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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 35: 29 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysToday is Jimmee's 32nd birthday and the celebrations start early. I've just finished my toast and jam at a quarter to eight when he produces two bottles of what appear to be a Yugoslav version of grappa, one of which is colourless and the other the dark brown of an amontillado sherry. I plump for the latter, which is called Pelinkovac and has a bracing taste like Fernet Branca. Two of these before 8 a.m. produce a warm interior glow to match the warm exterior glow from clear sunny skies and a deep blue sea. We seem to have the Bay of Bengal to ourselves and the captain confirms that this is a little-used route, the main shipping lane being further south, on a line from the Red Sea to Singapore. I ask the captain who is doing the job of the two crew members we've been substituted for. The captain says he himself is covering for the 3rd officer by doing an extra watch. The other was a deckhand and in an excess of zeal, brought on I'm sure by the early application of Pelinkovac, I find myself offering to swab decks and help out with some painting. Ships are always being painted. It's a continuing battle against the sun and salt. I'm given a roller on the end of a very long pole and told to paint more or less anywhere. Nigel's efforts to capture this on film make him look like the one-man bands that used to entertain cinema queues. He balances precariously on a deck rail, a sheer drop into the sea behind him, with camera on one shoulder, tape recorder on the other, headphones over his ears, microphone between his knees and clapper-board in his teeth.

Mid-morning and we're 620 miles out of Madras, the sea calm.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 35
  • Date: 29 October
  • Country/sea: Indian Ocean
  • Place: Bay of Bengal
  • Book page no: 116

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