Thursday 31 October 2019

Labour party policy

"You'll work thirty-two hours,
But will not be paid less."
This is Jeremy's claim,
For a path to success.

In effect, it's a wage hike
Of twenty percent.
To screw up our country?
Is that his intent?

It means that the price
Of our products will soar.
Those who might have bought British
Would have to pay more.

Our economy -
How can this make it grow bigger?
I don't get the logic.
Please someone, go figure.

Sunday 20 October 2019

Britannia's Glory extract - Singing, dancing and recreation

Singing, dancing and recreation

Setting off in any craft
Takes coordinated graft:
The sails must first be hoisted, and then hung.
Prior to progress' being made,
The anchor must be weighed,
And when ropes were hauled, a shanty would be sung.

There was thus a rhythmic guide,
As huge effort was applied,
And the songs would always fit the task in hand.
The "Shantyman" would call,
A reply would come from all.
The lyrics spoke of booze, girls - and dry land.

On their schooner or their brig,
Sailors oft performed a jig.
The hornpipe took more energy than grace.
A partner's needed not...
You can do it on the spot,
So it suits the lack of women, and of space.

Tars always wore hard shoes,
To dance away the blues,
And to life on board their movements would equate.
A shading hand there'd be,
As though looking out to sea,
Plus the rubber legs that feigned a seaman's gait.

A boatswain's not heard, is he?
When life on board gets busy,
So he'll use a pipe - its sound can't be ignored.
The most basic of his calls,
Was in regulating hauls,
But it's used these days for welcoming aboard.

Playing card games such as euchre,
One might win a bit of lucre:
To make a lot of tricks would do the job.
Some to board games are more suited,
Though the rules seem convoluted;
Uckers uses tactic like the "blob".

When in work there was a lull,
Life on whalers could be dull,
And for occupation, many had a craving.
The patient man would hone,
His skills in carving bone,
And produce the most elaborate engraving.

Scrimshaw is the word,
By which this work's referred,
The first piece dates from 1817.
By candlelight from dusk,
Men would scratch a tooth or tusk,
Or use the stuff we've met before - baleen.

There were short and long drag shanties for rope pulling, and 'capstan' or 'windlass' shanties for raising and lowering the anchor. When sailors were relaxing in their quarters (the fore bitts or the forecastle), they would sing ballads or humorous songs for entertainment.
   The crews of warships were not permitted to perform tasks to work songs (shanties) 
   In rough weather, visiting senior officers were hoisted aboard by 'side boys' using a 'bosun's chair'. The pipe is now used ceremoniously to welcome aboard flag officers and VIPs.
   Pronounced 'you-ker', this game for four players was responsible for introducing the joker into packs of cards.
   Uckers is a board game for two or four players and is similar to, but more complicated than, ludo.
   Hull museums have the best collection of scrimshaw in Britain. Originally done using the by-products of whales and other marine mammals, the first recorded decorative piece of sperm whale was recorded in 1817, though the practice dates back to the mid-18th century. Soot, tobacco juice or candle black were used to highlight the etched design.
   (Cross reference to verses on whaling and baleen given.)
HMS Warspite cadets dancing the hornpipe, 1928
Scrimshaw depicting HMS Royal George, c.1759

Sunday 13 October 2019

Britannia's Glory extract - Plimsoll Line

Over the next few weeks, this blog spot will be featuring extracts from "Britannia's Glory - A Maritime Story". Each page of that book has verse in the left hand column, and explanatory notes and illustrations in the right hand column. As this format is difficult to replicate here, the explanatory prose, and any pictures, will feature below the verse.
The index has been amended to show all previous book extracts as a single category. These do not, as yet, include the relevant notes.

Plimsoll Line

If it carries too much freight,
A ship is overweight,
And too deeply in the water is immersed.
To stay buoyant, the propensity
Depends on water density,
And on how the onboard cargo is dispersed.

Before a ship embarks,
The captain checks two marks:
For the prevalent conditions these are coded.
He'll have done some careful thinking
To prevent his craft from sinking -
Which was happening, when ships were overloaded.

If you ever thought of him,
It was maybe during gym,
And prompted by those shoes you had to wear.
Samuel Plimsoll's name they bore.
It was he who pushed the law,
That forced owners into taking better care.

Through persistence and concern,
All the credit he would earn,
But it wasn't really his idea at all.
From the history books deposed,
The idea was first proposed
By a ship owner from Newcastle, James Hall.

The new mark must be visible.
What happened next was risible.
It did not prevent ships crammed full to the gunwales.
It had not been specified
Where the line should be applied,
And sometimes it was painted on the funnels.

Parliament had appointed a committee in 1836 to investigate the growing number of shipwrecks, and the Marine department of the Board of Trade was created in 1850 to enforce the laws governing the manning, crew competence and operation of merchant vessels. However, the government avoided direct interference with ship owners.
   Still widely used today, the Plimsol mark is located midship on both sides of the hull. It indicates safe levels for various conditions. For example, 'TF' stands for 'Tropical Fresh Water', and 'WNA' for 'Winter North Atlantic'. The marks are one inch wide.
   Overloaded, and often heavily insured, vessels were referred to as 'coffin ships'!
   Samuel Plimsol (1824-1898) pushed through the Unseaworthy Ships Bill (1876).
   Where the marks should be wasn't initially specified - a loophole that was used by unscrupulous owners until 1894, when the positioning of the line was fixed.
   Pronounced 'gunnels', the original meaning of the word (15th century) was probably 'gun walls' ie the upper edge of a ship's side.

Plimsoll marks

Friday 23 August 2019

The Liberal "Democrats" and Brexit

Though their title includes the word "democrat",
This must surely intend to deceive.
To quit the EU?
The MAJORITY view,

Do they stand by THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE?
No. They think people's judgement was flawed.
Would they EVER take note
Or, like now, say it must be ignored?

Democracy. That's how we run things.
Democracy here must stay strong.
It's been put to the test,
But the Lib Dems know best,
And believe that the outcome was wrong.

So, regardless of what Britain's chosen,
They have opted to say it ain't right.
They've viewed with derision,
The public's decision
And, behind it, refuse to unite.

Not everyone wants to see Brexit.
But, like it or not, it is REAL.
So the best thing to do,
Is to help see it through,
And work hard to secure a GOOD DEAL.

We have quite a number of parties:
There's a big storm to weather,
So let's stand together,
And do our great country a favour.

Sunday 14 July 2019

Britannia's Glory - A Maritime Story

British fishermen, crusaders,
Explorers, smugglers, traders,
Inventors, convicts, settlers in the hold.
Pirates, shipwrights, whalers,
And our navies' trusted sailors:
Presented here, in verse, their history's told.

This patriotic book was published in the UK on 29th March 2019, the date Brexit was due to happen, but didn't! It is now widely available from certain bookshops (in stock or to order), and from on-line retailers.

It will be published in the USA on 15th August 2019.

It covers a bigger range of topics than any maritime history ever written - please check it out:                                 

Below are links to extracts previously featured on this blog spot although, in addition to the verses, the book itself contains numerous accompanying illustrations and explanatory side notes:

The mystery of Mary Celeste, 1872

The Boston Tea Party, 1773

Grace Darling

Operation Chariot - the raid on St Nazaire

Friday 22 March 2019

Baa Baa Maritime Sheep - one week to go

Baa baa Brexit sheep,
Just one week to go?
No Sir, no Sir, that's not so.
We might now leave in April,
We might now leave in May,
Or our exit could take longer. . .
Who on earth's to say?

So baa baa maritime sheep,
Is your book affected?
No, the date is as expected.
Leaving Europe is shambolic
And a complicated mess,
But the book is still on schedule,
And has gone to press.

Britannia's Glory - A Maritime Story will be published next Friday 29th March 2019:

Friday 8 March 2019

Baa Baa Maritime Sheep - 3 weeks to go

Baa baa maritime sheep,
Of what are you afraid?
That Brexit, Sir, will be delayed.
My book is being published,
It tells of Britain's pride.
And the date we're leaving Europe's
Due to coincide.

Britannia's Glory - A Maritime Story will be published on Friday 29th March 2019:

Friday 1 March 2019

Baa Baa Brexit Sheep - 4 weeks to go

Baa baa Brexit sheep,
Only four weeks more!
Feel confused and quite unsure.
We're facing isolation,
And our future isn't known,
But it wouldn't be the first time
That we've stood alone.

Let me introduce you to Baa Baa Maritime Sheep. (S)he is going to be taking over from me next week, with some news to share. M x

Friday 22 February 2019

Baa Baa Brexit Sheep - 5 weeks to go

Baa baa Brexit sheep
Tell me what you think.
We and Europe aren't in sync.
France is after fishing rights.
The Spanish want "their" rock...
And free movement's the agenda
Of the Eastern bloc.

Under UNCLOS (The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), island nations remain entitled to an EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) not exceeding 200 nautical miles. Britain is an island nation:

British trawlers fishing up the Seine?

Friday 15 February 2019

Baa Baa Brexit Sheep - 6 weeks to go

Baa baa Brexit sheep
Where is Mrs May?
In hot pursuit, Sir, of Plan A.
That this isn't really working
Is plain for all to see.
So what is going to happen
When there's no Plan B?

Sunday 10 February 2019

I think I'll return as a tortoise

I think I'll return as a tortoise,
And carry my home on my back.
I could move to wherever I wanted,
Without ever needing to pack.

I think I'll return as a tortoise.
Shunning workouts would be no disgrace.
No more rushing around in a frenzy:
Simply life at a leisurely pace.

I think I'll return as a tortoise.
These creatures sure know a good thing.
They fall fast asleep in the autumn,
And don't wake up until it is spring.

Friday 8 February 2019

Baa Baa Brexit Sheep - 7 weeks to go

Baa baa Brexit sheep
Tell me how you feel.
Worried, Sir, there'll be no deal.
The British are divided,
The issues all seem fudged:
And, despite our PM's efforts,
Europe hasn't budged.