Thursday, February 12, 2009
ALL THE NICE GIRLS LOVE A SAILOR ...
EARLY SUMMER 1992: Again a chance to swing the lamp. One of my Squadron ships, F171 HMS ACTIVE, was deployed down the West Africa coast en route to the Falkland Islands. It was one of those trips not to be missed. We had briefly put into Senegal for fuel, giving me the opportunity on the dockside to barter an old pair of tennis shoes for a “Rolex”; then the Gambia for three days, but that is another story. And now we were on a high profile diplomatic visit to Ghana – a delightful country and people whose warmth and generosity I will never forget. It was also a good year to visit Ghana, as a new constitution had just been adopted, the economy was bubbling, and the people were in an ebullient mood.
On our second evening the officers were to dine ashore with officers of the Ghanaian Navy at their Eastern Command Headquarters in Tema, which is where ACTIVE was parked – sorry, for the benefit of civilian sail-boaters, berthed. It was but a short military bus ride from the ship to the barracks, and as we were only fifteen in number it was easy to arrange transport.
The setting was superb – rustic wooden tables under the stars, and an amazingly sumptuous meal of fish soup and dark, chewy local bread, a hot and hearty goat curry, and bowls of local fruits to end – and washed down with the local brew, Star beer. The company and table conversation was wonderful, considering that we were strangers to each other, the speeches as predicable and boring as any, and we all suffered together, and the coffee quite awful, as we all agreed. Yet the evening passed too quickly, as new naval bonds and friendships were made. It was one of those incredible times and situations that could never be deliberately staged or created.
Then the Ghanaian naval commandant stood up. “Gentlemen of the Royal Navy! Our highly honored guests! Your gift to us is your coming here. Now in return we offer our gift to you, to do with as you desire!” And he clapped his hands. Out of the trees came some thirty young, beautiful, heavily perfumed women, all with one offered intent. “Hospitality.”
Despite the wide eyed protests of the junior lieutenants we left hurriedly, as in within ninety seconds, yet not impolitely, and hopefully without diplomatic injury. As for the girls, well the upstanding officers of the Ghanaian Navy were clearly pleased to do their duty. So all were satisfied! And this we agreed over large brandies and coffee, in our own wardroom, safe and sound.
Posted by Tim Lewis at 8:50 PM