Saturday, June 30, 2007

Between the Azores and Madeira

28 May

The Azores and Madeira.
Such memories.
Such memories of 35 years ago, when we sailed the ‘Northern Star’ to those then unknown (to us) islands.
Madeira. How we loved Madeira. Never, as long as I live, will I forget Alison and myself scaling those craggy, half-made tracks to the top of the Pico dos whatever it was -- the highest part of the mountainous back of the island -- sleeping out in loft-hay in the hut on the peak, then racing down the mountain to the departing ship the next day, and making it in time only thanks to my appeal for help (in Latin) to a local priest and to the kindness of a priest-fearing lorry driver. Never shall I forget the little house by the river that its owner was keen to sell us. One hundred and fifty English pounds. Perhaps I should have, but in those days I didn’t have a hundred and fifty pounds in the world…

And how happy we were.

Well, I sha’n’t be seeing the Pico dos whatsit or the little house (probably now replaced by a tower block of apartments) this time, and perhaps its just as well. I’ll just keep those memories intact.

We are driving our south-westerly course slap bang between the two groups of islands, both well out of sight, and I doubt not that we sha’n’t see another dribble of land until we sail into the Caribbean.

Which means it is time for pure lotus eating, enlivened only by reading (not writing yet), eating thrice daily and drinking, and a large amount of optional evening chat.

My latest reports on the reading part
‘From Doon with Death’ by Ruth Rendall. Another good crime novel, though I guessed whodunit remarkably early on.
‘Out-Island Doctor’ by Evans Cottman the remarkable boy’s-mag adventures of an American schoolteacher who quit 1940s Michigan for a life on a slightly inhabited Bahamian island, where he hewed and built and, finally, became a touring medico, battling through the elements on his yacht to treat the islanders other folk couldn’t treat. First half a definite treat, second half still OK.
‘The Norfolk Nightmare’ by David Thurlow a disgusting voyeuristic true-life crime thing. I junked it after 2 chapters.
‘English Passengers’ by Matthew Kneale A stunner. An historical novel set mostly in Tasmania. Full of imagination and characters, and not too much ‘message’ until a dreary epilogue. A Whitbread Prize winner. The Booker lot just shortlisted it. And yet K Amis won. No comparison between the two works.
‘The Courts of Love’ by Jean Plaidy a middle-aged ‘for ladies only’ pastiche of the Eleanor of Aquitaine story.
‘The Grave Tattoo’ modern semi-thriller-whodunnit about yet another lost work by yet another famous writer, sought after by both a sweet academic and ruthless commercial interests. The formula is overworked, also I guessed the baddie ten minutes in, and the ending (priceless poem destroyed) as soon as I started.

29 May

A brilliantly sunny day, with picture-book-calm seas and a whole lot more lotus eating.
The only thing to arouse one from one’s lethargy was the sight of something floating in the sea where something shouldn’t have been. James, the deck cadet, spotted it first … then I spotted him spotting it ... and … something white, floating too far off for even binoculars to make it clear. It seemed to be, in fact, three white bits with gaps in between, and James’s theory is that it was an upturned catamaran. Oh dear. I wonder if we shall ever know?
And oh, disaster, I seem to be a little sore on the whiter parts of my stomach… not to mention a tad pink .. and I thought I’d been so careful ..
Better have a beer to cool down
And another
And another
And, hey, let’s shout ‘wine on the table’ for everyone tonight to celebrate the qualification as a racehorse of my homebred ‘Boris’ aka ‘Wings of the Wind’ news of which has just come through on the ship’s email…

30 May
Very pink, especially the shins
And a slightly sore head
Not to mention a rather hazy recollection of the later part of yesterday evening, spent in the company of Lyndall, and the two engineering cadets, Grev and Michael.
Wine and beer together, not a good idea.
I shall blame Boris.
Shade-bathe today, rather than in the sun. Watching the flying fish flitter by. And a nice nurofen.
Get myself in order for the evening’s entertainment. Captain’s birthday, to be celebrated in tandem with Grev’s which is tomorrow.

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