‘What do horses, kids and ships have in common?’ asked One Armed Archie as he gazed out over the Biffa bins strewn outside the Airdrie Working Men’s Club on a rainy summer’s afternoon. The wind whipped a ripped Lidl bag against the UPVC window and stuck it there while Archie sipped his treble vodka and Irn Bru wistfully. I had to admit that I didn’t really know.
‘Well, you spend ages thinking of great original names for them. Then after the bunting is taken down you end up having to pay for the thing forever more. Everybody else just gets to enjoy the parties, you get to enjoy walking round with the black bin bag at the end of it once they have all gone to bed,’ he opined. I did own a ship or two in my lifetime and I have had horses and children, and I can pretty much concur with Archie’s assessment of all three.
I asked Stinky Derek what he thought. Stinky Derek is probably the richest man in Airdrie, having made his fortune by producing plastic toiled seats in a factory in Albania. ‘Well, I think you do get something back from your children in some sense. And if the horse is no good then at least you can eat it at the end. But a ship? Now that one I really don’t get. Why give it some stupid fancy name which gives you some weird emotional attachment to it? By bog seat factory doesn’t have some fancy name now does it? And I tell you this much, it makes money. Furthermore, when it stops making money I’ll get rid of it!’ he hurrumphed.
‘What’s so romantic about a giant warehouse with an engine on the back? I have a warehouse full of bog seats in Slough. We call it Unit 8, Slough Industrial Estate. If I stuck a massive engine on the back I doubt I would rename it ‘The Pride of The Seas’ now would I?’ he said, jabbing his finger in my general direction. ‘If you stopped naming them and having parties to celebrate them then you might start to actually work out what their true worth is.’
Stinky Derek butted in: ‘Having you heard the one about the dyslexic pimp? He bought a warehouse.’ (I’ll be honest here, he didn’t butt in at all, but I really just wanted to shoe horn in one of my favourite jokes. I’ve done it now, so rest easy, you won’t hear it again.)
There’s also some other odd facts about ship names. I sold a ship called something ‘Ambition’ to an oily sort of fellow. The ship promptly halved in value and he got fired. So much for ambition! Another one that I remember well was called something ‘Integrity’. The ‘owners’ of that particular gem transferred the ‘assets’ into a different company and declared themselves insolvent, thus avoiding $12m worth of creditors. Imagine what would have happened without any ‘Integrity’?
Derek swigged from his plastic bottle of cider and turned to me. ‘Did you ever got to a ship owner’s office?’ ‘Yep I did. Many times. And I’ll tell you one thing. I remember going to see a guy who was really struggling. You went in there and there was oak panelling everywhere. Old bits of ships, secretaries floating around. I went into his massive office, where he was sat all by himself looking miserable. He asked me if I wanted to buy a particular ship from him. He’d named it ‘Lucky Fortune’, but it should have been named ‘Costa Bundle’.
He told me that it was bleeding him dry and he just wanted shot of it. I said that I wasn’t really interested, but let me have a think. As we left his office and walked back to the reception, right in the middle of the room was an enormous scale model of a ship. Painted on the side was the name ‘Lucky Fortune’. My friend turned to me and said ‘You know what? That model cost me more than the stupid thing earns now’ and promptly burst into tears.’
‘Well’, said Archie, ‘I don’t think I’ll be having a scale model of a toilet seat factory in my reception. You shipping people, you just don’t seem to own a calculator between you and think you own race horses not warehouses.’ Hard not to agree. And if you think dry bulk owners are in a pickle, just wait until you see what is about to happen to tanker owners. My advice is whatever you do, don’t name a ship after somebody you like. It will always end up getting set about by hundreds of men with blow torches. Not a fate any of us would wish upon our loved ones.