So I must own up that we did all joke about it...icebergs and lifeboats and things, yet the cruise ship disaster earlier this year confirms that there is no room for complacency on board a ship.
But joke we did, when I accompanied the Tinker and friends on that Caribbean cruise a few years ago, when the cabin became vacant at the last minute, and it seemed a pity to waste it, and the very first thing you have to do when you step on board is lifeboat drill.
And really all I wanted to do was sit out on the balcony of my Junior Stateroom (because the Tinker had treated me to an upgrade) and take it all in, instead of which, as we sailed out of Galveston, I had to don the gear and find my lifeboat station,
I quickly realised that if this ever did happen for real the first problem is that I have to find my way back to my cabin to get my life-jacket and if the electricity has gone surely the key pad won't unlock, secondly once I have the fetching garment on I can't see my feet, and thirdly people wearing life-jackets take up twice the space so it's going to a be a real Michelin-Man affair.
Add in the fact that the ship is huge and the corridors all look the same and I can now see why they say it would have taken people two weeks to learn their way around the Titanic, sadly they only had a matter of days.
Meanwhile I also feel sorry for all the museum curators this spring.
Having barely got Scott out of the way, there's Titanic waiting to sink, and in fact in Plymouth it's all happening at the same time, and how easy it could be to get into Titanic overload right now, what with Drownton, and then all the information to know about things like sub-standard rivets, and James Cameron's pictures of the inside of the ship in National Geographic, and Kate and Leonardo in just about every advert there is right now. I expect Prof Brian's on somewhere talking about icebergs too and how they, like me and Brian and you, may all have been particles in the same dinosaur once upon a time. But in fact I never weary of a historical moment like this because it really is a great opportunity to revisit something I think I might know all I need or want to, but actually there is always something new.
The Plymouth City Museum had a modest Titanic display, I should imagine Southampton and Belfast are the ones pushing the boat out (sorry) though, and I hadn't realised until Mr Overton the curator told us, the Titanic would have been due to dock in Plymouth in April 2012 on her return journey across the Atlantic. A wall on board the Titanic apparently home to a huge painting of the return into Plymouth of which, like so much else, there seems to be no photographic record.
In honour of the centenary I have been reading Titanic, The Last Night of a Small Town by John Welshman, recently published by Oxford University Press, and it has been an enlightening journey through the tragedy, taking a closer look at the lives of a small group of people on board. John Welshman has selected from across the social classes as well as the crew in order to give a broader picture of the inhabitants of this 'town'.
It is well-known that ten millionaires went down with the ship, among them Astor, Guggenheim and Straus with computed wealth of £60 million between just the three of them, and much is known and written about that, so it has been interesting to read of the journeys of some of the passengers lower down the decks too. Eva Hart, one of those featured in the book and a survivor, demonstrating the celebrity status accorded to the lucky ones....as you can see above, someone has her signature on the book.
It has all led me into the world of what I understand is called the Titanorak, and little did I know of the existence of the website Encyclopaedia Titanica until I looked.
Heavens, who knew so much work had been done to trace and write a biography of every single passenger on the ship.
John Welshman, a historian, issues caveats about the use of the twelve available and well-known autobiographical accounts from which he has sourced some of his material. It becomes clear that legend may have become myth, all compounded by various film versions, whilst confusion, contradiction and misinformation abound, so it has been fascinating to read this account and do some fact-straightening of my own.
Alongside this I have been reading of James Cameron's trip around the ship on a submersible, all recounted in this month's National Geographic, the pictures are quite breathtaking, though now I think I'd like to see the wreck left in peace. It is effectively a grave after all.
The Titanic fervour doesn't stop there though, increasinlgy innovative projects abound and if you like sewing be sure to visit chopkins. Chopkins is taking part in the Vintage Pattern Lending Library 1912 Sewing Project . You can check out the library itself here but the plan is for legions of people to make the garments from the magazines of 1912 using the original patterns, thus creating the fashions that may have walked the decks of Titanic.
Today the centenary of the Titanic's departure from Southampton, heading for Cherbourg and then Queenstown before striking out across the Atlantic. Coming up on here at the approximate time of the sinking on April 15th, Tavistock gets in on the story with an interesting grave in the local cemetery.