To Grays with my Yachting Monthly colleague: Chris Beeson , technical editor for a ‘shoot’ aboard Minstrel Boy, my Contessa 32. I had prepared Chris, as we walked to Fenchurch Street station, that the Tilbury loop was a train running through a different world to that he may have experienced before. On the 18.05 a woman weighing as much as a six man liferaft sat beside Chris – not a small man – buckling the seat in her favour and giving him a list to starboard. With a series of snapping noises she produced a mobile telephone. ‘Jess leavin Fenchurch, can yer pik us up in 20? Cheers, love you too, take care, bye, slater.’ As the train braked upon the approach to Grays three beer tins rolled under Chris’s feet. Unfortunately all empty. As we walked down the High Street, Chris noticed a pub, The Mess, had been completely gutted by fire. A passing youth in a baseball cap placed on his head in such a way as to prevent his neck from getting sunburn, said:’Yeah, mate it’s an insurance job. When the fire died down they found a body inside it was all stabbed up.’ Chris, an urbane fellow, was too polite to comment on the social aspects of my home port which lives in the shadow of Tilbury Dock. ‘Surprising how narrow the river is here,’ he said thoughtfully, concentrating on the job in hand.
Even looking out over the raw industrial skyline of cement factory chimney, soap plant elevator, grain terminal, dock crane, coal-fired power station and John Prescott Thames Gateway high rise, he remained manfully focussed: ‘There might be a bit of ambient light to worry about for the test.’ A true professional at work.