“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Rowlocks to it all!

Writing recently about the smallholding advice given me by "Old Arthur" reminded me of an earlier incident in the rich pattern of what the pointy heads like to call "learning for life". In my experience there are few life forms as exasperating and of such little practical value as the teenage boy. Lovable they might be but when it comes to use value chocolate fireguards come to mind. I was no exception to this rule. I was sixteen years old and apprenticed to a boatbuilder on the Essex coast when I was inducted into the black art of bowline tieing. Much of our work was done afloat and that particular morning I had been doing something or other on a yacht moored in the middle of the creek. Come dinner time I had rowed back to the landing stage, tied up the dinghy and returned to the yard where I was told that the guvnor would be coming afloat with me in the afternoon and I was to prepare the boat, including the outboard motor normally denied me due to rowing being good for me apparently. Come two o clock and we arrived back at the landing stage. From this point onward things started to go rapidly downhill. I had secured the dinghy with a collection of hitches unknown to the art of seamanship and the natural fibre rope had swollen to an impenetrable tangle. I was spoken to quite sharply. The guvorner attempted to unpick the knot with a steel spike that slipped and pierced his hand. Again I was spoken to quite sharply. Eventually we got underway and I was told that on arrival at the yacht we were to work on I would learn to tie a bowline. This I did and by knocking off time was confident that I could tie a bowline in the most adverse of circumstances. We set off on the return journey only for the outboard to splutter and die after a few minutes. I had forgotten to fill the tank and once more was spoken to quite sharply. We would have to row back but this proved to be impossible as I had brought the wrong size rowlocks. We would have to use the oars to paddle back home. As the headwind strengthened I was not only spoken to sharply but described in some detail with much reference to the reproductive process. Eventually we got back to the landing stage and I took the painter in my hand, and yes you guessed it, such was my state of nerves that all knowledge of the bowline had flown from my mind like autumn leaves on the breeze. I was spoken to quite sharply.

2 comments:

gitane said...

Aaaah the joys of an apprenticeship in the sixties! On my first day in the tool room as an apprentice, the foreman/mentor showed us how not to place the hands when using a screwdriver,in doing so he managed to put the screwdriver straight through his hand between thumb and forefinger. Blood pouring from his impaled hand he then proudly announced straight faced "In the interests of health and safety I will now show you the way to the infirmary!"

Dr Llareggub said...

I was working as a plasterer for Sheffield City Council direct labour scheme repairing council flats for elderly folk, during the early seventies. I heard a plumber telling an apprentice off, he said 'Come here I'll give you a lesson in ethics'. The lad had took the easy way when connecting the waste pipe and fittings by jacking the bath up high, giving himself lots of room to do the fittings. The plumber said: 'Why don't you think about the elderly people who won't be able to climb so high for a bath', adding. 'you stupid little bugger, bet you would not do this if you were working in the Mayor's house'. Just a hint of a reminder to have a bit of respect for your own class.

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