Parting is such sweet sorrow...
One of the bittersweet moments when emigrating and traveling one way on a ship to a new land is leaving port. It is by far the most moving of all partings.
Although there was no one to see us off personally at Southampton in 1970 aboard the Northern Star on our ‘ten quid tourist’ cruise of five weeks to Australia, it was heartbreaking as the ship pulled away from the quay.
Everyone on board had gathered on the deck at the side nearest the dock, a brass band was playing very sentimental music and most passengers had thrown long paper streamers ashore to friends, family, loved ones, or just anyone.
As the ship very slowly pulled out the streamers gradually broke and signified in a very visual way the parting. I don’t think there was a dry eye on board and it has always remained vividly in my mind.
The most memorable port of call was Cape Town where we had a couple of days to explore and enjoy.
The Captain kept the ship a couple of miles out to sea until just before dawn when all passengers were called to muster on deck in the darkness.
The reason? – As the sun rose, it first hit the top of Table Mountain and worked its way slowly down the almost vertical face of it. - Unforgettable.
Then, it was a beautifully clean and fresh city (all that we were allowed to see of it obviously) but still under apartheid which was brought home in no uncertain terms.
One of the couples on board was of mixed race and had to wear ‘Honorary White’ badges during their excursions. I remember being in a taxi that accelerated towards an old black man crossing the road and blaring his horn while the driver cackled away.
On the other hand, going to the top of Table Mountain by cable car was exceptional, the view so wide we could actually see the curvature of the earth. wonderfully beautiful, and having seen it once it is something nobody could ever forget.
However, our short time there came to an end and we found ourselves once more at the dock, ready to leave and continue to our next port, Durban on the other side of South Africa.
But this was different, many of the original passengers had emigrated to South Africa and had left the ship there, and we had quite a few new passengers moving on to Australia.
As the ship pulled out again there was a brass band playing and hundreds of streamers as before.
This time two sisters, one who was staying in South Africa and one who was continuing to Australia decided to go one better and had tied a dozen or more pairs of tights together and tied them around each other’s wrists so that they would last longer than the paper streamers.
All good and well and it raised many smiles until the tights started stretching and as they did so the knots around the wrists grew tighter and the girls couldn’t disentangle themselves. As the one on shore was dragged inexorably towards the water the laughter turned to fear as the tights stretched more and more.
Everyone could see what would happen next.
There was no way in the world that a 25,000 ton ship could be instantly stopped from moving after the initial very slow momentum and several people holding on to the lass on the dock were making the situation even worse by stretching the material even more.
Thankfully at the very last minute, someone ran forward with a knife and managed to cut through the material and free the tie.
Eventful? - Certainly and a lesson learned.
On top of Table Top Mountain with Capetown far below. I could actually see the curvature of the earth!
26/1/2022 03:25:44 pm
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A blog, mostly about special moments and things that have happened in my life or events that I find special.
Most will be happy to know that they are NOT political!
Some are simple short memories, others more profound. They are all true however, no embelishment.
Let me try again
To Sir With Love
At The End of a Perfect Day
The Dark Island
Parting is such sweet sorrow
My first Hogmanay in Australia
One Christmas in Sydney 1994
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Peter A Bell