Friday, 24 October 2014

Not Venice



Yesterday afternoon had the quiet but interesting light that is just right for photographing water.  I needed to top up various supplies -- printer ink, again -- so headed down town, and after doing my shopping walked down to a waterside park, where a good view of the docks may be had.

When I first came here, thirty years ago, you could access the dockside area pretty freely, if you had the necessary chutzpah: no-one would challenge you.  I shared a house just over the railway line from the dry dock (with this guy, now in Australia, who has some interesting things to say about the state of universities), and you could cross over a footbridge and wander alongside the gigantic moored hulls and busy cranes.  Now, with heightened concerns about public safety, theft, terrorism, and the smuggling of contraband and people, the place is inevitably shut off behind gates and tall fences topped with razor wire.


Venice it ain't, but there is a certain serenity to a broad view of the docks.  But, I hear you ask, what is that silver dome that keeps cropping up in these pictures of Southampton Water?  Why, it is the Marchwood Energy Recovery Facility.  Not everything around here is about polluting the seas with fossil fuels.  In fact, there are a number of eco-friendly energy schemes, including the Southampton Geothermal Heating Company, right in the centre of the main shopping area.


The sea and ships and the shoreline have a mysterious pull, and even on a chilly mid-week October afternoon a few people can be seen sitting around -- on benches, on the grass, in parked cars -- staring contemplatively out across the water.  A waterfront park is one of those liminal places where the normal rules are in suspension, and it's OK to spend the day quietly doing nothing in public.
I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time...

4 comments:

Martin Hodges said...

Spent many hours there, Mike. I have wondered, on those occasions, what life was really like for my great great grandfather, John Hodges, working these waters during the latter 19th and early 20th centuries. He was the Master of a pilots cutter, two in fact. The Deerhound, and the Jessica.

Mike C. said...

Martin,

Huge differences, between those who work on the water, those who work on the docks, and those who come to watch...

The docks used to be the big employer. I forget the figures, but the decline in numbers working the docks is enormous -- used to be half the population of Fremantle, Millbrook, and Shirley. Shamefully, I believe the survival of Southampton as a port, post containerisation, was the weakness of the union here...

Mike

Martin Hodges said...

We moved to Totton when I was ten, Mike. It seemed that every kid had a father, uncle or brother working in the docks. My stepfather, a brickie, worked on the big liners for a while, rebuilding their furnaces. In my childish ignorance, I used to complain that he never took me to watch Southampton play at The Dell (of course, he did) but for many weekends he was crawling in confined spaces in the belly of some monster vessel. I really like the photos in this post. I sense a new kind of freedom in your work.

Mike C. said...

Martin,

Something a little uncanny about the idea of a brick-lined furnace inside a boat...

New freedom? Art following life, I suspect.

Mke