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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 19: 13 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysThey are fascinated by my map of Asia, and when I spread it out it gives the better-travelled crew members a chance to show off. Many of them have been down the East African coast, to Somalia and Kenya, and one has been as far as Madagascar. Only Mahomet and his brother, the captain, have seen the world.

The captain appears late, rubbing his hands through thinning hair and apologising for all the upheaval in the night. His ablutions are extraordinarily thorough, especially in the oral department. Using his forefinger and regular ingestions of water he massages the inside of his mouth with a zeal and ferocity which seems almost manic, as if devils are being expelled. I think he's quite concerned about health and hygiene for he comes and squats beside me later and says he is very keen to know if there is treatment in London for '(a) Cancer, (b) Diabetes, (c) Receding Hair'.

At about 10.30 Deyji Ramji produces his sextant and stands on the starboard side pressing the instrument to his eye and steadying it on his chin. Then he produces a small gold-backed pocketbook, makes a note, disappears into the wheelhouse, consults various charts and comes up with our position, which this morning, October 13, is 57.30 East and 25.0 North . . . about 100 miles south of the coast of Iran. The captain estimates our arrival in Bombay in six days. Ron groans. I don't think he's got into the spirit of the thing yet.

Kasim, The Old Man Of The Sea, is showing a marked interest in my Walkman. I'm listening to Springsteen. I offer him the machine and he seems delighted. Give him a quick rundown on the controls and leave him to it. A little while later I see him, face wreathed in a smile, head rocking from side to side, eyes wide with excitement. Only when I've taken the set back from him do I realise he's been playing 'Incident on 57th Street' at full volume.

Tonight there are flashes of lightning on the southern horizon. There could be storms tomorrow. To bed feeling a little apprehensive. Bad weather would hit a boat like this very hard.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 19
  • Date: 13 October
  • Country/sea: Persian Gulf
  • Place: Gulf of Oman
  • Book page no: 73

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