A Sailor went to Sea

2010: ALL THE NICE GIRLS LOVE A SAILOR 

A PERFORMANCE JOURNEY THROUGH MY GRANDFATHERS’S STORIES IN SEARCH OF HIS LIFE

A Sailor went to SeaSeaSea

Hetty King singing Ship Ahoy is at 9 mins 9 secs

Hetty King as Sailor

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)

Sinking of the Scharnehorst Pathe Newsreel footage featuring Hubert Thane

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 Grandad and portrait

Is that France?

Grandad?

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?

Blue Sky Sailor HatI remember walking with him along the cliffs at Newhaven

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

Naval record and my dad as baby1921 to 1923 HMS Impregnable (Training ship Devonport)

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)

North Africa

North Cape

Scapa Flow

Clyde

Atlantic

North America

West Indies

Iceland

Russian Convoy

Naval recordRule Britannia,

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

North America North AfricaHe 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.

Slave Ships Cemetary attendants

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

Granny and Some of the stories he chose to tellQuite different from Mother’s Mother declaiming against the Sari clad ladies taking up space on our pavements

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

Training ship at greenwich 1910 gentle authorHe wanted to leave and to become a school teacher

Fucking little Bastard

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

Family and Naval PhotosHe was too old for School Teacher training

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

All the Nice Girls Hetty King Slave peeps throughShip Ahoy Slavery

Dad and Grandad

· 12:10 pm | Edit

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