Heck of a life being in the Merchant Navy. Technically, having been a deckhand for about an hour last week, I’m almost qualified to comment. Tough, lonely and adventurous is how the job spec reads. Nine month stretch of duty, 24 hour stop offs at each port, amazing sea views 24/7. The crew weren’t ones to muck about with either, couple of them looked like they could crush skulls with their fingertips – one of them was easily the biggest man I have ever talked to in my life. Apparently there is increasing risk of piracy in the industry – pirates take heed – bullets will not stop this man.
In stark contrast to every single other member of the 20 crew on board, I was different in that I had absolutely no functional use whatsoever. Vets generally don’t seem to feature in essential personnel required to load heavy machinery onto a goliath cargo vessel. They took my presence in good humour and as I was bustled into the hold with Pete, my sign writer friend, Pete frantically set to work applying a few last minute sponsor logos to the truck of power before the ship set sail with us locked in the hold. My role entailed trying to take the odd picture – which I did until my camera was politely taken away by a giant.
Nothing like leaving things to the last minute, and besides, great chance to pretend to be a hardened dockhand for a morning. Although having expected to see flagons of rum dotted around the place, I was a bit disappointed to find anything other than high res visibility jackets and clip boards. The modern age.
So ‘The Beast’ is now at sea, getting braced for a visit to Indian customs in about 5 weeks. It’s been a frantic couple of weeks doing the UK tour – as the attached picture no doubt depicts – but now it’s a moment of respite for the Mission Rabies Team, a deep drawing of breath before the madness begins. The countdown has started and we’re poised for the event of power.
Talking of which, Noah’s first Sport Day was an event of power. He did great, it was a brilliant day, but there was definite pressure for the Fathers Race – centre billing on the programme of events. I lined up in the mix, eyeballing the dentist to my left, an accountant to my right and another Dad who I assumed was in the Special Forces. Small ball clamped between by knees, got to be careful how I describe this bit, we lined up ready to go.
‘Mr Gamble, can you get behind the white line please.’ Was the first comment to echo over the assembled crowd.
Seriously, I was not over that white line – but not wanting to make a spectacle of myself, I eased back – a fraction.
I lurched forward, twisting my shoulders to block the accountant who made a leap to match mine. It was all out war, honour for our sons who were cheering madly as we surged forward, hopping like frenzied rabbits, clamping our balls tightly between our knees. No prisoners, no mercy.
The dentist was good, but I was better, he tripped, I saw him roll into the path of three other Dad’s blocking their way. I was in the lead, it was a moment, unlike any other sports day I have ever attended – and then it happened. The ball slipped from my knees and the accountant surged back. I scrabbled around for the ball, hopping once again for the finish line. It was a close finish; I didn’t see it because my face was screwed up with the effort of hopping and trying to breathe without dropping my ball – again. No winner was officially declared – can’t imagine why. The accountant probably got it to be honest and there was guy I have seen in the bank who was definitely up there – but you can’t take these things seriously enough. I wanted a rematch.
No one heard me though. I think it was because the Special Forces guy was laughing too loudly somewhere in the distance. Never mind, there’s always next year….