Category: Retrospective

Rest in Peace

Last night my mother passed on. And at the moment I am still processing it all but want to add some thoughts before I head off to work. I have been mulling over this post for a long time though, and now that the time has come to write it I don’t know what to say. 

Mum and her parents

She was born in 1928,  the fifth child of six in the family, and the 3rd daughter. As a child she lived in Bethlehem with her family and was educated there and had her formative years there. Bethlehem was a railway town and they all lived in railway houses close to the station (aka The Railway Camp) . She had a hard life as money was scarce, jobs were poorly paid and to crown it all  and the world was preparing itself for another world wide cataclysm. I do not know the circumstances behind how she met my father, but they married in Port Elizabeth in 1954 and my brother was born there in 1955. They moved to Johannesburg a few years later and I was born in that city in 1961. 

A lifetime passed, punctuated by the death of her husband on 7 November 1981, which unfortunately was also her birthday.  By 1985 the 3 of us had all gone in different directions, although we were generally in visiting distance and my brother and I spent Sunday mornings with her right up till I left for the UK in 2013. She moved into a small council run complex many years ago and stayed there for 23 years until ill health and her increasing inability to take care of herself resulted in us having to put her into frail care in 2017. I saw her in 2017 and again in February of 2019 and to be honest knew that the inevitable was close. Sadly she was a prisoner in her own body by 2017 and had become increasingly belligerent and bitter. Putting her in frail care was not an easy decision to make, but we had no other choice. She was unable to live on her own anymore. She was a widower for longer than she was married.

Naturally all manner of questions go through your mind when you have an elderly parent who ends up in her situation, and there is an element of guilt involved. Did we make the right choice? it was our only choice, there were no other options. Was she happy there? she admitted that she hated it, but then she did not want to be there in the first place and had been angry since before we had her taken into frail care. The guilt will remain I am afraid. 

However, her life has passed, and she was the last of her siblings to pass on. I hope that she is re-united with her family and husband and that she finds peace away from the suffering and never ending days trapped in her body. The strange thing is that my brother and I have known that it was inevitable, it was just a question of when. Now that it is over I think we both need closure.

A service will be held for her on either the 18th of this month and I will be flying down for the service. I said my goodbyes in February already and I knew I would never see her alive again. My brother says she died peacefully of natural causes, and was taken care of until it was no longer needed. 

Rest in Peace Mum. The pair of us left behind will carry on until our turn comes and then we will join you I hope, although I expect you will have a few words to say about us being late. And if you see Dad tell him that we missed him, just like you did. 

DRW © 2019. Created 02/10/2019. 

Updated: 04/10/2019 — 16:57

Farewell Oriana

*Update: 16/08/2019.*

Today Oriana sailed from Southampton under her new name “Piano Land”. Stripped of her new P&O corporate branding she headed off to an uncertain future in China. It is possible she will be very successful in her new role and only time will tell. Fair weather and safe seas for your future Oriana. You will not be forgotten.  

The images below are all courtesy of Steve Carrett and are used with permission. 

Destored and with her new name on her bows, Oriana is ready to leave

Aurora is berthed behind Oriana as she makes ready to sail

That last glimpse of a great ship

Steve Carrett shot this video of her departure.

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* end update*

Ships are strange things, they  are sometimes regarded with fondness by those who sail in them, and there are plenty of examples of that affection. I am sure that nobody really gives a hoot about a mass produced airliner, but a classic ship is a whole different ball game.  Sadly this month sees the withdrawal of one of the few remaining classic cruise ships left. It was announced that the Oriana was to be withdrawn and had been sold for service in China in August.

What makes her special is that she was built as a replacement for the legendary Canberra and incorporates aspects of her design in her structure.  While she does not have the wonderful curves of the Great White Whale, she was a worthy successor, becoming more popular each year and building up a legendary following.

Canberra in Durban

The logic behind her disposal is a puzzling one, and there are a few possible scenarios: she could be mechanically troublesome, she does not fit in with the Carnival Cruises group “image”, she is getting on in years (she was launched on 30 June 1994), there are not enough balcony cabins in her, etc. We are not privy to these decisions, but we sure as heck can condemn them. 

My own association with the ship dates from 1997 when I undertook a short hop from Durban to Cape Town on her and I was also able to work on her as a baggage handler back in 2013. It was never fun to work on board her when doing baggage because you literally worked yourself to a standstill. 

A VOYAGE ON THE ORIANA.
 22-03-97 to 24-03-97. Durban-Cape Town

The announcement that Canberra would be replaced by a new ship was greeted with much dismay by everybody. The concept vessel shown to the media was criticised as being too much like a wedding cake and too little like Canberra. She was built by Joseph Meyer of Papenburg, Germany and entered service in 1995. Soon it was announced that this ship, known as Oriana, would be calling in Durban during her 1997 world cruise. The time had come for us to sail again. I was one of the first South Africans to book the short Durban to Cape Town trip, I phoned as the voyage was made available. Needless to say I took what I could get! The berth that I chose was a shared 4 berth inside cabin. This berth was guaranteed but I would only know my cabin number once the ship arrived, something that would play in my favour once she was in Durban.

Then it was time to wait and watch the exchange rate. The ship was due in Durban on 22 March, arriving in Cape Town on 24 March, a short 1 day and two night hop. By now Rudi had booked as well and we started counting the days.

Postcard view of the Oriana shortly after she entered service

As the sailing grew closer I decided that I would return to Durban on Symphony just for fun and went ahead and booked that as well. Now I had two ships to look forward to and an empty bank account.

Early in the morning, on Friday the 21st we departed on the long drive to Durban. Howard was at the helm and for once we made the trip down in daylight! The problem was that the grotty weather was coming too and we hit the usual rain at Van Reenen and all the way to Durban. Duly arriving we headed off for lunch on board the 40000 ton container ship, MSC Samia. before dropping Rudi and his girl friend off at their sleeping place. The rest of us made for the tug Jannie Oelofsen where we would be spending the night. There were not too many movements on the go and yet they were all very interesting.
 
Our last movement was to a ship which seemed really decrepit, its lines could not reach the quayside and she was having engine problems. On arrival back at the tug jetty we found Ken Malcolm, who joined Neville and Clive Bush on the pilot boat while Howard and I hopped on to the tug. The pilot boat headed out to sea to drop off a pilot at Symphony and one at Oriana. Our tug was allocated to Oriana, and with the weather finally clearing, we awaited our first glimpse of this great ship. Symphony waddled in first, looking as great as ever but she was soon to be overwhelmed by what was astern of her.
Our first sight of Oriana was of a huge white ship which really was not attractive when foreshortened. However, once she was in view and had turned completely then only could we appreciate her. She was huge, dazzling white and perfectly trimmed onto her waterline. Equipped with three bow thrusters, twin screws, twin rudders and a stern thruster, she berthed herself while the tugs stood off in awe. As far as I remember she was the second biggest cruise ship to enter Durban (QE2 was the biggest)
 
Dropped off by the tug we quickly collected the guys and we headed for the ship. There was no doubt that she was big, she towered over everything in sight and made Symphony look like a toy. We headed down to the gangway where I attempted to get the guys on board as Rudi had not organised a ship visit. There was no luck in that department, however I was taken on board to get my cabin number and booked in as well. I now had a boarding pass and could come and go as I pleased. I got off again and we all went around to Symphony to look at her, alas there was no visit organised either. Time was passing, and the smell of food was rather urgent so I said my farewells to everybody and headed for my newest ship….
 
The entrance is on F deck where the reception desk and bottom of the 5 deck atrium is situated. The carpets are a light green colour and a fountain gurgles behind the staircase. One deck up are  the shops with the Peninsular restaurant midships and Oriental restaurant aft. The next deck has a spectacular wrap around promenade as well as the Pacific lounge, Lords Tavern, Harlequins lounge, the casino, Andersons with its club like atmosphere, and the really spectacular Theatre Royal. D deck houses the children’s playrooms, Chaplains Cinema, library, The Crichton complex and passenger cabins.
 
The next three decks are devoted solely to cabins with the Lido deck right on top of all of these. Here is found the conservatory where the buffet is served. The two pools are on this deck as well as the gym. The deck surrounding this area has a jogging track around the ship while the entrance to the Crows Nest is found forward. There are three sets of lifts in the ship and they all work!. The terrace pool is situated on the promenade deck aft and the view from the sun deck down to the stern where this pool is, is really spectacular. The massive buff funnel crowns the whole package and is easily recognisable for miles.
The images below were taken in 2013 with my cellphone and I make no excuses for quality.
Surprisingly enough, the ship, in-spite of its size is relatively simple to find your way around. My cabin was on E deck and the number two staircase was just around the corner. Inside, the cabin was small but neat. There were three other guys in the cabin, one of whom was on his sixth world cruise and who had been on since Southampton. There was a fridge, TV, mini-safe and every other amenity imaginable in that cabin. The missing porthole was not really a problem. Once on deck, I watched Symphony sail and as she passed I could almost look down her funnel. By the time we sailed it was late and the light was failing and it looked like rain was brewing again. The wind howled us off the decks and we all headed below. There was very little vibration or motion on board and it was very difficult to think that you were on board a ship.
Being such a big ship, there is never any feeling of crowds of people, in fact I wonder how full she really was? There was quite a bit to do on board, bars to visit, shops to ogle, movies to attend and of course food to scoff. I had eaten lunch at the conservatory and if it was any indication of the standard of service on board then we were really in for a treat. I was not disappointed as we sat down for supper in the Peninsular restaurant.
The service was brilliant with two very articulate and polite stewards catering for our every need. There was food galore, in fact too much food for one sitting as far as I am concerned. However it was dispatched with great gusto and we all retired that night feeling somewhat bloated. More food awaited us at breakfast, again in the conservatory. The place was so big that It never really was crowded and the queues were quite small.
Our next visit was to reception where we enquired whether it was possible to present our World Ship Society plaque to the master. After some phone calls we were told that we would be informed, so off we scuttled, meeting at the jacuzzi. We spent the morning eating ice cream in the jacuzzi with a howling wind around us. On arrival back at the cabin I discovered that our visit to the master was scheduled for 11H30 and it was 11H20 already. Needless to say I could not find Rudi and I had some quick explaining to do to the captain’s secretary. The visit was rescheduled for later that day and off we went for more food! Lunch over, we were introduced to the master and presented our plaque. I was also able to grab a pic from her bridge wing, and as you can see the weather was improving. 
Once we finished off there it was as if we had accomplished all that had to be done and the rest of the time I spent on a deck chair on that glorious promenade watching the sea go by. After all, isn’t that what sea travel is all about?
 
The next morning it was up early to watch the approach to Cape Town. We passed Cape Point around 06H30 but there were clouds around everything and we could not see very much. We entered Cape Town harbour about 08H30, the tugs were spraying water and on the quayside a band played stirring nautical type tunes.
This time Oriana had lines on the tugs and she did not berth herself. A mediocre crowd awaited us as we slowly started our disembarkation. Once off the ship I met up with my lift and we went to drop my luggage before heading out to town. The ship dominated everything and we could see that huge funnel for miles.
That night in cold weather the Oriana took her leave, sailing slowly past us as we stood at the quayside, her lights were all burning and the funnel glowed in the spotlights. As she dropped the pilot I could see the tiered decks that overlooked the terrace pool. I had stood there not too long ago, now it was over and Oriana was on her way home. I had another ship to catch the next day, but would anything ever compare? somehow I doubted it. The Symphony may be a great ship, but she is not in the same league as Oriana was.
Southampton 2013.
I saw Oriana many times in Southampton, and the biggest difference that I saw was a “ducktail” that had been added to her stern. It did not enhance her looks at all and you could see it was an afterthought. I worked baggage on her one day and snuck away at lunch time and took the pics you see above. It was like visiting an old friend, she was familiar, but not as familiar. I never thought that I would see her leaving P&O at such a young age and I really hoped that one day I would be able to do another short voyage on her. My shipwatch entry for Oriana may be found here.  
 
Farewell Oriana, long may you still be with us and may you care for those who sail in you the way you always did. Safe harbours and fair weather in your voyages. You will be missed. 
 
 

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DRW © 2019. Created 25/07/2019. Updated 17/08/2019.  Last sailing images courtesy of Steve Carrett. 
Updated: 09/09/2019 — 10:28

We’ve landed on the moon!

Today (20 July 2019) we celebrate that “Giant Leap for Mankind” that happened on 20 July 20, 1969, at 20:17 UTC.  Conspiracy lovers please leave now as this post may offend. 

It is hard to believe that 50 years ago Neil Armstrong trod boldly where mankind had never been before, and since the cessation of the Apollo program we have never been back. 

I was 8 years old when this amazing event happened around me, and unlike most of the world we never saw it happen live due to the “verkrampte” policies and mindset of the National Party who “governed” South Africa at the time. TV had still not arrived in the country so we really had to rely on the print media and the newsreels at the bioscope if we wanted to see footage. Like most kids back then I wanted to be an astronaut (Actually I wanted to be a sailor but that’s another story), little knowing what an astronaut was or did. All we knew was they rode in ginormous spaceships and popped into space and occasionally rescued scantily clad women from tentacled aliens. That was the theory at any rate, and poor eyesight, mathematics and citizenship ensured that I stood zero chance of making it anyway. 

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From a technology point of view the moon landings were one heck of an achievement, and I think global citizens thought that colonisation of the moon and outer space would follow in short thrift. Unfortunately the Apollo program only ran until December 1972 and once it ceased so our exploration of the lunar surface ceased too, and the success of the Space Shuttle was almost an anticlimax.  Apart from the men who were killed in Apollo 1 (Command Pilot Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee) and the near disaster of Apollo 13,  it was a successful program, albeit a very expensive successful program.

Apollo 11 crew: left to right are: Neil A. Armstrong, Commander; Michael Collins, Module Pilot; Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Lunar Module Pilot

The list of things that could go wrong is a long one, and we are fortunate that everything worked and that we are all alive here to celebrate. There were schools of thought that considered that the moon would crash down on earth if we landed on the moon, or that we would bring back some strange microbe from space and let it loose on earth by accident. Science fiction is a wonderful genre to read and watch, but nothing like our reality. We never did colonise our moon or launch manned missions beyond the moon, although there have been many successful unmanned missions that have exceeded their original parameters and continue to provide tantalising glimpses of our galaxy. 

The question is often asked whether we would/should go back to the moon. Personally I think we have more important issues to solve on our home planet, and climate change is the biggest of these. Our spaceship Earth is a  small fragile place  when viewed from the “magnificent desolation” of the moon, and we really need to concentrate on fixing it for the billions instead of expending vast amounts of money to send a few men or women to the moon.

View of Moon limb with Earth on the horizon, This image was taken before separation of the LM and the Command Module during Apollo 11 Mission.

Technology-wise we could probably build the hardware but the paperwork, risk assessments and amount of managers and bean counters needed would make the Apollo program look small.  Besides, it is easier and cheaper to send probes and drones to do the dangerous work for us, piloted by some hotshot gamer geek who can “make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs”. Let’s face it, landing man on the moon in in the 2000’s just does not have the same impact as it did 50 years ago. 

Let us remember this achievement for what it was and ignore the conspiracists who say it never happened. Let us remember the courage of those 3 men who were so far from home and help that they were certainly doomed had too many things gone wrong. Let us remember the day the world stood in awe as we took that giant leap. And let us hope that one day long in the future people will see that landing site once again and I suspect that selfies would happen, like buttons would be pressed, statuses would be updated and vapid celebs will realise that in the grand scheme of things their contribution to our planet is zero, and that walking on the moon is way, way cooler. 

DRW © 2019. Created on the 50th anniversary of the moon landings.  Images are property of NASA and are not copyrighted but freely available for use. Images from https://www.nasa.gov/specials/apollo50th/index.html More information from  https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/guidelines/index.html

Updated: 21/07/2019 — 06:58
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