Assisted Passage – poem

Eye, Amsterdam

Over half a century ago I shared a room in an Earls Court hostel with three other Dutch women. P&O Lines Ltd had just taken us on as WAPs (Woman Assistant Pursers) and we were to be employed in various offices while waiting for a ship to become available. I did secretarial work for a Scottish marine engineer, struggling to capture the technical terms – about bulkheads of a vessel that was being built at the famous Cammell Laird yard in Birkenhead.

We have kept in touch all those years, and celebrated in the Eye, Amsterdam with lunch in 2019. The film museum is an iconic building just the other side of the railway station. A short ferry journey is a good way to get there. Our plan for an annual reunion had not taken a pandemic into account and now one of us has health issues. Fingers crossed for September!

Our language skills had got us the job: Dutch, English, French and German. The photo is from S.S. ORCADES where I was Supernumerary, translating the news, and holding daily meetings. Here I am with the small group from Germany and Switzerland.

Assisted passage

You’re on F deck aft, an alleyway
away from your spouse,
also sharing with five strangers.

Time to fold over your memories,
freshly laundered. You don’t need
memories where you’re heading.

You saw the Fire Dance in Dakar.
Days of sea, sun, and sky.
Cape Town with Table Mountain.

Nine grey days of swell.
Freemantle, Adelaide,
Melbourne, Sydney.

Shake a leg, show a leg.
You’ll soon be down under.
Your new upside-down lives.

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