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We were going home. At least that’s the way my husband saw it. We’d emigrated from the UK some time before and on arrival in New Zealand I had fallen totally and irrevocably in love with everything about Aotearoa.
Tim, however, had never settled and so booked us on the ‘Australis’, flagship of Chandris Lines, to cruise home in style (and misery as far as I was concerned).
Still, there were bright spots. The Entertainments Officer on the ship was delightfully over-the-top camp and adored dressing up. He could out-pout Danny LaRue and his hair (and bosom) was bigger than Dolly Parton’s.
He cornered me one day; he was wearing a Spanish frock in magenta, the frills edged with black lace.
‘I absolutely insist you put together a Maori dance troupe’ he gushed. ‘find bodies, darling, glistening bodies.’
I was interested in Maori culture and knew some songs, was even reasonably accomplished with short and long poi, so I agreed and before long we had a kapa haka – none of us Maori.
When we docked in San Cristobal, passengers were warned not to walk alone, there were, it seemed, 4 murders per day. My husband was waylaid in the market place by a shifty-looking character who drew him aside as they both looked back at me.
Eventually (and it took a while to forgive him for this hesitation) my husband shook his head, regretfully I thought, and we moved on. The shifty bloke pinched my bum as we passed.
Tim then explained he’d been offered a very substantial amount of money to leave me behind. A career change I would not have welcomed but I could now see why there were so many murders.
In Acapulco we were admiring trinkets when a nearby truck started hissing. People ran for their lives and my husband grabbed me and our son and pulled us into an alleyway.
Apparently, one of the gas canisters on the truck was leaking and could explode, hence the panic.
The police arrived, beat the demented truck driver and dragged him away. I gained several more grey hairs and an insight into Mexican policing.
We had just enough time in Miami to sample a typical American meal and chose pizza which, when it arrived, was only slight smaller than the North Island. This was in the early seventies when large meals were a sign of prosperity rather than moral weakness and greed.
Our Maori concert, mid-Atlantic, was a great success though the EO, who had clearly envisioned brown, oiled muscles of the masculine persuasion, was rather disappointed. Ex-pat women wearing piu-piu made from drinking straws and no longer in the first flush of youth were not the stuff of his dreams. As a tribute to the South Pacific theme, he had dressed, somewhat incongruously in a Tahitian grass skirt and applied gigantic coconuts to his false bosom. He was an Entertainment in himself.
I was not overjoyed to see merry England, it was wet, cold and windy and I missed Aotearoa something fierce but comforted myself with the thought that at least I wasn’t swinging my piu-piu for a shifty bloke in San Cristobal.