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Friday Fictioneers – Docks

31 March, 2017

It’s all kicking off over here this week. First our leader sent a minion to Brussels with her letter declaring the Britain will be leaving the EU after the nation voted for Brexit, prompting rowdy scenes in parliament and protests in the street (including my cousin dressed in a giant Theresa May head outside the House). And then the SNP renewed their call for another referendum , saying if the UK are leaving Europe, they want to leave the UK. Fortunately there is no such discord in the corner of the Internet we call FriFic, the only thing exiting is our weekly prompt from Rochelle’s outbox:

which hotfoots its way fresh from the viewfinder of Fatima Fakier Deria. Neither is there is any suggestion of FriFexit over in Frogtopia where stories from around the world are shared.

Fatima’s picture reminded me of Southampton’s own Ocean Village which grew up on land which was once the East Docks and inspired my effort this week. The name William is a nod to my own Uncle Bill, a lifelong docker.


William left school on his sixteenth birthday, before term ended. On Friday he emptied his locker; on Monday he joined his father among thousands in safety boots on the dockside. “No exams here boy,” he said, “it’s man’s work. Job for life.”

Thirty years on, William is glad his father didn’t see the docks’ transformation. Containers and freight trains replaced by yachts and luxury flats. Where rigger gloves once protected William’s hands from ropes and chains, now thin latex gloves shield him from cleaning sprays and cloths. This was a job for life, but not the one he had foreseen.




  1. Ah Yes… The world’s waterfronts have indeed changed!

    • They have. And too many have changed from places where working people earn their living to places where rich people play.
      I realise not everyone who sails falls into that category, of course, but there seem to be many coastal towns with marinas full of posh flats and bug yachts

  2. I like your righteous anger

  3. Dear TRG,

    Progress? As always…a good story.



  4. A sad piece of nostalgia, well written. I wonder how we will look back on Brexit and the UK in a couple of generations time.

  5. Dale permalink

    Times they are a-changing… and not always for the better for the working man…

  6. Life Lessons of a Dog Lover permalink

    I was rooting for William, I hated that he was not happy in his job for life. But as I tell my son often, there are days everyone hates their jobs even doctors and lawyers. I was saddened when I read in the news about the Brexit letter. I can’t help but think this is going to change the world.

    • Thanks for reading! You’re right, every job has its bad days but jobs like doctors or lawyers don’t get thrown away as easily as more working class roles do. Nobody knows what the future holds and what life will be like in the new world…

      • Life Lessons of a Dog Lover permalink

        Damn the world, why does it have to keep changing. My husband who works in software development tells me that the new manual labor will be coding. He could be right.

      • He may have a point. In this new internet world everything needs to be programmed!

  7. Gosh what a change. Well told! We dont know what we will end up doing in life

  8. You cannot stop change, and it is a sad thing that workers in so many places are lied to with claims to the contrary. People need to give up the idea of ‘real work’ versus an education. All the ‘real work’ will go to robots. Only those who are able to adapt will thrive. No occupation is set in stone, and people can learn new stuff at all ages.
    Enough with the sermon, sorry, I’m a bit passionate about that topic. Good story. 🙂 And I’m very, very sad that you people divorced us.

    • I agree the world now insists we adapt to changing circumstances and those changes occur faster than ever as the pace of technology change increases.
      The idea that you don’t need an education was very much an old fashioned idea of William’s father who was of a different era of mass manual labour. But all that nuance got lost in the need to cut down to 100 words!

      • And then, to contradict myself (and because I come from an uneducated worker family) when people are tired and weary from their hard work, they have little interest in thinking about other things they might be able to learn and do. And later, when the jobs are gone, it takes a lot of effort to change one’s attitude. Workers must not be forgotten but sadly only the populists seem to know how to get their atention.

      • *applauds* The politicians and business leaders tell us that exciting new job opportunities await in their brave new world, but how would a factory worker or docker of 30+years want to retrain to work in the mall replacing their workplace as a coffee shop or as a security guard?

    • And yes, this divorce is a sad thing indeed. I hope we can find a way to make it work but any deal we can arrange will always be inferior to that we have now.

      • I hope so, without the nyah-nyah factor from Europe and the war drums from Britain. We have more in common than separates us I think.

      • You’re right. Our press are embarrassing the nation again this week with their anti-Euro headlines.

  9. I worked summers on a shipyard…
    once my hometown produced the highest number of tankers in the world.

    Now the same transformation has happened as you describe.

  10. There are very few good paying jobs for the under-educated anymore. It’s a different world and its changing all the time, as your 100 words so brilliantly tell.

  11. Great depiction of change and the effect of change observed in large and small but significant contrasts

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