Ray was due on the air at 9.00am. Around 8.55, Chris Elliot announced that he had peered through the studio porthole to behold a wondrous sight. Having missed the tender, Ray was to be seen disembarking from a leaky rubber dinghy, complete with bail-out bucket. He made it for his show in the nick of time, but unfortunately had to endure the discomfort of sitting for three hours with a wet bum. This uncomfortable 'first' for Ray was unlikely to have been the only time such an occurrence had taken place aboard a floating radio station on the North Sea.
Soon after hearing this historical event, Fluff and I began walking the full three-quarter-mile length of Walton pier for the first time. We introduced ourselves to Abbie and Caroline at the Radio London shop, which was situated about half way down the seemingly endless stretch of planks, and were despatched to the distant reaches of said endless stretch to await the arrival of the tender, the Lady Gwen. It was here that we made our first acquaintance of news supremo, Tom Collins, otherwise known as the Sea Poodle, who was returning to the ship after a night's shore leave. Tom had apparently turned down the offer of using the same method of transport as Ray to reach the Yeoman Rose. We peered down at the jetty below, where the dinghy was moored, scarcely moving in the calm water. Glen Harvey, the son of Chris, the Lady Gwen's owner, and a lifeboatman to boot, insisted that the inflatable was quite seaworthy. Could the fact that the vessel had such an awful lot of water inside it, and such an enormous bail-out bucket on board have slightly discouraged the station's intrepid Sea Poodle, we wondered?
Around 10.30am, we boarded the tender. Now my brain was finally awakening, and beginning to accept that I really was on my way to visit Big Lil. It was a short trip, the Yeoman Rose being only about a mile out to sea. As we approached her from the starboard side, the Radio London lettering was not visible. Apparently, Chris Elliot and Ray, who had painted the station name themselves, while standing in a dinghy (surely not the one with the bucket?) had run out of time, or they would have completed the job by embellishing both sides of the ship.
When we pulled alongside, I needed no prompting to be the first to shin up
the Jacob's ladder, hot on the heels of Tom. I think the tender crew was quite
surprised. The guys were probably more used to people balking at the sight of
a rope ladder than rushing to ascend it. As I grasped the rail to pull myself
aboard, I reflected that had this vessel actually been the Galaxy, I would have
got down on my KNEES and kissed her rusty deck. As we embarked, we saw a group
of people standing talking on the port side. From their publicity photographs,
I immediately recognised the two Chrises, Baird and Elliot, who introduced us
to Tony Currie. I failed to identify the fourth person in the group as the Roman
Emperor, because Mark is so much better looking than his photo!
The ship may have been a stand-in, but everything about the place felt so right. I asked Mark, who by this time was existing on throat-sprays, how he thought this experience compared to being on the Galaxy. He told me that the ship was completely different, but the spirit of camaraderie on board was identical.