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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 38: 1 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysLast lunch with the captain, Ivan and the radio op. The conversation ranges from the idiosyncrasies of the Albanians - at an Albanian port the crew of any merchant vessel is confined to the ship and soldiers with rifles patrol the dockside (the Yugoslavs seem to think it quite a good thing that Albania is so cut off), to a warmly appreciated recitation of the different brands of Scotch: 'Chivas Regal . . . ah, yes . . . Dewars . . . yes . . .. Johnnie Walker . . . ah yes . . . Famous Grouse . . . what is that?'. I ask the captain if there are any restrictions on travel for Yugoslavs. 'Only money,' he smiles. 'If a Yugoslav have enough money he can go to Seychelles.' The captain himself is living with his mother-in-law but has bought a small apartment in Rijeka which he's doing up. Somehow I can't imagine him
in the Seychelles.

We have a long and faintly surreal discussion in which the words 'cheap', 'ship' and 'chip' become hopelessly muddled. I ask the radio operator how he'd heard of Samantha Fox. He is surprised I should even ask the question. Every full-blooded male in Yugoslavia has heard of Samantha Fox. 'After Mrs Thatcher, she is the best-known woman!'

At this, the conversation lapses for a while. The captain sits, head on one side, toothpick in his hand: 'So, you will be home by Christmas'. I feel a pang of guilt as I nod.

We've talked about more at this last lunch than at any previously, and as always seems to happen you get to know people a little better just before you have to leave them. Both Nigel and I have grown to greatly like and respect Captain Sablic. He's a man of quiet authority and considerable understanding and I've never heard him raise his voice in anger. Significantly, that goes for the rest of the crew.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 38
  • Date: 1 November
  • Country/sea: Indian Ocean
  • Place: Malacca Strait
  • Book page no: 124

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