Writing in the last-but-one post about the way that none of us on the Morocco holiday seemed to be a natural leader made me think about the trip I took to Greece in 1977. I caught the bus from London to Athens, and have previously written up part of the outward journey here. After having been on that bus for three days and nights, when I stepped down onto the tarmac in Athens my ankle gave way, and I ended up in hospital. Not a great way to start a holiday! Things got a lot worse than that later, but that’s another story.
The bus journey back home from Athens to London was much better – I had a double seat to myself, which actually allowed me to get some sleep, and the route was not only more direct, but quicker as well. Zooming down the autobahn at six in the morning, reading Stranger in a Strange Land with The Dark Side of the Moon playing at full blast on the bus speaker was a bizarre, but enjoyable experience.
When we approached Calais, the courier asked for someone to volunteer to be the responsible person for the ferry to Dover, as he was leaving to go back to Paris. I immediately ducked my head down, but an American lady at the back pointed at me and shouted, “I think the librarian should be the responsible person”, and the others voiced their agreement. So I ended up being the responsible person.
As the courier explained to me, and to my relief, the responsible person didn’t have many duties. The main one seemed to be handing the ferry tickets over when we got on the boat. So half an hour later I did this, and the ferry assistant and myself counted the party onto the boat. Sixteen tickets. We both stood there as we counted everyone on. Sixteen passengers. Plus me, the responsible person. I was the seventeenth. What! There was no ticket for me, the bus had left for Paris, everyone had disappeared onto the ferry and I had no money of any kind left at all. Shoot!
But the assistant didn’t seem to notice this fact. I don’t think he was a very alert assistant. So he ushered me onto the ferry, where I rejoined the group from the bus. Two hours later, as we approached England, I noticed that one of our party was getting quite agitated. He was a chap that no-one else had managed to speak to at all throughout the journey from Athens. He simply didn’t seem to speak any of the languages that any of us knew, and between us all we’d tried quite a few, so we’d kind of left him alone. As we approached the port he came up to me, the responsible person, jabbered excitedly in his unknown tongue, and pointed repeatedly at the white cliffs of Dover as they hove into view.
I hadn’t the foggiest idea what he was saying, so I said, “Yes – the white cliffs of Dover. England”, but this seemed to get him even more agitated. Finally he took my arm, dragged me inside the cabin area and up to a map on the wall of the English Channel, where he jabbed repeatedly at a location, pointed to himself and nodded, then pointed outside the cabin window at the looming cliffs and then to himself and shook his head with a lot of energy.
I looked at where he was jabbing on the map, and saw that it was Zeebrugge. He was on the wrong boat! That also explained why there were seventeen of us with sixteen tickets.
Being the responsible person, I took him to someone wearing a uniform, explained his situation, and then indicated that he should stay on the ferry and go back the way we’d come. I often wondered if he ever got to Zeebrugge, and I decided to try to avoid being the responsible person in the future.
For our forthcoming Exodus trip to Sikkim in April, I think I’ll try to get Fat mac elected as the leader. He’s an anarchist, and no-one will be able to understand his Bellshill accent, so that should be fun. Better still, behind his back I’ll tell the rest of the group that Fat Mac is a techie whizz who will be delighted to fix any device, and answer their technical questions about mobile phones, connecting to networks, apps, wifi, chargers, laptops, cameras, batteries and anything electronic.
Below are some photos from the camel trek back to M’Hamid. I was still in considerable pain from the ride into the camp the previous day, so elected to walk.