Today I have been mostly planning holidays. Well, one holiday to be specific, which has been booked on a carpe diem whim and is now shaping up to be something rather special. The catalyst for this trip was, as regular readers of this blog will know, the tragic passing away of a very special person who recently came into our lives. Now, in memory of his adventurous spirit, we are intending to have our very own adventure.
Starting in Hong Kong to celebrate the arrival of 2014, we’ll then fly to the Philippines where I’ll hopefully begin to tick off two items from my newly created bucket list; swimming with whale sharks and diving with sharks. We’re also going to do some trekking through rice terraces, visit a village that suspends its dead in coffins from the side of a cliff and, if time allows, also go to some bat caves and take a zip wire down from the highest bridge in the Philippines (a particularly tough challenge for me due to my fear of heights, but hell, why not. After all, you only live once).
I really couldn’t be more excited. It’s an opportunity to break away from the normal routine and recapture the essence of travelling that I miss so much in my everyday life. It will also no doubt give me a huge amount of inspiration for my writing – something that I’ve felt, much to my immense frustration, has been lacking in recent weeks. It may take a very (very) long time to pay this holiday off but I know it will be worth every penny. Life is for living and it is trips like this that make it feel so much more exhilarating.
Silently he creeps up the gangplank and onto the deck. He circumnavigates the hull, darting behind heavy wooden crates covered in nets that reek of fish guts to avoid being seen by the crew.
He knows not how long he’s been crouching there; long enough to lose sensation in his knees and start to wonder if he’s doing the right thing. He shakes the thought off like a dog shaking its fur after a swim. He thinks of Benjy, lying by the fire, his wet nose resting on his mottled brown paws. His stomach clenches from both homesickness and hunger but he doesn’t falter. He’s made his choice and he must suffer the consequences. He is now a soldier of the sea.
The activity on the deck is building. Men in smart naval uniforms are boarding the ship, lost in important-looking conversation as porters carry their belongings in heavy trunks.The sailors set to work on the rigging, climbing up to the mast head with dexterity and ease, their sinewy bodies glistening with sweat and salt.
Not long now until his maritime adventure will begin. He wonders briefly whether he’ll be missed, if it will occur to his family that he’s set off on a voyage across the seas. He knows he might see pirates and vagabonds; he knows he must be brave.
“Hoist the main sail!” A cry from the captain. “Wait!” A second voice, much closer than the first. “What’s this we have here….?” The tarpaulin shifts and light spills through into his hidey hole. But it’s not the Captain’s face he sees. He blinks. “What the…?”
“Oscar!” His mother’s face looms large above him. “What are you doing? Come down for your tea!”
Oh well, he thinks as he disentangles himself from his blanket (formerly the main sail), there’s always next time…