Month: September 2016

It’s all about the box

On Friday a machine arrived at my desk for repair; this machine is quite large so has a really big box. When I opened it my retro alarm went off because it was festooned with “children’s artwork”.

I could just image a child sitting inside that box with a permanent marker and drawing all these strange stick figures and having a blast while doing it.  There was even a flower cut out on one of the flaps.

There is no real way to positively say that it was done by a boy or a girl. Although the flower makes me think it was a girl. If it had been a boy the flower would have probably been a car or a gun! 

So what am I trying to say here? it is simple really, when I was young a large box was a gold mine of fun for young children, your imagination could run riot and that box could become anything you wanted it to be: a car, a house, a fortress, the cockpit of a fast jet, or the bridge of a spaceship. You were only really limited by your imagination and the mutters of your mother about how that box was taking up space. In my case the box would have been associated with a ship or an aircraft, and I do recall the large box that the TV came in ended up providing me with many days of amusement until it was relegated to the dustbin. However, boxes are still fun, even 50 years later!

Cats understand this concept very well. 

As children we were very tactile in our play, anything could become something as long as we allowed it to. Sticks became swords or assault rifles, sheets became ghost costumes and nets to trap tigers with, pieces of paper became a place to expand our drawing capability on, even though the houses that we drew all had windows in the top corners and chimneys with a spiral of smoke coming out of them. I know I always wrestled with how to draw wings on aircraft, and I am afraid my stick men all looked like stick men. 

Play was something we indulged in at school and after school, and we ranged far and wide because we could. Close to where I lived was an industrial area and we used to pester the printers for paper off cuts, or root around in the dumpster at the local sweet manufacturers. A shopping trolley was something we really aspired to because it had wheels that could be used to make go-carts with, or pushed around at breakneck speed just for the heck of it. My brother and I had a go-cart that was purchased from some budding childhood entrepreneur  and we used to laboriously push it up the hill close to where I lived and then hurtle down that hill until we were covered in bruises and scrapes from the numerous falls that we took.

As somebody that read a lot I was naturally drawn to the work of Enid Blyton and her “Secret Seven” and “Famous Five” books. I could not understand how we could not form something like that where I lived, it did seem a lot more interesting than playing rugby or shooting birds. The problem really came down to the fact that the society and era I was growing up in was very different from that in the UK where the books were being played out; there were no mysteries to be solved in my neighbourhood.  

Somewhere along the line we stopped playing, and I suspect it was really when we entered high school. I remember standing with a group of primary school classmates on the rugby fields on the first day at our high school and seeing groups of boys, none of whom were playing. By the 3rd year of high school I was listening to pop music and reading even more than before, and doing endless amounts of homework that took up most of the hours between home time and bedtime. There was no more time to visit friends or engage in an impromptu battle with Germans or aliens. Long sums and compositions as well as reams of material to be summarised and illustrated left us with no time for anything else. Play was forgotten and school work became the norm.

Today tactile play has been replaced by a small screen with small buttons and imagination has been shunted to the side. Children spend way too much time clustered around visual stimulation instead of getting out there and doing stuff! 

The point I am trying to make with this seemingly nonsensical post is that I really miss play. It is probably why I still have a lot of toys as an adult. I collect all manner of strange things and enjoy adding to my vast collection of stuff that I missed out on as a child. Many adults feel the same way and today colouring books are becoming very popular with adults, although given how anal we can be the pictures will all be coloured perfectly.

Part of my previous collection

Part of my previous collection

That box with its strange stick people drawn in it was fun to see, and I am hanging onto it as long as I can, for all you know it may be the portal to another dimension populated by strange stick people with stick dogs and houses with windows in the far corners. I know I shall have fun meeting them there.

DRW © 2016-2019. Created 25/09/2016

That last voyage across the harbour

In March 1990 a group of us went down to Durban to see the arrival of the Cunard cruise ship Vistafjord arrive. By way of explanation, I was a member of what was then the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society. We would occasionally go down to Durban over a weekend to see ships. Many times it was to see a specific vessel with a visit organised, and it would usually incorporate a trip out on the pilot boat or one of the tugs. Most of the vessels we visited are listed on my ship visit book page at allatsea. These were the days of film so we were limited by how many pics we could take which depended on how much film we had or could afford to process. It was an expensive exercise, and I shot mostly slide film back then and conversions to digital media is not always successful. 

The subject of this post is about a short voyage we made across the harbour on board the dedger Ribbok. She was in her last days, and was laid up at the Ocean Terminal awaiting disposal. The berth she was in had to be vacated for Vistafjord, and we were “in the area” when the pilot arrived. He was an amiable Dutch guy and usually tolerated our puppy dog eyed pleading and would allow us on board.

On sea trials. (Image by Pete Bower)

On sea trials. (Image by Pete Bower)

Ribbok was a diesel electric suction dredger, built by Alexander Stephen & Sons Glasgow as Yard No 698, she was launched on 11 November 1961 and registered in Durban.  She was of 4594 grt, 1726 net, 5120 dwt. and just over 110 metres long with a beam of 18 metres and draught of just over 5,4 metres. (

She was a regular sight in Durban and I would have loved to have spent a day on her, but dredgers are working vessels and really would have not been an ideal way to spend a day. 

Entering the harbour after a days work

Entering the harbour after a days work

Ribbok alongside

We boarded Ribbok and took up position, I no longer recall where, but we always kept out of the way of the crew or pilots during their work on a ship. The lines were singled and we were soon on our way, dead ship, with a tug at the bow and possibly the stern. The pilot remarked that the poor old girl was in a poor condition and that was obvious from the many rusted areas and plated over decking.

A last voyage

The vessel literally on top of the tug is the Estrella Do Mar, a small ferry that used to run up towards Zanzibar and Mozambique, she ended up in Durban in later years and we always hoped she would do coastals but that never happened. 

Then we were tied up alongside and we disembarked. We all felt saddened to see this stalwart like this, but unfortunately like so many ships before her there comes a time when she has to sail away forever. Ribbok had very little time left, she was broken up in July 1990 at Alang.

The replacement for Ribbok was the RE Jones, and amongst my images is an image of her alongside Ribbok. 

Bibbok inboard, RE Jones outboard

Bibbok inboard, RE Jones outboard

Unfortunately the scanner chopped off the bows of the pair but in the background you can see the Achille Lauro in her short lived StarLauro livery which puts this image at December 1989. I don’t think Ribbok ever wore the new corporate livery and had her SAR&H funnel livery till the end.

RE Jones underway in Durban

RE Jones underway in Durban

And what about Vistafjord? I have to admit I did find her somewhat of a disappointment, and I only really appreciated her when I saw her as Saga Ruby in Southampton in 2013.

Vistafjord arriving in Durban. march 1990


Saga Ruby sailing from Southampton 2013

And so our short voyage slipped away into memory, to resurface during a discussion at our tug group. Good memories, but a sad one too.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 15/09/2016

Remember 11 September

It was in 2012 that I made my last 9/11 commemorative post, and it is hard to believe that so many years have passed since that post. A new building rising 541 metres into the sky now stands where a pair stood before. The world has moved on and frankly since that day it has become fraught with danger, and in those few years since 2012 even more so. The question arises, is it more dangerous because of 9/11? or is it more dangerous because 9/11 was a conspiracy to make it more dangerous? The truth probably lies somewhere in between.   

As more time passes the conspiracy theorists are still out there waving their little black books full of suspects and blaming everybody left, right and centre. Do they have a case? I have to admit the truth is no longer as clear cut as we would like it to be. 15 Years have passed since that day, and that really equates to 15 years worth of theories, speculation and hearsay and very little truth. The social media boom has also contributed to the charnel house of disinformation. It really takes one idiot to expound on his favourite pet theory and suddenly we are awash with theories about aliens in watermelons with zombie henchmen. 

I do however feel that in the vast amount of publicity generated by the disaster (attacks? catastrophe? calamity?) many have lost sight of the bravery of those on the spot; the firemen, police officers, paramedics, first responders and ordinary people who turned around and offered their hands to a fellow human being; that takes courage, sitting at your computer late at night reading about aliens and zombies attacking with watermelons does not. How many conspiracists would go back into a structure to rescue lives? not too many I bet (unless that is a conspiracy).

We sit here in our glass bubbles and secretly hope that we will never have something like 9/11 happen to us. It may not happen to us, but it can and it will happen again: somewhere. 

The past two years have seen a lot of activity blamed on extremists or terrorists or any other label that you would like to call them. The fact does remain, if you give them publicity they will achieve their aim irrespective of whether their mission succeeds or not. It is in the nature of the beast that paranoia furthers the agenda of many of these groups, and leads to even more paranoia and even more conspiracists. 

I can recall watching the towers come down on TV 15 years ago, and thinking that history had reached a tipping point where things would really be on a downward slope unless the world took a long hard look at itself. The upcoming elections in the USA is frightening because of the acrimonious nature of the campaigns being run on both sides. A part of me wishes that one of the criteria on the ballot  paper in any election should be “None of the above. Try again”.  However, in some countries that option would not exist because the concept of elections does not exist.

So let us remember 9/11 today, let us remember the men and women that never came home, or the first responder who suffered from ptsd as a result of what they experienced, let us remember the crew and passengers who died in the aircraft, and let us remember the men and women who had to search through the carnage and process what was found. Let us remember the many ordinary people who did something. let us forget those who did this and who planned and benefited from this and may they find the judgement and punishment that they deserve.

Our world is so much more dangerous today, who is going to explain it to the children who will ask “why?” I know I certainly cannot.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 09/11/2016