Last Man to Leave the Ice Factory
Ice was no chin-chin thing to keep a drink cold;
ice was business, titanic big, tonnes crushed
for the trawlers to keep fish fresh in the hold
tides away from land. Now machines are hushed;
then, up at four we were, 20 waggons waiting
for 20 tonnes of ice each. You’d eat off the floor
it was so polished. Pans of water chilled in a freezing
pool of brine, sliding out in slabs. No more;
now there’s pigeon shit on machines, copper wiring
ripped. Can you fathom this was progress?
No hacking ice from frozen ponds, nor importing
ice from Norway. Ammonia compressed
in the machines meant man-made ice on demand
for the biggest fishing fleet afloat. Cod wars, and fishing
was dying. I stayed on as gallons of water drained.
No shame in admitting to a grown man crying.
The Great Grimsby Ice Factory Trust was unsuccessful in its recent bid for funding to the Heritage Lottery Fund, despite being on the 2014 World Monuments Watch, a worldwide list of cultural sites at risk of being lost forever. The Ice Factory was built in 1901, and closed its doors in 1990. Mike Sonley, former chief rigger, was the last man to work there.
Workers’ photos are erected on posts around the local pond in Asserac, France
Valérie Touya, Coiffeuse
A big silver hoop dangles from one ear,
her T-shirt says, come from the moon.
To the man in the chair,
steel blades grazing his neck hair,
she is a luminary: a goddess in her sphere.
Claude Lelecque, Paludier
He is fierce in the face of the lens – caught
with a stash of the finest white substance
in a basket by his bare feet: harvested salt.
Behind him, his wooden hut is a treasure vault
for shovel; bucket; wooden rake, the long-handled sort.
Chantal Caba, Boulangère
From the interior of her stretch white
van, she smiles at her queuing fans.
‘Let them eat bread, baked on-site
and delivered first thing for their delight.’
Every inch a diva, after being up half the night.
Olivier Bertho, Charpentier
Not a cigar rolled for a star clamped in his teeth –
but a pencil. He will use it to mark his place,
of which he is sure, but now his focus is on the lathe
and the wood. His work will bequeath
craftsmanship for generations: a kind of belief.
Jean-Marc Lecam, Plombier
His rolled up sleeves, deadpan
stare straight to camera as if he means business.
He does. A hero, a leading man
who prevents floods, makes a plan.
A man of few words, whose catchphrase is I can.
Patrick Lecarff, Pompier
His uniform is not a costume. It is no act,
entering a burning building as the camera rolls.
Saving lives is not a drama; but matter-of-fact –
what he does for his community, backed
by a crew of solidarity: a fireproof pact.
Maxime Pierlo, Monteur de Kitesurf
This is his beach, his turf.
He is half man, half Poseidon,
half in his wetsuit, half out. King of the surf,
he harnesses the wind, cuts up the sky, can morph
from man to immortal. The title of his biopic: Sail Forth.