away and we set off slowly out of the harbour area to maximise the envy. Having cleared the small boats and with open sea ahead Richard swung open the throttle to speed into the distance. Here's where the real story starts.
Richard was a young man who shared his boat with his friend. His friend was the experienced speedboat owner and Richard the cash cow. The boat had lain idle for a while and Richard did not realise the inboard motor compartment had to be manually vented. If this is not carried out it leaves petrol fumes effectively trapped in a closed box, which do very loud and sudden things when heated. When the throttle was wound open the fumes ignited and exploded. The boat leapt ten feet in the air and we were swamped with a bright orange flame. It engulfed us completely, singeing my eyebrows and melting my cheap tracksuit, a naff nylon thing.
Lynda proudly showing off her second-degree burn marks
Lynda bore the brunt of the damage as she had her arm lain over the back engine cover. She received second degree burns on her arm, which are the most painful due to the fact that the nerve ends remain exposed.
However, at the time our priority was making it back to dry land and a Hospital. The boat was marooned and we had to paddle back half a mile using the never-seen-action-that-day water skis. The onlooking crowd enjoyed this part almost as much as the explosion.
I have to conclude that I have yet to ski behind a speed boat but will one day. So will Lynda, who has made a full recovery. Unlike Richard's speedboat. It was never replaced to my knowledge.
Author: Vince Poynter Version 5.108 27 Apr 2018
First Published: Version 2.02 in Sep 2005
The photograph shows Lynda displaying her arm burn marks a few weeks later whilst in Mallorca, taken in summer 1990 by the author. The burns were not healing well until she decided to immerse them in the salty sea water on holiday. The photograph was added in Version 5.108 27 Apr 2018
Incorporated into the autobiography section of the web site in Version 5.290 10 Apr 2020