As the son of a wholesale fish merchant, an enterprise of considerable size on a nation wide basis, I fully expected to follow in my fathers footsteps and command at least a senior position in the family business. By nineteen sixty-five, and sixteen years old, I had started at the bottom, but did not seem to be progressing as quickly as I aspired. It was then that I was informed that my father, his brothers, and his cousins had conspired against me. In their wisdom they had agreed that only the elder son of each brood would be encouraged to take up the reins so to speak. And being the younger son, my ass was out of the window. No I would not be dismissed, but nor was I likely to advance much beyond chief washer of pungent maggot ridden fish boxes. An occupation that was already having a considerable negative effect on my romantic assignations.
‘What would you like to do with your life,’ asked my father. Now god knows what made me say it, for I had not given it any serious thought, and in hindsight I should have known better. ‘I think I would like to go to sea!’ I professed. Now my father was one of those men that never let grass grow under his feet. Either that or he couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Before you could whistle Dixie; a few telephone calls had been made, friends of friends contacted and favors called in. I was kitted out in the several different uniforms, and working gear of a cadet officer in the British Merchant Navy and packed off to Cardiff to join my first ship.
It was a cold wet dark night I first stepped aboard the ‘M.V. Border Shepherd.’ A twenty thousand ton oil tanker, owned by ‘Common Brothers’ of Newcastle-Upon Tyne and on permanent charter to ‘BP’. We shipped out the next day, loaded cargo at Immingham and charted a course for Trinidad.
On board beer was £1.00 a case (24), cigs, half of that 10/- shillings a carton, as was all bottles of spirits, and as long as you didn’t overindulge, nobody seemed to give a dam. I mention this because not only did they greatly enhance life on board, but were also an extremely tradable commodity while bartering in foreign ports.
Sixteen years old and let loose in the Caribbean? I guess that at these tender years people just assume that you are a virgin, as it was I had had a couple of gropes, and even managed to baptize the trouser snake on one brief occasion, brief being the operative word, if you catch my drift,( excuse the pun.) But the ladies of Trinidad (god bless them) got it into their heads that I was a cherry-boy. Now as they were of a darker persuasion, they seemed to think that bartering for this white boys cherry would sustain a worthwhile discount for their favors. And so it came to pass that for a mere couple of bars of Lifeboy soap and a carton of lucky strike, I became a man.
Leaving my comparative innocence behind in ‘Port of Spain’ we sailed next for the U.S. Coast. Yes I did manage to broaden my horizons there, but nothing memorable. But there was this one night, the ships spark and myself were being taxied into Portland Main. The driver and owner of the vehicle, and several others I believe, on discovering that we were both Scots, insisted that we come home with him and meet his wife and family. Something to do with their own heritage, I believe. Nonetheless it was an enjoyable evening. It was the first time I ever saw a colored television, and he had two of them, one on top of the other, and both on. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Well he retorted,’ if you don’t want to watch one program, you can watch the other. We were given the grand tour of his house, which I must say was quite palatial in an American sort of way. A kind of Graceland, before Graceland if you know what I mean. We were then treated to a couple of the biggest steaks I had ever seen in my life, whereupon our host proceeded to cut his steak with the side of his fork. ‘You don’t need a knife over here,’ he proclaimed. The situation reminded me of the old joke when a couple of yanks while touring Scotland were shown Loch Lomond for the first time. ‘Gee,’ said the yank, to his wife and the tour guide, I’d love to have that in my back yard back home. Whereupon the guide retorted, ‘if you can suck as hard as you can blow, you will get it there in no time.
Our next port of call was Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. We loaded crude oil and headed for Kobe Japan. There was another cadet officer on board, and truth be known we didn’t get on very well. I don’t recall his name, but I did have a pet name for him, ‘Harpic,’ (clean round the bend.) Now Harpic, whom I assure you wasn’t all quite there, and I were responsible for discharging cargo in six hour shifts. H, being the senior cadet got the first six hours ashore. On his return he claimed to be in love with a hooker he had met in some dockside tavern. Now it was my turn, and off I set with a couple of the ships officers. We didn’t make it too far before ducking into a local hostelry for couple of sake’s, whereupon the young ladies of the establishment began to advertise their wares. I took no part in the negotiations, but was informed that we were, for the princely sum of four thousand yen, (£4.00) on our way to the local geisha house. Ah well in for a penny, in for a pound, or in this case four pounds.
After being relieved of my shoes, and with much politeness and great ceremony I was ushered into a room completely void of furnishings, except for a tiny childlike dressing table against one wall. While wondering what to do next, the rice paper partitioned wall slid silently along, and the Mamasan entered carrying a rolled up futon mattress, which she proceeded to spread across the white reeded floor. A couple of cylindrical brick hard pillows were added, and again I was left alone.
The young geisha selected for me, while kneeling on the far side of the screen, slid it along, greeted me in her cordial Japanese way, then entered, kneeled again, slid the screen closed, greeted me again, then waited for me to initiate our coupling. By this time I had retreated to the small dressing table, and with my back towards my prize began to disrobe. Now impotence in a sixteen-year-old I can assure you is not a desirable state to be in such circumstances. Whether it was the beer, the sake, or just the ambiance of the moment, Percy point blank refused to rise to the occasion. At this point I should point out that while in an enthusiastic condition I am quite proud of my prowess, however it has to be said that while in sleeping mode, it has the extraordinary ability to shrivel to embarrassing proportions. And this was my predicament as my young courtesan bored of my inactivity approached.
Till the day I die, I will never forget the look on her face, and the high squeaky giggle as she looked over my shoulder and accusingly wiggled her little finger. I can laugh now, but at the time I was mortified. At that time in Japan £4.00 must have been quite a considerable amount of money, because that young lady certainly earned it as she worked tirelessly to bring Lazarus back from the dead.
On returning to the ship I still had another six hours work to do before I could even get a wink of sleep, and believe me I had no intention of sleeping away one moment of possible shore time while in Japan.
Harpic returned to the ship after his second foray ashore, yes he was still in love and claimed to be engaged. Unfortunately time would dull his ardor for his new bride. Our next port of call was back in the Persian Gulf, and that was the last we saw of Harpic. He was flown back to the U.K. With a severe case of syphilis.
Fully loaded again we set sail for Perth W.A. We docked in Fremantle, and somebody had the bright idea of telephoning the local seaman’s mission. Again I don’t know how it came to pass, but we were invited to a dance at a local church hall. Congressionalist I think it was, anyhow the minister of said cognation said he would pick us up in the church bus. I think there were about twenty of up able to go, and to our eager surprise there were already about twelve young ladies aboard the bus. Being the youngest and fittest of our company I was able to secure myself a seat beside a particularly attractive young lady, who could not have been any older than myself, if that? Very vivacious, very chatty, and with the shortest mini-skirt you can immagine, (just below see level.) We got on right away like a house on fire, and as I was soon to discover she was just as much on fire as was I. Before we got anywhere near our destination I managed to get my hand up her skirt, and into her panties. ‘What a wonderful country Australia is,’ I thought to myself. It was at that moment of self-congratulation the pastor spotted my assignations. The lovely temptress was banished to the rear of the bus, and the pastor planked himself assertively down beside me, and I was subjected to a lengthy sermon on the ruinous miss-guided effects of my carnal desires. The rest of that evening I spent unable to escape his orionis gaze.
As Perth disappeared over the horizon and we headed back to the colder waters of the northern hemisphere I vowed to myself that I would return to the land down under.