As with all writers I am always, always looking out for inspirations. Without inspiration you’d never get started. I just love searching out inspirations, it is like beachcombing, you just do not know what you will come across.

Take this item for example. I found it recently from a Daily Mail of 2007:

“Thousands of rubber ducks to land on British shores after 15 year journey – Ben Clerkin

They were toys destined only to bob up and down in nothing bigger than a child’s bath – but so far they have floated halfway around the world.

The armada of 29,000 plastic yellow ducks, blue turtles and green frogs broke free from a cargo ship 15 years ago (now 26 years ago.).

Since then they have travelled 17,000 miles, floating over the site where the Titanic sank, landing in Hawaii and even spending years frozen in an Arctic ice pack.

And now they are heading straight for Britain. At some point this summer they are expected to be spotted on beaches in South-West England.

While the ducks are undoubtedly a loss to the bath-time fun of thousands of children, their adventures at sea have proved an invaluable aid to science.

The toys have helped researchers to chart the great ocean currents because when they are spotted bobbing on the waves they are much more likely to be reported to the authorities than the floats which scientists normally use.

And because the toys are made of durable plastic and are sealed watertight, they have been able to survive years adrift at the mercy of the elements.

Boxes of the bath time toys – made in China for the U.S. firm The First Years Inc – were washed overboard in the eastern Pacific Ocean one stormy January night in 1992 and broke open.

In the intervening time an oceanographer, Curtis Ebbesmeyer, has devoted his retirement to tracking the little yellow ducks and their friends over 17,000 miles, and it is he who has predicted that this summer they will land in the West of England. Mr Ebbesmeyer said: ‘We’re getting reports of ducks being washed up on America’s eastern seaboard.

“It is now inevitable that they will get caught up in the Atlantic currents and will turn up on English beaches.

“Cornwall and the South-West will probably get the first wave of them.”

Mr Ebbesmeyer said the toys will be easy for British beachombers to spot because they have largely faded to white and have the words “The First Years” stamped upon them.

George Bush Snr was still US President when the toys from The First Years Inc. were made in China, packed into a container and put on a ship for the US.

But after falling overboard, the sea water corroded the card-packaging and the toys floated free. They circled the northern Pacific once before being washed up on the Alaskan shore, then all down the West coast of Canada and the US.

Mr Ebbesmeyer saw immediately how valuable the little toys would be to scientific research of the great ocean currents, the engine of the planet’s entire climate.

He correctly predicted what many thought was impossible – that thousands of them would end up washed into the Arctic ice near Alaska, and then move at a mile a day, frozen in the pack ice, around their very own North-West Passage to the Atlantic.

It proved true years later and in 2003, the first “Friendly Floatees” were found, frozen and then thawed out, on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and Canada.

So precious to science are they that the US firm that made them is offering a £50 bounty for finding one.”

Over quarter of a century on from their loss the Friendly Floatees are still washing up on beaches across the world. The Friendly Floatees have become extremely collectible with some reports now stating that people will pay up to $1000 (£760) for genuine and confirmed Friendly Floatees.

And this news item inspired many books and films.

Eric Carle wrote a children’s book 10 Little Rubber Ducks inspired by the Floatees (Harper Collins). At least one other children’s book has been written about the ducks, and the toys themselves have become collector’s items, fetching prices as high as $1,000.

In 2004, Sandpiper published Ducky, written by Caldecott award winner Eve Bunting and illustrated by Caldecott winner David Wisniewski.

In 2011, Donovan Hohn published Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them (Viking)

On 20 June 2014, The Disney Channel and Disney Junior aired Lucky Duck, a Canadian-American animated TV movie that is loosely based on and inspired by the Friendly Floatees.

The news item really gets the creative juices flowing.

There are a lot of things that artists will do for their work. But Corinne Felgate was left with something of a clean-up nightmare when she had to pick thousands of rubber ducks up out of the sea.

She had released the 8,000 environmentally friendly plastic birds at Fulsam Rock in Margate, Kent, after being commissioned by the Tate Gallery as part of its Turbine Generation Project.

The yellow toys were left on the beach throughout the day for people to go and collect them before Miss Felgate had to return and take the rest away before they were washed out with the tide.

Miss Felgate’s work, entitled Nature Nurture, was inspired by the story of a shipment of 28,000 ducks being lost in the Pacific Ocean in 1992 and was for an exhibition at the Tate in 2012.

Oceanographer, Curtis Ebbesmeyer


A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life. — Charles Darwin


Happiness is…finding things that inspire your writing


Do Transformers get car or life insurance? – Russell Howard


Love is…the sweetest thing


Convoy – C W McCall

Highest Chart Position: No.2 20th March 1976