Editor's Page 00-06-1987
This editorial was illustrated by a photograph of a female... a particularly buxom 18th Century wooden ship's figurehead...
Editor's Page by Christopher Long
The lady with the doleful eyes staring up at this corner as I write is somebody I once knew rather well. Years ago we used to share a garage together.
It was that viciously cold winter of 1962 and she spent most of it lying on her back propped up on a couple of railway sleepers with an almost identical expression of injured dignity and pious supplication on her face, even in those days.
As she lay there languishing and no doubt thinking of an England when Britannia Ruled the Waves, it was my duty at 2/6d per hour to scrape her ample bust and probe her more intimate parts with a putty knife and assorted gouges while the wind whistled through the draughty garage and turned my hands red, white and blue all at the same time.
She had no shame. It worried her not at all that it was taking dozens of coats of paint-stripper to remove the scores of layers of make-up which the slovenly girl had allowed to accumulate for a century or more. I hate to speak ill of a woman but this one had no pride at all.
Fortunately for her the National Maritime Museum took her in hand when a major restoration programme, carried out by Kim Allen and Joyce Collard, included most of the remarkable ships' figureheads in the Valhalla Collection at Tresco in the Scilly Isles. It was in their garage in Kent, in fact, that I got to know this particular female so well however cool the relationship we had that winter.
So, exactly 25 years later, it's cheering to know that she's now a reformed character. Two of this month's contributors bring me news of her: Rob Stratton in his article on Rocks & Wrecks of the Scilly Isles and Louise Rodden in her Museums column which, coincidentally, takes us to the Valhalla Collection in Tresco.
Another nostalgic memory has been re-awakened for me this month as well. In February 1970 I was the sole passenger on a coastal freighter travelling between Cape Town and Walvis Bay in Namibia (South West Africa). Shortly after leaving Cape Town, as we headed for Port Nolloth, half-way up the coast, there was a knock on my cabin door and a message from the First Officer asking me to join him on the bridge. In my dressing-gown I left the fading splendour of the Zulu's passenger cabin and walked through the brass and mahogany state-room to the moonlit bridge.
"Sorry to wake you, sir," said the First Officer, "but there's a sight you might not want to miss."
And there indeed was a sight that few of us would ever want to miss two huge, dark shapes heaving their vast glistening bodies in surging, slow, deliberate and effortless parabolas through the swelling sea ahead of us. The first live whales I'd ever seen.
It was hard to judge their size. Only their absurd slow-motion gave any real indication of their mass and power. I watched them for a long time as they slowly headed off down a road lit with phosphorescence, entirely alone in what had suddenly become a very large and frightening ocean.
"Sad," said the First Officer. "We don't see them as a rule. They must be way off course."
And Gareth Huw-Davies's feature on Whales this month may lead you to think that still fewer people will see them in future and that now it's man, the gratuitous killer, who is way off course.
Even then I found it hard to imagine how anyone could bring themselves to kill or maim such a beautiful, lonely, mysterious and harmless creature.
Finally, and on a much happier note, we would like to thank all those who have helped to make the launch of World Magazine such a pleasurable success.
We have been delighted, of course, by the extraordinary sales volume of the May launch issue and have greatly appreciated the enormous and very encouraging post-bag.
Readers' letters are read with great interest and help us in preparing future issues. Please don't hesitate, therefore, to let us know what you think of this issue.
In the meantime, on behalf of ourselves and all our contributors, we hope you will enjoy this month's features and will continue to support us in future.
© (1987) Christopher Long. Copyright, Syndication & All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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