Crossing the line

It’s been quite a week. Quite a surreal week. But great too.

There are all sorts of things I want to write about and they don’t have

much coherence except that they all occurred this week and were experienced

by me. It’s gonna be a long one I’m afraid so print it off and put the

kettle on. Or pour yourself a drink.

There was some gag about headshaving

to start with. It really did start out jest-like and then escalated like nothing

I have ever experienced before. Every time I turned on my computer there were

another ten or twenty pledges rolling in. Ben would pop by, “you’ve never guessed,

someone I’ve never met has just quadrupled their pledge!” What’s going on? What

did we tap into out there? It’s not just about hair and it’s not just about

the charity, somehow when the two were combined they were squared, or cubed.

Or maybe, like marzipan, when you combine sugar and almonds you get something

out that is altogether another experience. Yeast and hops, bubbles in fermentation.

Talking of fermentation, the slops bucket made me want to wretch. That

morning I was on ‘gash duties’ which means you clean the public areas and

wash up after meals. “Where do you want the beans and tomatoes, Rich?”, I

ask after breakfast. “Yup, they’re good.” “What?” “In there, in the bin.”

He is pointing to a hip-height yellow bin full of yuk-yellow goo. That’s

bubbling. O no. O no no no no no. Here I draw the line. “I refuse to be

made to mix my own slops bucket. That’s too much.” “Fair enough,- just put

it on the side there and I’ll do it.” Five minutes later, his thick Geordie

accent calls out “eh, Rhiannon, you like gorgonzola don’t ya?” As I peer

around the corner, he is crumbling, no chucking great lumps of the stinky

stuff, into the bucket, “it’s vegetarian, like”. Wink.

An hour later, they added the yeast and left it out in the midday sun. By

the time we saw it, it was a bubbling, curdling, vomitous slop, fish heads

and potato chunks swimming around in it, and it was going to be poured on

our heads.

Where next? Ah yes, painting. That’s been my main activity this week, leaving

little time to attend to the multitude of emails rushing in or look for hiding

spots. Painting the white bits whiter. And believe me, there are a lot of white

bits. We start at nine, end at three and have two smoko breaks and lunch at

exact hours in the middle. Woe betide anyone who turns up late or, worse yet,

works into a break. “You won’t catch many seamen taking a crap during smoko”.

Of course, none of us wanted to piss the crew off, this week particularly. Neptune’s

court would punish us accordingly. I was pretty happy on deck with my paintbrush

but others got worse jobs. Stripping floors, polishing brasswork, peeling potatoes,

scrubbing walls – at least I got the waves and the sun all day long to

keep me company. And there’s something very satisfying about painting over grubbiness,

not to mention much of myself. Later on in the week Charlie gave us a real treat:

we got upgraded to GREEN! I could have kissed him. Charlie the bosun: “If it

don’t move, paint it. If it moves, paint it ’til it don’t move”.

Back to the Line Ceremony. We had a fair inkling by this time when it was

going to happen and had hatched a Cunning Plan. First-timers usually

scatter and hide, trembling alone in a dark and uncomfortable hole until

the policemen find you, which they will, eventually, beat you up with

batons made from duct tape and drag you to Neptune’s court. Not an exciting

prospect for a sunny afternoon in the mid Atlantic.

No, a few too many of us had seen ‘Pirates of the Carribbean’ before we

left and the group decided to team together and Take the Moneky Island. Oh

yes, this was going to be a daring and dastardly event. For two days

beforehand, people started sneaking ammunition up there,- 25kgs of flour,

sloppy burns bandages past their sell-by date, marmite(?!), condoms,

cutlesses made from cardboard and tinfoil, earrings sneakily soldered from

copper tubing and, the piece de la resistance, an enormous bucket of water.

There is no water point up there so two anonymous pirates hauled up large

plastic bags filled with water in the middle of the night,- lower a rope,

tie on the bag, three tugs, up you go. A true stealth mission. They would

never get us! Heck, we could take the conning tower too and then the ship!

But none of us know how to drive a ship, maybe not such a good idea after


After lunch on the fateful day, eight pirates all appeared on the Monkey

Island from various angles. Wigs, make-up, ripped t-shirts, tattoos, fake

teeth, fake blood, ooo arr, shiver-me-timbers, bandanas, skulls and

crossbones and a great big banner pronouncing ‘FID ISLAND: Cross at your

own risk”. Photos will appear on the Shackleton website soon I’m sure. Then

the production line: condoms filled with water, flour and water, marmite

and water. We were ready for them.

The next bit is a blur. The captain welcomed Neptune and his wife on

board, policeman got hit with balloons (they looked angry), lots of people

shouted “oo arrrr, oo arr”, more ammo, water, water, we were doing well…

and then, aaaa, the FIREHOSE. They attacked with a FIRE HOSE! Up the

ladder, up onto the island. There was a mighty battle, hotstages were

taken, struggles, scars, bruises, screams of pain as those great big duct

tape batons thwacked and thwacked and thwacked. What was going on, where

was our ammo? The police were sodden as well, we were all soaking. They had

taken us, but not without a struggle. Dripping and forlorn, we were forced

to climb down the ladders, wrists cable-tied together, and marched to the

Court. One pirate was pulled by a dog lead, another flung into the court, I

tried to run but there was no escape. A sorry looking lot we were. Ooo


By the time I arrived, some of my fellow criminals had already been

sentenced. Another was just having his verdict called out. The one before

him was,- no, no, NOOOO, ooo, yuk, please, no, yup… o god, you guessed it.

The Slops. The Slops and The Medicine. Ooo, I really did want to wretch.

Anything but The Gorgonzola Slops!

Two before me and then it was my time. Pushed into the box for sentencing,

a judge read out my crimes. “Rhian Salmon, You are hereby charged with the

following heinous crimes against the state, against the Monarch of the

Seas, and against mankind in general.

The charge laid before you is that you have more excuses for avoiding the

FID duties of painting and soogying than anyone else on board. ‘Taking

sunsights’ is an old device and frankly wearing rather thin. You are

charged with ‘skiving in the greatest order.” It’s true, I have been

skiving off to learn how to use a sextant.

It didn’t stop there. I was subsequently accused of pestering the chief

officer about cargo within 5 minutes of coming onboard and repeating the

offence (all true, I’m afraid) as well as ‘blatantly coveting ship’s

property’ known as the Monkey Island and being in possession of

particularly wild and offensive hair. How did I plead? GUILTY I’m afraid.

Very, very guilty. It didn’t help. I was dragged to the slops (trying my

very best to escape, a la Capt’n Jack Sparrow) but there was no mercy. Slops

on the head, I screamed and a doctor adminstered the Pink Medicine from a

syringe straight into my mouth. Spit, splutter, in the hair, down the

shirt, in my face. I still shudder and cringe to think of it.

A long blast with the firehose (this time, welcome), a cold beer, five showers

and a cuppa tea later, there was a barbeque. And as if the day hadn’t had enough

excitement already, my fate still awaited. There’s not much I can say about

this bit,- the photos will speak for me once they’re on the web.

Suffice to say, it’s all gone, and it was emotional.

I now wake up with a fuzzy head and a fuzzy feeling. The wind outside, the

rain, people stroking my hair, is fuzzy. Head on a pillow,- fuzzy. Shower,-

fuzzy. It’s all fuzzy. Fuzzy, but good. Funny, like funny haha, when I look

in a mirror. I get a surprise and then I laugh out loud. It’s really easy

to look butch but the minute I open my mouth people still don’t take me

seriously. I like it, it makes me laugh. It’s almost liberating. All that

fuss about hair (75 dreads by the way for those of you who pledged per

dread), I’m exactly the same. And we raised over seven and a half thousand

pounds. An astonishing amount, in less than a week.

I still don’t know what we tapped in to, I’d love to understand it more but

maybe it’s just one of those miracles of humanity that don’t want too much analysis.

It’s like everyone out there is just waiting always, for an opportunity to do

a good thing, to be nice, to contribute somehow to the world.. but we don’t

know how. We have so much cynicism and bitterness built up from everyday experiences

that we no longer know how to channel that desire. Take away the barriers, offer

an opportunity, demonstrate your belief in the cause, show people that it’s

ok, they won’t be ripped off, and hearts and pockets seem to flood open. I almost

don’t want to write about this as it’s so precious and delicate that if I advertise

it, the cynic in me says, this channel will surely also be abused like so many

others before. But I don’t know how else to tell you all, thankyou. Not just

for the hospital donations which will make an enormous difference, but also

for the experience. This was the most expensive haircut that I’m sure I shall

ever have but I shall cherish the memory forever.

(If you pledged on this website, you should have got an email explaining

how to pay by now. If you didn’t, there will be more details in Rhian’s next

blog entry, but you can always send money via PayPal

to Thanks for all your donations, big and small!)

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3 Responses to Crossing the line

  1. Rachi P says:

    As well as the hair and the charity, the essential ingredient in this whole dreadlock fandango was yOu, dearest Rhian!! By inviting us to take part in this ceremonial slopping and chopping by way of donating some readies, you not only gave us an opportunity truly give, which as you say is rare in our unsafe world, you also allowed us to participate a bit in your epic journey, to be with you and each other in some etheric way, and we did because we love you. “Charity” and “love” have the same root meaning – you opened a love door for everyone to flow through, and they brought £7,500 with them!! Yes!

  2. Michelle says:

    Oooooooh. Slop bad. Hair cut good. But the slop thing has me wanting to run to the nearest bathroom. Hopefully you won’t have nightmares for the rest of your life that involve Gorgonzola.

  3. John Cheever says:

    MR. Salmon, I think you edit too much. Why the seriousness from a guy from a cool place like

    Scottland? Grow some ability to disagree.

    It ain’t so bad. Are you afraid your blog will clog your “briliant career”?

Comments are closed.