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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 40: 3 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysI ask the captain why he joined the Merchant Navy. Like most seamen he's been in the business all his life. (No one seems to drop chartered accountancy and run away to sea, however romantic it may sound.) His father was in the Merchant Navy too - which was true of the Susak's captain and Abbas of the Saudi Moon as well. Merchant seamanship is an hereditary condition.

Captain Tuddenham remembers when he was a junior purser in Hong Kong in the 1940s, it was his job to supervise (i.e. lower the ladder and take it up again rapidly if the captain appeared) the embarkation of Chinese ladies, whose company you could then purchase in day, week or two-week lengths. 'Very civilised in those days,' he adds provocatively, and Pat is duly provoked.

'Nor-man!'

'Long before I had you, my love.'

Outside, the character of the sea has changed totally since we left. Now it's ceased to be a supportive friend or a calming influence - it's fierce and powerful and agitated. 'Only a moderate swell,' the captain insists, in between coping with telexes from the shipping agents in Hong Kong who want to know why he was hanging about in the Singapore roads until five in the morning.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 40
  • Date: 3 November
  • Country/sea: Pacific Ocean
  • Place: South China Sea
  • Book page no: 128

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