just as I get used to the old format they change to new so I am see in if this works B
Are we there yet???
Nearly but not quite.
We have Japan (Kyushu) 140 miles on our starboard side.
The weather has calmed down and we are plodding along quite nicely now. the only change to come is that I am having to transfer off of the 1800 – 0600 watch to be more of a floater due to us doing some DP trials on arrival that I need to be up for in order to set up the DP desk. Basically we are going to apply 70 tons of force via an anchor wire to a tug onto our starboard 1/4 to check 3 things
1- Can the winch apply that much grunt?
2- With that force being applied off the center line what effect will it have on the DP systems ability to maintain position and heading,?
3- Will we be able to counteract the expected loss of heading issue safely enough and reliably enough to start the beach pull.?
T’is all a mystery of the sea m’hearties, (well physics really, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as romantic does it?) however we are quietly confident that we will be able to sort out any issues that arise.
We are here 32* 05.3′ N 127* 29.6′ E Speed 7.6 knots wind 2 knots NNE Sea less than 1 meter variable direction. Water depth 138 meters and the temp is a positively nippy (no pun intended) 14 degrees.
St Elmos Fire is a strange one and I have experienced it a few times.
It creates an eerie sensation for the observer, the sort to get the hairs on the back of your hands standing on end, but that’s as much to do with the latent electricity in the air as anything else.
I had been told what to expect if atmospheric conditions were right, but it was still an awesome sight the first time, and to see what appeared to be blue flames coming off the sharp fittings on the bridge wing, as well as the mast being aglow on the monkey island.
With the wild recklessness of an immortal teenager I wondered if I could get it to come off the ends of my fingers, so I venture out onto the bridge wing. There I am, stood with my arms outstretched towards the sky trying to get some flaming finger action.
The best I could managed was a blue glow around each finger end which, although unusual in its own right, was a tad disappointing.
Upping the ante a little, I took my deck knife out and held that up and suddenly I was “in the blue flame business” with a pronounced flame coming off the end of my knife. I also had a smaller flame coming from the collar zip of my thermal oilskin.
Once I was out there and “live” so to speak, with blue flames sprouting out of me, and probably saying something corny of the time like “Far out man” the Second Mate, from the safety of the bridge, suggested that standing out in an electrically charged atmosphere (St Elmo’s often occurs around thunder and lightening storms) whilst holding my arms aloft, with what was in effect ‘a lightening conductor’ held in my hand, had all the hallmarks of an elaborate suicide attempt or was a sure sign that he was sharing a watch with a fuckkwit.
Listening to his words I quickly realised he was making a very valid point and tehrdfore I had a sudden loss of bravado (foolhardy or fuckwitted, take your pick) and ventured back into the ‘Faraday caged” safety of the bridge.
The second mate proceeded to fall across the chart table, clutching his chest with one hand and pointing at me with the other, whilst gasping for breath in between raucous, bellowing, guffaws of laughter.
Realising that due to the laughter this was unlikely to be a heart attack, (so my first aid training was not required), a quick inspection of my reflection in the window had me joining in the laughter with him, because my hair and beard (both quite long in those days) was set up on end all around me like some bizarre, hirsute halo up to 18 inches out from my head. I looked like one of the Furry Freak Brothers (google it)
There have a been a few St Elmo instances since then but they have never been as strong as that first time and I tend to stay in the bridge and watch from a safe distance now.
The first time I saw the Aurora Borealis was on a passage from Riga (Latvia) in the Baltic up around to Archangel on the northern coast of Russia.
It was one of those open mouthed, staring and pointing moments, as great swathes of the starlight night sky shimmered and undulated like gossamer curtains in all shades of red purple and green.
This might sound strange but, as beautiful and awe inspiring as it was, there was a sense of something missing.
I realised that the missing ingredient was synthesiser music, which for some reason I expected to hear and because the whole thing was silent and just looked like it shouldn’t be.
It looked like a light show that should accompany a Jean Michelle Jarre or Tangerine Dream live concert (I know how 70’s is that?? ) and it was the lack music that I noticed first. Perhaps that feeling might have something to do with my many experiments with the available hallucinogenic drugs of the time.
I have seen it a couple of times since but never in such magnificent technicolour. The last time was on cable ship halfway between Scotland and Iceland where it looked like when you sometimes see the loom of a cars headlights over a distant hill. A fascinating spectacle when you are hundreds of miles from the nearest land.
This shows it up pretty well and although time lapse photography and a bit one coloured it still gives a good idea of the scale of it. (and there is no music)
Another notable time I saw some “freaky lights” was on transit across the Indian Ocean in the late 70’s. I was on the 0000 – 0400 watch looking out and seeing that optical illusion you can get when deep ocean without any light pollution and where the stars appear to be on the inside of one of those glass cheese domes. The illusion being that the cosmos looked spherical and you could see the starts practically down to the horizon.
I was looking around in awe at the sheer magnitude and beauty of it all when I noticed we had some phosphorescence action along the side of the ship and along the leading edges of the wavelets that we caused as we steamed though the calm waters. The wake was also flashing with the same glimmering show.
Suddenly a massive patches of ocean all around us and in the distance just began to teem with sliver light in a quite staggering and awe inspiring show of natural light. I called the second mate to come and check it out, and for over an hour we both watched absolutely spellbound by the show. He had never seen anything like it in his 30 years at sea, and wrote a detailed report which was sent in with the weather reports that most deep sea vessels sent daily by telegraph to the Hydrographic Office, in those days before satellite comms.
I had seen phosphorescence before and since but never in such an awesome display.
I have to say before I log off tonite that it has been great fun sharing some of my experiences of my 40 years at sea and I truly appreciate the many messages I have received telling me how well received they have been.
Love and Peace
Well been a bit choppy for the last 24 hours with 35 knot winds and seas starting to approach 3 meters but I think the worst of that has gone and we should have fair passage for the next three days which will see us to port.
Here we are then:- 29* 47′ N 126* 07′ E Wind 20knots North, Water depth 83 meters Seas 2.5+ meters temp 15*c
For no other reason that it just seemed to spring to mind here are three of my most memorable encounter with Albatross
The first ever Albatross I saw in flight was 40 years ago approaching The Cape of Good Hope on a passage from UK to the Persian Gulf.
It was just after dawn on a fairly blustery day and I was on the bridge wing as look out (as was normal in those days).
I noticed this massive seabird skimming just a couple of feet over the water and following the contours of the waves without seeming to move its wings.
It was by far the largest bird I had ever seen and it was mesmerising for its grace and its speed without appearing to move its wings apart from the feathers on the trailing edges and its tail.
It flew serenely and seemingly without effort.
They have an ethereal quality that gently demands your attention and it is easy to become entranced watching one in flight.
The Chief Mate told me it was a Wandering Albatross, which are known to travel fantastic distances and regularly circle the globe, although they are birds only of the southern hemisphere found mainly between the latitudes of 28 and 60 south.
As with many seabirds they are, in some superstitions, thought to be the souls of dead sailors however a simple mathematical calculation soon puts that myth to rest.
They are sadly in a decline caused solely by mans activities.
One reason is floating plastic garbage dumped at sea, or from land, that’s finds its way into, and blocks the birds digestive tracts.
The other is from long line fishing methods where, as scavengers, they dive on the squid and other baited hooks coming out the back of long line vessel when they are shooting their gear and get caught in the hook and are dragged below the waves and drown.
Of 21 species 19 are now endangered.
There is some more technical info here
The closest I have ever been to touching one was on a cargo ship in 1980. We had been to Buenos Aeries and a smaller port further south in Argentina (the name escapes me) and were heading around Cape Horn for Valparaiso in Chile .
I should add at this point that I have been round Cape Horn twice and it was flat calm the first time with a light breeze and steady drizzle and the second time was about a force 5 with slight seas and clear skies, basically a really nice day.
I would love to have a salty tale of “rounding the horn” sprinkled with phrases like “I’ve never known a night like it” and “The wind howled like a thousand banshees and we were all afear’d for our lives”, but both times we just a fairly pleasant passages in what can be very bad water.
Sorry about that.
I went out onto the bridge wing at about 3pm and leant on the dodger.
(The dodger is a curved plate on the forward edge of the bridge wing that deflects the wind up and over the lookout stood on the bridge wing.)
As I did so I had the shock of my life because I came eye to eye with an albatross that was soaring on the air current that forces itself up the front of a vessels accommodation when underway.
It was close enough for me to put my hand on his back, which I didn’t do as he would have freaked and flown off.
I spent a minute or two looking at him and he had a look at me between scanning the sea. I was thinking “Wow Oh Wow what amazing thing”. Although I don’t speak albatross he was probably thinking
“Hmm to big to eat but doesn’t seem to be a threat, I will keep my eye on him just in case”
The things that struck me was the size of his beak, it seemed huge and looked like it could take a finger or two of without effort and also he was so clean and in pristine condition. I had to force myself to overcome the urge to stroke him.
Apart from the tiniest of movements on the wing tips and tail feathers he was motionless suspended on the up draught and using these tiny movements to stay in the air stream. He was no more than 18 inches from the bridge wing
I am absolutely sure I was having a “gob open, staring in awe” moment and I felt ecstatic to be so close to such a magnificent creature.
I slowly made my way into the bridge and asked the Second Mate if he had seen him and he informed me that it had been there for about couple of hours earlier and then shot off and had something off the ocean and came back about an hour ago. He also said that they often hitched a lift on the updraft as it was less effort for them.
Using a tape along the top of the dodger we measured his wingspan at 3 meters 40 cms. Get a tape measure out and lay it down and it will give you some idea of the size.
He stayed with us on and off for a couple of days and then was gone.
I have one more “albatross” tale to tell although some may find this a bit cheesy, but at the time I thought “when else will I ever get the chance to do it” and I bet that many of you would try the same thing if the opportunity arose.
It was later the same year that I was transiting the Cape of Good Hope on another vessel on our way to Maputo (originally Larenzo Marks) in Mozambique and there was an albatross patrolling our wake for any juicy morsels we kicked up.
It was a rough day and the waves were about 4 or 5 meters and using the ‘close to the water glide’ when it would disappear from view behind a wave only to reappear up the back of the next one. It was almost mystical in it’s elegance.
There is an aerodynamic phenomenon called “ground effect” that albatross and other seabirds are masters off which allows them to stay close to the water and stay airborne with little or no effort.
While watching I suddenly had an idea and dashed into my cabin, grabbed my Sony Walkman, shoved in the correct tape forward wound to the correct track ad dashed back onto the deck .
I then cranked up the volume and watched the bird fly almost in perfect time to the music.The word that best describes the experience is “mesmerising”.
Here are some photos and the track to help better visualise what I saw.
Love and Peace
So we came up off of the deep water 18 hours ago from 4,000 meters up to 1000 and now to 100 meters.
The wind veered from the South West to the North and when I posted last night at midnight it was 26*C tonight it is 16*C which is a bit brisk on a ship with no heating. The Malay, Thai, Indonesian, and Singaporean people who make up the vast majority of the crew are grumbling a bit because we are just not geared up for cold weather. As the vessel has never been further north than about 12* in the gulf of Thailand even I have no warm clothing. I do have flip flops plenty of shorts and t shirts but not a single long pair of trousers or long sleeve shirt or other such suitable clothing. I will see how this one pans out
So here we go
28* 01 N 125* 09 E Course 0058 Speed 5 knots – Wind North 28 knots. Sea height 2 meters, water depth 100 meters Temp 16*
The story of me being woken up by whale snot:-
I was working off shore Nigeria in 1994 as the skipper of a high speed, passenger carrying, jet boat. The vessel was 15 meters long and had a beam of about 3.5 meters. It had twin inboard 375Hp turbocharged diesels than ran twin water jet drives.
We carried 20 passengers at service speed of 36 knots. The wheelhouse was just forward of the stern and above the passenger cabin which was accessible by a short stairwell.
The passengers embarked and disembarked via a doorway at the front of the accommodation that led onto the bow section
Behind the wheelhouse was an area about 2 meters long with handrails around the stern. We had arranged a couple of planks of wood in these rails that acted as benches for us to have a snooze ion during the day or to make the fishing more comfortable for us when we didn’t have passengers.
The crew was one skipper (me) who doubled as the engineer and one boatman (local Nigerian) who kept the vessel clean and assisted the passengers on and off.
There was no living accommodation on board and we were about 100 miles out from the Bonny River in the Gulf Of Guinea.
We took people from the main Floating Storage and Offload (FSO) and hotel vessel out to the 6 platforms (spread over an 11 mile diameter) in the morning (0600) took them back in the evening (1800) and ferried them about in the day if they needed to visit other platforms.
We would also transport the food to them at lunchtimes.
We had a sub sea mooring that had a floating hawser attached and in evening, after dropping everyone back at the FSO, we would make fast to the morning and the oil fields standby supply vessel would send across its Zodiac (rubber boat with outboard) to pick us up. We slept on board the supply boat.
If I was actually driving the boat and had the engines running for more than 5 hours a day it was considered a very busy day.
Basically it was great job that paid well, gave me the opportunity to drive a wonderfully responsive and incredibly accurate to handle boat, that also gave me plenty of hours in the day to engage in some big game fishing.
The waters were rich with Barracuda, Sail Fish, Red Snapper, Dorrado, Yellow Tails, Tuna etc that we would sell to the camp boss (catering manager of the field).
There were also an assortment of sharks including one memorable encounter with a 4 meter Hammer-head shark that we had to release.
I can tell you that reaching down with a pair of wire cutters to cut the hook as close to its mouth was a very tight sphinctered moment.
Before this shark catch I used to often jump in and have a swim in the clear blue waters when we had a quiet hour or more, however the Hammer-head incident and one other put a stop to that.
One morning, whilst in the Zodiac on the way to the boat, we were trailed all the way by a very big shark whose fin was no more than 2 meters from our Zodiac and matched us for speed for the one mile, open water journey.
It was predawn we couldn’t see what sort of shark it was in the dark water but it was a big fin which normally indicates a big shark.
I am sure I could hear the bass notes of a cello going DUH Dun…Duh Dun Duh dun duhdun duhdunduhdun. I never swam after that.
One quiet afternoon I was having a bronzy doze on one of the planks when I was startled out of my reverie, first by a massive whooshing sound, followed closely by a drenching spray of water.
As I jumped up in shocked alarm I came face to face with a Humpback whale who was on the surface calmly looking at me while I stood dripping with whale snot and seawater looking back at him.
I could have sworn he was smiling.
His eye was bigger than my head and I just looked into it and somehow found the voice to say
“Aye Aye Matey, nice to meet you. Where did you come from?
He didn’t answer but continued to hold my gaze for a while.
I don’t know if it was male or female (it just seemed like a he) but he hung around for about half and hour just checking us out from different angles, often very close nudging us with his body, as we drifted on the current and chatted away to him.
He was close enough to touch on several occasions, and so we did, which he didn’t seem to mind at all. All I can say is that if you can imagine what its like to touch a whale, it felt like that.
There was absolutely no mistaking the fact that he was definitely “looking at” my boatman and I as we made polite albeit one sided conversation with him, in both a river delta dialect of Nigerian and in the Dorset brogue of English, as well as some whistles and an occasional attempt to mimic whale song I had heard on a documentary.
I am glad in a way he didn’t understand that as I might have been inadvertently calling his mother the whale version of a fat crack whore.
He was massive, certainly bigger than the boat, however although he possessed an immense and gentle power it was obvious he was absolutely no threat to us.
I felt that he was just as curious as to what we were doing (and what we were), as we were about him, however I don’t think we quite inspired in him the awestruck respect and splendour that he inspired in us.
Once he had satisfied his curiosity he slowly raised his tail high in then air and slipped beneath the surface and was gone.
About twenty minutes later we saw what we thought was a blow (as in “Thar she blows”) a couple of miles away.
I had seen hundreds of whales of all sorts before that, normally just gently swimming along, where you get to watch their sleek backs and the fountain of their blow, as they go about their business.
I have seen killer whales leaping and somersaulting so beautifully and gracefully for me to think they must have escaped from an aquarium.
I have seen humpbacks breeching alone and as pairs but never had, or expected to have, such a magical and close encounter as that.
When I see a whale I smile.
I think everyone does.
There is not much you can do about it they just make you want to smile.
If you say “whale” the same bits of your cheeks flex as when you smile, (go on try it, you know you want to)
I don’t know if it is some sort of Darwinian recognition of a distant evolutionary cousin, but there is something about them that has an historical resonance, connecting to a forgotten inner sense, when you see then in the wild.
They are totally at one with their environment, they only breed enough to have family groups that their habitat can support. The waste nothing and create no pollution. They are in tune with where they are.
No wonder we smile when we see them, it’s probably out of embarrassment.
The other sea creature that instinctively raise a smile are Dolphins or Porpoise. (I will call them all dolphins from now on)
Have you ever seen an animal that looks happier about being alive in its own environment than a dolphin?
I know its just the shape of their faces but they look like they are having such fun and they are always a joy to see and watch.
I was lucky enough to have a dual encounter with two whales and a pod of dolphins a couple of weeks later in the same location off Nigeria.
It was a delightful sight that filled me with such joy I thought was going to spontaneously combust.
One afternoon we spotted a pair of humpbacks together only about half a mile away steadily swimming in one direction.
We also noticed a pod of dolphins nearby, which wasn’t unusual as barely a week went by without there being plenty of dolphins about.
The dolphins were never really interested in us when we were just drifting, but when we were speeding through the water they would often come across and try to ride the bow wave and I would adjust the speed to suit.
Many a time I have put the boatman on the controls and I been lying down with my head over the bow at 25 mph or faster and having two or three dolphin weaving in and out of the bow wave just below the surface near my finger tips.
Smiles and grins that big make your face hurt after a while.
The pod of dolphins must have caught site of the whales, or maybe the whales were singing and the dolphins recognised the tune, because suddenly they all changed direction and swam over to the whales.
They began just mucking about jumping over the top of them and swimming right up next to them, and leaping in the air and doing back flips and front flips and belly flops all around them. It was lie lambs gambolling or puppies playing.
I am sure if we could have heard them talk they would have been saying “Whay hay,. Whoop Whoop. Yippeee. Yeee Haaa
It’s the giants. Hey big guys where you going?
Hey come on lard ass chase me, ha ha ha
They played for nearly and hour as I followed them at a reasonable distance in the boat. I vividly remember having tears of pure happiness streaming unashamedly down my face as I watched and the memory of it still evokes a tear of joy.
Love and Peace
Also if you want to click on the Billy and Gentley Dreambuildeer section you can see more on the renovation and how we put in the woodburner.
Aye aye Landlubbers “Long Time No See”
A host of reasons why I have not been active for the last year or two and some of them are:-
On billy & gentley dreambuilders the closer we came to completion the less it became in our minds project and the more it became our home which by definition is more private than a project. Couple that with the fact that Photobucket blocked all my photos and said that if I shared them on my own website they wanted hundreds of dollars a year for the service. They have been told to fuck off and I am in the process of down loading and transferring them via another route.
We also decided that it is a bit daft not to complete the whole thing on the blog so there will be several new updates over the next few months to the 95% completion that it now is.
On my blog blog I have been distracted with the political situation in the UK and spent most of my time on social media arguing against right wing fuckwitted tory voters. Waste of time in retrospect but had to be done.
I have lots top create and lots of stroeis still to tell so I am back in the saddle as far as thats concerned.
Also we have started project 2 and progress and procedure will soon be published.
I feel very comfortable back here like slipping on a favourite pair of shoes after thinking them lost.
As an old mate of mine once said “you get two chances in life to get blog going, once on the way up and once on the way down,
Its good to be back 🙂
So out of the South China Sea and bimmbling along the western extremity of the Pacific Ocean as we mooch towards the East China Sea.
It is almost as though we are on tiptoe as we skirt the edge of Pacific with nothing between us and the western coast of the usa except for 6500 miles of ocean.
You can feel the ocean breathe. Like a sleeping dragon.
The low ocean swell giving us a lazy 2 degree roll, yet invisible to the eye when you scan the surface for a sign of it.
A mighty beast indeed, and for the next 5 days or so I hope we don’t wake it up because we would be well and truly in the shite with nowhere to hide.
23* N 122* E Course 045 Speed 8 KNots Wind NE 6 knots Temp 24*C Water depth 4900 meters
Two charts tonight As for the fist one I apologise for this not being a very nautical chart but its the best I can lift from the net for now and gives an idea of where we are.
The second chart gives you an idea of just how fucking the ocean is and why I am perhaps feeling a little bit isolated on this leg of the voyage.
I have never known a night like it!!
As a seafarer you just accept rough weather as a hazard of the job. You batten down the hatches, lash everything down and, depending on the size and ferocity of the storm forecast, get ready for a few days of uncomfortable living. You have no choice but to just trust in the vessels ability to ride the storm.
People often wonder why we don’t just run for cover and shelter in the lee of a land mass, but ships are designed to cope with foul weather and in the middle of the ocean there is no where to run.
The days of vessels being routinely over-laden in order to squeeze a few more quid profit for the owner are thankfully long gone, although it is still the case with some smaller vessels in the less well regulated parts of the world, where the compliance with safety regulations is directly related to the amount of money to be found in the brown envelopes handed to the surveyor and port officials.
Many ships sank trough overloading before the Plimsolle line was adopted.
It was not the loss of seafarers that instigated the introduction but the loss of cargo, however ship owners continued to oppose the introduction for years.
All seafarers prefer it when it is calm (who wouldn’t) but there is something awesome and extravagantly dramatic about being at sea in a big storm. It makes you realise that this has been going on long before man set about trashing the planet and will continue long after we have completed the task and are long gone.
In a full blown hurricane or typhoon one can only marvel at the energy produced, and how, if we could work out how to harness even a fraction of it, our energy needs would be solved.
You only have to survive one freak wave, also known as rouge or pyramid waves, to realise just how puny mans engineering achievements are in the face of the natural forces of the planet.
The first and probably the largest “freak wave” I ever encountered come out of the dark in a storm force 12 conditions (Huge waves. Sea is completely white with foam and spray. Air is filled with driving spray, greatly reducing visibility.)
It hit us just aft of the accommodation break and ripped the port lifeboat and one of the davits clean off the deck.
The lifeboat was a 40 man boat about 8 meters long and was situated 15 meters above the water line.
If you take the average two storey house has having a roof ridge of about 7.5 meters and work up form there to about 20 or more meters, that will give you some idea of the size this wave had to be to have enough grunt to overwhelm us like that.
If you can see them coming they look like this
Once the weather starts to deteriorate you find that each hour, when on watch, is just a little longer than normal. Much of that will be due to interrupted sleep pattern as it is difficult to sleep on a moving platform. This is why you will find on proper working ships that all bunks face fore and aft and never thwart ships.
When fore and aft you can wedge some clothing or something under one side of the mattress and it will wedge you in against the bulkhead so you are not flopping about or rolling out of your bunk.
If you are athwartships you will be sliding feet first down the bed one second and then head first back up it the next.
(It is a useful tip for you landlubbers that feel a bit queazy on a ferry to book a cabin that has the bunks bow to stern if you can.)
When on watch on the bridge, depending on the violence of the storm, you will attempt to wedge yourself in were you have a good view of the radar and the horizon ahead of you, although in bad conditions you cant see much and only the largest of vessels show up on the radar.
Luckily most offshore vessels will have a decent conning chair from were you can see all around and have access to the engine, rudder controls and radars.
With a modern integrated bridge using electronic charts I can superimpose the charts over the radar display in order to monitor where I am in relation to navigational hazards at all times which saves me having to risk moving about too much in bad weather.
To get around you develop this wide legged, bent kneed, stance for walking about with your arms flexed out a little at your sides to prevent you from smashing into to objects, or to enable you to be able to grab quickly onto a hand rail to prevent you from being thrown around. I have been in some weather where we have been rolling over 30 degrees at a time and to walk along an alleyway you would have one foot on the bulkhead (wall ) and one on the deck and scuttle along until she rolled back the other way and you would change feet at bulkheads. After a particularly nasty storm your arms and legs will normally be bruised up.
After a 6 or 12 hour watch you will be exhausted and even in those conditions sleep comes easily albeit fitful.
The sheer volume and violence of a ship repeatedly running into large waves and the associated crashing, banging, rolling, pitching and corkscrewing all take their toll, both physically and after prolonged time mentally.
You just feel dog tired once the novelty has worn off like being trapped on some manic fairground ride that no-one can turn off.
The cooks have the worst job as they still have to try and produce something to provide us with nutrition.
You should try and imagine what it would be like in your own kitchen if it was roiling from side to side by just few degrees, yet alone 20 or 30 degrees at a time, and an occasional, no warning, shuddering smash enough to nearly knock you from your feet as another big one crashes in.
Good ships cooks are the unsung heroes of rough weather, and if from a safety point of view we are not down to sandwiches, they will normally knock up something that can be eaten with just a fork or spoon as you need the other hand to hold on to the table with or stop your plate from sliding away.
Bizarrely I have sailed with people (professional seafarers I mean) who get sea sick every time there is rough weather and having seen how miserable people get when in the grips of “mal de mer” I cannot understand why they would continue to go to sea.
It would like being a butcher if you were allergic to meat, you would have to finds something else to do.
That said as reasonable weather 85% of the time, if not more, I can see that the benefits outweigh the cons of the life on the ocean wave even for those with a delicate constitution.
Love and peace
Aye Aye Landlubbers
Here is todays chart and the last time you will see this one as we cross through the Luzon Strait and into the East China Sea. Here being on the east side of Taiwan we expect to get a bit of a slingshot from the Japan current which rattles along here up towards the NE and Japan (hence the name).
Position 20* 49’ N 119* 46’ E
Course 050 Temp 24C Wind SW 4knots Water depth 3150 meters
Now our speed has slowly dropped off to about 6.5knots because as we approach Taiwan the current pushes more to the NW instead of the NE so we are in a bit of a power slide at the moment and have lost some oomph from it, until we get just abreast of Taiwan when we pick up the surge from the Philippines Sea as well as what comes up for the South China Sea and turns into the Japan current.
I have been a bit busy tonight with ship stuff on the bridge and haven’t managed to develop anything to write about so here is something I wrote a while ago about the green flash you can sometimes see at sunset.
In 1976, on my first voyage in tropical waters, I remember watching a particularly magnificent sunset one evening.
It was one of “those” sunsets where the hues of all colours change so subtly that the light in the sky appears to be a liquid kaleidoscope of wonder.
I think it was probably the first time I had ever taken the time to actually sit and take note of one of the most satisfying, and peaceful free shows on earth.
When I went into the crew bar later and was waxing lyrical about it, one of the old hands asked if I had seen the “green flash.”
I was immediately on my guard, because I assumed this was another in a long line of piss takes and wind ups that all junior crew members are subjected to at sea for at least the first couple of trips.
It is a long standing tradition that when you are on the receiving end you vow that you will not take part in as you get older, and yet when you are a more senior member of the crew you take childish delight in fooling the deck boys or cadets.
Although I have not sailed with a deck boy in 25 years or longer cadets and other first trippers are still fodder for the fun if the opportunity arises.
These are basically harmless pranks are not be confused with the lack of knowledge of the language on board. which you had to learn quickly.
I remember after three days of being on board my fist vessel and I was helping the AB on the fore spring, steam winch, situated just in front of the accommodation.
We were moving the vessel along the quay and the AB had let me on the controls of the winch. Simple really, pay out, haul in, and stop.
We were hauling in as we moved forward and the Captain shouted down from the bridge
“Fast heaving” so I speeded up.
The next thing the captain shouted down from the bridge was along the lines of “Get that brainless fucking cunt off the winch controls”
A couple of weeks later when I was painting the crane pedestal the Bosun slapped me around the back of the head and asked (if shouting into my face can be considered asking) if the name on the bow was the “MV Fucking Butlins”, because there were enough holidays in my paint work for it to be”
I didn’t know what a holiday was, in relation to paint work, as the biggest thing I had ever painted was an Airfix model, so rather than ask and appear stupid I decided to confirm my stupidity by guessing that it was the drippy bits where the paint runs, so I tried to tidy them up.
Half an hour later and another slap around the back of the head and the decrying of my entire family both living and ancestral and inquiries as to how much piss I was actually trying to take, I finally said that I had tried to sort the holidays, pointing to the area of less hanging drips.
After hearing that the entire teaching staff and pupils of the deck boy school “not having one fucking brain cell between them” he showed me that the bits missed were “holidays” and the hanging drips were called curtains.
Whilst still questioning my ability to breath unaided, yet alone put on foot in front of the other at the same time as breathing, he proceeded over the next few weeks to give me extensive practical lessons in painting on board a ship the types of paint and uses and the methods of application as well as the preparation of surfaces.
It was during these painting lessons that one day he told me that in order for us to counterbalance the painting stage (a thick plank of wood using ropes to hold it in place to access difficult areas) I would need to go to the Bosun’s Mate and get a “long weight”.
Eager to learn I asked what it was and he explained that it was added to the wood of the staging and act as counter-balance to the person on the stage.
I found the Bosuns Mate at the paint store and told him that the Bosun had sent me to get a “long weight”
“Oh Aye” he says “Hang on there I will just go and get you one”
He came back about 30 minutes later and when he saw me said
“Oh sorry son I had to do a job for the Chief Mate and it slipped my mind. Wait here and in will go and get it”
About 10 minutes later the Bosun turned up and said
“How “long” have you got to “wait” before you realise it’s a piss take?”
About two weeks later I nearly fell for a variation on the theme which is a “long stand” apparently also required to reach an awkward place. I nipped down to the crew bar had couple tins of beer and fag and came back after 20 minutes and said he didn’t have one but has ordered some for the next port.
The trouble is that when you are constantly the butt of these wind ups, you end up thinking that everything you are asked to do is just a ploy to have a laugh at your expense and so when asked to something perfectly legitimate you end up in trouble for saying “Fuck off, it’s a wind up” As a deck boy this can lead to a slapped head or at the very least a serious bollocking.
A slightly sophisticated one I fell for was when we were replacing the anchor brake mechanism and needed to clean off the old brake drum.
There is a type of cleaning material provided to ships called “cotton waste” which it is basically finely shredded cotton.
It is amazingly absorbent and in those days was used a lot when doing most mopping up jobs.
I was happy to be helping dismantle the old brake machinery and in cleaning the drum ready for the new liner.
One of the ABs said that is was a bit more tricky than they thought and that we were going to need the finer grade of some 3/8ths waste on this.
He said that only the second engineer keeps it down the engine room for specialist jobs so nip down and see him and say we need 175 grams of 3/8ths waste. Watch out because he is a tight bastard and will try to fob you off with the ordinary stuff, so stand your ground and insist you get the good stuff or you will only have to go back and get it.
Lulled by the technical sounding nature of the task we were about to complete I made my way to the engine room control room, (the domain of the Second Engineer who was not known for his sense of humour), and asked for “175 grams of 3/8ths waste”.
He walked over to the normal sack of cotton waste pulled out a handful and smiling shoved it into my hand and said
“There you that will do it”.
“Oh No”, says I, “They told me that because you are tight bastard you would try and take the piss by giving me the normal stuff and that you try and keep the good stuff for your own special jobs. I want the 3/8ths special and I am not to let you take the piss so I am not leaving till I get it”
Have you ever seen pictures of the few moments before a volcano erupts?
That’s what his face was like before he let forth an incredible intricate and foul series of expletives mostly related to what was going to be torn from my body and where the tattered flesh was going to end up being shoved. There was also some superb abusive references to that “bunch of piss taking idle fuckbastards on deck, who waste their time sending cunts like me on stupid errands when they should be working” etc etc etc .
I took the waste I had and made like Houdini by disappearing sharpish, although when I related the story back to the ABs, between their thigh slapping hoots of laughter they seemed impressed that I had escaped intact after calling him a “piss taking tight bastard”.
I had nearly fallen for a trick a few months earlier, but at the last minute I remembered a conversation in the crew bar about the same subject.
When asked to go and get a bucket of steam I grabbed the bucket and set off towards the engine room and the detoured around to the poop deck and put my feet up and had a couple of cigarettes and caught a it of sunshine.
About an hour later I wandered back up the deck with my empty bucket and when asked “Where the fuck have you been for the last hour?”
I replied that every time I got to the top of the engine room the steam had gone,so I had to go back and get some more but I just couldn’t get it to stay in the bucket.
Some months later I was there when the new deck boy was about to be sent to the engine room for a “bucket of steam” so we could defrost the winches. I do admit to the smallest twinge of sympathetic guilt that (it has to be said) passed in a nano second when he looked at me and asked,
“They are taking piss aren’t they?”
I replied, poker faced and all innocence and light,
“No, its straight up mate, last time we did it we needed about three buckets it was so icy”
and so off he went to bathe in the glow of the second engineers fury.
I didn’t get sent on any more daft errands after that one, and luckily I had already be warned never to agree to be shown the golden rivet.
Ladies (or gentlemen) if you ever visit a ship and an seafarer tells you that every ship has one golden rivet and asks if you would like to see it, the prudent thing to do is politely decline, even though you may be giddy with excitement, and lets face it the slightly arousing feeling that being on a ship with bunch of roughy toughy sailors can invoke. Resist the golden rivet.
It will involve being led to some dark depths of the vessel and then you having to bend over some obstacle down near the bottom of the ship and then lean into a barely accessible entrance, and while you are bent over…. …..well I think I can allow your imagination can take over from there. It is an engineer thing and they are not really fussy.
So back to the original subject and you can understand my nonchalant air of disbelief about the green flash, and despite most of the men insisting it was true, there were 5 of us who had never seen it, or even heard of it, or had heard of it but thought it was a pis take.
Suffice to say that I studiously ignored every sunset for the next few weeks to prevent being caught out as a sucker, although I will admit to keeping half an eye open waiting for the big green flash.
That changed after one of the old hands (strange to think he would have been as old as I am now) said that I shouldn’t give up as it was genuine phenomenon, but not to expect something like a green flash bulb going off, as it is much more subtle than that and doesn’t happen every sunset.
I began to pay more attention and was soon rewarded for my efforts.
I have to say I didn’t realise what I had seen was actually what I was supposed to be looking for to start with, as to call it a flash is a fairly large exaggeration.
It is only occasional and is more of a localised, sometimes very small, green tinge just at the moment the sun’s last arc dips over the horizon.
It can often manifest itself as a green spot right at the top of the sun as it drops out of view and sometimes a green band and sometimes nothing.
I would suggest the best place to see it is if you can be looking west over unbroken expanse of water to the clear cloudless horizon, which it has to be said is great thing to do whenever you get the chance regardless of a green flash.
I am guessing that because it is not a blatantly obvious “flash” with a “big impact”, and most people don’t get the chance to watch the sun sink to a western seascape horizon, it is not often spoken of or looked for. However Keep looking when you get a chance as it is one of natures little hidden gems, but think more along the lines of a small, localised, momentary glow rather than flash.
(and honestly, I am not taking the piss)
Love and Peace
Ahoy there M’hearties. Thanks for the generous comments and I am well chuffed that you like my description of my job.
I know it probably sounds a bit odd, but I have never considered that what I do for a living was in any way unusual, or that people would find it fascinating.
It is work, it’s what I have to do in order to get as much time off as I do. (I work normally 6 weeks on then have 6 weeks off)
The people I work with all do the same, so the subject of it being about “out there” or unusual, never comes up.
I knew that I was in a bit of a minority of people in one sense, because whenever the subject of work comes up I am one of the few who says “I love what I do it’s good fun, pays well and keeps me interested” I enjoy the challenge of staying at the top of my game and enjoy the fact that the people who count rate me very highly and value my experience and input, so overall job-wise, I don’t have much to moan about.
I am often asked by people I know, or meet, what I do and when I say “I drive specialist ships” it is usually met with a “Oh really!”, and one of those vague looks that means people are being polite, but don’t know what that means.
I think the photos and video give better idea of where I work and the sort of work we do.
My role is the Senior Dynamic Positioning Operator and First Officer.
In short I am responsible for keeping the vessel in position and making it sure it moves where it needs to, when it needs to.
I do this by operating the Dynamic Positioning System (DP) which takes input from all our position sensors, such as
Differential GPS, (a posh and more accurate version of Sat Nav) which gives us an “absolute position,
Taut Wire (which is a wire with a large weight on that goes to the seabed and a sensor at the davit head computes the angle and length of wire to be me a “relative” position)
HPR which is a sub sea sonar beacons and transceiver,
CySacn which is a laser range and bearing system working on the timing of a reflection,
Rada Scan which is a beacon that is placed on an object (like the rig) and is interrogated by a ship board scanner and gives us a range and bearing relative position) .
It also takes info feed from the 3 Gyro compasses, the anemometers (wind sped direction) and the VRUs which are sensors that make corrections to all the others to counteract the vessel pitch, roll and heave (vertical movement in the sea)
Once it has all this info it knows where we are and what way we are heading, and I tell it to “Stay” (arf arf)
As the wind and current and waves and /or other external forces (such as the force of the pipeline we are laying, or the force of what we are trying to lift or pull into position) act on the vessel they try to pull her off position or heading, and the DP system works out what thrust is needed to counteract it, and sends the required signal to one, or some, or all, of the 6 azimuth thrusters (thrusters that can revolve in a 360 degree axis)telling them what direction, and what power is required, to keep us on our chosen position and heading.
This happens constantly and in normal weather conditions, say with wind up to 20 knots and about half knot of current, the footprint (the amount any part of the vessel moves) of this vessel (140 meters by 40 and weighing 27,000 tons) will be less than 10 centimeters.
In winds up to 35 to 40 knots and 2 to 3 meter seas we will still be able to maintain a foot print of about a meter.
Trying to do it manually in calm seas, with little current, and operating the 6 thrusters “by hand”, it is difficult to maintain a footprint of less than two meters, however when all the thrusters are combined on joystick control, and you have lots of practice, one can get it down to about half a meter. the difference is that the DP system doesn’t get tired or hungry or need to have pee or start daydreaming about being at home with his beautiful vibrant wife.
My role is to constantly monitor and tune the DP, to obtain the optimum position holding capabilities for the current conditions and operations, and also to move the vessel into the position required when required.
I also have to be vigilant for any potential system failures or unusual events, and also watching for changes in the weather or sea conditions that would have an adverse effect on the position holding.
In short my job entails constantly considering the worse case scenario and having a plan of action should it occur.
I am also there because I know what to do when it goes wrong and have the requisite experience and skill to be able to get us out of the crap should it go wrong.
If I did ever get it wrong during critical operations (ie when we have divers down or when we are laying pipe under high tension or engaged in a heavy lift) then there is a very high probability that people would die as result of my mistake, so therefore I have to be on the ball.
This is also why vessels of this nature are completely dry of alcohol and we are random tested for drug and alcohol use.
I will pop up another video shortly showing the time lapse sequence of us installing a new oil/gas production platform in the Gulf of Thailand.
It goes from empty sea to completed platform, 5 and half days work in 8 minutes of video. Pretty snazzy it is
In the meantime here is a pic or two of what we look like below the water line and the bloke on the cherry picker in the first one and the chap walking below the central thruster in the second one will give you an idea of scale.
each thruster can rotate 360 degrees and gives the equivalent of about 4 thousand horsepower and we have 6 of them three at the front and three at the back.
So back to the current voyage
Midnight position is 18* 58′ N 117* 31′ E
The sea is slight < 1 meter, wind has veered to SSE 10 knots and the temp at midnight is a positively brisk 25C the water depth here is 3780 meters and we are making good 049*. WE will be upping our security status to Level 2 to tomorrow which means we will be deploying extra look outs to offset the increased risk of pirate activity in the Luzon Strait. WE also batten down and lock form inside all external doors that have access to any vital part of the vessel. These are not the "hijack the vessel - take hostage" pirates you are used to hearing about off Somalia, this lot are petty theft chancers, more "sea pikeys" rather than pirates, so we are just taking prudent precautions. Here is the chart Love and peace Bentley
Aye Aye Landlubbers, Well,one of the benefits of putting a dog-leg in the course, as we did, is that it has taken us just outside of the standard route so there has been a marked lack of traffic today.
So our heading is now 050, we are still making about 7.5 knots, the sea is less than a meter (and lovely and blue still) the temp is now 26 which those with a weather eye open will notice is two degrees lower than last night. We have been slowly moving North every day and have now travelled from 68 miles north of the equator to nearly 1000 miles north of the equator so it will get a little cooler each day.
Midnight position is 16* 57.5′ N 114* 58.5′ E
see below for the positions so far
I thought that for the people reading this blog (both of you) that it might be interesting to find out what my workplace looks like and where I drive the vessel from, so I have taken a few snaps and will add a bit of explanation to each one in order for you to get an idea of where I am when I am not at home.
Here was the view from the heli-deck this afternoon at about 1700 I tried to show you the effect of an unbroken horizon.
Just the sea as far as you can see, not everyone’s cup of tea, but a treat for me.
OK so that is where I walk every day, weather permitting. I alternate 15 laps clockwise then counterclockwise incase I end up with one leg shorter than the other.
So here is the working deck showing the port side. The pipe tunnel is in the middle.
The big white roll of stuff is actually floatation collars for the pipeline we are laying, as were will be doing whats known as a “beach pull”. We have to set up station off the beach in enough water to hold position, then we send a wire from us to a fixed anchor point ashore, through a sheave then back onto the pipeline that we are producing, and as the joints are welded we heave it out of our own back end and float it under tension ashore.
Once we have enough hanging out our back end to reach the shore we can then start moving forward to lay the rest of the pipe.
The diameter of the pipe is 42 inches and will also be concrete coated. Its a whopper.
You can see what we call the “start up head” and “lay down head” towards the stern (white bits of pipe which are attached to the pipeline) and you can see length of pipe (without the concrete coating) sat in the cradle about midships, which is where it would start its journey to the forward part of the ship, across to the middle, then welded up in the firing line, and eventually ejected as part of the pipeline out of our back end.
So here is the starboard side.
Just behind the crane you can see the diving bell which is attached to the saturation chamber. The containers around it are the support system and dive control shack.
Just aft of that on the red davit is the ROV which is our remote operated submarine and its own control shack and there are various other stores containers, dive gas and welding gas racks, and assorted bits and pieces.
Well that’s the outside taken care of here is the the bridge.
This is just a shot showing the three other guys of the bridge team. Ed, Tom, and Rey. The shot is looking across from the port side to starboard towards the Radio / Admin room.
Here is the radio / admin room (without Errol and Talli who would normally be in there but were having dinner when I took this) which is situated on the forward starboard side of the bridge.
So from the radio room looking across to the port side and the seating area where we hold bridge briefings and any impromptu meetings that need to be held for operational purposes and sometimes just for lounging about.
So now we get down to the bridge, and looking across to the starboard side, this is where the pipe tension controls are.
When a pipeline is laid it has to be done under tension or else when it reaches the back of the ship it would just snap off. The size of the pipe and the depth of the lay are key factors and the tensioner operator ensures that as we move the vessel forward the tension on the pipeline stays as it should be. In the past we have had some great characters on the tensioner Like Bert from Oz (who was always telling me how to kill different snakes, and also educated me about rainwater collection and storage for drinking) Gus from Borneo who is a chief of a long house there and great fun to have on the bridge always smiling and laughing and a multi talented bloke. Bing who was just great crack with story after story of “how it used to be done” The Sheriff who was another larger than life character and who cut quite a debonair figure and was again full of stories of the old days. Most of these guys were well into their sixties when on here so had decades of tales to tell.
This is still on the port side of the bridge showing the controls for the anchor winches. Even though we are a DP vessel we do have the capacity to deploy up to 8 anchors if needs be however we only have three attached now and only use them if =we have to wait outside a port for any length of time before berthing. We rarely ever go to port so this is a lonely part of the bridge ha ha
Now looking slightly across to starboard and to where I and the rest of the bridge team actually drive the vessel from.
The station closes to the camera is the manual controls for the 6 azimuth thrusters which we can combine onto a simple joystick that controls all of them. We can all drive using the 6 azimuth separate controls but it is bit like trying to wrestle an octopus. The next screen is the power management system which we can start and stop thrusters and we need them and also keep an eye on power requirements which we would then refer to the engine room to provide more generators if required or less if not.
Then in front of the two blue comfy chairs are the DP operator consoles where we do all the fine movements and adjustments when we are down to the vessel movements for operational purposes. The various screens above are CCTV cameras diver cameras survey screen ROV cameras position measuring equipment feedbacks and the like.
I have spent nearly 4 years of my life on this bridge and in those chairs (FFS MrsB check the lottery tickets)
This one just shows the search light controls, all the light switches for the decks, the PA announcer (i have fun with that) the Differential GPS position measuring equipment, radar, radios, AIS. Navtex GPS navigator, and other assorted stuff on the port side of the bridge
Here is what it looks like from behind the driving chairs.
I am pretty sure that many people from ashore who perhaps know me from the pub or the comedy, don’t really compute that I have a proper professional job, and as such they probably have little idea of what it actually entails, so I hope that this has given you all (well both of you) an insight into what my working environment is like.
Love and peace
Now if you would like here is a video of what we do shot from the perspective of a piece of pipe
Well M’hearties the winds of chance have once again shifted and it turns out that the Chinese are having none of our “receiving spare parts as we sail by” malarkey and are insisting on completing full port entry and departure formalities (with all the attendant monetary and time costs that would incur) so we are about to alter course again to once more to the NE and head up the outside of Taiwan thus avoiding the weaker currents and heavy traffic congestion that the Strait of Taiwan is renowned fo. In about 3 hours once we have cleared the western edge of Macclesfield Bank (I shit you not the middle of the South China Sea and we are skirting place called Macclesfield Bank )
Midnight position was 14* 48’N 113* 07’ E
Course 013 Sea state Slight (less than 1 meter)
Wind NE 8 knots, temp 28 degrees, water depth 4,000 meters.
No poem today, instead I would like to tell you a little about one of my favourite characters I have sailed with over the years (and there have been a few) but this guy often springs to my mind and I realise that I have absorbed some of his idiosyncrasies.
JJ was a Captain I sailed with in the late 90’s on the aggregate dredgers on the south coast of the UK and is one of those characters that stays nestled away in the “great person – great memories” section of ones memory bank.
He was early 60’s, (and I hope still alive) stood about 5 ‘ 9 “ powerfully built (not fat) and had a classic “sailors gait” about him. He spoke clearly in a Hull accent, with a rich deep baritone voice that was almost a caricature of what a sea captain should sound like. He was always meticulously clean shaven and had a full head of neatly combed, black hair, (that possibly benefitted from a touch of brylcream now and again) and he had a rugged weather beaten, lived in face, that would often crease into a mischievous smile that occupied the whole of his face. His general demeanour was one of warmth and enjoyment.
He dressed fairly casual and comfortable on board (jeans and checked shirt and thick jumpers in the winter months) but scrubbed up a treat with crisp white shirt, tie, blazer and slacks all well fitted and good quality and he always looked sharp and dapper when he would go ashore in two or three select ports. He didn’t go ashore every port and I can’t remember him coming to the pub with the others on board. Where he did go will remain a mystery, and although I asked him once or twice, he would have a crafty glint in his eye and would tap the side of his large nose and exclaim, That’s for me to know and you to wonder about Mr Mate”
He always called me Mr Mate and my affection for him probably came from him triggering a memory response from my childhood being transfixed by the Onedin Line (the bits spent at sea, as opposed to the airy fairy plot line) and he sounded like the Captain of a sailing vessel with his strong Hull brogue and precise way of talking.
When I sailed with him he was a man who made it quite clear that he could not abide bullshit in any of its forms, was absolutely confident in who he was, his ability as Master of the vessel, and completely at ease in that environment. He is one of the strongest characters that I have met over the years and who made a huge positive impact on me, and can say it was privilege to know and sail with him.
One of his great loves was words, he enjoyed the use of words and always strove to choose the correct words when he spoke and swore rarely but with devastating effect when he did. He was also always looking for ways of helping to increase the seafaring knowledge of the bridge team and also getting us to join in on his regular pranks played on the pilots, or the head office, and also to help make life on board a bit more fun. I think the following stories sum up his character perfectly for me and hopefully give you some insight into the character of the man.
(Whenever I use speech for him make sure that you imagine (or put on) a full Hull (sort of Yorkshire ish) accent spoken clearly and with a rich resonance and a slight questioning almost piss taking edge to the inflection)
On one clear moonlit evening we were making passage from the Owers Bank (off Selsey Bill) towards Newhaven when JJ appeared on the darkened bridge.
“A beautiful moonlit night tonight Mr Mate?”
“Aye that it is JJ, that it is. We are running with the flood now so should make the tide at Newhaven comfortably”
“Glad to hear it Mr Mate. Now tell me (his favourite saying and one that you knew preceded a nautical themed question that you may or may not know the answer to) “Now tell me Mr Mate what word would you use to describe such a moon”?
The moon was at about 3/4s on the way to full so I said “I can’t think of any one word expect perhaps “waxing”? and about ¾’s to full”
He stood and grinned at me in the darkness and said “Yes Yes Mr Mate it is waxing but what’s the correct word for such a waxing moon”?
After some Hmming and pondering from me I admitted defeat and said “I don’t know the correct word for it JJ”
“It is a “gibbous” moon Mr Mate. A “gibbous” moon. A gibbous moon is when more than half is illuminated, and a “crescent” moon is when less than half is illuminated. You may illuminate yourself to the phases of the moon by checking the nautical almanac on the shelf above the chart table. Good night Mr Mate.”
That was his way of helping increase your knowledge and for a navigator working in strong tidal streams, as we often did it, was important for me to understand the effect that the state of the moon would have on the rate of flow. It was never done with any attempt to catch you out, but you could rest assured that another lunar question would follow in few days to see if you had heeded his advice to brush up on the subject. He installed / awakened in me a desire to always remain inquisitive about what I do as a seafarer and it made me a better one, and continues to do so as a direct result.
His love of words used to come into play whenever we were going to a port where pilotage was compulsory. We both had pilot exemptions for places like Southampton, Portsmouth, Langstone Harbor, Cowes, Shoreham and Poole, which were regular ports, but Littlehampton and Newhaven didn’t offer pilot exemptions so we would be expected to take part in JJ’s game of slotting the chosen word of the day as many time as possible into the conversation with the Pilot during the pilotage. The more adept I became at playing, the more unusual the words became. One in particular stuck in my mind when we were doing a run into Newhaven, and as soon as the pilot cutter was alongside and he saw that it was the one pilot who was not really given to much conversation, JJ rubbed his hands with glee and said “Well Mr Mate the word of the day is “parochial” and with JJ still grinning at me the Pilot was opening the wheelhouse door and off we went. Parochial!! for fucks sake!! As I was struggling to come up with way of introducing that into the conversation, every time I looked around there would be JJ grinning. In the end I made up a question about a fictitious crossword clue I was having trouble with and managed to say it about 5 times, which received a wry :”Well played Mr mate, well played” as the pilot disembarked. All it did was spur JJ on to find a more unusual word for the next time, the sort of word that couldn’t be further from the subject that a navigator would talk with pilot about on a river passage.
The Wind Up Merchant
We were alongside the quay in Shoreham and were weather bound after discharging our cargo the previous night. That had made a welcome change from two cargos a day for some time and I had been up the road for a few pints and game of pool the night before. I came up onto the bridge at about 9ish to find JJ stood there looking across the sand yard to the road and houses beyond. I put the kettle on and asked if he fancied a brew and he said “Tell me Mr Mate can you recall the name of the fellow that runs the sand yard in Zebrugge? Is it Van Higher or something like that?”
I had never met the chap but being Dutch I was guessing that Van anything sounded about right, and feeling a tad jaded form the previous night said “Yes that sounds about right, but I couldn’t be sure”
“No matter Mr Mate. No matter, it is time to have some fun” at which juncture he uses the cell phone we had on board and calls the company on the speaker phone (pointing at me with finger to his lips in the shshhh signal.
As the phone is answered by the new young and inexperienced secretary, JJ launches into a superb Dutch accent “Hey Hey It’s Van Higher here from Zebrugge I need some more stones Yeh yeh?? . When can you get me some stones? Put me through to the guy who sells the stones yeh?””
The secretary being a bit flustered says she will check to see if he is in and to check again who is calling and JJ says “ Van Higher Van Higher and I need the stones chop chop quick Yeh Yeh”
She says she will put him on hold while she checks with the sales manager and JJ hangs up the phone howling with laughter saying it would take them ages to suss out it was a hoax and with that he goes down to his cabin still chuckling to himself.
I settled down on the bridge to drink my coffee and looking out across the yard in the same direction as JJ had been looking earlier and the penny drops, as I suddenly see for the first time a sign that I have probably seen hundred times but never taken any notice of. Shoreham “Van Hire”.
Probably my favourite time was on a wild wet and windy Wednesday when a wicked westerly gale had been whipping up the channel for three days and the vessel was sheltered alongside in Newhaven. I had just had my three weeks off and pulled up outside the yard in my hire car and had now sooner got out ready to dash on board to get out of the wind and rain, when there is JJ stood in front of me in full wet weather gear holding my wet weather gear as well saying “Come on Mr Mate, as a Westcountryman this will be right up your street, get back in the car as we have some wrecking to do and fun to be had.
Unbeknownst to me earlier that morning a beautiful privately owned 3 masted Dutch tall ship (sailing ship) which had also been weather bound in Newhaven for three days, had decided against the pilots advice and local knowledge to make a run for it out of the port, even though she would be running out onto a lee shore. Well she tried it and had promptly run aground on the beach, beam on and with the tide set to fall there was a tug trying to get a tow on her to get her off the beach. We were going along as JJ informed me “to cast a professional seafarers eye on the proceedings”, hence our wet weather gear complete with Sou’westers.
It is never good to see a vessel in difficulty and this was no exception, it took one glance from the pair of us to see that it would be going nowhere this tide, as just after we arrived you could see the two seamen on the heavily listed and buffeted focsle struggling with the tow rope, which parted nearly as soon as they had it fast. They slithered down the deck the best they could and leapt to the beach and scrambled safely ashore.
JJ and myself were chatting about the various methods and techniques that could be used to get her off and agreed that as the vessel was beached keel to the waves and the crew were safe, there was little to do really except wait for the next full tide and get two tugs attached before the waves began to effect her and help her upright and away as soon as there was enough water to float. She should then float of fairly easily on the steeply shelving beach and without too much damage. (whiych is what happened 10 hours later)
It was then that JJ noticed that the police had arrived and cordoned off the section of the beach with red tape and had policemen (ill attired to be stood on beach in a force 8+ westerly gale) stood every 25 meters or so. He looked me in the eye with a quizzical expression and said “Well Mr Mate the plot thickens, there is fun to be had, just play your part well” and with a large wink he set off towards the nearest policeman on cordon duty who was a ruddy cheeked young chap in his early 20’s.
JJ’s opening gambit was “Good morning officer, I was wondering if you could tell me your role here in todays events?”
“We have set up police cordon around the ship sir”, said the young policeman
“Aye Aye I can see and it leaves me confused and begs the question, what maritime salvage operation experience do you and your fellow officers have? And what assistance do you think a cordon will make?”
“We are just here to ensure that nothing untoward happens with the vessel during the operation sir.”
“Aye Aye I can see but my keen experienced nautical eye tells me something untoward has already happened, hence the ship on the beach. I was just discussing with my Chief Officer here, who is from the west country, an area renowned for its wreck.. I mean salvage, and we wondered how long you would be holding the cordon so as we might get better look at her to see what can be done”
“There is an operation in hand and we are to maintain a cordon there isn’t really anything to see here sir”
Now it was my turn and putting on an accent somewhere between Captain Ahab from Moby Dick and Brad Pits pikey in Snatch I say “ The omens are not good matey for the rope has parted! See yonder” pointing to the vessel and the tug that had already retreated out of the shallows. I was caught up in the playacting now and so turning to JJ who was trying not to laugh at my 19th century speak and said in a seriously foreboding tone “I fear for a falling tide Cap’n I don’t think the cordon will save her”
There was bit more to-ing and froing between JJ and the young officer but he had just been told to go and stand on the beach with about 4 or 5 others and wasn’t really equipped to deal with someone asking him what he hoped to achieve.
As we bid the officer farewell and plodded along the beach back to the hire car JJ was wondering why it would take 5 officers, all ill dressed for the job, with red cordon tape to do what one copper would have done easily, which was keep an eye that no scallys tried to rob it.
I was wondering how he had managed to get me so quickly and without question to join in his quest for a crack.
Characters like him come few and far between and if I may be so bold as to suggest that if you are fortunate enough to spend time in their company, then relish every moment of it
Aye Aye Landlubbers
You will all be relieved as I am to know that the wind has moderated and the movement of the vessel is less bouncy and mildly irritating.
It is now smooth with the occasional slosh of a wave and we really are out there now in the “deep” blue with the water at 4600 meters. That’s 3 miles in old money, and as is usually the case in proper deep water, it seems cleaner. It is blue.
Not as quiet as I like it, mainly because we are on what would be considered to be a busy traffic route and on my daily power walk round the helideck I saw about 6 ships.
It is times like this that the ship spotting anorak in me comes out whereby I like to know what type of vessels are near. Always on the look-out for something a bit unusual to add to my mental notebook of “good looking ships” or probably more accurate “proper ships” which to me means the old school general cargo with derricks.
After the advent of containerization, the general cargo vessel became a rare sight and these days you hardly see them except in out of the way spots where they will be well into their 30s and 40s now but still plying their trade.
The sheer ingenuity (and yet simplicity) of the yard and stay derricks, where one derrick is stayed in place over the center of the hold, and the other is stayed in place over the quay. The driver would then operate two winches lifting palleted or netted cargo up out of the hold and then across, over, and down to the quay.
I used to love driving that gear, as we knew for a fact that in mid 70’s it was being phased out and replaced by cranes and containers all of which required less crew.
It was a tangible feeling that we were the last of an era.
Occasionally for heavier lifts we would use what they called a Yo Yo rig where you would have two derricks (one for and one aft) of the hatch, stayed over the hatch, and the opposite two over the yard. (quay) That took two men to drive (as it is 4 winches) in a co-ordinated dance to lift the gear out and then together control the winches such that the cargo would arrive unscathed.
For much heavier lifts we would use a “jumbo derrick” which as its name suggests was bigger than the others and was in effect the bare skeleton of a crane, which we would rig up with steaming guys (wires attached to winches) to slew the derrick from side to side.
These were later replaced by the Stalken Derrick which was pre-rigged with the dedicated winches in place as opposed to us having to rig it separately and could be driven by one man like a crane.
I learned how to operate and understand how the gear worked and how to rig it before I even set foot on a proper cargo ship courtesy of the old dogs (who would be about my age now) on the first three ships I sailed on (tankers) who took the time to show and obviously keen and able young seafarer the ropes. To pass their skills on to one young enough, keen enough, and adventurous (reckless) enough of spirit to want to work those older vessel and the routes they ran.
Even though it was hard and often dangerous work there was always an immense amount of satisfaction in “topping the derricks” or as we sometimes called it “getting the sticks up”.
Anyway enough of me swinging the lantern on a nostalgia trip, let’s get down to today’s events which have taken a turn to the unexpected, which has in turn made us take a turn and alter our course to 013 degrees, which to those of you taking note is a much more northerly course.
The reason being is that we are dangerously low on main engine filters (we have 6 main engines) after finding out that the ones we had are not really up to the job, so we are making a detour into the heavily congested waters of the Taiwan strait to rendezvous with a supply vessel abreast of the Chinese port of Xiamen.
Once we have finished in Ulsan we are going back to Xiamen to get the new larger crane fitted but that’s a different story.
Although the overall distance to Ulsan is about the same, we had originally planned our route around the outside (to the east) of Taiwan because there is much less traffic out there and, more importantly for a slow old clunker like us, the current is much stronger there so would give us about a knot and half extra speed for the same amount of fuel burned. When you burn 25 “tons” of diesel a day you will take any savings you can get.
Well with the image of 25 tons of fuel being burned a day let me play you a tune that celebrates a much maligned bird when it is nicking chips from toddlers, or shitting on your new blazer by the seaside, but is a magnificent creature when out in its natural element far away from land. The guitar riff on this always reminds me of a seagull’s flight when they just follow the waves with the wing tips brushing them as they follow the contours of a rough sea.
So the new route is on today’s chart and our new position after we changed course at 2000 this evening.
11* 50′.6 N 112* 27′.2 E
The wind is still NE at about 15 knots the sea is slight (less than 1 meter) the midnight temp is 28c
I still haven’t finished the story so here is another poem “wot I rote” when I was about 19, and all patchwork flared wranglers, big dangly silver sailing ship earring, long hair in a blue ribboned ponytail, beardy, free the weed T shirt. I am sure you can conjure up the image although I was thin.
Being a single young man who had wholeheartedly grasped the concept of hedonism and was being paid to travel the world in order to have laugh, I was at sea for at least 10 months a year in those days, and it has to be admitted I was having an absolute ball.
When I was ashore I always had few quid on me and would be up for whatever crack that was on.
One Monday lunchtime I was tucking into a few beers in a pub with couple of mates, when I overheard this bloke in his 40’s (a near fixture in the pub and certainly not working) bemoaning the likes of me as layabout druggies and national service would sort them out etc (I am sure you know the type) yet he had no idea of what I or my mates did.
When I was laying about having a spliff and cider up in the woods later that afternoon, waiting for the pub to open in the evening, I wrote this for him.
You say you dont like the clothes that I wear,
the shape of my beard or the length of my hair.
You dont like my clothes, my music, or my voice,
and you hate the idea I have freedom of choice.
You cant bear to see me happy and seem jealous of my life
and think only of the old days
or of your best mate fucking your wife.
And your screaming snotty kids, and your mortgage and your tax,
and your clapped out Ford Cortina, and next doors fucking cats.
And the garden that needs digging and the lawn you need to mow,
and the darts match down the local, but the wife wont let you go,
cos the kitchen door needs mending, and the TVs on the blink,
and kids need new school uniforms and tea leaves block the sink.
But you say your happy with your 9-5 and you say your sound of mind
but if your so happy with your life why don’t you keep your nose out of mine?
What’s it to you if I am out on the town 7 nights week,
getting stoned and dancing, chest to breast and cheek to cheek.
I live my life quite openly, open mind and open doors,
is it through envying my life, you can see what you’ve missed during yours?
(reading back now it might come over as a bit presumptuous or stroppy (arrogant almost) but I was 19 for fucks sake and it came with the territory. Strangely enough there are still people I know today who the poem is relevant to, and some of them are younger than me?? Go figure)
Love and peace
Aye Aye Landlubbers
What a difference a day makes eh? 24 hours of a steady 25 knots of North Easterly wind and our previously serene passage is now interspersed with regular slappings that shudder through the vessel every few minutes and leave us gently bouncing, as 26,000 ton of blunt bowed steel plods into what we would consider as only slight seas (say between 1.5 and 2 meters).
It is a mild irritant as opposed to anything to be really bothered about. I am keeping an eye on the main deck and the movement of the big crane in its boom rest because we have just had 900 ton of steel inserted into the hull as extra strengthening for when we fit the new 2200 ton crane and I need to make sure that our structural integrity is as good as it ever was and that our movement (flexing etc) is about the same as it was. It is the big rig (heavy lift crane) drivers (Jake and Dave) who often can provide invaluable feedback on that, because they see the deck from a different perspective to me on the bridge. They are also right astern so will detect any difference in her “movement” not usually noticeable to me, but I reckon we are more bouncy / bendy. The rig is in its rest now for the night so I will find out manyanna when they top the big rig again to see if they have detected any discernable change in her movements. We have ballasted her right down during the day to reduce the slapping but she feels more “lumbering” now. Less “hipster” and more “arthritic hip”
On ships that have a proper ship’s hull shape, that movement and slamming is hardly noticeable, but on this vessel, which has been designed more for keeping location rather than long passages, we often feel every wave.
It reminds me of about 5 years ago when we did a trip back from Papua New Guinea to Singapore that took us 31 days and we were badly beaten up by rough seas for over half of that. Day after day of slamming and bouncing was exhausting, as even when off watch there was little prospect of unbroken sleep. To give you a better idea, imagine every 3 or 4 minutes someone slamming you bedroom door and jumping up and down on your mattress over and over again all night. Sweet dreams eh?? arf arf
Please don’t misunderstand me as I am not moaning, and this is nowhere close to some of the 6 and 7 meter seas we encountered on that trip (the average roof height for a standard two story house is just over 7 meters to give you an idea), I am just reporting the day to day changes in conditions and allowing myself lyrical license to wander about within the realms of a life at sea.
The breeze is still lovely and warm the outside air temp is 28 degrees at midnight, so none too shabby it has to be said.
So our midnight position is 9* 28’N 110* 53’E we are heading NE the wind is NE 25 knots (don’t forget in nautical terms wind comes from and current flows to) seas are between 1.5 and 2 meters, Sky is part cloudy. The sea temp is 30 degrees and the air temp is 28. And we are in 3150 meters of water which is about 2 miles deep.
To make things easier I have now a chart for you to check progress and put things into perspective.
I hope this works ok
I am working on a short story for tomorrow so for today you will have to put up with a sad poem I wrote in the later part of the 70’s sat in Millwall docks, on one of the last proper commercial ships to use it before it closed to be redeveloped into the trendy gaff it now apparently is.
At that time the writing was on the wall for general cargo vessels and the docks that they used due to the onrush of containerisation. It wasn’t just in the UK and historic old docks like Millwall, but all over the world that shipping, and the dockyards they played their trade in, were being moved away from near the centers of the great cities of the world, and relocated in ugly desolate isolated industrial complexes miles from any gallivanting and seediness that were traditionally part of the seafarers life, and one that I had always embraced and enjoyed.
The once vibrant dockyards were dying and this was my lament.
Water dull green and unhappy.
Clouds form to reform and unleash rain.
The wind restless chasing.
Forever chasing a restless wind.
A face in a window looking,
but not seeing.
Not caring of the history lost.
A fish corpse among the oily flotsam.
Murky grey light dead in the water.
A ship sirens lonely blast.
The dockyard’s lament.
Love and Peace
Well shiver me timbers and all that malarkey, here we go on a 2500 mile trip from Singapore to Ulsan in South Korea.
Strange that I had to double take on Ulsan as I thought it was the blue stuff that you put down a chemical bog but that was Elsan.
Now we are in 2016 it is hard to imagine that from 1969 to 1972 I lived in a house that had a chemical toilet because we had no flushing one nor mains sewage. Nor did we have hot running water and used to bath in tin bath in front of the rayburn. (ha ha I can feel the startings of a monty python sketch there)
Eventually we had septic tank fitted and even though the bog was outside it was still a joy not to be having to dig a hole once a week to bury the contents of the chemical in, which was never a pleasant task I can assure you.
I guess that’s why when we had the dunny going in France (up till last year) I was always chuffed with it because it was self composting and just used wood ash and sawdust to break itself down.
It would be a bit tricky to have inside a house I will admit, but it is so simple if you have the space outside and dont mind the journey there and back in the winter.
Anyway I seem to have meandered off up shit creek there for some reason, so back to the here and now:-
It is 0001 hours on the 19th April.
We are at 07* 05’N 109* 04’E just coming up to Vanguard Bank on our Stb side where the water rises from 500 meters to about 30) in the middle of the South China Sea, or if you prefer we are 225 miles SSE of Vung Tau on the southern tip of Vietnam.
We are steering 035 and making 7.6 knots. So far we have travelled 454 miles since leaving Singapore with 2055 to go.
The sea is near enough calm, there is a beautiful balmy NE wind blowing at about 14 knots and the temp is about 30 degrees.
It is always good to leave the anarchic cauldron of noise that is a dry dock or repair yard, the banging and clanging, the bashing and crashing, the burning metal smells from welding and oxy-acetylene cutting, the sirens hooting or wailing, the grinders sparking, machinery running, fans blowing, radios squawking, people shouting, sweating, swearing, skiving and smiling, cranes lifting and lowering, scaffolding going up and down, the feel of sand blasting grit in your nostrils, the stench of spray paint curing, the relentless cacophony, the unsubtle and unclean symphony of heavy industry.
There is a satisfying and palpable release of tension as the final office whallah heads down the gangway, the ropes are let go, and once more the ship comes under the stewardship of the marine crew and the project crew who are preparing their kit for the job ahead.
You are back to an environment where everyone knows their job and the result of everyone doing their jobs is a smooth running harmonious vessel where each cog in the wheel is respected for their own part in the team.
All of us can only do our jobs because of those around us are doing theirs. It is an often unspoken but tangible camaraderie. It is why I love what I do for a living and why I particularly like being on a sea passage.
It is such a satisfying and pleasing routine of plotting our progress on the chart, and checking the course and the predicted weather against our own barometric and wind readings and the state of the sea and sky.
It isn’t quite the romantic ideal of an open deck and being able to foresee the weather changes by your own senses, knowledge and experience, but it is an enjoyable process none the less.
I went for a walk on the heli deck this afternoon and had a big grin on my face as the warm breeze brushed over me and as I walked around I could see nothing but sea in a 360 degree unbroken horizon.
Make no mistake that I miss beyond measure the greatest pleasure of my life, which is tucking up on the lee side of bum island with MrsB, and just being with her, and also spending time with my children and learning of their busy interesting independent lives, however being out on the deep blue sea is about as an enjoyable way to spend our time apart as there is.
This is us sailing
I will be trying to write something everyday of the passage, sometimes fact sometimes fiction and I will also be offering a music track each day I write for your listening pleasure.
Here is a very apt first one but you will need to copy and paste it to get it to work
Love and Peace
What’s the weather like there Bentley?
A balmy 7 knots of south westerly tropical breeze, that an hour ago was 53 knots of snarling, biting, mauling squall. The sort of sudden vicious storm that has tigers in it.
Heading towards us from the the horizon a new boiling frenzy of fresh storm front is already preparing to let loose the prowling, growling beasts, whose twitching tails are whipping the water into a welter of razor edged foam.
If you stare into the seething mass of clouds, just as lightening spurs it to a greater malevolence, you can see the big cats crouching yellow eyed in the squall, ever eager to pounce and unleash their full furious magnificence.
So you want to know what the weather is like, well there is a squall coming and it has tigers in it, apart from that it’s fine.
Love and Peace
Not a lot of point in carrying around loads of stories and ideas in my head if they dont end up on paper (or on screen)
This little simple nugget of wisdom came to me after reading an article of tips about how to get writing again if you have stopped.
It said each day have 2 5 minute sessions of “sense” writing in other words what can you see, hear, smell, feel or taste for where you are sat or stood. Once you get into the habit of that you then add a 15 minute daily rant about anything you like.
So the following series of daily musings will be a mix of sense writing and rants (I think I will enjoy the rants more arf arf)
It’s been too long, considering I usually have so much to say, however I shall attempt to put that right over the next few weeks.
There are several subjects that I need to express an opinion or three on including, but not limited to The debacle of and disastrous future the UK now has due to , the tory robber barons gaining a majority at the election,the mistake people make when confusing a lust for power with religious activity, the disgusting spectacle of a publicly funded royal family in the 21st century, the danger of plutocracy to peoples ability to make informed decisions and to their well-being and security.
It is difficult to know where to start, or which subject causes me the most angst, however they all need an airing if for no other reason than to make sure I am thinking along the right lines. To save it becoming too intense and ardent I shall intersperse my political and anti religious outpourings with some lighter moments of reflection.
Love and peace
Aye Aye Landlubbers
It would seem that Mr Russel Brand has been causing a bit of a stir with his “revolution”.
Its a new booky wook by all accounts, and from the bits I have read it has some excellent, articulate rhetoric which one has come to expect from Mr Brand, but he has (it seems to me) stopped short of reaching a proper conclusion when he calls on the young and dissatisfied not to vote.
He seems to have had a bit of a recent transformation from “ex junkie-shagartist-comedian-film-bloke” to a bit of a revolutionary thinker and although I cant fault the sentiment in his reasoning, (and enjoy his “trews” podcasts (google it) his call to arms, through people not voting, shows a bit of stunted development in his journey of academic and politicalised learning.
I believe Mr Brands considerable and commendable communication skills would be better employed encouraging young people take part in the democracy so hard fought for by so many over the years.
We all know (or should know) the tories are trouser stuffing scum doing all they can to further disenfranchise the working man, and we all know that the appalling Nu labor abomination were just tories with red ties, and the less said about the vacuous lib dems and the gormless jingoistic ukip the better.
We also know (or should know) that between labour and tory over the last 40 years they have created the “fuck you I’m alright Jack” mentality that infests the society of the UK like a soul sucking virus, along with the now so called (and much vilified and easily blamed for the UK’s woes) “underclass” of lifelong benefit claimants.
We know (as has been proven in the last 4 years) that the lib dems will suck the rancid cock of either of them if it means they can get their noses in the trough for a while and we all know (or should know) that the ghastly ukip are a bunch of turncoat, jingoistic chancers and political pygmies, with unfortunately a superb PR team who have actually managed to get them inordinate amounts of airtime for what are basically are at best one trick ponies.
Tragically for UK politics they (ukip) are getting enough airtime to have actually convinced some of the more gullible members of the public (who if they spent a few minutes thinking about it for themselves, would surely or at least should know better) that they would be a good alternative to the others!!!
Come on for fucks sake, use you brains and check out “who” is funding this tosh and more importantly try to work out “why” they are funding it. It is a con trick to sell you the same shit with yet a different coloured cover.
However there are alternatives that are worth voting for, such as well meaning independents, and to some degree the Greens, if only they could manage to drop the crusty-hippy-shit image they trail around, although I know they are trying it is proving to be a very difficult hand-wovem, tie-dyed, hemp blanket to shrug off. Of course they don’t have all the policies to solve all the ailments of the UK but they do have ideas that would solve some of them, and that’s not a bad place to start. At least it is a start.
You cant make change happen if you do nothing, and it will takes years, decades even to achieve any meaningful change but please Russel Brand don’t ask young people turn their backs on the democratic process in the vain attempt it will make change happen, because all you will do is give the foul bane of toryism a massive hard on and make their goal of returning the populace to serfdom that much easier and quicker to achieve.
The Alabama Three made great song where they wrote “Mao said Revolution comes through the barrel of a gun” but dont for one minuite listen to the nhotgheads that think this is an option in today’s society in the UK or the states etc, for the simple reason that 99.9% of any effective weaponry is owned by the governments paid protectors, ie the police and army, and they would not hesitate for one second to unleash live rounds on the street if they thought that the size and ferocity of the protest was such that it might unseat them from their lofty roosts.
Plus the fact of look what happens when people are left alone for a few days to run riot!!! what do they do???
They start looting and burning their own neighbourhood. That’s how fucking dense and dumbed down and consumer-junkie vast tracts of our societies psyche’ have become.
The next few years are absolutely crucial for peopel to get politicised if for no other reason that in my hopefully 30 years left I dont want to die knowing that this generation of youth will be remembered as the generation that threw away what few tattered shreds of freedom and human rights we still have and that uor forefathers and ancestors fomr all walks of life fought so hard to obtain.
Selfish of me I know but I am an idealist therefore I hope, nay! I “expect”, better.
Don’t forget that in order to make a change you have to be in a position to be able to effect that change and the best way to do that is by getting stuck right into the current mechanism and changing it from within.
If lots of the star struck fans of Mr Brand take him up on his wobbly incomplete conclusion that “not to vote” is the way forward you will quickly find that it is in fact a massive step backwards as far as your liberty and rights as individuals go.
I write this a someone who has shunned voting since 1997 (and have argued against it myself until quite recently) because it seemed that all I had were three different coloured sacks of shit to choose from, that when you opened them up were just full of the exactly the same shit. As the expression goes you cant polish a turd, but you can put glitter on it which has been proven time and time again over the last few decades by politicians on all sides of the house.
I have reached the conclusion that I have been wrong not to vote, (thanks Mr Brand, your revolution has stirred me back to the ballot box) because refusing to vote not only dismisses, with one idle petulant wave of the hand, the untold sacrifices people went through for me to have it in the first place, but my non-vote is one step closer to the finishing line for some corporate sponsored tory hell bent on shoving yet more of the nations assets into his and his chums back pocket at the expense of all others. And that disgusting blight and fetter on society has to be stopped.
Love and Peace
(ps I welcome any comments on my bloggs as long as they are addressing the message as opposed to just taking petty pot shots at the messenger)
Ahoy there landlubbers, back onboard after a one week journey to get here and unfortunately three weeks ahead of time. I feel like Dr frigging Who and it has been a clusterfuck of a ten days.
The leave started with great promise as MrsB and I sorted out emptying the kitchen ordered the glass for the eyebrow windows (lead in time 5 days) as well as the whole back window /door assembly (lead in time 6 to 8 weeks) and the Warmsler 1100 cooker range and boiler (lead in time 6 weeks) We also laid out where the tractor shed wall was going to go and dug the footings and laid in the shuttering for it.
I have to say that walking more than 50 meters was a bit of a pain with the dodgey knee and so I will admit that perhaps clambouring onto a ladder rested on the dorma roof (so I could waterproof the planned lounge log burner flue) was probably not a great plan.
When my good leg got cramp and my iffy one slipped off the rung the project nearly came to an abrupt end.
With my tail between my legs (not an easy task on a ladder I can assure you) I eased myself down to terra firma and “had a word with myself” In fact it was several words and most of them were sweary.
When MrsB dropped me off at Rennes airport after a week at home I was relieved to think that after the keyhole OP (removing a bit of damaged cartilage) the next day it would herald an end to several months of increasing pain and decreasing mobility. I had put it off as I rather “blokeishly” hoped it would “just sort of get better” with rest but all that happened is that it became worse and I piled on 5 kilos as I couldn’t exercise it off.
As I stood at the auto ticket machine trying to work out how to retrieve my ticket, someone shoved a gun in my back and demanded my money!!!!!
I did what any normal person would do in that situation which was to turn round and say “Fuck right off matey”.
It is not that I am some sort of super hero with special kung fu wonder skills or that I consider myself to be a “hard case” or that I have a death wish, it was just that I recognised the voice of my nephew Will (we had big hugs and laugh at my slight flinch as I felt the gun/ finger in my back) who was just back after a weekend in Hamburg on the lash with his mates and had arrived at the same time. I tried to organise getting him over to do a weeks work with the renovation and we parted at Dorch where he got the 31 bus (top deck front seat) to head back to bridders and I had the pleasure to attend the SkaBQ organised by Mark and Claire Hymas, where I had great time reminiscing with old friends listening to some great music and having a few beers.
At 11.30 on the morrow, off to the knee clinic I did go.
At 1pm they put me under and I limped out at about 4.30 with a gert big bandage on one leg and white surgical stocking on the other (toenails resplendent in their usual summer livery of “Cherry red”) and caught the train up to the Southampton airport hotel and flew back to Rennes the next day.
I must admit when the local anesthetic had worn off it did sting a bit but what miffed me the most was that my earlier understanding that I would be able to get some light work done after a week or so proved to be what I ‘wanted’ to hear as opposed to a reality. The scary reality was that I would need at least 4 weeks before I could bear any great load on the knee and worse still 6 weeks before larking about up ladders and scaffolding, but that was from the nurse, physiotherapist and surgeon, so what do they know huh??
After a week of hobbling about, being a crap patient although succumbing eventually to the tender administrations of MrsB nephew Will arrived and he started by fitting the windows in the eye brows and then moved onto making all the frames for the work surfaces as well as constructing the window bench that will hold the gas bottles for the gas hob. Later the next week son Zak turned up sporting a beaujangler of a beard and with his new van that he is converting to live in. he got stuck into the last bits of insulation with his Ma and then helping out wherever needed in between bouts of working on his van and the gadding off sailing and gliding with Will.
Realising my knee was taking longer than I had planned I convinced Will to stay for another week so having them both there would help move the job along and then out of the blue on the Monday morning comes a call from my company “Can you come back asap”
And here I am, plans and logistics in tatters but Z & W and MrsB put in a sterling effort and we actually managed to achieve quite a bit. WE have several deliveries waiting in the wings such as the Warmsler 1100 Cooker range/boiler, a Neff 5 burner LPG gas hob, a large Neff electric fan oven and a double fronted stainless steel catering fridge that has a 250 liter capacity but is “under the counter” design. We have tender out for the stainless steel tops for the work tops in the kitchen and we have the main parts of the rest of the plumbing including 250 liter expansion balon, 300 liter hot water twin coil (solar and thermal store) immersion, laddomat units and various pumps and piping and three way valves and other stuff associated with plumbing, (and two gorgeous old school industrial /maritime spot lights) all paid for and waiting in the wings to be delivered so so its just case of sorting out the logistics for when I get home in early November and installing it all.
Big days and big leaps forward ahead.
Love and Peace
So on Sunday I had a quick jaunt across to Dorchester to do a small comedy stint at my mates Ska BQ which was great fun then on the Monday I hobbled my way to the private hospital for a quick knee op. Keyhole thingy but the gave me general anaesthetic and were les than chuffed when I came round and said I was getting the train up to Southampton airport for night in a hotel and then flying today to Rennes. I had to be a bit les than truthful when I said I would stay in Dorchester and my nephew would come and keep an eye on me. Well suffice to say that the trip to soton and today’s flight passed without incident and I am home with a fairly sore knee but on the way to recovery. So much to do this leave and being crooked is a pain but I have been carrying this injury for nearly a year now and it wasn’t getting better by itself. I will post up some more when more happens.
Love and peace
Aye Aye My beauties
As some of you know I started this blog on an obscure French interest site called Total France which subsequently became French Entree and the the blog of Jilly and my exploits on the build attracted about 40,000 hits over the last 5 years.
It is no longer available on that site due to a fit of pique by the admin/moderator team, therefore all future updates will only be available on here so if you are enjoying the story and think others would too then please feel free to spread the word and share the website address to those you feel would enjoy it.
If there is any technical aspect I might have missed or anything you think I am not doing and should be then fill your boots and make a comment and I will answer if I can
Love and Peace
Aye Aye landlubbers, well it had to happen in the end and if I am being honest I am surprised I lasted as long as I did.
My time spent posting on FrenchEntree has been bought to an end.
For those of you not in the know it is an obscure website for people who have some sort of connection with France, and is often a useful mine of information about the various day to day foibles of living there.
I spent most of my time on the site in the chatterbox section which is a sort of open forum.
There are a few interesting and intelligent people who post occasionally and enjoy a good argument or discussion about most subjects, but, as with any society, there are few grudge bearing arseholes as well. The sort of people who if you disagree with take it as some sort of mortal wound and for evermore harbour ill will to anything you say about any subject.
Over the last year or two there has been a subtle changing of the forum demographic and general dumbing down along with a bit of an exodus. Unfortunately several members have begun displaying far right tendencies and there has been an increase in those with rather delicate sensibilities, who have an attack of the vapours whenever they are disagreed with. Rather than argue their point they usually resort to petty pissy knickered schoolgirl personal abuse or crying about how beastly everyone is, ever keen to shoot the messenger rather than confront uncomfortable truths of the message.
Looking back I have been like fox in chicken coup for ages and by being evicted fomr the site has done me a favour and it is time I stopped wasting my time and moved on to concentrate on my own writing.
I dont mind that my forthright and uncompromising manner of posting is no longer suited the “blanding” of the site, but what has raised my hackles is that I started the renovation blog on there which has had 40,000 hits, and in a weird and unpleasant act to sanitise me from the site (or ethnically cleanse me ha ha ) they took the thread down so that all the people who had been following it (on there) wont get to see the continued story, unless they know this blog site address.
For some bizarre reason they also took down the creative writing thread (like a miniblog) I had started which also had thousands of hits.
It is a vindictive and paranoid act by a moderator or two who appear to have become carried away with their little bit of power, but their behavior is even more strange and duplicitous given how I have often been vocal in my support for them and the site.
I will miss a slack handful of the members as they were always good for banter and chat, but as to the rest “fuck em” the bunch of petty minded backstabbers.
Had the bunker-minded and rather vengeful ‘powers that be’, in their desperation to get rid of me, just left the renovation thread with link to “myrusticview” intact (but locked) I would have just shrugged my shoulders and buggered off without a backward glance, but due to their unnecessary malevolent behaviour they have unwittingly unleashed a bit of mischief for a while.
The big bonus for me is that I can spend more time writing on here without getting sidetracked and bogged down arguing with the sort of people who (and I kid you not) are of the opinion that:-
most young people who are sexually abused bought it on themselves,
that it is perfectly acceptable to justify the wholesale slaughter of women and children just as long as it is israelis doing the killing,
that the royal family deserve to be lauded financially supported,
but that anyone else on benefits are lazy scam and should get jobs,
that churches are good for people,
that the death penalty is a good thing,
that thatcher deserves to be made saint,
that free market capitalism really works for the benefit of everyone,
etc etc etc
The reason I rail (and always will) against foul shit like that is because if no-one does argue voraciously against it then more people will take the easy “follow the herd route” spewed out by the popular media and come to think of it as being acceptable.
Love and peace
Rolf Harris is the latest in a long line of celebrity kid fiddlers convicted of being child rapists or similar. There could yet be many more to be flushed out from whatever sewer they have been lurking in and it is apparent there are others out and about who have access to better lawyers. Either way it would seem that during the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond, the TV and radio airwaves were infested with pedophiles and other sexual predators who used their celebrity status as a “power” tool in order to perpetrate their crimes. This was largely unbeknownst to the vast majority of us, as we watched, listened, laughed, clapped, sang along and danced as the various stars strutted their stuff.
We lapped it up and knew all the various catch phrases, and “as it ‘appens” we would watch Harris use a big emulsion brush, slapping paint about asking if we “knew what is was yet?”, and of course we never did, when suddenly, with a few more brush strokes, a clever picture of an animal or skyline would emerge.
There was not an inkling among the general public of anything untoward as they laughed along with Stuart Hall at the hapless antics on “It’s a Knockout”.
Although myself and everyone I have asked always considered Saville to be a “bit spooky weird freaky” but the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of us had no idea as to the depth or scale of his depravity.
In the same era when Gary Glitter came over the speakers of the youth club disco, the dance floor would be rammed with us singing along to the choruses of “Rock and Roll and shouting the answer “Oh Yeah!!” when asked if we wanted to be in his gang. If you were a young teenager it was of that time, and we, the average radio listening TV watching punter, had no clue that he and a number of other celebs were finishing their shows and then going on to fuck children.
We had no idea that ‘Peers of the Realm’, MP’s, famous pop stars and their chums were raping kids snatched from children’s homes in an organised pedophile ring, and then using their powerful positions to keep it secret enabling those concerned to continue to live lives with the façade of respectability intact and the rewards that come from that status remaining intact.
One can only hope that the majority of them are bought to justice and punished for their crimes and/or exposed for the sly, duplicitous, shameful, foul perverted scum that they are, (or were when they were alive).
This righteous outrage is all fine and dandy, and well placed, however the big question is “What about us??”
You and me? The punters, the music fans, the adoring trusting, and (as it turns out) gullible general public who were being swept along on this tide of euphoria in this embryonic time of superstar radio DJ.s TV personalities and pop stars ??
Do we have to be punished for not knowing?
Do we have to accept that because we didn’t know, (or notice) anything was wrong, our memories of enjoying the performances and shows, listening to the records, and using the catchphrases of the stars of the time, have now become somewhat sordid, or tainted by association, because many of these celebrities were pedophiles?
Should we feel a prickle of shame or some sort of remorseful complicity because we bought the records, went to the concerts, listened to and watched the shows of these people??
The answer is, of course, NO!!
They are our memories of, what were for the vast majority of us, a wonderful time, full of opportunity, excitement and discovery. The fact that many of the people indirectly involved in those memories turn out to be rather disgusting human beings is not our fault, nor should we feel that our experiences are besmirched because of that.
I have written this because of something I read lately that suggested we all should collectively take some of the blame, to which I say “Fuck off”
You can’t pass retrospective censorship on the soundtrack of your youth just because some of the people involved in that soundtrack are exposed at some stage in the future as sexual predators. We cannot as whole be held culpable and have our memories diminished or spoilt by the actions of a criminally perverted minority.
Of course we don’t have to listen to their songs or voices or watch TV re-runs with them on any more, and an additional inspiration for this blog came the other day when I found a Glitter album in my old vinyl collection. I was caught between putting it on to revisit the time, or smashing it up in disgust.
In the end I did neither, which unlike me is a bit of a of a fence sitters position. On the one hand I don’t want to be a “book burner” and get all pious by destroying his album and pretending he didn’t exist, and on the other I don’t want to be listening to a child rapist strut his stuff.
There is no denying that “Rock and Roll (parts 1&2)” “D’wanna be in My Gang” and “I Didn’t Know I Loved You Till I saw you Rock and Roll” were great pop tracks of their day, or that he was a great performer, but now because of his being convicted of being a child rapist I don’t want to hear his stuff on the radio, or as film soundtracks, or see it on TOTP re-runs, but I can’t stop them cropping up and playing in my mind as a back-track to occasional reminiscences of that time. They were of that time and are part of the memories of that time. Anyone who went to big school from 70 to 75 will know this only too well.
I am annoyed that I feel a twinge of guilt about that which sneaks in and sullies the memory, and so I will be keeping the album because smashing it up wont achieve anything other than to align me with the book-burners, the fucking lunatics that stand outside abortion clinics shouting abuse at women, and people who want to try and pretend it didn’t happen, but I sincerely doubt I will ever play it again.
Love and Peace
Aye Aye landlubbers, I trust all is well with you all.
I cant believe it has been so long since I updated the site but I have been at home for 7 weeks and already back on board for one so time just mooches along I guess. Aplogies to those who commented and that I didn’t get round to acknowledging, most unlike me to be tardy like that.
The next installments about the bathroom are following this notice within a day or two.
Thanks for reading and taking an interest in the project and also my ramblings on the other section
Love and Peace
So there I was with two evenings in Bridport to fill, so for the Thursday night I had booked myself B&B at the Tiger Inn and called up my nephew who I hadn’t seen for a while and checked out his availability for pint when he finished work.
Although not blood relatives (SiL’s son) our relationship has developed steadily over 30 years or more and it is always easy to spend time with him. I always enjoy the time I spend with him and although his irreverence towards the bullshit of stuff like religion and the foul sleaze of politics is perhaps a little more cautious than mine, I will keenly miss him and his acerbic wit when he eventually emigrates to Oz.
It was good to catch up and hear of his progress on obtaining a residents visa for Australia (so he can move out to join the love of his life) and also of his latest boat building adventures. He was just back from a launch of a new row boat that is being used for a single handed row across the Atlantic. He was rightly proud of having used his best skills as part of a team building a boat which will help protect the life of a single handed rower as she takes on the perils of that vast ocean.
One pint led to several and we ended up wandering into the George in the center of town to check it out after its re-vamp. It used to be a great old local to have, but it had been allowed in recent times to fade from its former quirky glory.
Unfortunately the local brewery in their infinite lack of wisdom and taste had decided to give it a make-over.
As is normal, with the local brewery whenever they get involved in the remodeling of one of their pubs, in their cynical blind pursuit of profit and misguided, mistaken ideas on what they think is “trendy” they have managed “yet again” to tear the guts and soul out of a place and leave a pale amorphous shadow of what it once was. There is hardly even a homeopathic trace left of the great boozer it once was but it is starting to become busy again which is good thing.
I do understand that things change (whether I like it or not) even though sometimes one has to question the benefit and purpose of such change.
I will digress for a moment to share a story as The George was the scene of one of my favourite observations of human interaction which occurred there late one afternoon.
It involved a new barmaid who was a particularly pretty and shapely young woman and was doing a couple of trial shifts.
She had been coping admirably with the normal badinage of the eclectic mix of drinkers that frequented the establishment, when in strolls one particular well-known local who had a reputation as being a bit of a “smooth talking bastard”.
As he sees her he slips into a slightly lascivious tone and said
“Heeello!!, and where have you been hiding all my life?”
Quick as a flash and without breaking stride, or a smile, she said
“Well for most of it I wasn’t even born fatty, now what would you like to drink”
Quite rightly she was hired on the spot.
While Will bought the pints I was attempting to cast an open minded yet critical eye over the new décor and layout when I heard a familiar shriek and “Oh my, it’s Bentley”
The voice and shriek belonged to a regular of The Cavity (the groundbreaking bar started by Mrs Bentley and me in 1995 and sold in 97) who I hadn’t seen for years.
It was a heart leaping joy seeing her beautiful, honest open face, that as ever was quick to break into a glorious beaming smile that I am sure could contribute to global warming, and is normally accompanied by a guffawing laugh that could curdle a sailors rum.
Although she was enjoying dinner with her delightful sister we still managed to chat for long enough to bring each other up to date with our lives.
At the time of the Cavity she and many others of her peer group who used it were between school and university or had started uni already. They were a creative and fun bunch all full of excitement, enthusiasm and inquisitiveness as they made their first tentative scrawls on the pages of adulthood.
Fast forward 17 years and she is now a lawyer for the United Nations working in Phnom Penn helping refugees from that country, and when I mentioned that MrsB is out that way (well Vietnam) for a few weeks in June the invite to show her the town was instant and heartfelt. When I told MrsB she adjusted her travel plans immediately to include Cambodia.
It was heartening and satisfying to hear the how the Cavity had been a creative and inspiring place for so many of them and how much of a warm and secure place it occupies in their hearts.
Although not graced with as much wisdom and intuition as MrsB, I have always been able to recognize strength of character and compassion, and Jenna, even as a young maid, always made me feel she had great reserves of those special and often rare qualities, and her current work and general good company is testament to that.
I eventually left them in peace and wandered off on a little pub crawl (alone now Will had gone home as he had work the next day) but I was invigorated with the genuine warmth of the contact and the many wonderful memories it ignited. It was a wet Thursday evening without many people out and about and so after visiting a couple of old haunts I let the clock gently wind down, ending up in The Tiger for last orders and pootled off to bed with a big smile on my face and slept wonderfully.
Much to MrsB’s concern I have recently opened an account on the interweb’s very own center for narcissists known as Facebook. It isn’t that I am out and about very much now, nor do I have any great desire to discuss what I had for breakfast, the size and consistency of my last turd, nor take lots of arm’s length photos of myself pouting in alluring poses and post them for people to marvel at my magnificent yet modest beauty. No, I joined so I could get my blogs out to a wider audience.
When I was “making friends” (if that is the right vernacular to use as opposed to asking people if they wanted to be my “friend”) I was contacted by an old mate (one time HGV driver, pub landlord, property developer and now acclaimed photographer) Shane, who missed last year’s 8 Bells reunion. He was insisting that to make up for it the next time I am in UK we get together for a pint or three.
I posted up on the open site that I would be in the Tiger (now the best pub in Bridport) from 5pm onwards. He said he would see me there at 6. Session on.
Unfamiliar as I am with the mysterious vagaries of the Facebook phenomenon, and unbeknownst to me during the day, I was in for a very pleasant surprise in the evening
MrsB would not be accompanying me as she was in France, however it should be noted at this stage that a pub crawl night out on the piss with some of my old mates would probably not figure as a highlight of MrsBs social events calendar for the year.
It isn’t that she doesn’t enjoy the company of some of the people I was likely to see, it is just that she has always been a much more private person than I am and prefers smaller quieter gatherings. Part of it is also that because of me being the loud front man for the comedy for over 20 years and also the loud night face of the Cavity, lots of people know me (or should I say more accurately) ‘recognise’ me. Among the general “out and about pub crowd”, unless I am with her, they hardly ever acknowledge MrsB.
It isn’t that she is a shrinking violet or cold & aloof (far from it she is the most warm hearted and wise woman I know with a mighty circle of good friends who relish the time they spend with her) but she doesn’t enjoy the company of loads of bawdy people (especially me) out on the lash getting louder, talking more and yet saying less, with the occasional “Aye Aye Bentley” thrown in .And that’s just when it’s just me and I have taken her out to dinner.!!!!
For me a night like this it is a rare treat and because I have changed my habits (and location) it is so rare that it remains a treat.
So back to the Friday
During the course of my meanderings through the day I popped into to see Jill who runs the Fancy Dress emporium and who was also a comedy club (and Cavity) regular with her husband Ray (who runs a thriving international antique and curios business). As usual it is always great to see either of them and I received a lovely warm welcome.
It was fun catching up on each other’s news and I mentioned I was off to the Tiger for a few and she said she would contact Ray and see me there later for one .
As I left the shop I had a phone call from a long standing friend Mark who said he had heard I was about and was driving down from Dorchester for a couple with his wife Claire. Our friendship has developed and been easy and comfortable over the years and although we don’t get to spend much time with each other the sun always seems to shine bit brighter whenever I am in their company so it was great news indeed that they were setting a course for the pub.
I also received a text from a good mate of mine Leon who (with his lovely girlfriend Tess) has spent many a mad night with us in France, saying he was heading to the Tiger as well. Will also confirmed he was up for an early doors session.
If I had been a sailor at sea watching this weather pattern form I would have taken in a couple of reefs on the main and possibly broken out the storm-sail. Ahhhaaaargh.
T’was with my traditional sailors swagger that I rolled through the Tiger’s doors at about half four and to my delight seated at the bar were some mates of mine who are builders having an early finish Friday jar. Tom John Mike and Nick (who now spends most of his time out in Greece or Cyprus). It was good fun to have yarn with them and tell of the renovation in France how it was coming on, and also pick up some tips of what I was planning to do next.
Will arrived and we began to discuss him coming over before he goes to Oz to create a bespoke “gentleman’s dresser” out of the old oak and chestnut I have saved.
Mark and Clair arrived next, and very soon later I had agreed to do a comedy gig for them at their fund raiser in late august. They were swiftly followed by Leon with tales of the plot of land with stable they have bought up north near Sherbourne, (it was good to introduce M&C to Leon as he has a established band called Sketchy Dog and also agreed to gig at the fundraiser. Then Shane was there with hugs and big laughs and after I had nipped out to the bog I came back to find Gibbers from Lyme Regis sat there grinning like a cheshire cat saying that his wife had seen a session developing on Facebook and thought he would like to come as well so she drove him over and dropped him off. (Cheers Alicia see you in August)
Then Ray and Jill turned up and the conversation and laughter, like the beer, was flowing like a river for a couple of hours when some had to go home and other commitments called.
Shane Will, Gibbers and myself decided to visit the Hope and Anchor which has been a notorious drinking den for as long as I can remember and one that we just knew we would bump into people we would know and sure enough we were not disappointed. Once again the conversations laughter and general “hoo haa” was on as we reconnected with old pals from our younger days. One of our old mates had recently lost her partner of many years and was visibly moved to see three old faces perhaps reminding her that life did go on and that it was OK to smile again and enjoy life.
The Hope & Anchor has often attracted scorn from some people in the town, accusing it of being just an old cider heads hang out, and while there is a grain of truth to that it is a much bigger picture and more diverse story than that. It is a thriving local for many people for whom gadding about the world, or moving to new towns, has for whatever reason never been an option or a want. It holds countless memories good and bad for many people of the town over the last 35 years that I have known it, but one thing it has never been is “dull”.
I know that’s some people may consider that my sentimentality has got the better of me and I am romanticizing the place, but I am just telling it as “I” see it.
We had a couple in there and then made our slightly weaving way up behind “Scummers” (used to be Summerfield supermarket but now some other supermarket company) to the Ropemakers run by our old pals John & Geraldine.
Going in through the back garden we were met with the hearty roar of Paul who had “heard on Facebook” that we would be in the Ropey’s at some stage and had come to meet us there.
So with a table in the garden procured and pints poured we continued to natter.
It was great to be sitting about with a group of confident, articulate, accomplished and experienced middle aged men rolling back the years and catching up with each other’s shenanigans over the last decade or three and filling in the gaps we didn’t know.
Our revelry was often interrupted by people coming up to the table to shake hands have hugs Whaaay Haaays and what have you’s as the night progressed.
The warm recognition by so many people, old faces from the day of past, as well as mates of my kids, was quite marvelous.
We noticed that some of the “new young blades” were wondering who the very loud very popular but very scary looking old fuckers were holding court in the garden.
I guess it is sign of the times in that 35 years ago when we were the young blades, we would have known everyone and who to steer clear of or who not to piss off.
The town didn’t seem smaller then but it was definitely less “Islington buy Sea” in those days.
These new youngsters finally found out who we were (not that we gave a fuck if they didn’t and probably neither did they) and some came up to say “Oh Hi I am Joe Blog’s son. I remember you from years ago at my aunties wedding” or whatever.
We would grin and shake hands and all say “Oh yes that’s right he married Patricia Smith so is she your mum then?? Great to see you and send our regards”
And “How is your auntie Gloria these days haven’t seen her for a while?” etc etc.
It would have been cruel and to have said
“So you are “Joe Shitypants Bloggs” boy then?”
(so called after he fell asleep on the town square public benches and shat himself after a night on rough cider and barley wine mixers),
“So that would make your mum Patricia the Pussy then?”
(so called as she had an unusually hairy pussy and wasn’t shy in who she let in it.)
and that would make your auntie Gloria the giggling gobbler, (so called because.. well you get the idea)
Those sorts of old time secrets belong to a different time, (and in more private reminiscences) and in a small town they are best left to the occasional knowing glance as old eyes meet, or the cheeky tipping of a wink followed by a slight blush.
They are the happy mischievous memories of a time when the restraints of responsibility were still a rarity for most of us. We were having too much fun and never sat still long enough to give a flying fuck about what may be said in the future and neither should we have.
I sincerely hope that is how it is for the new wild bunch of today, however it would seem from what I have observed recently that it is more important now that every moment has to be recorded, as opposed to actually experienced.
Maybe that’s just me being a bit older now and averse to having my every hug and handshake and guffaw, or every misheard conversation, photographed and splurged up on Facebook before the hangovers even had time to develop.
I see no great leap forward socially in that. I can see no improvement of enjoyment nor merit in it.
I know I digress here but I feel a sense of sadness when I see people at events and nights out, be it music, social gatherings or anything else, holding up their poncy fucking phones, recording and photographing, rather than leaving the phone in their pocket and actually enjoying the moment for what it is. I don’t see why people are in such a desperate panic to tell everyone where they are and reading text about where their other mates while they all are wondering what they are missing out on as the giddy carousel of life whirls unnoticed around them.
That isn’t experience its journalism.
I can’t help thinking that they are missing out on so much of the raw, real, emotive power of experience by falling for the illusion that some bad photo or shitty wobbly footage with piss poor sound reproduction will in anyway replicate what they should have been talking part in.
In years to come I fear that all they will be looking at is what they missed.
BEEEP BEEP BEEP “Grumpy old twat climbing onto high horse ALERT”.
Back to the night in question which (as any good session “getting pissed right up” in Bridport should) ended up with me in shorts and flip flops at Ali’s kebab shop at fuck knows what time in the morning and nearly locking myself out of my hotel as a result .
I have to say it was a wonderful night out, full of contact with people who I knew and just wanted to say hello or shake my hand, or buy me a drink and hear of my exploits and just to have a laugh with me.
I felt bizarrely like some sort of hero returning to Homesville, but from doing what or where I will never fathom. As good as it felt I wouldn’t want to return to doing it every week nor even every month as the novelty would wear off.
It was humbling, and at the same time immensely enjoyable to be received with such genuine warmth by so many people.
My ego is normally fairly “large” in any event (some would say too large) however that night it received a turbo boost of love to enhance my sense of well-being and confirmed my condition of being “loved right up”.
Love and Peace
Ps, you know who you all are so if I didn’t mention you by name thanks for the laughs, the love and the general good vibe.