SIDE BY SIDE AND UNAWARE
- by Malc Seaman -
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Picture Courtesy SS Uganda Trust
My parents were not wealthy. They were not even 'middle class'. They were just ordinary council-house people. So when I had this daft idea that I would like to go on the school cruise that was being organised - I might just as well have wanted to go to the moon! As far as my folks were concerned it would seem to be about the same cost.

But they decided I should go and somehow or other they managed to raise the money needed for the trip. I think the cost for the fortnight was 65. Not much by today's standards but for 1969 - a fortune! I suspect that my mum and dad went without in order to raise that money, but raise it they did, and in November 1969 I boarded the Caravelle at Gatwick Airport and and we flew to Venice where we would meet the rest of the party and our ship the SS Uganda.

As we were one of the first schools to arrive in Venice we had the advantage of spending a day exploring St Marks Square, the Rialto Bridge and picturing in our minds the unfortunates who might have walked the one-way journey across the Bridge of Sighs.

We sailed out of Venice aboard the Uganda, made our way to Turkey and spent the next two weeks visiting Cyprus, Malta and Tangiers before heading home.

It was a strange experience for a fifteen year old in many respects. We were at that difficult age where we wanted to be adult but still behaved liked kids. So accordingly, we were permitted to roam the streets of foreign towns whenever docked but were still expected to attend classes when we were at sea. But to be fair, the classroom sessions were not the same teacher/student arrangements as back home, they were more lectures based on the places we were about to visit.

Naturally we struck up friendships with kids from other shools. I had two mini 'romances' during the cruise and did continue to visit one girl after the cruise but after a few weeks I just stopped going to see her.

I thoroughly enjoyed the on-deck activities and of course- the swimming pool. It was my first experience of swimming in a pool with a wave machine - naturally generated by the rising and dipping of the ship's bow. In fact, with the student common room situated right at the aft we learned how to cope with walking uphill one moment and downhill the next as the ship's aft rose and fell. The final leg of the journey across the bay of Biscay was terribly up and down and I don't think there was a single kid on that ship who was not actually sick or at least felt sick.

Our suspicions that the headmaster of our school was taking more than the odd 'tipple' during the trip were pretty much confirmed as he seemed to be the only person on the ship, which around Biscay was rising, falling and rolling from side to side, that could actually walk in a straight line (one thing counteracting the other I suspect.)

I remember having to sit through a couple of 'enforced' birthday parties for kids that were unfortunate (or downright inconsiderate in my view) to have a birthday during the fortnight we were at sea. You know what it's like when adults think they really understand what is going on in a fifteen year old's head. They make twenty kids sit at desks in a classroom, give them all a can of coke, a slice of sponge cake, sing 'Happy Birthday' to the unfortunate wretch whose birthday it was, and then scratch their heads and wonder why all twenty kids were wishing they were elsewhere - playing football, chasing girls, swimming with sharks...

But on the whole the cruise was a memorable time in my life and I was sad it all had to come to an end. Within two years I had left school and started an Engineering Apprenticeship at PC Henderson, who made garage doors and gear.

Hendersons had a good number of apprentices and also a number of junior staff - girls who worked in the reception and general office. During the first year I was at PC Henderson our intake spent four and a half days a week at college and then a half day back at the plant writing up our weekly reports. You can imagine how much fun it was for four young lads to be able to 'wolf-whistle' and generally torment the girls that had to walk past us from general office to reception (and how much torture it must have been for those girls.)

Well there was one particular girl that caught my eye. I knew her name was Susan, but I didn't think she was at all interested in me so I started to date one of the girls from reception. One Friday lunchtime when we were out I spotted Susan - and I noticed her look over at me. So I decided I would call her that evening and ask her out on a date. I called Susan that evening and she agreed to come out with me on the Saturday night.

We spent an enjoyable evening together talking about the people we mutually knew and the things we had in common and then... what do you know! We discovered that we had both been on the same cruise a few years earlier - on the SS Uganda together for a fortnight and we never crossed each other's paths!

How strange, that we had both known the same people and yet not known each other - that we had been to the same places and yet not met each other.
Strange? Not really.
God's plan for our lives and His timing are both perfect. It was simply not the time for us to meet - and this was!

Our relationship steadily grew until, when I had known Sue all of 5 months I asked her to marry me and she said 'Yes' (Yippee!)
We were engaged at eighteen, married at twenty and had three under fives by the time were 26. But best of all we both gave our hearts to Jesus by the time we were 30.

We both look back fondly on the holiday we enjoyed - but never shared - when we sailed around the Mediterranean on board the SS Uganda but since then we have shared so much with each other. Our children - and soon, grandchildren. But most of all we share a love for each other and an even greater love for our Lord Jesus Christ. He knew all about us then, and He knows all about us now. He knew when to draw us together and he knows how to keep us together - and we can do no more than praise Him for all His goodness, His grace - and His perfect timing.


Have you got a story to tell? Perhaps you also had a memorable trip on the SS Uganda.? Perhaps you met your husband or wife on board? If you did We could consider publishing your story on this site!


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