Sinking the Unsinkable, Chapter 1Posted: March 22, 2012
The story so far: Rummaging through a collection of books at a car boot sale, I came across this remarkable journal of a ship’s captain telling the story of a perilous voyage on the high seas. Originally published in five chapters in 24Housing magazine, I’ll be running it in five blogs here over the next three weeks. The story begins one fine September day last year…
Ship’s journal of Captain D Cameron, Esq, Sunday September 18: A spell off the bridge leaving my vessel in the less than capable hands of my first lieutenant, Mr Clegg, and officers from our sister ship RMS Libdem. Thanks to the ingenuity of my chief engineer, Mr Osborne, I will be able to listen in through the ship’s communication system to check if anything is seriously awry.
Monday September 19: What a hoot! Mr Stunell, the junior assistant purser, is explaining our new ticket structure to passengers. This will see billets in third class increased to 80 per cent of second class levels and has a hilarious new name dreamed up by my assistant purser, Mr Shipps.
‘Our new affordable ticket scheme has exceeded all expectations,’ Mr Stunell told passengers. ‘The critics claimed that it would never happen. That we’d fall flat on our face. That we’d fail.’ Most amusing!
Tuesday September 20: I was a tad worried when I heard Mr Webb, our junior assistant steward, style himself ‘the only Lib Dem in the galley’ but there was no need for concern. He told passengers in third class that that not to worry about the budget for their accommodation support since it would be the same at the end of the voyage as at the beginning. Asked how this could be the case when a) the number of third class passengers is increasing, b) we’re increasing the prices of berths and c) we’re putting the stowaways up in second class, he simply told them that critics were exaggerating. (‘It’s not like it’s the slaughter of the first born.’). My chief steward, Reverend Duncan Smith, could not have put it better himself!
Tuesday September 27: Mr Miliband may have held a junior position on the Red Star Line’s RMS Labour but who does he think he is staking a claim to my job? I must say that blaming the whole situation on greedy passengers in first class is grossly unfair! However, his plan to offer berths in third class to some of those unfortunately sleeping in the hold provided they volunteer to scrub the decks sounds just the ticket. Remarkably little heard from the RMS Labour crew about our accommodation crisis so far during this crossing. Which is perhaps not surprising given that their vessel was holed below the waterline during the previous voyage.
Sunday October 2: I finally get to announce the exciting new policy I’ve been working on with Mr Shipps. Passengers in third class will be offered the right to buy their berths with generous discounts. I initially struggled to see how the plan would work given that most of the better hammocks have already been sold and most of the oiks in third class barely seem to have two farthings to rub together, but Mr Shipps assures me that it will all be a resounding success.
My other big task is to convince passengers in first class that there is no cause for alarm about our plans to convert some of some of the promenading deck and tennis courts into extra second and third class accommodation. Mr Pickles, the chief purser, has told me that the builders are ready to get down to work but Lady Reynolds and Lord Jenkins are being especially mutinous.
Wednesday October 5: My annual address to the crew is being broadcast by loudspeaker to passengers all over the ship. I tell them that there may be choppy waters ahead thanks to Captain Brown and the Red Star Line but that I am dedicated to improving comfort for all with nothing less than an accommodation ‘revolution’. It sounded like a good wheeze when I told my wife Samantha about it last night but it was a good job nobody asked me how it would actually work. I do hope that Mr Osborne will tell me next month.
Monday October 10: I had hoped for better news but Mr Osborne tells me that his projections for our course have turned out to be too optimistic and we have actually been steaming round in circles for the last 12 months. At this rate it will be iceberg season by the time we complete the crossing. How fortunate that we designed RMS Torytanic to be unsinkable!