Groundhog Day

Well 16 months have passed since I wrote that last post, and at least four of my seven followers, (nine at peak times), have asked me why I suddenly stopped. I have to say that it was this simple; it just became too much. Taking care of two dotty parents, writing about it and photographing it at the same time, meant I just didn’t switch off, and given the lack of easy communication with the outside world, I decided that the blog would be put on the back burner to be picked up at a later date.  (I didn’t expect it would be quite so much later). Continuing with the photographic project was easier in the sense that I was still able to dedicate plenty of time to Mum and Dad, although they might have found staring down the lens of my camera a little tiresome after a while.

I’d also got to the point where I was running out of chirpy anecdotes about life on board.  I have no idea if that was because my brain was gradually reducing itself to something resembling fudge after nine days of the same conversation, and one day started to resemble the next. I did start to wonder if there is such a thing as cerebral repetitive stress injury?

Some respite was to be had on day 10 when we docked in Barcelona prior to the long “silent” slog back up to Southampton.  My good friend Erica discovered the true meaning of the term verbal diarrhoea when we met for lunch and I quite literally decompressed over a couple of very large glasses of wine.  I think those two hours were what gave me enough strength to face the next three days at sea.

I am pleased to say though that I did discover a way of disconnecting temporarily from all that was going on around me.  I’m not sure I would ever have picked up ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ had my situation not required extreme measures, but it proved to be the perfect antidote as I finally slumped into a free sun lounger on Day 11, wrapping myself up in three hoodies in the process as the ship rolled through a force six and up towards the Bay of Biscay and onto the home straight.

Cruise (1)

Days 6 & 7 .. preconceived ideas part 2

OK, I am happy (kinda) to say that my preconceived ideas were not too far off the mark, and the cruise is everything I feared it would be, and more!! I don’t mean the mum & dad bit, I mean the actual cruise bit. Apart from feeling like I have a walk on part in a 2012 mega grand scale remake of ‘Cocoon’, I just can’t get my head round any of it, it’s so bad it’s almost good.

Take today’s activities for example. If we didn’t want to take the tender ashore and part with our well earned holiday cash in Cannes, we could stay on board and take a course in how to play the slot machines better (thus parting with our well earned holiday cash in the casino), or perhaps take in an interesting talk on the sparkling properties of Tanzanite (funny, they have a special anniversary collection of Tanzanite for sale in the on ship boutique). Maybe we would like to go line dancing with the lovely Linda (who doesn’t appear to have seen an up to date hair magazine since 1987), or join the daily (well, on port days anyway) ‘sail away’ party around the pool with DJ Keith… and then get constantly reminded of what fun we are having.

I would like to think that not everyone is voluntarily taking part in DJ Keith’s poolside capers, rather they have just been rendered incapable of moving from their sun loungers due to the fact that they are wedged together like sardines (and have been ever since they bagged the spot at sunrise), and nobody can actually get out of the sun-bed squash until the fat bloke and his Kindle, and the little old lady doing still doing battle with the Sudoku from last weeks Sunday Express, who are sat closest to the edge, finally release the bottleneck and let the others go free.

Meanwhile down on the prom deck the tumble(sea)weed is moving around quite freely.

I am still blindingly optimistic that at some point Cap’n Phil will come over the tannoy and tell us to look out over the horizon to see what a pretty pink the sky has turned as the sun goes down, and how the evening light catches the bridges of the other ships way out yonder making them look like sea stars, or indeed how many different colours of blue there are in the wash generated by the mega big propellers, or how awesomely soothing the roar of the water is when you stand aft at full throttle (day or night, and only on the prom deck, any higher up it doesn’t count), and that really, it’s a damn sight better than listening to some has been that never was of a club singer belting out a particularly painful rendition of Phil Collins – Su-su-sudio (yo-hoh-woah-oah) down in the ‘understated elegance’, (think eighties neon meets eighties neon and has a baby), of the Manhattan bar.

Blindingly optimistic indeed…

Days 4 & 5 Ship to Shore

This whole writing to a deadline thing I’m not sure I’m awfully good at, but given that I am governed by internet availability I don’t have many alternatives, although I failed miserably with the last opportunity to upload anything, two days in Spanish waters, and the words were flowing like tar.. (unlike the wine!!).

Docking days present their own set of challenges. Like what to do with two elderly parents who have no clue where they are and absolutely no desire to explore the wherever it is they are. I spent the whole of Wednesday explaining that we weren’t in Dubrovnik (or Guildford for that matter), but, in fact, Gibraltar. The Dubrovnik slip is understandable, it’s a syllable thing.. but Guildford??, search me!!.

They seem quite happy to sit in a bar and watch the world go by, which is fine by me, but not for eight hours! Unlike on board where I can leave them for a while as the possibilities of losing them are actually fairly limited, once ashore it’s a bit like herding cats, and anyway I have discovered that if I disappear for more than five minutes Dad is on the phone.

Throw into the mix the fact that Dad seems to think that Great British Pounds are fine anywhere, the following conversation is fairly typical.

‘no Dad, you need Euros’
‘oh well I’ll get them on the ship’
‘no Dad, you need to go to a bank and get Euros now if you want to spend any money here, or in Italy, or in France’
‘oh OK, where’s the bank’

arrive at cashpoint..

‘what are we doing here?’
‘getting Euros’
‘what for??.. we can get them on the ship’
‘yes but you need them now’
‘no.. they’ll take pounds here I’m sure, stop trying to bloody organise me I’ll get the bloody Euros on the ship!!’

I backed off, knowing full well that I will have the same conversation (but in reverse) once we are back on board.

The ‘fuckoffometer’ is hitting new records on a daily basis… wears a bit thin after a while!!

Days 2 & 3, all at sea!!

So 24 hours at sea and almost 72 hours of uninterrupted transmission of stereo dementia fm (well for me anyway), I finally managed to go ‘off air’ and find my quiet corner. It’s in the wine bar!! No surprises there, but at six in the evening it would appear to be the least populated area of the ship (marvellous!!). I was beginning to doubt it existed (my quiet corner), and I started to stress out about finding hoards of bodies at every turn, but find it I did. I’ve more or less got my bearings, which is more than can be said for Dad or Mum. This bearing getting has involved a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between our respective cabins (at opposite ends of the ship). Just on the Harrison cabin to cabin shuttle I’m clocking up about two kilometres a day, and despite my earlier resistance to running indoors, I have made my peace with the treadmill for the time being.. bobbing around the obstacle course of bodies on the prom deck is not the best option. I will be the first person in history to come back from a cruise weighing less than when I left.

I’ve only managed to loose Mum & Dad a couple of times (at current time of writing, they have been temporarily mislaid), trying to find two old people in a sea of old people is decidedly hard. It would appear that all the little old ladies have been to the same hairdresser and all the little old men wear only navy blue. (I am thinking of buying matching fluorescent pink t-shirts for them to wear). I just work on the basis that they can’t go too far, they will almost certainly be close to a bar, and if I don’t find them Dad will at some point remember to look in one of the three pockets where I have put a slip of paper with their room details on it in, and I’ll see them there.

Worst case scenario I get a message over the tannoy asking me to come and retrieve them.. that’s provided they both remember I’m here!!

© Verity Harrison 2012