An entertaining account of life on board a ship, by Peter T Jackson, who worked as a Telegraphist on the ship Fallflower. This is a story of ‘Life on the Lower Deck’, as the subtitle indicates, where regular seamen lived and worked in messy, chaotic conditions.
In this narrative, Jackson travels from England to Shanghai, passing the Suez, Ceylon, Singapore, Hongkong, etc, by the usual routes. He records his experiences while working, and introduces the reader to a host of colourful co-workers, such as his closest colleague Ginger, also a Telegraphist. During this time, a number of adventures ensue, such as encounters with pirates. The book is refreshing in its frankness, liberality, and humour.
“At the end of this street were some Japanese owned houses of a similar nature, but their own nationality. To the left of these again some queer houses that hid a lot of secret things and practices of a dubious nature, amongst them, opium.
We had heard a lot about this stuff and felt inclined to try it. Luck was in our path, we met a signal man who was the only English sailor addict I had ever heard about. We talked to him a little and decided to try a shot. He knew a place and led the way.
We squatted on the edge of the beds while the Chinese dipped a needle into a pot of stuff and twirled it into a ball, he then heated it over a small lamp popped it into a bowl of pipe and handed it to me. I had always imagined it the same as smoking a pipe of tobacco, you puffed away in a contented frame of mine. Far from it, two puffs and it was gone, or gone out, and the job was over. The taste did not suit me, perhaps it was the general smell of the room, and I did not feel a bit different.
Later, out in the street again I did feel a difference, a sort of detached air about me. A nice little murder right in front of me, even of a blood relation, would have left me unmoved. I should have shrugged my shoulders and thought he deserved it or that it really had not happened.”