Part 3 - Keith Skues Lurks Locally in the County of Essex - Page 2

After a few pleasure trips on the tender between bulletins, Dave Williams joined us on the pier. He risked his health by giving an interview and posing for glamour shots inside the fragrant fisherman's shelter. Conducting the interview was one Jon Myer, from BBC GLR, although I did not discover this till much later. I had encountered Jon 14 years earlier, when I first met Peter Young (see Part 1 of story) at Capital Radio, and Jon was PY's producer. Not surprisingly, neither of us recognised the other!

I chatted to Colin Wilkins and his mate Bruce, who had come all the way down from Leeds for the weekend. I thought perhaps they had lived in the Big L reception area in the 'Sixties and had moved north since, but no. They told me they had been able to receive the station output in Leeds quite clearly in the evenings. Colin was a photographer, so I decided it would be a good move to let him use his superior camera to take shots of Cardboard Shoes being brought ashore, rather than me struggling amongst the crowds with mine. How he managed it I don't know, but Colin also succeeded in taking extensive video footage during his visit.

Months later, I watched the videotape of Dave being interviewed. Only a few days later, PY told me Jon Myer had produced 'Pirates of the Airwaves', a documentary to be broadcast at Christmas 97, and that it contained an interview with Dave Williams talking about his time on Caroline North. Suddenly, there was a huge CLANG! in my brain as the penny dropped. "I know where that interview was conducted," I said. "It was on Walton pier. I've just seen a videotape of it!" The Walton Time-warp effect had struck again! Since then, I have corresponded with Jon via mail and e-mail. He is an officially certified Anorak. I know, because I'm the one who certified him!

(Picture: "When I was on Caroline North, we didn't have Big L baseball caps...")

To return to August 10th, Diana, Hugo and I, (all three of us being sun-lovers), had originally considered staying on the pier only until Keith came ashore in the lifeboat, planning to break camp and head for the beach afterwards. Somehow, we never found the impetus to move. The atmosphere was as invigorating as the sea air, with so many Anoraks around to talk to. One of them even recognised me from my picture in the Big L '97 merchandise leaflet, modelling the 1966 design t-shirt, and asked me to autograph the tiny photo for him!

When Cardboard Shoes was ceremoniously brought ashore to the lifeboat station, he was accompanied by the Roman Emperor and Duncan Johnson. Duncan had been coerced into performing a 'Star Guest News Bulletin' during Keith's show, which I believe he read from the laptop rather than the ubiquitous piece of paper.

Maxine's other birthday treat was to spend the rest of this scorching hot day manning the Big L shop, which, with the influx of Skues groupies was doing a roaring trade. During the afternoon I took a walk into Walton to purchase a birthday card for Maxine on behalf of myself, Diana and Hugo. I also bought her two pairs of novelty socks, because she was clearly working her socks off.

(Picture: Maxine with Cardboard Sunglasses, er, Shoes)

By mid-afternoon, the sea was starting to get up, and there was talk of cancelling the last few trips to the ship, which were fully booked. Chris Elliot was due ashore that afternoon. He had not taken any shore leave since sailing with the Yeoman Rose from Kent, and was in dire need of a little R and R. The intention had been that he would be autographing copies of his new Wonderful Radio London Story book at the pier shop, but unfortunately the printers had failed to deliver the finished product on time. Much gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair ensued.

Chris Baird had been planning to go for a drink with myself, Diana and Hugo, when suddenly, it was announced that, due to the weather, the tender trips would have to cease. If people who were due back on board the ship wanted to make it, they would have to leave right now. It wasn't the only time that week that someone was seen zooming off down the planks at record-breaking speed.

Eventually, we remaining three from the proposed drinking party did manage to tear ourselves away from the pier, and visited the Old Pier Cafe and Pizza emporium, where we shared a large pot of tea and Diana and Hugo ate a giant pizza, with extra-hot chillies. The main reason I chose the cafe was because I knew that they not only made a mean pizza, but they now had Big L playing over the loudspeakers in there. Fluff and I had eaten in the cafe on our first visit, and had been disappointed to find that the place was tuned into another station.


During the intervening weeks, however, things had changed for the better. The owners had risen to a Big L '97 challenge to deliver pizza to the Yeoman Rose, which was, after all, situated within their advertised three-mile free delivery area. Alan Hanmore, the cafe proprietor had solved the threat of soaking feet and soggy pizza by hitching a lift with a local boatman, the colourfully-named Tony 'Winkle' Haggis. The story had naturally received extensive airing on Big L, subsequently hitting the local papers and even going on to attract TV coverage. Needless to say, the resulting publicity had done the cafe a power of good. Several more pizzas were delivered to the Yeoman Rose during the 28-day broadcast, and there was no chance of Alan 'touching that dial' until after August 14th.

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