Sea Life. 1951. The Modasa. The Port of Aden.
I wrote the text of the following piece about 2 years ago to see if I could still write following my decision to write my memoirs. I had spent most of my writing life since school with stilted technical language, reports and a few letters. After a number of test pieces, grammar slowly started to return and what follows is one of those pieces. This is my remembrance of Aden.
Yes, Aden, which is now in Yemen, is presently in the news. I remember Yemen for other things. When I was a young Merchant Navy Radio Officer on my first trip to sea and just in my late teens we called in at the port of Aden to discharge a small amount of cargo and take on bunkers (refuel), we were on our way to the ports of East Africa. We anchored in the small-enclosed harbour, which was surrounded with large, almost menacing black volcanic cliffs and the small township was perched on a narrow ledge-like strip at the foot of the cliffs. The black cliffs and the sparkling blue water gave the place an almost exotic feel, especially with the colourful bumboats circling the ship. The ship I was on, the SS Modasa, as well as cargo, carried 200 passengers. The bumboats rowed out from the township carried all manner of goods; veritable floating shops and were very popular with everyone. I had to buy something and my eyes settled on a large wall or throw rug with a deer scene woven on it. Just the thing I though and I bought the rug. It was the first item I had bought with my new income and I felt pleased with this first purchase. After the trip was over I took the rug home and gave it to my parents, the first real present I was able to afford. I suppose it was a small thank you for the struggle they had had to send me to study for 2 years at South Shields Marine College.
After the early death of my mother at the age of 56 and the family home was broken up my father gave me the rug and we brought it to New Zealand with us. For many years the rug covered our dining table until it was old, worn and faded. Sometimes I would look at the rug on our dining room table and remember my parents with affection and think of their struggle and my first visit to Aden.
This morning as I write this my eyes mist as I think of them, I feel a little sad and drained. They had given up a lot for me. I reflect, maybe the title of this piece should have been "The Rug and my Parents".