I am feeling grumpy. Be warned. This will not be the cheeriest of missives.

Tonight was a formal night and I made an effort. The mauve dress with a silver bolero, the Stratford-upon-Avon jewellery, the Newbury shoes. But I felt dreadfully over-dressed! I’ve never felt over-dressed before! The men were dressed in their tuxes, but the women just seemed to be wearing separates or simple dresses. I felt quite annoyed. What’s the point in having a formal if you’re just going to wear the same stuff you wear to semi-formal or casual nights?! It was also ridiculously hot, which did nothing to improve my mood. Maybe I’ll just go to bed. I’m certainly not very good company right now!

Tonight the clocks go back again, which is nice, but we are supposed to get up early to stare at the Panama Canal for twelve hours straight. I might not, if it’s all the same to you. Yes, it’s a marvel of modern engineering, but, you know what? It’s not twelve hours of interesting, sorry. It’s barely two hours of interesting, frankly. The ship’s photographers make a video and take lots of photos and then they show it on the telly. We travel about 40 miles in a day. We normally do that in a couple of hours. Trust me, you have never seen so much time-lapse photography in your life. It’s like watching a piece of 1930s cinema but in colour. And, be reasonable. How long can you stare at trees and scenery you’re going past at a walking pace? Even when you go walking, you don’t stare around you all the time, do you? You look at your feet, you look at your friends, you look at a map. The only variety here is walking to a different part of the ship for a change of perspective. The view barely moves. Trust me, it’s dull.

The story behind the canal, however, is very interesting indeed. If you ever get the chance to see A Man, A Plan, A Canal, you should watch it. It’s a fascinating (if patronisingly pro-American) insight into why the French failed (losing 22,000 lives in the process, mostly to landslides) and the Americans did not (losing only 5,500 during the entire ten-year dig and bringing the thing in not just on time but early AND under budget). And why and how the thing was dug, including statistics such as the fact that the lock doors are so finely balanced, they only use the engine power of a large lawnmower to open and close them. But the actual thing is a giant river with a couple of locks. The locks are quite interesting, the trains that pull us through are quite interesting (“mules”) but the main excitement is in the fact that we only have two feet at each end and two feet at each side, so we will get scraped to pieces. As soon as we moor up in Puntarenas, they’ll be out with the paintbrushes. And they’ll have to do it all again on the way back. Seriously, if you have spare cash, invest in marine paint manufacturers! Over thirty ships a day transit the canal and most of them will need repainting when they get out the other side. Invest in white paint, specifically, as that will cover all the cruise ships and the refrigerated freight ships too.

That’s about it, really. *shrug* My sunburn itches. I’m going to bed.


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