I don’t want to work or read or lie here or listen to music. I want to spend the evening randomly flicking from facebook to twitter to Instagram to tumblr and back again with a little Netflix and whatsapp for good measure.
Dinner was boring – wait, no that’s a lie – me and Hayley had a really good chat, and the second course was ummm courgettes stuffed with minced meat and topped with mozzarella cheese, and I’ve gotta be real it was delicious. And sort of gently amusing to me – yesterday Francesco did courgettes all healthy and light with parsley and vinaigrette and nobody had any except for me and I had a tiny bit cus I was curious – and when I saw courgettes on the menu today, I thought, ‘he must be trying to get rid of them’ – so how does he do that? Smothers it all in cheese and meat and oil. Genius. It worked! Me and the captain had seconds. There was also Cauliflower with pasta today. Swing and a miss.
Right – so – today I woke up early and then late – struggled to get to sleep, excitement and then anxiety – woke up at half five and it was lovely – had so clearly woken from a deep sleep, and could tell I had barely moved because I was still all swaddled up like a baby. Was confused by the time, so went back to sleep assuming I’d wake up in a few hours time – only went and woke up at 11:17, didn’t I? But still felt so peaceful and content – so took meds, got in the shower, listened to Lianne Las Havas, la la la I’m v happy – and then was super late for lunch.
There was a tension at the table – yesterday I was like ‘the captain is racist why is he talking about black people all the time, I’ve just watched Sankofa I will not take this insult I will burn this ship to the ground’ so I was angry and late and sick of Italian men talking around me all the time in Italian. But I knew at the table that I needed to sort of – sort my head out a bit, because the world is shaped by the questions and expectations we have of it. And I think maybe I was seeing out an antagonist, so I found one. But this is something which will suck any joy and pleasure that might be available to me out of the next fortnight.
I send Emma and email asking her to rearrange Charlotte, and then wrote her a blog for the Indiegogo. I had no idea what Dario was saying, so maybe it sent, maybe it didn’t. SOON FIND OUT.
Then I went up to the deck, and sort of all about loved my way out of the sort of tension I was projecting around the captain. And felt a sense that perhaps he wanted to thaw some kind of sensed ice too – asking if I wanted coffee, telling me that I could get tea any time I wanted. I could feel the sort of awkwardness of two people trying to figure out how to ease tension when they are strangers.
Luckily, a butterfly did I for us! There was a butterfly flying around the boat – and I was curious if this meant that we were close to land – because what is there here for a butterfly? He explained to me that the wind from the desert blows them out here – I’m so intrigued by the boat and its relationship to nature around it – seagulls hovering, dolphins dancing, tiny birds frolicking in its waves. Flying fish jumped onto the boat today. The officers were talking about a time when they found an iguana in the boat –
Dario is watching a film, I can hear him laughing, I think he is having the time of his life. Someone was playing Beyonce really loudly today, and someone else was playing Evanescence, I enjoyed both.
And the captain told me about sailing down the Panama Gulf, and the ship that he was on being covered by blue butterflies, that were stunningly beautiful and migrating – said butterflies were then eaten by crows. He shrugged after he told me that – a sort of sad ‘circle of life’ shrug. He says something I really like which is ‘we are not fish’ – when Hayley was sick ‘yes, you sick, that’s because we are not fish, and this is for fish’, when talking about the danger of the sea ‘it is dangerous, because we are not fish, this is not made for us’.
He showed me on the map where we are – near Cape Verde, which might explain why everything is so stunningly beautiful – and showed me other boats heading towards us and away from us – his friend on another boat (they were trying to pass each other closely so that they could talk on the phone) – a boat carrying oil, that was sailing around Africa – he said the price of oil is low at the moment, so even though it will take them until the 23rd March to get to their destination, it is cheaper and easier to sail around Africa to deliver oil to the Persia gulf, rather than to sail through it. He told me that for a ship of this size to sail through the Suez Canal was 20,000 euros. V pricey.
We somehow got onto Africa – which is where he started his career. Africa – and Lagos in particular – are a source of tension for him, though I do feel that after our conversation, perhaps I have a clearer idea of where it is that he’s coming from. He told me that he started doing the route we’re on now essentially – and then went away, spent 12 years working in the Pacific – and then when he came back to Africa, nothing had changed. He spoke of looking out of one window of his ship in Lagos, and seeing huge amounts of wealth, and then looking out of another window and seeing poverty. He spoke about corrupt officials, and the ridiculousness of having to pay for a visa to be in the port, but said visa not allowing you in the country – and about having to bribe officials anyway in Benin and Lagos. He spoke about stowaways from Lagos – how if you figured out that they were there before you left the continent, you were fine – but if you took them back into Europe, massive fines would be spread between himself and the crew, and they would have regular inspections, huge amounts of stress. He said that a friend of his had found a stowaway, and another had found 4 – very recently – so Lagos must be a real source of anxiety for him at the moment. I don’t know if anyone from the west can see Africa clearly – and I especially don’t know if a white man from Italy can. But I do respect that things like this are part of the stress of his job.
I asked him what made a good captain – that you can command respect – that you get your crew working hard, and focused on the job in hand. He told me he was a father first and a captain – or master, as he puts it – second. His son also ‘lives this life’. Any problems at home – wife, girlfriends – must stay at home. If things are really bad, buy a ticket, and go home – but when you are, your mind must be 100% on the job. It only takes 30 seconds of you not concentrating, and people die. And he is responsible for everybody here. It occurs to me that often, this job must be fairly lonely for him. And this all being said, I think that part of the sometimes silence at dinner – is down to the fact that conversation is kept to work – there is a distance they keep from each other in order to focus – and I can respect that. Me and Hayley disrupt that a little, I think.
– Sometimes, Luis will bring me and Hayley something – like Cake, and we’ll say no BECAUSE WE ARE FULL – and he’ll take it in the questions, and I’ll hear Francesco go ‘No?’ and Luis will go ‘No’ and then there’s a pause, and it makes me want to laugh quite a lot, as I think that even while they understand that we like the food and have stopped eating because THERE IS LOADS OF IT they still are like ‘why aren’t they eating?’
Back to the captain – we spoke a little about Syrian refugees and Italian pensions. That was tense – but I did not push it. Governments fail their citizens, encourage said citizens to blame refugees for their failures, which allows them to continue to exploit the political instability in the countries that cause refugees to flea, and generate vast amounts of wealth concentrated in the hands of very few, cutting people off from one another and subconsciously codifying the notion that wealth belongs only in the hands of white people, as they’re the only people that are stable (never mind the fact that said ‘stability’ only exists because of enforced precarity in other countries). I know this. I could probably explain it so that he knew it too – because deep down, he does know it. But who wants to argue?
There was also a bit when he was referring to Dakar and it’s ugly history – but it was an ‘old old history’ and I had a bit of a – I KNEW IT! Moment, because I knew that was what he thought of the project (not that it matters really) – I didn’t say ‘the romans are old but you lot are still banging on about Caesar/ we’re not gonna knock the Colosseum down, are we?’ But I could have. I wonder at the disconnect between – ‘Africa = chaos’ and that ‘old old history’ – but also, it again, is the luxury of the time to know it and understand it. I am not where I am politically overnight. It took me ages to think this way.
But it was a nice conversation – and I will try really hard to try and keep talking to people. Maybe I should do like Sophie Gingell, and think of some questions every morning. I don’t want them to think I’m spying or being nosy – but I don’t want to ask them too much about home, if it disrupts their concentration, or makes things hard.
This hasn’t really been about work or my wellbeing, but I really don’t want to forget that conversation, because it was really, really interesting – full of things I never could know.
What else… I wrote up a little script today, and hated the new bits I wrote – I don’t think I can Zadie Smith and write as I go along – I think I might need to try and create a structure? Or maybe I should write what is fertile? Where there are bits already? I’m struggling with words so much – they all feel too grand and po faced
– Let me see if I can get a cup of tea from somewhere, I’m parched, one minute
No tea, anyway
Perhaps I am trying too early to get scary things like ‘first drafts done’ when actually it would make more sense to be doing smaller, more experimental bits of writing at the moment, until I hit on things that feel like they work.
So if at the moment its all images, write lots of richly described images.
If you want to imagine where the elder and the child are found, then write that.
If you want to think about what a conversation with your father needs to sound like – begin to think about questions.
I still think automatic writing is a great idea – thinking about the book sooner rather than later (if that idea sticks, might be terrible) taking things from the fragments, and turning them into text – more painting, and playing.
Ooooh, I’m sleepy. Which is nice. I hope I can sleep well this evening, not sleeping is a dull affair.
p.s. sometimes feeling panicky about snakes and mosquitoes and spiders and sweat and flying too.
And am not homesick, but love home and miss it – oh my little mum and my silly dad and my pudgelet sister and the stupid cat
And Nanny, but she’s gone now, I can’t believe how often I think of her, Oh Nanny what if I forget what you look like and what it felt like to hold your hand? Don’t let me forget those things