Plimsoll Lines

I was chatting with a car sales employee the other morning, waiting my turn to speak with the sales rep with whom I had an appointment. He was a Geordie, the same as I am, and as we talked, the conversation ranged from football; of which I know absolutely nothing, through various cars and other vehicles we both had knowledge of; and ended up talking about shipping and Unions in Australia.

I was telling this young man of a stevedore foreman in Perth, who was also a Union rep. Now in those days, the Australian Unions ruled, and a ship’s captain, or a stevedore company, walked warily when the Unions were on the prowl. So, as I said, I was chatting to this foreman, and he asked me if I could see the Plimsoll marks on a ship which was berthed across the harbour from where we lay; as she was unusually low in the water. I fetched my binoculars, and saw firstly that she was flying the Blue Peter, which signifies ‘I am about to depart’; and then focussing on her marks, saw that she was sitting well below the ruling lines on the Plimsoll marks painted on her side midships. The foreman asked for a view, then raced ashore, called his office, and about ten minutes later the Port Captain’s guys were boarding the freighter, to stop her sailing illegally. The ship had to unload about three-four hundred tons of cargo before the ship complied with what is actually an Internationally-recognised regulation.

But the reason why I write this is simply because, in a country which survives because of the Sea, whose destiny and fate has always been bound to ships, shipping, and a naval tradition; this young man, an otherwise well-educated and obviously aware individual; had never heard of Samuel Plimsoll, or of the simple fact that, on EVERY ship which crosses any stretch of water, any ocean, anywhere: she must carry, by Law, the internationally-recognised Plimsoll markings; along with the name of the English MP who fought to make it so!


The only sentence? Life without Parole!

When I write about mental health or mental illnesses, I write from personal knowledge of a problem which has been with my wife for over 45 years. Over the years which I have lived with this devastating mental illness; namely schizophrenia, I have also encountered great kindness, a depth of understanding of the human condition second to none, and great knowledge of how some people react when faced with the living reality of a person who literally, and mercurially, alters their ‘persona’, to be almost another, stronger, and sometimes more violent individual. In my long life, during the course of my wife’s illness and treatment, I have seen and met dozens, if not hundreds, of people similarly afflicted, and I know of the distress of the families who have had to watch as their relative endures the living hell which can be mental illness. I have watched as a literal giant of a man carefully cradled my infant daughter in his arms, after he asked my wife if he could hold her during a Sunday visit to the hospital where my wife was treated; and I also heard how this same man had to be restrained so tightly because he could smash a human body when his mind was afflicted by the skeins and tendrils of this mental illness.

Mental illness strikes at random; it ranges from a depression to a violence unimaginable; and it is near to most of us, in that most of us know, or are related to, a person who suffers from one or another type of illness. Unless you have experience of; or close and substantial personal contact with a person suffering from such a terrible affliction, you cannot know how such an individual will react under any stimuli or restraint.

Which is why I feel that the only appropriate charge for these three uniformed Nazis is Murder, not the weak charge of manslaughter!