OK, it’s been a while. But I did promise this blog would not be one of those frequent, chronologically regular publications that somehow induce feelings of guilt in the recipient if they are not read – my relationship with The Economist newspaper since I was about 14. So you haven’t had anything not to read since the Irish Saltee Islands when the Summer was young and fresh. Now it is older and probably, well, fresher we have migrated South and crossed the Bay of Biscay to the rias of Northern Spain – which are lovely and warm of climate and inhabitants.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, but as we sail around I am constantly amazed and delighted by the kindness of strangers. Probably because so many of its inhabitants are employed in one or another of the service industries, somehow in London everything seems to be on a meter, interactions with strangers taking place to the insistent sound of the ticking clock and the rustle of opportunity-cost timesheets.
Not so in Arklow, where in the damp growing darkness a man volunteered to move his small boat to allow us the space to moor ours, which always feels enormous and ungainly in marinas (in stark contrast to the vulnerable little shell we sometimes feel her to be as we are bounced around with the wind over the tide).
In Liverpool two fellow sailors best described as being ‘highly experienced’, who were equally strangers to one another as to me, quickly mustered their equally aged tools and efficiently repaired our anchor windlass switch, a job that had defied me for months. All it took was for them to hear that I was in need of a thread-tapping tool. I suppose one look at me sufficed for them to decide that it was better for equipment and job alike for the tools to be wielded by them.
In Milford Haven a man I called about our broken mast-head unit for the wind instruments spent a good part of his Sunday giving telephone advice. In Penzance the man from the chandlery adjacent to where we lay rafted-up in the harbour suggested a source of the impellor we needed and drove me there in his van, stopping off to fill our petrol can on the way.
In Ouessant (Ushant) the lady who answered the phone marked ‘taxi’ on the Tourist Information slip agreed, a bit reluctantly I thought, to pick us up from our preferred spot for the short trip to the airport. “But we’ve got a lot of baggage” I said, in the voice of one who really feels he should not have to explain. I then hung up and made some suitably anti-French comments, probably involving crude national stereotyping, to the Edwards boys. The following morning the ‘taxi’ showed up in the form of a small bus already occupied by a number of Ouessant Islanders, uncomplaining about the unusual route their bus was taking.
I could go on. My point is really that people often seem motivated by a simple desire to see a problem solved and to help a fellow human being. Try explaining that to the dismal economists or the partners of PriceWaterhouse Linklater Sachs.