Gulls screamed and wheeled, diving around the towering metal cranes that stood as a silent guard between the land and the sea. Tall and proud, they stretched almost through the blanket of grey that hid the morning sky. The cranes’ splayed feet set solid, crucified by rusty bolts and rails to the concrete wharves.
The rain had stopped but droplets still hung from the wire security fences, a glitter of water shook loose with each gust of wind. Chrissie pulled her coat tight, not just from the cold but also to cushion the memory. Childhood. Her grandfather. The rumble of trucks vibrating through her feet, the constant whistles and sirens of caution, the shouts and cheers of working men. It was the same in every port.
The picket in front of the main gates had been going all night. Portable generators chugged, tent canopies were tightened, digital sign boards reprogrammed with new messages: ‘Safety first’. ‘People not profits’. There were about forty men, some with drooping banners held loosely in tired hands, others with slogans stretched tight across t-shirts on strong chests and pot bellies alike. Chrissie had been there for about an hour, still and unnoticed off to the side, leaning against a car. She could see the anger as she watched the men, it wafted off them like steam.