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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Titanic 100th Anniversary: 15th April





Well, it's been pretty hard to avoid the fact that today is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.  Agent Triple P has always been fascinated by ocean liners, has even been on a couple and seen some of the others at sea: Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth, United States, France etc.  It was always those that did the Atlantic route that interested us but liners were becoming cruise ships even when Triple P was small.  We also went on board the Canberra, the Orsova and the Chusan as he had an aunt who worked for P&O.


The Mauretania bar in Bristol gives a little feeling of what being on one of the great pre-World War 1 liners must have felt like

When his sister was living in Bristol we used to go to a wine bar which had been fitted out with mahogany paneling, plaster ceilings and light fittings from the RMS Mauretania: the only one of the big four funneled liners to be built in England (Newcastle).  It is still there and we would like to go there again shortly as the bar has just been re-fitted.  Originally these relics from the Mauretania were bought by the Bristol wine merchant Ronald Avery in 1935 for the building that was the Avery's headquarters (which is now the Java bar).


The Lloyd's loss book entry for Titanic


Our interest in the Titanic was cemented when we met a lady, Eva Hart, who had been on board as a child when it struck the iceberg on April 14th 1912.  We enjoyed the Clive Cussler book Raise the Titanic.  We even liked the film (well, the soundtrack by John Barry was good). We saw the original loss book at Lloyd's of London recording the sinking.  We were fascinated when Robert Ballard discovered the wreck in 1985.  Latterly, we knew a marine photographer, Keith Beken, whose father, Frank, had taken a famous shot of the Titanic in the Solent.  So when James Cameron's film came out we should have been delighted.


Frank Beken's famous photograph of Titanic in the Solent


Except we are not.  Suddenly there were millions more people interested in the ship and their knowledge of what happened that freezing night was based on some very poor history in the film.  Triple P has read a lot of books about Titanic and found bits of the film most annoying.  We still watch parts of Titanic but really only the early sequences before the iceberg hits.  We like to see the ship at full steam accompanied by James Horner's evocative music.  Partly, we suppose, it is also something to do with having an interest in something that not many others know about.  When it becomes popular one's own interest feels somewhat devalued. The same thing happens when an interest in, say, a particular musician, becomes less keen when they become big stars. 




So we have not bought any of the many new Titanic books that have been released.  We will not be going to see James Cameron's 3D version of the films and we will not be buying James Horner's extended version of the soundtrack.  

We do own a small piece of coal retrieved from the debris field between the two parts of the ship and we will look at it tonight and drink a toast to  the 1,514 people who never had a chance to make any money out of the disaster.

2 comments:

  1. One of my great-grandfathers was aboard the _Titanic_ and went down with her. He was a well-to-do businessman traveling First Class, so probably had some valuable stuff with him like gold watches and cuff links, and who knows what else. Ever since the finding of the wreck I've wished that folk would just regard it as a grave and leave it all alone instead of rummaging through it. I don't like the thought of his comb or his buttonhook or what have you ending up on the curio shelf of someone who doesn't recognize his initials. I don't seem to have the same feeling about the digging up of ancient settlements on land, so I suppose there's some hypocrisy in this. But we can know everything we _need_ to know about Anglo culture ca. 1912 without digging up the _Titanic_; if we want to know how life was in Anatolia at the time of the Trojan War we have little choice but to dig. Seems different to me.

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  2. I agree with you. I justified the coal to myself on the basis that it wasn't a personal item but just ship's stores. I too am slightly queasy at the items of clothing up for auction last week. I remember Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck, saying that he would love to have a bottle of wine from the Titanic on his desk but he felt that it was wrong to do so.

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