The Ship in a Bottle

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
A young lad sees something in a shop window that he really wants.

Submitted: June 21, 2016

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Submitted: June 21, 2016

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The trip from Spreydon to Akaroa was arduous and dusty before the road was tar sealed, and climbing the steep, winding before the Hill Top Store made the old square ’28 Plymouth boil its guts out! Pop was driving and Gran gave the instructions, despite never having sat behind the wheel! A woman of authority was Gran.

Mum elbowed Henry, her seven-year-old son, in the ribs to encourage him to go with Pop to fetch some water while William, Henry’s older brother stayed in the car. Not overly energetic was William!

‘We’ll let ‘er cool down a bit before I put the water in.’ said Pop to nobody in particular, but Henry heard. ‘The cold water might crack ‘er head!’

Mum and Aunty Eva went to spend a penny, but there was nowhere to go, so they spent their pennies over the bank, yelping at the prickles of a gorse bush they hid behind, but they laughed so it can’t have hurt too much.

William decided that he needed to go too and couldn’t wait to get back to tell Henry that he had seen Aunty Eva’s bloomers! That was a laugh for the boys!

They pulled up at the Grand Hotel in Akaroa and Henry peered into the foyer. The place was really posh! Shiny wooden paneling, polished brass and the smell of disinfectant that sure wasn’t Jeyes Fluid

‘In you go,’ Pop told Mum and the others, ‘Little’un, you can help me with the bags.’ Half the time the adults referred to Henry as Little’un but he didn’t care.

Pop was pleased to reacquaint with the publican, John Le Mesurier, they had met on the Wanganela when they were young men emigrating from the ‘old country’. Mum knew they would want to talk over a beer and that Gran and Aunty Eva would want a lie down after the long ride (and probably want a gin) , so she took the boys for a stroll.

On the main street, Henry found a stick and ran it along a corrugated iron fence pretending the racket was a motorbike. But Mum told him to desist and sent William to take the stick from him.

As they passed some shops, Mum looked in the window of the drapery. There were some embroidered tea towels that took her eye, and she was on the lookout for a nice new pinny.

William had seen a ginger cat come out of the shop, inspect the window-shoppers and, tail in the air it padded back inside. He eyed the O under her tail, and looked at Henry’s stick, thinking, but a stern look from Mum changed his mind so he tossed the stick into the gutter.

Henry rested his chin on the windowsill, bored at Mum’s interest in tea towels.

It was then that he saw it!

There was a bottle sitting on a wooden stand and inside the bottle was a ship! A ship with two orange funnels, two masts and it was sitting in the rippling sea!

‘Mum,’ Henry whispered as he tugged on her skirt to get attention, ‘Mum, can you buy that ship?’

‘I don’t think it would be for sale.’ Mum replied, hurrying off to stop his pestering.

‘Let’s see what’s at the jetty.’

The sea was calm in the early evening and the sun was dipping over the Port Hills as they walked out on the jetty. There was a smell of fish and Henry noticed where someone had scaled a fish so he gave them a kick to watch them piddle into the sea..

The launch Miss Akaroa was moored there, ready for the morning trip out to the heads at 9:00am.

‘Come on boys,’ said Mum, ‘we’d better be back at the hotel before dark. Who’s hungry?’

Both boys were.

As they passed the closed drapery shop, Henry looked in the window again.

‘Mum, come and look at the ship.’

But she did not answer because she was hungry too!

The next morning, they took the Plymouth to the wharf and boarded Miss Akaroa for the trip to the heads. Henry and Pop were the only ones who weren’t seasick!

Afterwards Gran and Aunty Eva wanted to walk around the shops and they bought boring seashells with Akaroa painted on them.

Mum decided to buy a pinny and Henry went into the drapery shop with her. While Mum and the lady, a friendly woman with a mole on the side of her neck, were looking at pinnies and talking about the weather and getting the washing dry, Henry stood on a chair and reached for the bottle with the ship in it!Woops, he lost balance and nearly arsed off, but he recovered and moved the chair closer, climbed up and took hold of the bottle.

Henry went up to the lady-with-the-mole and with big, soft cow-eyes he asked.

‘Can my Mum buy this please?’

‘No lovey,’ the lady-with-the-mole replied, ‘its not for sale.’ And she patted his head.

Henry knew how to play the game and respectfully climbed on the chair but stopped when he heard.

‘Oh lovey, do you really want it?’ she really was a softhearted woman.

‘Oh yes!’ Beamed Henry.

The lady-with-the mole seemed happy to see the ship-in-the-bottle going to a good home, encouraged by no doubt by those soft cow-eyes.

I glance at it as I type; the bottle once had one of Gilbey’s Cocktails in it, now it houses a ship that steams southward.


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