Sinking the Unsinkable, Chapter 3Posted: April 5, 2012
The story so far: Over-crowding in steerage and a potential mutiny in first class have made it a troubled maiden voyage for Captain Cameron and the RMS Torytanic. Fortunately, assistant purser Mr Shipps has come up a series of new initiatives to help and the captain’s Big Society idea seems to be gaining in popularity…
Ship’s journal of Captain D.W.D. Cameron, Esq, Monday November 21: Into the bowels of the ship for the launch of our new accommodation strategy. Unfortunately my first lieutenant, Mr Clegg, accompanied me but at least we got the chance to swap our bridge officers’ uniforms for the cloth cap and boots of ordinary working men. I really do feel that it sent an important message to our passengers that we intend to do something about the shortage of berths. As I announced a new right to buy for passengers in third-class and a new indemnity scheme for those in second-class to buy newly constructed cabins I got a strong sense of déjà vu. ‘Not to worry, captain,’ said my assistant purser Mr Shipps. ‘These are new and powerful incentives that will sweep away the lazy consensus.’ I’m not sure what he meant but it certainly sounded impressive.
Tuesday November 22: Mr Shipps knocked on my cabin door early this morning looking a little sheepish. ‘You know the strategy you launched yesterday, Sir?’ he said. I nodded. I’m generally pleased with the reaction around the ship. ‘Well, we may have a problem,’ he said. ‘It’s only a small, technical difficulty but there has been a bit of a delay in our new affordable berth scheme.’
‘I thought you told me that we would actually have more berths than under the previous system,’ I said.
‘Yes, Sir, I did. And we will. Eventually. It’s just that we haven’t got many yet.’
‘When you say “not many”, what precisely do you mean, Mr Shipps?’
‘Well, Sir, so far, well, it seems that so far we have, roughly speaking, four and a half.’
Four and a half! After I promised so much yesterday! Much more of this and I am going to have to look at moving Mr Shipps. Didn’t Mr Clegg mention we need a new cloakroom attendant in first class?
Friday November 25: That odious Mr Humphrys has been up to his tricks again. Why on earth I agreed to allow him to present a morning programme for broadcast over our new Marconi system, I will never know. Ever since we left Southampton he has taken a malicious pleasure in harassing my officers. What he laughably calls ‘interviews’ actually consist of him regaling us all how clever he is while my officers struggle to get a word in. Now Humphrys has had the gall to accuse Mr Shipps of failing to appear yesterday to answer questions about the affordable berths fiasco. This was an obvious lie! The very last thing Mr Shipps would do is turn down an opportunity for self-publicity.
Wednesday November 30: Genuinely touched this morning by the sight of a large procession of passengers all chanting my name! ‘You laughed at my idea of the Big Society,’ I tell Samantha later. ‘Well, what you saw today was proof positive that people can work together for a common purpose.’ She gave me a curious look and replied: ‘What on earth do you mean, dear?’ I smiled and played along with her seeming ignorance. ‘Didn’t you see them? Thousands of them from all over the ship, including many of the crew, and all wanting their captain to come out and speak to them.’ My dearest Samantha reached out to touch my cheek and told me gently: ‘I rather have a feeling they were shouting CAMERON OUT for a rather different reason.’
Entertained later to hear my friend Mr Clarkson tell us over dinner that the marchers should all be taken out and shot. Of course, as captain I had to give him a disapproving look, but he really is a most amusing fellow! Samantha and I think back fondly to last Christmas in Chipping Norton in the company of him and the charming Mrs Brooks. Come to think of it, I don’t seem to have seen her at dinner lately.
Friday December 2: It seems we have a small leak in one of the engine rooms. Mr Osborne assures me that RMS Torytanic has two steering engines, one kept in reserve for precisely the kind of stormy weather we have been experiencing this Autumn. What a capable chap he is!