The Chertan — life on the ocean wave… was pretty rough

I attempt to write this — the first of my antipodean blogs — as I sit aboard the MS Chertan being tossed around on the Pacific Ocean like a sock in a tumble drier, somewhere to the east of the south-easterly tip of Papua New Guinea.

Twelve days have flown by staggeringly quickly since leaving Marbella, and this folks, is the first time I’ve had the opportunity, privacy and space to sit and put finger to keyboard. Little point though, as it’ll be at least another four days before we’re back in Cairns and I can post it.

So what’s been happening, I reflect, as I try to unstick my forearms from the plastic table cloth and re-type this sentence a third time as we crash through another twenty-foot breaker?

Well amigos, we left Malaga bound for Gatwick on Sunday 21st May

The view towards Mossman, where Sinead and Chris got hitched, from the hacienda

where we overnighted before flying to Brisbane via Dubai, then flew up to Cairns in Northern Queensland. We were met by our hosts and whisked off to the delightful northern resort at Port Douglas. Here, they had rented a massive luxury ten-bedroomed hillside hacienda with a pool, a lift — to save you the bother for the one-hundred and fifty steps from the garage to the principal living area — for the lead-up to their daughter’s wedding and the post-traumatic aftermath of this stupendous event.

Now in the interests of anonymity, I shall refer to the hombre whose daughter was getting hitched simply as Sharks, and his delightful wife as Mrs S. Completing our party is another couple, who in the interests of avoiding legal complications, I shall simply refer to as Spike and his wonderful wife as Mrs C.

The Three wise men — in the jungle

The three of us went to school together back in the day: Portora Royal School. Amigos, I may have mentioned in a previous blog that I was only one of three ‘students’ to have won the Poetry Prize on two consecutive occasions. The other two? Well, you’re unlikely to have heard of them unless you really like to immerse yourself in pre-postmodern Irish literature: Oscar Wilde and Sam Beckett.

We played rugby together (obviously not Wilde, Beckett and me) Spike at 9, Sharks at 10 and I was in the second row, wedged between the biggest front row and the thickest but hardest back row in semi-recent Irish schoolboy rugby history. This meant that I had to do most of the back row’s work (mainly the thinking) often ending up as Sharks’ minder when he made an impromptu and improbable break from the depths of his own 22 (that’s the 25, of course, in old money).

Without wishing to bang on excessively about it, Portora were the

The magnificent Portora Royal 1st XV form ’73-’74

team to beat back in ’74, nailed on favorites for the Ulster Schools’ Cup. We slaughtered both the Leinster and Munster’s Schools Champions on a post-Christmas tour, more memorable for drinking with Rory Gallagher and his band in the Metropole Hotel in Cork. But then it all went horridly wrong when someone who shall remain nameless (Harper Brown) threw a pass right into Dungannon’s Jerry Martin’s breadbasket. He ran the length of the pitch, dotted down, bagged the extras and, heyho, we were dumped out of the Cup at the quarter-final stage.

Sharks and I played at London Irish for a while before he replaced the England fullback at the then-great Moseley, and then ended his career in Papua New Guinea, where he found that making the occasional tackle to be an unreasonable expectation and promptly retired.

Spike stayed in Ireland and finished an illustrious career at City of Derry aged forty.

The reason for this lengthy rugby soliloquy is to tell you that these are my two best friends. If you don’t know exactly how I define friends, please take a quick shifty at this. Aside from rugby, we drank together, smoked together, got into trouble together, womanised together (well at least until Spike met Mrs C at the tender age of sixteen) and we would basically run through a brick wall for each other. And, by inference, I would put Mrs C. into that category, particularly as she has had to listen to every story of past glories told, re-told and embellished over and over again for the last forty-two years.

So, despite the fact that neither Spike, Mrs C nor I particularly like

Upper tier, please. And I’ll have a stiff Vodka Martini — shaken not stirred

flying, and I had gone on record saying that my one and only trip to Aussie had been one too many, when Sharks announced last March, that we would be invited to Sinead’s wedding, there was never any doubt that we would be on the plane.

Hasta pronto, chicos!

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