CHAPTER 9 A life of virtue

‘Virtue is its own reward.'


What is your vice?' asked Graeme as we lounged over the ship's railing, gazing out on the Sea of Japan.

‘Wine, women or song?' he prompted. He was sure that everyone had a vice, and that knowing which vice was a good way of getting to know one another, although I suspect it was his way of finding co-conspirators in immorality and wrongdoing. I was a new recruit, having left home — and all my upbringing, culture and sheltered environment — just a week earlier. I was now in a foreign land, embarking on a new life, making choices about the way I acted, free from family constraints and the intrusiveness of a small country town.

How would I choose? How would I reply?

‘Women,' I blurted out, provoking a satisfied smirk and a twinkle in Graeme's eyes. Realistically this was an easy choice. I did not drink alcohol, so wine came a distant third, and music didn't seem like much of a vice. If anything it was a delight. So women it was, and at 17 I thought that sounded very grown up.

Graeme nodded knowingly. ‘I think we've all got that one,' he said knowingly. We continued to gaze out at the sea, as mariners have done for eons, sharing an illusory bond of deep brotherhood.

Do I have a vice? I wondered. Do we all have one? Is that how we get to know one another?

It seemed to me a strange question. ‘What football team do you follow?' or ‘Where are you from?' were surely more appropriate opening lines. I think I had ...

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