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The World is a Jungle

by Gabriel Timar

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Book Three: The Civilized Jungle

On the High Seas

Gabriel Timar recounts stories and anecdotes from his family history and his adventures around the world. Some of the names, dates and places may have been changed, but the essence is a true memoir.

By September 1957, as the result of my unrelenting effort, I obtained two job offers. One was from a South African firm and the other from Canada. I showed both offers to Ashton, my boss and mentor, asking for his advice.

“I would take the Canadian offer,” he said. “Apart from the salary being much more than the South Africans’ offer, Canada is a better country.”


“South Africa is a keg of gunpowder. Eventually, the Boers will take over the legislation and implement the so-called apartheid policy. That may spark a revolution. You’d be much safer in Canada.”

Taking Ashton’s advice, I signed the Canadian offer and mailed it. In a few days, they invited me to visit the High Commission in London. The officials made short work of my immigration. In a matter of fifteen minutes, I got a paper with the signature of the High Commissioner stapled into my stateless passport.

The official handling my case gave me a thick envelope with the tickets and many other papers. He told me to board the Empress of England leaving Southampton in late October. I left the High Commissioner’s Office in less than thirty minutes.

* * *

I worried about crossing the Atlantic. Based on the movie about the Titanic catastrophe, I visualized the tourist class as a large hold in the bottom of the ship without beds and proper bathing facilities. However, the examination of the tickets, the photographs of the ship, and the cabins, put my mind at ease.

The Empress at the wharf did not seem very large, but after boarding I found myself in a floating luxury hotel. I had to share the cabin with three other people: Max Whitehead, a friendly, elderly gentleman from Newfoundland on his way home after spending a few months in England, a Pole, and a young flight sergeant from the air force.

I befriended Max quickly, but the others remained aloof.

“Did you ever travel on the high seas?” he asked.

“No, sir. My longest trip on water was the crossing of Lake Balaton in a steamer. It took two hours,” I replied.

“Then you must prepare for seasickness. I’m sure it is going to hit you in a couple of days. Therefore, eat as much as you can while you can, to keep your strength up.”

“Is everybody going to be seasick?”

“Most men do, but the women may surprise you. They don’t get it as easily as the men do. When I served on troopships, I noticed the soldiers, the big tough bruisers suffering from seasickness for days, but the skinny little nurses were all okay.”

“Is there anything else I should watch out for?” I asked.

“Yes, be careful with the women. On an oceangoing ship they lose their inhibitions.”

“This is the first good news I’ve heard in a long time.”

After dinner, I took a walk on the promenade, and enjoyed the fading rays of the sun. I noticed Laura Smith, the middle-aged lady assigned to the same dinner table as I was, standing on the deck. She had good figure and after the long drought in England, I feasted my eyes on her curves. I decided to approach her.

“The sunset is beautiful, Mrs. Smith, isn’t it?” I asked.

“It is,” she replied. “Call me Laura.” She paused: “Are you looking forward to living in Canada?”

“I am excited about it, but I’ve only heard of the place. Would you tell me about your country?”

“I left ten years ago and the place may have changed. I might find it strange too.”

“Everything is going to be new to me,” I said.

After chatting with her about Canada, we had a few drinks at the bar, and around eight, I thought I’d call it a night, but Laura had other ideas.

“Would you escort me to the ballroom tonight? There is a big do at ten and I don’t want to show up alone. We could have a dance and look around.”

“It is an honor, Laura, but I must warn you, I am a bad dancer...”

“Don’t worry, I have steel-toed shoes,” she said, interrupting.

As Laura kept her thigh pressed against mine, I realized that Max might have been right. Perhaps she just began losing her inhibitions.

“Shall I pick you up?” I asked.

“Let’s meet right here on the promenade,” she suggested.

The inaugural ball was a success. Laura turned out an excellent and tireless dancer. During the evening, I did everything I could to look attractive in her eyes. My expertise in the art of seduction paid off, as Laura invited me to her stateroom for a drink.

“How about your cabin mates?”

“I have a cabin all to myself.”

The cognac was good, but the following energetic lovemaking much better. Around midnight I felt I should go back to my own cabin.

“You should come to live in Halifax after fulfilling your contract,” Laura remarked. “You could get a good job with the government easily.

“We shall see,” I said. I had just realized that Max knew what he was talking about.

Copyright © 2009 by Gabriel Timar

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