Sunday, 4 January 2009

Weekend Wandering

Yesterday morning, on the way to do the weekly shop, I stopped off at the allotments at the end of our road, as the steep-angled sun was doing interesting things to the gardening paraphernalia:

I love the way patterns happen when people are busy improvising ways of doing something purposeful, like growing vegetables. It's one of the things that keeps my photographic clock ticking.

Then, today, I went for a very chilly mooch about down by the Docks. These days you can't get in amongst the ships and cargo the way you could 20 years ago, for obvious reasons. Actually, like most major ports, you'd never really guess there was anything much going on down by the waterside, until you're practically on top of it. In the "old days" (that is, before containerisation) most families in Southampton had a least one member either working in the Docks or in the Merchant Navy. Now, the workforce is tiny: the University is a bigger employer of local people than the Docks.

One of the sad ironies of recent history is that one reason Southampton survived as a cargo port was because the trade unions were weak. Other ports where the unions were stronger held out against containerisation, and therefore ended up backing the wrong horse, historically. The unions had no real choice, of course: unloading cargo ships was a labour-intensive and skilled business, giving meaningful jobs and a way of life to many skilled and semi-skilled workers. I'm told it could take a week or more to completely unload the holds of a ship. A container ship, on the other hand, can be unloaded in a day by a few specialised crane drivers. Here is a glimpse of the vast stacks of containers that loom behind the dock fences:

In and around the dock area are many industrial areas with workshops and small factories of various sorts. You've got to wonder what goes on behind this garage door:

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