April 2009

1st April 2009 by Des Cox

It’s April 2009 and we will shortly leave for our next voyage of Maritime Memories, taking us from Istanbul to the Black Sea, Greek Islands, Malta, Sicily, Sorrento, Rome, Corsica, Almeria, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Lisbon and arriving back in Harwich on the 24th May.

There’s another great crowd coming with us, which really makes these voyages so special, but we can still only find the time to do a couple a year. In July we’re off on another special MM voyage, this time to Murmansk. We have lots of ex-Convoy people coming with us on this voyage, so we are going to make the most of this unique occasion in the following ways:

We will be making a television documentary to cover the voyage, which will start with scenes of the new memorial commemorating the Arctic Convoys which is being unveiled on the Orkney Isles in late August. From there we will mix through to our ship’s sailing from Harwich, taking us and our special Convoy Veterans on a voyage back to Murmansk. But this time, instead of being under constant attack from surface warships, submarines and aircraft, the only warships and ‘planes we will see will be friendly ones.

Tug boatAs we sail from Harwich the tugs will pay their respects to all aboard by giving a special water display with their fire hoses. At the same time we are expecting the Royal Navy to provide an escort out to sea and a fly-past by WW2 Swordfish torpedo bombers.

And that is just the start.

During the voyage we hope to have both Norwegian and Russian warships come out to greet us and for the Russians to provide a special reception in Murmansk. Then, at sea on our voyage back to Harwich, we will hold what I believe will be a very moving and emotional remembrance service out on the open deck of the ship.

At the end of the service the Red Ensign will be lowered as ‘The Last Post’ is played by a lone bugler. Wreathes will then be cast into the sea and twenty-thousand poppies will fall from the sky. And, to make it even more memorable, Norwegian warships will come alongside to add to this great occasion.

Around Britain VoyageThat’s what we’re here for; to keep our maritime history alive and to try to bring back the pride we once had … pride that has been lost in so much of what we once loved and held so dearly.

Thinking ahead, and you are always telling us that we need to give you as much notice about future voyages as possible, I am happy to announce that we will be doing a much requested ‘Around Britain Voyage’ next summer, with … wait for it … a special call into Liverpool. I like that idea because I remember how the port of Liverpool looked during its heyday. In fact, I’m so old I even travelled on ‘The Dockers Umbrella’ (The overhead railway)!!

Actually, I did my first trip to sea from Liverpool and, of course, that first trip is one never to be forgotten. There I was, fresh out of sea training school and about as green as you could possibly be, arriving in Liverpool for the very first time on a cold, foggy morning in December 1956. When you are so young and everywhere seems so very far away – I didn’t have a mobile ‘phone to call my mum – you suddenly feel so little, and so very vulnerable - especially me because I was a poor little country boy and Liverpool seemed so enormous and frightening.

Des CoxI looked for a bus to take me down to the docks so I could look for my ship, NZSCo’s “Hinakura” which was berthed at Gladstone Quay. But those Liverpool people had accents the like of which I had never heard before, all adding to the build-up in my state of high anxiety and serious misgivings at ever having left the security of our three-up-and-two-down home.

The fog was thick and I was lost and, worse still, I was bursting to go to the toilet. Had I been worldlier, I’d have just stepped further into the fog and relieved myself there and then. But no, being a country bumpkin, I had to try to find a proper toilet!

“Excuse me,” my little voice squeaked towards these three sort-of-workmen, warming their backsides around a fire burning smokily inside an old rubbish-bin. They looked disinterestedly in almost my direction, disturbed by my country accent and probably wondering what planet I had just arrived from. “Could you tell me where … where …” I was suddenly embarrassed and so tried to sound as worldly as I possibly could. “…where the … urinal is?”

The three men screwed up their faces and looked at each other in total confusion. Then one, wiping the end of his sniffling nose with a long, crinkly figure, responded with typical Scouse humour. “How many funnels as it got, kid?”

I like that story because most of it is true and I really was lost in the fog. But, even so, the size and sound of the docks was truly frightening to a young kid seeing them for the very first time, with ships of all shapes and sizes stretching along the quaysides for as far as the eye could see.

I found my “Hinakura” in the end and I scurried aboard like a frightened rabbit, desperate to find a safe place to be. Thankfully I didn’t turn and run back to Mum, although if I’d had a mobile ‘phone back in those days, there’s every chance I would have. But I didn’t, and when we sailed so the ship took me into a world that gave me so very much. A world I absolutely loved and, despite all the many things I’ve done in life since, nothing quite compares with those wonderful days at sea which really were… the best years of my life.

That’s why sailing back into Liverpool will mean so much to me and I bet there’s thousands more of you who feel very much the same way. Come on - book now while there are still cabins available, because one thing's for sure, they won’t be empty for very long.

I’m really going on about these Maritime Memory Voyages, but they are special and we do arrange them just for you.

Maritime Memory VoyagesAnother popular request is for us to do a voyage to the Far East, which of course, was a service so many of you used to sail on. Blue Funnel, Ben Line, Glen Line, British India, P&O, Orient Line and so many, many more of the great lines we were once so proud of. So this is your chance to join us on the voyage of a lifetime as we leave Spain in late November to sail all the way to Singapore and Hong Kong, via all those magical places that you used to call at all those years ago. A great deal better than going back there cramped up in an over-crowded, pressurised aeroplane, providing an agonising journey of nothing but clouds, second-rate food, numbed legs and just about all the things I really hate about modern life.

Come with us then on a ‘Slow boat to China’ where we can once again enjoy the wide open decks of a real ship; those wonderful days at sea and sailing in and out of the same ports that were once so much part of our lives.

If you haven’t yet been on one of these unique voyages then you really should, because they are very special. Not only do you get the chance to sail on a real ship again, but you do so in the company of so many like-minded and truly enjoyable people. And don’t worry if your wife (Partner) isn’t too keen to go on a ship because I can tell you in all honesty, they have the best time of all and are always the first on the phone to book to come with us again!

But you also have the holiday of a lifetime as well and all for a special price! … Oh, just to sit out on deck in the evening and, with a drink in hand and the sounds of the passing ocean in your ears, turn to look up into the wonders of a starry sky at sea and remember those days so many years ago, when all us ex-seafarers did this almost by second nature… they really were the best days of our lives!

Dinner at the Captain’s Table

Dinner at the Captain's TableNow I must bring you up-to-date with all the other things we are trying to do, including our television series, “Dinner at the Captain’s Table”. Well I can’t pretend that it is easy putting a major production like this together, but progress is being made. Actually, had I surrendered all principles and just made this series like any other television cooking series, then it would have all been made by now, but I’m determined that we make something we will all be proud of and that is difficult in a world where everyone just wants a quick, quick profit.

But we will succeed and produce a series that, as well as making fascinating viewing and showing people how to prepare dishes once served to the rich and famous aboard the great ocean liners of yesteryear, we will also use this opportunity to show a much wider audience, some of the rare film of the ‘Golden age of Shipping’ - an age when to travel abroad meant almost certainly sailing aboard one of the many great and famous ocean liners that were so much part of Great Britain, our national pride and a great part of our way of life…

We will succeed but, if you’ve just won a few bob on the lottery and you’re not quite sure how to spend it; give us a call, because you could make the task of bringing this fantastic series to the screens of the world so much quicker … you could also make a very nice return on your money as well!

At the moment the plan is to film this series either aboard the “Queen Mary” in California or … and this is hot of the press as I write … aboard the Royal Yacht “Britannia”! (Now wouldn’t that be a turn up for the book?) Watch this space.

The Great Liners
Now Available from Snowbow

The Great Liners

Many of you will have seen the compilation DVD we released in association with “Ships Monthly”. We did this because just about all of our budget is spent actually restoring the old film and in making the programmes, leaving precious little left for us to advertise, so this seemed like a good way of letting more people know about us and the work we do.

It was a big risk for us but people really loved it, and what was really nice was the fact that for many people, it was the first time they had seen a sample of the programmes in the series. (That’s because they got the DVD for free!) But, since then, hundreds of people who, having not ordered our DVDs before this free offer, have now, on seeing just how high the quality of the programmes are, started to order our past productions for themselves - and that’s crucial to our survival.

We cannot make these programmes unless we have the funds to do so and we won’t have the funds unless you buy the DVDs from us … emphasis on “buy” and not to borrow or (perish the piratical thought) copy them for your friends. You think I’m joking… if only you knew the lengths some people will go to, just to save themselves a bit of money … for me, it is one of the great selfish acts, so if you know anyone doing it, please do you best to discourage them, after all, if we are forced to stop our work through lack of funds, then we’ll have nothing, all this film will be lost forever and we all lose out!

Robert Lloyd Fine Art Prints

Robert Lloyd Fine Art Prints.Marine Artist Robert G. Lloyd continues to grow in popularity and I am so pleased that we have played a part in his very successful rise to fame. He is now widely recognised as being one of the best – if not the best – living maritime artist in the world at the moment and, although I am sworn to secrecy at this moment in time, he has recently taken on some very special and exciting commissions.

We are so proud to be able to represent him and to offer his prints exclusively to our Snowbow friends. Since starting with these prints we have watched their value more than double, so all those who bought prints early on have, as well as a magnificent picture to hang on the wall, also made money at the same time, which isn’t bad is it? We do this by only offering very small limited edition runs, mostly just 75 copies at a time, which means that prints are scarce and will be very collectible. Isn’t it nice to be able to buy things you can enjoy that are also an investment?

We will be greatly extending the choice of Robert’s prints and, you know, the quality of his work just gets better and better and better. So, if you would like that special painting to hang on the wall at home or even in the office – in my case the garden shed - then take a look at the picture gallery on our website.

Ship Teapots

Ship Teapots.Due the hard times inflicted upon our manufacturing industry by our (tongue in cheek!) wonderful Government, we are no longer able to produce those wonderful ship teapots that we have been making. Sadly, the few we have left will be the end of the line. But the good news is for those of you who have managed to get your hands on one, they will become very collectible and worth much, much more than you ever paid.

We have just a few left in stock so if you want something really special that both looks good and will make you money, then you had better call us straight away. We have a few of the special edition ‘Mission’s to Seafarers’ teapots left and some of the ‘QE2’ to commemorate her passing. There will be no more after this so if you want one, get it now!


My Autobiography

Des Cox
Des, (As Pilot) whilst making the original Candid Camera Television Series

I know it sounds so vain but I have been asked to write my autobiography and have at least made a start. Well I say made a start, but I have actually written over 500,000 words - and I’m still only halfway through!

I didn’t realise before I started writing this book that my life has been quite so complicated. I am writing about my days as a sales rep, as a pop singer signed to EMI, as a stand-up comic, etc, etc. My days working as an actor playing small parts in feature films before starring in the original television series of

“Candid Camera”. As a theatrical agent promoting concerts and looking after some of the most famous names in show-business, including Roy Orbison, Tom Jones and The Beach Boys. Writing and producing animated series for children’s television and as a producer/director working on some of the biggest television music shows in the world.

Des and DaveI have also written about the really devious and nasty people that I have encountered in life, including those I once called friends who “took me to the cleaners” and stole everything. And that, would you believe, even included my own solicitors who, after sort of representing me for eighteen years in a High Court copyright dispute, which I eventually won, then, after having been paid buckets of money for years, ran off with all the money I was awarded by the Courts, leaving me and my poor family without a solitary penny to our name.

But I have to say that the general theme of the book is all about fun and laughter, and I defy you to read even the first chapter without falling about laughing, because thankfully, whatever cards Life has chosen to deal me, even in the most darkest moments I have always been able to find a way to look at the funny side and to laugh.

The book will end with my days at sea, which were for me the greatest, funniest, most colourful, most exciting, most adventurous and romantic days of my whole life, and the stories I will tell will I hope, bring back happy memories to so many of you; as well as bring tears of laughter to your eyes. The book will also bring a few little tears of emotion as well as I paint in words what were for so many of use, the best and happiest days of our lives.

Des CoxI thank you for your greatly appreciated support and for being part of everything we do.

Best wishes,

Des Cox.
(ex-NZCo, Cunard and the good old (Bad old) “Vindicatrix”).