I took this photo on Ringstead beach outside Dorchester. A couple of mates had taken us there for a swim. There were seven or eight of these big cruise ships - iphones really struggle to capture landscapes so you'll have to take my word for it when I say they looked spectacular - all moored out in the calmer waters of the bay. I asked my pal about what was going on. He'd read about them in the local paper and had all the answers.
These huge ships, some the size of cities, were rendered useless by the epidemic and had been temporarily decommissioned, a decision that was costing the cruise companies huge amounts of money every day as their assets floated idle. To avoid the additional mooring fees at Southampton, the decision had been taken to drop anchor out at sea and leave them there. Sometimes, my pal told me, the ships swapped places, or moved up and down the coast from safe harbour to safe harbour, but they were basically parked.
Not empty, though. Even doing nothing, these floating cities needed a skeleton crew to keep them clean, maintained and operable. So there are people living out there on these echoing vessels for weeks at a time. Apparently you can see little orange ribs, their outboard motors buzzing, travelling from ship to ship as staff take time out and catch up with each other, a few hours of company to stave off the emptiness.
There's your next novel, folks. It's a bobby-dazzler. Later, I told a pal about it and he uttered that oft-used phrase of the non-writer; "That's a great idea" he said, eyes gleaming. "The thing will write itself!"