This is a blog by Matthew Giraudeau with photos by Tim Bowditch. Over the next few weeks these will occasionally appear on our respective blogs, so take a look at my/Tim's blog if you haven't seen it already (delete as appropriate depending on which blog you are reading now…).

Monday: Mile End to Guernsey

We woke up at three this morning, waited for the saddest taxi driver in the world (twenty minutes late, broken sat nav, every traffic light red, Irish and apologetic) to drive us to Waterloo, got on the slow train to Portsmouth, enjoyed the fragrant smell of young people returning from Reading festival and finally arrived at the continental ferry terminal so that we could get on a seven hour freight ship to Guernsey.

As you can see from these pictures of David Angus, we had a beautiful day. What could have been a really nasty trip turned in to a nice opportunity for Tim and Dave to take some pictures, and all of us to drink quite a lot of cheap booze.

At one point, early on, I was laying on a bench, shielding my eyes from the sun and trying to get some sleep. I heard a trickling sound from above me getting louder and suddenly my crotch was soaking wet. I jumped up from the bench and swore. The cleaners were above me, rinsing the floor of the upper deck.

This is Alex. He approached us with a handful of money while we were on the deck outside the bar and asked me if I would buy him some cigarettes from the duty free. He explained that the staff members could only buy two hundred cigarettes every two weeks (at the time I was outraged but I've just realised that is quite a lot of fags…). Anyway, I don't smoke and it was something to do so I bought him the cigarettes. About fifteen minutes later he came back out and asked Tim if he would buy some for his friend. We laughed and Tim said he would do it in exchange for a few photos.

I thought the crew were Russian, probably through a mixture of assumption and prejudice, but it turned out they were mainly Ukranian.

Alex told Tim that the crew worked in twelve week cycles where they didn't really leave the ship. Last night was an exception - they were allowed off at nine and had to be back on board at seven. A night off. They went out in Portsmouth and got slaughtered (I paraphrase slightly).

Their shift starts at seven, the ship leaves Portsmouth at nine in the morning, sails to Guernsey and then Jersey before it makes the return journey to Portsmouth, arriving there at about six in the morning. That is twenty three hours on board ship, for what is, essentially, a single shift. We tried to work out how they took their breaks, and when they slept. Tim said he sees the same people working every time he takes the ferry, to or from Guernsey.

Later on, once we were at Tim's place (enjoying the kind hospitality of his family with much barbecue and beer), I realised that Alex must have been on his break when he came to ask us to buy his cigarettes, and that he was almost definitely the cleaner who had soaked my crotch that morning.