Chuckling at your own James, Monica! Of course, in the midst of all this drama at sea, there were days when he did nothing but tally cargo as it came aboard and ate tropical fruit in exotic foreign ports...and then there was the ongoing quest for the perfect Panama Hat. It was not all doom and gloom in stormy seas.
Thank you again for those additional comments since I last posted - I wasn't sure if the focus of the piece was too narrow, and am pleased to see that doesn't seem to be the feedback.
I misjudged the boy, Inger. How could his own mother etc. etc? It seems the trays were loaded onto 6ft high wheeled containers, 72 trays to each, and he had to push them up a hill to the loading dock in the pouring rain. He shifted 5000 in a morning, so not quite the wafting around with a tray of seedlings I at first thought. Apparently he broke the record. And, he tartly informs me, he'd be the first up the rigging, and he wouldn't be wasting his time in port looking for a Panama hat!
Ah, but a Panama hat might have kept the rain off. I well remember rainy days at college, when my students would arrive thoroughly miserable and looking like drowned rats. Why not use an umbrella, I would ask. Because we don't want to look silly, they would reply in between sneezes. Apparently you have to be young to understand the logic of youth.
I regret to say that, upon enquiry, James is not bothered about rain, hats, or manual labour. He seems entirely focussed upon girls and exotic ports. Well, I guess it figures. Viva youth! I dimly remember it.... every dog has his day.
Sounds like your James and his 1912 counterpart would have quite a bit in common, Monica! The odd thing is, after the saga of the Panama hats (both his own and those acquired for others), he finally mentioned he didn't even really fancy them all that much - except for the broad brimmed variety. Didn't stop him from a search for one he left behind in a South American Port when he returned months later...he was hoping to find it again so he could present it as a wedding present to someone (!). He did have more sense than your students however, Bob - he grumbled in one letter about returning to England in Winter, which was the wrong season for wearing his Panama.
Randy, I don't know if the bio will be remarkable, but I've certainly kept people waiting for it! Far too prone to distractions, I'm afraid.
It would be lovely if his family would publish some of his letters. His tart-tongued observations on life at sea in the early 20th century would be priceless. Keep at the bio, though-- it's excellent.
"That was when you were roaming around the Pacific with Lieutanant-Commander Magellan just because the old trophy-hunter wanted some straits named after him. I see it all. Must have been a hard life!" L-G Buchheim The Boat
They would certainly make an interesting (and highly entertaining!) book - his voice is sometimes laconic, sometimes ironic and sometimes amused as he describes the characters and incidents occuring around him. The understated way in which he describes the explosion of a nitrate-loaded ship berthed near them in a Chilean port is very effective. There is often an undertone of something darker, more ominious, even when the tone is light - as in his amused description of mutinous, drunken crew that were threatening the lives of the senior crew on one vessel.
I haven't forgotten your follow-up on the Boa's final fate, Pat - will get to looking up the answer and sending it to you as soon as I can.
*chuckles* Yes, Noel, I guess we are. Couldn't resist putting that in. It's a moment when the U-96's young Second Watch Officer is being a wiseacre and the Chief Engineer busts his chops. Son Donald and I think it's funny and quote it occasionally.
And thanks, Ing. Give me the name change, and I'll give you the factoid for your bio.
Because of my limited knowledge I do not contribute very much on here. But I want to say thank you to those who do. I enjoyed your article Inger and think it appropriate to say so publicly, thank you. JK.
Sorry this is late but your article kicks b***! Not only did it tear away some of the myth around James' life, providing some beautiful insights and interesting anecdotes, but also gave a vivid depiction of life on the vast and merciless ocean. As much as I hate to wait, the fact that you have kept quiet about some things makes the article all the sweeter to devour. Yes, devour, I doubt I took a breath from beginning to end! It was succinct and to the point but not too narrow. Looking forward to reading that bio!