The Voyages of the Princess Matilda

Front Cover
Ebury, 2012 - Barges - 375 pages
In 1996 Timothy Spall was diagnosed with acute leukaemia and given only days to live. Shocked at how life can pass you by, he told his wife, Shane, that when and if he recovered he would like to get a boat. Almost a decade later, they had a sea-going barge - the good ship Princess Matilda. And with her they would have the adventure of a lifetime. Throughout their travels, memories are triggered for them both as they relive the horror of Tim's illness and the strength they needed to find to get through it. Surely after that, you could do anything, couldn't you? And so, after exploring the Thames, at last they summon up the courage to leave the river, and with nothing but a road atlas and a vast amount of ignorance they hit the sea - and it is absolutely terrifying! Without much of a plan, but with an unquenchable thirst for life, wherever they go Tim and Shane find warmth, fun and friendship. From Chatham to Ramsgate, along the south-east shores of England and through the Solent towards the Jurassic Coast, bit by bit they learn essential seafaring skills. After an almost dream-like summer on the Helford River their progress is slow, but sure. Eventually they start to wonder, could they make it out of England altogether? Could Matilda make it to... Wales?! Taking over five years, The Voyages of the Princess Matilda is a minor epic, charting a very personal, moving and uplifting story of an everyday couple's adventure around their much loved homeland. With the British coast on your doorstep, why would you want to go anywhere else?

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About the author (2012)

SHANE SPALL is from a large Midlands family. Her mother called her Number Five and her father after a character in a Western, played by Alan Ladd.As a teenager in the 70s she worked in a Quaker hotel in Birmingham and on her day off would sit in New Street station and wonder where everyone was going. She now knows they were mostly going to work or coming home. The day that the young actor Timothy Spall arrived at New Street in 1981 she was in a council flat a few miles away. They could have been ships that had passed in the night but he sought her out because he had fallen passionately in love with her when he had accidentally touched her arm one night. The young actor now gets to play parts called 'old man' but is considered to be a 'national treasure'. He's a bit of a show off, but his wife doesn't mind, she keeps his feet on the ground. They have three children and used to have a bulldog that couldn't swim and a goldfish but they fostered it out as it got lonely staying home on its own.

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