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Mithhril's Voyages

St Patrick's Day Around The World.

More often than not St. Patrick's Day goes unremarked on Mithril. If there are Americans about they wish us a bright and cheery "happy holiday" and usually get a blank look in reply. Calendars don't form an important part of our equipment.

But I do remember one tropical St. Patrick's day we had in the Caribbean. We anchored off Grand Cayman; offshore banking centre and holiday island for the super rich. There's an affluent atmosphere to the place but the best bits are free - sunbathing on the pristine white sands, enjoying the tropical scenery and snorkelling on the reef; swimming with turtles and admiring the magnificent coral. Poor yachties can still gather mangoes and coconuts by the roadside. A price war among the island's supermarkets, at the time, also helped the budget.

Hurley's supremarket settled on the gimmick of special St Patrick's day offers. Most of the shop was hung with green crepe streamers and leprecauns huddled over pots of gold at the end of rainbows. In the produce department paper shamrocks hung from the ceiling - only problem with this was they had four leaves. The special prices were on Guinness, potatoes, butter, cabbage and freshly corned beef. I think we shattered many illusions when we declared that corn beef and cabbage was not a typical dish and that the only corned beef most Irish people knew was out of a tin bearing the name of a Uruguayan town.

Last year we had another island St Patrick's day this time on the Southern Ocean island of South Georgia.

We were invited to a morning coffee party by the chief administrative officer and his wife. Home for them was Shackleton villa a modern timber framed house; snug and cosy and redolent of suburbia. Clannad played softly from hidden speakers, cabinets held ornamental china and family photos in silver frames. There was even a tv in the corner. But no suburban house ever had a view like theirs.

At first glance the huge window by the tv looked like a framed black and white poster. Then you realised that the icebergs were moving - drifting quietly out to sea. They had calved from the massive glacier across Cumberland bay. The glacier filled the valley like a rumpled blue-white blanket. The tall pointy mountains surrounding it had been dusted white by overnight snow and the eerie gray light over the current scene suggested more snow soon.

Back in Shackleton villa the party hummed along and, even though it was only eleven o'clock in the morning, we were handed chocolate cake and wobbly coffee - made with Jamesons in honour of the day. We chatted with some of the British Antarctic Survey personell who were overwintering on the island. It was all very jolly and - well - normal until you happened to glance at that window and the swirling, feathery flakes of snow now sticking to the glass.

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Article © Peter and Geraldine Foley
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