Friday, July 01, 2011

End of an era

Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Ok, that's a hackneyed header. And it's in today's local paper - but my era is different. Everyone is discussing the end of the car ferry service from Gourock to Dunoon pier; I travelled on one of the last crossings on Thursday. But the era I'm talking about is personal, for we arrived in Dunoon at the same time as the car ferries Juno and Jupiter - the ship in the pic - and my trip t'other day was on MV Saturn, which started on the Rothesay run three years later, in 1977. So as well as wondering, along with the rest of us, how the replacement passenger service will work in the winter (we know already that one of the two ships, the Ali Cat, goes off in a breeze) and how big the queues of cars for Western Ferries will be (to say nothing of Cowal Games weekend) I'm reflecting on the years since 1974 from a personal perspective.

We came here with a 5 week old baby and moved into a school-owned council house in Ardenslate. Our first morning was marked by the main fuse's blowing and our worry that as the leccy came via the Hydro-electric, based in Perth, we wouldn't get it fixed till the Monday. (Didn't know they had local fixers ...). We had no telly and no phone - and no mobiles or internet, remember. I was alone with a five-week-old baby, once Mr B had gone to work; I didn't drive and I only knew one person and it rained a lot. I got the phone by stressing the baby-panics, and the telly arrived a few days later and provided some sanity. The church provided the rest. (Strange, but true).

And of course time passed. We met people in droves, and more importantly made good friends. We started a choir - the Hesperians - and performed with them. We bought the house we still live in and I learned to drive. The baby grew up and another one appeared and followed him; they both left at the age of 17 and never lived here again. (That's what happens to clever kids here. They go. Some return, but more stay gone). I returned to teaching and for five days a week we could have been living anywhere: a school's a school's a school. The American navy loomed large for a while - especially when I was big in the local CND - and then left. The town appeared less rented, more stable. New houses appeared in fields, sometimes with scant regard for the tendency of said fields to drown in the winter. Generations of school pupils passed through our lives, and some of them surfaced on Facebook.

And now I'm back where I started, in some ways. I don't work - at least, I don't do paid work and huvtaes - and the church is still the constant in a changing life. We still sing, though the Hesperian men have gone the way of all flesh and we're now a women's group. There are occasional babies in our house in the shape of visiting grandchildren, though the original babies show little inclination to return. In my Glasgow childhood, I always hankered for a life involving sea and hills; my own children seem drawn to cities and urban pursuits.

But through all that - a life, really - the Cal Mac ferries came and went, easily visible from my window. Now they're away, and the new boat still hasn't put in an appearance. And I can't help wondering if somewhere, hidden in the ferry saga, there isn't a metaphor for life.

But I haven't worked it out yet.

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