"When we first read your application about a pirate-mouse raft made out of water pipes and old office chairs we thought it was a joke! Have you done anything like this before?" Roy's voice shows signs of real concern whilst he stares at my poorly sketched design. "Trust me I have all the credentials you need; it’s not my first crazy adventure or last!" I announce proudly.
The meeting with the Canal and River Trust goes well and all important aspects to ensure this adventure is safe are discussed.
"Here, take this and study what the signs stand for" he says and points at the symbols on his Lancaster canal book. "For example" he adds "these are showers and this one represents a marina", "Cupcakes!" I exclaim enthusiastically. He examines the map puzzled and replies "There are no cupcakes there" (I stare back at the tinny square illustration disappointed. What do you mean there are no cupcake stops on the canal?!?)
We can all agree, this map-reading-thing is not my forte.
"Addi, you are charismatic, I’ll give you that. What you do is inspiring and people can relate to you, but I've got to say, you're crazy!" he says with a chuckle and I know he mean well; really!
Re-thinking the original structure after the water buoyancy test leads to the conclusion that more pipes are needed to sustain the weight and the red lids need to be replaced with plumbing caps. They hold more air and water won't enter the pipes. It will be a very stylish raft in the end, after all, ‘us’ glamorous pirates can’t cruise in a less-than-fabulous vessel!
On Thursday, I leave work at 3pm in a race against the clock. I’ve been putting off this troublesome task for some time now. First stop: the Redrow construction site, unfortunately it’s too late to source the stock. Moving onto Plan B: to visit every single construction site across Leeds until I source all the necessary equipment. After several unsuccessful attempts I curse myself for having left this to 4 days before we embark. In Adel I speak to the Ground Works Manager, Mark, who works for Barratt Homes. I explain the purpose of my visit and show him pictures of the raft. Instead of being dismissive he stops what he’s doing and enquires about this adventure with genuine interest. "Wait here" he says and I’m left standing waiting for something I want so desperately, making the wait feel like a hundred hours long. He returns with everything we need and says with a smile: "May fair wind and many exciting adventures follow you notorious pirates!"
With the benefit of little wisdom and maturity I discover that not everyone is going to support our dreams but we love how this playful project is becoming a community collaboration. So many good people with different backgrounds awaking their inner child and remembering what it is like to dream big.
With less than 48 hours to go and whilst trying to sort out the insurance, license etc there is last-minute drama. I am told there isn’t a canoe available for my support crew but we can have a kayak instead. This complicates matters as there is plenty of gear to be transported and a puppy eager to join in the fun with no space on the double seater. Despite the social media attempts to source one, things aren't looking promising with such little time in our hands. We discuss our options and the possibility of the crew to follow on the roads, taking turns in driving and walking next to us across the canal. It’s disheartening to think of this as the only option.
Freddie Mercury's distinctive voice echoes in the background; The show must go on- How apt! Late Saturday evening I join my support crew to put the finishing touches on the pirate mouse raft. The backs of the chairs and the boot sale drawer handles are secured tightly. The broom stick serving as a mast receives its proud place and the cabinet screens are cut to the right length and fitted between wood pallets. A thin pole that once displayed University of Leeds panels is screwed on the broom stick to hold the ferocious pirate-mouse sail. Lots of debating and different ideas are discussed with brutal honesty. This is the beauty of surrounding yourself with intelligent individuals; the positive outcomes. Dan helps build not just the raft but an interactive map for my website also, now the world can follow our live updates on route.
The following morning Mr Kevin lends us his company van again and the support crew drives the raft to Lancaster. Ben from the Canal and River Trust makes everyone’s day when he appears with a Canadian style open canoe. Faith in the universe is once more restored; it’s fair to say he’s the super-hero of the day!
I am relieved to know the old graduation gown and the creased bed sheet will soon see a second and thrilling life in the world of canal piracy!
Sunday 10pm. Athina is fast asleep; it’s going to be an early start tomorrow, we leave the house at 6am. The car gets loaded with all the adventurers’ kit and the sewing machine makes its appearance on the living room table. A lot of stitching and unstitching but finally at 1am I am relieved to know the old graduation gown and the creased bed sheet will soon see a second and thrilling life in the world of canal piracy!
It has been many long weeks both at work and dealing with the planning and making of the raft but I wouldn’t have it any other way; I’ve always been the unconventional one.