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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 11: 5 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysMeet Passepartout in the bar. Over water and Santas we discuss alternative possibilities. Unfortunately it's difficult enough to enter Saudi Arabia at all, let alone change plans whilst there, and all the shipping offices will be closed for the weekend. We are entering 'The Arabian Triangle', as Clem Vallance, director of this leg of the journey, puts it, where normal rules no longer apply.

We all need a drink: not a water, or a Santa, but a drink. At lunch Captain Abbas had eloquently defended the Moslem objections to alcohol. He reminded us of 'the phrase you drinkers often use - to get out of our minds'. Abbas wagged his finger and grinned sagely. 'This is not what we need. We need to get into our minds.'

Later I retire to my cabin and try to get into my mind. I can't concentrate, and head up on deck for a walk and listen to the World Service. Around me the 'deck class' are preparing for a second night under the stars. Some are already curled up, heads on crooked arms, others lying spreadeagled like dead men. In the stern the young man in brown, clasping his Koran, sits surrounded by a small group. He's making points on each finger, slowly, trying to bring in every one of his listeners. They watch engrossed.

I hold my short-wave radio out over the side, to receive the signal better. London comes through to the Red Sea loud and clear. They're talking about the Labour Party conference and Kinnock's fighting speech. Above me two shooting stars fall through a clear sky; below me a sleeping man's arm falls across my feet.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 11
  • Date: 5 October
  • Country/sea: Red Sea
  • Place: Red Sea
  • Book page no: 49

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