It’s early June 1994, life as we know it was much different, the weather was massively variable, a rail strike was hurting the country and Fred West was blissfully unaware that he’d soon be huge news.
Mobile phones were in their infancy and in many ways; life was simpler.
Not for a section of the Norfolk Broads though.
The Groom – (TG)
The Best Man, an architect and otherwise intelligent man in his late 30s – referred to here as That Fucking Idiot (TFI)
The Biochemist (Bio)
The Accountant (TA)
The IT Specialist (IS)
The Builder (the wealthy one, also the drunk – TD)
The Norfolk Broads, particularly Wroxham and the surrounding area
A fifty foot long Broads Boat hired by TFI from Blake’s Boatyard, at the time a smallish independent operator. they’ve long since disappeared but the boat looked a bit like this.
Scene – Day One: Early Morning
A group of six men in their 30s meet at roadside for a minibus to take them to Norfolk, they’re all fairly well dressed, all have a small bag for extra clothes and are standing around a stack of beer that’s nearly six feet tall. There’s also a portable stereo that is already playing a mix of music that seems designed to annoy others.
TFI – ‘are we all ready for this, got all your stuff?’ He leers at The Groom
TG – ‘just remember the rules, try to tie me to anything or shave anything and I’ll murder you and dump your body overboard’
Everybody looks at their feet.
Four hours later – The Boat.
Boatyard Guide – “Right, are we all listening, you need to be really careful, this is a big boat and some of the sidings are covered in iron. You need to make sure that you undo the awning if you’re taking the roof back. This is how you go forward – and backwards, keep the speed low and steady, don’t do any sudden turns. Make sure you take the key out if you leave the boat.
Everybody – nods and ‘yeah, OK’
Boatyard Guide – ‘OK – let’s go’
He executes a flawless and very fast 180 degree turn and jumps off the boat.
TFI takes the wheel, beers are opened and everybody dumps their bags in the cabins while ‘Right Next Door To Hell’ blares from the CD Player.
Ten Minutes Later
TFI to The Groom – ‘Let’s take the roof back!”
TG- ‘Don’t forget to….’
TFI – ‘What was that?’
TG – ‘That was the awning ripping out and flying into the river, you stupid cunt’
TFI – ‘What?’
TG- ‘That’s our deposit gone and you’d better hope that it doesn’t fucking rain now’ – he takes a long drink of beer while the others inspect the broken woodwork.
One Hour Later
The boat is moored at a pub, our heroic band are spending money as fast as possible while bemoaning the fact that the pub is too quiet.
Another Hour Later
Everybody is back on board and TFI takes the wheel. He guns the throttle into reverse and slams the boat into a siding. Ignoring the crash, he spins the wheel and embeds the iron siding into he boat a few feet above the waterline – there’s now an eight foot gash in the skin of the boat.
Everybody – ‘whatthefuckyoustupidcuntwhatthefuckinghellTWATCUNTyoufuckingidiot’
TFI -‘Well that was how he did it in the boatyard’
TG ‘Why don’t you go and ask him to do some draughtsmanship for you for fucks sake. You know that we now owe THEM money don’t you?’ Another long drink is taken and a quiet sob can be heard.
Two Hours Later
Two of the cases of beer are now empty and the boat has now taken on the air of a group of Death Row Prisoners trying to enjoy their last day.
IS -‘Hang on there’s a boat full of women there, they’re waving at us… OI, TFI, get us closer’
The two boats draw alongside and IS, TA and TG jump across with two cases of beer. The music on our boat gets louder and people frequently jump between boats. It’s agreed to moor up in Wroxham and find a pub.
4PM Day one.
Both boats are moored up, there are no other boats nearby and everybody is well on the way to being ever so slightly drunk.
11PM Day One. Wroxham
Everybody goes back to the boats for a party having offended a large number of innocent tourists trying to have a nice time in the pub. The circle around the group becoming wider and wider as the level of offensiveness rises.
1AM Day Two – Our Boat
The girls have returned back to their boat along with IS who’s on a promise, TD is asleep on the jetty, Bio is wandering around aimlessly and TA is ranting at The Groom about the lack of reliability of TFI. ‘He’s a fucking menace and I’d like to drag him behind the boat tomorrow, it’ll be safer for all of us and… I CAN’T GET IN THE FUCKING CABINS…. WHERE IS HE?WHERE’STHE FUCKING KEY………’
They jump onto the Jetty and TA is still shouting -‘THERE’S A LIGHT ON IN THAT FUCKING CABIN I’M GOING TO…….
There’s a muffled splash and TA appears coughing and struggling as he’s walked off the jetty into the river in the dark.
TG is doubled over laughing hysterically – TA has to be rescued by BIO and TG is still laughing as he coughs his way aboard, drenched and filthy. Luckily TG had a huge sweater on board and TA is able to strip down to boxers and have a warm top as they trudge to the girls’ boat.
1:15 AM Day Two – The Girls’ Boat
Girl One – ‘Oh thank god you’re here, can you take him back with you? We’ll make you a bacon sandwich each..’
Everybody – ‘YoulockedusCUNTofheboatdCUNTyoufuckingidiotCUNTwherearethekeys?’
1:45 AM Day Two
Everybody but IS is back on the boat and soon asleep.
7AM Day Two
The group gather on the deck and look at their sad little boat, something hideous has been spilled on the deck and has left a deep stain, there’s bottles and cans everywhere and the quiet little berth that was empty at 4PM the day before is absolutely surrounded by families on boats .
They’re also outside a Police Station.
Bio makes a cup of tea for everybody while TFI decides that he’s going to play his new AC/DC album again – or more to the point, he plays ‘Heatseeker’ Again and again. Bellowing out the word Heatseeker occasionally. By this point, it’s not clear if he just enjoys it, is having a mental breakdown, is still drunk or is just winding up. TG thinks it’s a combination of the last two.
IS boards the boat to thunderous applause and the group are now becoming aware of the crowd of boats around them. They’re also surprised at the goodwill they’re being extended, one boat is offering more bacon sandwiches which are gratefully accepted and there seems to be nobody upset at last night’s noise. One older couple said it made a nice change and that they were listening to the music while having a bottle of wine on deck..
9AM Day Two The group decide to brave Wroxham to find a proper breakfast and are soon fascinated by this unusual little backwater.
And that nearly everything is called Roys.
There’s a general store and a toy store amongst others.
And rather bewilderingly, Miss Roy.
It’s all a bit too much for Bio, who wants to ask random people in the street if they’re called Roy. The group drag him into a cafe and over breakfast, they discuss the day.
The Groom will call his dad (from a phone box) and arrange for him and a few other people who couldn’t make the whole trip and tell them to meet at…
A discussion is held.
Nobody can be bothered to move, so as long as the group aren’t barred, they’ll take residence in the pub again for the day.
TA and Bio spot a huge mannequin of a butcher and pose for photos with it, annoying the actual butcher in the shop as they take pose after pose. They giggle to each other as they walk away.
10AM Day Two
The group enter the pub sheepishly, not entirely sure if they’re welcome and are greeted by the landlady.
‘Morning lads, we’ve restocked with bottled beer after last night, want a drink on the house?’
TG – ‘Yes please, six Becks please.. Listen, we were a bit, we loud last night, sorry if there were any issues.’
Landlady – ‘You spent more last night than every other person in the pub combined – even if you double their spend. Stay as long as you like, just don’t start a fight or burn the place down and we’re good’
Grinning, she walks away.
TA – ‘She’s right, we need to top the whip up, we spent nearly £500 yesterday’
Everybody tops the fund up and the drinking begins again.
12PM Day Two – The girls pop in for a drink and to say goodbye and good luck and they leave the pub in a cloud of giggles into the sunlight.
The Jukebox is topped up with enough money to ensure that nobody else will get a choice in music until evening and the group settle in for a gentle afternoon of drinking, talking and playing word-based drinking games.
One goes like this.
A word is said …..
The next person has to add a word “Giraffe”and the next person has to add a word as well as saying the previous words.
The Giraffe went out into Soho to buy the monkey from the bar one of those rare orchids that can not be seen unless you watch a film with dark clothes and a cup of cold piss from a zebra – fuck what was the next word?’
2PM Day Two -The game comes to a shuddering halt when TFI unwittingly brings the group close to hysteria.
‘Outer. Space. Outer Space is. Outer Space is Dodgy’
The group set to drinking in earnest and at:
3:30 PM Day Two –
The Groom’s dad and a few others, including a designated driver walk in. Ironic cheers and shouts of ‘hello you old cunt’ can be heard. He sits with the group as beers are ordered and looks around nervously at the people already giving dirty looks to the group.
Dad – ‘christ, keep it down a bit, you’ll get us all barred’
Everybody – loud laughter, cries of ‘fuck off’
Dad – ‘I mean it, some of these people look really pissed off’
TG – in a kind and gentle voice – ‘Don’t worry Dad, we’ve been given a green light to do anything we like by the landlady as long as nobody gets hurt. We’ve already spent more today than Wiggy over there will spend in a fortnight’
Dad – looks round nervously and sees a man in a bad wig glaring back at them. – “fucksake keep it down..”
TG – ‘What for Wiggy, Wiggy can fuck off if he doesn’t like it’
The group – ‘Fuck off Wiggy’
Six grown men collapse into giggles at the horror and outrage, they’re beyond reason by this point and the newcomers realise that the only thing to do is to drink hard and fast.
Dad – ‘How’s the boat?’
TG – ‘It’s fucked, we probably own the boatyard a couple of grand and it’s still only Saturday, that’s one of the reasons that we haven’t moved – so that mad cunt’ he shrugs at TFI ‘ can’t cause any more damage’.
The afternoon progresses and at one point TA and Bio go to get more cash.
5PM Day Two
A loud commotion can be heard outside and a butcher is shouting at the sky, his mannequin seems to have decided to leave home and take up a spot on a jetty across the bridge.
TA and Bio are giggling.
7PM Day Two –
A vote is taken and it’s agreed that the now extended group will go and find some actual food. IS runs out and checks that a table at the local Indian Restaurant is available and the group walk over. Cries of ‘Heatseeker’ and ‘Wiggy’ can be heard throughout the town.
730PM Day Two – Indian Restaurant Wroxham
The group are ordering and ‘Dad’ confesses that he’s never had an Indian meal. The Manager comes over to help him choose food, while all around huge amounts of Naan Bread, Tikka, Rice, Jalfrezi, Vindaloo and Phaal are ordered, along with thirty bottles of beer to get started.
Dad – ‘What should I have?’
Manager – he has a pleasing West Country accent – “whatever you like, but I’d go for something gentle or even something with chips if you like.’
Dad – OK, I’ll probably go with something with chips, but I keep hearing them order Phaal and laughing – what is that?
Manager – leans in and whispers – ‘don’t even try it, it’ll burn your fucking arse off’ – he walks away grinning
10PM Day Two – The Groom’s Dad and others now have a two hour drive back to Essex and beery and loud farewells are said. The car drives away to cries of “Wiggy and Heatseeker’
The group go back to the pub and actually behave themselves.
1AM Day Three – The Boat
Nobody has thrown up, lost any keys, fallen in the river, stolen anything or even shouted, the group go to bed and agree that tomorrow they’ll head upriver before their welcome runs out.
9AM Day Three – The Pub
The Group go into the pub to say goodbye. They’re given a fond farewell and leave the bar, stealing a few souvenirs along the way, including the signs from the toilet doors.
9:30 AM Day Three – The Boat
The boat is now back on the broads without incident, it’s a blisteringly hot morning and The Drunk, Keeper of the Beer makes a sad admission.
TD – ‘We’re out of beer’
TA – ‘What, how?’
TD – ‘Well, we fucking drank it all I suppose’
Bio – ‘No, what he means is, that you were supposed to fucking tell us so that we could buy more yesterday’
TD – ‘Sorry’
Bio and TA in unison – ‘Cunt’
TG – you do realise that it’s a fucking Sunday and we’ve got hours to go before we can buy some more?’
TFI -‘Let’s put some music….’
IS – leans across the CD Player, ejects the AC/DC album and skims it at a passing boat. ‘Fuck off we’re never playing that fucking track again’
11AM Day Three – Maps have been consulted and the boat is heading for a small pub with a berth and there’s a shop within half a mile.
Bio – ‘I can’t take any more of this’
He climbs onto the roof of the boat and waves at other boats on the river, having caught their attention, he strips off completely and dances completely naked for at least fifteen minutes, cupping his genitals and shouting general abuse at boats passing by.
The madness passes and he climbs back down.
Bio – ‘Where’s my clothes’
TG – ‘About a mile back I think, they were sinking when I last saw them’
Bio storms off to his cabin while the boat veers dangerously as IS is laughing too hard to steer.
The owner of a small cabin cruiser takes it upon himself to lecture the group on river safety and retreats quickly in a hail of abuse and empty bottles.
12PM Day Three – Riverside Pub
TA and TG decide to be the grown ups and walk to the village shop while the rest of the group get the beers in.
TA -‘Why the fuck is TFI your best man?’
TG – ‘Well, I proposed at a black tie do for Trafalgar Day in his solicitor’s garden and he caught me unawares – and drunk too I suppose. Still his heart is in the right place, even if he is a fucking nightmare. He booked this because his girlfriend told him that it would be safer than us all flying abroad, I don’t think that it occurred to her just how badly we can fuck things up.’
TA – it was funny but why did you throw Bio’s clothes in the river?’
TG- ‘Did you see those scars on his legs?’
TA – Yeah, they look newish
TG – ‘They are, the mad cunt tried to hit me out of the blue on a night out with IS and TFI and he wouldn’t stop, so I accidentally put him through a shop window. He was lucky for a couple of reasons, I thought it was a wall behind me and a piece of glass as big as your arm missed his neck by an inch. ‘
TA – ‘Fuck me, but….’
TG – ‘I dusted the silly cunt down and we went to the pub, the landlord called the police and I told him to go and get a cab, He wandered off and by the time that the old bill turned up, IS and TFI were there and we just fronted them down as they couldn’t prove anything. Then they were all grinning and there Bio is standing behind me, covered in blood and looking stupid. When I asked him what he thought he was doing, he just told me to Fuck Off. We were lucky that we only had to pay for the window.’
12:15 PM Day Three – The Broads
TG and TA walk into a tiny village store.
They gather up a mass of sausages, burgers, steak and bread. They pick up two portable BBQ units and as much beer as there is on the shelves.
TA – to Shop Owner – ‘Do you have any more beer?’
The shopkeeper goes to the store and leaves the assistant, a young lad, to start the till.
TA – ‘We’ll take all your porn too please’
The assistant blushes furiously and the shopkeeper returns with two more cases of beer.
TA and TG stagger to the nearby pub to get a beer and call a taxi, there’s no way that they can carry all they’ve bought back to the boat.
12:30 PM Day Three – Village Pub
TA and TG stagger in with their load and order a couple of beers from the splendidly bewhiskered landlord who’s naturally curious as to what’s going on.
TG- ‘I’m getting married in a few weeks and we ran out of beer on the boat, so we’re moored at the pub on the river and we’ll have a BBQ later today.’
Landlord – ‘Lovely, well, if you want a drink later. I’ll be having a lock-in’
TG and TA ‘YES PLEASE’
They leave the pub after a short while and take a taxi back to the pub on the river.
1:15 PM Day Three – TG and TA are walking through the pub garden, four well dressed, obviously wealthy and local women are sitting at a table and one of them calls out.
‘Where are you going with all that?’
TG- ‘It’s my stag do, we’re having a BBQ on the boat later, you’re welcome to join us. ‘
The women exchange glances and have a quick chat, they scribble something on a piece of paper.
‘No, you’re OK. BUT. If you want, we’re having a garden party at my house, here’s the directions by water. I’m Jane by the way. Maybe see you there later.’
TA and TG smile broadly and after dumping the food and booze onto the boat walk into the pub, the remainder of the group are at a corner table. Cries of ‘Heatseeker’ and ‘Wankers can be heard.
1:45 PM Day Three – Riverside Pub
IS – ‘Are you joking, we’ve all been invited to a party?’
TA and TG – ‘Yes’
IS- ‘could it be a joke?’
TG – Yeah, or a Deliverance type thing, we should have a go though.’
2:45 PM Day Three – The Boat
The group have been following the river for a while now and the prospect of this being a joke or worse seems to be becoming more real, the river has narrowed and is covered over by trees, somebody is humming ‘Duelling Banjos’ as the boat moves slowly into:
2:55 PM Day Three – The House
A private mooring outside a large house, the group walk through the gate into:
2:56 PM Day Three – The Garden
A huge garden, there are over a hundred people there, a marquee and a band is playing soft live music. The group immediately tone themselves down, separate and join the party, champagne is free-flowing and everybody relaxes. It’s a wonderful, unexpected surprise and the hosts are incredibly warm and welcoming.
4PM Day Three – The Garden
Jane to TG – ‘I hear from my dad that you’ve had a few dramas on your boat, it sounds awful, he said that you’re really upset?’
TG – ‘Oh that was your dad, he seems really nice, yes, the boat is pretty fucked if you look at it and the worst of it is that it’s all stupidity. I’d be less upset if we’d had genuine accidents, we’d still have to pay, but the boatyard has a ton of work to do, so they can’t even turn it around when we go back tomorrow. It’s all a bit depressing. ‘
Jane – ‘Sounds it’ She cocks her head and gives a little smile. ‘You don’t know who we are do you?’
TG – ‘Er…. No…. erm.’
Jane – ‘Well you know that you hired your boat from Blakes….’
TG – ‘Fuck me – no..’
Jane – ‘Yep, my dad is Mr Blake, you’ve just told him everything, I’d have a drink if I were you. Also if you want company tonight, me and the girls will join you at the other pub – see you there at seven?’
TG wanders off, legs slightly buckled at what’s happened.
5PM Day Three – The Boat
Is now moored back at the pub and the group are drinking bottled beer as fast as they can, tomorrow is when the boat goes back and they’re fucked. There’s very little conversation.
6PM Day Three – Village Pub
The group enter the bar and shake hands with the landlord, they order drinks and wait for Jane and the others. There’s a small group of young locals giving them dirty looks, but nobody can be bothered to even look at them by this stage.
6:55 PM Day Three – Village Pub
Jane and her friends join the table, one of the locals calls out but they totally ignore him and an animated conversation ensues.
10PM Day Three – Village Pub
The pub will close in a few minutes, TG and TD have to visit the toilet to make room for the lock-in drinks. There’s a tap of TG’s shoulder and he turns to take a punch in the face from one of the locals. It’s not a good one and he licks a tiny drop of blood from his lip before grinning at the local.
TD – ‘We don’t want any trouble, don’t hit him back’
TG – continues to grin at the local
Local – ‘you were asking for it, flashing your money around and hanging out with those rich slag…’
TD has punched him through the door and he’s lying dazed and beaten on the bar floor.
The group have taken up scattered positions around the bar – ready for a fight, the locals that were being hostile seem stunned. TG waves the group to get them to stand down.
TG – to Landlord – ‘We’re so sorry, this little wanker just sucker- punched me, but it’s best if we leave I suppose, but just to be clear, he can’t punch his way out of a wet paper bag and I was going to let it go – He called Jane and the girls slags, we’re not taking that…
Landlord – eying the locals carefully – ‘It would have been nice to drink with you tonight, you seem like good men, I’ll make sure these little shits don’t follow you, although it might be nice to see them try, good luck lads, hope the wedding goes OK.’
10:10 PM Outside the Pub
TG to Jane – ‘Sorry the evening ended like this, it’s been a genuine pleasure to meet you all and we’ll all ‘- he nods at the group ‘remember your generosity and niceness for a long time. Please tell your dad that we’re sorry and that we’ll pay for any damages without argument, just give us the bill. ‘
They hug and all parties go their separate ways
8AM Day Four – The Boat
TG is steering and the boat is now heading back to the boatyard and the reckoning of the bill.
Bio -Anybody want breakfast, we’ve still got all that food, I’ll cook.’
8:30 AM Day Four – The Boat
Bio has appeared with cups of tea for everybody and there’s been a sound of clattering and sizzling of frying pans for a few minutes, the smell of bacon and cooking meats permeates the air and the group begin to smile.
8:32 AM Day Four – The Boat
The smell of cooking has been replaced by the smell of burning plastic and smoke and flames billow from the galley bellow, TG stops the boat and runs below to see:
8:33 AM Day Four The Boat – The Galley
The Galley roof on fire, there are two portable BBQ units on top of the stove and they have spilled burning charcoal everywhere and creating small fires on the floor. Bio is having a minor meltdown and is panicking.
TG throws the fire extinguisher at Bio and grabs the BBQ units with the oven gloves and throws them overboard. A haze of extinguisher gases comes from the galley.
IS – ‘I don’t suppose you saved any sausages?’
8:36 AM Day Four – The Boat
Bio – arising from the galley, scorched and sooty – ‘Behold’
A plate of sausage sandwiches
10:35 AM Day Four – Blakes Boatyard
TG to the group – ‘There’s no point us all being here, take the stuff to the bus and me and TFI will see how bad it is.’
The Group trudge off and TFI and TG watch the same boatyard hand that gave them the boat walk towards them. he doesn’t look happy, there’s still an occasional whisp of smoke and the boat looks as if it’s come from Dunkirk.
TG – ‘Hi, there’s a bit of damage…’
Blakes Man – ‘WE KNOW. WE KNOW…. I have a message for you from Mr Blake’ He sneers and squints at TG and TFI. ‘Have a great wedding, please never come back.’
TG – ‘Is that it?’
Blakes Man – Yes, go on piss off’
TFI – ‘About our depos…. TG- ‘Shut the fuck up and let’s get out of here’
They walk to the minibus, the sun is shining and TG is grinning like an idiot.
This is all fiction right*, Hey Netflix, I’m available for discussion if you want to film this.
- Every single word is true and I’ve forgotten some of it
We were lucky enough to meet some extraordinarily generous people who turned a trip into an experience that’s lasted in my memory for over half a lifetime and I thank them all.