Saturday 19 September 2020

The Joy that Cometh in the Morning

I am delightfully happy, the sort of happy that follows the news that your young friend, a gallant young adventurer, has not been drowned, shipwrecked, or murdered by pirates. 

He will no doubt be covered with enough public embarrassment to deal with, so I will be merciful and give him a pseudonym. Ajax will do. 

Ajax embarked on a sailing quest from England to Constantinople some months ago, taking photos for social media, writing freelance articles, making and meeting up with friends at various ports. I last heard from him on September 2, when I asked him if he would be in Italy in October (about which more anon). He replied that he would be in Greece. I saw his last social media postings a week later without thinking much about them.

But then other social media tom-toms began to beat: Ajax had not turned up at an appointment in Athens, and he was a week late. His phone was offline, and various maritime officials had not seen him. "Please pray." 

I joined the tom-toms and reached out to the only other British yachtsman I know,  a skipper with much more experience, and a much more sophisticated boat, to ask  if he knew anyone currently sailing in the Ionian Sea. He did not, but asked intelligently for all the details I could muster and then he presented various hypotheses of what had happened to Ajax, bad and good.

Since a surprise hurricane hit the Ionian Sea yesterday, the hypotheses of bad were stronger than those of good. Not being able to do anything else, I found my rosary and got on my actual knees. 

This morning I broke my new habit of staying off the internet until 10 AM, and I'm so glad I did. Two hours before Ajax had gone online and apologised to all. He reported various earlier thunderstorm and being blown off course back to Italy. He had unplugged his radio so that it wouldn't be taken out by lightning. He was about to reach a Calabrian town and check himself into a hotel to sleep. 

The social tom-tom had been beating joyfully for two hours. 

I wondered, yesterday, what Patrick Leigh Fermor's family, friends and acquaintances felt while he walked to Constantinople. I was having a weird time-shifting feeling, as though somehow Ajax had fallen into the 1930s, a much more likely decade for young men to set out on adventures and sometimes not come home. However, this is the 2020s now, and Ajax is alive and well. What a relief! 

I wasn't weeping all night, and indeed I hope nobody was, but when I was thinking of what sort of joy the joy of discovering a pal is not lost at sea is, I thought of a line of a Psalm. I didn't know what the Psalm was offhand, but I looked it up, and like a good Eng. Lit. MA, my inner translation came from the King James Bible: 

"For His anger endureth but a moment; in His favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Ps. 30:5).


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