Extract – ‘Pilgrims Decade – the dead reckoning’ – First Ascension

Thicket of thorns announced the ragged edge of what what must have been a well ordered settlement; but over time stock and goat proof hedges had taken hold. A neat impenetrable barrier was what they faced, the price for progress was slow exposure to multiple lacerations, Improvised sailcloth leggings helped a little. When they arrived, finally, an hour later at the Anglican chapel, it was some literally sanctuary. It was a spare building, unadorned and not now a place to stop, in prayerful thanks or otherwise. What they might have mustered in hopeful invocation of the days outcomes, had been said, earlier. Now they were on task and needed, urgently, to press on.

An hour or more they hacked their way purposefully through this, as a blistering sun rose purposefully into a cloudless sky. Soaring above, an African Crow, eerily mute but never far off, followed these cursing animals on the ground. Substantive food, not very long now, might have been its musing. If one can imagine that corvid opportunists have expectations, then you might just have met that very black desire, manifest this morning. He just had to keep this randomly presented offering secret, from his wider kin. But. it’s an empty place, largely empty skies – save for his countrymen – who, on spotting his insufficiently disguised attention, joined him presently to his chagrin, raucously proclaimed. Black, hungry birds, plural – them and their intended. But, this time, forestalled, by that certain human spirit never to give up, not now, not ever. Presently the remains of corrugated iron roofed buildings came apparent. These clattered in a stiffening arid wind, copper cables sang unknown messaging and lizards languished in their deep introspection, of the stonemasons art. Just enough time to inspect their cuts – whether these barbs be native. or escaped, formerly gentile hedge denizens, seemed a moot consideration.

Some hours later they sat, more or less in the middle of the former harbour settlement, nursing their lacerated hands, arms, torsos. A sorry sight one might expect, except for one or two small and large details. First, a bottle of London Gin no less, on a table between them and a clean rag extracted from an otherwise unpromising cupboard –  in the former trading company building. So, that was sterilisation and laceration sized wound dressing seen to, if not ideally a thirst quenching beverage. No water, but then, Port Wine, intact, ‘hidden’ or simply gloriously missed behind a pile of smashed crates in the cellar – a cooler cellar – where they sheltered. And one, last consideration, ‘Nareida’, in dry dock next door . . . Simply a case, they mused, of sail making and ummm …. dredging a section of the outer harbour of sand, mud and dead mangrove branches. But, other than that they had to admit, she was a boat of some measure. Just another challenge, another day, month … of something bigger than they.

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