Friday, May 23, 2008

Of sea and ships.....

First let me just say that this holiday is for a week only, people..... we still have till the 19th July to go before we break up for the summer. Heaven only knows why it is so late. I know Europe breaks up for their holidays round about the end of May or beginning of June. And our system means that our kids are writing their important public exams in the heat of the summer, sneezing away with hay fever and the like. Ideal.

However, a holiday is a holiday. Even when it is just for a week. And David and I are going to visit my son and daughter-in-law for a couple of days too, which will be wonderful.

While I was writing about the books I gathered to take to sea with me, I was remembering how amused the rest of the officers and crew were when I arrived to do a deep sea trip with Geoff, with Andrew and Diana in tow. The sight of the mountain of luggage certainly had them in stitches. But I am a mother, and I believed in being prepared.

Geoff was a senior officer in the merchant navy, and he travelled mostly on giant container ships. The accomodation was good, great even, and there was a swimming pool as well. I used to get the officer in charge to fill it with about a foot of water in the mornings, (it was about 15+ft deep I think) and we would climb down the ladder and play in the waves created by the ship's movement in the bottom, until the officers came to swim, and then it was filled completely.

But back to the mountain of luggage. I always took a huge box of paper, scissors, glue, sticky tape, pens, crayons etc, so that we could do craft things together. When you are at sea for a couple of weeks, you need to be creative. In more ways than one! We made the most wonderful collages. I usually let the children pick a theme, and covered one of the cabin walls with the background, of say, under the sea, and every day we would make more things to stick onto it. Diana loved making fish and mermaids, buried treasure etc. Andrew did the submarines, warships and divers. I did the fancy seaweed.

Well, the first time we took Diana deep sea, (she had to be 2 years old, and Andrew would have been 6) we had just been at sea for about 3 days when Geoff woke me one morning and said...I think you need to look at your daughter. (Please note the "your"....the children were mine if there was a problem!) She is covered with spots. Gee. Thanks. A great way to wake up. In the middle of the ocean with a child covered in spots. She had chicken pox. The captain got out his huge captain's guide to medicine, and came to the cabin door and asked me if I was sure it was not smallpox. I informed him that I could rule that out as it had been eradicated from the earth (this was 1983) and he was somewhat mollified. He did tell me, though, that according to his great book, Indian people ran a high risk of complications from chicken pox, and that as most of the stewards were Indian, we were confined to the cabin.

That mountain of luggage???? It saved my sanity.

We made paper chains long enough to decorate the entire ship. And it was a BIG ship. We glued and stuck things everywhere. We comandeered every toilet roll on the ship and made rockets, people, cars. You name it. When it was lunch, and everyone was having their meal, I was able to take the kids outside to get some fresh air, but not for long. The trip was over Christmas, so I knew I had a good few presents stashed away for Christmas day, and as they were the only children on board, on Christmas morning, everyone arrived in the cabin to watch them open their presents The Captain was the last to arrive. And promptly lifted the confinement order, because most of the ship's officers were scrunched in the cabin anyway.

So we were able to go and see all the decorations we had made all over the ship. It has to be the most festive one ever. And those men stopped laughing at my magic box of tricks. In fact, they used to tell their wives to bring similar stashes when they travelled. I must find time to scan in my old photos and then I can share some of them here.

One day I will write more about those days at we used to lie on our stomachs at the bow, watching the porpoises and dolphins dance in the bow wave.... how we saw whales and flying fish, how beautiful it is to get up at dawn and watch Table Mountain appear on the horizon, of storms and sunny days at sea, of wives doing aerobics in the lounge every morning, of near misses when a ship cut across our bow, of bbqs on deck, the challenges of keeping small children safe on giant ships. Of the constant sounds we learnt to identify, how we knew when we were going astern, how attuned we became to the movement of the sea under the ship....... of the day when no-one could find Geoff, and how they tried to keep me from realising how worried everyone was......

All the memories come back when I set off down a path of thought.

Maybe my life has not been so ordinary after all.


Needled Mom said...

Chicken pox???? Goodness, I'll bet they wanted to keep you all isolated. I can just see the amount of luggage that would be required to drape the ship with decorations.

I so enjoyed your last post on the books. I can see your love of words within your writings. It is always so beautiful.

May you have a wonderful week.

Susie said...

I enjoyed reading about your days at sea. I'm sure I told you that my brother was the chief engineer on a large oil tanker and sailed all around the world. His wife would join the first 7 yrs of their marriage (before kids!) They also have wonderful (and worrisome) stories..
Enjoy your time away..

Barb said...

"While I was writing about the books I gathered to take to the sea with me."

You are blessed.

I tell you Linds, my one wish is to be by the sea, one more time, before I die.


Jo said...

I am so looking forward to reading more stories of your memories. How precious those memories are. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Penless Thoughts said...


Mary said...

The word 'ordinary' never comes to mind when I think of you. Rich in memories and adventures and loving relationships is a better fit. Have a great break from school and enjoy your family get together.

Mary said...

Oh by the way, I meant to mention that I was walking around the shops the other day and I saw another of your twins. Your identical twin. She looked exactly like your photo when you went to London to meet your blogger friends. It was amazing. She kept looking at me as if she knew me. I was a little spooked. I nearly gave her a big hug. I mean she was like, your spitting image.

Karen said...

I connected to your blog through a comment you made on my sister's blog. $11 per gallon for gas!!!!? I remember when it was just over $4 in Scotland, and I was having fits and feeling glad we didn't have to drive far. Now it is that much here (in Canada)and you just have to live with it.

I am fascinated by your ship stories. I have always loved ships and dream of a trip upon one. Somehow I have managed to cross-stitch six of them and have others waiting in the wings.

I am also, and always have been, an Enid Blyton fan, and am just now developing the love of her books in my daughter. I am so glad they have made them available again.


Linda said...

I hope you do write about those days Linds. What wonderful adventures.
I just finished reading a book that had a small part about the sea captains of the earlier centuries taking their wives and families with them. They would sometimes be gone for years and would get to see such amazing things.