Container Port Fos-Sur-Mer, France

After signing aboard the CS Ural I settled into my room. It is spacious and comfortable. I have two forward facing portholes, a king sized bed, facing couches, a coffee table, and large desk and chair. It’s larger than your typical motel accommodation, clean, and bright. I could live here most comfortably for the rest of my life.

I won’t describe my first lunch aboard ship except to say that I started famished, but left the mess hall feeling guilty. I’ll be quick to point out that my meal included a green salad starter and concluded with sliced melon. It’s the in between bits that were so good, but alas, not recommended for ageing cyclists.

After lunch I went on deck next to the bridge. From there I had a commanding view of the port activity and this made me feel like a little boy when a fire engine screams by. It was all so busy, so exciting, that I could barely stand still. There was mechanized activity everywhere, all focused on moving the thousands of containers neatly arrayed on the dock. The containers remind me of Leggo insect eggs. (I’ll pause here to say that if you ‘get’ Leggo, you’ll understand immediately. If you don’t, you never will.) Everything is very cool and inter-connectable.

There are huge praying mantis cranes on steel tracks to load and off-load the ships. Daddy long legs movers tote and stack containers on the dock and an army of vehicles hauls them to market. Trucks, trains, barges, and barge boats all queue up to give and receive precious containers. They move cooperatively in a precise order. It strikes me as a dance, a minuet of commerce.

The hard hat guys are dwarfed by the machines they serve. They look like ants swarming out and clambering over the machines moving the eggs. Or maybe like little Leggo hard hat guys.

I am chagrined by my excitement over this commercial activity, but one can practically taste the energy of these people and machines moving goods around the continent and around the globe. Their syncopated motion is hypnotic. It feels religious, better than the circus.

Later, I went out in the night to watch again. Now the scene was infernal. All the same mechanical activity persisted beneath flood lights, but the little Leggo guys were lost in shadows. The machines had lives of their own. A gas plume burst into the night sky at the refinery across the channel. There were no stars. I wondered how long it will be before this eerie nightmare becomes reality. The Singularity looms.

Tomorrow make way for Malta. The first officer tells me that the Maltese all speak English. It’s a former colony, but so is most of the world I’m visiting. Maltese is a mish-mash of the languages of the many peoples who’ve passed through, French, Italian, German, and Arabic. He says the bike ride into town will be short and fun; there are ‘old churches and stuff’ to see. He’s already sussed that I’m and old church kind of guy, but with a Leggo twist. Feature Notre Dame in Leggo. Now you’ve got it.


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Copyright Jack Kelleher © 2014.