Thursday, February 14, 2008

D Is For Docks

Just When We Thought It Was All Shipshape

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


I was probably about five or six years old when I realised that my father had a bit of clout. Y'know. Leverage. We were driving past the docks to get to school when I caught sight of official signs at the entrance of the docks, where the guards stood. The sign was a stern reminder that any visitors needed to have the appropriate paperwork. No skylarking, in other words.

Each of the metal boards was signed "Traffic Manager, Calcutta Port Trust". My father was the traffic manager. I puffed my chest out. Hah - my father had official signs around the huge, sprawling dockyard and every sign bore his title. Big thing, when you're just a little tacker. Of course, the signs would have probably been posted years before my father became traffic manager, before his younger brother became docks manager - and are probably still there today, long after they relinquished those jobs.

But it was of supreme importance to me back then. I probably swaggered a bit on the playground that day. Okay, so swaggering's not my style, but maybe I assumed a slightly exaggerated air of self-importance.

But I already knew how important it was for everyone to have a dock pass. My Dad didn't need one because all the guards knew his car - and I guess because (in my mind at least) all those signs had been personally given the thumbs-up by him. But no one came and went without a dock pass. No one.

When I was seven, my older brother Brian, a merchant navy apprentice officer, was due back any day after his first voyage. He was seventeen and he'd been away a whole year, basically circumnavigating the globe. When I got back home from school, I remember Mum telling me that she'd had a call from one of the other Port Trust wives, saying that his ship, the Kohinoor, was at Sandheads, up the river, and was due to berth soon.

Mum figured Dad was keeping the arrival a secret so that he could bring Brian home in the car to a tumultuous welcome. (In case you're wondering, yes, that's just the sort of thing he would have done.)

But Mum was nothing if not resourceful. She had that steely look in her eye. "We're going to the docks," she announced.

So we took a taxi to the berths near Remount Road. Remember, Mum didn't have a dock pass. But we just walked through that gate and no one stopped us, no one challenged us, no one yelled out "Halt" and no one came running after us with the sound of hobnailed boots on the hot concrete. We walked up and down the forbidden territory, but there was no Kohinoor, nor anything that remotely resembled the Kohinoor.

Eventually Mum buttonholed a stevedore, who had a word to someone, who had a word to someone, who - oh, you get my drift, don't you? In short, we found out - reliably and accurately - that the Kohinoor was not expected to berth until the next morning. Slightly crestfallen, Mum and I turned towards the gate we had walked through so airily. This time we were stopped. And given the third degree.

Mum wasn't the sort of person to lose her cool. She just explained that she was looking for her son's ship. The guard's jaw dropped. He was befuddled by Mum's honesty when she said she was the traffic manager's wife. But he was also befuddled by her deliberate flouting of the law (Dad's law, remember) that every visitor had to have a dock pass, and no exceptions.

Could Mum prove who she was, asked the guard.

So, resourceful woman that she was, she reached into her handbag and pulled out a letter addressed to her. The guard now had incontrovertible proof that Mum was indeed who she claimed she was. He let us through and we took a taxi back home.

There was no hickory-dickory at the dock.

Check out the Loony Limerick Competition.

47 comments:

RuneE said...

"Sitting on the Dock of the bay..." :-)

daryl e said...

What a wonderful memory.. so did she do something extra special for your brother's homecoming?

AVCR8TEUR said...

The things we remember as a child is amazing. Your mum showed them who was boss at the end.

Monique said...

Lovely memory David ... My brother too was in the navy and I have lovely memories when he came home after months and months with all sorts of exotic presents.

dot said...

I enjoyed the story. Your Mom sounds like she was quite a character!
Beautiful picture also.

Max-e said...

Enjoyable anecdote David. Just gos to show its not what you knoow, but who you know and it helps if the who is your spouse

countrygirlcityliving said...

Hello David! I've been MIA (for good reason I promise) but wanted to let you know that I've given you an award on my site. I'm pretty sure you've received it before, in fact...I think this one was made for you. In any case, thank you for your continued inspiration and I look forward to chatting with you again soon.
Lindsay

Seamus said...

Pays to have connections!

Lana Gramlich said...

Very cool. I worked security for 14 years, so I know how sticky things can get. <:\

lime said...

quite a story. i can just imagine little david being so proud and his mum pulling the strings she needed as well...in a nice way of course.

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

That was a very delightful read David. I enjoyed it very much. I like your mother's style too. Something I think I would have done. Have a great day. :)

Berit said...

Lovely memory and picture!!!

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Will you be continuing this story tomorrow? It doesn't seem quite finished. :>

Thank you for visiting my humble blog; I always enjoy visitors!

Now you can see that I've come south for some fair summer weather in your corner of the globe. Except, your weather doesn't appear all that fair either.

Andrea said...

Wow, wonderful story. Thanks for sharing

Akelamalu said...

Lovely story David. Did your Dad cop it from your Mum when he got home? ;)

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

Priceless. I grew up within a literal stones throw of docks....trawlers, though!

Flassie's Fil'a said...

Such a fun memory.

LOL runee! It would
be nice to sit at the
Dock in the David's photo.

LOL about, no hickory-dickory
at the dock!

Thanks for stopping by yesterday
and the encouragement to keep the faith!

Have a Blessed Fun Happy
Creative Healthy Year!!!

A.Bananna said...

neat story!! Thanks for sharing it with all of us!!!!

have a great day!! :)

GoneBackSouth said...

It's tricky teaching your kids that they must follow the rules, except when the rules shouldn't apply, and that's a judgement call. Sounds like your Mum & Dad made a pretty good team.

p.s. Thanks for your offer to help me with my links to other sites - I think I've figured out what I did wrong!

imac said...

Thats a nice piece of memory you have there David, also very interesting reading.

Rosie said...

Good for her. A mum's gotta do what a mum's gotta do.

the mother of this lot said...

She sounds like a very determined lady!

KaiBlueCreations said...

Aloha David..
Your mum sounds like the bees knee's in diplomatic decorum.
Lovely story David.
PEace, Kai

Neva said...

David, I just love reading your stories...A precious memory from your youth....Love the photo, as well!

Edmund (the explorer) Nesbitt said...

Cor! Uncle David, your brother was an explorer too!
Wow!
Wonder if he has any advice for me?

Craver Vii said...

David, your writing is as enjoyable as your photographs!

Peter M said...

It's cool when you have family connections that can swing it

velvetginger said...

Wonderful memory...what would we all do without our Mums?

Kathryn said...

That one story really says so much about your mum. I can really get a sense of her. What a lovely memory.
Well done!

Everyday Housewife said...

Thanks so much for sharing your memories with us, David.
That's my favorite part of people's sites.

Happy Hearts Day!

Everyday Housewife said...

If the time on your blog is your real time, you are 17 hours ahead of Central USA.
Isn't it so strange that we can communicate and here you are already in the future?!
Too much!
Have you been to the USA?
Is so, what did you think of it?
Maybe this can be another blog for you unless you've already done it in which case I need to look it up, huh?

Lilli & Nevada said...

What an interesting story. That was good.Memories are so wonderful arn't they. It is good to write them down

Anonymous said...

Lovely memory David. Good times and great days.

I remember your Dad also, quite a character, your Mum was a perfect foil! And Brian was the only person I can think of who would have fearlessly gone around the world in a year at age 17! With aplomb. His stories were so entertaining, and he was so into them, I can still see him pushing back his chair at the dining table and standing up, to better tell the story!

Ah yes, we should all have had four sons like your Mum - or daughters. Two or three, the way we do it nowadays, is not enough!

She loved her boys - I remember this.

Carol McFarlane

OHmommy said...

It is amazing what children remember. What a terrific memory!

Corrie said...

It takes more than the law to keep us mums from our boys.

Anna said...

Wonderful story David, cool brave mum. Thanks for sharing, Anna :)

Kimberly said...

David! I love this post! Such an entertaining read. I especially love the use of the word "circumnavigating." No reason...I just love that word.

Amd we, your regular readers, sure know what an amazing woman your mum is.

Katney said...

As always I love the story behind the picture.

Jules~ said...

Thank you so much for sharing this memory with us. You had a wonderful way of weaving it all together so I could see it all in my mind.

Ida said...

I`m singing along with Rune.... ;)

I love the first line on your header. A very good philosophy. :)

VP said...

Great story David, as usual.

Did you know that the full phrase is 'All ship shape and Bristol fashion?'

It's to do with the way the sails are fixed.

There used to be a pub called Bristol Fashion outside the office I worked at in Bristol...

joan said...

Great story David! I love stories like this. Hope you had a wonderful Valentine Day.

Dragonstar said...

Lovely story!
But that photo is excellent - the colours and composition are perfect.

D... said...

What a great story! I would have loved to have seen the look on your mum's face when she whipped that letter from her purse. Hee!

leslie said...

What a great story that you'll be able to tell your children's children's children. We hope. :D

Janet said...

What a great story to go along with your "D" photo.

ed said...
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