Thursday, July 14, 2005

The price of things and the value of them……
(It’s important to know the difference)


The Mersey millpond, the red duster and the waterfront…

We committed the old man’s ashes to the care of Davie Jones’ lock-up on Monday morning. The day was fine, clear and most importantly, ‘still’ as we gathered at the Liverpool landing stage and waited to board the good ship ‘SS Royal Iris’ for the committal.

The River Mersey was as flat as a millpond – which was very, very good news. Windy days and the committal of ashes do not mix…. The threat of ‘blow back’ & ‘white face’ are very real ones when there’s a force ten gale blowing. And the thought of getting an atomised gob-full of my old man did not appeal.

We huddled in the only bit of shadow we could find – shading us from the fierce Sun. It was weird, but because it was so hot, we were all dressed like we were going to the beach – everyone was wearing ‘Hawaiian-tragic’… I think my Dad would have approved. Just then, my eldest sister turned up with the urn under her arm. My Mum said "What’s that you’re carrying under your arm then?"

"It’s your husband" came the reply……

The Royal Iris steamed into view. It’s one of the Mersey Ferries fleet and takes passengers ‘across the water’ between Liverpool, Birkenhead and Seacombe. The vicar from the local Seaman’s Mission briefed us on the ceremony.

The ferry would steam straight up river at full speed. After about 10 minutes, we would gather at the stern, the engines would be cut and the service would commence. The Rev’ reckoned it would take about seven minutes from start to finish.

"Don’t they mind?" I asked. "You know, the Captain and the ferry company - won’t they mind that the ferry will be late because of the service?"…

"No, they do it all the time…..and they do it for nothing. They don’t charge a cent – except the fare, of course"…

"But what about the passengers?…. The ferry’s absolutely packed with people"…..

"They’ll have to wait – it’s a mariner thing"…

And so it was. My Dad, wartime sailor with the Atlantic and Russian convoys, was given a suitably nautical farewell into the murky depths of the River Mersey. The service was very touching, the engines died, a little reminisce, a prayer or two. A sailor then got out the board that would slide my Dad into a watery oblivion. The ashes were sprinkled onto its inclined plane. Gravity and the super-slick varnish smooth finish of the board did the job and the reconstituted bits of my Dad slid majestically into the water. "Just add water"I thought….

The engines kicked, full throttle into life and the ashes, bouquets and single roses boiled on regulo 10.in the foam below.

And that was it. A Company that knows the value of something – and recognises its marine obligations had just done something special, as a matter of course for the community – as part of its operating philosophy…. And it was all free!

Contrast that with the telecom vultures that set up the 0870 emergency help number for worried relatives of the missing victims of the London bombings. Hazel Blears, one of Tony Blair’s ‘Babe Ministers’ sought to justify the 50 pence a minute charges in the most grotesque way…… a pity really, for at the very moment she was telling the world the charges would stay, the back stabbing boys at ‘Back-Stab HQ’ were appointing Tessa Jowell, the former ‘Minister for the Olympic bid’ to be the new ‘Minister for free disaster phone calling’…

Like I said, ‘the price and worth of things’……..

9 comments:

Tony Cima said...

Alfie,

Thanks for this post.

"Alice" said...

What a touching post. I think my Dad would have loved a send off like that. He was in the the U.S. Navy for 40+ yrs and went to sea more times that I can count.

Bravo.

Shooting Parrots said...

My father-in-law was also in the navy on the Atlantic and Russian convoys, as well as the Med. Had we known about this service, we might have disposed of his ashes in the same way. Restores your faith a bit, doesn't it?

wonkotsane said...

I'm sure he'd have been pleased with you for a fitting send off.

Steve said...

Nice one Alfie. A fitting end.

Mike said...

As said before a fitting end and a touching post. It's nice to know that some companies don't put profit before anything else.

Anonymous said...

A nice post & it touched me, restores your faith in people & some companies to do the right thing
Malthebof@btinternet.com

writer said...

Beautiful, and thinking of you from across the world.

will said...

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