Tuesday, 3 April 2007

I've often not been on boats

“What a colour!” Fyodor yelled over the steady growl of the engine. He lifted his arms out in front of him, as if to embrace the layers of pink and blue that had settled above the snow-covered mountains as the sun set behind us.
That blue. It was like a pastel, but thinner. Yet it wasn’t patchy – it was smooth and almost creamy. It wasn’t a blue that is made lighter with the addition of more white, which would weigh it down. This blue was infused with light reflected by the snow, then held by the cold, clear air.
We stared at it for a long time. For most of the journey we were the only ones on deck. Everyone else retired to the comfort of the ship’s lounge. But the Russian and the Canadian stayed out, running up and down stairs, pointing at this mountain or that, staring into the black sea and thinking up monsters, laughing madly.
We had to wait onboard for nearly three hours from when the ship first docked to when it departed. Almost all the passengers went straight for the dining room for lunch, which I found bizarre. Many town locals came aboard the ship just to have a look at it. It is the oldest in the Hurtigruten fleet that travels the route we were on. Built in 1956 the MS Nordstjernen is also the smallest, carrying up to 600 passengers.
Of course there weren’t so many that Sunday, but all the same most of the couches were soon taken up by slumbering travellers.
We spent those first few hours chatting aimlessly about travels, cameras, the evils of the capitalist force in relation to genetically modified mega-farms vs. the small family-run plots of years past.
Once we were moving I was forced to make only short forays into the ship’s warmth because the rocking and the sickly heated air made me feel ill. The smell in the tiny loo reminded me of Harzer Kase, a cheese Omi used to get that smelled so bad she would store it by hanging it on the clothesline.
The only time we stayed inside was to watch the half-hour video on the northern lights. We got there too late and all the seats were taken, so we sat on the floor in front of a wall of senior citizens. It was quite like being at school again, sitting cross-legged like that, looking up at a screen on the wall. Except I don’t remember my back aching as a child.
The most entertaining moment came when the sun had set and we were moving into a snow flurry. A Norwegian man with the red, round face of a seasoned drinker, approached us and started talking to Fyodor. The man, who at first had hurt my new friend with a poorly thought-out remark about the Moscow economy, soon redeemed himself by regurgitating several Russian folk songs he had learned on past fishing trips. I say regurgitated because that was how it sounded. When he opened his mouth he seemed to bear down to force out the sound, which was low and pebbled with saliva. As he sang he stared straight ahead of him and I imagined each word coming to him only the second before he forced it past his lips.
Fyodor and I both gawked in shock. It was cold; the darkness and the snow were falling. The sea had turned as black as ink beneath us. And in frozen dim a Norwegian man sang Russian songs, chuckling after he finished each one.
My father would say: “He’s what you’d call ‘a character.’” Indeed he was.
The last half an hour is a bit of a blur. I spent a lot of time laughing joyfully, having finally arrived at the realization that I would soon meet my friend.
I knew I would spot him when we pulled in, and I did. He loomed, motionless, in a lit doorway. I saw the outline of his long black coat, which I knew was lined with purple. I laughed and laughed into the soup of shadow and snowflakes and wondered if he could hear me.Next time, Stamsund, at last! It’s taking long enough, eh?

ps- A wee present shall be awarded to the person who can tell me from which play I stole the title of this post.


Anonymous said...

um...something british..monty python... no, no plays...

Anonymous said...

rosenkratz & guildenstern - spelling?

Anonymous said...

r dead.

Anonymous said...

is guidenstern?

PurestGreen said...

Moe Wins.
How can you not be on a boat?
I've often not been on boats.

I shall choose the wee gifty on the weekend. Hooray!

Anonymous said...

yes!! haha so funny