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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 59: 22 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysThe swell shows no let up and makes sleep uncomfortable. Wake to find my world rolling around on the floor. Sitting at a solitary late breakfast of coffee, toast and marmalade, I see only sky through the porthole, a moment later only sea.

It's the Professor's birthday, and I give him J. L. Carr's A Season in Sinji, as it's about cricket, which he is fond of, and is an excellent and absorbing tale. A clutch of letters from his family, all assembled unbeknownst to him at Tokyo, make his morning.

On deck the containers are groaning and wailing more spectacularly than ever. They sound like Stockhausen and the Professor thinks a symphony for containers should be commissioned. Simon, on the other hand, thinks they might be communicating something to the whales.

By mid-afternoon the flat, muggy, moist, overcast conditions which have prevailed since the weekend give way to sharper, clearer, cooler weather. Ideal, it is judged, for an initiation ceremony to mark the crossing of the Date Line. Such is the nature of my relationship with Passepartout, that when something potentially as unpleasant as this has to be faced, it is faced by me alone. The gulf between presenter and crew, normally the width of a fordable stream, becomes a Pacific Ocean. So it is I alone who represent the supernumeraries and gather down in the Radio Room at half past four to be prepared for this time-honoured and humiliating ritual. Fortunately there are members of the crew who have not been initiated - Francis, a 35-year-old Ghanaian, who served in his own country's merchant fleet until Gerry Rawlings reduced it to only four vessels, George, a tall, languid, 22-year-old Burmese cadet and a small slim Malaysian who we know as Saatchi - his full name being Sachithanathan and a bit of a mouthful.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 59
  • Date: 22 November
  • Country/sea: Pacific Ocean
  • Place: Pacific Ocean
  • Book page no: 193

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