Saturday, 12 November 2011


Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin...

Once upon a time – many years ago – there was a boat. A steamboat called the S/S Enterprise. The Enterprise was proudly skippered by Capt James T Buerk – who was a kindly, avuncular man who had sailed and steamboated the seven seas for most of his life. His main duty on the steamboat was to oversee delivery of very important goods and chattels to the far-away island of Presbyacusia. Now this island had a great many elderly people and they relied on the good Capt’s boat so that they could grow special seeds that in turn provided magic powers that enabled the old folk to hear their offspring and friends without the need to be shouted at...

Now Capt. Buerk was a very important man – and he had earned la médaille des Conneries du Chien for his many years of devoted service in all things seafaring. But lately he was rarely to be seen on deck at the helm and in truth the S/S Enterprise would often list badly and lurch in a very unseaworthy manner. The ratings were overworked, undervalued and underpaid and they had recently had their pay and rations frozen for two years which did nothing to improve their mood – I can tell you...

Capt. Buerk did not keep a Captain’s log – like most Captains – oh no - instead he kept a Back log. This was a list of the number of times the ship travelled from the main island to Presbycusia to deliver its load – including the magic seeds for the old folk. Lately the deliveries were taking longer and longer – some of the crew had jumped ship whilst others preferred to stay in their hammocks during the day. This meant that the ratings had to work harder than ever to deliver the seeds within the deadline. The Steamboat Authority had stipulated that the number of journeys to be made before an old person received their seeds should be no more than 18 journeys – and sometimes it was the case that the seeds were delivered after this time. The islanders were very unhappy about this and used the island’s semaphore station to send messages to the S/S Enterprise to ask when they may receive their seeds! This caused a lot of upset and extra work for the semaphore operative on the S/S Enterprise who was a comely, flame-haired woman of ample proportions and maturity called Juanita. Juanita did her best to deal with the very many semaphore requests from the islanders – and there were times where she spent so much time at the boat’s semaphore office that at the end of the day she was very tired and used to flag quite badly.

This went on for many months. Extra coal was ordered to make things go faster – but it was very poor quality and used to fall out of the ship’s boilers. And still the Back log showed no signs of improvement. Oh dear!

Now the S/S Enterprise was not the only vessel that made the trip from the main island to Presbyacusia to deliver the magic seeds, By Timothy, no... There was a fleet of small steampackets – The Hellraisers – who could deliver the magic seeds in next to no time by comparison. Their crew wore smart uniforms, with shiny buttons and lanyards. They had been operating the route for a little while now without the need to keep a Back log. Food for thought, mulled Capt. Buerk.

One day the Capt. gathered the ratings together to read a notice posted outside the boat’s boiler room. The notice was headed TTL (Toe The Line) and it said that the tender to deliver the seeds was very much up for grabs – and that from next year those ships that could deliver the magic seeds quickly and without spillage would be looked on more favourably by the seed merchants on the main island.

What does this mean?” one of the old salts asked the Capt.

Good question!” he barked “I have been looking at the Hellraisers way of going about their business and I like the cut of their jib, frankly” he continued. “Look at their uniforms and smart lanyards, they really do look the part! Look at us by comparison, my hearties! Perhaps we need to improve our appearance and start to look the part also”

The ratings looked at each other somewhat confused.

Will we get extra coinage to pay for the uniforms?”

Oh no!” laughed the Capt. “there is no money for that!”

 “The lanyards will get in the way of our stoking, won’t they?” said another old salt.

I’ve thought of that” said the Capt. and he proudly inflated his chest and the ratings could see his bright new lanyard – tucked inside his vest.

Ooooooohh!” they gasped in wonderment.

Will the new uniforms reduce our back log? For in truth we are overworked, undervalued and underpaid” asked one of the ratings.

And skint!” said another who had already worked out that a considerable proportion of next month’s meagre pay would be spent on his new uniform.

 “What news of Midshipman Qeasy?” ventured another skint crew member.

He is on a very special mission in the Tahitian Seas” replied the Capt. somewhat uncomfortably, “looking at treatments for mal de mer, seasickness – that sort of thing”.

Will he bring news of our back log?” the skint crew member further asked.

 “Probably not” replied the good Capt. “That’s all for now” said the Capt. “all hands on deck!” (except those that were still in their hammocks).

The islanders continued to wait for their magic seeds from the S/S Enterprise – were they overly concerned whether their seeds were delivered by a smart uniform? - no-one in truth knew. “Should have gone to Hellraisers!” was fast becoming the mantra of the old folk on the island... [to be continued].

The 2nd Saltburn Beer Festival 
Saltburn Arts and Community Centre
Albion Terrace
North Yorkshire TS12 1JW
Tel: 01287 624997

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