Tag Archives: Atlantic Ocean

Brit On The Water


Despite the protestations of The Special One, I’ve never quite been able to understand the point of a holidayvacation on board a cruise ship. The idea of being surrounded with 2000 people whose idea of a good time is spending their evening watching some underworked and slightly camp ‘entertainers’ perform The Birdie Song is enough to send me racing into the arms of a passing Somali pirate. I have a recurring nightmare about pulling out of port and realising that I have no escape from Nigel and Doris (and their hilarious stories of the time that Nigel accidentally washed his hair with mayonnaise).

No, the cruise is simply not for me.

Of course, like all the best over-the-top generalisations, my loathing of cruise liners has absolutely no basis in knowledge. I’ve never stepped on a boat of that size – indeed, I don’t think that I’d even seen one particularly close up until this weekend when we saw the Queen Mary 2 blocking out the sun in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Sadly, all that has now changed. I am now a cruise veteran.

To be fair, there seems to be a lot going in a cruise’s favour. I was admittedly working pretty much round-the-clock at a business conference, the swimming pools had been drained, and I barely went outside for three days. But nonetheless, I can see why some people would possibly get quite into the idea. The ship was enormous, with numerous restaurants, nightclubs, bars and even a casino – as well as a basketball court, a golf range and an art gallery among many other attractions. I’m sure that kids – if any had been allowed on the boat – would have been thoroughly entertained by a crack squad of children’s entertainers. And who can argue with a team of maids who turn your towels into elaborate sculptures of frogs, rabbits or dogs?

All in all then, pretty bearable. Apart from the music, that is.

Never before has such a collection of terrible tunesmithery been gathered together in one place. From the piano player on night one, to the ill-advised Chinese trio on day two, to the over-the-hill male and female combo on the final night, the entertainment was enough to have half of the conference delegates running for the lifeboats, and the rest desperately hoping that the boat was actually called the Titanic.

The first song I heard being played as I walked out on to the deck was – no word of a lie – Lady In Red. And it was downhill from there. Seasons In The Sun, Hello, Chiquitita, Everything I Do (I Do It For You), Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love For You – rarely can there have been a less enticing set of songs played for a group’s ‘listening’ ‘pleasure’.

The entertainers did have the good grace to look embarrassed, occasionally casting their eyes around the stunned onlookers to make sure that they didn’t know anybody.

At least I think they did. I’d jumped into the Atlantic by the time they played Wind Beneath My Wings.

Early to rise, early to grump

Four times this week, I’ve woken from my deep and blissful slumber at 6.30am. And not just because one of the cats is aggressively scratching the door in an attempt to persuade me that it should be fed.

Each time I have reluctantly emerged disheveled and groggy from under the duvet (which I believe for legal purposes I have to call a comforter in the United States, despite the fact that it makes it sound like some kind of security blanket), and reached for the closet to pluck out my dressing gown. Ten minutes later – having finally managed to find the armhole in the pitch blackness of the room, put it on, taken it off so that it wasn’t back to front like a straitjacket, put it on, taken it off again because it was inside out, put it on again, and finally grappled in the bottom of the closet to find the missing waist cord – I get my day started.

Now, this week was an unusual week, given that I had very early starts at work, but nonetheless there are always two or three days a week where I have to get up an hour earlier than strictly necessary. That’s sixty minutes of lost sleep, making me sixty times more likely to be grumpy by the end of the day (as I’m sure The Special One will happily confirm with a world weary roll of the eyes).

And the reason? Clearly it’s not a desire to go for an early morning jog along the Atlantic Ocean coast. Nor is it a willingness to skip merrily to a delightful little patisserie nearby, to pick up croissants and fresh baguettes. I mean, I would, but trudging through the cold to get a loaf of Home PrideWonder Bread just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

No, it’s because The Young Ones have to start school at 8.15am, and given that we live an hour or so subway ride from their educational establishment, one of us always has to get up at 6.30 to wake them and make them lunch.

I’m not complaining about making the kids lunch, obviously. Well, I am, but that’s a different matter. In the end, despite a certain amount of grumbling, I’m happy to accept the role. What I struggle to understand is why they have to be at school at 8.15am.

The strange thing is, they seem to be the lucky ones, with other kids having to be at school for 8. Of course, I understand that parents work, and so dropping them off before they head off to the office is a necessity for some people. But in New York, most kids at high school either live within walking distance of school or get the subway on their own. Classes finish at 2.30 or 3, but show me a kid who wouldn’t swap an hour of freedom in the afternoon for an hour of extra bed, and I will show you a 13 year old who probably has extra-curricular commitments as a shoplifter.

In the UK, school starts at 9, and finishes around 3.30. Much more civilised if you ask me. Maybe there are studies that show kids are more receptive to learning early in the morning, and I would kind of understand that, and should certainly respect it. All I can say is that there are studies that clearly show that I am substantially more tetchy having got up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning.

It’s time for change in more ways than one, I can tell you.