It’s been quite a week. Quite a surreal week. But great too.
There are all sorts of things I want to write about and they don’t have
much coherence except that they all occurred this week and were experienced
by me. It’s gonna be a long one I’m afraid so print it off and put the
kettle on. Or pour yourself a drink.
There was some gag about headshaving
to start with. It really did start out jest-like and then escalated like nothing
I have ever experienced before. Every time I turned on my computer there were
another ten or twenty pledges rolling in. Ben would pop by, “you’ve never guessed,
someone I’ve never met has just quadrupled their pledge!” What’s going on? What
did we tap into out there? It’s not just about hair and it’s not just about
the charity, somehow when the two were combined they were squared, or cubed.
Or maybe, like marzipan, when you combine sugar and almonds you get something
out that is altogether another experience. Yeast and hops, bubbles in fermentation.
Talking of fermentation, the slops bucket made me want to wretch. That
morning I was on ‘gash duties’ which means you clean the public areas and
wash up after meals. “Where do you want the beans and tomatoes, Rich?”, I
ask after breakfast. “Yup, they’re good.” “What?” “In there, in the bin.”
He is pointing to a hip-height yellow bin full of yuk-yellow goo. That’s
bubbling. O no. O no no no no no. Here I draw the line. “I refuse to be
made to mix my own slops bucket. That’s too much.” “Fair enough,- just put
it on the side there and I’ll do it.” Five minutes later, his thick Geordie
accent calls out “eh, Rhiannon, you like gorgonzola don’t ya?” As I peer
around the corner, he is crumbling, no chucking great lumps of the stinky
stuff, into the bucket, ‘it’s vegetarian, like”. Wink.
An hour later, they added the yeast and left it out in the midday sun. By
the time we saw it, it was a bubbling, curdling, vomitous slop, fish heads
and potato chunks swimming around in it, and it was going to be poured on
Where next? Ah yes, painting. That’s been my main activity this week, leaving
little time to attend to the multitude of emails rushing in or look for hiding
spots. Painting the white bits whiter. And believe me, there are a lot of white
bits. We start at nine, end at three and have two smoko breaks and lunch at
exact hours in the middle. Woe betide anyone who turns up late or, worse yet,
works into a break. “You won’t catch many seamen taking a crap during smoko”.
Of course, none of us wanted to piss the crew off, this week particularly. Neptune’s
court would punish us accordingly. I was pretty happy on deck with my paintbrush
but others got worse jobs. Stripping floors, polishing brasswork, peeling potatoes,
scrubbing walls – at least I got the waves and the sun all day long to
keep me company. And there’s something very satisfying about painting over grubbiness,
not to mention much of myself. Later on in the week Charlie gave us a real treat:
we got upgraded to GREEN! I could have kissed him. Charlie the bosun: “If it
don’t move, paint it. If it moves, paint it ’til it don’t move”.
Back to the Line Ceremony. We had a fair inkling by this time when it was
going to happen and had hatched a Cunning Plan. First-timers usually
scatter and hide, trembling alone in a dark and uncomfortable hole until
the policemen find you, which they will, eventually, beat you up with
batons made from duct tape and drag you to Neptune’s court. Not an exciting
prospect for a sunny afternoon in the mid Atlantic.
No, a few too many of us had seen ‘Pirates of the Carribbean’ before we
left and the group decided to team together and Take the Moneky Island. Oh
yes, this was going to be a daring and dastardly event. For two days
beforehand, people started sneaking ammunition up there,- 25kgs of flour,
sloppy burns bandages past their sell-by date, marmite(?!), condoms,
cutlesses made from cardboard and tinfoil, earrings sneakily soldered from
copper tubing and, the piece de la resistance, an enormous bucket of water.
There is no water point up there so two anonymous pirates hauled up large
plastic bags filled with water in the middle of the night,- lower a rope,
tie on the bag, three tugs, up you go. A true stealth mission. They would
never get us! Heck, we could take the conning tower too and then the ship!
But none of us know how to drive a ship, maybe not such a good idea after
After lunch on the fateful day, eight pirates all appeared on the Monkey
Island from various angles. Wigs, make-up, ripped t-shirts, tattoos, fake
teeth, fake blood, ooo arr, shiver-me-timbers, bandanas, skulls and
crossbones and a great big banner pronouncing ‘FID ISLAND: Cross at your
own risk”. Photos will appear on the Shackleton website soon I’m sure. Then
the production line: condoms filled with water, flour and water, marmite
and water. We were ready for them.
The next bit is a blur. The captain welcomed Neptune and his wife on
board, policeman got hit with balloons (they looked angry), lots of people
shouted “oo arrrr, oo arr”, more ammo, water, water, we were doing well…
and then, aaaa, the FIREHOSE. They attacked with a FIRE HOSE! Up the
ladder, up onto the island. There was a mighty battle, hotstages were
taken, struggles, scars, bruises, screams of pain as those great big duct
tape batons thwacked and thwacked and thwacked. What was going on, where
was our ammo? The police were sodden as well, we were all soaking. They had
taken us, but not without a struggle. Dripping and forlorn, we were forced
to climb down the ladders, wrists cable-tied together, and marched to the
Court. One pirate was pulled by a dog lead, another flung into the court, I
tried to run but there was no escape. A sorry looking lot we were. Ooo
By the time I arrived, some of my fellow criminals had already been
sentenced. Another was just having his verdict called out. The one before
him was,- no, no, NOOOO, ooo, yuk, please, no, yup… o god, you guessed it.
The Slops. The Slops and The Medicine. Ooo, I really did want to wretch.
Anything but The Gorgonzola Slops!
Two before me and then it was my time. Pushed into the box for sentencing,
a judge read out my crimes. “Rhian Salmon, You are hereby charged with the
following heinous crimes against the state, against the Monarch of the
Seas, and against mankind in general.
The charge laid before you is that you have more excuses for avoiding the
FID duties of painting and soogying than anyone else on board. ‘Taking
sunsights’ is an old device and frankly wearing rather thin. You are
charged with ‘skiving in the greatest order.” It’s true, I have been
skiving off to learn how to use a sextant.
It didn’t stop there. I was subsequently accused of pestering the chief
officer about cargo within 5 minutes of coming onboard and repeating the
offence (all true, I’m afraid) as well as ‘blatantly coveting ship’s
property’ known as the Monkey Island and being in possession of
particularly wild and offensive hair. How did I plead? GUILTY I’m afraid.
Very, very guilty. It didn’t help. I was dragged to the slops (trying my
very best to escape, a la Capt’n Jack Sparrow) but there was no mercy. Slops
on the head, I screamed and a doctor adminstered the Pink Medicine from a
syringe straight into my mouth. Spit, splutter, in the hair, down the
shirt, in my face. I still shudder and cringe to think of it.
A long blast with the firehose (this time, welcome), a cold beer, five showers
and a cuppa tea later, there was a barbeque. And as if the day hadn’t had enough
excitement already, my fate still awaited. There’s not much I can say about
this bit,- the photos will speak for me once they’re on the web.
Suffice to say, it’s all gone, and it was emotional.
I now wake up with a fuzzy head and a fuzzy feeling. The wind outside, the
rain, people stroking my hair, is fuzzy. Head on a pillow,- fuzzy. Shower,-
fuzzy. It’s all fuzzy. Fuzzy, but good. Funny, like funny haha, when I look
in a mirror. I get a surprise and then I laugh out loud. It’s really easy
to look butch but the minute I open my mouth people still don’t take me
seriously. I like it, it makes me laugh. It’s almost liberating. All that
fuss about hair (75 dreads by the way for those of you who pledged per
dread), I’m exactly the same. And we raised over seven and a half thousand
pounds. An astonishing amount, in less than a week.
I still don’t know what we tapped in to, I’d love to understand it more but
maybe it’s just one of those miracles of humanity that don’t want too much analysis.
It’s like everyone out there is just waiting always, for an opportunity to do
a good thing, to be nice, to contribute somehow to the world.. but we don’t
know how. We have so much cynicism and bitterness built up from everyday experiences
that we no longer know how to channel that desire. Take away the barriers, offer
an opportunity, demonstrate your belief in the cause, show people that it’s
ok, they won’t be ripped off, and hearts and pockets seem to flood open. I almost
don’t want to write about this as it’s so precious and delicate that if I advertise
it, the cynic in me says, this channel will surely also be abused like so many
others before. But I don’t know how else to tell you all, thankyou. Not just
for the hospital donations which will make an enormous difference, but also
for the experience. This was the most expensive haircut that I’m sure I shall
ever have but I shall cherish the memory forever.
(If you pledged on this website, you should have got an email explaining
how to pay by now. If you didn’t, there will be more details in Rhian’s next
blog entry, but you can always send money via PayPal
to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for all your donations, big and small!)