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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 36: 30 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysAlong the deck two of the crew are fashioning a long table (for we all eat together at barbecue, officers and crew alike). Jimmee produces acres of red cloth from somewhere and drapes it tastefully over everything, including one of the capstans on which the bottles of wine are arranged. The islands ahead loom slowly larger - silent, dark and peaked. The captain takes his place rather languidly at the head of the table. He's in a t-shirt as usual. I ask him why I never see him in his uniform.

'Only in the port,' he grins. Can't imagine this happening on a British ship.

It is a wonderful meal. The turkey is succulent. Thick tender meat and a crackly skin. It's served at sunset, which is another beauty. 5.9 from all the judges. Smiling, singing, laughing and sharing incomprehensible confidences we enter the Malacca Strait. The music is an incongruous mixture of Yugoslav songs sung a cappella and Kenny Rogers, Bob Dylan and the Beatles on the cassette. As the sky grows darker so does the conversation and after a while the sexual exploits of the small 3rd engineer, whose squashed face resembles that of a satanic baby, becomes a bore and I wander off to the bows, full of good food and too much drink and sober up with the football results from London. Wednesday beaten by Charlton, United win at Bury and we are heading south to Singapore.

Back at the table a previously quite unobtrusive deckhand has seized a broom and is miming guitar to a Dylan song. He does it very well and after a final flamboyant riff hurls the broom overboard to a standing ovation from those who can still stand. This encourages him to delve into a maintenance locker and produce a shovel with which he does the same thing. It's only with difficulty that he's stopped from flinging my long paintbrush into the sea.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 36
  • Date: 30 October
  • Country/sea: Indian Ocean
  • Place: Malacca Strait
  • Book page no: 119

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