Handbags, Books...Whatever

Handbags, Books...Whatever (http://www.vickibatman.blogspot.com) is the website of Vicki Batman, sassy writer of sexy and funny fiction. Handbag lover. Avid Jazzerciser. Mahjong player. Yoga practioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Chocaholic. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

When I was locked up in French Guiana #author Beverley Oakley #traveltales #historical romance

Travel and Book with
Beverley Oakley
As the ‘trailing’ spouse of a pilot husband (a handsome Norwegian I met in Botswana’s Okavango Delta 25 years ago) I have lots of fun holiday stories, but my French Guiana travel experience was a bit traumatic (though there is a bit of romance in it, too).

Recently, a Labour MP was in the Australian news for being denied entry to the US while on government business. I know, personally, that it’s not fun being deported, though I imagine Vancouver Immigration was more polite than the French Guianese Immigration Official who ordered my deportation back to Miama some years ago and that he wasn’t ordered to sleep on a wooden bench until the next flight out of Cayenne, 24 hours later.

Like our MP, Mr Eideh, I was on government business and my paperwork in order. I’d just finished a survey contract in Greenland, spent ten days at our apartment in Ottawa and had travelled on my own via Miama to the French Guianese capital, Cayenne, to join the rest of the Geoterrex (now Fugro Airborne Surveys) crew who were waiting for me.

At midnight, the airport had emptied from the last flight that would enter or depart for twenty-four hours. I was the last passenger through and there was a ‘problem’ with my paperwork, the junior official indicated. The head honcho Immigration Inspector was on his way to the airport to give his ruling.

This, it soon turned out, involved a lot of shouting in French as he spoke no English, and a lot of stabbing his finger at my chest and then at a document I refused to sign since it was written in French and I couldn’t understand a word of it.

Apparently, I was unlucky enough to get caught in the middle of political ructions caused by the then-recent French nuclear testing in the Pacific. In protest, the Australian government had introduced tourist visa requirements for the French, and the French had reciprocated. My employer had organized government working visas for the crew and, understandably, had overlooked the need for a tourist visa for me, their only Australian employee.

So, now, here I was in a French colony nestled between Suriname and Brazil, with no tourist visa, being confronted by a very agitated French Immigration official smelling strongly of sweat and garlic.

Our project manager, a French Canadian, arrived at the airport to plead my case and when that failed, to try and persuade the Immigration Inspector to simply confiscate my passport and let me sleep the night at the hotel in town before presenting myself for the next day's flight out of the country.

The inspector was adamant. With more shouting and finger pointing he ordered me to sleep in a room in the deserted airport, ‘overseen’ by a 6’4” French Guianese soldier shouldering an AK-47.

But I had a champion in my husband’s best friend, my fellow crew member, Jorn.

Concerned for my virtue at the hands of this lone French Guyanese guard, Jorn chivalrously offered to subject himself to the discomfort of also spending the night on a wooden bench in a deserted airport until my imminent deportation the next day.

Fortunately, the Inspector gave his permission and Jorn and I spent the night listening to the scratching and rustles of clawed nocturnal creatures while telling stories. (I must have done a great job talking up my sister Penny’s charms, too, since Jorn and Penny were married several years later. ;) )

Anyway, I wasn’t deported. Through good fortune, the manager of the hotel where the Fugro crew was stationed happened to be a friend of the Minister for Immigration who’d been drinking at the bar with the crew a few nights before. Fortuitously, he’d dropped his card on the counter, hardly expecting to get a phone call to ask for his help in a delicate diplomatic/deportation issue, I’m sure.

But that’s what he got and the next morning I was met by my now smiling nemesis, the Immigration head honcho from my previous night’s encounter who said the matter had been sorted out (no apology, mind you) and I was free to go. (Later, I got a personal apology from the French Guianese Minister for Immigration.)

Thus began the most gruelling two-and-a-half months' contract in all my four years of survey work, operating the computer in the back of a Cessna 404 over the jungle for 8 hours every day. We couldn’t use the air conditioning which interfered with the data acquisition equipment, and the 40 degree heat and high humidity caused perpetual turbulence so that I had to time my throwing-up very carefully for the few seconds between closing off and setting up new survey lines for the pilot to fly.

When darling husband joined me seven weeks later, having finished the Greenland contract, he called me a walking skeleton for I’d lost 10kg. (Actually, he didn’t use those words because Eivind never says uncomplimentary things; but he was shocked at how much weight I had lost.)

Anyway, it was one of those incidents in life that you never forget but you’re always glad you’ve had as you become subsumed under life’s normalness because it’s nice to start a story with: “When I was locked up in French Guiana…”

 A rigged horse race - and a marriage offer riding on the outcome. When Miss Eliza Montrose unexpectedly becomes legal owner of the horse tipped to win the East Anglia Cup, her future is finally in her hands – but at what cost?

George Bramley, nephew to the Earl of Quamby, will wager anything. Even his future bride.
Miss Eliza Montrose will accept any wager to be reunited with the child she was forced to relinquish after an indiscretion — even if it means marrying a man she does not love.
But when the handsome and charming Rufus Patmore buys a horse from her betrothed, George Bramley, whose household her son visits from the foundling home, her heart is captured and the outcome of the wager is suddenly fraught with peril.
Eliza had forgotten what it felt like to enjoy a man’s attention. He’d started to dry her in a vigorous attempt to warm her but then his touch gentled and he simply stared down at her.
The wonder in his eye as he murmured words of praise was a rare sensation. Embarrassed, she turned away. Yes, turned away because she could not afford to be so obviously disquieted by another man when she was affianced to George Bramley who stood a few feet away from her. He was also staring but there was no softness in his countenance.
Hoping to avoid any more gestures of admiration or kindness from Mr Patmore, Eliza politely extricated herself and put out her hand to arrest the progress of the Foundling Home lad whom Nanny Brown was pursuing with a piece of dry linen.
         His impish grin reminded her of young Miss Katherine’s, Lady Fenton’s daughter. Clearly the two had had a great adventure unlike Young George who was lying on his stomach upon the grass, shaking with sobs.
“Did you drink a lot of water, Young George?” Eliza asked, looking down at the crying boy but he ignored her. “I said we shouldn’t go out! I said!” He pounded his fists. “No one ever listens to what I say!”
         Eliza shared a wry smile with the rather lovely Mr Patmore whom she found still staring at her but, as he looked about to approach her again, she turned her back on him and instead brought the Foundling Home boy to stand in front of her now that she’d succeeded in catching him. Eliza would not have Mr Bramley – or anyone else – accuse her of encouraging the attentions of a man not her betrothed.
         “Jack – that’s your name, isn’t it? Well, you’ll have something to tell them back at the Foundling Home.” She’d seen him only from a distance and now, mud bespattered and with his hair matted over his forehead it was difficult to make out his features though she knew from various anecdotes that young Jack distinguished himself for keeping Miss Katherine’s wilfulness in check and peace between Katherine and her cousin, Young George.
Jack stood obediently before her as he started to wring out his threadbare shirt. “Nah, I’m fine, m’lady,” he said, glancing up to reveal a pair of small white teeth in a freckled face. “But thanks for savin’ me, an’ all.”
Find Devil’s Run at: Amazon

Find Beverley Oakley at: Website

Oh Beverley, what a crazy tale!




Crystal Benedict said...

oh my goodness! This sounds like quite an experience. I'm glad you had a friend with you Beverley.

Thanks for sharing this Vicki

Angela Adams said...

Lots of stuff in this post for a novel!

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