19 January 2011

209. On HOLD

This blog is on hold.

I have deleted all posts that were not about sailing.

As I am working on the opening of my 'summer camp' I will be busy with my 2 pottery blogs:

- in English BerryHobby
- in French Compère Commère

See you there!

14 January 2011

208. FROM BLOG TO BOOK (2)

At the beginning of December I ventured to have this blog turned into print directly by a firm called SharedBooks as advertised by Blog2Print. See 203. From blog to book (1)

The whole thing was somewhat nerves racking because of some bug on the process and/or because of my mishandling of the instructions.
 There's a happy ending to that story!  The book was finally delivered in my letterbox on 4th January... Alright, it took a month to come from North America to France perhaps snowbound in the North Pole with Santa or else stuck in a train that did not run or a post office under icicles. But it made it and it's all I care about!

Threefold Twenty, the book, and Frankie, the author






5 January 2011

207. Tramp of the South Seas (8)

I forgot something in my last post. Before I set off to Suva I went to the post office in Nandi to check a parcel that had been sent to my English captain with a notice for a huge charge to collect it. My captain's lady had said there must have been a mistake. They were indeed expecting a parcel from their folks with toys for the baby, a video tape and a couple of books, nothing important. I promised I'd see to it. I produced the docket to an Indian officer-in-charge at the post office who said there was nothing he could do. I had to find arguments: he could send the parcel back to the sender as the yacht people could not pay for it, and in any case it was not a matter of importing anything into the country as the yacht was due to leave in a couple of days time. I left the docket with the man and I went without being too sure what his decision was going to be. I had done my best.



In Suva after a few days of life in an apartment I asked the Kiwi man who was intending to sail to New Caledonia that I'd rather stay on his boat. Again it was a matter of not wanting to be his girlfriend. This New Zealander who was retired from being an engineer, had been called back by Fijian authorities to work on the failing sewage system of Suva. He had often worked in Fiji, in other South Pacific islands as well as in Singapore and Malaysia. He had built his own sailboat at one stage in his life in his own backyard and had sailed it single handed to Fiji for the job. You do meet such characters in New Zealand.

I lived on his small yacht moored along a pontoon at the Suva yacht club for about 3 weeks before we set sails. I really made the best of it. I walked around Suva, met people, played my flute and generally prepared myself for the last sailing trip back home.

There were some French yoties there too, so for Bastille Day on 14th July I led a number of sailors to the French embassy where there was going to be merriment and free champagne. We lined up at the door waiting to shake hands with the embassador one at a time. I introduced the Kiwi man behind me as 'my captain' and stepped forward, hardly paying attention to the embassador and his wife who were welcoming everybody in a very friendly way. From living in Canberra, the federal capital of Australia full of embassies, in the late 1960's and early 70's, I had been used to the somewhat derogatory attitude of the French embassador there to the French people living locally. I was married to an Australian then and was therefore hardly worth talking to, I felt. The hand shake was then formal, pulling you from right to left as if to say 'next please'. So, in Fiji in 1997, I was happily surprised that it was very different and I regret to this day my rush and thoughtless behaviour. We drank champagne and listened to the Marseillaise played by the Fijian national guards in their fancy uniforms. I really enjoyed it.

After hearing the Marseillaise and drinking champagne I started longing for some French culture. I walked up to the 'Alliance Française', a cultural venue for anything French around the world. When I got there after a long walk up a hill under a hot sun, a young lady greeted me in perfect French, so I switched to French and made a long speech on my reasons for being there. All the while the lady smiled and bent her head on one side in a friendly way and then said when I finally stopped talking: sorry, I can't speak French... So I switched to English again and made it a lot shorter asking if I could read some French magazines here. No problem, I could even watch a film in the projection room. I chose "Tous les matins du monde", a film featuring Gérard Depardieu, a famous actor born and bred in the same province as me. The story took place in France in the 17th century.

When I came out of the dark room into a blazing sun in Suva in Fiji in the South Pacific in 1997, I was somewhat dizzy! I stumbled upon a French Canadian woman who had just walked up that hill for a similar reason to mine. We chatted and exchanged addresses. We met again in town later and promised to keep in touch. She was on a holiday on her own to escape some family problems at home, I think. Unfortunately we never kept in touch.  

On board that small yacht moored at the pontoon I was happy. A kind of pontoon life goes on around you and you get a feeling of 'belonging' pretty quickly. I could have staid there forever. Every evening at the same time a native Fijian walked past me on the pontoon and we usually exchanged a loud 'boulah!', the native Fijian equivalent to 'hi!'. One day instead of 'boulah!' he said 'bonjour!' with the perfect intonation. I turned around and asked if he spoke French then. Just a little, he had spent a year in Dax in the south west region of France as a rugby player for the local team. He had fond memories of it and asked if per chance I had any 'pâté' to taste! He remembered that at the local pub an old man used to come everyday at the same time, have a glass of wine, chat a little and then go. That was odd to him. He was used to see people go to the pub to get drunk. Was that French culture? I didn't have any 'pâté' and I forgot what I said as to French culture... but from then on every evening we said 'bonjour' to each other when he walked past.

1 January 2011

206. TRAMP OF THE SOUTH SEAS (7)

As I have been recently approached by sailing magazines, Sail The World and Yachting, wishing to sponsor my blog, I'd better get serious about it! Perhaps I could make the effort to finish the long yarn of my sailing trip across the South Pacific as a crew member on various yachts, back in 1997.

Where was I?... on Malololailai aka Musket Island, off the coast of the main Fiji island facing Nadi (pronounced Nandy). I was definitely leaving the 'rally around the world' as they were sailing directly on to Australia and I was sailing to New Caledonia. It sounds good to say it like this. Rather... I was stranded on Musket Island off a yacht and wanting to get back to Suva to join another yacht owner intending to sail to New Caledonia.

I was really stranded. Before leaving Papeytey I had posted a letter to my bank in France asking them to send something like a thousand dollars to be available over the counter at a bank in Suva, Fiji. Probably because I didn't have that amount on my account and/or because it might have sounded peculiar, there was nothing there for me when I got to Suva which meant for one that I owed $600 to my present captain and second that I was thoroughly skint. Stranded I was but not quite lost.

I boarded a Swiss yacht recommended by my captain, a member of the rally about to sail across to Nandi for some shopping. It took the afternoon and when we docked in a very small kind of marina there, it was a bit late to start hitch-hiking to Suva. So the Swiss captain and his French crew invited me to dinner on board and to stay the night. That was great and a lot of fun. I had these 2 guys trying their best to impress me with their jokes and their cooking skills. I do remember we had grated potatoes with eggs, a Swiss traditional dish I was told. With wine. I guess I could have decided to change my mind there and then, sail on with these guys in the rally to Australia. But... But there was a huge reason why I was not going to do that. It had nothing to do with sailing.

A year and a half before, I had sailed away from Noumea in New Caledonia leaving my 18 year old son to fend for himself, leaving him the keys of our rented house and the key of my car. He was going to have to survive on his own. I knew he could do it. Was I mad? A few people told me so. I sometimes came to doubt but never for very long as I had trust in my boy and trust in God. However it was time to go 'home' and see how he had survived.

So, in the morning I left my new 'buddies' and started hitch-hiking to Suva. It wasn't too hard. I don't remember much of it except that at one stage a proper bus stopped for me on the side of the road. I said I was hitch-hiking and that I had no money for a bus ride. He said: "never mind, hop on and sit at the back". I was confused and grateful, mumbled that I would pay him one day and boarded the bus. We arrived in Suva in the afternoon. The bus dropped me thankful at the yacht club.

Was I going to find that man who promised he'd take me as crew to Noumea when I get back?... He was there at a table outside at the yacht club and beamed when he saw me, as he had been wondering if I was actually going to come back! That night I slept in a bed in a room in an appartment with all modern comodities including a shower. Wow!