A Wonderful Sea Day….Almost
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.
Up and Running (again)
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.
Hey..have you heard this one?
1st December 2014
Another Sea Day…or just a rumour?
Cruise ships are one of the greatest places in the whole of the civilised world for rumours, which range from the simply obvious to the incredibly and unbelievably ridiculous.
They’re going on all the time, but there’s always a crescendo of some of the more bizarre ideas as the trip draws near to its conclusion.
Early on there were the stories about certain individuals and their status or occupation, and apparently we had a world famous and well respected fashion designer on board as well as a very well known comedienne and even a Nolan sister. Turns out the designer was just an eccentric with strange hair and very little fashion sense, the comedienne was the least funniest person you could ever meet and the Nolan sister hasn’t been seen again as she’s gone into hiding (or maybe she never existed in the first place)
At one point the ship had a crack in the hull, the crew were working to rule and a whole gang of passengers had been arrested for nicking stuff from the shops (now that one I could believe) The weather was going to stop us getting into Cuba, someone was suing because of a splinter and rum had actually been discovered in the free punch served during the sail away party (that’s just silly)
With reference to an earlier post there is now even one tale being distributed about some members of the crew receiving in excess of $2k in gratuities each month. But I can categorically state that from all the whispering and scheming I’ve heard on this subject it’s more likely that they’ll get much less than that from this bunch to share between everyone.
Maybe I should start a rumour that folk who don’t pay their gratuities are going to be put on an international ‘tight wads’ register and are likely to be banned admission into any of the bars or restaurants on any cruise ship.
Anyway the latest rumours are that we won’t get into Ponta Delgado and we’re due to get hit by a force 10 storm as we make a run for home. And when we reach the UK we’ll be greeted with three foot of snow and Christmas (like all Christian festivals) will be cancelled in favour of a more politically correct celebration. But there’s nothing left in the shops anyway because of the black Friday lootings and all the turkeys have had to be destroyed because of deadly bacteria lurking in the skin.
Well I just don’t have enough space to list any more of them as there are so many.
Let’s just wait and see…..this could get even more stupid!!!!!
St Lucia…rollercoaster to Mamiku
16th November 2014
St Lucia…one Piton or two?
We have very fond memories of previous trips to this lush green island. It’s friendly people, beautiful vistas and pristine beaches could make the weariest of travellers find a new lease of life. We’ve already done the party catamaran to see the Pitons, taxi ride to Soufriere, the hot springs and an unforgettable trip to the Diamond Falls and botanical gardens.
This time we’ve opted for a trip out to Mamiku Gardens on the eastern coast overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. First up though is the taxi ride to get there and here is where the reference to the rollercoaster begins.
St Lucia’s roads are serious stuff and as the engine of the bus we’re in whines its protest up a virtually impossible slope there is a very strong smell of hot metal and we all start wonder if we’re going to make it to the top…….
Then we finally reach the brow of the hill and are greeted with the scariest view of the downward incline we’re about to negotiate and you can hear our fellow travellers praying the brakes work well…..or just work would be good.
Anyhow….after around forty five minutes of stomach churning up and down lurching we arrive at the entrance to the gardens which are perched on the side of a hill.
And what a treat awaited us…firstly we are introduced to our guide, a nice lady (and I mean a proper lady) who is not only the gardener responsible for the landscaping and layout of this place, but she’s also the owner.
Veronica Shingleton Smith is a gem and as she directs us around her creation she imparts her wealth of knowledge about the shrubs, trees and flowers she has grown gracefully old with. They are her babies and she will even tell you how many flowers each of them produced in past years…..incredible.
Add to that all the information she gives us about how the islanders use this vegetation to ward off or cure certain afflictions then suddenly we’re all very interested.
There are pungent leaves to infuse for headaches or gastric upsets. Tamarind which they juice to lower blood pressure, a leaf the men chew to ward off prostate problems and finally we arrive at the Noni tree.
Now there are many claims made about the health benefits of consuming the fruit of the Noni tree and the stories told by VSS would appear to endorse these theories. I will just say that I agree totally with this sweet lady’s statement that science will probably discover in the natural world the cure for just about everything.
We got to sample some of the tamarind juice along with a couple of very strong rum punches at the end of the tour, and I have to add that the couple of hours we were there flew by thanks to the very enjoyable company of Veronica.
Mamiku only ranks as #41 on Trip Advisor things to do in St Lucia…it should be higher….a really good half days tour.
Back in Castries and, yep you guessed it, it’s beer o’clock.
It’s a hot day, with a few tropical showers included for good measure, so some serious fluid replacement is required.
And that was it really…not much happened but we did have a really good visit. So once again we bid goodbye to another of our favourite islands and dream of many happy returns.
Grenada…Mt Carmel Hike
15th November 2014
Grenada…Nice n Spicey!
Last time we were here it was a Sunday and most of the town stayed shut. But not today and as the ship docked you could almost hear the surrounding area whirring and revving into action (a few crunching gears could be detected as well, but maybe that was just some of the passengers starting to move about)
Unlike Barbados this seems to be a much quieter island and although it has its fair share of cruise ships the atmosphere feels a little more ‘laid back’.
Again there a lot to do here, snorkelling, kayaking, gardening, etc, and for the not so faint of heart there is the infamous Rhum Runner trips. Loud music accompanied by lots of rum punch and limbo competitions await the party goer…and boy do they go. The rum punch would fetch the paint off the walls it’s that strong, and after one or two even the shyest octogenarian is stripping off her corset and whirling it round her head before launching herself under a limbo pole. Strange because not 20 minutes earlier she was stooped over a walking frame, I think it’s time to introduce free Caribbean rum punch on the NHS.
Then of course there are the wonderful white sandy beaches….but none of this is for us today as we have a hike in the mountains planned.
Are we mad? It’s 30 degrees in the shade with the humidity at around 80% and we’re passing up a Rhum Runner trip for a hike!!
Okay we like to try different things……so away we go.
We’re off to find Mt Carmel, the highest waterfall on the island, which according to the brochure ‘is just waiting to be discovered’. But as there is also a picture of the falls then I’m thinking someone must have already found it.
Our driver and guide, Skipper, is great company and soon has us laughing and joking despite many sudden downpours of the wet stuff.
“It may be a bit wet and slippery,” he tells us.
But boy oh boy he was so wrong because it turned out to be exceptionally drenched and more slippery than trying to walk on a sheet of glass covered in washing up liquid…in socks. The 15 minute stroll to the waterfall turns into an hour’s ascent up the north face of the Eiger….without ropes and crampons…..but we all work together and have some really great fun.
By the time we reach our destination, made more impressive by the current weather conditions, we’re all covered head to toe in caked mud. But no one has been injured (luckily) and everyone is still smiling (surprisingly) despite the knowledge that we still have to return back the way we came at some point.
And was it worth the effort…..was it ever.
The waterfall was an impressive waterfall but the sense of achievement somehow made it seem even more spectacular.
Long story short but we made it back in one piece (obviously) and after a quick shower and fresh set of clothes we headed off to explore the town of St Georges.
We climbed the steps to fort George overlooking the harbour, but alas it was closed. So we made our way down the other side of the hill to ‘The Carenage’, the old harbour/port area, principally to find a bar.
Fortunately this was a fairly easy task and we found ourselves in a very quaint place with open views across the harbour mouth. Nice food and cold beer always welcome.
We did try to find somewhere to buy a newspaper….not because we wanted to see any depressing news, but we needed something to stuff into our sodden shoes to help dry them out. But alas there were none to be found.
Ah well I don’t think we’ll be doing much hiking anytime soon!!
Great day out Grenada….with the mud and the crud and the beer.
A good reason for rain….
6th November 2014
Oh look……it’s a sea day!
It’s been a little bit rough over the last 24 hours and today the sky is full of billowing clouds……I feel a poem coming on.
God lifts the water from the sea
To paint his sky majestically,
With candy floss of every shape
From smiling face to swinging ape.
A bird, a bear, or just a ball
Then building, swirling, growing tall
As veiled in grey dark mists surround
With thunder, lightning, raining down.
Uniquely formed each quickly dies
It’s tears to empty from the skies.
And so my friend don’t curse the rain
God clears his sky to start again.
J Arthur Gray Nov 14
Madeira tomorrow, let’s hope the weather improves.