One of the best things about this lifestyle is the chance to meet and make friends from all over the world. In Bequia, we met Tony when we had a bunch of boaters aboard La Luna for a four-hour cocktail hour. Tony is from Darwin, Australia and since we saw him in Bequia he’s been joined by his girlfriend, Jess, who is from Ireland. I love to listen to them talk, and frequently ask them about some of their phrases. “Taking the piss” means to mock or ridicule someone. When Jess and I were talking about the guys, sotto voiced, Tony accused us (accurately) of “taking the piss” on him. Busted.
Tony is an excellent musician, and the organizer of the Sunday jam sessions. He’s also very nice about offering tips to EW, who enjoys playing with him. At the recent jam session, Tony and Jess broke for dinner after EW and I had eaten and EW had returned to the music corner to play with another cruiser. Tony began to tell tales about Darwin, his mates, and his yacht club. His language is very salty – Tony drops a lot of f-bombs – and he told me and a couple of other cruisers that true friends in Darwin insult and swear at each other. “I’d been sailing for a few years when I returned to my old yacht club. (Tony is a past commodore.) I walked in and saw the current commodore who took one look at me and said, “For F;%$ sake! I thought we’d gotten rid of you, Aalksjfd;!” (think donkey butt) Tony told us he had been delighted with the greeting, and laughed when he said that it had been great to see his mates and be so warmly welcomed.
We laughed along with him and I filed the information away, never expecting to use it.
A day or so later I ran into Tony and we talked about red wine – and I relayed that conversation to EW. Now EW likes to occasionally surprise me or our friends with a small spontaneous gesture. That afternoon he was running some errands and decided I needed some red wine and chocolate and returned home with the treats. Over a glass of the “plonk” (that’s Australian for wine) in the cockpit, EW gleefully told me he had “dropped a bottle” of wine off into Tony’s dinghy. “He’ll probably figure it’s from us, but I hope he enjoys it.” I told him that was a super idea, and was delighted by his gesture. A couple of times that evening, EW wondered if Tony had been pleased by the wine.
The next day, we were off the boat for hours, and returned to find the bottle of wine in our cockpit. Evidently in Australia, impromptu gifts are discouraged. EW had locked the dinghy, but I told him to unlock it as we were going to take this wine back to Tony. I wasn’t at all mad, as I realized this was just a cultural issue, but I wanted to let him know that he couldn’t return a spontaneous gift. I could have told him that nicely, like the New England WASP I was raised to be, but I figured that my intent would be lost in translation. So I decided on the way over to speak Aussie, as Tony had taught me on Sunday.
We pulled alongside his boat and hailed him. When he popped his head up the companionway, I cheerfully told him to “Get his A%% on deck!” His eyes opened wide in surprise, but he complied with a smile. I handed him the bottle of wine and cheerfully said, “You F;%$in Aalksjfd;! When we give you a gift, you bloody well take it, and you don’t F;%$in give it back. If you try to do that again, I’ll shove it up your F;%$in Aalk!” Tony laughed, and thanked us for the wine, and laughed some more.
Here’s what I couldn’t see: I was in the bow of the dinghy and EW was in the stern at the motor. He hadn’t been a part of the conversation on Sunday and had never, ever heard me threaten to shove something up anyone’s donkey. He’s certainly heard me drop an f-bomb or three, but never in this manner. While I was letting Tony know we were good friends, Tony had a clear view of EW’s aghast expression. EW was so stunned, that he spoke not a word during the entire dinghy visit. I said my piece in Australian, called Tony an unspeakable name one last time and shoved off. Tony thanked us. laughed and waved.
I turned to EW and said, “That went well.” Still speechless, he just looked at me, and light dawned in Barbara Land. “Oh!” You didn’t hear Tony tell us how friends talk to each other in Darwin, did you?”
Long pause. “Noooo.”
So I explained and EW laughed, and continued to laugh. In fact the rest of the evening he would break into spontaneous laughter as he thought again about the incident. He told me the next morning that he’d awakened in the night, laughing over it.
Guess I can still surprise him after 26 years.
Don’t try this at home.