I promised a flight on the magic carpet today and this may be the last long haul I shall do before I give up on my daily blogs after no.100. I will have to be up early as we are going back to Tahiti. I have taken you there before but never told the story of the friend I visit who made the most exciting journey to get there.
The tale is very much one of the sea, so I have chosen a silk scarf for the journey of beautiful blues and greens, very much the colours of the Tahiti lagoons.
The story starts with two ladies at an Essex bus stop. They become friends, each had a son, one my husband and the other the hero of my story, who was still a school lad when the ladies first met. This young man went off to join the police in Rhodesia as it was then known. One New Year’s Eve, a few of these young policemen, after several drinks decided to leave Africa, return to England, buy a yacht and sail to Tahiti. The fact that only one of them had scant sailing knowledge did not deter them. I believe our friend worked his passage back to UK on a cruise ship to save money for the venture. The young men now allocated the jobs they would have to master and studied accordingly. Who would be captain, chief navigator, ship doctor, cook? They studied the manuals, took classes, bought a yacht, tried to sell their story, but no takers. It was sixty years ago, but they were not the first to attempt such a sailing.
They set off from Portsmouth, nearly hit the Needles on first effort, returned to harbour; second attempt to get into the Channel successful and they were on their way. The one man who had any real sailing experience got seasick and had to leave the boat at some port in the Atlantic. One man down, they took on board two women who were going round the world on bicycles. No sailing experience, but hard working and good cooks. A gentleman’s agreement, no hankypanky between sexes on board! Farewell Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, Hello Pacific!
Final destination Tahiti. Parted company with the females. I can just imagine the life these young men had in this island paradise. At some point, my friend and one of his sailing companions went off on a sailing trip to the Marquesas or some other group of islands. On their return, they found a third friend had married a girl from another island against the advice of the locals. There is a lot of superstition in Tahiti and it was felt she was unlucky. How true! Immediately after their marriage on her island, they were returning on the ferry, she died on board, the ferry turned back, and she was buried. Their newly married friend was devastated and asked if they would transport him and a tombstone from Tahiti in their yacht to her island. Heaven forbid! A tombstone....very unlucky. He was a friend. They complied. The mourners were on top of the island, erecting the stone, when the shout went up...Monsieur Roger, your boat is on the rocks! Broken loose from its mooring, the yacht was smashed to smithereens! Shipwrecked on a remote island, their home, everything gone. Somehow they got a message to England. Now they had a story to sell and one of the big newspapers bought it.
Enough money to get off the island back to Tahiti. Another fellow gave our friend the use of a piece of land. He built a shack, made furniture from fruit boxes, went back to his first love of horticulture. New airport built in Papeete, foreign tourists wanted salads, grew lettuce, etc., French island where they like to eat lapin, got some rabbits.....they breed quickly, fell in love with a beautiful local schoolgirl but had to be patient to wait for her hand in marriage. Nearly failed when asking her father’s permission. He brought a gift of a rabbit or maybe it was a pair. Father was Chinese. Our friend should have offered live animals, not dead ones!
I am glad he was forgiven that oversight. They worked hard and from their small holding they graduated to running a restaurant. Today they own an idyllic one by the Gauguin Museum right on the lagoon. When I stayed with them, it was my job to pick the hibiscus and gardenias from their garden, so that each plate of delicious Tahitian food was garnished with a fresh flower.
Forgive me, dear friends, if I have not got all my facts correct and had to condense your story in a blog. I have read your book Voyage to Paradise but it was a long time ago. I cannot tarry long. My carpet has a long journey back tonight, but I will visit one more time to smell the tiare flowers, wear a flowered lei and couronne and feed your tame sharks in the lagoon.
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!