2010: ALL THE NICE GIRLS LOVE A SAILOR
A PERFORMANCE JOURNEY THROUGH MY GRANDFATHERS’S STORIES IN SEARCH OF HIS LIFE
Hetty King singing Ship Ahoy is at 9 mins 9 secs
Woman in 1930s/40s Sailor related costume in Minstrels Gallery or up ladder
Sings (preferably through a megaphone):
“All the nice girls love a sailor
the nice girls love a tar
‘cos there’s something about a sailor
Well you know what sailors are
And now, me lads, that I have your attention, I would advise you to line up according to your rank and station
At the same time I place the other ends of 2 washing lines that are attached to the ladder in the hands of 2 audience members so that a triangle is formed. The audience are led into the central space with an aisle in the middle (like a bus or tourist boat)
Snobs, Nobs, Yobs.. You all know who you are.. deep down you know
Snobs wear these fancy hats
Nobs read these fancy papers
Yobs you can share this bottle of rum between the lot of you
Women? Stay on the Sidelines please
I greet audience members and welcome them, asking them where they’re from
I’m chief petty officer Thane. B Company 25 years in service to the Royal Navy. Trainers of Officers and Men. Never allowed to become an officer.
A Sailor went to Sea Sea Sea
To see what he could see see see
But all that he could see see see
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea sea sea
I look out to sea shielding my eyes from the sun. Tipping slightly forward on my feet
Is that France?
Is that France Grandad?
I descend the ladder and I walk up and down
Is there enough blue in the sky to make a sailor hat?
I remember him telling me stories but can’t remember the content.
he died when I was six
He ran away to sea when he was 15 years old and was in the Royal Navy for 25 years.
I sit in a chair at the front of the audience and enact the next line
I remember him watching the horses on the box, swigging a beer, sucking on a fag
A Sailor went to Sea Sea Sea
To see what he could see see see
I sing the beginning of that song again but this time rasping and coughing on my last legs
I start hanging these drawings/ collages with the story on them on the washing line
1922 to 1925 HMS Warspite (Battleship, Mediterranean)
1925 to 1926 HMS Westcot (Destroyer, Home Fleet)
1926 to 1927 HMS Vivid
HMS Valiant (Shore training Ships, Devonport)
1929 HMS Queen Elizabeth (Atlantic to Mediterranean)
1929 to 1933 (Shore training Devonport)
1933 to 1934 HMS Rochester (Sloop, South Africa)
1934 to 1935 HMS Carlisle (Light Cruiser, South Africa)
HMS Dorsetshire (Heavy Cruiser, South Africa)
1935 HMS Drake (Shore training Devonport)
1935 to 1937 HMS Ganges (Shore training Shotley, Suffolk)
1937 to 1939 HMS Neptune (Light Cruiser, Home Fleet)
(demoted to Petty Officer for Improper possession, theft not proved)
1939 to 1941 (Shore training Devonport)
1941 to 1944 HMS Duke of York (Battleship, Arctic)
Britannia rules the waves,
Britain never never NEVER
shall be slaves
The British Officer Press ganged it’s own servant and lower classes via poverty or press gangs, their slavery assisting slavery and conquest of the rest of the world. The British learned to colonise the world by being colonised over and over and over again
He called South Africa the most Beautiful and the ugliest country. When they played a cricket match The British Officers were in a league with the White South Africans, The non-Officers like my Grandfather were in a league with Black South African people.
On a bus in North America he was tapped on the shoulder by a Black man (American Accent)
Could you sit a little further forward sir
I re-enact this while I tell it if I have placed the audience in seated rows as on a bus or tourist boat
Black people had to sit behind white people
Why are these the stories that he chose to tell that my family chose to remember
Different again from the stories of Songs and Acrobatics that Grandad’s sisters son Alan recalls
Throughout his career my Grandfather was a teacher.. of new recruits, of both Officers and men, of the field gun troup at the royal tournament..but he would never himself be allowed to be an officer
Whatever he learned
Whatever he experienced
Whatever he achieved
Whoever he taught, inspired, saved..
He was never allowed to become an Officer
But at just that moment world war two broke out and he was 4 years on the Duke of York
Video: My father (his son) and my Second cousin (his nephew) aboard the bridge of the HMS Belfast on the River Thames
I lived on a House Boat on the River Thames just East of Tower Bridge.
I’d often past the cruiser HMS Belfast
Stand there surrounded by tourists from all over this world he travelled
And see this ship the same distance from me as it was in December Norwegian waters in 1941
When the War ended and finally he could leave the Navy
He went back to Birmingham where the girl he’s met on holiday in Torquay and subsequently married was raising their eventually 5 children
He developed Stomach Ulcers and was given and became addicted to and stole prescriptions for Morphine
When he kicked that his lifelong dependency on Rum really kicked in
He found a job as a Cemetary attendent
As immigrants from our now former empire began to arrive in big numbers he found his navigational skills in demand to plot the position of Mecca when burying the Moslem dead.
Apparently whenever anyone new arrived he would welcome them to the neighbourhood and ask where they were from.
On my Grandmother’s death bed she we got out the old boxes of photographs and played music.
What d’you want to listen to Granny?
“that coloured fella”
our modern selves shuddered at this anachronism, but we continued to leaf through her collection
Nat King Cole
Though the Virgin may be white,
paint me some black angels,
for they go to heaven, too
as all good black people do.
Paint me some black angels now
Sorry…I’m a reformed Film-maker, exploring my way through Live Art, Fine Art, Dance and Performance and been trying to reject Linear trajectories over the past few years as I explore new live 3 dimensional spatially aware movement oriented expressionistic explanatory practices