Saturday, January 28, 2006

Normandie splendours

Well, I should be preparing for a dinner party tonight, but, like that jogger, I just feel I have to blog... (jk).

Last night I was most miffed to see that M6 just have one episode of 'les 4400' on a Friday evening. We've caught up all of series one, and they are spinning series two out now that they have us hooked. It is followed by 'Medium' which looks a bit silly to me, so I switched over to 'Thalassa', the programme about everything to do with the sea and rivers.

They were showing a film made about the French cruise liner, Normandie, which crossed the Atlantic over 4 years up until the outbreak of WWII, when it got stuck in New York. The film was made in colour with some rare 16mm film, and is the only colour footage and yesterday was the first time this footage has been shown.

It was a pretty incredible ship. It could carry over 800 first class passengers, 600 second 'Tourist' class, and over 400 third class. The first class quarters were luxuriously equipped with Lalique fresques, and the finest craftsmenship with the finest materials money could buy. It was over 300m long, longer than the Tour Eiffel and was a marvel of the latest technology of the time and even today looked terribly impressive.

Unfortunately, when the Americans entered the War, they commandeered the ship to convert it into a troop ship. All the fancy decor was removed and it was painted and adapted for its new function. Apparently this was done somewhat sloppily, and when a spark was inadvertently dropped, it must have fallen onto an inflammable material because it started a fire which completely gutted the ship. The fire service pumped thousands of gallons of water onto it to put the fire out, which they succeeded in doing, but which caused the ship to keel over, and there it stayed for another couple of years.

Its last humilation was to have the bridge cut from the hull, the water pumped out so it righted and was towed away for scrap.

No one with an ounce of romance could be failed to be moved by such an ignominious end to such a splendid ship. We are lucky, at least, to be able to recapture the luxury and atmosphere of one of its crossings thanks to the enthusiasm and skill of the young engineer who took the film. It was his son who gave the film to 'Thalassa' and recounted some of the ship's log that the engineer wrote every day. A fascinating programme.

So, in the end I didn't regret just one episode of 'les 4400'.


  1. Just for the record I like Medium :snooty face

  2. You do? Well then maybe I'll give it a go.. It didn't look promising from the preview, but perhaps that was just unfortunate.


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