The Writing of Thane Zander
Circle the Globe 1977 - 78 - an autobiography
The Hawg Series
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General Poetry Twenty One
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General Poetry Twenty Three

The recollections of a  19 year old sailor and his view of the world from his journey with the Navy from Scotland in 1977 back to New Zealand in 1978. 

All thumbs are ports visited
during the trip around the world.

Circle the Globe 1977 - 78

From Downunder to Up Top.

Turned up to work,
a normal day supposedly,
the boss calls me in,
Chief Petty Officer Brown,
grumpy old salt,
grey before his time.

"Zander, you're off to Scotland,
picking up the new ship"
I stagger back, 'cheers Chief'
turn tail and tell my mates,
spend the next five days
sorting out business.

Fly to Singapore,
get drunk on the plane
with some Army boys,
show me around Boogie Strasse,
the depths of Sembawang,
drink Tiger Beer 'til sunrise, poolside.

Arrival in Up Top

Fly from Singapore over lush green
of South East Asia and India,
soon replaced by the stark brown
of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iranian desert,
touchdown for five hours in Bahrain sandpit,
kick sand pebbles on burnt tarmac
under the gaze of kalishnikovs.

Fifteen hours later,
arrive in Heathrow, London,
new culture, punk rock revolution,
a stopover that soon drags to nine hours,
seems air traffic control in Glasgow
loves to strike,
catch a flight to cold Scotland.

Everything is grey or mottled green,
brick red edifices dyed emerald
with moss and lichen,
the drizzle a constant reminder
of the proximity of the arctic circle,
find a hotel and await a ship.

Make it onboard, large, white,
not exactly new but refurbished,
still an imposing figure on the Clyde,
not as imposing as the "World Score"
an oil tanker under construction behind us,
many football fields, and utterly huge.

Journey to the Antipodes

Part One, Bonny Scotland

All journeys back have a start,
Gourock, home of the dockyards
Celtic Football country,
Irish Jocks everywhere,
volatile men, warm women,
many cold nights in cosy pubs
and copious Guinness down the hatch.

It can only last a few months though,
a few sightseeing trips to Glasgow,
Socky Hall Street mainly,
sailors playground,
also oggling around ancient Ayr,
a trip to Edinburgh by train,
a memory ruined by swilling premium Scotch.

Look behind, the coast dies away,
the stark harsh reality of Bonny Scotland
burns out of sight,
and the rough North Sea takes over,
stomachs lurch their way across
to the locks of Holland,
up a river to the waiting port of Amsterdam.

Part Two - Dutch culture.

Makes for good reading,
New Zealand, originally a Dutch name
a warm welcome and the key to the city,
do as we please,
and there is so much pleasure there,
Canal Street, the street of brothels
and window shopping a sight for sore eyes.

Walk past cafes that smell
very quaintly of marijuana,
some try, not me, I like my beer,
Heineken is the flavour of the scene,
amazing what you buy drunk,
amazing what you can carry!

Wake in the morning,
a hangover, and a bed full of Tulip bulbs,
an oil painting of a Dutch windmill in winter,
find an empty packet of condoms
and a pocket empty of Guilder,
write a letter home,
'Mum, dig the garden, I have something.'

Next day, a bizarre event,
a truck turns up on the wharf
with a gorgeous blonde in riding gear,
wants to know if anyone wishes
to ride to the Heineken brewery
and sup of the local ale
straight from the vat?

Fifty sailors spent the day behind
a very entertaining host,
the view from behind very Dutch,
the ride back however,
a disaster, people taking wrong roads
something to do with the beer intake,
everyone made it back, just.

Part Three - English Fare

Sailed south east from the locks
of Amsterdam, a rough North Sea,
ships locked in turmoil
tossed like matchwood,
we steamed straight into it,
Heineken guts spilling out
to feed deep sea Blue Cod.

Made landfall at Englands ancient port,
Portsmouth, on the south coast,
Naval base of centuries, Drake and the likes,
old stone cottages, and equally old pubs,
nine in all in a short walk
from the base gates down to
The Jolly Sailor guarding Pub Row's end.

England, after Holland, is as grey
as the dirty grey of Scotland,
yet the people as warm,
spent time in nearby towns
imbibing the local delights,
equally delightful women,
the likes sailors go after at night.

Took a train to Southhampton,
visited the Old Dell, the inner castle,
supped at the oldest pub in England,
managed to buy some trinkets
for the whanau back home,
soccer scarves and hats mainly,
swaggered home, on a drunk train.

One of lifes little indiscretions,
made a drunken fool of myself,
in Portsmouth, three days in London,
viewing the River Thames and Tower Bridge,
from the safety of the guardrail,
while all my mates swigged Tennants Lager
and waltzed London lasses with glee.

Got my chance, with my uncle,
a whistle stop tour of the cities delights,
then down to Kent, near the Marine Barracks
to see another family member
and indulge in traditional English fare,
dropped off with farewells
and see you soons, with thank you's.

The next few days were an alcoholic haze,
a catch up in rum technology,
I drop into the sordid side of life,
a sailors hangover only comes
when he sails from port,
that realisation came with the thrum
of engines and a bridge passing over.

Part Four - Le Mediterranee

That Bay of Biscay has an awesome reputation,
said to be one of the roughest areas around,
stood up to its reputation
and once more wretched sailors
trying to recover their composure,
lost meals to gravity,
but out the other end, Gibraltar.

Sailed into the mouth of the largest sea
in the known world, immense,
a little turn left and the tip of Spain,
that ancient entity of English rule,
isolated by Jose and Juanita,
a rock fortress and Naval Base
protecting trade routes and Blighty.

Protecting too, the grave of that man,
Lord Nelson lies there, buried
but not forgotten, and as sailors
we go to his grave and pay tribute,
then off to the mountain top, the monkeys
followed by the markets,
and sidewalk cafes and bars.

Many strange sights here,
a cultural mish mash,
cultural Spain, drear Britannia,
a sixteen year old girl walking a Great Dane
elicits a broad baritone of sailor banter,
the girl oblivious to the excitement
of the obvious sign of Boy Dog.

Once again, Spanish Schnapps,
some Pilsenners Beer, and good old Navy Rum
have us leaving Gibralter with fond
yet very lost memories,
the ship leaves the cote d'azur behind,
across a peaceful expanse of blue sea,
'til the peaks of the French Alps appear.

From sea, dotted white washed buildings
and highrise stainless steel,
a mixture of the very ancient and very new,
through a small gut into a spreading marina,
berthed under the glare of Frenchmen
and foreign tourists alike,
seemingly indistinguishable.

Monte Carlo is movie star town,
the play place of the rich and famous,
how would they take to South Sea's sailors
walking their avenues, supping of the vino?
First few days are spent sightseeing,
mopeds to Italy on the autobahn,
looking over Jacques Coustaeu's museum.

Even a chance meeting with the man himself,
smallish, but very much the sailor, adventurer,
look at Rainier's castle, and Chanel's factory,
a roman ruin, the home of a triumvirate,
some stand in awe it still stands,
sober sailors wonder at the state of parties,
the actions of drunken roman gladiators.

Then it's to the world famous casino,
very exquisite, noone gambles,
need thousands to place a bid,
and sailors know where thousands is better spent,
so off to the wine bars, drink French plonk
like water, and measure the effects,
see some walking on their hands back home.

One lucky film star was given
the royal salute present bums,
rather than be horrified, out with camera,
lines up five sailors on an opulent street,
gets them to all do the salute,
then invites them and as many as possible
back to her apartment, party time.

It is christmas day in four days time,
suddenly, trails of dirt from large pot plants
lead their way up the gangplank
and down to messes for future use,
the ships siren announces departure
and Monte Carlo slips away,
a christmas tree proudly displayed on each mast.

Part Five - Desert meets the Sea

Across the base of Greece, no landfall
a stern breeze from the cold north
whipping waves side on,
Christmas Day, with Roast New Zealand lamb,
Pavlova, and cold Steinlager beer,
trees stripped of foliage from the wind
still manage to uphold a nativity spirit.

Landfall one night, well a city anyway,
many many ships at anchor, alight
the lights of Cairo glow in the distance,
we sail to the head of the queue,
guide ship for a passage through Suez,
but first, we wait a day, for more ships,
to make a convoy worthwhile.

At anchor by the desert brown of Egypt,
dreaming of the Valley of the Kings
and the Pyramids in the near distance,
meanwhile, Bumboats ply their trade,
dates, trinkets, clothes, and sailors
lap 'em up, haul their wares in buckets
stow them away, a few dollars down.

A local magician, the Gulli Gulli man,
entertains all in the midday sun,
with tricks of dexterity and guile,
wrist watches thrown overboard
only to appear on someone elses arm,
the crowd applauds every effort
and soon the locals leave, the sun goes down.

Place a big searchlight on the bow,
lead off the convoy into the gut,
the seperation between Israel and Egypt,
where rusting hulks bare testament
to the Six Day War ten years before,
we pass, under the gaze of tanks buried
into the immense fortification banks.

The whistling! We paint ship bare to our waists,
the sun drying immediately our efforts
and the Egytian soldiers whistle
all the way along the Suez,
an eerie feeling made more foreboding
by Russian tank barrels poking at us,
still the spirit of Kiwi happiness pervades.

Soon Port Said appears, the southern port,
see a hospital and other tall buildings
still pockmarked with shell holes,
another legacy of a time hence,
appears no reparation being made
to bring the future into play,
to hide the sins of the past.

Out into the Persian Gulf,
and long fine days, no wind
nothing to hint at the troubled zones
that lay to the north, Iran and Iraq,
but the presence of a Russian Patrol boat
anchored and painting ship mid-ocean,
we surprise them, catch them unaware.

Part Six - The East

Standing on the forecastle looking ahead,
see a brown haze, and then the smell,
still twenty six miles out from Bombay,
hear on the news a KLM 747 crashed
at Bombay Airport that evening,
a sense of foreboding overwhelms,
what to expect from this country?

It's a busy shipping port, chocker
many ships, many nationalities,
and the wharves ring to the sounds
of accents from Scandinavia to Japan,
set the ratguards on the lines, doubled
a representative of the Navy comes aboard,
tells us lowly sailors where to keep away from.

Of course, the first night was mapped out,
all the spots mentioned, visited,
weak Indian beer consumed voraciously,
in a brothel, a couple of Kiwi girls,
an Australian and an English girl,
working their way around the world,
in fact, very few locals seemed to be there.

Walking down the street with two friends,
these poor kids in rags begging for morsels,
we've been told not to give money, trouble,
but one friend is racked, passes a rupee,
and suddenly we are inundated, utterly,
manage to get a taxi, window is half down
and as we drive, a baby is pushed at us.

By night I keep watch on the gangway,
watch the Rat Pack, skinny emaciated dogs
roam the wharves looking for fodder,
plenty around, some bigger than the dogs
that chase them, one the size of a rubbish tin,
just as well the beer is weak, ineffective,
wouldn't want to pass out anywhere.

New Years Eve meant the age old tradition,
when in port, take some beer, and visit
every ship you can and toast the occasion,
beer, the language of indifference,
everyone friendly and open,
sailors celebrating another year passed,
another year safely negotiated of storms.

Soon the misery of a mysterious land passes,
across the southern tip of Asia,
to Singapore, Jewel of the Orient,
I revisit my previous escapades here,
find new bars, new hotels, and drinks
by a swimming pool that I make mine,
bought a camera duty free, a watch too.

Played some sport for the first time in ages,
the New Zealand Army garrison stationed
at Dieppe Barracks, rugby, soccer, pool,
some real Kiwi beer again, like water
in the tropical cauldron that saps sweat,
made it to the Melbourne Bar, the Jockey Club,
Boogie Street, all good Singaporean names.

Part Seven - Homeward Ho

Slipped past Indonesia with Asia passing,
passage for Cairns, subtropical Aussie,
slipped into the oil berth,and a naval base
sitting right next door, ready for us,
a customs officer advises no food
to be taken ashore, the law,
someone asks if we can defecate?

Been six weeks since fresh milk
so contrary to nautical tradition,
the first port of call is a Milkshake bar,
many pies and milkshakes later,
the sights and sounds of Northern Queensland
are lapped up to extreme,
every bar a den of supercharged drinking.

The Great Barrier Reef soon gives way
to the familiar smell of the Tasman Sea,
and homesick sailors ready gifts,
fill in Custom declarations,
eat like kings and drink like fish
to get rid of all consummables
before passing into familiar waters.

We look longingly at the landmarks
as we pass down familiar coasts,
the impact of a journey past
being washed away by the future,
family, loved ones, new babies for some,
maybe even the odd divorce or two,
sailors always wax silent in this time.

The band plays M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
as the navy's newest ship berths,
scores of people wave flags and children,
sailors yell greetings, nudging each other,
the gangplank gives way to exodus,
some coming up, some going down
all meeting in the union of togetherness.

My dad and sister meet me, to take me home,
I have leave, and a few full suitcases,
we get back to my folks place,
all the family are there, waiting,
suitcase one, dolls from every port
for my sisters, for my brother carvings
and trinkets, from exotic places.

Suitcase two, my mothers painting,
the tulip bulbs since confiscated by Customs,
for my Dad, special drink glasses from
ports where glasses were sold,
but last, for Mum, an old dark suitcase
filled with an ashtray from every pub
and bar or cafe from every port.

For myself, well I ended up with my schoolmates,
partying the weekend with a prize bottle,
one gallon of British Navy Rum from Gibralta,
the best Rum in the world it's said,
my friends agreed, we had a ball,
and when they asked me where I went,
I told them the same story as you have just read.

All material this page Copyright of Thane Zander.  Any requests for reproduction to be emailed to me at