When you are opening presents, warm and well fed and a little tipsy, spare a thought this Christmas for the seafarers out there on the oceans without whom you would be cold, hungry and have no presents and nothing to wrap them in.
They will be a long way from their families and even if you are not hanging on for dear life in a North Atlantic storm or stuck in the middle of a war or revolution or in some shitty port and the Mate doesn’t get the fire axe and put it half way through the night watchman because the whiskey has got to him, somehow opening a parcel to find a bobble hat kitted by someone at the Seaman’s Mission, although welcome, doesn’t quite feel the same as cuddling your wife and watching your children playing with the boxes of the presents you bought them.
For me the last verse of Leo Madigan’s poem, A Sailor’s Christmas, published by the Marine Society in Voices from the Sea, says it all:
“Later now, I’ve just come off the bridge. The air’s brilliant up there.
The cold’s like a telescope. All the coast of Finland is ablaze.
And stalactites of light hang in the sky like frozen fire.
Felt pretty low this afternoon, thinking of you at home with Danny and all that
And me here like I was doing time. Now though (am I getting sloppy?)
In this cheerless, leaking cabin, which could well be a stable,
Maybe I’m learning something about Christmas.”