Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The Grimsby Blogs (part 2)

20th October 2008.

The weather today is grim; I mean it really is grey and windy, and on the walk back from the Seeker, the heavens did open and we did indeed get wet. We had been over to get some protective coverings for some cable on deck here; Mike and I walked to the Seeker to get some stuff for work, but on the way back the heavens did open and we got very wet indeed.
I slept all afternoon, and arranged to meet up with Andy and the guys from his boat this evening.

Jumping ahead, I thought of going to The White bear where they were yesterday, but it was empty; save for a couple of teens asking for a penny for the guy; something I had not heard for ten or so years.

It was some walk over from the White Bear to the centre of town and the pub where the others were tonight. Grimsby, once upon a time must have been a prosperous town; signs of this are everywhere. But seeing it today, it looks very sad. On a couple of street corners, ladies of the night tried to drum up business; the street on which the White Bear stands is now one where most of the shops have closed down, and the pub itself is a modern day version of the spit and sawdust type.

The rain had given the streets a sheen that made it look almost nice, but a closer look revealed a down well and truly on its uppers. A new road cut through the end of the High Street, creating a six lane highway where once were shops and houses. The town centre could be anytown, UK; with the usual mix of shops and banks. At least the town centre pubs had not been turned into fun-pubs the way Hull’s had.

I caught up with the lads in one of these; a nice enough place, with beer at a northern price of less than £2.50 a pint, and a large TV filling one wall and most people watching the game.
Newcastle were playing Manchester City on the large screen, and it was almost a good game. In the end it finished a 2-2 draw, and not that bad.

One beer followed another, followed another until it was kebab time and then grab a taxi and come back to the ship. The taxi stopped right outside the gangplank, and I was soon enough eating the kebab and enjoying a diet Coke or two.

News of tomorrows early departure have been may be false; those from the Seeker suggest it has been agreed we stay here until Friday like them. Such is life.

Time for bed.


In previous writings recently, I may have been unkind to Grimsby. It’s not hard to do; it’s now a run down, downmarket, down at heel kind of place; full of abandoned warehouses, disused rail tracks and just hints at past glories. The wring turn from the bright lights of the American style strip mall takes the unwary to a world of vice, drugs and cheep booze. Teenagers hang round in alleyways, drunks stagger in circles and young women sell the one thing they have; their bodies. The shops are long since abandoned in this area, the pubs a modern variant on the old spit and sawdust, where it’s all ways happy hour in name if not atmosphere.

It would oh so easy to write the town off as hopeless; and yet there are signs at how wealthy and prosperous the town once was. Grand warehouses, wide roads and the faded names of dozen of merchants stand testament to the rich past the harvest of the sea brought to the town. Now the only fish being landed are frozen after being caught in more fertile waters around the globe; the docks now stand empty of fishing boats, and the quaysides have become car parks for cars and trucks from around the world that other nations have built for us to consume.

The High Street, once the heart of the town has been cut in several places by grand road schemes which have only served to take custom to larger, box like stores on the edge of town. Every shop is having a sale, but failing to tempt the early drinker from his course to the pub with the £1.25 drinks. Later, these same people can be seen either staggering home, or just slumped under lamps where their legs gave out, oblivious to what goes on around them; usually skater boys and girls using the pedestrianised streets as a place of fun; at least someone does.
Is there any hope for Grimsby? I guess so; it has potential, vast areas of land await the developer’s shovels. Sadly for Grimsby, the global economy means those days are long off. And so, Grimsby’s past stands to remind the present of what was and just how bad things are.

22nd October 2008.

Another day, as they say. And here we are still in Grimsby, waiting on the weather, whilst here in port it has been glorious sunny day with stunning blue skies. Not much work on, so I took the afternoon off and walked into town to find the library and do some internetting.

This morning, Wendy asked if I took photographs; I told her the truth and so I was given the job of taking the official pictures to be put on the company website. She seemed impressed with what I did, although in my mind they were a little over exposed, but not too bad.

After the library, I found the local Starbucks and had a huge coffee before bumping into Mik and Ewa in the Yarborough. I had some Polish beer before heading off to get some reading material before settling down on my own with a pint to read Private Eye and a couple of train mags.
After a dinner of scampi, Liverpool played Athletico Madrid; in an insipid game which ended one all; thus proving what a bore the Champion’s League can be when such a result benefits the teams playing.

At least the taxi driver tonight brought me to the right side of the dock, and no lengthy wait on the other side of the lock gates were needed.

Heck, we may even sail tomorrow; then again…

23rd October 2008.

Another day, another day in Grimsby. No news on a departure date or time, it’s just not today. Spent the morning dealing with the freight, the OCs get their own TVs and DVD players, whilst the rest to make to with a Wii.

I did sleep for about six hours last night, and so when I came to try to get my head down this afternoon, I tossed and turned but sleep would not come. So, I opened the latest Robert Goddard book and immersed myself in his twists and turns. How wonderful those six hours flew by.

News of James; he is leaving the house on Friday; maybe: I’ll believe that when it happens. Jools is still to go up on Saturday to begin to clear the house out.

I walked into town to the town centre pub; only to find it full of students as it was just £1.25 a pint. Quite a selection of freaks and misfits; mostly were students of those of an age where they look like students, a scattering of Goths and a couple of old soaks who couldn’t pass up the chance of cheap beer, even with a banging Iron Maiden soundtrack coming out of the Juke Box.

As time went on, people began to stand in front of the TV making watching the game impossible and less than enjoyable. I met Thom the first mate, and we ended up going to a quiet bar for supper and more beer. He left as Mike arrived, and we chatted some. I caught a taxi back, only for the driver to drop me off the wrong side of the dock, and I found the lock gates open and I had to spend 90 minutes until the tide turned before the gates were closed and I could cross.
Man Utd beat Celtic 3-0, the Gooners win 5-2 in Turkey but Norwich thrash Wolves, top of the league Wolves, 5-2; and I get to see the goals over and over on Sky Sports News.

The Fruit Fairy Cometh.

Since arriving on the good ship Vigilant, there has been a distinct lack of food; in particular, fruit. This situation made me walk to Tescos the first afternoon on board and buy a bag of oranges as well as a couple of boxes of bran flakes, as there only is cornflakes on board.

Meal times were no better, no choice about what to eat, just Hobson’s Choice, take it or leave it. And as fish was the overwhelming favourite, it just meant that some went hungry. Also, it has to be said the portions were small, with no dessert and none of the usual garlic bread. And as the night shift ate second at lunch, the other shift had munched their way through the only plate of salad.

Talking of night shift; only one night was any food left out for us at all; and we had to the one step above eating each other; Pot Noodles. Even then, there were just enough for one each. It felt like being on hard tack.

And despite repeated promised from Wendy that something was going to be done; nothing changed; until yesterday.

Suddenly a huge bowl of fruit appeared, with apples, oranges, kiwi and bananas, as well as a large plate of melon and pineapple chunks, and as soon as that plate was empty another pineapple was put under the knife.

Even better was the appearance of a menu at lunch, with choices of course, the looked of surprise on the rest of the crew was quite funny. But really did go to show how bad things had become on board. At least now there seems to be enough food, and the promise of gym equipment arriving today, although no where to put it, it seems that we will soon be ship shape and all that.

Sadly, the weather isn’t going to play ball, and it seems we are going to be here until Sunday now. We’ll just have to make the best of it I guess.

27th October 2008.

And so, after a week in Grimsby, we find ourselves back on the high seas, some 80 miles due east of the Humber. Although we’re not working; almost, but not quite, due to the weather. We did try to work, put the sonar in the water, but the data was rubbish, and we damaged to towing points getting it back on board.

Typically, we sailed yesterday just as the games in the Premier League kicked off; and so we poured over irregular updates via our shaky internet connection. Once we had sailed, it was to bed to try to get some sleep before arriving on site in the early hours of today.

The wind had calmed down, and it was a wonderful late afternoon that we pulled out of the dock and headed into the darkness that lay to the east. A couple of thrill seekers on jet bikes came over and used our wake to jump off. Final calls were made to loved ones, and we settled down once more to the life at sea.

A week in port, even in October is a little unusual, and some of us made it off into town at least once a day; whilst others just played on the video game that was delivered to the ship last week.
My days fell into a familiar routine; wake up at about 6; have breakfast, and then hang around in the lab in case of any odd jobs needed to be done; and then a walk into the town, to the library for some internetting, before heading to Starbucks for a vente latte with an extra shot whilst reading the Times; And finally maybe meeting up with either Dave or Thom for a pint in the Yarborough.

28th October 2008.

Nearly midnight, and here we are for the second whole day and third night bobbing around on site waiting on weather. Talk is of heading into port on Saturday; but it’s just that; talk.
Didn’t sleep much today with the ship lurching around in the heavy swell. I say heavy, just 2 metres, but enough even on the lower deck to disrupt sleep. So, do we try to stay awake all night or grab some sleep if the weather allows? We shall see.

And the big question is; why did we sail on Sunday as we knew what the weather was going to be? It’s just been a waste of time and fuel to be sitting out here hour after hour waiting for the swell to drop to one metre. In fact in the next few hours it will increase to two and a half, so no chance of work at all.

We have all settled into a routine; with meals and time off to do our own thing. Some play on the Wii, others like me, doesn’t. Although I did try out one of the driving games in the wee small hours.

A year ago we were in Cardiff for the Arcade Fire concert, and then we went up to Yorkshire to the cottage on the edge of the moors. I know I am getting paid for this, but I wish we were back on our travels again. Time moves on for sure, and soon it will be November and thoughts will turn to leaving the ship in the weeks that follow. We could be off sooner than we think as there is a real danger the job will be cancelled due to the weather, and some of us will have to find a new ship, possibly further north than this. The Explorer has a crew change this week, so that would be out for me. So Hammerfest is at least out.

There are worse ways to spend a working day.

And the Rich Shall Inherit the Earth. Apparently.

And in front of the multitude, Jesus spake, ‘the rich shall inherit the world; blessed are the insurance brokers.’

Go back to your homes and build ye a gated community, so no poor can trouble your door, and employ ye an accountant so you pay minimum tax by funnelling it through an offshore account. Do this, and truly the kingdom of heaven shall be yours.

Sorry, I got carried away, but I think he may have said something different. Didn’t his disciples have to give away all their possessions before following Jesus? Did he not say it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man enter the kingdom of heaven? And no it didn’t mean a gate in Jerusalem.

What stuns me, is for the most part those who seem to resent tax dollars being spent on the poor and old are the ones who seem to advocate religion, and Christianity in particular.
How strange.

Even if the deranged arguments were right about the tax dollars being wasted, surely the phrase ‘some fell on stony ground’ comes into play here. The act of being charitable is what counts, not whether it makes any difference.

There is a phrase in Britain, which has fallen out of use; I’m alright Jack; meaning, screw you, I doing fine. And that is what I am hearing from people claiming to be Republicans; those with God on their side; apparently.

November 12th 2008.

So, I sit here in my cabin the morning we sailed from Grimsby, again. We have tried to work, and failed due to the weather. We are just in site of land, so a run to port if the weather turns will be easy.

We sat in Grimsby all week, and sailed today because there is supposed to be a weather window of a few hours. After today, it will be late Saturday before we can work. Even then we have to be so careful, as fishing pots litter the area, and we have a chase boat running the lines ahead of us so we don’t snag our gear.

I guess I should mention last week’s election; Obama won by not quite a landslide, but a big enough margin of victory to cause the conservatives to turn on themselves to lay blame. We worked in the lab whilst the results came in, and at about four the Florida results came in and the ticker counted over 270 meaning an Obama win. It caused the heart to jump with joy.
Now, other bloggers are claiming all sorts of things as to why he should not be the 44th president; hopefully even they will get used to the idea in the weeks to come. So, change has come; quite whether it will be for the good, or he can live up to his promises is another matter; but in winning the world certainly changed.

The one bad taste in the moth has been the vitriol hurled in Obama’s direction; it has been horrible to see; And proves that although some people have moved into the twenty first century, some quite clearly are stuck in the dim and distant past.

The other main news is that someone has offered us plenty to buy my house, and we have decided to take what they bid. It’s something less than £20,000 less than the house worth a year ago, but we have to take what we can. So, now we have to instruct solicitors on both sides to draw up contracts; as well as removing the final possession that I have there. Julie had to come up to Grimsby over the weekend as I had forms to sign so she could sign the contracts in my stead when the time comes.

It will also allow us to move forward and to look for a place of our own when the time comes, and that might be as soon as Christmas when I’m home next. Moordown is still for sale, and for £216,000. It could just work.

As I said, Julie came up at the weekend; we had some 15 hours together, and it was wonderful to spend time together and just talk and talk. We stayed in a Travelodge, it was ok, and comfortable enough. The hours flew by, and we both crashed out before nine as we were so very tired. She also brought up new magazines and books, as well as supplies of fruit.

We talked of the future and our plans, all of which seem to be getting better all the time. We are just so darned lucky.

The Grimsby Blogs (part 1)

Just a collection of writing I did when the net did not work.

15th October 2008.

How best to describe what happened these past five days? Well, it all began quite simply with the news on Thursday that I was to join the Researcher sometime this week, or in about five days, in Great Yarmouth. So, no problems there, plenty of notice, time to arrange a last weekend with Jools. Easy. All too easy it seems.

So, we arranged a weekend of going to Loughborough to take pictures of steam trains, Sunday in London at Ally Pally where there was a craft exhibition that Jools wanted to go to. And then go on Monday or Tuesday to the ship; what could go wrong?

So, Friday I spent the day in the kitchen cooking a wonderful stew laced with a can of John Smith’s and a can of Guinness; it was wonderful. At the same time I baked some wholemeal rolls to have for lunch, and then in the afternoon saffron buns to have when Julie came home.
So, there I was laying on the sofa listening to the radio as I like to do, and then the phone rang; it was Kevin from the office, I was to join a new boat the next day in Great Yarmouth. I was stunned; to be told this at short notice just a week after I had told him by e mail that this was my major bugbear with the company. I hung up on him; only for him to ring back to try to reason with me. It didn’t work; I was livid; there was a story that there was an engineer shortage and the Researcher wasn’t due in port until the end of the week. Sadly for Kevin, an e mail arrived from movements telling me my flight details to Aberdeen on Tuesday. Kevin had lied, and here was the evidence.

I had no choice but to accept it, but I was not happy, and getting drunk. Just for Kevin to call again to offer a compromise. A guy from another department was coming up to Grimsby to meet the boat on Monday; I could come up with him and still have my weekend at home. I just needed to be in Yarmouth early on Monday morning.

Julie and I made our plans for the weekend; a trip up to Loughborough on Saturday to see a variety of steam engines on the Great Central Railway; then on Sunday Julie going to the craft fair in London and then dropping me off at Mother’s before Julie drives home whilst I get a taxi to meet up with the guy.

A bottle of wine to celebrate when Julie came home; and a wonderful steak with field mushrooms accompanied with chip shop chips; it was perfect.


I did not know there was a train at 04:44 in the morning; let along think that we would actually be getting on it. But, sure enough, there we were at half four on the platform joining various workers for the red eye train, and calling at apparently every station, we headed to London. As we dozed, the inky blackness of the Kentish countryside slipped by; and as we entered the outskirts of London, the sky in the east lightened, and the day was nearly on us.

A quick dash across London by tube, to the new St Pancras to pick up an aging train to whisk is north to the Midlands and back to the age of steam. Sadly, the train was aging, 32 years old and showing it; the poorly mould and padded seats were really uncomfortable, and the poor legroom under the table making stretching out without kicking a fellow passenger, impossible.

As we headed north, the day was dawning, deep reds and oranges lit the sky, and the wonderful mist made a wonderful vista for those who cared to look out of the windows. The sun rose blood red, but quickly making the mist and fog disappear.

Loughborough would be another midlands market town, were it not for the crossroads of two main line railway lines; one now sadly gone. The bare bones of one of these lines had been born again and show the public of today how the railways of yesterday worked.

More importantly for us, there was a steam gala to be held this weekend, with two important locomotives making a rare appearance together. Oliver Cromwell was the engine that pulled the last scheduled train on British Railways; a majestic huge Britannia class engine, and newly repaired and painted. The other engine is the first new steam locomotive to be built in Britain for some 50 years; Tornado was designed to pull the growing number of railtours that criss-cross the county every weekend. What better than a brand new engine? This was to be the final weekend that Tornado was to spend on the Great Central before heading to York to have it’s shiny final coats of paint applied, and then mainline trials and tests to be carried out before hauling proper trains on regular lines next year.

Walking out of the station, there were queues for taxis; so we set off with other spotters towards to old Central Station. We passed a taxi company, and Julie asked if they had a car to take us to our chosen vantage point; they did and soon we were being whisked to Main Street by a trainspotting taxi driver telling us the codes for engine sheds in the area.

70013, Oliver Cromwell

Glad to get out of the cab, we walked up the road to the bridge, there were gaps in the hedge, through which a few other photographers had already arrived. As we took up our places, a cloud of smoke rose above the town centre, and soon Oliver Cromwell powered by looking majestic in the morning sun; I snapped away. And then there was a 45 minute wait until Tornado was to pass by in much the same manner. More snapping, and with the pictures in the can, as it were, we headed off to walk back into town to the station to ride on one of these trains.


As we reached to bottom of the road, more spotters arrived in a taxi, which we took back into town, and within 5 minutes we were in the queue to pay our money to get onto the platform and to join the crowds to get on the train when it arrived.

The Driver Inspects

Oliver Cromwell was to be our train, and after getting quite possibly the worst cup of coffee, we managed to get a couple of empty seats and waited whilst the large engine was attached to the front of the train.

70013, wide

In all honesty, there was not much enjoyment to be crammed into a 50 year old carriage like sardines, but it was really an event to raise funds for the railway, so we didn’t really mind.
The Leicestershire countryside rolled by, and special other trains steamed past us on the other line. It was a wonderful day, even with the crowds.


But the crowds were getting worse, and after getting out at Quorn on the way back to sample the beer tent, it was getting impossible to do anything, and making us feel uncomfortable. We decided we had done all what we had wanted to, and so thoughts turned to going home. We walked back to the mainline station, but realised we had a 90 minute wait for the train our seats were reserved on. There were dozens of comfortable looking first class seats on the 5 coach train; we decided to pay the difference and took our places in the armchair like seats. It was almost worth the extra cost; almost.

Anyway, we got back into London earlier than we thought, and we had time to head off to our favourite restaurant for more Italian food. How wonderful it was to head into a little piece of Tuscany from the busy streets of London, some large garlic prawns and that followed by lobster spaghetti washed down with a fruity rosé. Wonderful.

A short walk to Charing Cross and a train to Dover which was to leave in less than 10 minutes; even better it was a fast train in that it only stopped four times before we arrived back at the white cliffs.

And so we watched a wonderful sunset and dusk as we whizzed once more through the suburbs and into the dark countryside of Kent.


Up again early, and some final packing before we headed once again back to London. Just enough time to say goodbye to them cats, and then it was time to walk out the door for the final time in maybe eight weeks.
It was a grey and foggy morning in Kent, and driving up the M2 to London was not too pleasant, but we made good time, and soon we were once again in the suburbs and heading for the tunnel under the Thames. As we approached the tunnel, we glimpsed Canary Warf across the river, all shrouded in fig, with just its golden pyramid top showing above the swirling mist.
Alexandra Palace has been many things; the first BBC studios, and now an exhibition hall, and today a treasure of arts and crafts for what Julie called the WI and blue rinse brigade. And she wasn’t wrong.
He fog had not cleared, and so as Julie went inside, I wandered around snapping away at ghostly shapes of trees and the such, and later dewy cobwebs and friendly birdlife and the traditional Sunday morning football games, played by the hungover and unfit. All fit subjects for the unblinking eye of my camera.
Walking back up the hill to Ally Pally, the Fog had all but cleared and the brickwork now stood out strongly against a bright blue sky instead of trying to hide in the wisps of mist. I got a call, Julie was ready, and so we met up back near the car and headed off; thankfully going against the traffic which was still arriving.
We stopped for lunch in a chain place in Epping Forest; t was just about ok, but was quickly filling up with loud families and was another place to escape from.
And so, back onto the open, but overcrowded roads as we headed north further into Essex and then on to Suffolk and then Norfolk. It was a glorious autumnal afternoon, but there was the shared knowledge that our time together was quickly coming to an end.
The final part was over familiar roads for me, a short run from Norwich to Lowestoft, some down quiet leafy lanes, and across three marshes beside the broads before arriving outside Mothers.
Then the usual pleasantries, and a cup of something hot and it was time for Julie to leave before the mist came down again; it was already probably too late to avoid that. But she did leave, leaving me with the awkward silence and fractured communication that marks our relationship these days.
Sadly, the thought of a whole evening together did not thrill me, and so I called an old friend and he came to pick me up so we could go somewhere where we could share a pint or two. I chose a place where another friend, Mike, worked; as he had fallen on hard times and could not come to the wedding.
The pub was crowded with actors, as a TV series was filming nearby, and this was their chosen watering hole. Two Pints of Lager is something I had not watched, but there were faces I did recognise.
All too soon it was time to head home and to bed, as tomorrow, it was off to work and the sea. How quick the time goes.

North to Grimsby.

After many changes of plan, I was to meet a guy at the offices in Yarmouth Monday morning, and he would take me along with the freight to join the ship in Grimsby. At least I was spared getting up at stupid o’clock to catch a train to Norwich to meet him there. I arranged a taxi for eight, Mum warned me of traffic problems in Yarmouth, and so I thought that allowing an hour would be plenty.
The traffic problem turned out to be one of the two bridges into town closed, and all traffic from the south merging into the single lane over the one remaining bridge. To call it chaos would be an understatement; it took an hour to go the one mile from the hospital to the Haven Bridge, inching along watching the meter creep up in the taxi.

And then once in the office, finding that everyone else has the same problem, and work begins in some departments at maybe half ten. I waited and waited for the guy; and then when he does show up, surprise, there’s been a change of plan and now someone else is taking me at some time later.

So, after nearly three hours waiting around, we head off in the van first to Norwich and then west to Kings Lynn and into Lincolnshire. The driver, Joe, tailgated all the way there, as he wanted to get back to his family that night, and the only conversation was how crap the company was.

We drove through Lincoln, a pleasant place for sure, and somewhere to return with cameras I think. The cathedral is situated in the centre of town on top of one of the few hills for miles, and looks really imposing.

Then it was north through the Lincolnshire Wolds past air bases, some still working and some long since abandoned to the plough, until the chimneys and pipes of Immingham could be seen in the distance. Constant calling to the office failed to get an answer as to what dock the boat would be coming in at; until we were once actually at the gates to the docks we were told that the ship wasn’t actually in yet, or anyone had spoken to the ship and it could still be doing its trials hours out to sea.

Hours went by, we went into what from the outside looked like a nice county hotel, but inside were scattered characters of dubious repute, and the walls of the bar covered in warnings about drug deals and advice lines. Request for two coffees were greeted with surprise; and a kettle was boiled and instant was made, and for this we were charged £1.20 a cup.

Finally, at five, a call from the office with news; the boat had missed the tide and would not be in until four or five in the morning, and here are the details of your hotel. Joe was not happy, as he had made clear that he did not want to spend the night away, but now had no choice.

I got the sat nav to work on my new phone, and so we drove through the evening traffic to the Hotel Elizabeth. It’s a modern place, well was in the 1970s when it was built, blocky looking, but comfortable inside, and for a change our reservations were actually waiting for us when we came to check in.

I spent the night using the Wi-Fi in the lobby, and then joined Joe for a couple of beers before heading up to my room.

The next morning, it was still dark when we met for breakfast at seven; and after a plateful of scrambled eggs and lots of coffee we headed out to meet the boat, which we now knew was arriving at East Royal Dock. Joe just forgot to ask in which town that was.
At Immingham, they said there was no such dock there, but there was one in Grimsby, and so turning round we headed back into the heavy morning rush to find the dock.

And there she was, just sitting there hiding on the quay amongst stacks of wood imported from some rain forest the other side of the planet. The Vigilant used to be a Dutch naval ship, but now converted to our requirements, it looked OK at first; it was then I saw that our lab was two transport containers welded together and strapped to the back deck; it was going to get in there once the storms hit.

Joe and I parted our ways on the deck, as I set out to find some familiar faces and hopefully a cabin in which to dump my stuff, and then begin my first day of work in oh so long.

The Son of Jimmi Hendrix.

So, here we are back in wonderful Grimsby again. It’s a Sunday night and the town is ours for the taking. Even better, there is another ship from our fleet in port, and we’re all due to meet up in a bar; how hard could it be?

Mobile phones make modern life possible, and should, therefore make it easier for one party tell another exactly which bar they may, or not be in. So, once docked, someone called a friend on the other ship; the name of a bar exchanged, and we head out into the cold and windy night.
I was given the name of the bar, and putting that name into my clever new mobile phone I find the bar is 130 yards away behind us. Well, that was once we found our way off the dockside.
Unbeknown to us, we had been berthed at the far side of the dock; which meant a route march through miles of parked trucks, across the gates to the dock along a rickety walk along the top of the lock gates, down a narrow unlit road and then a mile along deserted warehouses before coming to what was once the merchant’s quarter.

Others in the party thought they knew the bar, and so we headed off away from our eventual destination and into what was once the centre of town. Mile after mile of shop fronts passed by until we gave up walking in circles. Another call told us the name of the new rock bar, and checking with the taxi line revealed that it was now a 10 minute taxi ride back to where we started.
We had already passed many bars and pubs already selling lovely beers and wines; but the others in the rock bar made it sound so nice we paid the money and climbed into a couple of taxis and headed back into docklands.

The Yardbird is a rock bar; no doubt about that. It is run by the local biker chapter, The Warlocks, and is a rough as a rough thing. There were drug deals being done, and we looked out of place a portion of ribs at a Jewish wedding. We bought drinks and settled down to watch the trip on stage try to do a passing impression of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

They weren’t that bad in truth. The wah-wah peddle was over worked, but the tunes were recognisable, and the few in the bar were getting down to the show. Heck; even the drinks were cheap, although talk was impossible, it wasn’t that bad.

I guess what was worrying, was the baby-boomers getting down with the groove and puffing away on fat roll ups; is this our future; listening to the sounds of our youth until we’re in our dotage? I shuddered as someone’s granddad played an invisible flying V to the intro of Voodoo Chile.

We caught the final half hour of the show, and then it was time to head back into docklands, or what was left of it, to find our way back to the ship past miles of white vans and stacks of wood.
The view is more of the same tomorrow night; sure beats working.

Monday, 17 November 2008

There goes five weeks

So, how best to sum up five weeks at sea and at work in one blog?

It's tough, especially as for many days there was no work at all due to the seas and weather, and during those long nights we make the best of things we can thanks to the Wii and a collection of DVDs.

Upon waking up at a quarter to eleven, one lays in bed trying to determine whether the baot is moving enough for work to have been cancelled; in which case there is time to lay and doze, or stare at the ceiling. otherwise it's soon time to leap out of the bunk and get ready for another 12 hours of monitoring data.

The fact is we have done nothing since three o'clock Saturday morning, as each day promised good conditions and failed to deliver. Monday was supposed to be the best day, and its true we had half an hour of calm sea, but by the time we steamed towards the start of the survey line, the swell and wind had built up and the ship was rocking like you wouldn't believe. It woke just about the whole of the day shift. And at lunchtime it became clear that the weather was awful until Sunday, the client pulled the plug on the job and the ship turned south and headed for our home port of Great Yarmouth.

And then the news that three of the four engineers would not be needed, and so we have been making plans to go home tomorrow. Or I would have done had I not slept in until ten this evening, and the only plans I could make were for the hire car in the morning. So, back to Dover sometime after nine, and no need to call in to see the house or Mother.

Aah yes, the house. In a miricle, we have found a buyer for the house in Lowestoft, and are going through the process of getting contracts written out and all sorts of paperwork filled in. Or Julie is. As I have been at sea. But, it seems to be going well, and although I am not counting my chickens about the sale, I am at least checking recipes.

We had to slash the price of the house; I can't lie it hurt. But the question is how much did we want to sell it and so move on with our own plans? The truth is that all houses are down, and so our reduced money will buy the same amount of bricks and mortar as the original asking price. Just how bad do they want to sell?

So, this week I have mortgages to arrange and maybe plan on looking in on some houses, and thinking of our future. Yes, it's all exciting stuff in our life. And I mean that in a good way. Once upon a time exciting meant divorces, family dying and mad ex-spouses trying to get me thrown in jail. This is just good stuff.

An old school friend joined me on the ship; and we passed the long nights with tales of our shared past. He also joined the RAF as an armourer, but we never met, and it was only through Friends Reunited that we caught up and found out about our shared experiences. So, once he got out of the mob, I put him in contact with the company, and they snapped him up right away. And so we have been jolly boys on the seven seas and in the pubs of downtown Grimsby.

Other than that, life goes on. I have to decide whether to seek a job with another better organised company, or stick with this one whilst the economy takes a run and jump off a cliff. Being in the oil business, we have a bumper pay award this year, and that softens the blow of staying with acompany that can't organise a pee up in a brewery. Or at least my department can't.

I can't even say that I know how long I will be home for; a day, a week, a month? I just don't know. No e mails from the office, and indeed there is a little confusion even if I am supposed to be getting off in the morning. But having been told unoffically that I am, transport is now arranged and plans beginning to be made for Julie's birthday at the weekend.

So a couple of days either organising our furture or in front of the PC at home or if I feel so inclined, sorting through the parts of my bachelor lifestyle that Julie has cleared from the house this weekend. Well, having this time off now I have no excuses not to do it.

See you on the other side.