Gronk board

Another story on the theme of strangers in travel pictures.

Once when I was a teenager, I was in the Navy cadets. We went on a 3-day trip staying on a minesweeper.

The minesweeper was dirty and gray coloured and smelt like a hospital. It, and the men who lived in it, had just come back from the gulf. This was the early 90s, so it hadn’t been seeing active duty there, just patrolling.

We motored out of Rosyth, in Fife, north of Edinburgh and went up the Forth out into the North Sea, and puttered around for a while before coming back.

I remember two things about this trip.

The first was when they detonated a demonstration mine for us to see. We were meant to be awed by the power of the explosion and excited by the technology and career possibilities of the Royal Navy. But what really struck me was that a seagull happened to be in the vicinity of the explosion, swimming in the water. It was hurled up in a parabolic arc and landed a few feet away from the boat, lying on its back, its legs kicking pathetically. We debated whether we should ask the sailors to shoot it and put it out of its misery, but after a few minutes of jerky motion it was still.

The second was the gronk board. This was a cork board pinned up in the sailor’s mess, where we had our free time, and could chat with the enlisted men. The board was covered with poor quality snaps, some polaroids, some 35mm, of women in various states of undress and/or inebriation. The men explained that every time they put into port, they would try to take a picture of the women they slept with. They would then compare their snaps and for each stop, the ugliest of the women would go on the board.

I remember their expressions, smiling eagerly and/or lewdly up at the men, with no idea of where they would eventually end up and in what context.