I’m just back from the high seas after a lovely nine days around Scandinavia.
I was speaking on a repeat of the same cruise I’d done in July and, though it was obviously a smidge cooler, we were lucky in having autumn sunshine nearly every day.
One thing which has become a mainstay of cruise ship life is a daily newspaper called Britain Today.
It appears on reception at breakfast time every morning and it’s a very polished piece of journalism and editing, managing to get everything you need to know about life back in the UK in two A4 sides.
It has the news headlines, the sports results, and the lottery numbers – so that ticks most boxes.
It was sad to see my home patch making the lead story one day with the news of failing hope for jobs and future activity at the steelworks in Redcar.
Of course, it’s been a prominent feature of the view across the sea from Hartlepool for as long as I can remember, and many hundreds of townspeople have worked there under its various names and ownerships.
I’m not qualified to venture an opinion on the finances and the politics, but, from conversations with fellow passengers on board, it was clear that it’s a problem way beyond the North East.
By an odd co-incidence, I was reading the news and chatting over a coffee on deck as we passed the steelworks at Ijmuiden, on the coast near Amsterdam.
As you can see in the picture, it looks very much like the Teesside plant and has had a similar history of changing hands.
We also passed a similar works in Hamburg, and several people sharing a coffee had worked in the steel industry around Europe and farther afield.
They knew the situation well and were firmly of the view that it was very hard for European plants to compete with cheaper operations in the Far East.
Your heart goes out to the workers and families affected by the problems at Redcar, and it’s a fervent hope that support and new jobs will help to fill the gap.
One of the happy news about ships is that they don’t suffer traffic jams, but I was soon reminded that cars do when we set off for the long drive home to Hartlepool from Tilbury, just east of London.
It’s a 267-mile drive and, always true to form, the A1 ground to a halt several times, including an hour of sitting motionless.
There were no roadworks to speak of this time, and only one minor accident, but it’s a simple fact that the two-lane road just can’t cope with the volume of traffic.
Isn’t it odd that many main roads in the south east of England have three, or even four-lane motorways, and our main link to the North East is still of a pre-war standard?
A few weeks back, after being lobbed off a homeward bound train at York, I was saying that the awful transport links to our home patch were a real hindrance to new businesses coming here.
We might not be able to do much about the world steel situation, but it’s high time our transport links were Premier League instead of Third Division North.