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Monday, September 17, 2007

Interesting Debris

Sunday, September 16, 2007
USS Cole – Faslane RNB Scotland

The most interesting sight at sea is something other than sea. Even debris. But especially land. We made landfall early Friday morning, entering the famed Firth of Forth. “Firth” is a degeneration of “fjord”—for the deep coastal indentations produced by rivers and glaciers—applied locally by the Norwegian marauders who came “Viking” (Norse for “pillaging”) in this region centuries ago. Above the Forth is the Clyde, into whose narrows the ship was threaded during the early hours of the day. The River Clyde divides the city of Glasgow [map], some 40kms E of the Faslane Royal Navy Base where we’ve been pierside all weekend.

The first person off the ship Friday afternoon, I headed to Helensburgh, the port town about 10kms south of the base, where I enjoyed a pleasant meal alone in the charming Café 19 I found on the harbor street. The management allowed me to plug in my EU `phone, whose SIM card I’d replaced earlier for UK service. As soon as it was charged I left a message for Jane so we could talk on Saturday. There’s never much to convey in telephone conversations, but the sound of another’s voice in one’s ear, most of all the voice of someone beloved, is irreplaceable.

By the time I reached her I was in Glasgow, having enjoyed some of the sights of what is now a bustling city, it’s traditionally grimy character offset by flowering shrubs and a thriving retail center created by a mile-long pedestrian zone from the opera house to the riverbank. I walked about looking for a shop that might have some men’s knit fingerless gloves. I forgot to bring the ones I bought in London years ago. But none were selling such a humble product. The Contemporary Art Museum had a rather nice permanent collection. I called Jane from a Starbucks and we talked while I sipped my decaf latté. Starbucks? Right. Any other coffee place in Europe will make you a powdered drink when you ask for decaf.

It was raining by the time I went down the Queen Street station to catch the train back to Helensburgh. I was reading Saturday by Ian MacEwan when one of a group of three US sailors who’d taken seats around me asked about it. As conversation ensued they learned that I was teaching aboard the USS Cole and I learned one of them was from Watertown. Today it was raining more steadily than last night, so I decided against a two hour trip to Edinburgh. Instead I got in my first swim workout since Norfolk in the “SportDrome” here on the base, a mammoth facility about a half mile up the hill, which also boasts an indoor soccer pitch and a ski hill. I not only had my own lane, I had the pool to myself. Evidently not many people get up on Sunday morning, even on a military base, perhaps since it usually falls right after Saturday night. Good workout.

Two-a-day workouts are one of the things I give up for this job aboard. Since reveille is 0600 and I have to eat before 0700 I wait `til 0930 for my workout forward on the 1 deck on the treadmill or stat bike crammed into a corner between the Battle Dressing Station and the ammunition elevator. Now that the courses are fully underway I have to see students later in the mornings, if they’re forced by their work schedules to miss a class meeting. After lunch I teach a two-hour section, which last `til dinner time (0400 when we’re underway). Then another two-hour section at 1800. Four hours of teaching a day, six days a week. It’s a good thing it’s a short gig.


Blogger Dingbat said...

"The most interesting sight at sea is something other than sea." I have a friend who is a merchant seaman (engineer); one of his cohort at the US Merchant Marine Academy came back from his first voyage with dozens of pictures, and would proudly show them off: they were all of the sea. "Oh, look at it in this one," he'd say, with little in the way of explanation as to what in particular was so obviously captivating to him. Interest is where you find it, and he was clearly cut out to be a sailor.

10:48 AM  

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