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                                                                                            Geoffrey R. Andrews



Photographing the Scrapyard

On Saturday morning, my wife Rena asked me to cut the grass. She told me there were some fallen pears on the lawn that needed clearing up. As I was gathering the pears, I found a huge, horrible slimy orange slug. I put it in the trash bag with the pears and then I threw the bag into the bin. Trapped, the slug could not escape and it would be carried off by the garbage collectors.

Some of Rena’s friends were coming to Southsea for the weekend. She would be staying overnight with them. About 10.00 am, I drove Rena to join them. I then had Saturday to myself. Yippee! So I decided to go off with my digital camera and see what images I could capture.

Where to go? Well, at the naval base of Portsmouth on the English south coast, near where we live, there is the most wicked scrapyard where they demolish old Royal Navy ships, submarines, and other outdated miscellaneous military and civilian hardware. The scrapyard can be seen from the motorway. I resolved to drive as close to it I could in order to take some photographs.

What ho! No problem. Up some back lanes, around the back of an old industrial estate, and there I was right next to an army tank. Gun and all. Dared I go further? Well, actually, yes, I did. I went right into the scrapyard. It is, as I said, the most wicked place. There are loads of old anchors, some from the days of sailing ships, along with naval guns and small boats being dismantled. I had a great time with my camera, a real adventure, and as nobody was there I had the place to myself. Brilliant!

At 12.45 pm, it was time to go home. Our dog, Millie, had been on her own for three hours. I drove back toward the entrance of the scrapyard. On the way, I spotted a baby road roller staring out from the iron undergrowth. I stopped to take some photographs of it, along with pictures of other interesting things. I even went into a navy gun turret, all complete! Well, by now it was 1.15 pm, and I knew I really had better get back to Millie.

I drove to the entrance and, bloody hell, if the gate wasn’t locked!

There was a “portacabin” with a light on and a television blasting away. But no security man. The portacabin was locked.

But then I noticed some workmen in the adjoining yard on the other side of a barbed wire fence.

“Excuse me!” I yelled over the barbed wire. “Do you know where the security guy is?”

“No, mate,” one replied. “Johnny is usually there all weekend. Probably gone for a bite.”

Well, then, I will wait, I thought.

By 2.15 pm, still no security man. Not seeing a telephone number anywhere, I removed the security company’s notice from the gate to read the number. Ringing the number, a voice informed me, “We don’t cover security on the site. Sorry!” It turned out to be the number of the closed circuit TV company, who informed me, “We’re in Sheffield and we don’t cover Portsmouth.”

The workmen in the next yard stopped as they passed the gate in side which I was imprisoned.

One asked, “No luck yet?”

“No,” I replied. “Are you sure Johnny is on guard all weekend?”

I was rewarded with a glum and quizzical look. “Well, usually.”

Off they went, not too intent on helping me. I watched my only contact with human life line drive dustily down the road.

I thought I had better use my mobile phone to call Rena and ask her to go home to see to the dog. It was now 2:30 pm and it might be some hours before I could get home. No reply. I sent a text message: “Phone me on mobile urgently.”

Then I wondered how much money I had on the phone (in the United Kingdom, we pay ahead of time to buy minutes of calls on our mobile telephones). Oh, no! I saw that I had less than £1 in calls left. Any more calls and I would be stuck. I therefore called the mobile company. I got through and got the usual “Press number one, press number two…” But after some time I actually got to speak to someone.

“I need to top up my phone. Can you do it if I give you my credit card number?”

“Can I have your password for your telephone, Sir?”

“No idea, sorry. My daughter gave me the phone when she got a new one and I just use it.”

An audible intake of breath.

“What address is it registered to?” I gave my address. No good. Gave my daughter’s address -- no good yet again. Bloody hell!

“Look, it’s an emergency. I’m locked in a scrapyard and I have almost no money on my phone to call for help!”

“You’re locked where, Sir???”

After some time we succeeded in adding money to the phone. I had an additional £20 on the telephone and thus had a lifeline again. I relaxed. . . a little.

I peered into the portacabin again. Faintly on the wall I could see a handwritten mobile number. And I thought, “Whoever that is will know the security man.”

I received a recorded message, “Please leave a message after the tone.”

I restained my inclination to say “Oh! Fuck!” Kept my cool and ended the call.

3.00 pm. No call from Rena, no security man, no workmen next door, lots of high barbed wire fence.

I thought that probably the security man, Johnny, had bunked off leaving his employer under the mistaken impression that he was there all weekend. He probably left the light and telly on to make it look as though he was really there.

I tried to conceal my encroaching thirst with thoughts of positive action.

Does that old tank work? Could I ram the gate?

I clambered over bracken to get to the shore. When I had arrived at the yard, the tide was out and I could see the beach. Not any more.

Fire brigade then. They could get me out with a ladder, but the car would still be stuck inside over the weekend and I would still have to get home.

I reposition the car out of sight. I then squeezed a note through the broken window to say I’d left the car (that is, to make them aware that it wasn’t scrap), and that I would be back on Monday. The note drifted past the blaring television onto the floor. It would probably be found by someone six months from now.

I decided to have another look around in case there was another way out of the scrapyard. The place was huge.

Off I trekked into the interior once more. I found a skip with a local telephone number. Called the number only to get: “All our operators are busy at the moment…..” Shit. Then I saw another environmental waste container. A big, smart-looking container. Very out of place. A different local number. Ring, ring, ring, then a man’s voice and a helpful one at that. “You’re where??? I’ll try and contact some one with a key.” My heart jumped. Could this be?

In ten minutes, the geezer actually called back. “I contacted someone. He’ll be there in half an hour.” Glory be!

Ten minutes later, a car arrived and a bloke asked how I got in there. Fortunately, he believed me when I told him that I had only come into the scrapyard to take photographs.
"What happened to the security guy," I asked. "I thought he was supposed to only be at lunch."

"He's sick. Nobody will be here until Monday." He produced a key.

Freedom. Now I knew how that big orange slug felt. I resolved to set it free when I got home.

5.10 pm, at home. My wife Rena, still with her friends in Southsea, answered my "emergency" phone call of two and a half hours earlier. I heard Rena and her friends laugh as I told her my tale.


                                                                                                © Geoffrey Andrews

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Loch Raven Review Winter 2005 — Vol. I, No. 2
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