A Tale of Two Titties!

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Bruce Dashwood was feeling increasingly frustrated. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Tenerife, in fact he felt very much at home there. The place, for some reason, reminded him of Scotland, although he hadn’t found a nice tearoom that served a quality muffin with his favourite brew. No, the problem was that he really wanted to get to Billabongwe, and he wasn’t sure whether it was safe to proceed yet. Was there going to be a war, or wasn’t there?

Fortunately the lockdown regulations allowed him to walk up and down the quayside, so that helped to pass the time. He was fascinated by a foundation stone, which must have been put there eons ago. He couldn’t read the writing though, it had become weathered away.

He had to admit that the crew were a pleasant bunch, and gave him a lot of space. He really liked the yacht too. What an excellent way to travel, when I retire I could do a lot more of this, he thought.

Ah, Tenerife. A good place to be in quarantine. Well, it shouldn’t be too much longer. No doubt the diplomats were scurrying about – apparently some battleship had fired a missile across the bows of a Royal Navy vessel anchored further offshore, and the vessel had been rather taken aback.

What would happen next? Oh, to be a fly on the wall of the Consulate, he thought. He was anxious to haul down the yellow flag and proceed with the voyage.
 

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Meanwhile, in Billabongwe, a special concession had been made regarding the lockdown regulations. A decree was issued whereby citizens could by telephone, whatsapp, telegram or other means order flags of their choice, flagpoles and assorted bunting to grace the exterior of their non-expropriated properties. This would be delivered by dispatch riders. Anyone with a bicycle and desirous of a little exercise, could volunteer their services to deliver the flags. Cyclists were requested to contact the La Belle Alliance Flag Company Limited who reserved the right to refuse delivery if they did not particularly admire the pattern on the fabric requested.

After weeks of confinement, the cyclists of Billabongwe issued a collective cheer. “What wonderful news” they all agreed. “I wonder whether this concession will spread to the rest of Namzambique?” they thought, collectively.

Would it? Would it indeed? Only time would tell.
 
Most of the residents of downtown Billabongwe took to the hitherto deserted beaches to rejoice and celebrate the arrival of their new-found freedom...

But stand fast poor Jasmine [shown below with her Yellow dhoby bucket]:

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... that long cycle ride, together with her monthly visitation, combined to restricted Jazzer's ability
to shake a hoof with the same unrestrained vigour of her younger companions.
 

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Once Obvious had reached the yacht club, he confidently launched one of the surf-ski’s onto the river. He had no fear of the water, remembering how he had spent many happy afternoons playing Streamers on the vlei when at school. In those days he’d had to take the train from town, but once he had reached the vlei he would always select his favourite paddle ski, Little Rebel, from the rack and join his team of Hippo’s to take on the Mighty Rhino’s. The games had been quite competitive, and the referee had many times had to sound the foghorn from his drone flying overhead.

What great days those had been! Once he understood the rules, the object of which was to get the ball into either bucket without injuries, he had taken to the sport like the proverbial duck to water, and his hero in the league had been a player for the Rams who had taken his team to victory against the so called Ironclads. Well, that was then and it had equipped him well for his current task, which was to get the flag to the base. Fortunately it was an incoming tide, and the wind was in his favour. All he needed now was for Algernon to get a puncture, and the Arsenal flag would be proudly flying above the base in no time! Or draped over the balcony, whatever.
 

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It was another fine day in Tenerife, and perfect for setting sail, but Bruce Dashwood and the crew of the Sagittarius weren’t going anywhere. News had reached them that there had been a mutiny in the Royal Namzambiquan Navy. It seemed the sailors were divided as to the line of succession, and in an effort to diffuse the situation, talks were being held onboard the HMNS Huberta.

Well that was their problem, Bruce decided. Nothing is going to stop me getting to Billabongwe, except, of course, if there IS a war, he thought. He knew his father was hopping mad about his pyjamas falling apart. Mad enough to sink a big box boat if the quality didn’t improve. Well, that would teach them, and those box boats were horrendously ugly things anyway.

Still, no point in wasting a beautiful day. Perhaps he could go and cast a line off the quayside, maybe catch some fish for dinner. Maybe go for a cycle. Well, the lockdown regulations on Tenerife hadn’t been widely publicised, so perhaps he could go for a pedal down the splendid boulevards. Being stuck in the Canary Islands wasn’t anything to complain about, he decided, and the developments in the Royal Namzambiquan Navy were certainly worth watching.
 

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Meanwhile, in the South China Sea, a really ugly container vessel, the Ulrich de Matterhorn, was proceeding towards Singapore. Its cargo was destined not just for Namzambique, but for other parts of Africa as well, and consisted mainly of pyjamas, facemasks, pipes, and drapery. The Captain, Jerry Burgersdorp (known to his friends as “Big Mac”), paced the bridge anxiously, aware that the seas were rife with pirates who would do anything to seize a ship as ugly as his.

Suddenly, from nowhere, the bridge was invaded by pirates demanding that the ship divert to their stronghold in the Gulf of Thailand. Big Mac was unable to offer any resistance, so he and his crew were shepherded into the lounge area where they were held hostage while the pirates relayed their ransom demands to the headquarters of the shipping company.

Big Mac was extremely worried. Would the pirates scuttle the ship if their demands were not met? Would they massacre the crew? Would any of that matter to the shipping company or would they just be concerned about the loss of their lousy pyjamas? Big Mac had plenty to worry about. He could see it was going to be a sleepless night.
 

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Jasmine sat in her lounge with her two chums, Mafeking and Dorrit, watching the television news. The Governor-General appeared wearing a Hercule Poirot party mask that made Mafeking giggle, and Jasmine grumpy because she thought her friend wasn’t taking things seriously. The news moved on to an incident in the Gulf of Thailand, and Dorrit said that she was worried that she might know someone on the ship that had been taken by the pirates. Then the news-reporter said that there were rumours of a mutiny in the Royal Namzambiquan Navy, and all eyes were going to be focused on the flag raising in the morning because if the flag of Tottenham Hotspur was raised on the jackstaff of the HMNS Huberta, everyone would know that the mutineers had won. If not, it would just be another day of same old same old and Jasmine and her chums would remain under lockdown except maybe a walk to the shops to buy some fruit and veg and perhaps a box of Hobnobs to enjoy with their tea. This lockdown, they agreed, was getting tedious.

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“Imagine if they held a war and everyone stayed huddled at home,” Bruce said to the crew of the Sagittarius, still tied up alongside at Tenerife. “Well, that’s what this virus thing is like! I’m sick and tired of this now – time we sailed off to Billabongwe, and if we can’t go there then let’s head off to the Bahamas.”

“Not as easy as that, Bruce,” the skipper replied. “Don’t forget that some vessel fired a missile across the bows of the RN ship offshore. Could lead to a war if the Captain has his way. I hear he’s none too charmed, but he can’t do anything until Able Seaman Dominic returns the result of a plebiscite. It’s weird, but that’s democracy for you. Still, things could be worse. We could be taken hostage by pirates like what’s happening in the Gulf of Thailand. Not a happy situation that.”

And so another day passed in the harbour at Tenerife. Would tomorrow be any different? It was hard to tell.
 

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A couple of days later Nobulus, as OC of the Amampondoland Naval Base, was briefing Algernon and Barry on the latest developments.

“It seems there might well be a war,” he said. “The pirates in the Gulf of Thailand tied the crew up in the engine-room of the ship and scuttled the Ulrich de Matterhorn. The people at Lloyds are furious, and the family of the crew very upset as well. Your ship, the HMS Kalahari, is on its way to the Gulf of Thailand now, and it will be joined by the HMNS Huberta shortly.”

“I thought they had a mutiny,” Barry interjected.

“Yes, they did, but it was a storm in a teacup. All over now, and everyone happy,” Nobulus replied. “Further, the Government of Namzambique has ordered a recruitment drive for all able-bodied men over the age of 18. To their credit they have established walk-in recruitment centres in various shopping centres all over the country. Seems it is not just pirates that they are concerned about, but also insurgents on the Namzambiquan border. People are predicting a great boost for the local textile industry as a result of the sinking of the Ulrich de Matterhorn, but the pirates can’t expect to escape without some form of retribution.

“And what about that incident off the Canary Islands?” Algernon asked. “Who was it that took a shot across the bows of the RN ship?”

“Well, they reckon that that was pirates too. West African pirates. They are getting very assertive, and the RN ship took off in pursuit, impatient with the dithering of the diplomats. Furthermore. A yacht in the harbour at Tenerife took the opportunity to slip its moorings and set sail in a southwards direction. That’s all we know. Now, back to work, you lot. We are expecting an intake of recruits any day now if the men of Namzambique answer the call.

A great wad of plaster crashed down from the ceiling narrowly missing Algernon as he sat on a plastic dairy crate listening to Nobulus. “This place is a danger to shipmates,” he said. “They ought to do some renovations.”

“Well it’s not considered a priority at present,” Nobulus replied. “Unfortunately. Still, with this shift in priorities we might see an improvement. Tune in to watch the Governor-General when he gives his pep-talk this evening. It’s unlikely that he will make any reference to the mutiny, but he might mention the Ulrich de Matterhorn incident, and that could be a game-changer.”
 

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Although the Sagittarius had satellite navigation, Bruce still enjoyed trying to plot the yachts position using the sextant. It was something he had learned a long time ago so he was trying to relearn an old skill. He leaned over the chart table and marked the estimated position in the centre of a cocked hat. He checked the position against the SATNAV reading. Not too far out, not too bad, he thought.

Dinner had been a fish pie, and now he was enjoying a glass of chilled white wine under the stars, ideal for the tropics. He thought about the mother of his children. She’d probably have been released from the home in cloud-cuckoo land by now, and would be pestering his father to find out where he was. Well, he’d not tell her, he was sure of that. Lordy, that woman. Well, he’d be safe in Billabongwe, he thought, and she’d probably go searching for him in someplace like Scotland.

He wondered where the HMS Kalahari was at this stage. Had they delivered his International 14 safely to the Billabongwe Yacht Club? Well, he’d find out when he got there. He wondered about the threat of war. News had reached them of tensions in Taiwan. Interesting, he thought. Well enough of that, better to go down to his cabin and finish off a good book.
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Barry, meanwhile, was venting his frustration on Algernon. “I didn’t join up in order to fix plumbing problems in this outpost of the Empire,” he moaned. “I'm a stoker, dammit! Soon as they send another ship I’m going to head off for the East. I want to see the world. Singapore, Hong Kong, Yokohama, Sydney, the works!”

“Well, you do that if they let you, old cock,” Algy replied, “though I am sure that they will miss you here, and you haven’t really given this place a chance yet. We only just got started fixing the place up, and we’ve got an intake of new recruits coming in next week.”

Barry grunted and tossed a blanket off his bunk. He thought again about the girl he had seen on his walk through the park. She, at least, might make the wait bearable, if only fortune would cause their paths to cross once more.

“Well good night Barry”, Algy said cheerily, but Barry just muttered something rude in reply and was soon sound asleep.
 

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It was a glorious June morning when the Sagittarius hove to and dropped anchor some distance off the beach in front of the clubhouse of what is, arguably, the most exclusive yacht club in Namzambique. The Commodore’s broad pennant was flying from the masthead, and presently the man himself appeared on the beach and launched his surf-ski to paddle out to the yacht and greet the sailors.

“Welcome, welcome” the Commodore said in his distinctive Namzambiquan accent, then repeated himself in French and various other indigenous languages as if he was being filmed for a newsreel. “Glad to see you made it here in one piece. A fine yacht! Splendid! Possibly the best I have seen in all my years as Commodore of the yacht club here. Well, come ashore. I’ve invited a customs man to stamp your passports, so you can do that over tea and shortbread. Stay for lunch, have a shower. Stay for dinner. Be my guest! I have things to discuss. Move along, move along.” And with that he paddled further out into the bay and then returned via a stretch of the coastline back to the beach.

Later that day, over lunch, the Commodore told Bruce that he had the International-14 safely stowed in the boathouse and he was welcome to use the facilities whenever he liked. “But first”, the Commodore said,” I must ask, how is your father, the estimable Admiral Dashwood? We wanted him to come and lay a foundation stone at a little harbour some way up the coast, but with this lockdown and all perhaps you can do the honours? Good with a trowel, are you? Perhaps a little speech? I know the people there would really appreciate it. Give it some thought, will you? Best we do these things properly, otherwise brick by brick, things well, they just crumble and decay. Here, have some pickled fish.”

Bruce asked how he was supposed to get to the proposed harbour. Train or car? Perhaps on the yacht? The Commodore said it was up to him, but he suggested that, under the circumstances, by car – that way Bruce could see a bit of the country. “Namzambique is a wonderful country, Bruce,” he said. “You are sure to enjoy your exile here.”
 

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Algernon was experiencing a mild existential crisis, and he confided in Barry that he was having some misgivings about the Andrew. “Look,” he said, ”I heard on this podcast that the stewards are getting reskilled as chefs. Well I don’t like that one bit, mate. True, I hadn’t quite expected to be a steward when I joined, but I am proud of the good work that my branch of the service does. And look at me anyway – I’m a part-time PTI offering sailing instruction! What’s the matter with the world these days? You go into a bank, and there’s nobody there just automatic teller machines, and Lord alone help you if you want to remit some funds back to your folks overseas. You have to have a degree in computers to work out how to do that, or you ring a call centre and hang on the line for hours. Same now in the Andrew – they want to phase out the stewards and replace us with vending machines and automatic shoe polishers. ‘struth! I once hoped I might have a factotum like old Colonel Smedley Whatsisname myself. Doesn’t look like that’ll be the case if I stick around here. Know what I’m going to do? I’m going to transfer to the Royal Namzambiquan Navy. At least they still have stewards.”

“Well you do that, mate” Barry replied. “I joined as a stoker and now I’m sorting out plumbing issues. You can’t expect everything to go your way, you know. Now, seriously, do you really mean to jump ship just because they want to send you on a cookery course?”

“Nobody said they want to send me on a cookery course. I’m just telling you that’s what I heard on this podcast.”

“Well my advice to you, mate” Barry scoffed, “is don’t listen to podcasts designed for business school folk. It’s bound to demoralise you. Why don’t you try learning a new language instead? Namzambique has got a whole lot you can choose from – check these out, I found them in a magazine – yes really! A magazine printed on actual paper! Learn one of these languages and you’ll soon be singing from the same hymn sheet as at least some of the locals.

"You are actually quite wise, Barry" Algernon conceded. "Just because I am a steward now, doesn't mean that I am going to stay one forever, and I've found it a good way of finding my feet in the service."
 

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The following day the first of the new intake arrived, disembarking from the train station near the park, and walking over to the base, such as it was, on the banks of the river. Barry got them to fall in then bellowed out some instructions. They were to stow their kit and then line up for haircuts. This bothered one of the lads, who looked a lot like Whoopi Goldberg with dreadlocks and a disarming smile. “And who are you?” Barry demanded when Whoopi protested.

“I be Lorenzo Marx,” said the Whoopi lookalike, smiling. His bright white teeth flashing like a row of mint imperials.

“Spell it,” Barry barked, unable to find such a name on his clipboard.

“L-O-R-E-N-Z-O M-A-R-K-S”, Lorenzo replied.

“No such name here,” Barry said. “There’s a somebody called Lourenço Marques though. That you?”

“Could be,” Lorenzo replied, smiling, “but you can call me LM”.

“And you can call me Chief.” Barry said, which was not really true, because he was only an Able Seaman, but owing to circumstances he reckoned he needed a little extra status.

“Ok, you be Chief then,” Whoopi answered, “and me, I BLM.”

That night Nobulus briefed his two Able Seamen on the programme for the following morning. The plan was to take the recruits on a run up to the war memorial, a good few kilometres away. Algernon was concerned that the distance might be a bit too ambitious for the first day and that they should just start with some basic drill and seamanship. “I’m worried about LM, he said. I think he might be asthmatic, epileptic or something, and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to him if he has a medical condition.”

“Fair enough,” Nobulus replied, “let’s take it slowly. It’s a long time since I did basic training, you know the rules better than me. But that war memorial is a disgrace – the lawns, for one, need attention. So if any of these seamen give you any uphill or become mutinous, you can send them up there to do some gardening and maintenance.”

And so it was that the basic training for the new intake got under way, and Barry and Algernon, far away from their homes across the ocean, began the process of imparting their skills and knowledge to a whole new batch of raw recruits in the Royal Namzambiquan Navy.
 
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