Ahoy me hearties, shiver me timbers and splice the mainbrace! Now’s time for a hearty sea shanty, all in honour of a new London fish joint: Parsons. And if you’re in need of some instrumental accompaniment…
A drop of water suspended on a crocus petal.
Turning over the final page of a much-loved novel.
A starry sky.
The lonely strum of a single guitar string.
Swirling clouds of milk in freshly-poured tea.
Waves rolling against a pebbly shore.
Dipping roast potatoes into gravy whilst no-one is looking.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to burst into song, at least not just yet. These aren’t necessarily my favourite things. No, this post is about the simple things, although I’d probably consider them my favourite things too. After all, it is often the simple things that connect with us most.
Home. Mine was once a launderette, back in the ‘70s. I wasn’t living there then. I was hardly even born then. But there’s still evidence of it all over the place – from the peculiar frontage to the panoply of pipes protruding defiantly out of the flooring. But times have changed. At least for this building.
For me though, my home is more than a house – more than four walls, windows, roofs and doors. It’s more than the place where my family and I eat, sleep, or take refuge from the cold and rain. It’s the scene of our everyday victories – big and small – celebrating a good day at work or school, a festival or birthday, or just an elaborately-constructed sofa den. And of course, it’s sometimes where opinions are argued, tears are shed, and shoulders are hugged.
Our home isn’t just bricks and mortar. It’s the stage on which our lives unfurl. And I know how lucky that makes me, especially when so many people don’t even have basic shelter.
I lie by the dockside, just down from the factory whose clanking machinery created my lines and sides and corners and spaces. Freshly painted across my frontage, an array of industrial hieroglyphics – China International Marine Containers, Hapag-Lloyd, HLXU2003419, 22G1, Max Payload 29,230kg – numbers defining who I am, numbers defining what I can be.
Shanghai sprawls resolutely behind the harbour-front; its forest of cranes and concrete criss-cross the dawn sky, soaring totems to the gods of a new world.
Through Pudong’s early morning haze, neon lights pulse green and red, beacons dancing to the relentless beat of the metropolis. And just beyond, the grand old facades of the Bund, still resplendent in their neoclassical and art-deco finery, their stories written over a century ago.
But my future lies in the other direction, not inland but out across the East China Sea. The dawn horizon calls out to me, whispering promises of marvels and adventure.
My first consignment is a cargo of high-tech computer equipment, loaded up by the dock-handlers on the 4am shift. I hear their banter as they work. Their calloused nicotine-stained hands speak of years on the dockside, whilst this passage of time has perfected their collective operations into a balletic choreography. They know each other well; they are like family.
A crane hoists me up high into the sky, a lofty leap towards those skyscraper peaks, wondering when I’ll next see them again. Next week? Next month? Never?.. And then down onto the foredeck, where the stevedores lower me onto a maze of containers, each with their own voyages and destinies.
And so on this day, my work begins. I’m a missionary, whose belly carries the new Chinese economy across the world.
Miner striker. Margaret Thatcher.
Berlin Wall. Maradona’s handball.
Kylie and Jason. Rampant inflation.
Postman Pat. Roland Rat.
Virgin Atlantic. Water that’s volcanic.
HP sauce. Inspector Morse.
Wall Street traders. Space Invaders.
Arcade dreams. Custard creams.
Moscow Olympics. Falklands conflict.
Indiana Jones. Very large phones.
Del Boy and Rodney. Deirdre on Corrie.
Marty McFly. Michael Fish.
Band Aid. Live Aid. Cherry-ade. Kwik Save.
HIV, MTV, TUC, SDP.
Dangermouse. Dogtanian. Dungeons & Dragons.
Baywatch beach. Papa Don’t Preach.
Big hair. Polo necks. BHS. VHS.
ET. BT. Mr T. Ford Capri.
Donkey Kong and Pac Man. Now it’s Captain Caveman!
Scooby Dooby Doo, Where are you?