THE STORY OF A HOUSE (11)

FREDDIE FISK

Freddie Fisk

Freddie Fisk

He was always Freddie to me but apparently his real name was Cyril. Cyril is a perfectly respectable name but it has been unfashionable for many years, so it is understandable that he preferred Freddie. Unfortunately Frederick too has rather passed out of the list of common names. Maybe the cycle of fashion will return both to the nation’s consciousness, but I can see no sign of that happening.

I first met Freddie Fisk in about 1980. I cannot now remember the circumstances of our first meeting. He had flat at 33 Surrey Street in Norwich, and my business was located at number 29; he was therefore a near neighbour of mine. He had just been made redundant from his job as a boatbuilder at Wroxham, so he was at a bit of a loose end. I do not know if he was ever married – he certainly did not have a wife at the time I knew him- and I rather got the impression that he had always been single. Certainly no talk of women ever occurred between us.

He was not yet at retirement age so he was in need of some odd jobs to occupy his time and provide a little income as well, to make ends meet. I was able to pay him a little to do some maintenance on the property, which he was happy to do. The four houses, numbers 29 to 35, were over 200 years old and could certainly do with the work he put in. With Fred it was mostly painting walls that I set to work on. What the house really needed was a complete re-roofing, but at five floors up this needed scaffolding but lots of it, which would have been very expensive.

Painting was what he did for me but his primary job was building himself a boat at Thorpe. This was major undertaking for an unemployed man working on his own and it took him ten years, but he completed it eventually.

The Broadsman was his boat, a motor cruiser. By the 1980s virtually all motor cruisers were built of fibreglass but Fred made his boat of wood. As a professional boatbuilder he made a good job of it, and it would have cost a fortune to buy such a craft. It must have cost Fred himself quite a lot, but he kept no account of what he had spent on it, and there was no possibility of charging for the many hours he had spent on it. At about 30 feet long it was amply big enough for him; he was obviously experienced enough to handle it on his own. He did not wish to use his boat as leisure craft however. His idea was patrol the river around Thorpe helping holidaymakers who had got into difficulties with their hire craft. The boat owners would then, in theory, pay Freddie for his assistance. I do not know if his plan ever got off the river bank; I somehow doubt it.

I have written other blogs on 29 Surrey Street, starting with one on the building’s occupants over the last 200 years. The next concentrates on the most famous resident, the botanist Sir J. E. Smith. Then comes one on the back yard and one on a roof tile, followed by Alice in Wonderland (that is a surprising connection). I cover the optician’s fitting room, the darkroom,  the workshop and the railway room. The Earl of Surrey, after whom Surrey Street is named, get a mention too. I still have a few other related subjects up my sleeve.

By the way, it is years since I saw anybody smoking a pipe, but as you may see, Fred certainly enjoyed his!

JOSEPH MASON

joemasonspage@gmail.com

THE BLOG FOR THE HISTORY OF EAST ANGLIAN LIFE

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