Oriana

August 27th, 2008 | shivering sands

I was just sorting through a stack of CDs, and found this somehow interleaved between them. I’d gotten some old photos from my stepmother when my father died a few years ago, and this was among them. God knows how it got separated from the others.

My dad was a sailor for a while: he always said he simply couldn’t resist the idea of being paid to see the world. And, as far as I know, he served chiefly on the Oriana. I think it may have been the first passenger liner of its type to have a swimming pool — he was certainly under the impression it was. His career as a sailor seems to have been as fraught as his career in the Queen’s Lifeguards (where he was once complicit in giving the Queen a horse with the shits for a public appearance), the high point probably being his missing the ship entirely during shoretime on Fiji and being "imprisoned" for jumping ship in what was basically a hut he was politely asked to return to at nights.

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He was in his early twenties when he sent this postcard — presumably nicked out of the ship’s shop — to my grandma. I’m not sure which direction the Oriana would have been steaming in, at this point. Research tells me that she was off Long Beach in March 1962, getting a gash cut in her side by an aircraft carrier. Dad never mentioned it. He never talked a lot about those years, because it bugged my mother, who had never gotten to travel and somehow resented my dad for his experiences. So I never got many details: just the sense that travel was worth doing, and that my dad believed he’d been made a better man by it.

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I didn’t get to New Zealand and Australia until my early thirties. But I got there. It’s a weird thing, I suppose, to see the path of your father’s footsteps curling around the entire world. But I like it.

I also like that the silly bastard’s pen ran out during that unintelligible squiggle at the end and he just had to get a pencil to explain that.


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  1. You can find Warren on Twitter: @warrenellis