Thursday, 5 February 2009

Day Twenty Six: Due South

Around 10.15am this morning we crossed the equator and the GPS display of our current position (which we can see on our room TV by tuning to channel 1) is now showing that we are currently at a longitude of 166 degrees 18 minutes west and a latitude of 1degree 48minutes south, we are on a heading of 200 degrees as we head for American Samoa.
The temperature is 79F and the winds are easterly force 4. From the longitude you can see that we will soon be reaching the International Date Line (nominally 180 degrees) and because of that we will miss Sunday altogether and jump from midnight Saturday to 00.01am on Monday. As I keep telling my friends on board, “I’ll buy the drinks on Sunday” – just joking really.

Now that Hilary’s head is back with us we decided to go to the Peninsular (read posh) restaurant for breakfast, where I tried the omelette, and one couple on our table – you don’t get to choose who you sit with at breakfast or lunch) proudly told us that “we think that this is our 30th cruise,” and then went on to talk about the other P & O ships and how they compared. They also had tales to tell about bad weather in the Bay of Biscay, the South Pacific “ooh that were nasty that were,” and in the Mediterranean, “can be the worst of all that place, we suffered there last year when we went to see ‘t Pyramids.” Being seasoned travellers they advised us to pack all our bags before we got through the Straits of Gibraltar, “It’s a lot more difficult if you’re trying to pack when the ship is bouncing around in the Bay of Biscay.” But surprisingly neither of them are particularly good sailors “I get the doctor at home to prescribe me these little pills, they’ve got a line on them so you can break them in half,” and the husband suffered a couple of days ago just as Hilary did.

We left them still eating while we did our mile walk around the Promenade Deck before going to see the ITV man’s lecture. Today’s lecture was actually quite good; certainly the best that we have heard from him and it may be because instead of talking about himself, he talked about the theme tunes that he plays before he starts and how those tunes relate to his life as a director. Sadly we did get most of the tunes right, which only goes to show that over the years we have watched far too much TV. We didn’t get Shoestring, a series starring Trevor Eve some years ago, nor did we get Brideshead Revisited which we should have done but Hilary did get Rising Damp which I thought was Reginald Perrin – same actor just the wrong show.

Customarily after the lecture we go to the Lido Deck and read, lie around, swim and people watch but today we had to change our plans as when we got there just after 11.00am it was already full with lots of towels reserving lots of sun loungers. Initially we thought that this was simply because it was a nice sunny day and people wanted to hang around the pool and then we realised that it was because folks were already taking their places in preparation for the Crossing the Line ceremony at 2.30pm. We settled for the shade on the starboard side of the Promenade Deck and I finished off my John Grisham book (Barack Obama next, I promise Sharon) and as usual I wrote on the fly leaf “Please read, enjoy and pass on.” That’s the fourth book that I have left around like this so I hope that people are doing what I ask. One of the advantages of sitting on the Promenade Deck is that you get to see the world walk by as people take their daily exercise. You are not allowed to jog on this deck but you do see a number of folks who would dearly love to. The walkers range from those heaving and wheezing their way around just one time before stopping off to have a cigarette, (yes smoking is allowed on board Oriana on certain parts of different decks as well as in the cabins which quite surprises me, I would have thought that the Insurers would have a problem with that), to the super fit who muscle their way around the deck getting very annoyed at the slow coaches like us whom they always seem to meet at the narrowest part of the deck. Me, I give those types very short shrift and let them huff and puff impatiently behind me as they try to overtake.

One thing that I have noticed is that most men on board (and that includes me in the orange crocs) wear socks with their sandals and with their tennis shoes. I believe it to be a mainly British trait and I do at least make an attempt to wear my light coloured or white socks rolled right down so that they are hardly noticeable but there are some on board who wear long BLACK socks, half way up their legs, together with baggy shorts half way down their legs. When you combine this with a belly (sometimes ghostly white and sometimes deeply tanned + scars) that protrudes from an unbuttoned Marks and Spencer shirt and overhangs like a trembling avalanche over the top of their shorts, it is not a sight that turns the fair maidens on.

A couple of hours on a sun lounger does something to the muscles in your bum, for a start they go very numb no matter how much you wriggle around and then you either get cramp or pins and needles. Either way two hours with legs up, legs down, legs sideways, feet over the edge, feet flat is enough for anyone so we felt that it was time to make a move. Incidentally I am very proud of myself once again for doing what I thought was a difficult Sudoku, it may look a mess on the page but by golly it worked out. We have almost finished the ship’s crossword too and I am sure that we will complete it by the time that the day is over. We worked our way – via the stairs, we are desperately trying not to use the lifts – from Deck 7 to Deck 12 (note: 10 flights of stairs) and as we opened the door onto the deck we were met by a wall of sound and people. The deck that we thought was busy 3 hours ago was now a heaving mass of humanity, brown bodies, white bodies, thin, fat, absolutely gorgeous, absolutely gross and many of them were waving their wobbly bits to extremely loud music that was coming from the stage above the pool. It was obvious that there were no seats or even a standing area available on Deck 12 so we climbed another flight of stairs to Deck 13 where we were able to wriggle our way through to a spot on the railings that overlooked the pool. It wasn’t ideal in that we had a pillar between the two of us but we were able to follow all the proceedings from there and it was an ideal place to film the Crossing the Line Ceremony.

The ceremony itself was nothing like I expected as I was thinking that we would have the traditional Neptune shaving the crew who had never been south of the equator before, instead we had a competition between two sets of crew members. One group were pirates and the other were the STD’s (Ship’s Territorial Defence) and they were fighting over 3 crew members who had never crossed the line – one of those members was the ship’s doctor, that was a bit surprising. There were three competitions (one for each of Neptune’s trident spikes) and all took place in the pool. Hidden treasure had to be gathered from the bottom of the pool, swimming with a bucket over the head and finally a pillow fight on a greasy pole. Of course the STDs won and the prisoners were released and promptly thrown in the pool as well. Good clean fun and something I hope to give you a flavour of when I make the DVD. That’s it for now; I will pass you over to Hilary who has spent the last hour or so putting her scrapbook together.

Tiz I. With only a few minutes before we have to start to get ready for dinner – semi formal – so that will be black trousers and a floaty top of some sort, can’t be asked to make too much effort tonight. We had a good day with time to do a little embroidery (although I seem to have lost one of my silks), the design will have to be adjusted a little to accommodate the lost threads. I did a couple of word searchers and managed to keep in the partial shade while watching the crew having a great deal of fun in the pool during the ‘crossing of the line’ ceremony. The scrapbook is beginning to look like a record of the trip and I am enjoying doing it – it just seems to take an age for each page. Must practice more – obviously.
The ‘treasure’ in the pool was a wide selection of the ship’s cutlery and silver jugs. If dinner tastes a little bit of chlorine we will know why! We heard that London had 14 inches of snow a couple of days ago – how are all of you in the West Country? We also heard that you were all due snow today so Hayles keep warm; we can order more oil when we get home or before if necessary – don’t be cold. Have the black plastic coverings on the vegetable garden blown away yet or are they anchored down with snow? I hope you have managed to get through the chocolates and other stuff in the cupboards. When we get home we will be the size of the back of a bus so we certainly won’t want any sweet stuff in the house. Now I had better find those black trousers and change. Take care, God bless.

We have just returned from the evening show featuring an amazing lady pianist cum singer who had the audience enthralled for the one hour show. She plays a mixture of jazz and classical and combines the two to great effect and she deserved a standing ovation, we look forward to seeing her again in a weeks time. The two pictures are just to give you a taste of the Crossing the Line celebration, when we came back to our cabin we found a simple paper certificate but later we hope to get a photographic one showing us in our finest duds and commemorating February 4th at 10.20am as our official document. Evening all.

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