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.
Sunday 21st September 2014
Sea Day – What makes us human?
I have been listening with great interest to a show on BBC Radio 2, and one of the ongoing topics of discussion has provoked some intense thoughts and feelings of my own. The host has invited some of the great and good of our society to outline their thoughts on the subject of what makes us human, to give us the listener some insight into the way these different individuals, with varied experience of our world, think about what make us the very unique and extremely complex people we undoubtedly are. I have become captivated by the discussion and feel somewhat compelled to express my own ideas.
So for me…………what makes us human?
Today, surrounded by the vast Atlantic Ocean, an insignificant speck in this wonderful miracle we all inhabit, I thought I’d be serious for once………
It is certainly very easy to state all the different individual characteristics which make each of us good and honourable citizens of the world, or good humans if you prefer. Compassion, generosity, patience, tolerance, perseverance, these are all positive and admirable traits which allow us to be welcomed into society with open arms and held high as role models, encouraging others to follow in our footsteps and take up these preferred and highly acceptable characteristics.
But I’m assuming this topic of discussion is more about what collectively sets us aside from any other life form rather than just identifying the desirable attributes we should all adopt to make this world a better place to live and thus create a more human society.
What really makes mankind different, what drives us as a species, what wholly separates us from the animals?
It is certainly a fact that some of the positive individual traits I have already mentioned can be seen demonstrated to varying degrees by many of the creatures we share this amazing planet with, but no one would ever consider them to be human. It would also be fair to say there are many of our fellow homosapians who possess few if any good characteristics and in fact regularly demonstrate negative attributes like cruelty, dishonesty and intolerance which are considered wholly undesirable and antisocial. But does this make them any less a human??
Now I’m not a religious person, which doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God or consider that maybe there is a higher being in charge of all of this, and it is said in the bible that God created man in his own image. Now I’m sure the theologians will give many varied interpretations of this statement, but mainly it is believed to mean we have been given freewill to make our own choices. We are also gifted with insight and judgment, which enables us to consider the potential consequences to our decisions, and armed with this knowledge many may still choose to do the right thing for the greater good for all, even at great personal cost. So does this answer the question of what makes us human as no animal would ever do this, as all animals act instinctively in their own individual interest? Well that could be part of the answer but for me there is more to it than that.
Personally I think it is our creativity that makes us human, we haven’t just evolved physically through procreation, we have survived as a species and evolved quicker than our friends the animals because we have successfully developed our natural ability to imagine, design and create. The skill and knowledge acquired over the centuries is used to improve the things we already have and give us an ability to invent and develop anything we need to make our existence considerable better. This doesn’t just include the physical things that have helped us to progress, like machinery, electricity and medicines, but also extends to the concepts, ideas, systems and theories which develop our personalities and attitudes.
Although mankind can’t take any of the credit for creating God, there have been many different religions and cultures put in place by man to answer a need. They were developed to give us ethics and moral guidance, comfort in time of need, plausible explanations to our desire to understand about how we came to exist and the meaning of life. Religion and culture created and bonded the early communities and gave the local citizens support, but best of all religion offered its faithful disciples a promise of a continuation of life beyond their physical existence. Culture like humans has evolved to keep relevance with time, constantly developing all but the basic core values in order to meet the ever changing needs of the people, and so it gives a purpose and identity, with or without a god.
Government was created to give us rules, enhance social structure, protect and nurture its citizens and develop the means for countries to grow and prosper.
Technology not only gives us a more efficient way to make things, travel and communicate, but literally assists us to live longer healthier and happier lives.
And all of this has been created by humans, but why?
The answer for me is very simple, it gives us the one thing we all crave and desire, the one thing that drives our every waking moment, keeps us going through this life at an unbelievable pace, we create to give us HOPE.
Not the negative and selfish ‘I want it all’ type hope, although that exists today more than ever, but the simple hope that just wants everything to be a little bit better for everybody.
A hope for a better future, for peace, an ability to cure disease and eliminate suffering, to prolong our useful life, maintaining a state of happiness and enjoyment. Our biggest hope is probably the desire for an extension of being beyond this physical existence and the knowledge we will participate in an eternity of continuing wonderful experiences.
Hope unites us in a way that nothing else can. It crosses all cultural barriers and standardises every religion. It drives us to invest unquantifiable time and resources into the technology and research in the quest for more answers. Hope gives life a meaning and a purpose, and yet for each of us hope is as simple as it is different, and tomorrow it can all change.
From great thinkers to reward winning directors, dedicated religious and community leaders to world renown rock legends, from the rich and famous to an average nobody like me, hope drives us, inspires us and gives us the strength to face whatever life may throw at us.
‘What makes us human?” for me it’s our endless search for Hope and the optimistic comfort it delivers…………..and yet it promises nothing.
19th-20th September 2014
Bostin’ Boston – Massachusetts
For those not used to Black Country terminology bostin’ means great or even superb. We’ve been here before and this is another place we really like. Boston has a very unique heritage having been the centre for the fight for independence against the oppressive English and the ‘Freedom Trail’ here is very interesting and thought provoking. That aside it’s a very, very, very nice place to visit. There’s a lot of construction going on and it’s very clear that Boston is also looking to build a thriving new modern city as well attracting visitors with its historical past.
So firstly it’s another beautiful day (ye gods are definitely smiling our way) but the bad news is there’s no shuttle busses being laid on and it’s three miles into town. The queue for local transport is huge, so what other choice do we have? Oh well off we go, and to be fair it’s a pleasant easy walk and within forty minutes we’re at central wharf in the centre of town.
We have a whale watch booked with Boston Harbor Cruises, which we booked direct and saved ourselves over £50 compared with the ship tour going with the same company. We are aware that the morning tour was cancelled because of rough weather beyond the harbour (my spellchecker just quit because I keep spelling harbor/harbour wrong) Unfortunately this afternoons event has also been cancelled…….ah well, at least we get our money back. But then there’s so much to see and do here it’s not really a problem to make alternative plans. So we walk the ‘Freedom Trail’ and generally have a great afternoon in the city.
After a return to the ship to shower and change it’s time for our first theatre trip to see ‘Blue Man Group’ at the Charles Playhouse. But first let’s get some food…..erm Chinatown here we come. We stroll up and down for a few minutes and choose the busiest place, which is more like a canteen than a restaurant. But we’re not disappointed, the food is great and more importantly cheap (how do they do it?) Yes the attitude of the staff is a bit gruff and there is a great discussion and pointing in our direction when we refuse the offer of knives and forks, but the deliciously mounded plates of food makes it all worthwhile.
Following the food comes the show…….and what a great show. I admit I’m not a one for the theatre but this was nearly two hours of very cleverly choreographed fun. It’s simple but complex and appealing to old and young (and grumpy gits) alike. Definitely worth the money, and the walk which of course is a useful way of burning off all those ‘sweet and sour’ calories, but there’s a small price to pay for our energetic enthusiasm and as our second day dawns over Boston we can hardly move…….oh the joys of older age.
After a quick rub down with an oily rag (have you seen the towels recently?) we head off refreshed into the centre. Today the mission is most definitely food, more specifically Quincy Market food. A good long walk into town certainly improves the appetite and after enjoying a couple of the street entertainers the fun begins with some pizza slices. Mmmmm, mmmm. Then we share a bread bowl of delicious clam chowder and finish the whole thing off with a disgustingly large ice cream from ‘Sprinkles’. What more can I say? The food here speaks volumes for itself, and we never got round to sampling the masses of Chinese, sandwiches, wraps, lobster stacks, hoagies, hot dogs and burgers. I’ve said it before but I’m not surprised at the size of some of the locals here, they certainly don’t skimp on the portions. Yes it’s not cheap (compared to last night’s Chinese it’s very pricey) but it’s so worth spoiling any diet, after all we are on holiday J
Well, that was it really. A slow amble back to the ship and a farewell sail away from one (of many) of our favourites. You can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be back, there’s still so much left to try.
Bostin’ Boston with bostin’ fittle…..and that one I’ll leave to your imagination because New York here we come, I just hope the weather continues and we all have a wonderful time in the ‘Big Apple’ (hmm there’s a reference to food again but let’s hope it’s not that healthy)
Goodbye Boston…..we’ll be back
7th September 2014
St John’s – Newfoundland
Right……time for this blogger to get serious…..why?
Well because St John’s is a seriously good place to visit.
We docked fairly early and as usual we waited for most of the rest of the ship to disembark before we headed ashore, mainly because it takes so long to get all those going on the ships tours off the boat it’s easier to have a lazy breakfast and take our time. Anyway the weather is fantastic, a lovely warm and sunny day but quite humid, still mustn’t grumble.
We set off toward Signal Hill, the place the first transatlantic cable came ashore back in the 1800’s, and a great lookout spot for the troops at the time to place their big cannon to protect their settlement. On the way up the steep hill we came across the Geo-park and took a detour to explore the history of the area via reconstructions of the structures and dwellings of the first settlers. Very interesting even if there was no running water, wi-fi or memory foam mattresses.
There were quite a number of people around us but we were surprised to note that we’re the only tourists, everyone else was a local resident busily picking the plethora of wild bilberries for their tea.
So we pressed on up the hill, now having to work harder to battle the strengthening wind near the top. The views were amazing, only spoilt by masses of other tourists clamouring for the best spot overlooking the bay.
The real beauty of the place is that from this spot several coastal paths have been meticulously constructed and for the next two hours we ambled around these boardwalks admiring the wonderful sights around each corner.
We return to the road leading back into the town via the estuary path which would have been quite treacherous in the past, but now it’s been made so easy and enjoyable to walk along with the construction of a meandering wooden pathway. We stopped to peruse a map we’d been given at the terminal (there is that awful word again) and several of the locals stop to show concern that we may be lost or even worse not enjoying ourselves in their town. They point us in the direction of the local lake (a short walk away) and tell us there’s a quaint fishing village at the far end of the lake with a pub which produces its own ale. Before they have time to wish us well on our journey we’re off, after all who can resist local brew. However on reaching the lake we realise that reaching the pub before the ship sails is very unlikely…….considering this lake is almost the size of Wales. Ah well, maybe next time.
We finally made it back into the town centre and visit the cathedral where you have to be careful of falling masonry pretty much everywhere inside the main sanctuary???????? I reckon back in the UK the whole place would have been condemned until the whole of the roof was replaced.
The walk had taken its toll and we needed refreshment. More locals had obviously noticed this fact and we were swamped with recommendations. Most of them cited ‘The Duke’ as the best purveyor of fish and chips in the region so once again off we set, hoping this time our goal was still in the northern hemisphere.
Fortunately it wasn’t too far away and we’d just made it into ‘The Duke’ when the heavens opened and what can only be described as a deluge continued for around an hour. Lucky or what??
Now I’m not the greatest lover of fish, for me it’s all a bit too fishy, but it is fair to say this was fish so fresh it melted in the mouth, just delicious. The beer was really good as well and after the rain had finally abated we set back off for the ship, our faces bathed with the broadest of smiles following a truly special day……..Thank you St John’s.
The verdict…….this is a great place to visit but be warned the hills are steep and bountiful. The wind when it blows is nothing short of a hurricane and if the locals direct you somewhere assume it’s on the other side of the world. Oh and one more warning, don’t stop and stand too close to the edge of the pavement unless you intend to cross the road. Why? Well because all the drivers we saw slammed on the anchors if any pedestrian was within spitting distance of the kerb. On more than one occasion we weren’t intending on crossing but felt obligated to when cars stopped in unison, from both directions, whenever they saw us even deviate slightly as we walked down the road. Really considerate but so bloody annoying.
4th September 2014
Sea Day – again but who’s counting?
Well it’s Thursday, three days at sea behind us and still three more days to run until we reach land. Surprisingly the weather has been holding up well, the sun’s shining, the seas are calm at the moment and I’ve managed to redden my nose in the most dramatic fashion. It must be something to do with this particular ship as the last time we were on here we both managed to underestimate the power of the sun when combined with a very cooling Atlantic breeze.
The captain has entertained us daily with the usual midday report from the bridge on the state of the sea, the state of the sky and the state of the ship. Thankfully ‘all is well’ and he really seems to relish telling us things that ‘we may or may not believe’. But we’re all having a bit of trouble understanding his thick Scandinavian accent and most of his report sounds quite garbled. Let’s hope that when the call to ‘abandon ship’ is made we don’t all think he’s just announced ‘A ban on chips’ and everyone throws themselves over board from the sheer disappointment of such a catastrophe (Ah just realised……..same effect really so jobs a ‘gud un’)
There’s appears to be a new game worth playing at the moment as the vast majority of our fellow travellers are intent on catching a glimpse of whales. So we’re playing the cruising equivalent of standing in a busy street and looking up, with some amazing results. Standing on the decks and pointing out toward the horizon will almost guarantee a crowd of bystanders within minutes, convinced that they too have just seen a pod of dolphins or group of whales passing by. So funny. There are a few very keen individuals who spend most of their time at the front of the ship, dressed for arctic conditions and sporting camera equipment that could photo a fly’s eye at 100 yards. But strangely the majority of ‘proper’ sightings have been brief and purely by chance, so these keen naturalists have been mainly disappointed by the lack of whale activity.
Out in the middle of the ocean for days you start to appreciate the vastness of our planet and our own total insignificance in the grand scheme of things. We strive to fill our lives with all the trappings of modern life and yet the sheer beauty and wonder of nature is right there in front of us, and it’s free (if you don’t count the cost of the cruise that is lol)
1st September 2014
So once again we find ourselves on the way to Southampton en-route to some exotic destination on the other side of the world (well not really exotic as I’m not sure you can class Canada and USA in that way) But we’re certainly looking forward with anticipation to a really enjoyable trip with a mixture of big cities and small colonial towns.
We’ll be going with Fred Olsen this time, on their biggest ship MV Balmoral, and although we’ve had the pleasure of sailing on this vessel before we’re treating it as a brand new adventure, far away from our usually outings with P&O. It’ll be interesting to compare both the service we receive from the crew and the people we’ll meet and share this experience with.
From memory there is a much more relaxed atmosphere on Balmoral and although the food is not quite so elaborate and fussy, I remember it being well presented and very tasty. Once again I’ll need to remind myself that maybe, just maybe it’s not my job to attempt to consume every dish on offer in the first few days and I should at least take it easy for the first couple of weeks.
So off we go, and for the next thirty two nights we’re expecting fun, laughter and hopefully some inspirational moments to keep this expectant Bloggist’s contributions somewhat interesting for you the reader.
Readers????? Well….we can all live in hope
Packing for a holiday is a stressful and often soul destroying task involving several individual stages, each generating its own set of emotions.
1. Euphoria – the realisation that the meticulously planned and long awaited break is literally just around the corner and the time has arrived to assemble all the trapping required for perfect holiday brings on an immense feeling of joy and happiness. There’s a permanent smile attached to your face as you troll through the drawers and cupboards at home discovering all the wonderful clothes you’d forgotten existed.
2. Expectation – you have to try them on.
3. Irritation – nothing fits properly and you have absolutely no idea how your clothes have managed to mysteriously shrink so badly since you returned home from the previous vacation.
4. Hope – you vow to go on a diet immediately despite the fact there’s only a week to go before your departure.
5. Despair – you realise that your plan to lose the required amount of weight is probably way too ambitious and resign yourself to the fact you’ll just have to go shopping.
6. Excitement – you’re going shopping and that is something you definitely enjoy. Deep down you’re glad those ‘so last season outfits’ no longer fit you and convince yourself that you must have shrunk them deliberately on a hot wash so as to avoid any unforgivable future fashion foe pars which might simply ruin the holiday. You clever thing you!
7. Indecision – there are so many nice things in your favourite shop that you really like but just don’t know where to start.
8. Resolve – not to spend too much, after all the holiday has already cost you a small fortune.
9. Smugness – there are ample opportunities to tell all of the shop assistants who serve you about the adventure of a lifetime you’re about to embark on as they ask if you’re shopping for a special occasion. They’ll tell you how lucky you are and excitedly ask many questions like ‘Do you have any room in your case for me?’ and make many flattering statements like ‘That colour is just perfect for your complexion.’
10. Guilt – maybe you were a little too smug about your holiday and hope you didn’t upset any of the lovely shop assistants who fussed around and helped you choose so many wonderful new outfits.
11. Confusion – how on earth did you manage to buy so much more stuff than you were planning on? Seems like someone deliberately set out to distract your resolve. You feel mugged by shop assistants
12. Determination – with your new outfits all neatly assembled with the old stuff on the bed back home you realise that it’s not all going to fit in one case. You need to be considerably ruthless if you’re to get under the weight allowance.
13. Surprise – the pile of clothing you’ve assembled that equates to your weight allowance is dwarfed by three other enormous stacks of stuff you just have to take as well, not to mention the other two piles which you really would’ve liked to include had there been the slightest gap available.
14. Anguish – how on earth are you going to get by with so few possessions?
15. Hostility – stupid allowances!
16. Submission – not much choice really.
17. Loathing – stupid allowances. So many expectations yet so much disappointment. Why oh why oh why do I even bother?
18. Satisfaction – the taxi’s been outside for the past 15 minutes and the case is finally packed. It’s only taken a whole week and fifty three repacks but now it’s done and the padlock has been attached. Too late to change anything now.
19. Paranoia – what have I forgotten? There’s bound to be something.
20. Panic – you sift through the remaining mass of apparel and suddenly realise that all of the new clothes you bought are still strewn around the room in puddles. You quickly stuff a few of these items in your hand luggage, grab the suitcase and race for the taxi.
21. Denial – Stuff the baggage allowance, no one will notice.
22. Apathy – never…..ever……again.
I worry that I’m starting to forget things
So a drink helps me forget to worry about it
If something’s worth doing……..Someone is bound to form a committee.
The eyes that I look through
Have seen so much
From the unmatchable beauty of each season
To the heartless acts of destructive man
These are the same eyes that saw
My first day at school
All those years ago, crying when left alone
Eyes blurred and reddened, confused
At twenty one they looked down the aisle
Toward the one
Whose eyes had caught my eye, captivated
To want to see her always
Clearer than a photo put away in a drawer
To be forgotten
My eyes hold the memory of seeing my children
Enter this world, and my mother leave
And as they focus they reveal what’s important
Everything they show
Affects the way I feel, and I shut my eyes tight
To see everything clearly again