Sea Day Bits and Pieces

This is a summary of musings from four sea days. I could do individual entries, but they wouldn’t amount to much! So if it seems a bit random or bitty, sorry.

I got a letter today (Thursday 16 June) telling me my onboard account has been frozen, as my credit card has been rejected. I’ve been online and, guess what? P&O received payment of my most recent account IN FULL on 14 June 2011. So tomorrow, I have to go to Reception and bang heads together. Again. Seriously, what is the matter with these people?! On the plus side, Dad had to buy my drink at dinner!

I printed off some photos of Salem and took them to the Restaurant Manager. One of the ‘witches’ hanged during the Salem Witch Trials was called John Willard and the Restaurant Manager’s name is… John Willard. He was delighted by the whole thing. He knew nothing about the Salem Witch Trials, but I think he will be googling it at some point in the near future! We offered to check his neck for rope burns, but he declined…

The rumours about what happened at LA rumble on. Here’s today’s: Two people (not British) refused to be immigrated at all until they were escorted through at gunpoint.

Just to think, most of the anger about what happened at LA could have been avoided if P&O had just put out some chairs. We’re British, we’ll queue as long as it takes, but you didn’t have to make us STAND for two hours. Dad pointed out that if they had treated lifestock the way we were treated – no food, no water, no sanitation, nowhere to rest or sit down, for nine and a half hours– they would have been prosecuted. Interesting point!

There was no air conditioning at dinner. No idea why. I had to fan myself the whole time – an hour and a half less actual knife and fork time. But at least I can now buy drinks – my account has been unfrozen – although I’m not sure why, I haven’t been to Reception to yell at anyone yet!

Princess Cruises staff have been spotted in several Alaskan ports, offering food and services to no one in particular, as their cruises have not yet started for the season. The theory is that there are Princess customers on this ship. Curiouser and curiouser.

At Boston, even with the quasi-organised raffle ticket business, there was chaos. Apparently, after we’d gone into town on the first wave of buses, they just kept calling more numbers, even though all ten shuttles had departed for town and there were no buses left to get onto til they came back. The queue backed all the way back to the ship and they still kept calling them. Twits. And then, there was further pushing and shoving and someone actually threw a punch! To be fair, she had just been called a silly old trout, but then again, she had pushed in quite egregiously…

The days are getting shorter. By this, I don’t mean that the nights are drawing in. We get home before Midsummer’s Eve. Just. On the contrary, the evenings are getting lighter and lighter, because for four days in a row, now, we have lost an hour at lunchtime. If this sounds like an easy way of crossing time zones, it isn’t. In fact, almost everyone on the ship – every passenger, that is, the crew seem just fine (that is, no dimmer or less helpful than before…) – is wandering around in a semi-zombie-like daze, unable to accomplish even the most basic of tasks. The amount of conversation has increased dramatically. People are happy to stop and talk because that’s all they can muster up the energy to do. In the restaurant, no one eats. Who has the energy to chew?! I’m just filling a plate with rice and moving it about. If you’ve ever experienced the true, body-stopping, mind-freezing horror that is proper jetlag, imagine if it lasted for four days. Fun, it ain’t.

Still, during the bits where I can focus, I’ve finished another book. “Life in Year One” by Scott Korb, sub-titled, ’What the World was Like in First-Century Palestine’. I’m pretty sure that hyphen is gratuitous, but that’s what it says. And by Palestine, he means Galilee with the occasional reference to Jerusalem. Although I bought this in San Francisco, Dad actually read it first, and it annoyed him considerably, because the author must say over twenty times in 208 pages, “We don ‘t know”. Of course, we don’t KNOW. It was two thousand years ago and they didn’t have blogs and cameras and flash drives to record their day-to-day (or in this particular instance, early hours of the morning) musings. What we are looking for from you is an educated, well-read GUESS. Well, no luck there then either. The bibliography is less than seven and a half pages. So you find he quotes the same people and the same books over and over and over and over and over and over…

But my main problem with this book is none of the above, and it’s one that I find personally worrying, as it directly affects the suggestion that these blogs be converted into a book of some kind. He writes as he talks. And it’s exhausting. Finding a footnote that reads, and I quote, “The pope doesn’t get it”, is a startling, not to mention disorientating, experience. And this leads me to a conundrum. I write as I talk. This is a blog. That’s sort of what you’d expect, isn’t it? But, if this book is anything to go by, that does not translate well into readable print. Still, I suppose it worked for Candace Bushnell. Your thoughts, as ever, would be appreciated.

It’s frustrating, because the book is, actually, when you get past the colloquialisms and the Americanisms and the endless repetition, very interesting. Leprosy doesn’t mean leprosy, it means psoriasis (and Joseph Merrick didn’t have elephantiasis, while we’re at it), Rome was very tolerant of Judaism (Emperor Agrippa II “…I would have everyone worship God according to the laws of their own country”) and Herod died of worms, but only after he’d gone mad (mind you, don’t blame him – if worms were eating my genitals, I’d probably go mad too). Like I said, quite fascinating, when you get down to the actual content. However, there is no chronology or timeline and he bounces back and forth quite considerably, so don’t try and keep it straight in your head historically. If you do, you’ll just wake up in the early hours of the morning thinking “WHICH Herod?”

What he has done is introduce me to a new writer, who appears in one of his footnotes. I’ve heard of her, but I’ve never read her, but I’m definitely going to. He quotes Susan Sontag as follows, “Patients who are instructed that they have, unwittingly, caused their disease are also being made to feel that they have deserved it”. This is page 56 of Illness as a Metaphor, which I shall be Amazoning as soon as I can afford it (which may not be for a while, granted…). As an M.E. sufferer, I want to know what she has to say about people who are repeatedly told that their illness is completely psychosomatic (imagined/ in their heads/ not with any medical foundation whatsoever). Although why anyone would choose to have nystagmus (spasms of the muscles that control the eye – one of the symptoms of M.E. that affects depth perception and balance), has yet to be explained…

Anyway, back to the book. Korb should have stopped when he had the chance. The last chapter is a complete letdown. It’s a pseudo-political opinion/travel piece about his own, personal visit to Bethlehem and has absolutely no relevance whatsoever to the rest of the book, except to say that whatever confusion existed in “Palestine” 2000 years ago, still exists. Edifying stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. Because no one could have worked that bit out for themselves…

I’ve packed. It took me an hour and a half on Friday morning (followed by a nap to recover) and then another hour or so at lunchtime to finish. All that’s left now is underwear and the few clothes and bottles I still need. Dad is flabbergasted, but I wanted to knock it on the head so that I don’t have it hanging over me all the time. It also meant that any damage I did could be addressed by my last massage, which was lovely, although I think Alex was a little shocked at just how much hurt I seemed to have created!

Why do drunk people have to laugh so loud? Even the slightest thing becomes uproariously funny to these people. We’re just sitting here, trying to get a last dose of sun before we get back to the Channel, many are reading, most are dozing. But by the bar there are half a dozen or so people, who clearly went to the Round the World lunch (free food and drink for those going all the way round) and are continuing to drink up here on deck. Fine. But SHUT! UP! Nothing, I repeat, nothing, is THAT funny that you have to roar and holler at every joke so loud that you wake everyone on deck. It’s not just inconsiderate, which we expect from you – you’re the drunk bunch and we see you propping up every bar we pass, we expect you to act inconsiderately – it’s the disproportion that angers me. I haven’t made a noise like that when told the best jokes I’ve heard in my life. There is nothing to justify that level of noise. You’re just doing it to show off and draw attention to yourselves, and apart from the fact that you look ridiculous on deck in a suit – you were so desperate for another drink that you couldn’t even stop at your cabin to change? – you aren’t that interesting to look at and you and your wives are FAR from good-looking, no matter how proud you may be of your Chesterfield sofa-coloured tans. So stop drawing attention to yourselves and shut the hell up.

The passengers are falling apart. There are falls, slings, wheelchairs, crutches and sticks everywhere you look. On Friday alone, I know of one woman who fell down the stairs and broke her shoulder and various other bits and another man damaged his knee. It’s a madhouse. Rumours has it that some people do it deliberately (although I think we can leave the lady who fell down the stairs out of it) so that they get special treatment to get home, instead of being harried ashore like a herd of cattle whose cowherd is late for market.

Assessment Party call. Level 1 Zone 3. This is a reason to leave the cabin SHARPISH. Not least because I’m on level 1. Assessment Party is the “don’t alarm the passengers” way of saying FIRE. And the greatest fear on a ship is not water, it’s fire. Think about it. Where do you run to? When I get to the midships lifts, I can’t go any further. The fire doors are shut. This is a Good Thing because, even with them shut, I can smell the smoke. I walk up to level 2, which is where I was aiming for, although I was aiming to be on ‘tother side of said fire doors, right down the other end of the ship in the Spinnaker Bar with my mates. However, stuck where I was, I was able to see three crew don full fireman’s outfits (yellow), complete with helmets (yellow) (although not breathing gear)before heading through the fire doors. I chatted to a couple of other passengers until a new friend of mine turned up and we went for a natter in the art gallery bar while we waited for the excitement to die down. It didn’t take long. Certainly not enough time for us to finish our drinks or our gossip, when Michael came to tell us the doors were back open and we could head off to our intended destinations. Bit warm round the ship at the mo. I suppose flames will do that… Looks like the fire was in the galley (kitchen) of Arcadian Rhodes, the posh dining option for which you pay extra. I assume flambé wasn’t intended to be on the menu tonight…

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