Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Shipyard and the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Way back in the mid 1950s I started my worlking life in the shipyards of Sunderland. My friend Iain reminded me in an unlikely way of the culture of the time. His blog entry says a bit about the Japanese Tea Ceremony and goes on to surmise the English equivalent may weel be a genteel afternoon tea with bone china cups. The shipyards of the North East of England and the Tea Houses of Japan may be a world apart in more ways than one but there was one thing that was absolutely sacrosanct in heavy industry: everything stops for tea. We would sit around the workplace, sometimes on the floor with our bait tins (sandwich boxes) on our laps and mugs of tea, enamel mugs in those days, or sometimes a large thermos of the stuff beside us. That quarter hour break was never curtailed. Not for anything. Production stopped.
That culture is now long gone with the manufacturing industry that disappeared with it. I can't see such practices being done today. The health and safety people wouldn't approve for a start. We all dine in canteens away from work now.
The practises of those of us that worked in heavy industry in those days was resistant to change. Looking back I think it probably contributed to its downfall. In the 1950s and 1960s we built super-tankers, around 100,000 tons dispalacement. Big ships. Then it all went into decline and disappeared seemingly overnight. Ironically it was the Japanese shipyards that thrived after that.

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