Wednesday, 22 January 2014
On a foggy morning such as we had yesterday, I miss the foghorns. Those deep, visceral booming notes were a nice reminder that, just down the road, great ships were inching their way down Southampton Water, laden with containers, oil for the refinery, or cruise passengers.
I don't know why the foghorns stopped, whether it was legislation, or better GPS-based navigation aids, but they did. At midnight on New Year's Eve all the ships in dock used to let off a continuous blast, rattling the cups on the draining-board; it was a good tradition, a reminder that you were living somewhere a little out of the ordinary. But it came to an end about four or five years ago. Now, all we get is fireworks, like everyone else.
It certainly isn't the ships that have stopped. Any day, you can look out from one of the elevated car-parks in the city centre, and see these vast floating structures, more like office-blocks than boats, moored down in the docks. They are an improbable sight; apparently too top-heavy, too boxy-bulky even to float, never mind sail across oceans, allegedly crewed by about five mariners (one for each corner, and one in the middle). But virtually everything you can buy in our shops and showrooms has come into the country in one of those stacked steel containers. If it says "Made in China" (and it usually does) then that's where it has come from, after spending many weeks in transit at sea.
You'd think they'd let them let off a foghorn or two, just to celebrate arriving safely in port.