Coron can be a trying place to spend your time; it's deadly dull if you're not diving, the same faces populate the same spots at night, sometimes even the same chairs, and the small-town mentality of some people could drive you insane. As Olivier, my French instructor mate, told me "It is one thing to listen to the stories...the time to leave is when you are in the stories." Quite.
So it was some relief that myself and Helen hit it off so well. Similar dark senses of humour and sarcasm, mixed with a love of wrecks, means we'll be friends for life. She kept me sane here, and I reckon I did the same for her. You don't have to be mad to live here, but it helps.
I can well imagine H as a kid: climbing trees, coming home with dirty knees, riding BMXs and wrestling the boys in her street; and I bet she won. Her and my sister, who grew up the only girl in a street of ten boys, would get on like a house on fire. Em was fond of building dens and getting into trouble with me and my brother, Scott.
One fond memory involves my Dad and a neighbour spotting a plume of smoke beyond the orchard at the bottom of our cul-de-sac, in the direction of the bridge over the disused railway line. They raced through the woods to help in what they thought was a serious accident, only to find my ten-year-old self and siblings adding to a fair-sized fire we'd got going underneath the bridge. Traffic had stopped either side of the crossing because of a dense plume of acrid black smoke visible for some miles, apparently. Dad asked me what the bloody hell I was doing, to which I obviously replied Nothing, as if the fire was invisible. I was marched home for the hiding off my life; well...one of them (Incidentally, the only fire I ever started bigger than this one was on the railway embankment itself a couple of years earlier, which took four fire engines and crews an hour to put out. We'd actually phoned them from a call box once it got going properly. A fireman asked my sooty-faced self who'd started it, and of course I told him Big boys. Dad didn't find out about this one) Dad had a nice line in mental, as well as physical, punishment for my many misdemeanours: I'd be sent to his wardrobe to pick which belt I wanted my backside tanning with. The thick belt had greater impact, but its larger surface area meant there was no afterburn, whereas the thinner belt made you think actually, that wasn't too bad for a split second before the pain arrived. Dad denies all this these days, of course. But he needn't worry, as I don't think Social Services will take me away on a holiday and give me a Playstation at almost 40 years old. Might be worth asking, though?
That digressive, pyromaniacal tale and shadows of my abusive childhood aside...H asked me if I wanted to come to Truk Lagoon with her. A Busman's Holiday, two weeks of wreck-diving as a break from wreck-diving in Coron? Count me in.