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by harmattan 

Posted: 10 June 2009
Word Count: 924
Summary: True story of a dangerous sojourn in Spain on a fishing boat during a religeous cerempny, (and a Hemmingway spoof!)

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Being something of a hedonist, I tend to treat the world like a pleasurable gift with so much to see and do and touch and taste.
During my fairly long and protean life I have had the good fortune to participate in more than a few exhilarating, exciting (and dangerous) activities which I am now too old and battered to repeat.
I have consumed snake, crocodile, iguana, ostrich, chocolate covered ants and wassock, (penis of bull in red wine and garlic sauce.) I have tasted sea-slugs, whale meat and every shell fish known to man.
Most difficult to accept, (at first), was rabbit. You know? Little cuddly, furry creatures with floppy ears, twitchy noses, buck teeth and cotton wool tails. Eating a rabbit could be tantamount to eating a dead baby!
But I did it. And it was tasty.
I have ridden brave, swift and wilful horses across the Yorkshire Moors, (and the Camargue), taking walls, hedges and streams without a care. Nearly got killed doing that.
I have mounted some of the world’s most powerful motorcycles and tried them to the limit, off road and on. Nearly got killed.
In Kenya I photographed crocodiles so close that I could hear their hearts beat above my own and, on the slopes of Kilimanjaro, chased rhino hanging precariously from a jeep, Could have been killed.
With a red ‘kerchief tied round my neck I faced a bull in Andorra. It was not fully grown, nor enraged by constant taunting and wounding. But it could have killed me.
I have been to the top of the world’s highest building and to the bottom of the deepest mine-shaft, across the widest ocean and into the deepest jungle.
And, in the desert of Angola, I heard the faint echo of my primal scream.
I have been threatened with guns, knives, spears, swords, arrows and clubs. And I could have been killed. I have been guest in palaces and prisons, monasteries and bordellos where I caroused and drank and gambled, or talked, listened and rhymed with many a good company of sinners, saints and ruffians.
But one of the most exciting experiences I ever had, one of the most memorable, also fills me with the greatest shame.
I was in Almeria, Southern Spain, in 1992 for the Feast of Carmel, when a statue of Virgin Mary is paraded through the streets of the town and then accompanied out to sea by a flotilla of fishing boats. I duly climbed aboard one of these to join the festivities.
Once out of the harbour the trawlers race and twist and turn attempting to swamp one another with the wash. The swell that day, a metre at least, with an off-shore breeze, augured well for a most bold, red-blooded gala of derring-do.
The captain was a wizened old salt with traditional reefer jacket and the shiny-peaked cap of a master. He was also the most reckless and foolhardy son of the sea ever to feel the roll of a deck beneath his boots.
I had ensconced myself in the bows where the spume and the buffeting could be experienced to fiercest effect where I was joined by a swarthy, stalwart man of about my own age. Black gypsy curls swung over his brow, eyes glowed like charcoal, skin like polished olive wood, so dark against my own.
We had chosen similar gear. Black T-shirt, military style trousers and (once) bright yellow “woodman” boots with tread like tractor tyres. International macho-chic.
His English non-existent, my schoolboy Spanish inadequate, but verbal communication redundant. The bonding instant. We shook hands and grinned at one another in anticipation of our imminent temerity.
In mettlesome togetherness we faced the adventure of a rising sea at the hands of a crazy pilot surrounded by thirty other trawlers steered by thirty other demented seafarers equally intoxicated by religious hysteria and cheap brandy.
It was thrilling.
The thrashing waves, the stinging spray, the startling manoeuvres of the boats. The shrieks of klaxons, the hoots of horns. The swoosh of power hoses aimed to knock you to the deck and then swill you into the sea. The whoomf and clatter of flares and firecrackers.
Sheer mayhem. Raw danger. Undeniably brutish, manly behaviour. A thrilling, bruising event ever to be stamped on the virile memory.
Another story for the grandchildren.
At the end of the venture, my companion, (Angel, how appropriate,) and I disembarked and stood drenched, sated and exhilarated on the quayside. We shook hands again and then embraced yeomanly.
Together we had doggedly faced and survived the impetuosity of a wild sea and the suicidal antics of a manic drunken skipper.
Here was that instant of opportunity to coin a wonderful, memorable phrase, when the right words would decorate the experiential icing which already covered the epicurean cake of life’s rapture.
And what did I say? What verbal gems came to me as I hugged my Iberian, wild-roving brother of the briny?
I am so ashamed. The inadequacy of my vocabulary in that magical moment plagues me yet. I hesitate to repeat, because as we clasped and hugged and rejoiced, I said,
“Have a nice day!”
Good Grief!
Have a nice day?
After sharing the turmoil and clamour of a life-threatening pilgrimage over an unforgiving sea which might have left Hemmingway with sufficient material for thirty four sweat-strewn pages of a butch novel, I saluted the Angel as if I had just bunged him two quarter-pounders and a large bag of fries.
That wasn’t very earnest of me. Was it?

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