All On Board for five Weeks

The English bachelors were less forthcoming and seemed more at ease pondering uncertain futures by themselves, perhaps with a beer or two.

The Dutch, of which there were hundreds on that boat, were endlessly counting suitcases, heavy metal strapped trunks and forever pestering the stewards for access to the holds deep down in the bowels of the ship where enormous engines were thundering and roaring towards Australia, to re-check everything, just in case. Their humble possessions would be spread out on decks and inventories were written and re-written by the fathers and mothers. Huge numbers of parental progeny were stalking other kids along endless cream painted steel corridors and getting into checking out friendships or fights.

With spare money earned by delivering flower arrangements and vegetables to Embassies in The Hague, prior to departure, I was keenly betting on the ship’s sweepstake. This is a guessing competition between zero and number nine in the final tally of miles that the boat had covered in the previous twenty four hours, last numbers only. I was amazingly lucky, and it supplied me with enough money for reckless spending on cordials and for paying the on board photo developing. I had an Agfa Clack camera, also earned from those Embassy deliveries, with which I recorded our voyage.

The differences of those goodbyes from family and country between the English, Dutch and Southern Italians were startling and made me realize how difficult it must have been for all of them. Did the English finally end up sobbing as well, perhaps late at night, muffled and under blankets and alcohol? Or did they care less about family and friends than the Italians and Greeks. My dad cried leaving his brothers, sisters, and his parents, and so finally too. He never saw them again. We, kids and mum would have a family sobbing every now and then, and over many years.

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