Saturday, 31 January 2009

Day Twenty Two: The sun has put his hat on

Although the day started off cloudy and has occasionally been a bit dark, for the most part this has definitely been a day of improving weather and Hilary and I spent a little while before lunch on the sun loungers of the Lido Deck. We have temperatures back in the early 60’s again and as each day rolls around it gets a little warmer so that by the time we reach Hawaii it should be in the mid 70’s, we can take that any day of the week. We did have some good news today after we chased up the Tours Desk and they told us that we will be going on Tour A as the ship goes through the Suez Canal. We were hoping for Tour D which was the Pyramids, Sphinx and Sakkara but we will settle for Cairo and the Pyramids. Both are full day (14 hour tours) and in our tour we will get to see the Tutankhamen collection including the solid gold mask and we get to see how papyrus is made; we do get to see the Pyramids of Giza and Cheops and a Sphinx so that should be alright then. We think that this means we travel by coach to see all these wonderful things while the ship sails through the Suez Canal but as this is a sea level canal with no locks it probably isn’t as interesting as the Panama.

Once again we did two lectures, this morning’s was by the TV man and he covered the Miss Britain Beauty Contests that he produced over a number of years and this afternoon the BBC talked about the start of Radio 1. Naturally he was very keen to point out that while he was the Controller of BBC Radio 1 it went from strength to strength but since then it has gone down hill. It was actually very good and one thing that he deserved a great deal of praise for was that he did all the radio sound for Live Aid. While I have been typing this Hilary has been down to see a lady talking about makeup and I expect she will tell you all about it when she writes later on.

Hilary had another piece of good news today when we went to look at the photographs that were taken last night. We bought two of them, one of just us as a couple standing alongside Captain Pembridge – incidentally he leaves us in Sydney - and the other was of our complete table of eight, so at last we have a photo of all of us in our best bib and tucker mode and I was wearing my Longhorn bow tie! Hilary is wearing a blue beaded number with Kelly’s necklace and ring prominently shown in both photos. Oh yes I was about to tell you of Hilary’s good news, as you know she is going to make a scrapbook of our travels and we were hoping that somewhere on this ship there would be a colour inkjet printer so that I could print some pictures just 3” x 2”. We have searched high and low and for me to do them is just not possible – even though I brought my own paper – but on the off chance we talked to the photo people on board and they will do them for us, so we gave them an SD card with 122 pictures and they are going to make 61 6” x 4” size that we can cut in half. Magic and for only £12.00 too, plus we can have them tomorrow! They said that they will be happy to do more after we have taken the pictures.

We got Samantha’s message that she has arrived safely in Shanghai so that is one worry off our mind especially when we saw the satellite news about the bad weather that is covering the USA and particularly Kentucky. Now we just need to know that she is safe in Bejing and then onwards to the Ice Sculptures, good luck with the 13 hour train rides Sam!

Tiz I. First a thank you to Kelly for making the necklace and ring that made the blue dress look finished off when I wore it to the Captain’s cocktail do. It made me feel proper posh.
The make-up demonstration was very interesting and I learned that it is best to apply 3 shades of eye shadow on each eye. They fade out towards the edge of the eye and blend together. Now that will never happen in my life time for me, that is three different products for each eye lid! The eye brows should start above the corner of the eye and finish in a line that is taken from the bottom of the nose across the outer corner of the eye and up towards the top of the ear, I ask you does that sound like I would have the patience to measure that and then put on eye shadow, yes shadow on my eye brows? Still it was interesting to watch an expert at work. My haircut in San Francisco was successful. A little Chinese lady cut it for me and she did not stop talking the entire time she was working. I understood most of it, she was nice and friendly and the result is I can now see again and the hair is looking much tidier and is easier to cope with. A message for Marlene. The cream is working again. I must have used a little that was contaminated by the spoon when I transferred it to a smaller jar – or something. Anyway it is good now and the sore face is almost healed, thank you. My other good news is that I have not spread anymore around the waistline… good eh. I can do up all the clothes despite being surrounded by the most delicious food all day. It is hard though. Graham would understand what I mean. I am excited that tomorrow I will get all the photographs that I need for the scrapbook. Now Sam will have to show me how to write in columns so I can get my writing bit to be in long thin strips down the pages. We have another day at sea tomorrow so I hope to spend some of the afternoon getting my pages for the first leg of the journey sorted out and ready to paste into the book. So that is it for today folks. God bless.

OK so this is not earth shattering news but we have probably told you before that each day on the Oriana you can collect a double sided strip of paper with a crossword on one side and a Sudoku puzzle on the other. We have had a go at a few of them with middling success on the crosswords but absolutely zero success on the Sudoku. Well today we had a breakthrough and managed to get the Sudoku out! It must have been one of the easy ones as we have rubbish up to now but it has given us the courage to collect the new one tomorrow and have another try – got to keep the grey cells working, we can’t all afford electronic brain trainers like some of us got for Christmas (Sheila please note).

Final blog early tonight as we are not going to the usual theatre show at 8.30pm – it is a bit classical for us – but we are going to a show at 9.30pm called “We are not Amused” which is about the life and times of Queen Victoria and promises to be very funny. The dinner group was a bit unusual tonight, there seemed to be some tension between Richard and Keiko as well as between Bill and Alison. The latter was pretty minor and was something to do with the dancing lesson that they had taken earlier but one thing they were very effusive about was their experience in the Gary Rhodes restaurant the previous night, they reckoned that the food and the wine was excellent and that they will go back at least once more before their trip is over. Richard and Keiko’s spat was also minor and it seems that she couldn’t find him for dinner and had to arrive on her own. OK that’s enough trivia, I am off now and leaving you with just the one photo – not a very good one as it happens because it is a copy of the print that we bought today and being a shiny print it shows the reflection of me taking a picture of the picture. Night all.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Day Twenty One: Three weeks gone and it is cold again

It’s not just me that is cold it seems that the whole ship is, for we are just poodling along the Pacific at a low speed (don’t know why) in grey waters which are very calm but by golly it is cold outside. The ship seems to be in he doldrums today with no internet connection (I was extremely fortunate to get the blog out last night and it went off immediately after I sent it out). People are getting a little antsy having to sit inside – one or two hardy souls are walking or sitting on the promenade deck but you can take your pick of the loungers, one can hardly call them sun loungers as there is no sun. Hilary has gone into the sweater and thick tights mode and all around us are folks that have flown over from England saying, “I thought that it would be a lot warmer than this.” What did they expect for goodness sake, America is in the Northern Hemisphere, it is January and it is winter? My personal cold in the head is hanging around and I am well bunged up but the headache has gone along with the sweats and the shivers. I had a reasonable night’s sleep but I think that I probably kept Hilary awake with my coughing and sneezing and constant getting out of bed to drink and pee. My problem is that without much to keep me busy I can only think of food so I am tempted already to add to my breakfast intake with a mid morning snack, another cup of tea, oh.. stop the press, cream horns, oh.. ├ęclairs, oh.. jam tarts, the list goes on and on and so does my weight.

Changing the subject I have decided to set the first murder in Murder on the Oriana on the island of Madeira where we had the ride in the wicker basket down the steep slope into town. It should not be beyond the bounds of possibility to tamper with the runners on the basket and with the shoes of the men controlling it. Imagine the horror of being trapped in the basket as it gathers speed, faster and faster, the men having to let go of the ropes before they themselves are dragged along with it, no brakes, banging into the walls and parked cars as the basket careers down the hill towards the town of Funchal. The basket shoots past its normal stopping point where the other drivers try desperately to stop the runaway sled; the sled leaves the ground and flies through the air with the passengers screaming as they realise that they are heading for a bougainvillea clad stucco wall and then…… the silence as death descends on this beautiful island. Good start eh? The idea about the runaway sled came to me in the middle of the night so it must be a good one.

Tiz I. Well today I scared myself. We went to the Pacific Lounge to hear a speaker recall stories of when he was a sound man with ITV. The lounge always gets very full so we got there early and listened to a tape of 40 signature tunes from the programmes going back to the 70’s. I knew almost all of them! Now that is scary, I couldn’t have gone out much is all I can say. He is going to have a quiz of all the tunes and will tell us where they come from at the end of this leg of the trip. I believe that is Sydney. We have not heard from Brian so we may not be able to meet him – we will probably take a tour of the harbour side if we are alone.
The weather is cold and the ship has the air conditioning on which is freezing my butt off. I’ll be glad to get a little further south. If it was this cold at home I would light the fire! Tonight we have another cocktail meeting with the captain and officers – it means dressing up again. So tonight I will be a vision in blue and will be wearing the necklace and ring that Kelly made for me. We hope to hijack the captain and have our photo taken with him and the other members of our dinner table. I will keep you posted on how we get on.
Later: We have just got back from the Captain’s do and dinner and I wanted to tell Kelly that the necklace and ring were very much admired by all the people on our table. In fact, I had to take the ring off for another lady to try – she loved it too but I made sure that she gave it back to me so it is ready for the next time I wear this outfit. Thank you Kelly, good job.

3.30pm and now I am a little scared. Hilary and I went to our second lecture of the day and this one was by the ex-head of Radio 1, surprisingly for today’s topic he chose the War Years which was before Radio 1 was thought of. But he made it very interesting by putting out sound clips of famous events during the War. Some of them were political speeches but mostly they were of entertainers such as Vera Lynn, Arthur Askey, Richard Murdoch and Tommy Handley. After the lecture I went up to the CyberStudy and the good news is that the internet is back up again and with a bit of luck I will be able to blog as well as check for emails later on tonight after the evening show. The reason that I am scared is that while I am typing this Hilary is in Chaplin’s Theatre listening to a talk about the value of DIAMONDS. I fancy a credit card hit could be coming our way.

OK last bit as we have just got back from the dinner (lobster thermidor) and the show, absolutely hilarious comedian - sample - “with all the ethnic communities now claiming benefits and getting them through the post they have changed the meaning of OHMS to be Only Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.” It was a late show so I am only posting one picture and that is of Hilary in her blue dress and wearing Kelly’s necklace and ring. Goodnight and God bless. Thanks for all the comments, keep them coming.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Day Twenty: Cabin Fever

Today was the day when for the first time we did virtually nothing. We were still tired from our early morning start in San Francisco and only just managed to get out of bed in time to have breakfast in the Peninsular Restaurant before it closed at 9.00am. We met some more Scots at the breakfast table and they had just joined Oriana having flown in from London the night before. They are going as far as Hong Kong and it was obvious that the wife was still feeling a bit rough from the flight over followed by the lumpy seas as we left San Francisco. Their first experience of food on the Oriana was in the Conservatory self service restaurant and they were not impressed, breakfast suited them better but I noticed that she took things a bit steady.

We only had two real excursions out of our cabin today; the first was to see a presentation about Honolulu which is our next stop and then later we went to a presentation about the Portunus Club as we were recently told that we are now Ruby Members. The Honolulu presentation was pretty standard with the Tours Manager reading her notes to the background of a Power Point presentation. I don’t think that we learned anything new other than to confirm that we have made the correct decision not to join any of the organised tours. They were peddling the Pearl Harbour tour like mad but made it sound like hard work with a lot of waiting around because of the number of visitors that it gets. I don’t think that many people realised that they are going to visit a mass war grave as that is really what the USS Arizona is. Our Portunus presentation wasn’t much better really, all she told us was that P & O are a great company, have great ships, do lots of cruises, and that in future we will get 5% discount on our on board purchases because we are now members of the Portunus Club. After Hong Kong we will get 7.5% because we will be Sapphire Members. Woo Wee.

A chunk of the day in our cabin was spent watching a DVD on how the clay wizard is made. This was purchased from the arts and crafts teacher who has now left the ship. Hilary’s Jimmy starts off life as a piece of plumbing waste pipe, the wizard begins as a 75cl Perrier bottle! The instructor has a nice easy way of explaining things and although the video is home made he has done a good job and I don’t see why it can’t be followed well enough to make a model by watching it.

Other than that it has been a nothing day, I have a stinking cold, probably gotten from Richard who had it a few days back, I am on the Lemsip strategy, two down and three to go, and I have sucked enough Lockets to keep the hunger pangs away – Hilary and I are still skipping lunch to compensate from the amount of fried food that we consumed yesterday. Mind you the spicy tiger prawns that I had for dinner on Fisherman’s Wharf were really excellent. We haven’t ventured outside as it is still cold but I am glad to say much less windy, the ship is literally cruising along, not doing a great speed, the sea is relatively flat with just a few white tops. I have seen only one sea bird and that was quite early this morning and there have been no sightings of dolphins or whales so far. We are on a pretty much south westerly course to Hawaii and hopefully as we move closer to the equator again it will start to warm up and we can get back in the pool and catch a few rays of sunshine. That’s it for now, I will add a bit after dinner and the Headliners show Viva Vegas – if it is half as good as their last show it will still be worth seeing.

Tiz I. Sam has a cold and is not feeling so good – as you may have gathered from his part of the blog. He has covered most of our activities today but I see them from a different point of view – I don’t have a cold. Breakfast was quite interesting with the other couples talking about their experiences of cruising and the food aboard. Apparently the food being offered to all the newcomers to this cruise was not as good as usual. The conservatory is self service and can get very crowded around the food counters, this makes carrying a tray between the various counters quite tricky. When you are asked to do this when you are tired from travelling across the world to join the ship is probably a step too much for most people. Oh, I had a ‘Monk’ moment during breakfast. The waiters always serve the meals with the ships’ emblem on the plate at the top. My butter plate had the emblem off centre – I had this overwhelming urge to straighten it up and did! Then I had to put the butter knife straight too! What am I like? I will watch for any further signs of ‘obsessive’ behaviour….scary.
I went up to the crows nest – 8 flights of stairs – to check out the new craft project. It’s making a paper cover for your post-it notepad…well, why? Am I missing something? I declined and saved at a couple of pounds. Then on the way back to the cabin I passed the shops and found an evening bag which would be perfect with my blue dress – well what can I do? Well buy it of course. Now not making a cover for the post-it notepad has cost me £8, but I do have a very pretty bag.
Tonight I have been asked to take Jimmy down to dinner for a lady to photograph. What’s with him and the bear that they get all the attention? Its nice really, I get to talk to even more people. Must go, dinner calls. God bless.

I understand that this is not going to go out tonight as there seems to be trouble with the satellite link but I will add that dinner was as entertaining as ever, we learned a little more about the mysterious ex-Hong Kong copper Richard who apparently is a tax exile and that is why he lives in Spain for most of the year. Apparently he is limited to 90 days per annum inside the UK. We also saw a glimpse of his relationship with Keiko in the theatre tonight, Richard wanted to reserve a couple of seats for friends of his from Hong Kong and Keiko thought that it was not necessary, a short “domestic incident” was evident. The Viva Vegas show was magnificent as always, this is a very talented cast of 5 men and 8 women, two of whom do most of the ladies vocals while all 5 men sing and dance. Two of the men have very big voices and certainly do justice to Tom Jones songs and of course they finished off with an Elvis medley. As I said to them at the end – the cast always stand by the exit doors as you leave – “we are running out of superlatives to tell you how much we enjoyed the show.”

Gonna sign off now and take my last Lemsip before going to bed, I will have one attempt at connecting but if you checked and found no blog then don’t blame me, blame the satellite link and I will get it posted just as soon as I can.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Day Nineteen: San Francisco

You may not believe this and actually think it is impossible but I am typing this with my eyes closed – that is only a slight exaggeration, believe me I have Victor Mature eyes for those that remember him. Most of this is because I am so tired that I can’t keep them open and the rest is due to a dose of the sniffles. We intended for the alarm to go off at 5.15am this morning so that we would be up and about when we went under the Golden Gate Bridge at 5.45am. But I woke at 4.00am and couldn’t get back to sleep and wandered around both the cabin and the ship looking for suitable places to take video and pictures. Hilary wasn’t far behind me and together we did see the ship safely under the bridge and berthed at Pier 35. This is an incredible location right in the heart of San Francisco, literally only a few hundred steps from the main wharf area where the sea lions reside at Pier 39 and where you can find the best sea food in America.

Before we could get off the ship we had to go through the dreaded immigration and our alphabet group was timed for 10.30am, as it turned out we were about 15 minutes before that and our Green Cards were not questioned. We can wipe the sweat from our brows once again; they are good for another year. We came off the ship before 11.00am and were soon heading for the shops, we were determined to find a Walgreens and a hair dresser and it wasn’t very long before we found both of them nearby. While Hilary had her hair cut I popped into the shops and got my Tylenol, Starlight Mints, Suave Shampoo and Conditioner, Dove Soap, AA batteries, Lay’s Potato Chips and a couple of bottles of Yellow Tail. Before long I was high tailing it back to the ship to drop off all our goodies while Hilary looked for Ross Dress for Less. As it turned out it was too far to walk so after we met up again we got our cable car tickets and took the tram from the water front right into downtown. Here she was able to get a couple of tops and a couple of skirts, I was more interested in the fish filet with French fries. We wandered downtown the caught the cable car back to the water front, videoing all the way of course.

A few more tourist stuff including watching the sea lions, writing postcards and taking more pictures and we settled for a super fish supper on Fisherman’s Wharf. By now it was 6.30pm and we were whacked so we walked back to the Oriana which looked magnificent all lit up in the middle of this lovely city. Back on board we settled for a cup of tea and I guarantee that we will be in bed and asleep by 8.30pm, there is absolutely no chance that we will be awake for the sail away tonight. That’s it, enjoy the pictures and here’s Hilary…

Tiz I. I have a lovely picture taken inside the shopping mall with Sam sitting on a bench surrounded by his shopping and looking highly delighted! Candies and Lays potato chips! The temperature outside today was about 55F so it was cool but it was the sunniest of days which is unusual for San Francisco which is famed for its mists and fogs. I was amazed at the immigration process – absolutely everyone on board had to be screened even if they were not going ashore. No-one was allowed ashore until the process was completed. At least we know that the borders of the USA are being protected! Teddy bear went ashore and had his photo taken beside the sea lions and in the restaurant, he is getting to be a famous bear. We had a lovely day just doing our thing and seeing what we wanted to see. Now we are very tired so I will write more tomorrow when the brain, hopefully, will be back and working! God bless.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Day Eighteen: Burns Night and bumpy seas….

I made only a cursory mention of Burns Night when I blogged last night as unusually for me I wrote it during the time between finishing dinner and going to the Theatre Royal. We normally leave the table around 7.50pm and take a slow stroll along the corridors and up one deck (two flights of stairs) from deck 6 to deck 7 i.e. from the Peninsular Restaurant to the Promenade Deck. Last night, because dinner took slightly longer, the theatre show started at 9.00pm and this gave me the opportunity to blog after dinner but before the show started.

We have never had anything at all to do with Burns Night, in fact I didn’t even know that it was always held on January 25th but this year was the biggie as the celebration was for his 250th birthday. The Scots regard him as the greatest poet, writer of love songs and general all round good guy that ever lived. Bill, our true Scot on our dinner table dressed himself up to the nines and was resplendent in full tartan trews, wee black jacket with lots of buttons and a plaid (pronounced ‘played’ we were told several times) that was thrown over his shoulder and pinned in place with the biggest brooch that I have ever seen. It must have been 5 inches across, ringed on the outside with white stones and for its centre had a pale lilac stone that had it been real would have cost ten times the price of our tickets. We first saw him and Alison outside the Medina Room where we were to meet the dignitaries of the Masons, the Captain, the Purser and sundry other officers. Alison was dressed in her finery too and wore full length silver gloves that reached the top of her arms and were complemented by silver bows. My comment that Lewis Hamilton wore gloves like those but without the bows when he drove for McClaren did not go down too well.

The Masons were a friendly enough bunch, one or two looked askance at foreigners entering their lair – maybe they thought that we were going to reveal their secrets – and one in particular who was a friend of Richard spent quite a long time with us. He turned out to be an ex-Army padre called Robin and he and Richard had met some while ago in one of the Hong Kong lodges. There were a lot of toasts, The Queen of course, the Ladies, a reply from the Ladies, the President of the Oriana Lodge, a reply to the President it all went on and on but it was for a good cause and was in aid of 4 ladies on board whose Mason husbands had died and they were having a whip round for them. A big plus was that the champagne and wine for the toasts was free for us visitors so I was already half smashed before we got to our dinner table.

None of the above of course has anything to do with Burns Night which really started as we entered the Peninsular where bagpipe music was playing. Resplendent in our dinner jackets and best dresses we went through the ritual of having our chairs pulled out for us, napkins placed on our laps, looking through the menus (haggis was on the menu as both a starter and as a main course – with neaps and tatties) and then the bagpipes were turned up loud as the Address to the Haggis ritual was enacted. The purser (in kilt) started the procession carrying crossed bottles of Scotch Whisky and she lead a procession that included the head chef carrying the haggis on a silver salver. Ending the procession was a full regalia Scot who turned out to be the director of the ship’s Highlight Group that has given us so much enjoyment with their shows. This director then performed the address (‘wee timorous beastie) as written by Rabbie Burns and did it so well and convincingly that Alison – who was seated next to me – declared it to be the best address that she had ever heard. This first picture shows him in full flow. After that it was back to the normal routine except that at the close of the meal the entire catering staff marched through the restaurant to receive the applause and take a bow for all their good work so far. Remember that we are approaching the end of the first leg tomorrow and tips are on everyone’s mind.

The evening show featured the haggis addresser in a one man show called the Best of Britain and to my mind his was the best and most professional show that we have seen the whole trip. He started off with the English, a wonderful mickey-take as well as Land of Hope and Glory, moved on to the Welsh – Land of my Fathers, then the Irish – Danny Boy and finally the Scots - Ye’ll tak the high road. It was a great end to a great day.

So that was last night and now I am in the CyberStudy typing while Hilary is bronzing Jimmy and his completed picture is the second one for tonight. We woke to Force 7 winds from the North North West and temperatures in the 50’s. We have been battling headwinds all night and from looking at the map we have not made a great deal of progress but I expect that we will arrive in San Francisco on time. We will be going under the Golden Gate in darkness both times; the first time at 5.45am and the second around midnight, but we expect that it will be lit up and will try and get some video of it. Our immigration problem seems to be solved and we were told today that we will not need to fill in any of the forms and that our Green Cards will be accepted. However clearing immigration is scheduled to be completed at 10.30am and if the notes are correct no-one can leave the ship (including the crew) until everyone has been through immigration. I can’t believe that is true, they don’t hold up the entire passenger list of an aeroplane before they let people out so why do it for a ship? Time will tell.

Hilary will tell you all about it in her section but the couple in our third picture holding our bear are the Aunt and Uncle of the English woman working as a teacher in Saudi who was jailed for allowing her pupils to name their school mascot teddy bear Mohammed. It was a big scandal a few months back. For now I will continue to type under difficult circumstances as the ship is bouncing around in quite bumpy seas, just the kind we were glad to avoid in the Bay of Biscay but they have now caught up with us. A few hours ago we passed San Diego so we are well on our way but I won’t be sorry when this leg of the journey is over. It is actually worse when you are typing so every now and then I have to look out of our window and just look at a nice stable horizon, it has crossed my mind that I might put on the SeaBands and maybe take a pill but I would like to tough it out if possible. No one has been out on deck today, we have seen no offshore birds, nor are we likely to see any dolphins or whales.

We organised our tips for the first leg today as we have decided to do it leg by leg in case any of the staff helping us are not going all the way round with us; we are not sure what others are doing but we talked it through and decided that this would be the best way for us. Just heard that Murray is out of the Australian Open – bummer I would have put money on him if I had any left.

Tiz I. First of all I wish Jess, Nathan and all their Chinese friends a very happy new year. May you all have an excellent year, good health, lots of fun and much success in everything you do. I have no idea what to expect from the year of the ox but I am sure you will make the best of all your opportunities.
The ship is pretty much devoid of activities today as a lot of people will be packing their bags and paying their bar bills etc today. Sam saw one man with pages and pages of his final bill and he was trying to figure how he had managed to spent so much in such a short time.
I spent a very happy hour this morning bronzing Jimmy and he is now complete. The teacher of the class, Mr. Denis Berry, gave me a small tool box in which he had brought supplies on board the ship. It is the perfect size to store away Jimmy and to keep him safe until we get him home. Then we bought a model he had made of a wizard and he gave me another tool box. I will need another suitcase to come home with all my treasures. The wizard is for Pat – so don’t read that bit Pat.
I am getting a reputation for the being the teddy bear woman around the ship. Sam and I have taken teddy on all the photo opportunities as we came into the ports and apparently people have noticed! Today a woman who lives in St. Germans, Cornwall stopped me and told me that her niece was the teacher who was arrested for calling her classrooms teddy bear Mohammad. The story was in all the national press. She asked if my bear would like a photo taken with her and her husband – well yes so the bear is getting a more interesting scrapbook than I am, is that fair? I am meeting some great people onboard! Have to get ready for dinner so will blog again tomorrow. God bless.

Ok just returned from dinner and another fabulous show by the Headliners, this one was called “We write the Songs” and featured the hits of Barry Manilow and Elton John. They had some fantastic routines and I particularly like the one I’m Still Standing which featured the cast dressed as boxers; their timing was spot on, great choreography. The nice thing is that if you don’t rush out the door the cast are waiting there and you can talk to them afterwards. We are looking forward to seeing more of their shows as they are booked to go all the way round. Must close now, we are having an early night, although we do gain one hour but as we go under the Golden Gate so early then we must be awake for 5.30am after that we have to bumble around until 10.30am when the W’s are scheduled to meet Immigration. I would advise Jess that if she ever travels on Oriana she should put the Adair before the Woollard, she will get through quicker. On second thoughts that won’t make any difference as they repeated again tonight that the 10 Immigration Officers coming aboard must clear ALL the passengers and crew before ANYONE is allowed off. I still think that is a bit paranoid. Goodnight from a very bumpy ship.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Day Eighteen: Noisy Neighbours….

While Hilary was in the Crow’s Nest this morning painting Jimmy, I took our laptop into the smoking area - which is alongside the CyberStudy - so that I could be close to her and send a couple of emails. I failed to realise how inconsiderate some people can be with modern technology. First we had the woman on the mobile ‘phone with her “Oh, I’m looking out the window here and I can see the sea, by the way how’s the cat’s paw, is it better? I’m not sleeping well, the food is lovely, we’ll be home soon, is it raining mother? We’ll get a new telly when we get home, don’t worry about it.” Peace reigned for all of five minutes and then a couple arrived with their laptop and apparently despite what I had been told, they managed to connect via Skype. Now of course they didn’t use a headset where the incoming sound was muted and they could speak into a microphone, no they had the microphone, speakers and webcam built into their laptop and by golly they were going to shout into it and let the world know their banal secrets. “Can you see my new top? It’s white and Johnny’s peeling, turn round Johnny, show Mum your peeling tan. Acapulco was nice Dad, yes it’s spelt A-C-A-P-U-L-C-O and we saw the divers, very nice, they went ever so high? I closed my eyes I was that frightened. It was hot, but it’s a lot fresher today. Did you see us on the Panama webcam? I wore my T-Shirt that day and waved to you, did you see it?”
It was so thrilling I felt like going over there and giving Dad a wave or wishing him well, I might have even been able to see what he looked like. At least I would have had some connection with him as I knew what was going on in most of his personal life. I’m surprised that they didn’t ask him if he had been to the toilet this morning. These people are spending at least 13pence a minute to find out if the cat has been fed, if little Billy is enjoying school and to tell their family that they can see the sea from the ship. For heaven’s sake, get a life people, you’re getting off in San Francisco, you’ll be seeing them in 3 days! OK rant over.

I missed out a couple from the Murder on the Oriana yesterday and only remembered them today when we saw them at breakfast. I call them Bunty and Archie and she is on her second marriage; very clipped cut glass upper class accent, with the twinset and pearls to match - yes even at breakfast time. Archie is a farmer and is Bunty’s bit of rough compared to her first husband and they are definitely on the run from Bunty’s family who don’t approve of her choice for second husband. I suspect that tucked away in the safe that all cabins have, she has gone off with the family heirlooms and a load of cash that she has made by flogging off the oil painting collection built up by Papa just after the war. Papa was a General in the Army of course, maybe even a Brigadier. Alternatively it could be that Archie has a talent for forging oil paintings and has replaced the original with his own, or could it be that the paintings were stolen and hidden by him and this is the insurance scam that Phillip is trying to solve. The plot thickens… there could be more murders here than in Midsommer.

Hilary and I met up after Jimmy’s smart coat of black paint, had a cup of coffee in the Crow’s Nest then toddled off to the library where I took out a couple of books that I hopefully haven’t read. Next it was to the cinema where they were previewing the ship’s video of the tour so far. Frankly it was dreadful and I hope that they fix it before the trip is over. With the first leg ending at San Francisco that seems unlikely and I believe the video we are putting together will be far superior. We won’t have the nice introductions that show the highlights of the complete town but we will have all the personal stuff that shows the things that we did. As part of the official DVD I do actually have my arm, wrist, magnetic wrist strap and hand on the screen for at least 3 seconds as I released my turtle, but other than that we are not shown at all. Richard and Keiko get a couple of showings – well she is rather gorgeous – but as for the rest of our table we might as well not have been around. We indulged ourselves this lunchtime, at least I did as it is only 66F outside with a Force 4 northerly blowing and so it is a bit chilly. Hilary had a handful of chips and two small pieces of fish. I intended to just have a bowl of soup and a roll but ended up with the soup, two rolls, a large handful of chips and – wait for it – a cream horn with a cherry on top. Bad boy!

Tiz I. Diet, what diet? Sam can be strong until we enter the conservatory where they serve the food – then the urge to have only one of these or those overcomes him. He is still managing to get into his clothes so far but we are only two weeks into the cruise for goodness sake. God bless that taxi that carries us and our luggage home, I hope it is reinforced. The model is completely black now and tomorrow he is bronzed and finished. I have really enjoyed making him but before I show him to anybody at home you will have to understand the story of his life. He has had a hard life, he is not a good drummer so he has not earned much money and so has not been able to eat well – unlike Sam. He has sunken shoulders and incredibly skinny arms. Because he has a poor diet he has poor blood so he has to wear very thick gloves – fat hands. He looks glum because he wants to be a better drummer but does not have a teacher – can’t afford one! Apart from that he has turned out well! I wonder who will come on board to teach crafts on the next leg of the journey and what will it be? Exciting eh! I went to a debate about home education today to find out what the format is for the discussion. It was very interesting and led by a New Zealander, I might go along to some more of her debates. The spymaster has left the ship now and there seems to be a hole in the mornings without him. We are in the cabin just now getting ready for a formal drinks party before dinner with the masons (two of whom sit on our dinner table) I have to decide what to wear, take a shower and wash my hair all in the next hour – like Dad always said ‘I can be ready for the Queen in 5 minutes’. Cannot wait to get my hair cut in San Francisco, it will save me a lot of time using rollers etc. So must go, will blog again tomorrow. Thank you Liz for your message – when you see the model up close you will understand why I had to make up the story of his life! God bless.

OK a final quick note as I am in full dress kit and trying to get to the theatre to meet Hilary before the show starts, comedian I think. It was Burns night tonight and we had the full regalia, the address to the haggis, the bagpipes everything and although we didn’t have the haggis those on our table who did said that it was delicious. Certainly the dessert was and it was so good we asked for a copy of the menu so that we can show you all when we get back.

Must dash and I will blog tomorrow, enjoy tonight’s photos. I almost forgot the photos are my orange crocs, Hilary's Jimmy and the 3 models are left to right, Jimmy, the instructor's model and Peter's. The necklace was an expensive impulse buy by me for Hilary at Acapulco.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Day Seventeen: I had a dream….

OK not so much a dream as an idea that slowly formed as I was waking up this morning, you know how it is when you are half way between the sleeping and waking worlds, all kinds of things run through your mind. Well in this one I realised that we have the makings of a good basis for an Agatha Christie “Murder on the Oriana,” particularly in relation to our group of travelling companions. Names have been changed to spare their blushes….

First we have Royston, the bluff ex-Hong Kong copper shrouded in mystery with his Masonic connections, could he be trailing an absconding criminal or is he a villain? Royston is married to the beautiful Yuki, a Japanese lady with all the inscrutability of a Geisha who is fluent in English and Spanish and is learning Italian. Yuki is an accomplished artist and she and Royston live in Santander commuting frequently via Plymouth to their home in Cheltenham. Could they secretly be involved in people smuggling? Next we have Burt and Annette the Scottish wine loving couple who live on the outskirts of Edinburgh and who have an argumentative but loving relationship. What secrets are this couple hiding in their cabin? Annette is an ex-Headmistress and Burt (a Mason like Royston) a Mechanical Engineer who has befriended the Oriana’s Chief Engineer. Could they be plotting in some way to cripple the ship and make off with the contents of the ship’s wine cellar? Then there is Phillip, the intense, calculating Insurance Agent who paints beautiful watercolours and is married to Caroline, a sufferer from numerous food allergies, or is that just a distraction while she helps Phillip to go about his business of tracking down a fraudulent art insurance scam? What is the secret of the mysterious 6’6” anorexic lady who strides imperiously around the deck neither looking left nor right as she goes about her business? And the little old lady who does her knitting while sitting in an electric wheelchair by the side of the pool. Could she be the Miss Marple who solves the Murder on the Oriana, or is she about to die in the deep end of the swimming pool when someone tampers with her steering? Maybe the real mastermind is the heavily tanned pot bellied man who spends all day by the swimming pool on his mobile phone, or the elderly lecher who strolls each deck in turn looking for lonely ladies, or even the heavy smoking, brown umber burnt lady with bleached blonde short cropped hair who insists on sitting at the same table every day. What is the secret of the little man who shuffles like Hercule Poirot when he walks? Any one of them could be about to commit the perfect crime and then mysteriously disappear overboard in the middle of the night. Maybe a crime is about to be committed using a P & O tour as an alibi? But then to solve the secrets of this disparate group we need the help of the engineering trained but analytically flawed Sam who does his best to make sense of it all but has to be prodded in the right direction by his ever loving beautiful companion Hilary. This story must be continued……..

Before I lose myself in this self indulgent fantasy let me bring you back to the reality of last night. It had been a great day with the turtles, but a tiring one, so Hilary and I decided to have a reasonably early night. I went straight to the CyberStudy and blogged and came down shortly after 9.00pm. Hilary was reading in bed and I put my pyjamas on and did the same and within a few chapters sleep was beckoning so I took off my glasses and disaster….. A few of you know that one of the side frames of my glasses broke back last November. They were a pair that we had bought in the USA and Samantha kindly offered to get a new side leg for me. Well they couldn’t do that but as they were under guarantee EyeMart said that they would send a complete new frame to England so that I could put the lenses in them. To cut a long story short by the time we left in January they still hadn’t arrived, but as SuperGlue seemed to have temporarily fixed them I wasn’t over bothered. Well last night they fell apart again when the SuperGlue failed. One of EyeMart’s suggestions had been to switch over my prescription sunglass frames with the regular lenses so sitting by the edge of the bed – now wide awake and cursing – I took out my spectacle repair kit and started unscrewing. An hour later I was back to square one – except that one of the little screws is on the carpet somewhere – when I found that the two sets of frames and lenses are different. So it was a push in and Sellotape job overnight and through the morning. Today, to my surprise, we found that the little emporium downstairs sold SuperGlue and later this afternoon I effected another repair that will hopefully see my glasses fixed until we arrive home. Moral of the story; if you live in England buy your glasses in England or be prepared to do a “Jack Duckworth” until you can get back to the optician.

Cruising on a ship changes the way that you live, not just in the simple things like being waited on, having the beds made for you, a mint on the pillow each night, no cooking etc. but it changes your perception of time itself. We have a routine when at home that is more or less dominated by the days of the week and there are constant reminders of what day it is. It may be for example that it is Monday because that is when Hilary is at Red House, or it is Sunday because Antiques Roadshow is on TV. On board ship there is none of that because the day’s activities are decided by what is happening on the ship. Take for example Hilary’s model making; that goes on regardless of what the day of the week is and only changes if it is a Port Day, otherwise it doesn’t matter if it is a Tuesday or a Sunday. Consequently we lose track of time and have to look at the top of the daily newsletter of events to know which day of the week we are on. Personally I think that it is a great way to go through life, but then I always was a bumbler. Hopefully we have prepared Hayley with all the birthday and anniversary cards to send out while we are away so if any are missing blame it onto us for not being as prepared as we should have been. We still love you even if we have forgotten someone.

The crew are trying to prepare us for our landing in San Francisco and already the long arms of Homeland Security are reaching out to drag us in. A couple of days back we received the Customs form that must be filled in showing zero value for goods that we are not bringing in the mighty USA as we are in transit. This is stupid as surely they only need that form for those that are actually leaving the ship in San Francisco and are actually entering the USA and staying there. Why should US Customs care that someone bought a straw hat in Panama and is going to wear it on the aeroplane that is leaving from San Francisco airport to fly home? Bureaucracy and computers gone mad if you ask me, a little commonsense would go a long way President Obama. I can understand the intellectually challenged President Bush making such a rule but puleeeze! As everyone knows we are actually residents of the USA; after all we have permanent Green Cards issued to us back in 1980, but try explaining that to P & O Reception staff – who mainly come from Goa. “You must fill in the Green I94 form” “No we don’t we are residents of the USA,” “Well then you must fill in the White I95form,” “No we don’t we are residents of the USA,” “Well where is your Visa in your passport?” “We have Resident Alien Cards, we don’t need a separate visa,” “Let me talk to my supervisor,” “My supervisor says that you have to fill in the Green form,” “No we don’t we are residents of the USA, let me talk to your supervisor,” “Let me have both your cards and we will email our agents in San Francisco.” The saga continues.

OK so what has happened today? Not a lot really other than with Jimmy, Hilary’s model and she will tell you all about him, and if he dries in time we will post another picture of him tonight. I have sat in the Crow’s Nest most of today, I tried sitting outside but it is very windy (Northerly Force 7), finishing off my third novel of the trip. This one was Patricia Cornwell and turns out to be the 3rd of 3 novels that I brought with me all of which I have read previously, perhaps the next book I will try is the Barack Obama one that Sharon so kindly gave me for Christmas. That is the end of my first stint and I will turn you over to Hilary and will put my closing comments on after dinner – semi formal – tonight.

Tiz I. Well another lazy day at sea. We did not see any dolphins or flying fish and only five birds today. The wind is so strong but I have just seen on the CNN news that most of Europe is experiencing the same weather conditions. Jimmy, the model is just about finished and there are several things about him I would change if I was starting him now. However, he is what he is. Tomorrow he gets painted black and the day after that he is bronzed. We acquired an empty water bottle from the steward and Jimmy will be packed away in it until we get home. I’m looking forward to the next crafty project on the second leg of our trip – the teacher for that will come on board in San Francisco. I finished reading ‘The Camomile Lawn’ today, and tomorrow will start reading one of the books that Liz gave me. I found that the shop has finally got some conditioner so I bought some – at last, now my hair might settle down a bit. I have looked like a wild woman with the effects of the wind and sun on it. Roll on San Francisco and possibly getting a haircut. Sam, if I haven’t missed you, have a brilliant trip to China and give my love to that girl. Have a safe trip and lots of fun. Hold that thought about the summer – I love it. Julian, Dad and I are thinking about you and your course, when is the exam? We wish you every success with it all. Please pass our love onto the family and tell Kelly that I haven’t worn the blue dress yet but the evening is coming up soon when I will be wearing it and wearing the necklace and ring to show them off. Jess, does your comment mean that you expect to wait until 2051 before you go on a cruise like this one? Be more like G. Grandma go when you are young enough to climb the numerous staircases within the ship without pain! Well that’s it folks, it is time for me to go and try to fix the hair again before dinner.

A final word after dinner which Hilary found fascinating as she spent a long time talking to Richard about a small booklet concerning the Masons when she was going through Alfie’s stuff some years ago. This little green booklet belonged to Alf and Derrick’s dad and is associated with the Masons in Scotland. Richard said that he would help Hilary understand exactly what it was and maybe help her find a home for it. I expect that they will talk some more tomorrow night when we go to a Mason’s fund raiser for an hour before dinner. While Hilary was back in the cabin after dinner Peter and I went to see The X Files: I want to believe at the Chaplin Cinema. It was not my favourite film of all time, a few too many coincidences for me but it passed away an hour and a half – all the films shown have censored language and I am sure that extreme violence and sex is also cut out. Makes some of them a bit bland. That’s it. Night night.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Day Sixteen: Sheer Magic!

A nice slow start to the day and then a total cock up with the tour timing. We arrived in Acapulco only to discover that there were another two tour ships in front of us and they were both slowing our berthing. By the time we got to harbour one of them managed to dock and the other decided to anchor offshore and take its passengers in by tender. We then had to make a complete180 degree turn and basically reverse into our berth. Instead of being in at 9.00am it was much closer to 9.30am and this threw everyone’s timing off. All tour parties meet in the Theatre Royal where they are given little stick on badges to designate their tour and group. Our tour was G1 and we were suppose to meet at 9.20am and depart at 9 .30am but due to the late berthing, the chaos in the theatre it was well past 10.00am before we even started to move down the stairs to disembark. While we were all seated, that is groups A1 to A7, Gs and E’s and after they had set up a stall outside the theatre to sell water, crisps, nuts, biscuits etc. the announcement came that Mexico prohibited all food stuffs from being taken off the ship for later consumption. The sight of 300 people scoffing the stuff that they had squirreled away in their kit bags was amazing to behold; my earlier breakfast had been a bowl of Weetabix and here I was at 10.00 scoffing two bananas and half a packet of crisps just so that I didn’t take them ashore. Naturally when we finally did leave the ship the Mexicans didn’t bother to check anyone’s bags and we could have taken a ton of food with us should we have wanted to.

The tour guide on the bus was great, a Mexican called Jorge (George to us) conducted us on a sight seeing trail through old Acapulco, into the Golden Area, followed by the Diamond Area. Each stage got progressively richer and some of the hotels and houses are breathtaking, as are the views from them. However the pace of progress is such that the roads have not kept up and a huge road building programme is under way, consequently traffic crawls at a very slow pace. We reached our destination after an hour and a bit of travel and we were greeted at the gate with soft drinks, water or beer while we waited for some more tours to arrive. Seated outside, but shaded inside a canvassed off area we listened fascinated to a discussion about the problems with turtles in Mexico. Up to 20 years ago it was normal to eat turtle meat, turtle eggs and have turtle soup for weddings, christenings and birthdays but slowly this is changing largely due to a woman called Monica. She has set up a trust that protects turtle eggs (the penalty for being found with them is 30 years in jail – although we were told that due to corruption in the police most handlers buy their way out of this). However Monica has now set up a permanent base camp at the beach and has a network of people telling her when a turtle has come ashore and laid her eggs. One of her advisors told us that all Mexican men want to die like a turtle for apparently they make love for 5 days continuously and 50% of male turtles are so exhausted that at the end of it they sink to the bottom of the ocean and don’t have the strength to get back to the surface! Monica’s group collect all the eggs from the nest and hatch them out in a protected area and this stops them being poached or killed by predators such as sea gulls.

We were then treated to the best part of the day when Monica first brought out a pair of baby turtles to show us what we would have to do and then a large container with about 100 baby turtles were brought out and taken to the beach. We were lined up along a rope barrier just a few feet from the shore where previously a young man had carefully raked the sand to provide channels for the water to run up and to make it easier for the turtles to crawl to the sea. Hilary and I were first in line (naturally) and so we were holding our turtles for a lot longer than many of the others and we were next to the official cruise photographer so my hands and my baby turtle will appear in the official P & O DVD of the cruise! Then it was time to name them and let them go, I called mine Elvis and Hilary called hers Tommy (apparently turtles are bi-sexual for the first 3 months and then they decide which gender they would like to be). Tommy was out of the blocks like a shot and within minutes was leading the pack to the sea, while Elvis took a more circuitous route but eventually he headed in the right direction and followed his friend. Within 20 minutes all the little critters had made it to the sea although some of them needed a helping hand, naturally all were filmed and photographed as they progressed to the water’s edge. With a last wave (in both meanings of the word) we left our fledglings behind us and went back for another Coke and some delicious guacamole and chips. We donated some money and got their website address and from now on we will keep an eye on this group that relies entirely on donations for their work, as I said in the title “Sheer Magic”.

The drive back was routine and much quicker and we arrived back at the terminal around 3.00pm. All these terminals seem to have large areas associated with them where you can buy souvenirs, postcards, T-Shirts, booze and gifts and Acapulco was no exception. We entered the area intending to buy just postcards and ended up with a turtle fridge magnet, a polo shirt with Acapulco on it for Sam and a beautiful silver necklace for Hilary that she will tell you about later. Note for our daughter Sam here – please look out for the UFCU credit card and pay it when it comes in thank you.

Tiz I. What an amazing day – it might have been a late start but so worth the wait. We learned so much about the turtles and their life styles and it was sheer magic to hold the baby, although a little scary as it was so small. My turtle seemed to be determined to get to the sea before anyone else and made a beeline for the waves – not even a cheers or bye! The setting was beautiful, with coconut palms along the shoreline and golden sand. The sea had some surf, just enough to make the perfect picture. It was very hot – 88f and the shade of the trees was very welcome although a little hazardous as two coconuts fell to the ground while we were sitting there. We sent another bunch of postcards today and after we had written them I went down to the reception desk to post them. On the way back I decided to go to the little deck near our cabin for the last couple of pictures before the ship leaves port and I met a lady who could talk the hind leg off a donkey – an hour later I got back to the cabin! Oh yes, it has been a lovely day. The necklace that Sam mentioned is so pretty, silver backed with blue/green stones, very posh. Now I will have to get my hair cut in San Francisco to tidy myself up to do the necklace justice! Dinner is smart casual tonight thank goodness – I do not think I could cope with dressing up all posh after such a day – so exciting. Sam will blog the latest picture of Jimmy. He does not have hands, cuffs, pocket, button, bowtie or drum yet – that’s probably tomorrow’s project. I love getting the comments on the blog, I will have go with Sam to the computer room and figure a way to answer them all off line so I don’t use up all the minutes of computer time that Sam has purchased. Anyway ‘til then thank you all for the comments I love getting them all and reading them. Oh, I forgot to mention that the natural harbour of Acapulco is a haven for pelicans. We have been thoroughly enjoying watching them swooping low and hunting for fish. I’m afraid that the only photographs I have of them are rather blurry and hard to distinguish – but I know that they are of pelicans. Now I am really pushing my luck with the time – dinner in 20 minutes and I have not even showered yet! And my hair is so windblown that I absolutely have to shower and wash it now. God bless, I’m off.

We have decided not to go to the theatre tonight as we are both tired after our hectic day with the turtles, the show tonight is a comedian and we talked about going but decided instead to have an early night. At sea tomorrow and that continues until the 27th when we get to San Francisco. Have included a bunch of pictures tonight that I hope will upload OK. Godbless.

Oriana is very particular about hygiene; the ship is obsessed with not having the Novo Virus spread and at every entrance to a restaurant, the gym, the CyberStudy or place where contamination is possible there are both automatic and manual dispensers of a hand gel. The restaurants are particularly careful and if you forget e.g. you take your breakfast outside to eat and then nip back to pick up a spoon then you are gently reminded by one of the staff to “please use the gel sir.” Touch wood we have not had or seen any sign of illnesses among the many friends that we have made on board, Richard had the sniffles yesterday and so did Hilary and I for a little while although we put that down to the excessive use of smoke in the Rock ‘n Roll show. We have both felt off colour once or twice but I think now that we are used to the food and water and Hilary now has her soya milk in our fridge so that she can have tea or coffee when she feels like it.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Day Fifteen: Or is it?

Somewhere along the line I think that I must have got my days mixed up as we definitely left on Thursday January 8 and now it is Thursday January 22, and that is fourteen days later and yet my cumulative tally as a heading has reached Day 15. Guess I screwed up somewhere with my daily numbering but as I have to be online at the P & O exorbitant rate to look at all the pages I have written it won’t be adjusted any time soon.

We are truly appreciative of all the comments that we have received for the blog and our 9 followers are doing us proud with their replies; we just sit in the cabin and blether on as we remember the happenings of the day – at least Sam does although Hilary is a lot more organised and does keep a daily notebook. We took the bull by the horns today and went to reception to ask for a statement of what we had spent so far and then ambled off to our cabin to check it against the receipts that we have. The problem is that Sam doesn’t always remember to give the receipt to Hilary for logging and the consequence is that we have spent about £100 more than we thought that we had. Most of that is for internet time because you don’t get a paper receipt for minutes purchased on line.

Today has been a strange day for us as it has not gone according to our routine, for a start the sea is a lot more lumpy than usual and Sam found it slightly nauseous when he was typing away last night for the blog. However that feeling has gone today even if the sea is still lumpy. It was a pretty normal start with breakfast – 2 Weetabix for Sam and fruit for Hilary – followed by a stroll to look for dolphins (only a couple this morning) and then it was clay modelling time which Hilary will tell you about later. Sam lounged outside with a book for just over half an hour and then got fed up with the inane chatter of two old biddies sitting nearby and being the gentleman that he is he got up and walked away without even telling them to belt up! It was back to the cabin to meet Hilary for lunch, yes real lunch this time an official sit down with the officers, free champagne and wine and 3 courses to eat. Dress code for the lunch was Smart Casual which for Sam meant throwing on a polo shirt and khaki pants while Hilary kitted herself out in a tailored white suite with fine pin stripes. She was so pleased to discover that not only did it look good but she had at least an inch to spare around the waist. It was another good Ross buy and she looked really good in it too, I hope that she wears it again; for all her concerns about comparing herself with the seasoned cruise ladies she has beaten them all in my eyes.

First we had to find the Oriental Restaurant as we normally use the Peninsular and the ship has a strange layout. Both restaurants are on the same deck with the Oriental being further aft and the only way we could find to get to it was to go to the Peninsular, go down a deck and walk under the Peninsular, then back up a flight of stairs and there was the Oriental. We hope that the regulars who use that restaurant find it more easily than we did. Our dinner companion Peter had previously organised that our 6 regular RTW’s (Round the Worlders) would share a common table but as we approached it we noticed that it was laid for seven and an officer was standing by to greet us. He introduced himself as Fitzgerald Rodriguez Accommodations Manager and it transpired that he was from Goa (as are many of his cabin staff including Geraldine). He was a charming dinner companion and answered all kinds of questions about P & O, how the management structure operates, the problems with the laundrettes and lastly about his family (two boys aged 10 and 13) and how often they get to see each other etc. It appears that the crew’s families get an entitlement of 2 months cruising a year and this allows him and his family to meet up with their relations in the UK. The champagne glasses were raised to toast “Absent Friends”, in this case we meant Richard and Keiko. Both Hilary and I chose to have the vegetarian French Onion soup (a little sweet for my taste) and the fillet of salmon in a very nice cream sauce. Vegetables were minimal, which was good, but our good work was undone when we had the whisky soaked Bread and Butter Pudding for dessert. Having had champagne and a glass of Chardonnay with his lunch Sam rolled his way back to the cabin blaming the lumpy sea for his progress – a good time was had by all and we went away happy that our new found officer friend promised to look into getting Richard and Keiko the free fountain pen and ball pen set that are normally reserved for the RTW.

Tiz I. Jimmy Edwards, the clay model now has the back of his coat and two arms although the hands are missing as yet. Tomorrow there is no class as we will be in port – Acapulco. We only have three more classes before we get to San Francisco and the teachers leave the ship to fly back to the UK so I will have to work really hard during that time to get him finished. Apparently, I have to ask the bar staff if they will save me a wine bottle box (I think its Martini) and an empty large water bottle which will perfectly fit over the model when it is finished. These will be used to transport him home safely. Yesterday the ship was rolling quite a bit and I was concerned that Jimmy might slide off the counter top so he was wrapped in Sam’s socks and surrounded by cushions while we went down for dinner – one cannot be too careful. Everything else had to take the risk of sliding around! I love strolling along the deck after breakfast and leaning on the front rail to watch for dolphins. How they don’t get stuck under the ship I don’t know but they are fascinating to watch. It is the only time I actually go out into the sun but I am definitely going a strange shade although I am still lily white compared to most of the other residents of the ship. I have not been able to start the scrapbook because I have found difficulty in getting the photographs printed for me. Today I talked to the professional photographer and he thought that I might be able to do a deal with the manager of their shop on the cost of the printing if I need enough! Well that won’t be a problem, I have lots. So I might be able to get started soon, it all depends if the price is right. The embroidery is coming along and there is a chance that it might be finished before I get home – its only taken a couple of years so that’s not too bad for me; Pat I will need your help to figure out how to make the bag. Julian I liked your comment about the mules. They are amazing and the drivers must like fairground rides to cope with the very steep gradient on the slopes between the locks. Great stuff to watch even in the rain. Great news to hear that Marlene is planning to do the Reiki with Hales and Sharon at the end of February. My love to everyone.

Just returned from a nice simple dinner, we were not planning to go as we had such a big lunch but we are glad that we did. We both stuck to a simple salad and dessert but enjoyed the company as much as the meal itself. Alison and Bill came in a little tipsy again and Alison brought her evening wine in with her and when Richard said that he was feeling under the weather and didn’t need wine and we said that as we had wine with lunch and didn’t need any either you could see their faces drop. However it was soon rectified when Bill decided just to buy a half bottle between them and so they proceeded to tipple their way through the meal before leaving early to go to have drinks with the Chief Engineer that they had made friends with earlier in the trip.

The evening entertainment in the Theatre Royal was Let’s go to the Hop, a superb Rock ‘n Roll show put on by the ship’s young entertainers. We thoroughly enjoyed it and were among the many who gave the cast a standing ovation at the end, those kids worked so hard and as we left the theatre they were standing by the exits. We stopped and talked to them and gave them all the encouragement that we could, they deserved every bit of it tonight and when I asked the lead singer of the night if I could borrow his Teddy Boy Zoot Suit he laughed and said “Anytime.” I can’t close with the latest picture of Hilary’s model as she hasn’t taken one tonight but I will add one as soon as I can.

Tomorrow it is Acapulco and we are off at 9.30am to meet and hopefully release some baby turtles into the wild, it seems that this is a conservation thing similar to the one that they have in Hawaii except that here they retrieve the eggs after they are laid and hatch them out so that they are not eaten by predators. The babies are then released once they have grown big enough, of course they still get eaten out in the sea but apparently their survival rate is significantly increased, so we will give it a go and let you know what it is like tomorrow night. Goodnight all.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Day Fourteen: Dolphins Ahoy

Actually before we get onto the subject of dolphins I would just like to relate a couple of anecdotes from yesterday evening. We were on time for dinner and as we approached the Peninsula Lounge there in front of us were Bill and Alison and when we spoke to them they both seemed a little strange, not off but just strangely different. They went on to say that they had been to a luncheon where canap├ęs and wine were served and it was then pretty obvious that they had partaken a little too much of the French white. This was confirmed when we arrived at our table to find that Richard was in a similar state and he asked if we would all mind if we didn’t have wine with dinner as he had himself over indulged at lunchtime. It was then that I realised it must have been a Masonic do as both Richard – an ex-copper and Bill – an ex-toolmaker are both Masons. Peter and Christine were the next to arrive, followed by Keiko who had not realised that Richard was already at the table and over dinner Peter had the table in hysterics ( perhaps partly fuelled by their lunchtime drinking) when he related how he and Christine were invited to a barbecue at their son’s house. His son lives in Salt Lake City and over Christmas 2007 they wished to have barbecued turkey, it was deep in snow outside, the barbecue was lit by wood and charcoal and not by gas so Peter went to the local hardware store to buy kindling but could only get 3 logs. No axe was available so he had to use a hand saw to make kindling while Christine hacked away at the turkey to make pieces of a suitable size for the barbecue. In the middle of all their problems, it was snowing hard, freezing cold and the barbecue was in a fixed position many feet from the house the son then decided that it was too darn cold for him and went indoors leaving his mum and dad outside preparing barbecued chicken for himself and his family. OK so it was funny when we heard it and even funnier for Alison, Bill and Richard with their alcoholic boots on. At the end of the meal we watched them sway away into the distance heading for their respective cabins.

OK back to the dolphins….. Having had a very long day and an early night (lights out 9.00pm yesterday) we were in no mood for an early breakfast so we roused ourselves around 8.30am and showered for the day ahead. Breakfast – need I mention Alpen and prunes again – was followed by a short stroll to the forward area on Deck 12 (The Lido Deck), also the deck with the Al Fresco and the Conservatory self service restaurants. We were intrigued by the number of sea birds that we had seen alongside the ship while we were eating, we know that we are not far from land as we are basically following the coast of Mexico until we get to Acapulco the day after tomorrow. At the pointy bit on Deck 12 there is a gangway that runs across from port to starboard and here you can get a good view of what is happening as the ship progresses forward. We started on the port side where there were a good number of sea birds – two different types – and we realised that not only were they tracking the ship but they were following the shoals of flying fish that were spraying out from the bow wave like a shower of fireworks. We had dozens of birds feeding on hundreds of fish and then we saw the dolphins. Some were alongside us, some heading away and some heading towards us, we were shouting “Look, look, see that,” as they jumped and played around the whole of the bow area. Someone later explained to us that they were following a shoal of barracuda but whatever they were doing it was the best sighting that we have had so far. We were both entranced and continued looking for them long after we had steamed past their hunting ground.

With that spectacle over it was time for Hilary to head for her model class and I tagged along to take some pictures of her at work. With a bit of luck some of the pictures are with today’s blog. Hilary’s class normally finishes at 11.15 am so with about 45minutes to spend I found a shady spot (we are heading north so the sun is basically behind us and shady spots are hard to find), bagged a couple of recliners and waited for Hilary to arrive. And waited. And waited. 11.45am, 12.00 noon, 12.15pm “She’s paying me back for not being around yesterday,” I thought, then “Sod it I am going to lunch but first I will take the towels, etc back to the cabin.” I hadn’t been able to swim, or pee, or go get a drink, because I didn’t want to leave the video camera and the binoculars so by now I was somewhat miffed. Just as I got to the door to go down stairs to the cabin who should come waltzing by with a “He kept us very late today as we must get them finished before he leaves the cruise in San Francisco,” you’ve guessed it…. We dropped our stuff off in the cabin and went for a nice salad lunch then settled down for a while on the recliners until the sun came round and it became too warm. While we were talking Hilary admitted that she had yet to see the decks at the stern. We packed our bags and gradually worked our way down the flights of steps at the stern. There are some very nice open decks there but with the sun behind us there is very little shade back there. However when we reached deck 8 where the pool and play area is supposed to be reserved for parents with children under 10 years old we found a nice shaded spot and immediately grabbed a couple of sunbeds and settled down for a snooze and a read. There we stayed until it was time to come back to the cabin so that we can blog and get ready for another formal dinner – I hate those, they are stuffy and hot, but Hilary has picked out a very attractive dress and I will be proud to accompany her.

Since we entered the Pacific the sea has been getting lumpier and lumpier, I am feeling a little uncomfortable with it while I am typing and looking at a screen so I am going to stop now and have a little lie down.

Tiz I. As if I would be petty and pay him back! We actually did work on the models for 2 solid hours and it has changed from looking like ET and now looks more like Jimmy Edwards the comedian of old. Today my formal dress is borrowed from Sheila, what would I do without my sisters’ good taste in dresses? At this point I am not sure if Sam will make it to dinner as he is turning a delicate shade of white and laying down on the bed resting. The sea is becoming rougher and the ship is tossing about quite a lot despite the stabilizers being in place. I’ll have to anchor my model down somehow to prevent him from skidding across the counter and cracking, I’ll do that before I go down for dinner (six flights of stairs down and on high heels). He’ll be good. Seeing the dolphins this morning really made my day and I was jumping about shouting to Sam ‘look over there’ and wow and there are more over there etc. Other passengers seemed to just accept that in the Pacific you see dolphins so what. Now I have to go and see if I can make my body and hair justify that lovely dress. I’ll write more tomorrow. God bless.

Very last point we saw the Matt Monro singer tonight, excellent but he missed my favourite "Wer'e Gonna Change The World."

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Day Thirteen: The Panama Canal

It was an early start, a very early start, in fact an extraordinarily early start, which happened to coincide with our early morning loo call at 4.30am. We pulled back the curtains to see lights on the horizon, some of them very bright and realised that we were approaching Panama. A quick shufti through the cabin door and we saw all kinds of people heading past with their cameras and binoculars so we nipped back in and put some clothes on. We knew from looking at the TV the weather would be mild so in my case it was a polo shirt and shorts while Hilary slipped on a white top and skirt. Oh and I did put on my bright orange Crocs – the only colour in my size when we delayed buying them after they went on sale.

Earlier in the week we realised that the deck above the Crows Nest, Deck 13, would be a good viewing platform and we worked our way up 4 levels from our cabin and at each level we met more and more people heading the same way. By 5.15am many of the prime spots were already taken but we gathered a couple of chairs and plonked ourselves in the front row. Good job that we did too as before long it was almost impossible to get out because of the crush behind us as I soon found out when I realised that I needed to get back to our cabin to pick up the binoculars.

Dawn came around 6.30am as we entered the first of six locks and each of us by then had already shot several digital pictures and several minutes of movie film. As we entered the first lock the excitement was literally buzzing around the deck, every square inch of suitable viewing area was covered and people were standing along both sides of all the decks, I reckon that at least 80% of the passengers were out and about to see the first lock gate open and watch us rise up 30 feet from the Caribbean. They continued to watch, photograph and film all the way through the first three locks, some filming the lock gates opening and closing at the prow and some at the stern. Then most of us filtered away to get some breakfast for by now it was getting on for 10.00am and legs and bums were getting tired. I took the opportunity to have my swim a short time after breakfast and it was a good decision as there were not many people in the pool and I got in 22 of those short lengths breaststroke and 6 on my back before the pool started to fill up. I had left Hilary in our normal recliners by the pool but because our ship was constantly changing direction as we manoeuvred across the Panama Lake our regular seats were exposed to the sun and Hilary became very hot so we decided to move. We headed for the Crows Nest as you can get good views from there, albeit behind glass but it is air conditioned. I was determined to take some film of the locks closing behind us and headed to the stern in the belief that I had about 40 minutes to get a good spot; as it turned out it was over 2 hours because a ship coming the other way had some kind of problem. I got some good footage of the tug behind us that was used to keep Oriana in the channel but for a lot of the time we were stationary and I was breathing diesel fumes, not at all pleasant. Mission accomplished I headed for the Crow’s Nest, saw a familiar head and said “You’re still here then?” only to be astonished when an unfamiliar face attached to the head looked at me blankly.

The next hour was spent wandering the decks looking for my wife. I started on Deck 14 where we first met at 5.00am and worked my way down deck by deck, circling each in turn from stem to stern and peering at each passenger carefully as I wandered past. An hour later and I was starving and knew that the restaurant was about to close for lunch and start serving afternoon tea, so I nipped in and grabbed a plate of salad, a cup of tea and a glass of water before venturing out again. I forgot to add that while I was on my wanderings I did just check the cabin to see if Hilary had decided to have a nap but she wasn’t there so it was back to checking the decks again. One more circuit of all the decks and then I had a brainwave – just in front of our cabins there is a very small deck, big enough to hold about 15 people and there she was! We were reunited again and we were able to watch us go through the final lock into the Pacific Ocean together. Actually it is not unreasonable that I couldn’t find her as yesterday we got completely lost and couldn’t find our dinner restaurant. It’s never happened before and we must have had a total brain malfunction but it happened because we were late. Hilary wanted to wear a new dress and at the last minute realised that the petticoat that she had brought was too long and on the spur of the moment pulled out the scissors, removed the elastic and commenced sewing. Well it took far longer than she thought and when we heard the Tannoy announcing that dinner was being served we panicked. She threw on the closest thing to hand and nearly 10 minutes late we headed out the door. Walked to the wrong deck and ended up at one of the entertainment rooms, realised we were wrong and ran up stairs into the wrong restaurant, got re-directed by their waiters and went up another deck before breathlessly arriving at our table. The wine waiter had been over 3 times looking for us – it was my turn to buy – we had no water in our glasses and no bread rolls, menus were thrust at us for instant decisions and of course in our panic Hilary had left her glasses behind so I had to read the menu to her. All in all a right cock-up. Tonight we intend to be more relaxed about it, in fact it is only 5.30pm at the moment and Hilary is already dressed for our 6.30pm dinner. I just need to throw something over my Homer Simpson undershorts – yes use your imagination that is all that I have on while I type this magnum opus – and I too will be ready for dinner. That is my first stint, I may add a bit after dinner but that is unlikely, there are few shows tonight because of the Panama transit so I may just upload this straight after dinner. Incidentally, congratulations to President Obama, he is the only show in town on our CNN channel, we watched him copy Queen Elizabeth with his walk abouts but I didn’t see him diving into the crowd and accepting bunches of flowers. Let’s hope that he can live up to half of what people are expecting from him and that he survives what will undoubtedly be a difficult presidency. Goodbye and good night President Bush.

Tiz I. May I just add to the above that Sam was gone from about 11 am til about 3 30 pm while I sat in the Crows Nest and that I was falling asleep waiting for him to return so I headed down to our cabin to dump the swimming stuff and my bag and I went out onto the nearest deck to photograph the final locks. He had been gone from the time I decided I couldn’t sit in the sun on the pool deck until the final lock. I met some interesting people though to talk to and learned a lot about the various buildings and history of the canal from them. Some had travelled the Panama several times! I saw a flock of pelicans – fantastic. We passed several crocodiles in the water and on the bank but I managed to see only one of them in the water – not a place to swim for people then! I waved to the webcam camera from my little deck and got incredibly wet whilst doing so. We had a heavy shower of rain just as the lock with the camera on it came along – what could I do? Miss the camera or go in and get an umbrella – no brainer, hey ho I got wet. Later, when I was absolutely soaked through I went back to the cabin and changed and took my ‘London Eye’ cape out with me – its dark blue so against the white ship I could not be missed. The official photographers on board ship made a DVD of the passage through the canal so we may be somewhere on that too! Well I’m taking longer and longer to figure how to type so I think that I will call it a day and brush my hair and go down to dinner after which I will be retiring to bed! I didn’t get lunch today because I was waiting for Sam to return!!! Talk again tomorrow and catch you up with the latest metamorphose of the drummer model.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Day Twelve: People Watching

Some of our older readers will remember the TV programme Steptoe and Son (in America I think it was called Sandford and Son) where Harold and his Dad Albert Steptoe, a couple of rag and bone men, used to argue with each other. The dad was a bit of a lecher and one of Harold’s favourite sayings about his dad was “You dirty old man.” We have the equivalent of Albert Steptoe on our Lido deck – not, I hesitate to say that he is dressed other than immaculately – for he sports a slightly battered Panama Hat and usually favours cream shorts or trousers and a sports shirt. He is probably Albert’s age though, somewhere in his early seventies I reckon and a good 6 feet tall, rather elegant in fact. But he trawls the Lido deck in search of single ladies of a certain age and chats them up. We first noticed him yesterday when he pounced on a Scottish lady sun bathing on a recliner in front of us, she tried to make him think that she was asleep but he persisted and insisted on pushing one of his mp3 player headphones into her ear so that she could listen to the music he had selected. “Rather good, don’t you think?” he insisted as she obligingly nodded and tried to make her excuses so that he would move away. Facing us, she tutted and shook her head as he made off in search of another conquest. Today he was back; first it was Pearl, a single lady we met on day one in the self service restaurant when we were all given our inaugural lunch. Then he moved on to a gathering of four women who were just settling into their sunbeds ready for a day’s heavy tanning, he really is a most persistent and attentive man but is really very kind, he talks to them, he brings them drinks, puts his arm around them as he makes his chat up lines and I think that his chat up is working for I have yet to see any of the ladies be rude to him or push him away. Presumably he is cruising solo so who knows he may meet a new partner on his way round the world.

My day so far has been a very lazy one, although it did start with a frustrating experience in the CyberStudy. We had a leaflet saying that there will be a webcam operating during our transition through the Panama Canal ( and so we decided to email folks early so that they can be prepared for this event. Working offline I wrote an email to everyone I thought would be interested and went up to the CyberStudy to send it. Would the emails go? Would they hell. I logged off, and on and then resorted to using a different mail system while trying to remember who I had decided to send it to. This involved searching through contact lists and heaven knows what else before I finally got it off. 14 minutes of piddling around at £0.16 per minute did not impress me at all. I can only hope that you all got it and if you didn’t then click on the link above and see if the camera is working yet. With our minutes running down (70 left out of 250 and we only started 10 days ago) it was time to buy more so this time the package is 500 minutes for £65 or £0.13 per minute. It does pee me off that I can have a month’s fast broadband at home for £14 and yet we have to pay through the nose here.

Frustration over it was time to head for breakfast (genuine Alpen muesli today!) with prunes of course to keep me regular – yes Graham I think about it a lot too – and a couple of cups of tea and then I was on course to bag a couple of sunbeds in the shade where I could read while Hilary went to the second stage of her model. She will tell you all about that later. I managed to finish my second novel of this trip one by Lee Child, an author I really like, but as I had read it once before I was only too glad to finish it and pass it on to Bill who was again lying on a sunbed not far from us. Now I have started another novel by James Patterson, his books are just wallpaper for the mind really, very formulaic and needing no mental stimulation whatsoever. I completed another Daily Mail crossword from the book that Shirley and Dave gave me but I did need assistance from the answers in the back. Don’t know what it is about this particular set of puzzles but the authors and I are not on the same wavelength. At home I can usually finish 4 out of 6 but not from this particular book. I will keep trying though.

With Hilary back I waited until 12.30pm to go into the pool – it is a good time actually as that is when quite a lot of folks decide that lunch is a necessity. I managed 20 lengths on my front and 8 on my back before the pool filled up again and I called it a day. The poolside showers are fabulous, very powerful, very hot if you want them to be and they have liquid soap that smells OK, men and women have separate shower areas and changing rooms which are between the two pools on the Lido deck. At the bow end of the Lido deck is the Al Fresco restaurant and at the stern end (see how proficient I am with nautical speak) is the Conservatory restaurant. The latter is much larger, has a far wider selection of food and I find it very convenient for just nipping in and getting iced water and cups of tea; lately we have been spending a good deal of our time on the Lido deck but we quit it early today in favour of going to see the SpyMaster talk on Spies in High Heels. Not one of his best but very entertaining as always and I thought that it was his last but apparently there are two more. I hope that tomorrow’s talk doesn’t take up too much Panama time.

Just about the first thing you do when you join Oriana is to hand over a credit or debit card so that they can take an imprint of it, then they give you a small (credit card size) dark blue wallet with the P & O logo on it. Inside the transparent cover on the front is a bar-coded piece of plastic with your name and cabin number and this is the devil incarnate. You see something you like they scan the barcode, buy a drink scan the barcode, book a tour scan the barcode, and buy internet minutes scan the barcode, change foreign currency for a tour scan the barcode. No money changes hands but the debt is piling higher and higher as we reach the end of the first leg in San Francisco, Hilary is keeping track of all our barcode scans for wine at dinner, poolside ginger beers, souvenirs and trips etc but even with our £500 cabin credit and our £200 fuel rebate we will be in debt by the time the bill thuds onto our cabin mat. Hilary has just reminded me that the tenor of the ship will change once we leave San Francisco as we have heard over the ship grapevine that 500 passengers are leaving and 400 joining. We are assuming that most of the new folks will be American and it will be interesting to see how they integrate into the staid old British Empire types who are currently dominant on this ship.

Tiz I. As we have had a lazy day (again) I don’t have much to add. The clay modelling class was great fun and I keep getting the giggles when I see what has evolved on my model. We follow a set pattern by the instructor and my model has metamorphosed from ET to gormless to someone after a heavy night of drinking to an old chap with no teeth to Prince Charles. I can’t wait to see what he looks like after the next lesson when he gains, hair, whiskers and a hat! The spy master was funny as usual and at the end of the talk he took questions, the one I thought most interesting was ‘what makes a good spy’. His answer was a good liar, good listener, someone who can fend off questions about him/herself and able to remain almost as invisible. It was interesting to me that a huge amount of people who attended the talks had spent time in Hong Kong before it was taken over by China. He also knew that there were significant amounts of the audience with secret service histories. Interesting hey?

OK one last bit to add after dinner (Red Mullett, very nice, Black Forest, very fattening, damn). We went to see the film of Brideshead Revisited – Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon, very good but very long I would guess that 50% of the audience nodded off at some stage. The plot seemed totally different from the old TV series, maybe I will read the book again, then again maybe not. It’s the Panama tomorrow and we enter the first lock at 6.00am so we have to be up early, BUT we put the clocks back another hour so all the emails that I sent out are wrong. It will be 11.00am in England and 5.00am in Texas. Night all, thanks for all your lovely comments, it’s nice to know that you are not too bored with the rantings of this elderly couple.