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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 53: 16 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysAlthough the Garnet is a bigger and more modern ship than the Diamond, most of the 'improvements' have been strictly commercial. Everything has been squeezed to make more room for the containers, so the crew's quarters are narrower, showers are preferred to baths and the swimming pool's disappeared altogether. The decoration is the same - Far Eastern Functional, all artificial materials, moulded plastic, bland colours, easy to use, easy to clean, difficult to remember. There are 24 in the crew: 3 Indians, 1 Pakistani, 14 Singaporeans, 2 Malaysians, 2 Burmese cadets, 1 Filipino cadet and a Ghanaian.

I'm in the doctor's quarters again, comprising a small bedroom and a day room, six levels up from the deck. The captain has given us all a computer-printed sheet covering things we need to know, and encourages us to visit the bridge whenever we like. The captain has leave every six months, when he's flown home. He has a six-week-old baby boy he hasn't even seen yet. We cast off at 11.25 at night, an hour and a half late. The two 45-ton cranes have been working up to the last minute and containers are now stacked five-high from the deck. Nigel and Dave, whose quarters are unfortunately on the fifth floor, saw their view disappear about ten minutes ago.

I watch from the bows as a tug heaves us round, leaving only a few feet clearance between ourselves and the Neptune Crystal, which is still loading. (This was the ship which was our second option out of Singapore, and which lost a couple of containers overboard during Typhoon Tess.)

A cool wind catches us as we head off south-west, to the mouth of Tokyo Bay. Sad to see the last of Asia, but glad to be moving east again.

Over a late night Tiger beer, Roger tells me of a plan he has to pass the long hours on the Pacific. I am to produce a play with the crew. Nine days' rehearsal, one performance. What sort of play do we do with Singaporean, Ghanaian, Burmese, Filipino, Indian and Pakistani merchant seamen? Roger admits that his choice was circumscribed by the availability of English plays in Tokyo, but he has secured ten copies of Macbeth.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 53
  • Date: 16 November
  • Country/sea: Pacific Ocean
  • Place: Pacific Ocean
  • Book page no: 183

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