View Full Version : Then and now

happy daze john in oz
30th January 2012, 05:30 AM

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at theflood leads on the fortune,
Omitted all the voyages of their lives is bound in shallowsand in misery,
On such a tide are we now afloat,
And we must take the tide or lose the venture

There are a number of members on this great site who claim they will never take a cruise, saying that the modern ships are not ships,rather something else.
That is their democratic right, which I will defend; all Iask is that they not decry those of us who choose to travel by this means.

I would be the first to agree that the modern cruise ship is little short of being nothing more than a five star floating buffet, but abuffet of increasing popularity.
For those who served on deck the difference would be palpable. Gone number five hatch, no more derricks to top out, long gone the steam winch. However one task still remains, the chipping and painting, a task that is never ending even on modern day ships.
For the engineers the difference may not be so great.Admittedly gone are the Doxfords with their familiar drone, gone the steamturbines, all replaced by the modern Diesel electric motor. But I believe an engineer remains so for the duration of their life. As for catering, there little has changed, apart from 24 hour buffets the tasks are still similar,though the days of serving 14 bloods on an aircraft carrier are no more.

This then is part of the natural transition that occurs inso many of our day-to-day lives. But what are the ships we so loving knew assuch?

Consider then the ancient Briton, in his Coracle of skin and wattle, making his way along the coast or inland waterways. Bobbing and weaving like an egg- shell caught in the gutter during a rainstorm. Was this the beginning of what we knew?

The Vikings in their Long Boats made of wood; large square sail affixed to a mast as long as the ship. Long oars reaching out like giant hands to propel this craft through the cold and dreary waters that ravage the North Sea on their journey South, brave men with no concept of things to come.

The gamefull adventurers such as Drake, Cook, Magellan,Tasman, all sailed in ships little bigger than a modern day lifeboat, yet without fear or knowledge of where they travelled, but onward, ever onward.
But without this courageous effort we may never have arrived at the point we did.

But progression is a natural trait of man, an ever-resourceful creature striving to improve his lot, a never- ending quest to reach that which is often considered the unreachable.

Then came the age of steam, an era oftimes considered the one of elegance and grace. Steel sided ships of a new generation began to sail,Southampton to the States, Southampton to the Cape. Fine craft that carried many class of passenger. Some trapped like modern day commuters on the train,in Steerage clambering for every available inch of space. Those who knew no other means of travel, migrants, itinerants, and the less wealthy. Whilst on the promenade deck, the ladies of the day dressed in all their finery, parasols aloft, perambulated proudly, as would a Peacock on the Manor lawn. Whilst inboard, discussing matters of the day, their men, cigars aglow and supping port.

But down below in the very bowels of the ship, with calloused hands and straining muscles, the stoker and the trimmer carried out their duties, feeding coal to the fires in a vain attempt to satisfy the insatiable appetite of these monsters. Carbon covered bodies, stained with years of labour in this hell hole, streaked with rivulets of sweat that ran, as much does a river that meanders it’s way across the land, leaving a permanent scar. Bodies so stained that no amount of water will remove the dye, leaving them looking akin to someone from a foreign land.

But progress did continue and the age of coal fired steam,as with many new adventures, faded with the advent of the oil-fired ships. The Diesel engines purring in perfection like some well-satisfied cat, or hissing likes some giant snake, the steam turbine. This was the new age, the age of what many say were the true ships. The age of the Queens, Mary and Elizabeth,the Lavender Ladies of the Cape mail run, the graceful ships that made there way further south to Australia and New Zealand.

Much like the train that daily travels from one city to another, or the local bus that takes the passengers from stop to stop, the ships were little more than trains or bussesof the seas. There was no alternative means, to so reach a foreign land, one had to go this way. But this a gentle mean of travel, where comfort was the order of the day.

But once again the tides of change, that ebb and flow with regularity, where then again to rear, and change the face of that we knew. A death knell rang, not once but twice. A solitary sound, as one would hear from the lonely church bell, when a coffin, the final home of some dear soul, makes its way through lynch gate to that eternal resting place.

But this death knell was not for some coffin made of wood,rather then the advent of a new style, multi functional with sides of steel. A coffin that would inter the industry we knew, just as the grave would swallowup the dead. The age of the container was upon us. For so many years along the quay- side, stretching up like giant arm, the cranes that dipped and rose,lifting slings and nets filled with cargo, from the holds of ships, that disgorged their goods in slow laborious ease. To be replaced by even bigger monsters, taking hold of these metal coffins with ease, bringing ashore in one fell swoop as much as fifty men would in one day move.
But the death knell was not alone for slings and nets, but rather for the men who worked upon the docks. Under the auspices of the overseer, generations of fathers and sons toiled long and hard, in the hope that the morrow would also see them gainfully employed. No longer for them the smell of the docks, spices from the East, timber from the forests of some foreign land, sides of lamb in stocking nets of mutton cloth. Cast aside, no longer wanted by the docks, now to become another lost generation.

But with this demise sprang up a new environment, long gone the docks we all so dearly loved, replaced by multi storey apartment blocks,reaching up to meet the stars, or wharfs now taking aircraft high aloft. But what of the men who crewed the cargo ships, now like the ships they served,cast aside like crumpled paper on a fire. The new ships now with crew numbers so small, they could all with ease into one cabin of the Mary fit.

Yet again the bell rang loud, that hollow deathly sound, as from the sky a new and giant silver bird approached. Ungainly, like the Goose that waddles side to side as over grass it travels. But then with outstretched neck and wings, webbed feet that grab the land the Goose ascends to fly with ease and grace. And so this silver bird,wings stretched as if a crucifix, flies high into the heavens, as would a wandering Albatross that rides the thermals. This great new bird would bring into demise those great liners of the day, no more to sail. No strike, nor greedy shipowners, brought about the downfall of a service, rather a simple metal coffin and a silver bird.

This was the dawning of the new age of shipping and transport. But what of those gracious ladies, who for so many years did wend their way across the oceans deep, their precious cargo to deliver? Sadly their time had come, like some worn and ruined shoe, to be cast aside. Condemned to the beaches of Alang, where stood the executioner, blowtorch in hand waiting to make the final cut. In two short weeks,a lady of distinction was no more, now a mass of metal blocks, taken to a foundry, melted down, to be cast as baubles for mans enjoyment.

What of those who sailed these graceful craft? Now older,and one would hope much wiser, sit with smiles upon their face, smiles that only those who sailed would understand as in their mind they trammel up the memories of yesteryear. A time, when as young men with fear of naught, set forth for foreign climes. To ports, with bars where oftimes wondrous liquors flowed,or to experience the warmth of a female body, perfumed and soft, in the mad tumultuous thrust of lust and passion.

But times again did ring with change; a new form of shippingwas to be. A form that had for many years been for only those of wealthy means,the cruising liner. But very much changed from such as the Green Goddess of Cunard, or the Lavender Lady of UCL. A new breed of leviathans, giant ships that now resemble more a floating hotel, or as some would say a luxury apartment block. But be this so, there are those for whom such luxury is now away of life. But what of those who sailed, and now desire once more to stand on deck, and feel the ship beneath them roll, or stand at night, sat in some ocean far away, and gaze upon the heavens, so full with stars, that glitter and twinkle as would the lights from some far distant harbour, to look upon their beauty as can only so be done at sea. Or to stand upon the stern deck, and feel again the gentle throb, as propellers, like giant underwater windmills, thrust the ship ever forward, or look again at the wake, as into the distance it doth stretch. For such men this is then the only way in which those memories can be relived.

Then when the time is due, and before the pearly gates of heaven, faced by the Saints, name roll in hand and they do ask of you, what manner of man were you on Earth?
You can, with chest puffed out and head held high, say inall confidence that ‘I was part of the greatest fleet that ever sailed, I WAS PART OF THE BRITISH MERCHANT NAVY.

Doc Vernon
30th January 2012, 05:52 AM
Hi John
Oh if only i could write like that!
What a great Posting mate!
And yes all you say is so true!
Thank you so much for this!
I will certainly give you Ten out of Ten for that!:clapping2:

Roger Dyer
30th January 2012, 09:02 AM
I'm gobsmacked H.D. !!! Having been most impressed by your recent literary efforts, I'm beginning to suspect that you have recently graduated (with honours) from the Academy of Creative Writing. Wish I knew your secret, mate ? Well done.:clapping2::clapping2:


Ivan Cloherty
30th January 2012, 09:35 AM

Just what we want to read and so eloquently put. Our lives relived with a flow of words like a river flowing to the sea. Thank you John you'v made my day


Chris Allman
30th January 2012, 09:46 AM
AH John, William Shakespeare - Julius Caesar - Act 4 Scene 3 - yes very moving and very eloquent, however I will still never set foot on one of those floating monstrosities, no matter what. :)


happy daze john in oz
30th January 2012, 11:47 AM
Thank you Roger and all for your kind words. English language was one of my few strong acedemic subjects. It is a language, which if used correctly as in Shakespear, will flow and delight. Sadly it has become the most misused and much maligned language, like if you know, like whatever, like!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!