25th January 2002
With only two weeks remaining and less than a week of fishing I decided that it should be a day of celebration as I do every Thursday (because that’s the predicted go home day) and every Friday, Saturday and Sunday (because it’s the weekend and why not?). To make it a special day I decided that I would phone home in the evening to thank everybody for the parcels. There was no answer but I enjoyed the evening anyway because I re-watched one of my DVD’s and drank a miniature of Glenmorangie from Annie, some sugared almonds from A.Chris and a bar of chocolate from Mum & Dad – sounds like a party right? I savoured every drop and was happy as Larry.
Before settling down to the film I went up to the bridge to see the captain. He was, as he usually is, under a drop. I was trying to be cheerful but every positive remark I made, he’d piss on and extinguish any chance of optimism. The conversation started with my remarking on the improving weather; he replied in a whining tone that he didn’t want to start fishing again as he was tired. I reminded him of his own words from the previous day when he said the trip was made and any fish caught now are a bonus; he didn’t reply to this. In one last attempt before I left the bridge I said that it wouldn’t be long now until we are back home. I thought this was a safe remark because how can you find a negative thought in that? Well he came up with “The last weeks are the worst, I hate the last week”. I walked off the bridge in disbelief while I was imagining smashing his sulky face in – which cheered me no end!
Even the first mate who I usually find hard to find a bad word against, suffers from this pessimistic attitude. The weather today is the best it’s been in days and we have begun to fish again. After lunch I went up to the bridge and said that it made a nice change to see a flat sea and to be able to do some fishing. The first mate replied with a comment on how the weather is not perfect and its very cold…no shit Sherlock, we are in the middle of the North Atlantic in January!
I struggle with pessimists. I guess particularly so right now when I’m making a concerted effort to keep happy and make the most of the experience. At the end of the trip I expected them to start getting excited and cheery about going home, but it seems like they are trapped in a cycle of being miserable at sea, and then perhaps even being frightened to face the realities of home and the ‘real’ world.
Anyway, while mulling this over it struck me that there are two ways to look at a situation, and which you choose is coloured by your mood, attitude, experience or emotional state. Here is a little experiment……you tell me which version of the truth is ‘best’ from the following paragraphs:
- I have been trapped on a small, smelly decrepit fishing boats for 4 months; it is effectively a prison. I understand little of what the crew say and I’m lonely and isolated. I’m stuck in the North Atlantic thousands of miles from home. My cabin is icy cold, damp and smelly; the portholes are frozen solid on the inside. I have a stressful job where I am put into impossible and dangerous situations. I’m at work 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and my working hours can be right around the clock. It’s widely regarded that working on a trawler is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Working conditions are not only dangerous but difficult, usually below freezing, smelly with almost constant storms. I’ve been deprived of the most basic luxuries and amenities. I spent weeks being sick. I have to eat food that I don’t like and wouldn’t touch at home.
- I’ve had an amazing opportunity to experience a new culture on board a foreign fishing vessel; a lifestyle which is unique and fascinating. It can be great fun to try and communicate in a foreign tongue and to learn Portuguese. I have experienced a life in a true wilderness and I’ve seen all weathers and creatures great and small, weird and wonderful that the Atlantic can produce. I have my own cabin with portholes that have a view over the bow. I choose my working hours and have only myself to answer to. There is always a buzz of adrenalin and a heightened sense of awareness due to the possible dangers. I have a new appreciation for small luxuries. I’ve acquired good sea legs and hopefully I’m cured of motion sickness which used to take the shine off my favourite past time of diving. I’ve tried completely different foods.
Which do you prefer? They are both completely true and correct but I prefer the latter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not being a preachy prick, I know what it is like to see the negative side. There have certainly been many parts of this trip which have taken me there, and sometimes it’s important to feel the reality of that. It’s ok to be glum sometimes. All I’m saying is that it’s a matter of perspective, and if you can, choose the bright side because it’s easier on the noggin.
On the radio show tonight I learned the name and number of the new company. I think I’ll send them a fax tomorrow to let them know I exist, it can’t do any harm. To kill time I’ve spent the day writing a new resume, so maybe I’ll send that too.