Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How to keep your pants up in Vanuatu

Noumea was just the other day, wasn’t it? Yes… but so much has happened since, so much so delightful has happened since… I’m sort of… ‘déborder’ .. how do you say that in English? – running over (?) with wonderment and joy.

Between Noumea and Vanuatu, I celebrated my 63rd birthday. I celebrated it with flagons aweigh, with the nicest bunch of folk you could hope to meet in a century’s sailing, and the part of the evening I remember was grand. Big vote of thanks to Trevor from Leeds who (so it is said) tucked this hilarious old boy into his tiddley bed at some uncharted hour…
And to John from Maastricht et al (our resident blagueur par excellence) for the biggest birthday bearhug on record…

First stop in Vanuatu was Port Vila. My abiding memory of Vila from last year was rain. The torrential rain that resulted in The Day of the Transparent Trousers. This year it rained only comparatively lightly, I was more safely clad, and my mission was the purchase of a belt, to replace the one that had inconveniently exploded in Auckland airport. Now, you’ld think that you could buy a plain ordinary belt anywhere, wouldn’t you. Not in Vila. At the fourth or fifth clothing store I enquired plaintively of the head-shaking young man ‘How do you keep your pants up in Vanuatu?’. He suggested I try a hardware shop! A couple of hours and I finally found a French supermarket with a choice between a baby-blue rhinestoned affair and a $5 plain brown strip of leather which I now sport most relievedly.

A pleasant place, Vila, where we dined pleasantly at the Waterfront Restaurant, and strolled pleasantly round the markets and streets, amongst the very pleasant people… even the light warm rain was not unpleasant. The only unfortunate thing about Vila, the capital of that group of isles that were once the New Hebrides, is its neighbour. For where Vila is pleasant, Espiritu Santo is quite simply stunning. Glorious. The real Pacific paradise that one is inclined to think, these days, only exists in film and fiction. No island I’ve ever visited (and I’ve visited a good few) can outshine Santo in my eyes.

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