”from the wine country of Bordeaux to the Pillars of Hercules,
on the autopista desde Gibraltar hasta Malaga”
…The month of November in Sweden is a month of darkness, and for some, time to reflect on the setting of autumn and the onset of winter. It is that time of the year when the windows of every home are still shaded with curtains and but a flicker of candle light is seen in the Bedroom where some gentle lady prepares for a night of slumber, waking up yearning for the first snow flake and then Christmas, Navidad, Jul ! Her Mariner shooting the stars off Bordeaux, with the Belt of Orion and Venus shining with the passion and intensity of a desperate lover. Crisp, Calm, Chilled.
For it was in November when the packing started and all what was left of your check list, mainly rags, holed gym shoes and no towels, as they were whacked by the seniors in the Lefroy House dorms. The chill running down the spine signaled it was time to leave…the Bishop Cotton Kalka special leaving Simla had to leave on time if not earlier as both the Engine Driver and Guard were fully aware that these Cottonian Sa’abs on board meant trouble, late trouble, very late, as fire crackers, water balloons, chain pulling, jumping off and running south before jumping back again..meant a complete cock-up on the entire Northern Railway grid as all trains heading to Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and Madras out of sync.
The Desperate Mariner spent time reminiscing about those heady days as the ship gently swayed and rolled her elegant stern the way that damsel in distress had taught him how to sway to the sound of chanting, the chanting of the Guatemala Indians at the village of Chi-Chi Castenango.
Rounding the last bend the ship settled on her westerly course as the Gironde Pilot wished him Adieu, Bon Voyage and worked his way to the winching area.Within 3 minutes the chopper swooshed down, hovering above the hatch cover and in one go swept the Pilot off his feet hoisting him clear, heading home to his Madam and his Glass from ye ole world…the Bordeaux Reds, so exquisite, perfume of the Gods. The Desperate Mariner smiled, conjuring up his own fantasy of the oncoming evening searched across the bows for that perfect french speaking oo ‘la ‘la Mermaid. At this time of the night, the stillness and radiance of the sea was too perfect for his trivialities.
His last job on a ship was amazingly different. She was ”a miracle she is still afloat”. Parts of that old lady were like ‘entering an inferno, the gates of hell, the need to get down on your knees to seek redemption’ for a desperate sinner like him, a roving bandit, a light and dark blue Old Cottonian.
0800 hrs-Sunshine, the Portuguese coast on his port side, he felt becalmed (with a dab of L’Occitane) descended down the ladders to be greeted by the Table Captain in a starched white shirt, maroon bow tie and cummerbund, escorting him to the Captain’s table. A bevy of six English Ladies, Chief Guests on this voyage to the Pillars of Hercules excitedly waited to have ”Breakfast with the Captain”. With his widest, cleanest freshest, whitest smile he presented each one a Fresh Bulgar Black Rose lying on a silver tray held by a young smart waitress…”and how are all my gentle ladies this morning..? Good Morning to you all, looking so elegantly beautiful”. Mrs Sarah Chamberlain, her radiant face, sharp aristocratic nose and sumptuous lips, a faint whiff of Imperial Majesty* reached out and gently holding his hand…”Captain, with you in Command everything…I mean everything is simply puurrrfect”. Her perfectly manicured hands squeezing his with ‘I must say a shade more than formal, of things yet to come? – I say old chap now isn’t this just what the doctor ordered!( shades..I mean shades better than School Doctor Mukund Lal ‘The Butcher’ trying to hold you ”down there” like a lamb to the slaughter saying ”cough-cough”) It’s a hard life out there on the oceans, no place for slips, good rogues! Refining your skills, your stance and your body language to make them gentle ladies know, ”It wasn’t Eton Ma’am, just a notch higher…it was Bishop Cotton School’
*The most expensive perfume in the world costs $215,000 for a bottle! Clive Christian’s Imperial Majesty Perfume has a unique scent which is a mixture of jasmine, cardamom, carnation, lemon, bergamot and benzoin but this incredibly high price comes from its diamond crusted bottle. The bottle comes with a dazzling white diamond embedded that could be worth alone about $215,000. Due to its impressive price, only 20 bottles of Clive Christian Imperial Majesty’s were made, 10 for men and 10 for women.
(from the memoirs of a Roving Mariner,an Old Cottonian. Vivek Bhasin.Lefroy 1961-1970)
09 Dec 13