The adventure of a lifetime – exclusive access to Old Bean’s Adventure Diary
Join me as, in the autumn of 2007, I arrive in New Zealand and begin to blunder about the city of Auckland; a man without a plan, somehow I land the job of a lifetime – the coveted position of deckhand aboard the aboard the magnificent tall ship Soren Larsen. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a tale of high adventure, considerable drunkenness, wonderful people, seasickness, fear and loathing in the Southern Ocean, plus lashings of Bundaberg ginger beer amid much sweat and toil. May I present…The Soren Larsen Diaries.
From unpromising beginnings
21st November 2007 Auckland New Zealand
“I had long discussions with many people about whether or not to bother coming and in the end, decided that I may as well.”
I will never forget the misery of being stuck in a job I hated. A computer something or other at the NHS in Exeter, not only wasn’t I a very good at it but when, a few years before, I’d done a business degree, I had actually paid someone to do the IT module for me. How I ended up working in the same bloody sector is outside the scope of this series but, somehow, I did and it was a miserable existence.
The rot really set in after I was forced to move from one role to a very similar one and took a pay cut along the way. By then, I had bought a flat and was in the middle of gutting and rebuilding it. It was the height of the housing boom and I was an unapologetic capitalist. Faced with the prospect of a drop in income, I resolved to make the money up outside of work. So began a period of frenetic activity: I imported Polish people, bought and sold second hand furniture, acted as an unofficial estate agent, worked on firework displays, and even took up trouser hems. I also began to paint, and sell my work.
At the same time, I was club captain at Dawlish Warren Lifesaving Club where I trained new lifeguards, helped to run volunteer patrols, ran exams at other clubs, and joined in with fundraising activities. While my Poles were in town, I rented my flat to them and slept on a stretcher in the girls’ changing rooms (less smelly than the boys’ ones).
My artwork was selling, I was selling, I was doing so much outside of work that, in the end, something had to give. I asked if I could go part time. “But why?” I remember my boss asking. “Because I don’t have time to come in every day,” I replied. His answer was no.
I had a mortgage to pay, I was unhappy, I felt stuck in a rut. And then, sat on the loo at my parents’ house, I came across a poem that changed my life: The Old Grey Squirrel by Alfred Noyes. It’s about a school boy who dreams of running away to sea but bottles it and becomes an accountant instead:
“For they caught him like a squirrel and they caged him,
now he’s totting up accounts and turning grey.”
The last thing this poor fellow sees before he dies?
“Is the sailormen a-dancing in the moonlightThe Old Grey Squirrel by Alfred Noyes
by the capstan that stands beside the quay.”
As soon as I got home, I went directly to the lifesaving club where there’s a big whiteboard screwed to the wall. On it, I drew a chart of all the possible choices I could make. When I was finished, I wiped away all the things I didn’t fancy doing, and what was left was this:
“Sell everything, and go to New Zealand”
So I did though, as you shall see, I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the effort…