Saturday, 26 April 2014

A day at sea

All thoughts have drifted, floated away onto the sea –

As becomes the nature of a cruise holiday, you get caught up in this confusing state of relaxation vs. trying to fit in as much of everything as possible. This means setting alarms of a morning to ensure that no day is wasted (in theory, although of course an early start inevitably means a nap later in the day to compensate). Our first day of holiday was spent sailing the seas between Spain and Portugal, as we headed to our first port of call, Lisbon. Realistically, therefore, there was very little point in setting an alarm, but nevertheless the keen-cruiser in me took control and I was up bright and early for breakfast on deck. Or so I thought. I am a firm believer in holidays being the ultimate opportunity for escapism, so I refuse to use my phone when abroad. However, this time I had taken it to act as our morning alarm, although of course as it did not automatically update due to being set to flight mode, I had then forgotten to change the time, so was up an hour later than expected; whoops!

Sat on deck with a croissant and a cup of tea (my first breakfast of the day) wrapped up in my scarf and maxi, trying not to get blown away. Had been sitting for a while when I suddenly realised my mind was literally empty. Blank. Really how often does that happen? It is the most AMAZING experience, like your brain has finally decided it’s allowed to switch off and so has extremely successfully gone into hibernation mode; luxury. Instead of concerning myself with ridiculous thoughts as make a habit of usually passing through my head, I was able to observe with fascination the microclimate that seems to surround a ship. As I said, it was windy as might be expected, but it was also caught between sunshine and cloud, and at one point there was even a single raincloud which showered us all for a matter of seconds before swiftly moving on. Around we all sat, looking at each other in complete disbelief!

I was eventually joined on deck by the woman who knows how to holiday (as in, she sleeps, as opposed to getting up unnecessarily early) and we ventured to find brunch. Stomachs lined with a Full English, we headed back to where I’d been sat under the microclimate to enjoy the sunshine/bracing wind. We made half an attempt to find a ‘sheltered’ spot, although quickly came to the realisation that unless it was inside, there was very little chance of sheltering from a sea breeze when one is at sea (nevertheless, it later transpired that, as ever, my parents had found a jammy spot down on the promenade deck... if only we had allowed our legs to take us that little bit further)!

Lorna goes on a mission to see if around the corner is more sheltered..
... it really isn't!
As I write this, I am beginning to realise how cat-like one becomes on a cruise holiday. So far the pattern has been: sleep-eat-sit-eat-sit-, and now we follow with another eat, as then it was time for lunch! After lunch, we braved making our way into the Jubilee Show Lounge for what was really a Michael Bublé tribute, although he lured us in being described as a swing-singer in general. Armed with afternoon tea to keep us going, we actually found ourselves quite pleasantly surprised, if a little too close to the speaker for mother’s liking (and we would have been dazzled by his outfit from any angle; says Lorna ‘he appears to be wearing my dress as a jacket’). Now I may not be a self-confessed Bublé fan, let alone the fan of a take-off, but while we sat enjoying his performance, I got to thinking about crowds/us Brits, and how bizarre we are! There we all sit in formal rows, arms folded, blank expressions. I may have recently discovered I am not Latino enough for Salsa, but I do like to think I may still be a little more European than British when it comes to the effect of music on my body. I find myself looking like an over-excited child, going way beyond a subtle foot-tap with a full-on body bob (if that’s not already a thing, I make it one) mixed in with a lot of side to side swaying (enhanced this time by the ‘gentle pitching’ of the ship, which it seems leaves a head in a permanent state of feeling inebriated; a life on the waves would be LUSH)! I hope that whatever I do gives a little hope to a performer if they happen to catch sight of me (and hopefully that’s not for all the wrong reasons), otherwise us Brits really are a tough crowd (good at applause though, I can’t deny)!

Perhaps subconsciously in order to calm me down, we went back out to be blustered around and drink Tom Collins’. Whilst outside I found myself tuning in to inane conversation between two couples who had obviously met onboard. I’m sure if I ever happen to have my own children, I too will enter into the obligatory bettering that seems to go on between parents;

‘oh no, my boys never argue. I mean, they don’t really socialise, but if they’re out in the same bar and one of them gets into trouble I think they’d look out for each other’ - ‘oh your boys don’t have girlfriends? Well mine is only 12 years old and he does. Only the other day I heard him say that when she goes to university he’ll stay behind and keep house’

... seriously (I must admit there’s something strangely empowering to know that I sat there writing this on the table right next to them – or is it perhaps a little creepy?)?!

Blustery winds do not bode well with straws in cocktails, or indeed with pages of notebooks (certainly not with loose pages of typed print), so we retreated inside where we came across a bar with window seats, which we would go on to become all too fond of! Snuggled comfortably in what was really just a large, less round, more square, port-hole, I gazed down over the waves caused by the motion of the ship. The break is hands down the best form of hypnosis I know.

Now anyone that has ever played table tennis with me will know that my claim to fame is my ability to play efficiently in formal attire (heels included) a-top a ship on the North Sea in gale force winds. Having made this boast to Lorna, it was only right that she would want to witness these ‘skills’. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) for her, there was an opportunity to play table tennis in a lounge at the front of the ship (it was definitely the movement that kept taking me off balance, not the Tom Collins (plural)), so we finally broke the sleep-eat-sit-eat pattern and went to do some form of exercise! The serious-types were already in full swing when we got there, and for some reason, no one seemed to realise that we were hoping to participate. I wonder whether floor-length skirts, flip-flops and our distinct lack of own bats with heated handles were not enough to convince everyone? We were quite disappointed to find that there was only one table, so not only was everyone taking turns, which meant that we had to wait for one, having taken quite enough time to pluck up the courage to even go, they were also watching each other – mortifying! Once ‘everyone’ had had their turn, the entertainment host began to call some people back up, to which I cried ‘can’t we have a go?’, throwing up my hand, again like an over-eager child. With some surprise, he agreed, and we took to the floor, where we were apparently pretty impressive, causing further surprise. 

Take that, owners of ping pong bats with heated handles!

So as to avoid embarrassing the pros, we disappeared into a shroud of mystery after our one match, and began prepping for Captain’s Cocktail night. Captain’s Cocktail, as always, consisted of endless photos in front of various cheesy cruise ship backgrounds, shaking hands with the captain among other ‘key’ staff, amazing food:
Starter - [green] mussels
Soup – mushroom with truffle oil
Main – steak
Dessert – chocolate charlotte and something with champagne in it

, performing waiters, questionable entertainment (this time it was Moulin Rouge – a selection of ‘numbers’ from the Parisian streets), blowing around the top deck in black tie, and finding ourselves thoroughly depressed in a bar at the end of the night with other stragglers by the sounds of the Boros Duo (one performance piece of choice was the theme from Schindler’s List, it was a struggle). 

In an attempt to cheer ourselves up, we finally rose from our depressive slump and went in pursuit of perkier climbs/sounds. As a result, we became embroiled in a cynical (and probably not as subtle as we would have liked to think) discussion about the effect of accents on how intelligent a person seems, and I embarrassed myself attempting impressions of the dear character Mr Porky found on the front of a packet of pork scratchings. 

A day and night very well spent I reckon.