Sailing to Purgatory
The final scene in this true adventure shocked the author, too.

‘The reader will be enthralled as Paul, former Fleet Street journalist turned professional yachtmaster, takes us along on his ‘swallowing the anchor’ voyage, his retirement from the sea.

'This self-confessed newish ancient mariner … has spent almost a lifetime sailing solo, as both an ocean going competitive yachtsman, as a DoT Commercial Yachtmaster, and during his circumnavigation to become a singlehanded Cape Horner ... Sailing to Purgatory has all the roller coaster elements of a heart stopping adventure — drama on the high seas, observing life ... undersea volcanoes, a love interest, and waves high enough to scare the pants off most of us.’ - Brenda Vowden, journalist, avid reader

Home from the outside ... St Helenans,
'Saints', round their South Atlantic
island in Midshipman,
en route for Stockholm.

Enterprising forebears ... The house Paul's father designed, and the car his paternal grandfather designed and built.

Running repairs ... crewman Declan checks rig fittings on the superyacht, Midshipman, which Paul sailed from the Cape to Sweden.

Sail power ... Gavin's Howe's beautiful yacht in the Mediterranean.

Rescue in the Southern Ocean ... Yachting World's international edition this month features Paul and Captain Fantastic in its Great Seamanship series.

Pat and Gerry Adamson, two wonderful supporters get Spirit of Pentax ready for her circumnavigation.

Home sweet home ... St Helena islanders, after a voyage round their island home on the superyacht, Midshipman.

Baptism of a Cape Horner ... Lady Chichester names Spirit of Pentax in a ceremony at Brighton Marina.

Homeward Bound 2 is prepared for her attempt on the longest open boat record.

Tri trials ... testing Paul's entry in the singlehanded race across the Atlantic are great friends Ron Pell, Jerry Freeman plus a keen helper.

Cover up ... Bob Abrahams works on cover ideas for Sailing to Purgatory.

Stocking up for 18 months ... Last minute farewells before Spirit of Pentax and Paul left on the long route to become Cape Horners.

Death of a racer ... Baltic Wind flounders after running into a container in the South Atlantic. Paul and a lady shipmate spent eight worrying days in a liferaft.

It was my mother's birthday. Happy Birthday I called to the autumn clouds and set off by train for her birth place, and the neighbourhood where she lived for so much of the younger part of her life.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
Happy birthday, Mum .... A pilgrimage to my mother's birthplace suggests what young wartime mothers probably experienced.

It was on this year's pilgrimage that a penny dropped from another birth day about what must have been a rather common characteristic back then.

This lady gave birth to two of her sons while bombs shrieked from the night sky, and great ack-ack guns shook the parish and the house and the kitchen itself, the scene of the chancy deliveries.

Insane days

Back in those insane days, medics were not available for anything as natural as deliveries of brother Chris and me.

Medics were needed for the war.

Pregnant mothers were stationed together in pairs, so they could perform basic textbook midwifery on each other.

For a very private woman like my mother, it's a surprise that this wartime ritual didn't act as the perfect contraception.

Even years later, she didn't speak of her anguish. Imagining the scene plus a further torment that she and perhaps zillions experienced in these home delivery scenarios was not difficult.

Surrendered intimacy

Not only was their intimacy surrendered to totally inexperienced helpers, the mothers were often of totally different backgrounds.

And the lady who was to act as the deliverer, and for whom my mother would be amateur-midwife, did not get along together at all. What scenes there must have been as the unavoidable date approached – for both of them. What could it have been like when the unmistakable signs of labour began?

The government must have been very aware of the contradictions that giving birth meant for so many people in war-time. However, a warring nation needs young men, fighters to replace the colossal slaughter of the battlefields, even if new arrivals wouldn't be ready for perhaps seventeen years.

And to pay for slaughter when nations can't get along, a new generation of tax payers is needed, people who will also breed the breeders for future war generations. It was a time of opposites and contradictions.

Learning to loathe

Little boys needed to learn of love, to grasp that an omnipresent being up there beyond the bombers loves us all dearly - all of us on the right side, of course - and yet to loathe the square-headed enemy enough to slaughter him by whatever means and in whatever number.

These contradictions populated my mother's past, if when we're gone – when we exit the planet - there is a past. Of course, we can't know if she discovered that the omnipresent being issued wings also to the mother she helped and loathed, not to mention the awful squareheads.

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