Was Fate laughing at me on Monday when I journeyed through the ghost town of London and on three ghost trains to Tilbury docks, over on the Thames north shore, determined - Corona nightmare or not - to photograph the docks where 70 years ago to the day the family sailed off to the other side of the world.
|The liner Columbus ... lays where the famous old ship, Orontes, waited to take the family to the other side of the world seventy years before. The suggestion of fog seems suspiciously like Fate getting up to an old trick.|
I clutched my Kodak box Brownie, very unwilling to agree to parental prompts for it to go into our luggage.
Perhaps it was the early journalist in me, but the determined lad was going to photograph our mighty vessel, the 20,000-ton Orontes, as we left Noble Albion if it was the last thing he did.
‘Darling, it will be dark,’ my mother prompted. I pretended not to hear.
|The good ship Orontes ... The good ship Orontes which introduced me to life at sea, and probably ensured that in adulthood I'd become a singlehanded Cape Horner.|
A busy metropolis
In 1950, the Orontes resembled a busy metropolis with crowds of migrators weighed down with luggage searching for their cabins.
Soon a steward guided us - paying passengers - to our place on board.
Once we had our cabins, I decided, I’d be up on deck putting that gorgeous Brownie of mine through its paces.
I was shown my bunk. Wonderful. I sat on it. What would Long John Silver say of it, I wondered. How comfortable after the seemingly long, long journey from Southampton.
|Tickets, please ... Still here after seventy years, passengers pass through the terminal on their way to the oceans of the world. How odd it feels to see it all looking much the same almost a lifetime later.|
Pillars of Hercules
My first voyaging memory after that disappointment is my father waking me to show me the Pillars of Hercules, close to Gibraltar.
Of my junior passion for photography, though, I had not one shot of the departure.
Of course, that made me far more determined seven decades later to take quite a few photographs of the departure port.
No smart camera this time, it’s true, but surely no possible intervention by cynical Fate either.
Shock, horror ...
I walked from the station to the port and put my admittedly rather vintage Windowsphone to work.
Back at home, I offered the historic shots to the computer. Shock, horror, Photoshop revealed that a heavy fog must have covered the port.
Fate hadn’t forgotten. I often put memos to myself on masking tape which I stick to the back of the phone. I’ve done it for years.
Somehow, on possibly my last visit in life to this important staging post, somehow, a corner of the paper tape had stuck to an edge of the phone's camera lens. Fate, no doubt.
Words that hopefully a seven-year-old might have been a stranger to followed.
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