1st October 2015
Another hot and steamy day awaited us as we docked at this riverside port. Having passed through a very large industrial area with loads of chimney stacks belching smoke and disgusting sulphurous odours we were not hopeful.
Once alongside we were kept waiting for over an hour by the officials who were supposed to arrive early to grant clearance. Not doing too well so far and not feeling very welcome.
Then the heavens opened, and for almost an hour down came the buckets as well as the water. Hmm….not sure today’s going to be very successful….still give it chance, you never know.
Around 10ish clearance was granted and we were led to believe the only way into the town centre was by shuttle bus….and there weren’t many of those. So we got our ticket and waited in line….number 13….oh dear.
Eventually we made it onto the bus….the doors closed….we travelled about 250 metres and the bus stopped….the doors opened.
“OK folks,” the driver announced, “Here we are, and to return to the ship you catch the bus here.”
WHAT!!! You mean we waited for nearly two hours and we could have walked it in 5 minutes. Not happy, but at least the rain had stopped and the pavements were drying nicely.
Anyway, map in hand we set off in search of something to improve our day and brighten our visit which frankly was not floating our boat as yet (yes there really was that much rain)
Savannah town/city is based on a block/grid system a bit like Manhattan, only smaller, but every 2nd block in both directions has a green space. These are parks or gardens dedicated to some important Savannians (not sure if that’s the right word but it sounds cool) There are trees, statues, fountains, benches, squirrels and hobos by the dozen and everything looked very pretty (except for the hobos of course)
There’s a ‘hop on hop off’ available and it seemed to be very popular with a fairly regular service (just saying) but we didn’t use it as walking around was very easy, except when it started raining stair rods again.
A stop for a freshly made lemonade and iced tea was very refreshing and, unlike the port officials, the locals are friendly. Then a walk around the market area where there are eateries and more galleries featuring local artists. Unfortunately we didn’t find anything to our taste so we started looking around for a little light refreshment.
One of our fellow passengers asked if we’d been down to River Street, just along from where our ship had docked. We hadn’t, so we temporarily put on hold our search for a beer and went exploring in the direction pointed out to us.
River Street was interesting if only for a collection of traditional paddle steamers and a galleon, all replicas of course but it gave a feel of how things used to be.
Along with the usual collection of bars and souvenir shops there are loads of stalls selling all sorts of local cuisine and crafts.
Unfortunately our detour used up valuable indulging time so we never made it to a bar to sample the local hooch, but hey ho. It did turn out to be quite a nice day in the end, but the time lost at the start of the day didn’t allow us to fully experience this place as much as others. Sadly this meant that maybe Savannah will not stand out as very memorable when we come to look back on our adventures.
And we never found Forrest Gump’s Bench either….frankly tragic 😦
29th & 30th September 2015
Our first visit to this town, in fact this is the first time we’ve been anywhere in the US south of New York. We’d docked around midday, pulled on our best walking shoes and set off.
First thing we noticed as we left the super-cooled air-conditioned environment of the ship was it was hot….and very humid. But that wasn’t going to deter us one little bit even though we weren’t really sure what we were going to do or see here.
Just outside the port we met our first local (there were going to be many) a taxi driver…but instead of trying to convince us that he was going to light up our world with the tour of a lifetime for an irresistible price, he just asked if he could help.
We told him we just wanted to see the town and he directed us towards the park then pointed out several other areas of interest. We thanked him and without any pressure he handed us his business card with a simple, ‘If I can be of any help, please call me’.
Now it’s rare that we bother using the local taxi’s because they are often quite aggressive in the way they go about their business (and that’s understandable considering how many of them there are) but this guy’s approach got my attention. I promised to make him our first point of contact should we require transport during our visit, and to be honest I meant it. Nice bloke.
So we found the park which was very pretty, with a couple of large fountains and a beautiful tree-lined avenue. Shame about the smell. The waterfront area appears to be a salt marsh with a mass of reeds lining the water’s edge.
We especially loved the signs detailing the rules of entering the fountain areas. We were informed there was no life guard on duty and paddling was at the visitors own risk. It was also forbidden for a single individual to step into the cool water, bathing was for a minimum of 2 persons and a maximum of 25 (picture above is of one of them….fountain not bather) No alcohol, no loud music, no electrical equipment!!! LOVE IT, LOVE IT.
Anyway (there’s my favourite word again) walking from the park and around some of the back streets we enjoyed seeing the pretty traditional houses, all shapes and sizes, so cute. Then we found a main street full of galleries (there are many of these in Charleston…it must be a very inspiring town)
We found several churches, cemeteries, museums and many more galleries on our travels, but by now we were hot and just a little bit damp. Time for a drink.
It was 5pm and, because of the time we’d arrived, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and as the local Irish Bar, Tommy Condons, was offering 2 for 1 on burgers we decided to try them out (just for research of course and it would be rude not to) We were not disappointed….however we were still full when it came to dinner later that evening.
At around 8pm we headed back towards the port, but by now the market stalls were all gone. At least we had another day here so tomorrow maybe!
At this point I am going to have a moan. I won’t name names but it concerns one of the ‘sweet shops’ near to the market. As we’d passed by we were enticed in by a delicious smell of caramel. The young lady behind the counter had offered us a taste of a praline/pecan biscuit.
Mmm, very tasty. So we asked to purchase a couple of these digestive biscuit size delights. She put them in a bag and weighed them.
“Nine twenty five,” she requested.
“Sorry?” I asked. That seemed a bit pricey for two biscuits even if they were of the melt in your mouth and transport you to heaven variety.
“Nine twenty five,” she repeated.
“Really?” I’m not very good at concealing my surprise or shock, but I handed over a $10 bill anyway.
“Do you need change?” she asked.
Normally I don’t like receiving coins back in change, it drives that magical archy, metal detector thingy at security crazy. But this was an exception.
“Absolutely,” I demanded.
Now it was her turn to show surprise.
“Really?” she asked.
I held out my hand, expecting her to hand over the gold plated treats and my change. But she didn’t. The bag I’d just paid for was still on the scales, she looked down at it.
“Hang on a minute,” she stated, “I pressed the wrong button.”
“I pressed the wrong button.” Now she’s frantically pressing buttons.
“Yes I got that bit the first time, but…”
“The price should be nine ninety six.” She smiled and defiantly cocked her head to one side. Unfortunately she had my money and my cookies…what choice did I have.
I held out my hand and she handed me the bag, which I took, then out went my hand again.
“You still want change?” she looked genuinely shocked.
She reached into the till drawer, took an age to collect the four one cent coins and counted each one into my hand.
“Thank you,” I said and stood my ground.
For a second or two she looked at me, puzzled.
“Thank you,” I repeated. It was my turn to tilt my head and for good measure I raised my eyebrows.
She sighed, “You’re welcome.”
Back at the ship we found a couple of our dining companions to inform them we wouldn’t be down for dinner. Then we’d showered, dressed and headed back into the town for a beer.
We avoided the first bar as it was very busy owing to a ‘Drag Act’ performing. Further up the road we discovered a nice open terrace with American football playing on several big screens. This was the one for us, and a couple of local beers later we wended our way slowly back to cool down after a day sweltering in this interesting town.
Hang on a minute….wasn’t that several male crumblies off our ship sneaking furtively out of the ‘Drag Act’ bar? Well I never!
Now breakfast onboard the ship is ok, but after nearly three weeks it’s quite samey. So this morning we’re on a mission to get ourselves a proper, bon-afide, genuine American Breakfast.
One of the servers in Condon’s suggested ‘Toast’ on Mission Street and when we arrive it was packed. So we got our name on the list and waited. Ten minutes later we’re shown to our table and lavished with tea, coffee and juice.
I order a Short Stack and my dear lady get French Toast (reputed to be highly recommended by the New York Times)
Now I have to admit that although I’d ordered buttermilk pancakes, crispy bacon and maple syrup I wasn’t absolutely sure I was going to like the combination. But, hey ho, it just has to be done at least once in a lifetime.
It was good….very good….very filling and sweet beyond belief….but very good.
Breakfast done we wandered first to the Confederate Museum at the top of Market Street, then on to the main Charleston Museum at the other end of Mission Street. Both were very good and we enjoyed a few hours of history and culture.
Around 3pm we’d started our walk back to the market to browse the stalls, but guess what? We never made it that far. It was hot here….very hot and sticky. So where better to stop and drink margaritas than a bar called Sticky Fingers.
Once propped up at the bar we ordered a couple which didn’t last very long, so another two quickly followed. Now this is where I made a slight miscalculation. We’d been tempted to enter this particular establishment by the sign outside which read
‘Margaritas..$3 all day’
This was exceeding temptation, but I was sure at that price there would be little alcohol included (in most of the bars the cocktails were at least $5/6) So a few more margaritas followed as they were so refreshing.
I think we’d just finished our third when the rain started hammering down outside (I realise that it would hardly be raining inside but please remember I have been drinking)
So we ordered another round along with a plate of nachos smothered in barbequed pulled pork. I think I can honestly say these were the best we’ve ever had, and Brittany our server appeared to keep topping up our glasses regularly.
In the meantime we’d started up a conversation with a local lad who’d joined us at the bar. I know we got a little loud and merry but I definitely remember having the best of afternoons with our new friends…hands across the water and all that stuff.
Before we knew it the clock on the wall told us it was time to go as the ship would be leaving in an hour. Standing up was the first issue and walking in a straight line was positively out of the question.
However we did make it back safely, but instead of standing up on deck for the sail away we fell sound asleep in our cabin, and there we remained until 8am the next morning.
Charleston was a top port with great people and we’d happily return….but that’s not just the drink talking….we really enjoyed ourselves (except maybe for the sweetie shop where we felt we were somewhat ripped off)
26th & 27th September 2015
New York, New York.
We were due to visit Martha’s Vineyard Oaks Bluff yesterday and although the ship did actually drop anchor somewhere near to the port, my dear lady and I declined the crew’s kind offer to transport us ashore. The sea was active and having watched a couple of tenders rolling around in the somewhat extensive swell, we decided there was nothing particular we wanted to do or see there (stop shouting ‘Cowards’ at your screen)
However it was a very ‘Good Choice’.
We discovered later that most of the transfers to shore were full of incident with liberal amounts of carrot infested chunder thrown in for good measure (or should that be thrown up?) Several folk needed medical attention, and at one stage the ‘stretcher party’ was called to the tender dock.
Anyway, let’s leave that one for now and move to one of the highlights of this trip….
New York, New York, a helluva town.
The Bronx’s is up but the Battery’s down.
The people ride in a hole in the ground.
(from the musical ‘On the Town’ lyrics by Comden & Green)
We were looking forward to our third visit to this metropolis, which is unusual considering my contempt for most big cities.
We had a plan, but it’s risky, so confidence was a little low, but expectation was high.
We were going to attempt to get to grips with the intricacies of that mysterious underworld better known as the ‘New York Subway’ (Dah..Dah..Daaahhhh)
So we set off for our first destination….50th and 8th.
Once found we joined hands, whispered a silent prayer and headed into the abyss.
Well…we were aiming initially to reach west 4th street, Washington Square on the C line. This would deliver us into the heart of Greenwich Village, a recommended area we’d not yet explored. So let’s get tickets….just how hard could this be?
A Metro Pass is the way to go as it’s very similar to London’s Oyster Card, load it up and off you go. Except the machines purporting to deliver these plastic novelties are not the easiest to understand….unless you do what I did before we travelled….check out the procedure on YouTube. I’m certainly glad I did as some of my fellow tourists ended up shouting at the rather shabby metal dream destroyer, as after many attempts it stubbornly refused to issue anything resembling a ticket.
Twenty five minutes later and the worst was over, my patience (and meticulous research) was rewarded, and as we swiped our access pass to paradise with gusto I felt a sense of euphoria at having successfully negotiated this first complex hurdle. My dear lady warned me not to shout ‘That’s the way to do it suckers’ as pride definitely comes before a fall.
So there we were on the platform, with what seemed like the entire population of a small city, and it’s hot.
Erm….maybe this wasn’t going to be fun after all.
The train arrived, pushing even more hot, acrid air in front of it. Like a lava flow we were overcome by a scalding wall of heat which stunned us for a second or two. The doors opened and we were virtually carried onto the carriage and pushed deep into the heart of the crush.
Now I’m often accused of exaggerating the situation a little, massaging the events to create interest and drama….ME??…NEVER!!…well maybe…just a touch
To be honest it really wasn’t too bad. Let’s just say that New Yorkers have learnt to accept a lack of personal space in order to reach their destination quickly and very cheaply. And so must we as tonight we’re heading for Yankee Stadium for a baseball game. The taxi fare would be $50 each way, but we can use the subway for a tenth of that. Nuff said!
Moving on, and Greenwich Village was well worth the visit, as was Washington Square Park. There was a Pagan Pride festival going on with more witches in attendance than we saw in Salem. There was also a young man playing a ‘Grand’ piano under the ‘Grand’ arch entrance to the park…only in America would you find a grand piano in a park.
We left the park and headed downtown, specifically to Chinatown for lunch. For the second time this trip we stumbled upon the place we were looking for without too much searching and enjoyed a lunch of dim sum and noodles…yummy.
A lot more walking around the city hall and courts area to admire the grandeur of the architecture and the time passed quickly. As the baseball game was due to start at 4pm we set off to find the appropriate subway. Now this became bone of contention as the subway stations are not very well marked, and you need a different entrance for different directions. Eventually we found what we were looking for, a number 4 express, and managed to squeeze on.
Yankee stadium is huge and looks very modern. The collection of tickets at ‘will call’ was easy and entry through security was quick. All good so far. Seats were found and there was plenty of leg room and a great view. We stood for the national anthem and readied ourselves for the first pitch.
The whole atmosphere was great but maybe a little more subdued than we were expecting, but our overall impression was very good. As expected food and drink was expensive and when I went to get a beer I was actually id’d. That made me momentarily forget I was paying 10 bucks for a bud which, according to all the signs around, was going to increase my energy intake by 300 odd calories. In fact everything for sale inside the stadium carried a calorific value to let the fans know just how much weight they would gain during the game.
Wow thanks for that…go Yankees.
Game over and back on the subway to Grand Central and a walk down 42nd street, through Times Square and finally back to the ship.
I know…let’s do it all again tomorrow
Day two dawned bright and warm, however we slept late, missed dawn and went straight for the heat and chaos of mid morning.
Today we were on a mission to find and walk the High Line, a disused elevated section of rail track starting somewhere around 34th and 12th.
A short 10 minute walk from the ship and it was easily spotted and joined. We had a very interesting slow amble along about a mile and half of pretty gardens with interesting features, including what looks like a branch line which cuts straight through the middle of a building.
Once at the end we turned round and headed back the way we’d come until we reached Chelsea Market.
This was an incredible place to visit and full of complete surprises when it comes to comparing it to markets back in the UK. Brilliant and well worth a visit, especially for lunch as there is so much choice.
That’s pretty much all we did today and we really enjoyed this little piece of paradise in the vast sprawl of the city.
Just one small incident which gave us a titter. Outside Chelsea Markets there is a street marked ‘For Loading and Unloading only’. There was a line of about fifteen lorries all sporting the same company’s ‘Fruit and Vegetables to the Trade’ livery and they were parked up with no apparent activity of the loading/unloading variety.
A very happy traffic warden was gleefully writing tickets and dutifully booking every single one of them. I started to wonder if this was a regular Sunday morning activity for said uniformed enforcer of street law and I could imagine her begging to work overtime in order to get her quota in at the start of each week…Priceless.
Another great visit to this great city, and now we have an understanding of the subway system it will hopefully open up a whole world of possibilities next time….providing of course there is a next time.
24th September 2015
Question: how many witches were executed following the Salem witch trials of 1692 and 1693?
Answer: none….because of the twenty people hung or crushed to death none of them were actually witches (so I was told)
We had another bright and sunny day to explore ashore, but with only a few hours before we head off for the next stop we have to get a wiggle on as there appears to be a lot to do.
Salem is a fairly new location for the cruise industry, although many thousands of tourists flock here every year on the ferry from Boston, so maybe we need to be on our best behaviour if we want to be invited back.
First impressions are this is a very pretty town and, but for the history of the appalling and harrowing events of over 300 years ago, it would probably be a very sleepy place too.
But it isn’t, far from it.
First of all, as you leave the port, there is a house with all kinds of junk in the garden and around the house. It’s the same stuff we’ve just spent the last eight months getting rid of back home, but the owner has used his/her imagination to create works of art….or just things of interest. It would be possible to spend some time looking through the bars of the fence at all the immerging artefacts, but like I said….wiggle, wiggle.
Once outside the port there is a red line to follow, a tourist trail which takes you to or past every point of interest in this vibrant town. The House of Seven Gables is first followed by the court house and the historical maritime area. There are waxworks, museums, houses of interest, a cemetery, a pirate house and more ghost walks than you could rattle Jacob Marley’s chains at. And it’s all good and overall not too demanding on the pocket book (wallet for us English)
Now the most interesting place for me was the memorial area for the victims of those heinous accusations. I’ll not go into much detail but I found the walk past each marker dedicated to a prematurely despatched, ordinary human, quite emotional. I’m sure their only ambition in life was probably to be happy, healthy and allowed to live as long as possible, in peace.
But then there’s always someone with an axe to grind, a point to make or just wants to be a spoiler for no other reason than they can.
Anyway, back to Salem, and we’ll certainly be back if given the chance, although maybe the witch theme is just a little OTT. I suppose this is definitely a case of ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’. I’m sure Salem has more to offer than that but on this occasion we didn’t have the time to find it.
My joints are stiff and rusty
Old paint’s already peeled
I’m looking fairly shabby
With all my faults revealed.
And my undercarriage droops a bit
Well, a lot to be quite fair
My fallen arches need a lift
And success in love is rare.
But at least I’ve had the chance to live
A full and active life,
Free from persecution
Safe and happy, little strife.
It doesn’t matter who I am
Or what my interests be.
Criticise me all you want,
You can’t stop me being me.
(A grateful tribute for life, inspired by the innocents of Salem)
23rd September 2015
Well we’re back Boston, just like we said we would be.
Definitely one of our favourite US cities….but first there’s the time consuming, people fuming, disaster looming, officials presuming, paperwork confusing….immigration formalities.
Well to be fair this lot do look a bit dodgy so who can blame the boarder agency for wanting to deny them entry if at all possible.
Previously the process has been very serious, tedious and fractious, but today it was different and a big gold star goes to the immigration officers for a job quickly done….and with a smile….so unusual.
And so we were off. It was a lovely sunny day so the walk along Summer Street (appropriate) was very pleasant and we passed through a couple of areas we hadn’t been to before.
There’s a Macy’s near to the end of the walk, and opposite there’s Primark….nuff said.
We reached the park marking the start of the Freedom Trail and here we left our companions to tread the red line around the historic sites of Boston whilst we headed towards Quincy Market for a coffee.
Our plan today was to visit the New England Aquarium in the harbour area and after a pleasant ‘cuppa’ we headed off to get tickets with high hopes of an interesting visit.
Now we weren’t disappointed as there are lots and lots of penguins….many more than we’d expected. Anyone who knows my dear lady will already be aware of her love of these little critters and their antics. She walked round for the next couple of hours with a permanent smile attached, with many a ‘They’re so cute’ and ‘They’re so very little’.
As well as many fascinating smaller display tanks all around the outside of the building there is the huge cylindrical reef tank in the middle. A spiral ramp allows the visitors a 360 degree panoramic insight into this ‘fishy’ world, and also allows the swimming occupants a close up examination of the human viewers just the other side of the edge of their world, where the water appears to have set solid.
There are so many species and each have their own characteristics.
Anyway we had a good time and came away with an extra skip in our normally grumpy demeanour, heading all the way back to Quincy market for clam chowder….always a great choice.
That done, we headed off for a gassy beer and a walk around the lovely little park in the harbour area.
We’re really fortunate to be enjoying very good weather this trip so we continued walking around the city for the next three hours, finally returning back to Quincy Market to meet up with friends for a few more beers.
The walk to Chinatown took no more than twenty minutes and we found the small ‘cafe type’ restaurant almost immediately. Despite the fact we’d warned our companions in advance that this place resembled a greasy spoon rather than an eatery they looked worried.
We went in anyway….it only took a little gentle persuasion.
“Table for four please.” We were shown to a table where one lone lad is sitting with his phone. The waitress ushers him away with a wave of her hand. He didn’t appear to be eating but we immediately felt guilty as he stood to leave.
“You don’t have to go,” we said, but he nodded, smiled and scurried away.
Menus at the ready we were ready to order as a nervous young waitress headed our way.
“Can we have a sweet and sour chicken please?”
“What?” the girl looked really puzzled.
“One sweet and sour chicken please.”
We had starting to think that maybe her grasp of English was not very good.
“Sweet and sour chicken,” we’d repeated whilst pointing to the appropriate line in the menu.
“Oh,” she said with a smile, “You want sweet and sour chicken.”
“Yes please….and a special chow mein please.”
“A special chow mein.” Frantic page turning followed by a pointing finger.
“Oh….you want a special chow mein.”
“Yes please….and a beef and vegetable please.”
At this point we weren’t quite sure if someone was taking the proverbial. But the order continued with each dish being duly questioned, pointed at and then pronounced perfectly by our server.
When the food arrived we realised that maybe we should have bought more people with us….or ordered less….there was rather a lot, and it was tasty.
All went quiet as we set about the feast.
Anyway….long story short….it was lovely and the walk back to the ship was necessary to settle our overly full abdomens.
Unfortunately we didn’t have an overnight this time so by the time we got back it was time to leave.
Another Bostin’ day in Boston….thanks, you never disappoint.
The first thing that strikes you here is a bloody enormous fiddle (I’m talking musical instrument here and not a scam) it’s huge and reputed to be the largest in the world (I’m still talking about the fiddle, which is a musical instrument not a scam) Wow is just about all I can think of saying, and of course you have to take a picture……it would be rude to ignore it.
To be honest this thing is so big that it appears in every picture we took in Sydney….even the ones we took at the park over a mile away the fiddle was in the background.
Anyway, we don’t have a full day here so time to stop wittering and time to get round the town. First stop an old church which has been restored to its former gloomy glory. It’s nice to see that they’ve kept the character and not added tons of new materials. Very pleasant.
Next is the Jost House. Now this too has been restored and is crammed with artefacts and interesting ‘stuff’. The guides give us a detailed history of the house and the family who had built it, adding different parts as their needs changed. There was even a room full of old apothecary equipment, medicaments and preparations, absolutely fascinating. Best of all was the reception and farewell we were given by a complete stranger with hugs all round and a genuine sense that our presence was appreciated. Nice……..
Anyway (have you noticed I love that word?) we visit a couple more churches then it’s time to head back to the port.
We then set off in the other direction along a neatly constructed ‘boardwalk’ which takes us along the water’s edge for about a kilometre. Turning left and heading for the town we first encountered the local fire station with a couple of the splendid engines in the process of being cleaned and polished.
A short walk from here takes us to a small park with lots of ducks and statues and stuff….very pleasant. The main shopping area of the town consists mainly of one street and this is crammed with the usual interesting shops and eateries.
Our last visit here was marked by a wonderful meal (and a drink or two) at ‘The Governors’ with our table companions (you know who you are) As two of that party are also onboard this time we arranged to meet up there again and toast absent friends. It was as good as the last time (except for the absence of a certain couple (yes talking about you two again) and we spent a couple of hours doing what comes naturally to this party, eating and drinking.
And so it’s time to leave, but not before one last hunt around the souvenir market at the port. There’s a shop selling sculptures which is crammed with ‘dancing polar bears’. Now we’ve seen quite a few of these before in most of the Canadian ports we’ve visited over time, and they’re so cute. They really do convey a sense of joy and happiness and then the owner tells us why. Apparently the Inuit’s believe that if you are a good hunter then when you die you come back as an animal. Now if they come back as a polar bear, which of course is at the top of the food chain, they are so happy they dance. What a great philosophy 🙂
Well with that in mind I just had to buy one….well I had intended to anyway as I’d always regretted not getting one last year.
So off we set, sadly just one port in Canada this time so USA here we come.
We’ll be back
Don’t you just love a know it all?
There you are sitting quietly and enjoying the sun, now it’s finally made an appearance, when a large shadow blots out the light and a loud voice asks if “This seat is taken?” referring to the spare chair next to you.
You politely look up from the book you’re reading to inform the unknown enquirer that it isn’t ‘taken’ and they are welcome to use it.
They thank you and sit.
With the obstruction now settled next to you the warmth of the sun is immediately restored, and you return to the complex plot of the indulgent murder mystery you were enjoying.
“Isn’t the sun wonderful?” the arrival asks just as you’re trying to get your head round a new blood stained clue.
You don’t wish to be rude so you answer, “Very,” but you also don’t want to perpetuate a conversation so you remain head down, avoiding eye contact.
Unfortunately the one subject this numpty has no knowledge of is the art of reading body language.
“I lived in Bahrain for three years,” he announces, “Forty degrees in the shade, day in day out.”
You sigh and look up from your book. Bad move.
“Really….how interesting.” Even worse because you have now offered an in.
“I use to play golf out there….well they don’t really have golf courses, just sand and greens. I was part of the women’s PGA golf tour you know….”
You have nowhere to go and as you glance around at your fellow travellers with a look of ‘Please help me’ on you face you have to accept that….
You’ve been hit by….You’ve been struck by….‘A Smooth Know It All’
Now luckily this didn’t actually happened to me today, but rather to the poor unfortunate sitting just a few feet away from where I was also enjoying a rare kiss of warmth from the sun. Yet everyone in earshot knows that the ambient peace has just come to a very abrupt end.
Several folk give up, get up and leave, others (like me) settle in for a bit of entertainment….and I’m not going to be disappointed.
To try to record or even remember the ensuing onslaught meted out on that poor individual, whose only desire when he awoke that morning was to immerse himself in a really good book, would be impossible. To say the least we were transported around the world, played every sport, met every imaginable famous person who had ever lived and spent several fortunes in the process.
Wow, and all that before lunch.
Well here’s my tribute to him and the many like him who just excel at ruining someone’s day.
What Do You Know?
Can’t you tell that I’m a smart arse?
Have an answer every time,
And I know you’ll love my stories
Every anecdote sublime.
You’ll be hooked by revelations
Gripped by every single word.
Laughing at my clever humour
Loud and proud, I must be heard.
This my umpteenth cruise with Freddie
They consult me every time
I know every port in detail
Where to shop or wine and dine.
Port talk speakers, what do they know?
And the singers, pile of poo.
Entertainers? Bunch of posers,
I could teach a thing or two.
I can tell you want to be me
Don’t deny, I see your face
Cause your life will be so much richer
If I let you take my place.
I know exactly what you’re thinking
That you love me, can’t deny.
You hang on every sentence
Every other word being I.
But please don’t try, you can’t out do me,
Been there, seen it more than most.
Bigger, better, more expensive
‘Is that all?’ my favourite boast.
You should really do things my way,
Entertainer, champion Brit,
Not to mention greatest lover
Can’t you tell I’m full of s**t.
15th September 2015
Sea Day….time to reflect!
I’ve been out of the habit of writing for the past few months because my days have been taken up with a ‘slightly more’ demanding project. Life has certainly been hectic so far this year (something I’ve not been used to for a long while) so I haven’t had much spare time to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and the desire to be creative has been severely beaten into a corner by apathy and fatigue.
But now things are different and I find myself returning to a more acceptable state of lazy limbo again. This being the ideal opportunity to re-establish my relationship with my reliable companion and boredom buster, ‘writing’ (or technically….typing) I charge the battery on my neglected laptop and begin the search for inspiration.
Now if someone had told me that writing is a bit like exercise, meaning the less you do the harder it becomes to get back into a functional rhythm, I would have seriously laughed at them for suggesting such an absurd notion.
But at this moment in time I have to admit I couldn’t be more wrong.
I’m sat in the most ideal place, surrounded by a million and one things to take pleasure in and yet I’m struggling to string together a single coherent idea. I’m even starting to wonder if maybe my lack of attention has ticked off my abandoned friend and companion and it has no desire to return to this heartless traitor.
I reflect on the times when ideas had come so fast that many were forgotten long before being recorded. They ended up in limbo somewhere in the back of my mind with a hope of their resurrection on a barren day, but even these little gems have deserted me.
Inspiration is definitely like a snowball, the more it rolls the more it grows. But it has to be cultivated and supported because if neglected it may very well roll off down the hill, taking all the good ideas with it, and that means the process has to be started all over again.
Where is that inspiration?
It’s such a fickle friend.
Sometimes it overwhelms me
With ideas that have no end.
Another day it taunts me
And tells me many lies,
Promises an insight
But delivers nothing wise.
Why won’t the words come quickly?
I’m stuck with no idea.
I need you Inspiration
Right now….I’m over here.
Give me mountains not a molehill,
I need a new intent.
I promise to stay faithful,
If you help me I’ll repent
And I promise not to leave you
Just like I did before.
Please help me Inspiration
Come feed my mind once more.
14th September 2015
Well here we go again.
The last few months have been very busy as well as a touch draining, but things back home are almost back to normal again, so it’s time to head off on another adventure (it’s possible that not all of our trips were well deserved….but this one is J)
We’re off for a cruise starting in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada which then takes us all the way down the eastern seaboard of the USA to Miami. Then we’ll return back to the UK via the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Azores.
As usual we stayed at in a very comfortable Premier Inn last night and the process of embarkation this morning was faultless and efficient.
Normally there’s not much going on during the first day that hasn’t already been commented on in previous blogs….except today something different happened.
Muster is always a bit of a necessary evil. The vast majority of passengers have gone through this drill many, many times before and trudge bored and uninterested to their assembly station. We all reluctantly listen to the master drone on about the safety of the ship and what we should all do in the event of an emergency. Then we all don our life jackets with a distinct lack of enthusiasm and stand wondering how much longer this is going to take before we can get back to the important matters in life….like eating and drinking or watching the hapless stevedores kicking the last few pieces of luggage across the dock and onto the ship.
But one of the assembled has become quite poorly, quite suddenly and is in desperate need of medical attention. Now this is not an uncommon problem on a cruise ship, after all a fair number of our fellow travellers are well over their allotted three score and ten….but most of the previous ‘code alphas’ have at least been able to enjoy a modicum of the holiday before disaster has stuck. This poor person is off loaded into the care of the NHS whilst a thousand others who remain onboard head off for the sun, the sun that poor individual was hoping to enjoy as well.
I’m suddenly reminded that life is, and will always be, unpredictable.
I consider that my dear lady and I are really fortunate to be able to take these trips and I hope we never take these experiences, or our health, for granted.
But the incident did get folk talking, specifically about their own ailments and the medication they take to control their many problems….so I give you
Please Forgive Me if I Rattle
The tablets keep me going,
They lower this and that,
There’s a tiny one for water
And a larger one for fat.
Three are for my ticker,
Two to keep me sane.
A puffer eases breathing,
Sixteen capsules numb the pain.
There’s a daily dose of aspirin
So my platelets don’t occlude,
And a blue one gives a little lift
For when I’m in the mood.
There’s a yellow one for weight loss
Which results in smelly poo,
And a pretty shiny pink one…
God knows what that will do.
Now my kidneys barely function
And my heart beats way too strong,
It’s because I’m hypertensive
That I have to play along
With this medication buffet.
Omeprazole stops acid
With Gaviscon on the side.
While Metformin fixes sugar,
Quinine stops cramps at night,
A heavy dose of iron
Puts anaemia to right.
Diuretics, just the start.
And a hefty swig of Lactulose
Plays a most important part.
Now when it comes to pain relief
I’ve tried the blooming lot,
Codeine, Morphine, Pot!!
And I’m sure a course of HRT
Would really do me well,
It’s the only thing that’s missing
From my medication hell.
So forgive me if I rattle
It’s because as you may guess
It’s the drugs that keep me going,
Is it really worth it?…YES.
It has been a while since my last post here and I apologise to those who have visited my blog only to find the cupboard bare. Now it’s not that I’ve had nothing interesting to report but more a lack of internet access during our last couple of trips.
I fail to understand why some cruise companies can offer a very realistic and affordable package to get online and some can’t….but ‘hey ho’ them’s the breaks.
Earlier this year we took another chance to visit Norway, the land of the Northern Lights. But as a bonus the trip also coincided with an opportunity to witness a total lunar eclipse of the sun. Here is the piece I wrote at the time…..
Even at the best of times I’m not a great fan of standing in the rain and getting soaked, worse if it’s also icy cold and blowing a gale.
I really struggle to understand as to why some of the great musical composers have glorified what is essentially a cold shower by associating the experience to being ‘happy again’ or suggesting it’s something you should do with the ‘one you love’ in order to glean the very best out of a relationship. I’m certain a nice warm bath together would achieve a much better outcome.
Either way a box of tissues should be readily available.
Anyway, here I am standing in a puddle of freezing cold water with my feet slowly going numb, my hair is saturated and a steady procession of drips are meandering down the back of my neck in search of somewhere to accumulate and make my existence even more uncomfortable….if that were even possible at this moment in time.
Now believe it or believe it not, I’m quite content to stay in this same spot for at least another hour or so despite the fact that I am a self confessed wimp and a warm, dry environment is just a few feet away.
Am I completely mad? Have I finally lost the plot?
Well no more than usual, but I do have an exceptionally good reason to be doing this. Today is Friday 20th March 2015 and I’m standing on the upper deck of the cruise ship Oriana just outside the port of Torshavn in the Faroe Islands. The time is 08.40 and the moon has just started a rare transit across the sun. At around 09.40 there is to be a total lunar eclipse.
Unfortunately the heavens are almost fully veiled by a heavy grey cloak of cloud which is determined to spoil the day for around two thousand expectant pairs of eyes. But there is hope because there are a few tantalising gaps which allow the onlookers a brief glimpse of the moons progress as it slowly engulfs it’s mightiest of companions in this small corner of the universe.
Everybody is furtively scanning the firmament….pointing and gesturing in various directions….estimating the wind speed and the subsequent movement of the swirling vapours above us.
Will we or won’t we?
Then a gap opens up and quickly the assembled don the cardboard glasses which have been issued to protect fragile eyes from the harmful light. But the combination of the dark filters and the natural foggy barrier on high renders them all but useless this time.
Now as it happens I’ve actually come fully prepared….for once….and had the foresight to bring along a couple of sheets of dark blue gel. These have been cut into several strips which I can combine any number of to get a good view of the proceedings, as well as affording the required protection.
There’s just enough time to see that the moon has managed to cover around half of the sun and then, just as quickly as it appeared, the ongoing spectacle vanishes behind another encroaching bank of cloud.
Time passes and the tension increases….as does the volume of cold water collecting in my underwear.
There’s a surge of chatter with a frantic waving of arms from a nearby group who loudly voice the suggestion that if all two thousand of us blow at once then maybe….just maybe….we can disperse the offending obstruction.
Then a bright shaft of light hits the sea half way between us and the horizon and another multitude of voices rise as one to demand the captain quickly puts the ship into warp drive to delivers us ’OVER THERE’….ah well, if only.
With just a few minutes to go a hush of reluctant disappointment descends to mute all but the insanely optimistic into silent reflection. And at that very moment I observe many of my fellow cruisers looking to the heavens whilst quietly muttering. Many a request for divine intervention was being offered to the almighty, maybe in return for the promise of abstention or a greater future commitment….and as if in appreciation of this renewed dedication there was a sudden and significant response.
With almost perfect timing the cloud cover clears enough to see that all but a thin sliver of the sun remains….and it’s bright enough to make the cardboard filters useable and necessary.
There is an audible gasp of gratitude (there will be plenty of opportunities to review any rash, spur of the moment promises made later)
The next few minutes were undoubtedly some of the most dramatic I’ve encountered (certain events aside J)
At first the thin sliver of sun which remained seemed to hang around unchanged for quite a while. Then in the last few seconds before totality there was a more noticeable movement of the moon, until the solitaire ring was displayed, a flaming diamond on a golden band. This pinpoint of light finally vanished like someone had flicked a switch.
For just a second or two everything disappeared from sight….AND THEN….there it was….the iconic sight of a total eclipse….the black disc of the moon surrounded by a corona of radiant light.
For two whole minutes the ice cold trickle down my back didn’t exist and I just didn’t care how numb my feet were anymore.
No words can truly describe the event itself but for me there was reflection.
Along with fleeting thoughts of the terror this phenomenon bought to my ancestors, there was the understanding that these eclipses have been occurring for millions of years, long before I came into existence, and they will continue to do so long after. For the attending it was special, but in the grand scheme of things it was just another day at the office for Mother Nature.
Once again I marvel at the wonders of our universe and realise that in the bigger picture I’m quite insignificant after all. But at least I got to make my mark and humanity has to acknowledge that no matter how trivial my presence is in the grand scheme….I was at least here to witness one of natures’ most amazing spectacles.