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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 35: 29 October

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysOne would think it's a bachelor life at sea but the captain tells me at lunch that 80 per cent of the crew are married men. He has a wife and two children, whom he last saw in July and will not see again until next May. It's hard, but the pay isn't bad and his wife comes from a seafaring family and is used to the separations. Jobs are scarce back home, he says. Many young people, qualified as lawyers or doctors, are forced to make a living selling newspapers. I ask him if he would advise his own son to go to sea. He shakes his head.

'It's all changing,' and he smiles. Sadly, as ever.

In the middle of lunch, the young 2nd officer with the swallowtail of hair down the back of his neck suddenly bangs the table and points at me. 'You are Monthy Pyton!'

I have a dim recollection that the series was at one time sold to Yugoslavia. He looks awfully pleased with himself, but the captain rather spoils things by recognising Nigel as Bill Oddie.

'And you do all those birt programmes!'

This evening there is a certain amount of nodding and winking and leaving the table early. A blue movie is being run in the crew's dayroom. Everyone quite enjoys it to start with and there are the same shouts of encouragement, gasps of appreciation and groans of incredulity that you might hear at any Sheffield United game. Eventually the jollity wanes with the sheer relentlessness of it all, and a rather morose silence descends. Post porno omnia tristes est. The captain is one of the last to leave. He gives a hint of an ironic smile and a shrug of the shoulders.

Clocks on an hour again.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 35
  • Date: 29 October
  • Country/sea: Indian Ocean
  • Place: Bay of Bengal
  • Book page no: 117

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