Oh there has been some serious behind the scenes shenanigans but we've always covered it over because the project has always been an uplifting human interest story and we've put up with a lot to maintain its unfailingly positive public face but when people are calling us thieves as a direct result of the museum trying to go back on the deal we made with them it's time to speak up so it'll all go in the diary as a permanent record - there's still plenty to tell.
As for the museum I well remember Vicky Slowe, the long-serving curator, saying to me as I worriedly asked them to get a move on preparing for the day Bluebird would be able to run and go on display, that if they were the sort of people who knew how to run a business or motivate volunteers they wouldn't be running a museum - a very honest appraisal. I also remember saying to one of the parish councillors on Bute, when being whinged at because we were in Scotland rather than Cumbria, that they could have had the crew training in Coniston but no preparations were in place to host it, they had no leader and even if someone with the requisite qualities were to offer to step up they wouldn't allow themselves to be led - and she agreed with me, because it's true.
We have even offered to run the whole show, operate the boat, sort out the display, erect the necessary barriers to keep selfie hunters from scratching or denting all our lovely panels. We even offered to do all the risk assessment for moving about on the tiled floor at the same time as a similar exercise was being done to install the Derwent engine at the home of the aerospace company that can't be named so we've tried our level best over the years. But now they are just going to have to sort themselves out and get to a level of professionalism such that we'll work with them - that or leave us to get the job done. Nor are they innocent of some behind the scenes skulduggery...
When the Qualcast Kid rounded up his cousins and Aunty Tonia to change the donation agreement in March 2019 they basically tried to slot in a whole new document that, on paper at least, pre-dated the 2006 one and totally cut out the BBP - not so much as a mention. So by January 2020 the ink on it was well and truly dry. Also worthy of note is that it was never worth the paper it was written on because we weren't consulted so we were entirely within our rights to rely on the old one should it have become necessary to argue over it. The old one was also an agreement between the Campbells and the museum and, though mentioned and named as the designated restorers of the boat, we were never signatories or parties to that deed of gift and it didn't bind us to anything.
So, fast forward to early 2020 just after Gina swung the baseball bat at our legs, as Rich so succinctly put it, what did the museum try to do?
They published the old deed, the 2006 one, in the full knowledge that a year earlier they had signed a new one in an effort to cut BBP out of the equation, then they attempted to argue that we had somehow failed to meet an obligation that didn't exist between us because it was their job to put K7 on display, not ours. To do that they would have to work with us towards that goal and they hadn't met that obligation.
Now we're not talking about someone making a parachute for the teddy bear because she didn't get a pony this time - this was much more serious because it was done by supposedly responsible officers of a registered charity beholden to the Charities Commission who , incidentally, state in their guide to charities and litigation that litigation has to be an absolute last resort when all other avenues have been explored yet no other avenues were explored at all - -remember we said come and have fish and chips at the seaside and we'll thrash something out? You can buy a lot of chips for 45k!
So, needless to say, the 2006 deed was swiftly removed from their website but they didn't care how much damage they did to us in the process. Fortunately all but a handful of idiots saw straight through it so no lasting harm.
The really interesting group in recent times, however, has been the LDNPA. We did get a bit fed up of their seeming lack of enthusiasm for a project that would bring much interest and income to their park at one stage. The first person we ever met from the Park Authority was a guy called Bob something or another who told us that they really wanted these big events to sustain the park because developers were nibbling at its fringes and people were jetting off to the sun on Ryanair rather than standing knee-deep in soggy mulch of a weekend so we took that mission statement to heart and worked hard at delivering on it.
But fast forward a few years and the options were slowly being closed out. No, we couldn't operate in school holidays, weekends, bank holidays or after 4.00pm. Then there was some shenanigans with a faked up document supposedly written for us but when it had been modified from one originally written for Windermere they hadn't done a find and replace in the Word document and had missed one reference to the wrong lake. Our Malcolm picked this up in a heartbeat, of course - I never really got my head around what it all meant but it was naughty, apparently.
And then came the Crew Training on Bute and suddenly people were clamouring for Bluebird to run on Coniston so what do you suppose happened?
The Park Authority sat and pondered this and basically said, yes, OK, we hear you, let's get this done. Suddenly we had dates when everyone could come and see us and we got all the support we needed. In turn we wrote very thorough risk assessments and safety planning documents, started training safety boat crews and divers and did a comprehensive survey of the slipway and course.
Next, as we all know, the BEWG or whatever they were pulled the plug because suddenly they saw all the work that ought to have been done years ago then filed away to be dusted off and today's date inserted and couldn't begin to be ready in time.
Even then we offered to take the spotlight off their embarrassment by going back to Bute with them as a joint venture but off came their noses and The Kid ballsed up the rest.
But what was pretty much missed in all of this was that the LDNPA was leading the way, weighing up what people wanted and finding ways to deliver. They were professional about it. They likely didn't like us very much but that was set aside to get the job done and that's how it should be.