Camp fire sing-song

Yachting cartoonist Mike Peyton celebrated his 90th birthday with a camp fire sing-song in a gale-battered spinney below the lonely sea wall near his Essex home.

His wife Kath brewed mulled wine, while daughters Hilary and Veronica turned fat spigots of chicken and lamb on a barbeque. Guests, including yachtsmen from the East Coast were advised to wear wellie boots and wrap up well.

Over the sighing and leafless poplar trees, ragged clouds were blown northwards by the southerly tempest and forming a halo around the moon.

Mike lobbed wooden pallets on the fire. Asked where he’d got them from he said, mysteriously: ‘The pony club.’

Under a jury-rigged canvas shelter a folk group – the Brandy Hole Shanty Men – did their best to sing over the howling wind.

As Mike mouthed the words to Maggie May, sitting on a chair pulled up in front of the fire, one yachtsman said to me: ‘I wonder what’s going on in his mind?’

My guess is that it was a happy memory of times spent living rough in Scandinavia, and the Canadian Rockies. As a young man Mike and his new bride Kath slept rough throughout Europe, too, on their honeymoon: their ‘beds’ included bus stations, barns and even a sewer pipe!

Then again it might have been his time spent eating pot-roast Nazi alsation guard dogs, clubbed to death while he was held as a POW, or then again as an irregular rifleman serving with Soviet infantrymen who were bursting into Germany having come from the wilderness of the Eastern Front.

The picture shows an earlier ‘rehearsal’ this time inside Mike’s home.

Peyton: The World’s Greatest Yachting Cartoonist, by Dick Durham, Adlard Coles Nautical 2010.