And the Lord verily spake unto all the gathered heathen that the agony of one man’s spinal trauma was like that of a woman issuing forth a child, whereupon GOF gingerly raised his scrawniness from the sick bed upon which he was stricken and exhalted “Hallelulah Lord, and both events resulted from fleeting moments of reckless folly” whereupon the Lord quizzically looked down upon GOF and He was mightily displeased at the disrespectful and unauthorised interjection.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
AN INTERVIEW AND CONVERSATION WITH VASCO DA GAMA
The following is an interview I conducted on board Da Gama’s square-sailed boat in Cochin Harbour, India, in 1524, at which time I was an immature cadet travel writer with the Terra Australis Tribune.
Unfortunately the original transcript has deteriorated, not only because it is 487 years old, but also as a result of an unplanned
dunking in salt water for two hours very soon after the interview
One or two inaccuracies may therefore have occurred in this transcription. On the other hand, the paragraph about me spending 150 days sharing a boat with ‘half-naked dusky wenches’ is a blatant lie, but nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable piece of cerebral confectionery for such an old man as myself.
GOF; G’day Mr Da Gama.
Vasco; Bom dia GOF, como esta?
GOF; Eu nao falo Portugues. Is there any possibility that we could
conduct this interview in English?.
Vasco; GOF, let’s get one thing straight right from the start. I am the
Master Mariner of Portugal. This is MY caravel we’re sitting
on. You are some nondescript pipsqueak journalist feeding
off the magnificent achievements of heroes like me.
I’ll damned well talk any language I like, and if you have any
difficulty understanding that concept you can take a
uni-directional stroll along that plank over the side there.
Now do we have agreement, you little runt of a reporter?
GOF; OK Yessir Your Honor Captain Mr Gama Sir.
Captain, could you please give me a brief outline of the
history of Portugese maritime exploration.
Vasco; Certainly GOF. My pleasure. I’m beginning to like your style
of grovelling and subordination.
There was one major overland trade route between
Asia and Europe, along which Portugal ran a great
profiteering racket…..sorry…..I mean fair trading program
until Turkey threw a spanner into the works.
Leave the ‘profiteering’ reference out of your notes
GOF…..or you know what’s going to happen to you.
Think P. L. A. N. K.
The goddamned Turks unexpectedly invaded Constantinople
and installed a boom gate with flashing lights
and armed border guards to stop Christians and Europeans
from travelling East any more.
GOF; Couldn’t you have used some back roads to bypass the
Vasco; We tried that, but we could never outrun the CHIPS.
GOF; What are CHIPS?
Vasco; Oh, that is the Camel Highway Patrol in Turkey GOF.
A very deceptive name which fooled all the itinerant traders
because the cops didn’t actually use camels for highway law
GOF; What did they use then Vasco?
Vasco; They had a team of racing pursuit donkeys with enlarged
sand-gripping hooves, ears aerodynamically slicked back,
and modified extra-wide nostrils.
These hotted-up donkeys were fuelled with a high-octane
mixture of barley fermented with date-palm sugar. Every time
they took off from a standing start there would be a flash of
blue flame shooting out of their rectums.
Anyway GOF I am digressing. With the Arabs turning the
whole trade route between Asia and Europe into a
schmozzle, King Manuel of Portugal gave me the job 20
years ago of finding a sea route AROUND Africa to India.
GOF; Why hadn’t anyone done this before?
Vasco; Prince Henry, who had failed Grade 2 Geography as a
youngster had dispatched 30 ships last century with the
command “Go south. Go south.”
They all ended up bumping into icebergs near Antarctica
and were never heard of again.
What he should have ordered was;
“Go south, then turn left, then left again.”
GOF; Why not build a Suez Canal instead?
Vasco; What’s a Suez Canal GOF?
GOF; It’s a sort of big ditch Vasco….don’t worry I’m just winding
you up. I was simply exercising my gift of clairvoyancy.
Vasco; GOF, may I take this opportunity to remind you one final time
of THE PLANK!
GOF; OK, sorry. Were you made to feel welcome the very first time
you arrived on the shores of India?
Vasco; Not exactly in an “open arms” sense GOF. No.
A lot of derogatory and hurtful comments were made about
our traditional apparel, and the natives poked fun at our
woolen breeches, doublets and helmets.
Then the King of Calicut on the Malabar Coast actually made
some totally inappropriate suggestions about where we
should stow the gifts of cloth, cheap coral jewellery and six
wash basins that we brought as fair exchange for ten million
escudos worth of pepper, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and
Eventually, when I got him drunk enough on a few bottles of
1504 vintage Turkish Barley and Date Wine, he agreed that
Portugal could set up some Trading Posts in India.
GOF: They have wineries in Turkey?
Vasco; Apparently GOF. I never did discover where or how this vino
is made. The Turks themselves refuse to drink it….in fact
they call it “donkey piss“. We never could understand that,
even though the wine is perhaps a little horsey on the nose
and lacking any delicate piquancy or fruitiness on the palate.
GOF; So why have you returned to India now, 20 years after that
initial contact voyage?
Vasco; The managers of our Trading Company are skimming off
profits and putting them into Swiss personal bank accounts.
The King thought I’d be the right man to sort out the thieving
little bastards in exchange for a luxurious villa at Lisbon
Lakes Retirement Village.
GOF; How are you planning to discipline them Vasco?
Vasco; I am not at liberty to reveal very much GOF, but there
might just possibly be a plank involved.
GOF; Thank you for the interview, and congratulations on recently
being awarded the esteemed title “Admiral of India” by
your King Manuel 1 in recognition of the seafaring route you
discovered. I was just admiring the backlit framed certificate
on the wall of your cabin.
No doubt all the Indian folk are as impressed with your title
as the Portugese people will be when Ranjit Singh from the
Punjab sails into Lisbon harbour one day and announces
himself to be the “Admiral of Portugal”.
INTERVIEW SUDDENLY TERMINATED.
P.S. I was eventually rescued by a passing dhow full of
voluptuous and comely wenches who sailed
slightly out of their way to drop me off back in Sydney
Vasco Da Gama died at Cochin, India, just a month after this
interview in 1524 at the age of approximately 55.
History does not record if a plank was involved.
(More tutorials in GOF’s History Series may be found via the “History Tutorials” tab at top of page, although for the life of me I have no idea why you would want to punish your intelligence any more.)
Edit December 2011; Brand new “Interview with King Henry VIII” may be found HERE.