The Fire – the follow-up (aka Yet Another Sea Day)

Rumour 1: Arcadian Rhodes’ galley.
Rumour 2: A photocopier in the back office

Personally, judging by the smell, I think it was possibly a coffee machine.

Edit: Apparently, it was a printer. So now you know. Apparently, printers can burst into flames. And when they do, they give off quite a sweet smell, for some reason. Worth knowing…

It’s odd, but the quietest place on the ship is actually the place you would expect to be the noisiest. It’s the bar through which you have to walk to get from most places to most other places. But the Intermezzo bar has no music, no coffee machine, no cocktail blender and, for the most part, no people. Although they hold Spanish classes here in the mornings, after that, it’s just a thoroughfare. People may talk as they walk through or past, but for large chunks of time, there’s not a soul around. It also has, in my ever so humble opinion, the best wifi connection on the whole ship. So, ideal, really. In the past few minutes, only the chime of the lifts arriving around the corner have disturbed the silence. It’s lovely. [So silent, in fact, that I fell asleep for nearly an hour!]

It is also almost completely odour-free, which is more than can be said for the rest of the ship. Many parts of the ship pong to high heaven, with smells that vary in intensity, but all of which seem to centre around one of three smells –sewers or varnish, or, occasionally, cigarettes. Them’s your options. Trust me, finding an odour-free corner is an achievement in itself. In fact, dad has said on more than one occasion that you know when you’ve stepped back on board because you’re hit by the smells, even while you’re still out on deck. And his sense of smell is rubbish. Arcadia is, without a shadow of a doubt, the smelliest ship we’ve ever been on.

I’m sitting here, just watching the world go by (read: watching people pouring out of the dining room after lunch) doing some Sudoku and pondering life in general. I went up on deck with mum and dad in shorts and sandals but, although it was about 19 degrees, it was raining and a bit windy, so I went back to the cabin and changed and decided to stay indoors today. As far as I know, they’re still sitting out there with their feet in puddles. The weather forecast for Ponta Delgada tomorrow is 22 degrees but overcast. Jeans, I think, rather than shorts…

A quick note about currency. This is quite an important fyi for anyone who intends to travel on P&O. On board P&O ships, they will change your currency into local currency quite willingly and not at a particularly bad rate of exchange, either. And yet, when it comes to Euros, they will only deal in 5s, 10s and 20s. They will not deal in anything above a 20 Euro note. So if your bank gives you 50s, 100s or, heaven forbid, a 200 Euro note, you’re stuffed. They won’t break it for you on board. You’ll find yourself stuck trying to pay a taxi driver with, essentially, a 200 pound note. And they won’t appreciate it.

We have had plenty of people sharing our table during this cruise. Let’s see if I can remember them all: Sheila and David, Hayley, John and Ted, Monica, Betty and John, Carolyn and Bill, and now Sally and Bert.

Of those, no less than two of the men (note that it’s always the MEN that do this) have made it clear that they won’t eat “foreign muck”, that is to say, anything other than ‘British’ food. And, yes, they both used this actual expression. Foreign muck. Which is also rather rude. Now, you know as well as I do that the national dish of Great Britain is chicken tikka masala and that, only this week, pasta was voted the world’s favourite food (not rice!). So if you’re the type of person who refuses to eat anything remotely not roast and veg or fish and chips, are you missing out? Is there a point at which you have to say, ‘well, I’ll give it a try – it clearly doesn’t kill people’. Does none of it sound or look appealing in any way whatsoever? Doesn’t Chinese food at least SMELL inviting?

I can’t remember the last time we went to an ‘English’ restaurant. We got to mostly Italian, Chinese, Thai, French, Greek or Turkish. And I’m considered unadventurous among my friends. Is there even such a thing as an English restaurant? I suppose you could call the Imperial, down the road, English – they do roasts and stuff – but when we go there, we have salt beef sandwiches! That’s not English! Salt beef comes from Eastern Europe/ Scandinavia! Is an omelette English? It doesn’t sound English.

Or is it quasi-political? Is the not eating simply because it’s “forin” and to hell with whether it actually tastes good or not? I find the whole thing very confusing, and even more so when I try to work out what on Earth is left to eat if you take out all the “foreign muck” from the equation. So, let’s see. Pasta is out, curry is out – in fact, anything with rice or noodles is out. Even risotto is Italian. No nuts of any kind, no coconut. Cous cous is out, pizza is out. (You can tell I’m mentally going through my cupboards, can’t you?) No meat in breadcrumbs (veal, turkey or chicken) – that’s a schnitzel and so from Austria and therefore definitely out. Hang on, what about turkey? The entire species of bird is not native to England – they were brought over from India. Where do they fit?

Is steak and chips English or foreign? If I want a good steak, I go to a French restaurant. Does the hamburger count as foreign? Does American food generally count as foreign, for that matter? Or is anything “Anglo-Saxon” acceptable? Where does seafood fit in? Does fish have to be caught in British waters or have a British-sounding name? John Dory comes from the Pacific doesn’t it? Can’t get much more British-sounding than a fish called John, surely? Salmon may come from Scotland, but it is also very common in Alaska – it’s what the bears live on, for a start! So is it “British”? In the Azores, they cook a meat and veg dish called Cozido das Furnas. This is only meat and veg in another tongue. Is that okay or is that forin? They do cook it in a geothermal vent, though (using the steam escaping from a volcano), which you can’t do in Britain…

You can have ordinary bread, I suppose, but not bagels or challah or baguette or naan. What about granary bread? I’m sure they contain things like sesame seeds and poppy seeds, which are definitely not native to Britain. No paninis, that’s for sure, whatever bread you use. No matzah, although there are other “water biscuits” that might be British enough. I’m guessing Ryvita would be a no? Not sure where muffins fit, although I think teacakes, scones and crumpets would be okay. What about a ham and cheese toastie? That’s a Croque Monsieur!

And no ice cream or sorbets of any kind. Ever.

What about chocolate? The cacao plant is native to Costa Rica, I’ve seen one growing! What about fruit? Apples, pears and plums may be okay, along with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and bilberries but oranges, satsumas, nectarines, peaches, bananas, watermelon, all the other types of melon, kiwi fruit, pineapple… nope, none of them.

What about wine? There is one very good English wine on this ship, but the rest is definitely from overseas somewhere. What about other forms of alcohol? Bacardi comes from Jamaica, cognac and champagne come from France, Malibu comes from the Caribbean, tequila comes from Mexico, vodka comes from Russia/ Poland, Curaçao comes from… Curaçao in the Dutch Antilles, Campari and Cinzano are Italian. I think even gin is made in France! I’ve seen one of these men drinking Scotch (does Irish whiskey count as forin?), but also “brandy”. Is it Courvoisier – in which case, that’s French. I’m not even sure there’s such a thing as English brandy, is there? What about tea and coffee, for that matter? Neither grow in Britain. So where’s the line there? ‘I won’t eat foreign muck, but I’ll drink it’? Should we just put the spaghetti in the blender?!

It’s all very weird and sounds desperately unappealing to me, and yet also at the same time rather primitive. It’s starting to sound like a very Olde Englishe diet – similar to how they might have eaten, say, five hundred years ago – although they didn’t limit themselves to this extent, they imported stuff, same as we do, it just wasn’t as common or as cheap. But why would you limit your life in this way? It sounds like a miserable existence! What could you possibly hope to achieve? Where’s the benefit? There must be one, somewhere, otherwise they wouldn’t bother, but I’m sure I can’t find it. I know for a fact* that you cannot die of spaghetti poisoning, so it’s not a safety issue. I daren’t ask at the table. So I’m asking you, my miniscule but loyal readership. Any ideas?

*Prove me wrong, I dare you.


2 thoughts on “The Fire – the follow-up (aka Yet Another Sea Day)

  1. hormiga says:

    Prove you wrong, no fear – I wouldn’t dare.

    Good info for your book though !

  2. df says:

    So sad. I bet they read the daily mail!

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