Saturday 5 Oct
Due to a wee bit of miscommunication between Alan and myself about times to arrange the taxi, we were on our way before 10.00 am to the Mission to Seafarers where the RMS St Helena passengers gather ahead of embarkation. The doors were locked. We were about to return to the Portswood when a cheery lady sporting Marigolds kindly opened up and ushered us inside. Bernadette is the wife of Charles, the Mission Chaplain. They worked in Cape Town in the previous Seafarers’ mission building until moving to a land based ministry in another part of the country. More recently, they have been called back to Cape Town to take over their former charge again. Charles had asked her to help out as he knew it would be a busy day with nearly a hundred passengers turning up and wanting to eat the mission fare of burgers, fried chicken or fish – not forgetting the chips and beer – while waiting to embark. She kindly let us stow our baggage in the back of the chapel (which I have no recollection of from my last trip – must have been the after effects of the mouth wash a la nail varnish remover ingestion!). We were able to then walk back to the Waterfront where we bought a few CDs, post cards and a Christmas decoration. I could not resist the little tin angel made from a coke can which will probably be our sole decorative gesture come Christmas time…
Back at the mission with hamburgers and chips safely stowed away, we chatted away with some fellow passengers, including Frank who was heading to St Helena to celebrate his mother’s 100th birthday. He told us he had flown with Turkish Air and been very impressed. His poor sister and family had been ‘bumped’ off the BA flight we came in on because it was overbooked. They had arrived just that morning, 24 hours later than planned with just enough time to get to the boat.
Then – a lovely surprise. Alan noticed a young couple with a baby in a buggy and pointed them out as they rounded the corner into the main seating area. Wow! It was Lauren who I first met on the boat out in 2011 when she was accompanying her husband Lewis on secondment to be Chief Immigration Officer on the island. I knew about baby Jack from Facebook communications – and now the chance to get to know him and reconnect with his mummy and daddy. Brilliant! The bloke with Lauren was not Lewis but a friend from the island, an engineer on the airport project. He was travelling back to St Helena with his family. Lewis then appeared and we were soon all introduced to respective partners and friends. Excellent to know who some of our fellow sailors would be.
Time passed very quickly with lots of chatting and catching up; in no time we were on the minibus on the way to the RMS St Helena; and there she was looking as grand and stately as I remembered her; in a small well cared for old matronly cruise ship sort of a way. Our cabin was called ‘Rural Retreat’; how appropriate for the co-proprietors of Hangjik (www.hangjik.com) which had just that day been covered in the travel section of the Saturday Telegraph. We unpacked and then had a long breather resting on the cabin beds; time to reflect, to properly think about where we had come from, where we were going – and, as always, beyond to other worlds.. Our thoughts were especially with Nazmi, Kadrije and all the family back in Runjeve grieving the death of another of Nazmi’s brothers after unsuccessful coronary bypass surgery that took place the day we flew. We picked up the sad news about Kadrush on Friday morning but sitting in the cabin having arrived ‘home’ for the next six days provided a pause time to allow the news to sink in further.