by Andrew Foote
It was going to be a few days before Sam moved to our village and Cath was somewhat nervous.
"I've only met him once and that was…… oh God, six years ago when they came back for a very brief visit? I mean I'll hardly know him aside from photos Mum sent us?
Dad being Dad is only doing this out of charity and the truth is, he'd rather not be involved but it's out of his hands so the bottom line is, I need you to help if this is going to work because I think most of getting Sam settled is going to be down to me."
"I'll do what I can but I'm not sure I'll know where to start.
How well educated is he?"
"Like I told you, he speaks three languages, he's been home tutored by Mum so he'll be well versed in most of the important stuff like maths and basic sciences…… more than that? I dunno except that he's no idiot.
The biggest problem isn't his education but getting him used to, and feeling comfortable with living back in England. Apart from that one visit, he hasn't been back here since he was a babe in arms almost so the transition is going to be very difficult for him – seriously stressful even, so perhaps for now you just meet him and see where you have common ground.
It'll be a friend he needs, not so much a teacher?"
"When do we start?"
"I'm supposed to go and collect him on Monday from Penzance which reminds me, I haven't booked the train tickets yet.
Why don't you come with me?"
"Could do I suppose; I won't be needed at the pub until Friday but maybe I've a better idea."
"He's used to life in the rain forest so he'll be used to travelling by boat.
Your father will most likely need his to go fishing but ours is sitting around doing not a lot so…… we collect him by boat."
"Why go to all the bother of going the pretty route when we could go by rail?"
"Well from what you said, you want him to have a gentle introduction to life here so rather than the trauma of train travel, I thought that a leisurely boat trip might be the better option."
"How long would it take us?"
"Depending on tides, three hours each way give or take."
"Won't you need a crew?"
"We've done it before although I might need help casting off but then I can radio through to the Harbourmaster at Penzance and once he's allocated our berth, he can arrange for someone to tie us off just as soon as we arrive."
"It's a nice idea. It'll give Sam some breathing space rather than feeling like he's being herded.
Yes, I like it."
"Do you think he'll manage to settle Cath?"
She thought carefully before replying.
"Actually? I very much doubt it.
Fourteen years of living in the jungle, learning how to survive in a pretty hostile environment and then you have to remember that right here, right now, he's still a boy, a child, whereas back in his village he's an adult with all the responsibilities that come with it.
Over there, he could take a girl as his wife, raise children, sit with the elders, hunt and fish, go into negotiation with other tribes in order to settle disputes risking death and if these disputes weren't resolved by mediation and negotiation, he'd be expected to defend his argument in open combat but here? Just to raise your voice to someone can get you into serious bother as a kid?
No, I fear for him which is part of the reason…… well the main reason I need you to help him acclimatise, so now do you see?"
"That's pretty frightening stuff for a boy his age to deal with?"
"To you and I? Yes, but he was brought up to expect that so for him, it's as natural as it is for us to get pushed around by our parents having few if any rights as individuals."
"I'm still not sure how I could help him though? His life has been completely different to mine.
I'm no tough guy, I can't do open combat or survive in anything other than a boring Cornish fishing village…… I even get nervous going up to Bristol!"
Common ground perhaps 'cos apparently he was almost pooing himself just going through customs at Birmingham!
Seriously? You love nature. Sam can almost read it…… he had to or else get killed.
He can read the skies and again, to avoid tropical storms, it was essential.
You have a very gentle disposition as does Sam.
No…… I think you might be his best chance of making it here."
"One last question?
What will happen if he doesn't?"
"He'll be sent back to his village I guess.
He was likely to be selected as an elder, maybe even the tribal chief one day given he's educated, but Mother wanted him to have the opportunity to better himself which is fair enough I suppose, but one day he'll go back there, of that you can be sure."
"Penzance Harbour? This is Papa-Zulu one-one-eight-six, M.V. Conqueror, over?"
"Papa-Zulu One-one-eight-six. Hello Simeon and what brings you here, Penzance Harbour over."
"Penzance Harbour. Hello Mr Michaels. We need to come alongside plus we're short- handed and request assistance. Papa-Zulu Eleven-eight-six, over."
"How far out are you Simeon?"
"Our current heading puts us North-North-West of you, about seventy minutes out, over."
"We have you on radar.
Might I suggest that you deploy your aspect lights? The weathers on the turn and so it might be a wise precaution.
Your berth will be on the main quay, position fifteen so make your turn inside the basin and head back towards the harbour-mouth. Assistance will be waiting for you.
Penzance Harbour standing by."
Cathy came up from the accommodation.
"Who were you talking to?"
"Only the harbourmaster at Penzance.
Got ourselves a good mooring for once but the downside is, the weather is going to be dire meaning it wouldn't be wise to put back out for a day or so.
I did an online shop earlier and it'll be with us shortly after we berth so then you can think about meeting up with Sam while I sort out bunks.
"Yeah, that sounds very alright. It'll be good to talk to Mum and Sam on my own – no offence but I haven't seen them for like, ages?"
"I understand so you carry on. I have things to do on board like we could use diesel and water, pump out the effluent tank…… all the joyous jobs associated with running a boat so no worries okay?"
"Thanks for doing this?"
"Your welcome. It's not like my diary is full…… ever, I just hope he likes me.
Take as much time as you need but keep your phone with you just in case you need a hand with anything."
Between us we stowed away all the provisions before Cathy took herself off in the direction of town while I organised fuel and water.
Fuel, despite there being no tax levy, was still a major expense. The boats engine, a Stork-Werkspoor 6FHD240 marine diesel, drank the stuff at an alarming rate so seven hundred and sixty gallons or around three thousand five hundred litres at forty-eight pence per litre worked out at a touch over one thousand six hundred and eighty quid.
A lot of money but diesel powered just about everything on board.
Aside from the engine, the cooking range, two by forty kVa generators, an air compressor and auxiliary engines that powered the hydraulic winches, the boats heating and the refrigeration systems in the hold were also diesel fired so actually, looking at it in the round and given that fill should more than last the season, it was good value.
It was the Royal Navy's policy that all serving personnel kept up-to-date wills.
In my late Father's case, everything had been left to Mum but with the exception of the boat which Dad had bequeathed to me.
His instructions were very clear.
I should receive all necessary training in order to gain my Ships Masters certificate before I turned eighteen likewise my Marine Radio operators licence together with any other requirements such as Safety on-board qualifications, navigation and engineering certificates.
Failure to achieve these qualifications meant the boat would be sold and the money raised would be invested and I wouldn't be allowed to have access to it until I turned twenty-one.
I wasn't going to allow that to happen. The boat was my final connection to my Dad. For reasons best known to him, he had seen fit to leave it to me and whilst I had no intention of following a career in the fishing industry, I was anxious to abide by his wishes.
Jobs done, I took a stroll around the harbour guessing that Cathy would be gone at least a few hours, probably longer given we wouldn't be putting back out to sea for a day or so.
It was sad to see so many boats laying idle.
Boats I remembered from my childhood as proud, well maintained vessels now with their paint peeling giving way to rust and corrosion, rigging in tatters and mould growing around their windows and portholes.
The skippers of those boats that still worked out of Penzance told of reduced catches, EU quotas limiting the size of fish they could land and the need to go further and further out to sea just in order to cover their costs – pretty much the same complaints I'd heard back at Tresgillith.
All very depressing.
I made my way to the Waverly Arms, a pub popular with trawler-men, where I ordered a crab sandwich and a pint of Doombar then sent Cathy a text telling her where I was.
Her reply indicated that they were making their way back and no, they wouldn't come to the pub but rather they'd go straight back to the boat knowing that I never locked it.
I didn't feel it right to crowd them so instead of rushing back, I ordered another beer which I took outside and watched the world go by but after an hour of daydreaming, I took the short walk back to the quayside.
I don't know what I expected to see, but sitting on the afterdeck were two people, both with their backs to me but so similar in appearance. Long wavy blond hair, slim and both wearing light short sleeved cotton shirts, the only way I could tell which was Cathy was because I could see the outline of her bikini top beneath her shirt, in every other respect, like two peas from the same pod.
I climbed down the ladder and onto my boat at which point they both stood up.
Cathy greeted me with a brief hug.
"I'm sorry it took so long but it was nice to see Mum and catch up on news.
I'd like you to meet my brother, Sam.
Sam? This is Simeon, my best friend."
I held out my hand but Sam just looked at it, half turned away from me then turning his head, studied me then smiled as he took hold of it but instead of letting go, he held it and I could feel myself blushing.
Sam was…… I want to say handsome but that wasn't right. If anything, he was as pretty as Cathy, and believe me, she's pretty.
He stood no taller than five foot four inches, slim but definitely toned, very bronzed, very, very blue eyes and with his long blond hair held back by a platted bandanna, I can honestly say he was the stuff that child movie stars are made of.
"My name. Aruno-Pae meaning yellow-haired one in my language.
Cathy was right. You're very handsome boy."
"She's in serious need of glasses.
So your name isn't Sam?"
"Sam stayed here fourteen summers ago. I am not Sam. I am Aruno-Pae but you can call me Aruno if we are to be friends.
I hope we can be friends?"
"I'm sure we will…… I'd like to be your friend…… Aruno?"
He grinned widely showing a perfect set of white teeth.
"Then we will be. It is settled.
We stay here for a while yes? There's a bad storm coming in maybe four hours?"
"How did you know that? I only knew because I listened to the shipping forecast on the radio?"
"Back in my village, we have a radio but no forecast as my country is too big and also, we as a people, tribal and unimportant, are ignored so we learn.
We learn to understand the signs, smell the changes, watch how the animals and birds behave and then, and only then do we manage to read what is to come.
Look at your sea birds. There are so many of them on the cliffs and hilltops.
Normally wouldn't they be out at sea?
The air…… it has changed. It is sultry and humid. A sure sign of change and as for timing?
The birds still fly, the animals still stand which makes me believe the storm is a distance away but when it comes closer, the birds will disappear to find shelter, the animals will lay down.
Read nature Simeon – read nature and it can be your saviour."
I checked my watch. Four-fifteen so if what Sam…… sorry, Aruno had said was right, by eight o'clock or there abouts, we would be subjected to a battering.
He fascinated me. He had something about him – nothing I could identify but the way he moved, completely at ease with his surroundings, his every step looked as if it were choreographed, fluid and graceful.
I would study his expressions as we did a tour of the boat. One minute he'd look serious, studious as he touched things, almost as if it were possible to understand just by merely handling something, but then he'd look at me with that sideways glance and smile, as if to confirm that understanding.
He didn't ask questions, but rather he'd make a comment or statement like one he made when we went down to the engine room.
Those simple statements seemed to demand a response like "Around these coasts we get riptides and strong undertows so we need power enough to stay out of harm's way."
That would be enough, and he would acknowledge it with a simple nod of his head.
He did ask one question, one that under different circumstances I would've found intrusive but it was odd, because coming from him, it wasn't, it was like him asking me if I took sugar in my coffee.
"So Cathy is your woman?"
"Cathy is my friend."
"Yes, I know that but also, she's your woman?"
"In what way my woman?"
"Maybe she will bear you children?"
"I very much doubt it."
"Why? Do you not find her pleasing to the eye?"
"She's the most beautiful girl I know it's just that……"
You like boys."
"I don't think you do understand. That wasn't what I meant."
"Back in my village, some boys like girls, some girls like boys, some boys like boys and some girls like girls. It is simple. It is the way of things."
"And you? Who do you like?"
"I like both but if I had to choose…… I think boys."
"You had a special boy back in your village then?"
"No. The native boys aren't pretty."
He studied me, his very blue eyes boring holes in my brain.
"But you are very pretty."
I had to smile at this remark, straight off the cuff, no embarrassment, just pure honesty.
No one had ever called me pretty, not even handsome.
Okay, Cathy thought I was good looking and I could cope with that but now a very attractive boy reckons I'm pretty?
I didn't feel comfortable continuing with this conversation, something Aruno quite obviously sensed.
"I'm sorry if you find me upsetting?"
"I don't find you upsetting, far from it. I happen to like you enormously but there are some things, personal things that here in England we tend not to talk about.
I'll try and explain.
Perhaps the culture in your village is such that it's acceptable to be open and honest about things like the ones we talked about.
Maybe it is normal for boys to like other boys, girls to like other girls, I don't know except these things happen here too but the difference is, our culture, and I'm not going to defend it, actually I think it would be a good thing if we could be truthful about our feelings, but our culture is such that many people cannot condone and are openly hostile to the idea of same gender relationships."
"So does that mean it's never talked about?"
"No, it is talked about but you could end up in serious trouble if you went up to a complete stranger and told him that you thought he was pretty or attractive.
Most likely you'd get a punch in the face for your honesty."
"So was I wrong to tell you?"
"Not wrong to tell me but you could've been a bit more circumspect."
"What means circumspect?"
"Diplomatic, more careful. I mean we've only just met and you couldn't have known what my reaction might be. I could've been angry or upset."
"But that is where you're wrong. I read you, your face, your mannerisms. I believe it would take great provocation to make you angry.
Can you remember the last time you were angry?
When was the last time you were upset?"
"Upset is easy. That was at my Father's funeral.
A tough question.
I don't think I've ever been angry unless you include childhood temper tantrums, it's not in my nature."
"I knew it. We have much in common.
I was upset to leave my village. It was all I'd ever known.
That life - I understood it. I was safe there. I was at one with my surroundings but then I'm told we must go to England.
I know nothing of life here, it is alien and frightening. Deep inside, I am and always will be, an adult of the Iwanso tribe, not English. Everything I've been taught in the fourteen summers of my life – wasted, but I am not angry.
Anger is the preserve of fools."
"I'm sorry. I never considered that. I wish there was something I could do to help you."
"But already you've helped me.
Up until now, only my Mother could understand how I feel so there is nothing to be gained by sharing my feelings with my Father or even my sister but you? You are different and I knew you would understand so sharing my concerns has been of more help to me than you can possibly realise."
"Okay. Perhaps I should've said like something more I could do."
"Cathy told me that it was your idea to collect me with your boat rather than taking the railway or travelling by road so already that proves to me that you care.
I think she called it a nice gentle way to introduce me to my new life here.
I spent a lot of my time on the rivers – all of us had to understand boats although none were like yours – more like very big canoes.
Some of the elders bought outboard motors but the rest of us had to make do with paddles and besides, getting a supply of petrol was very difficult."
"I have a canoe Aruno - I use it to surf - you know, like ride the waves so if you would like to use it then fine, but for now? I think we should go and find out where Cathy is."
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