Part of my pre-move declutter has, inevitably, led to sorting out boxes of stuff from the loft, some of which may not have been opened since we moved here in 2005. And yesterday I came across my little red suitcase, which I last opened in 2008 and wrote about here.
The contents of this case document almost my whole teens and early twenties, and reading them transports me right back to those times – particularly my days at sea.
While sifting through the various correspondence in it, I found a big pile of telexes – the way we used to communicate with friends on other ships in the fleet when a letter would take too long, and sometimes shore-to-ship and ship-to-shore as well.
Reading through them made me quite sad and nostalgic. Those days, and many of those close friendships, are gone forever. And I never appreciated at the time how carefree and fun they were – and how slim and pretty I was. I mean, not amazingly slim and pretty, but far more so than these days! And how lucky I was to have a well paid, glamorous job that involved travelling the world.
My life now, you know, it’s a fabulous life. But it is by definition a middle-aged life. And so, when I’m doing the laundry, or balancing my bank statements, or ferrying my monosyllabic teenager around in the car, I will look back with fondness on my amazing days as an officer in the British Merchant Navy, when I received telexes from my friends saying things like these:
‘Let’s catch up for a drink in Auckland next month’
‘Sorry I didn’t see you in Athens before I left’
‘Did you get the letter I sent to Panama?’
‘Received your letter from Bora Bora’
‘I embark on the 19th in Acapulco. Can’t wait to see you.’
‘Please write via Singapore agents for now, or maybe try Tokyo’
‘We’re both in port in Honolulu on 23rd Dec – Christmas drinkies??!’
‘So we’re on for a night out in Vancouver, then?’
‘I’m being trans-shipped – can’t believe we’re going to sail together again! See you in Juneau, Alaska on 28.6.91’
‘We arrive in Sydney at 1pm, I should be off work till 4 – will come straight over and see you – SO much gossip to share’.
‘Left a letter for you with the ship’s agent in Madeira for when you’re there next Thurs’.
‘Sorry I missed your call – don’t know when we’ll get to speak again as you’re now on a 9 day trans-Pacific and by the time you get into port again, I’ll be flying out to Bangkok’.
‘Meet you at the bottom of your gangway at 7pm in LA’.
All quotes from the pile of telexes I unearthed.
It feels like a lifetime away.