Around the World in 80 Days
Day 19: 13 October
As we're eating the sea around us turns leaden and heavy. We're passing through the thick, viscous smear of an oil slick. It extends for several miles, and is so obscene it silences us all. Osman being flat on his back against a sack of pistachio nuts, Mahomet has taken his role as our guardian. Mahomet, wafer-thin and with a crop of curly black hair, is the father of Anwar, the cabin boy, and brother of the captain. He speaks more English than most because he worked for a while as an international seaman. He produces a carefully kept notebook which lists the details of all his journeys away from home. The time he left, the time he returned, all neatly rounded up to a grand total of nine years, seven months and three days away. He will receive 300 rupees for this journey, about £20, but he's much happier to be working for this company than for the P & O group. Here he's with friends and family and though no one gets rich, everyone is in it together. As they all wake up they're eager to see how we're getting on. First we practise the names. They try to catch me out, producing shy crew members whose names they think I'll have forgotten. 'Mi-kel . . . who this?' The homework I did yesterday has stood me in good stead, and if in doubt I just say Mohammed.
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