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Wednesday, 7 May 2014

EEK! I can't blog fast enough...


OK, so I haven't written anything for over a week now, and I need to catch up on some stuff. There are two reasons for this: firstly, like anything wonderful and beautiful this cycle of ports has become a little routine. I’m getting to know these places better and starting to enjoy them without feeling the need to gush so much. The other is my determination to finish reading Bleak House by the end of this trip and to finish my book, which I’ve been writing for years and I want to ensure is complete, although I’m sure it's nothing publishable it would be nice to say I’ve written one.

So where did I leave you? Ah, the day at sea!

So we pick up in Lisbon. With hindsight, I think Lisbon is one of three unmissable places I’ve been on this trip. I'll point them all out as we go. I went around it's wonderful flea market and bought a reel of 8mm film of unknown content – I’m excited to see it!

Then I met up with L and we wondered around the beautiful mosaic pavements for a while, nipping in and out of shops. Nothing much happened while with L, but the conversation was good and the surroundings were perfect. The feeling is really impossible to describe, but taking in the little unremarkable features of a place together make a beautiful whole which all the words in the world can't recreate.

Then came Portimao – I went to the beach, which I found to be bright, long and empty for miles. All the shops and cafe's were shut so I wondered taking photographs and writing poetry. This is when I started to feel quite lonely, and the feeling is sticking. I’ve never needed a day off so bad before! Well, only two more months.

Ah! and that's the next piece of news. I’ve been offered another month on my contract. I’m unsure whether to take it or not, but I’m probs going to. I’ve talked it thru with the band and they agree.

Next came Casablanca. I woke up a poor man and became a rich man as I walked deeper into the souk. I saw new things today, the fresh fish on Ice, straight from the ocean just hours before. The giant slabs of meat hanging, flies buzzing around and the hundreds of chickens, looking half dead crammed in cages. Everywhere smelt of effluence. I brought two of round loaves of bread I love so much and gave one to a man I met in the park called Mohammed. He'd travelled to England through France and loved London greatly. He spoke pigeon English and I spoke pigeon French, so communicating was a fun challenge.

I’m going to say while it's happening that I’m listening to 'The Storm' from local band 'That's Not Me' – it's really a solo by Ellie Shutie from their album 'The Road Ahead Is At My Feet'. I really like the album which is still growing on me greatly. Initially I liked a few tracks on it, but the more I listen to it the more I love their unique sound and writing. Their lyrics are incredible, and very relate-able in my current situation. With music like this, the whole Long Haired Music project is so worth it.

Before I left Casablanca, I stopped to buy a packet of cookies from some young girls looking very bored at their family store. 'How Much?' I asked them in bad french. 'One Dirham'. That's ten pence for a packet of cookies. I bought three and gave two back to the girls. 'These are for you' I said. The girl snatched them to her chest and her eyes lit up. 'MERCI BOUCOUP MONSOIR!!!' she shouted after me in abject delight. It's easy to play the good guy when your a rich man. Then I left the souk and became poor again.

Next came Cadiz, a city completely unmemorable to me in every way. I spent the whole day searching for a post office and nothing really else happened. I bought a tambourine for my favourite waitress to beat if it takes her fancy.

Then finally, Gibralter. Finally I got to climb the hill with L and get into the moutain park. It turned out the 18 euros we'd been unable to afford the previous day got us none of what we wanted to see and it would be in fact 23 Euros to see everything in the park. However, we could walk around the whole park for a Euro each. The decision was made. We spent the day teasing the apes, which kept swiping at our cameras. They jumped on the back of one lady. In a moment lacking in empathy we both asked 'hey can we photograph you?'. She said 'Sure, but can we get it off me?'. The moment the ape realised it was being photographed, it jumped down and ran off. L was delightful as usual, and the day was sunny and perfect. I with we could have every adventure together, but out schedules are crazy manic!

Then came Malaga again. This time it was kind of weird. There was some sort of procession going on, with marching bands, brass bands and all these childen and adults in robes that looked like Klansmen, but in different colours. I know these outfits had their origins in Spain, but I don't think the white ones are worn so much now. The kids were all in black or dark red robes, and it looked like a Hogwarts graduation parade as they meandered back through the streets, hoods in hand. I tried to find out more, but all I know is it had something to do with soldiers.

Toulon was fairly dull. I got rained on, had my hair cut on the boat by the genius of Uros, went back out into the sunshine and sowed a patch onto my Uke case while being started at and bothered by teens asking me 'Cigarette? Cigarette?'. Je ne fumer pas, poulet tetes. I really need to learn some more French.

Yesterday I got off in Mahon, and did some clothes shopping with one of the dance team. I’ve not really got to know him yet, but he turned out to be pretty sound. I bought just one shirt, but a really nice one from a designer suite shop. Now I can look good one more day of the week! Was really chuffed with this.

Emily Morgan, an awesome young songwriter from Stamford received my tape in the post. Her tape lives in my van and is my favourite driving music. Check it out if you can find it! I think its called 'Unravel'. Maybe we can bring back the cassette tape! Er, nah.

Today, I spent the day on the outskirts of Valencia with J the ents host. Had a wicked day, grabbed some wifi, and now here I am.

Tomorrow Cartegena and then a new course – Thank goodness! Never thought I'd get bored of Spain, and I probs wouldn't if I had more time in her, but I’m looking forward to some new places. Italy next weeeeeek!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

'Travel is like flirting with life. It's like saying 'I would stay and love you, but I have to go' - Lisa St. Aubin de Teran.

Thanks to Grace for that one.

Miss you England, you have my heart!


Monday, 5 May 2014

Valencia, Cartegena, Malaga, Day At Sea


Valencia, Cartegena, Malaga, Day At Sea

Tonight, there will be a masked ball. It will be, Unlike the stately Masquerades of old, held in the grubby smoke filled crew bar, where loud repetitive pop music will drown almost all conversation. Unfortunately, with my crew card blocked as I can't pay my bar bill, I have to deal with this environment sober, unless one of the passengers of crew makes a gesture of unprompted generosity. Still, I'll dance my legs down to the knee if L is in the bar.

Tonight, L will not be in the bar. Still, rationally, I can't spend my every waking moment with L, and maybe tonight will be a good opportunity to, if not pull than at least to catch up with my friends I’ve somewhat abandoned in this last week.

Valencia was pretty dull. L didn't want to go out in the cold, as it was fairly nippy that day, so I left her to Skype her devoted boyfriend while I spent an hour exploring the dirty port end of the town. I found a mask for the ball, and some 'Adventure Time' crisps. The rest of the day I spent just chatting with her.

The next day in Cartegena I became extremely miserable. The ship left port at 15.00 and I managed 20 minutes in the port through oversleeping. That day, the cabin got smaller and smaller until L knocked on my door to say hi in between shifts. This is when I started to clock the fact that I had a problem. Having only a few friends on the boat I'd been quite content to take as much time to myself as possible, reading, writing and listening to music. Now with L and her lush conversation I’m starting to resent the time I’m spending alone. I really, really needed a days grace from this ridiculous routine. I said goodbye to an amazing set of passengers today. But then I said hello to L and my head set straight again.

Malaga. More and more this city becomes a breath of fresh air. The day was spent rambling with L. Exploring, climbing, laughing and joking through the rich and colourful hillside gardens up to the castle. On the way up some horrid guy picked my pocket of 20 Euros. By this point I didn't care though, I was too relieved to be out in the sunshine. I simply stripped off my shoes and socks, rolled up my jeans and walking into a fountain, smiling splashing and loving the city.

We walked back along the beach to the ship, and took in the fun. I taught her tongue twisters, and she taught me basic Russian and Latvian. I’m getting better – My Latvian includes 'Sveki', hello and 'Atah', bye. My Russian consists of 'Breviate' hello, and 'Spokonay Noiche' goodnight, although that's probably nowhere near the right spelling. L and another are the ony two Latvians on the ship, but shared with the Ukrainian is a common language of Russian, which I believes shares a lot with Ukrainian. So Russian is more practical to know, but proper Ukrainian will curry favour from the waitresses. I went back out later, just to soak up as much fresh air as possible, and changed in the nick of time for passenger drill. Tying peoples life-jackets up has gone from being terrifying to kind of theraputic.

I’m always nervous with a new set of passengers, but I one these guys over by the end of the night.

Now day at sea, I’ve read a chunk of Bleak house and might have some food. At least I got change to sleep!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Cadiz, Gibralter, Malaga, Barcelona, Toulon, Mahon and why I’ve been so Lazy with my blogging..

OK, I’m stalling with this blog. I started letting my one-post-per-port system drop in Cadiz.

Cadiz was a port where second time around, literally nothing happened. It was extremely boring, I only had two hours off.

Then came Gibraltar. The problem with Gibraltar was is was far, far too interesting.

In crew bar the night before, I'd overheard a conversation between two people I vaguely know, talking about finding a camera shop in Gibraltar. Ears burning, I butted in and said 'hey, I know where there's a camera shop in Gibraltar'. The girl who was asking, I'll refer to as L, as I’ve been trying not to name people in this public blog. The result was we went into Gibraltar together the next day to find the camera shop where I bought my card reader.

The shop was shut, so we started walking up the hill to find some monkeys (or Barbary Apes as they really are). We found some, but the castle turned out to be too expensive for either of us. By means of apology for dragging her up and down a small mountain, I bought L a coffee. On the way back down, I walked her down the main street, which, as I now know, is thick with pro camera shops. I'd made a friend for life.

First day I didn't know what L made of me, but considering we've spent most of our time together since we became firm friends that day.

I don't really want to bring any other characters into this blog besides myself, but as I’m barely leaving the boat without L at the minute, it's impossible to leave her out.

Malaga I spent the whole day trying to find an HSBC bank to register my pin with. After walking miles down a road tourist info said there might be an HSBC down, and finding nothing but Santanders I began trying my card with it's brand new pin in every machine I could find. Finally, I came up trumps. 'La Caxia' would not let me see my balance or change my pin, but it would give me cash. Nice to know that if my card was pinched they couldn't do anything with it – except steal all my money.

Barcelona, I overslept. Probably because the night before I'd spent several hours dancing with and chatting to L. Without making this into something it isn't, I’ve genuinely found one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. Anyhow, I only got to see a couple of hours of the city, and with the boat moored a half hour walk away from the city it took me an age to get there, but I ended up at the second hand market in the bottom of Los Rambles. I got a few pressies and a patch for my Uke case. It reads 'Cat Power' who are a band I saw at Glastonbury, but somehow I don't think this patch was made for them. I have to find out what it means.... it makes me uneasy knowing its on there without knowing its other meaning.

In Malaga I'd bought rope and thread. I'd already found a needle in the carpet of my cabin and I set about making an adjustable carry-strap for my ukulele case. I’ve realised in previous blog posts that the Ukulele is a flirting master-tool. Sorry, friend-making master-tool I mean. Now my uke travels with me to every city.

The next day was Toulon, and I got up mega early with L to hit the port before she stared work. We accidentally found a rock festival, and listened to this amazing French jam band, a bit like Santana, but funkier, with two gorgeous dreaklocked girls singing and playing guitar. We walked around the port, L with her SLR, talking and occasionally she'll freeze, turn the camera on and photograph something inane. When I look on the view screen at the back, the mundane has become beautiful. It's weird.

My sets have been getting better and better this week. My playing's just dropping into place, mainly thanks to Steve, who's back on board today, raving it up with us in Crew Bar. Today L heard me properly for the first time, be it from around the corner where she was photographing passengers in front of a giant fake sunset. 'It frames you nicely!' I told her as we chatted, her SLR in her hands as always, like an extension of her body.

It was Mahon today. I love Mahon.We wondered up through the town, and walked out in the non-obvious direction, right from the port. We found a track leading out into idyllic countryside, unfamiliar plants and wildlife. We walked out as far as we could, both photographing everything. We were rewarded by a few of true rural Spain. This is what Laurie Lee must have seen and experienced, and a side of Spain neither of us had seen before. On the way back we got wonderfully lost, and climbed down the giant port wall by a different method. Tiered with gardens and wonderful views, L climbed over the wall, thrusting her camera at me. 'Hold please'. So as L climbed precariously out onto the port wall, photographing the perfect abyss of the harbour, with silt diggers on barge penetrating the blue, I sang her songs on my ukulele.

We came back down to find L's Indonesian colleague, a cheerful photographer, also with a permanent SLR addiction. Only N is most commonly found deeply lost in her phone. We played on the swings, taking turns and crazy pictures with all three cameras. I lay on the floor singing nonsense songs.

'We're sailing in the Majesty
On the Mediterranean sea
If only had wifi for free
You would be our heaven'

All to soon we had to get back on board ship, but things are changing. I was wondering how I was going to get through 3 months of solid Majesty ship life, now I don't know how I’m going to leave it behind.

'Two months was a very long time now
Two months is a very short time
Toulon is-a bright sunshine and
Gibraltar is a very long climb'

Well, at least I’m writing again.

Love you and miss you all,

Sam xxx