Nelson

Tonight’s shoot was in Chatham at the Historic Dockyard. It’s amazing, although I barely had time to explore. We were alongside the Ocelot, which is a 1962 submarine, decommissioned 5 years ago and now in dry dock as a museum piece. A sleek oily black hellhole that must have seen things in the cold war. How could anyone bear to work in one of these?

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One of my dad’s best friends was a submariner. My grandad was a naval man too, but he was on destroyers. I’m sure both John and Oz would have been delighted to explore my workplace this evening. So much naval history.

Next to the Ocelot lies the Victory Dock. This is where Nelson’s flagship was built and launched. The famous boat that carried him to his victorious death at Trafalgar. Shot by a sniper. His last words were “Kiss me, Hardy.” His first mate kissed him. “Now I am satisfied.” As I child I remember a teacher telling me with the fervour of a zealot and the eyes of a child that it was in fact “Kismet, Hardy.” Because men don’t kiss other men oh no yuk yuk and certainly not men who are erected on a column near Soho. This revision, although prevalent, is obviously bollocks – the word wasn’t even in common parlance to mean fate at that time, and still really isn’t now.

Nelson was a hugely significant imaginative figure. So many stories about him, and to die on your ship when victory was assured – golden. From what I understand of him he always led from the front, and he followed his own intuition to the extent of disobeying when he felt it was right to. At Copenhagen he was given the signal to disengage, but with better assessment of the odds he raised his telescope to his blind eye and said “I really do see no signal.” He went on to win a great victory.

Trafalgar, where he died, is right down on the south coast of Spain, near Gibraltar and Tangier. It takes a long time to get back up to London from there by boat. They had to preserve his body for the journey, and they did it by putting him in a barrel of “refined spirits” – so either brandy or rum. Problem is you’ve got a ship full of victorious men who’ve been through hell and lost friends. And there’s a limited amount of booze and it’s a long voyage. By the time the boat hit London the “refined spirit” had all been illicitly tapped. The pickled body was still good to lie in St Pauls. So Nelson was buried as pickled as a tequila worm, and his men drank his mortal wounds diluted. Perhaps it’s a naval version of what Trelawney tried when he ate Shelley’s heart. The phrase “Tapping the admiral” is still used to mean sucking the dregs, in naval circles. There’s a romance there, of sorts, drinking your fallen commanding officer. “Who hasn’t had a shot of Nelson? Anyone else want to make a case for why they deserve one?” The man was worthy of his fame. He stayed in the thick of it until the sniper got him.

So that’s what I’ve been thinking about as I’ve finished this shoot. But my last day worked out even better than yesterday. Amazingly, almost impossibly, I’m done already. Once again I lucked out on schedule. It’s possible they know about my rib by now and jigged it in my favour. I don’t think so. But I was expecting to finish at 4.30am. I was bedding in for a long one when I arrived this evening. And somehow … Somehow I was on the 22.03 from Chatham with everything they needed in the can. I get to have a Saturday awake! Thank you random God of filming!

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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