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 (www.pancanal.com) 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.