January 10th 1984

posted in: The way back | 0
Chris with Ari and Dick

Not quite such an appalling night last night, tho’ once again hardly restful.  And we woke once again to a day with nothing, or almost nothing, to look forward to – the general opinion seems to be that we’ll reach Pontianak tomorrow.  They say morning, but we’re sceptical.  Depression sank upon me heavier than before, + I could find no enthusiasm or energy to do anything at all, so spent most of the day sat in listless stupor on the back deck.  The small highlight of the day came during the afternoon when Val + I ate our last remaining apple with the final remnant of cheese.  It is a sign of the measure of our homesickness (as well as profound dissatisfaction with our diet) that we devote long conversations to talking about food, particularly English home-cooking – we went thro’ the same phase in Mexico, when we were in a similar condition.  Meat + potato piue, roast beef, the English breakfast, toast with pate, my mum’s bread puddings, Val’s mum’s biscuits, bangers + mash, currant buns from Simmons bakery filled with yellow butter, Cornish pasties (of course), meat stew with dumplings, sherry trifle, treacle tart, blackberry + apple pie, Shredded Wheat, saffron buns, fried  mince with onions + new potatoes… I could go on + on, and am really only writing this down to please myself rather than enlighten you.  All of these have been discussed at length on many occasions, their respective merits adjudged (tho’ not one would be rejected.)  Ah home, home.  But there’s a lot of land inbetween, and neither of us would be at all satisfied were we to go home direct.

I’ll try to give a brief description of the other members of the crew, not counting Harry, whom I’ll do by himself tomorrow.  All of them either have names (I phrased that badly – all of them have names of course)…or we have ourselves christened the ones whose names we don’t know.  There is d’Artagnan, named because he looks the flamboyant Musketeer type, even down to the thin moustache.  Muscular + elegant, even tho’ his costume is almost perpetually a pair of blue tracksuit bottoms.  Clint (after Clint Eastwood) not because he resembles the actor at all physically, but because of a certain seedy, Spaghetti-western swagger + a sly grin.  Dick (named merely to complete the set – Tom, Dick + Harry) laughs a lot tho’ his main source of humour is saying something to me in Indonesian.  Not an endearing trait, but for once I don’t resent it, since I don’t think it’s meant maliciously.  Thias is the Chief (perhaps only) Engineer – because of his calling, we see the least of him.  He is very tall, +, unusually for a Bugis seaman, comes from the island of Timor.  He is the only other member of the crew besides Harry who understands English, + was married, we’re told, just before we left.  Jim (named after the only other cabin boy I know, in “Treasure Island”) is Tom’s alter ego, roughly of the same status, + performing much the same functions, turn + turn about (I am probably doing one of them a great injustice.)  Jamal is the one I used to call Pretty Boy, since he is just that – smooth-skinned, lush longish hair.  He is tho’, a very pleasant + unassuming young man, not obviously conscious of his looks.  I’m not so sure about mthe other crew member with something of the same appeal – called Rocky, because he is more muscular, cocky + self-assertive.  He wears his sarong (+occasionally lets it drop) with what seems to me like an arrogant swagger.  I may be doing him a disservice tho’ – I haven’t spoken to him, so can’t judge his personality.  The final team-member is the one who has to be called Spots, because of the blemishes on his skin.  He too is rarely seen on deck, so I suspect may be an assistant engineer.  All in all, they’re a nice bunch.

Some excitement during the afternoon, when a tanker or freighter was spotted out on the horizon, heading roughly in the same direction as us.  This spurred all sorts of activity, + tho’ it was hardly a smooth operation, the mainsail + jib were hoisted.  We were horrified to spot, with the sea running at a heavy swell, LBM up the mast, unravelling the sail.  Otherwise we were delighted with the development – anything likely to speed up + so shorten the journey is to be heartily applauded.

Our evening meal was pea + ham soup with chapattis.  The latter were surprisingly successful, given the conditions + limited ingredients available, but I didn’t enjoy the soup.  We seem to have chosen a weak + watery one.  Moreover, it was struck with the same tang that affects all of the water on board, + I’ve found that increasingly distasteful.  Just before dark, the sails were taken down – regrettable, but a sensible move – + then we went to bed.

I have already apologised for the arrogant, rude, and decidedly inappropriate re-naming – smacks of the worst excesses of colonialism – but I am happy to do so again. Still, warts ‘n all was the promise and the premise, so there you go. I also have to repeat that despite the gloomy tone of the diary, and my undoubtedly gloomy attitude at sea, we still felt ourselves enormously privileged to be on board at all.

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