Day 2: Oban to Barra
“I don’t think Joan’s doing well…”
Joan, 70+ years old, indeed did not look well as she vomited as discreetly as possible into the plastic Tesco shopping bag.
The Hebrides-bound ferry was in the final stages of its 5-hour journey to the island of Barra, and the last rough stretch of water, known as the Minch, was having an ill effect.
It seemed every man and his dog was taking the ferry from Oban to Barra, and sometimes even two dogs.
As for me, I was lying prostrate on a circular couch at the front of the ship, the only person game enough to sit in the direct sunlight flooding in through the salt-encrusted panoramic windows.
Next to me, strategically placed out of the sun, were 10 senior citizens wearing Glarefoil wraparound sunglasses and each sitting very still. They all wore identical stickers, identifying themselves as belonging to a “cultural liaisons” tour.
If my elderly neighbour was worried about Joan’s well-being, she quickly conceded there was not much to be done. “Her husband seems to be taking care of it though,” she added, matter-of-factly to her friend, who agreed with an “Mmm”.
This also seemed correct. Her husband was perfecting his ‘nothing to see here’ expression, as Joan carefully dabbed the corners of her mouth with an wad of rough toilet paper, the type commonly found onboard ferries and wrapped around ice-cream cones.
When I was younger, I remember ads for a US-imported TV show called ‘Crossing Over’, in which a celebrity medium John Edward puts audience-members in touch with deceased relatives.
I recalled this as I sat with my own elderly audience in the ferry, as from where I sat, many surely wished the crossing would soon be over. Or in any event, definitely looked closer to death at the end than five hours ago.
After hesitating for some moments, I wobbled to my feet and took decisive action. Crossing over the horse-shoe of carpet from my couch, I discreetly asked Joan and husband if I could assist.
I’m not sure if a young Australian asking an elderly Scot if she’d like some water or tissues to wipe away her vomit was the type of cultural liaison they had been expecting on the trip, but it always pays to read the fine print.