Beautiful Santander sparkled in the sunshine. It was Geoff’s birthday and Marijke and I went shopping for the perfect gift. We found it too – a man’s tie covered in a tiny, multi-coloured condom motif. Geoff always was a lover not a fighter and he wore his tie with pride.
These are my memories of 1998 in Northern Spain. Of Gijon and Santander and Hondarribia with Geoff and Arnau and Marijke. With Esteban and Fernando, all the news teams, and many others.
I remember Arnau speaking into two mobile phones at once. I remember hordes of people coming to visit the ship in every port and after filing through the wheelhouse and down through the accommodation, they would arrive at the galley.
‘Ah, la cocina.’
Si, la cocina.’
It was almost like a prayer – the reverence in their voices. And there was surprise too. Admittedly, it was mostly the women who would chant the words in a respectful whisper. Perhaps here was something they could relate to in the strange world of ships and seafaring. They had one of these at home and it was usually a female domain. If a ship had la cocina – the kitchen – then the visitor could place herself here. She could relate to the ordinary rhythms of life that carried on beside the public open days, the press conferences, the direct actions. She could imagine being some part of all that. Until she got past the galley and into the mess room because then we fried her brain with the one song that was the soundtrack on every Greenpeace video.
Around the corner, rows of chairs faced the TV so that our visitors could stop and watch a campaign video or three. Drift nets are an awful, awful invention and some of the images were quite hard to see – no one wants to think of a dolphin caught and drowning – but people did stay and they did watch. Then they went away unable to stop themselves from singing It’s The End Of The World As We Know It.
Yes, thank you R.E.M. It’s a fantastic song and very appropriate but I do have to say, it’s a very sticky song. In that it sticks in your head ALL DAY and you can’t help but sing it over and over and over …
I wonder if R.E.M’s sales went up or down in Spain that summer ?
Along the coast we trailed, exciting Spanish mammas with our floating kitchen, heading off curious children who wanted to press the big red button on the radio in the bridge (one bloody well did leading to my having a very embarrassing phone call with the Dutch Coastguard who wanted to know if we were sinking) and hopefully educating the public about sourcing their fish responsibly. Then we crossed the border to France. To St-Jean-de-Luz and then Bordeaux and our time in Biscay was at an end.
Esteban and Fernando left us. Marijke and I missed them.We’d become very fond of them, especially Fernando’s moustache which had its own personality. The reporters and photographers and cameramen went back to their newspapers and studios and the ship felt a tiny bit bigger. But we weren’t finished with Spain yet. She’s a big country with a long coastline. I was about to find out that Spain too has a Land’s End and that a river mentioned in a Chris de Burgh song really does exist. And the residents of a small town on that river are fully aware of ancient American cowboy series.