I have been very busy since my last post, my wife and I went
to a funeral, our friends are getting less by the month.
I spent time with a doctor getting advice about a character of
mine in hospital in the USA, I received a lot of interesting information, my thanks
to her. This particular story is presently being entered into the computer from
my manuscript. How the lady does it I don’t know, because I can’t even read my
Then I spent time getting information about BMW cars and
their accessories for ‘EMILY’ a story that I have been spending 8 hours a day editing.
I am presently working on my 3rd edit. This is the story that with
any luck may be released around Christmas or New Year time.
As if that wasn’t enough, I have found time to write a few passages
in ‘Conception.’ The first in the David Turner series that will be published in
I feel worn out just writing all this, so I think I will go
and have a lay down.
As you know, I presently have my first story away at the proofreaders. Yesterday I contacted ‘More Visual Ltd’ of Leicester, I spoke to a nice young man called Richie.
OH! How that ages me, at my age everyone is young now in
Anyway, listen. Richie arranged for them to give me a quote for the book covers that I need, and they might be able to create an authors website for me too. As you might imagine, I spent all afternoon and evening finding images I need and writing descriptions of what I want on the book cover and website. I managed to get it all done before falling asleep next to a half empty glass of medicinal wine.
SO, WHERE IS THE GAMBLE?
It’s in the next stage. Paying out lots of good hard-earned money,
quite a bit. Like backing a horse, I am betting it all on my writing. Will
people like what I have written? Will the different novels be entertaining?
My first book is set in 1850, and is about infatuation, love
and betrayal. My second book is a sex mystery story.
I KNOW, I can hear you saying “What is a sex mystery?” Well
you can find out when I publish it, before Christmas.
I have neglected you for a long time and I am sorry for that.
My absence was not intentional, but things have developed
and I am now writing full time.
I have written three novels and two novellas so far this year, plus diaries and outlines for other stories.
I have been busy editing the first of my books to be
published, it is presently at the proofreaders. I am busy working on a front cover
for it and for the next book that will follow shortly afterwards.
The first of the book will be FREE, it is called ‘CARMEN’ and will be published as an e-book around the end of September. I will post more details as they become available.
In the meantime, here is a free 10 minute story, nothing
I hope you enjoy it.
P.S. I have changed my photo to something more realistic,
but don’t let it put you off.
A 10 minute story
The 17 year old boy lay in the
hospital bed, his injuries extensive. Broken jaw, face so badly bruised both
eyes were swollen shut, two broken ribs, ear damaged, broken arm, and bruises
all over his little body.
“Do you have a name for him, for our
administration records officer?” Asked the doctor.
“He had a couple of cards on him
when we found him, if they are his, his name is Peter Blox. Do you have any
idea when we might be able to interview him about how he came to be in this
condition?” The police officer asked.
“With the injuries he has, it maybe
weeks; I am planning to keep him unconscious for at least three days.”
Pete Blox thought he could hear
noises, someone calling his name. “Peter, don’t try to move or speak, just squeeze
my hand if you can hear me?”
Pete squeezed his hand and tried
to open his eyes but they felt full and he could only see a glimmer of light.
“Good, Peter, you are in hospital
and we need to do a number of tests to assess your condition, squeeze my hand if
Pete squeezed his hand again.
People poked, moved and stuck
things in him. Each time needing a squeeze of the hand as they proceeded, then
they left him in peace. He relaxed, laying still and trying to recall the last
thing that he remembered. He was sure it was Alex his drug supplier hitting him,
his big fists raining down on him and a boot in the side of his head, then
Pete felt a hand in his, it was a
small soft hand. He tried to open his eyes again and he could see a little more,
there was a blurred someone smiling at him, he instinctively tried to smile
back and his face hurt, he winced and it hurt more.
“Don’t try to move anything,
please!” She said.
He could hear her pleading with
him, she had a nice voice soft, a caring voice; he squeezed her hand.
The nurse told him she had come
to explain about his injuries and that he was being fed intravenously, and what
he must do to get better, she was going to be there to help him. Her voice was like
hearing angels sing, he thought. He blinked to try and see her better, and it
was a little better, he could just see her face and she was beautiful, and the
best bit of all she was going to be there every day, that was just what he
When she had finished explaining
everything, she bathed his eyes and washed his face. She was so tender doing
this, then he tried and opened them a little more and he could see her in more detail.
She was perfect with a round face, lovely eyes and the most wonderful smiling
lips, her brown hair was in a bun under her hat. He thought she couldn’t be
much older than him, she was everything he could want in a woman warm gentle
caring and looks to die for. She said her name is Emma.
Pete had fallen in love, and
apart from her coming the next day and removing his catheter and showing him
how to use a bottle. Everything was fine with him when she was there; his eyes were
getting better, he tried hard not to show pain when she was helping him to
move. When she wasn’t there, she was there in his head he couldn’t stop thinking
about her, every waking hour he could see her face. Smiling at him.
The police came to interview him
about what had happened but luckily, because his jaw was wired, he could only
really write with difficulty, a short statement about how he was set on by a
gang of drug crazed men who stole his money; he didn’t think they believed him
because he still had his credit cards in his wallet, and the police thought it
was good of the drug crazed men to put the wallet back in his back pocket. But
as he still had a puffy bruised face when he was interviewed, he didn’t think
the police could see him blush.
One afternoon Pete heard “Hi Pete.”
His eyes sprung open; it was his
friend Tony. His favourite nurse came straight over and explained to Tony about
asking questions and getting the answer by hand squeezing.
Tony’s eyes followed the nurse as
she walked away, her buttocks moving under her uniform and said, “I’d like to
Pete felt angry, it was his Emma
he was talking about. Tony only stopped for half an hour and then left as it
was a one-sided conversation and he was getting fed up.
After Tony left, Pete lay back
and thought how bad things had got because of his mistake of believing there
was such a thing as easy money. He had been recruited by big Alex to sell his
drugs. Alex introduced Pete to all the people he supplied and told Pete he was
not to tell or admit to anyone that he did drugs or that Alex supplied them, or
All went well for over 6 months,
then he was set on by three blokes in balaclavas and they stole what drugs and
the little cash he had. He phoned Alex right away, and when Alex came around,
he didn’t believe him. He accused him of lying and went berserk and the next
thing he remembered was waking up in hospital.
Over the days, things became easier
for Pete as he tried a weird kind of speech through his wired jaw. He spoke to
his beloved Emma who encouraged him in his endeavour; he told her he regretted
some of the things he had done in the past. But he still had the sick feeling
that big Alex was out there waiting for him and he would never escape the cycle
of crime he was in. She was nice and urged him to put the past behind him and
make a new start. He loved to look at her beautiful green eyes and those soft
lips, oh what he wouldn’t do to kiss them just once. He wanted to tell her that
he was dreaming about her, but he was too shy.
After five weeks and many x-rays
the doctors told him they were hopeful of being able to discharge him from hospital
in a few weeks, if his jaw mended OK and they hoped to remove the cast on his
arm soon. Eventually he was taken to physiotherapy without wires or plaster
with strict instructions to do exactly as he was told.
Next day Tony came to see Pete
and told him that Alex had been found dead in the town and the police thought
it was London drug gang related.
Tony left saying, “I’ll see you
in the pub when you get out OK?”
As Pete drank in the news his
heart started to jump for joy realising that he was free. Free to make that
fresh start and chase that dream of a better life, no pub for him.
He grinned then smiled as he saw
Emma coming towards him, smiling.
After leaving Aqaba,
our ship made its way to the Suez Canal. I have been through here many times
but never seen it entering from this direction; this is what it looks like at
just after 5am.
It took 12 hours to pass all the way through, we entered the
Mediterranean Sea at 5pm, then we turned right and the next morning we were in
the port of Ashdod, Israel. Here we
went into town, nothing touristy about it. It appears to be a working town and
an access port for tours to other places and things that we have done before.
We only looked in the shops, got a coffee and supplies and headed back to the
Next our ship called at Malta,
a place Florie and I never tire of visiting. It was Sunday and Valletta was
crowded to overflowing in the bright morning sun.
There was a parade of the Scouts and Guides. I was a lovely
event seeing the pride they all have in the organisation and seeing the young
tiny ones walking behind the senior members.
This is the garden at the top of the lift (elevator) from
the port to the town.
It was Florie and my wedding anniversary today so we decided
to have lunch out, and very nice it was too.
Our next port of call was Gibraltar, ships usually only stop for a few short hours and
today was no exception, so we just stretched our legs walking up the main street
and back because our ship left port at 1pm.
The Cocktail Party.
As our ship sailed away from Gibraltar into the Atlantic we
started to get ready for our final cocktail party of the cruise. Most ships
have a ‘Farewell Party’ and ours was at 5pm in the upper deck front lounge,
Champagne and Canopies. We collected our drinks on the way in and selected our
seats, away from the noisy popular crowds already laughing and joking in groups
of 6 or 8 near the door. There’s always one who is the life and soul of the
group and expects everyone to laugh at their jokes, just like the Captain will
do when he arrive in a while. Florie and I have chosen a seat near the back
with a good view of the whole room, and with a clear view of the waiters as
they come to refill your glasses.
Regrettably, no matter how much I scowl at people, they
still joined us as the place filled up to overflowing; Florie immediately
started a jovial conversation, smiling and looking interested. The first to
join us were a couple from Kent, a retired couple who did nothing but attend
medical services of one kind or another, all the time, that was their
The other couple were from the Netherlands. She was a good
English speaker, who was still fully in love with her husband. He was fighting
a deteriorating body, but seemed to be winning for now.
There was another woman who was dressed all in white, an
unfortunate colour, given her size. She attached herself to the end of our
group unbidden. She was eventually enticed away to another table by a bunch of
noisy women of similar build and she settled right in there adding to the
amount of noise from that table.
“Good!” I thought as the waiter came round with the fresh
canopies and the sweet fizzy clear liquid that loosens tongues. The canopies
were warm and tasty and the fizzy was nice and cold, he was a nice waiter
filling my glass three times in all. Have you noticed how it goes straight into
the blood stream? It was making me loose my scowl, and I started talking. A big
mistake! In silence I can give off the air of intelligence, but regrettably,
when I speak that illusion fades like smoke in a gale. But tonight at least I
didn’t get one of those looks from Florie that indicates that I have said
something unforgivable, which speaks volumes for the years of effort she has
put into my social education.
There was very little price to pay for our food and drink.
The Captain only stood for 60 seconds saying “Thanks for travelling with us and
please come back again.” And everybody clapped like mad.
Our group of 6 carried on talking well after most of the
people in the room had gone to dinner to stock up on food until the late buffet
before bedtime. We stayed and swapped stories of woe and then bragged about our
last fantastic trip, until desperate hunger overtook us all and we rushed out
heading for our favourite sty.
In our case, it’s the anytime dining experience, where
delicious delicacies await our choice. While we chopped through our platefuls
of grub. The chap on the next table was regaling his table companions who
hadn’t been to the do, with an account of the same cocktail party we had just
been to. I was astounded, it didn’t sound like the same do at all! Apparently
all the great and the good were there. All the senior officers were there
calling him by his first name. We only saw three and apart from the Captain and
they were pretty low down in the pecking order. And one of those was a complete
plonker, how he got the job I don’t know? Florie and I had to get up and go as
the tales from the man were getting ever more fantastic.
In the theatre the show was one of those singers who doubles
as cruise director. He has an inflated opinion of his abilities and very little
stage presence; he clumps about the stage like a country yokel just off the
farm. He was doing Frank Sinatra’s numbers trying to look relaxed. Yeah, like a
hare trapped in the headlights!
His girlfriend was doing an excellent job in some numbers,
Anyway folks, that was our evening, me tanked up on free
food and drink and Florie trying to add an air of decorum to the events. When
we got back to our cabin we had a note to say that the clocks go forward at
2am. Hurrah! That means that I may sleep past 4am with any luck.
Our final port of call was Lisbon, a beautiful city laid out on hills. The main part of
the city is served by trams old and new and they have a good train service to
nearby towns that are equally picturesque, Florie likes to visit here as she
usually buys shoes and handbags. This time it was only shoes; but I weakened
and got nice pair dark blue moccasin type shoes that are soooo comfortable.
Then it was up the Channel and back to our home port in the
5.30am location:- Our cabin.
Woke up at 3am and couldn’t get back to sleep. There were
story lines tumbling about my head, two and three at a time, I’m just glad they
weren’t on audio.
The first grey light of dawn was showing, revealing a dark
grey cloud against the sky. The ships engines are giving off low rhythmical
rumbles, so we can’t be going fast. I can feel this through the bed, I can hear
my wife’s quiet breathing, as if in tune with the ship.
More thoughts tumble into my head, ‘no not now! I have no
light pen or paper, now go away,’ I thought.
I pull the covers back and do slow isometric exercises silently.
My mind moves to the ships hold, ‘did I lock that orange case? Well I can’t do
anything about it now.’ I concentrate harder on the exercises, 20 minutes and
I’m sweating, I lay still until the ships air conditioning has cooled me down.
4am Florie get up and goes to the bathroom, quietly, like a
gazelle running through the undergrowth. She creeps back in bed and is asleep
in moments. 4.40am I’m still laying awake I hear, “are you awake?” she whispered
next to me.
So here I am, dawn has broken. I have got us both coffees
from the anytime bistro on the next floor up. Florie is sat up in bed sipping
the coffee and reading a book. I am sat near the window writing to you of the
trip we have had as the sun comes up.
The 5th January the trip started, we were excited
about leaving the winter weather and brexit behind, it will be all over when we
return. We went anticlockwise round the world, you know, across the Atlantic,
the Azores, the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, a quick stop in Acapulco
then across the Pacific, where all internet stops! Around here it feels like an
oven, all the outside decks are covered in near naked people trying to look
like they have been working outside for a few months. Their skin shiny with
sweat or sun cream; as they lay doing nothing all day in the suns baking heat.
I spend my time writing in the air conditioning. I’m dashing
the words down as fast as they tumble into my head, my open writing book looks
like and army of spiders have crawled across a tray of black ink then walked
drunkenly across my page.
Our ship reaches New Zealand then Australia; here we have to
re-schedule our itinerary to avoid a large tropical depression that is covering
a major part of the east coast of the continent. We miss most of the storm, but
on our second day in Yorkey’s Knob it catches up with us and everyone who goes
ashore gets drenched big time.
The ship continue to the Japan’s then across to China, Hong
Kong, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Malaysia, India, Arabia, then through the Suez
Canal, across the Mediterranean and up along the Portuguese and Spanish coasts
passing France on our right hand side then back to the UK.
We are presently travelling the last 30 miles as I write
this and we will soon have to vacate our cabin so they can get the room ready
for the next passengers. We will go and wait in our allotted waiting areas
until we can get off, but first we are off the get our breakfast upstairs.
I hope you have enjoyed the diaries and I hope you will join
me when I post things on future trips. In the mean time I have just finished
writing my third novel, so now I must spend many months editing them. If you
are curious about the novels I will post details of when they are due to be
published and no, they are not about travelling although we all travel this
life of ours don’t we.
Our ship docked in Salalah, a
place we have visited before. It has the Dhofar Mountain Range behind it, the
sea in front of it and white buildings as the middle of the sandwich. Today it
is hot 34°C of blistering dry heat; I can feel my edges drying up within
minutes of going out on decks. Unusually we decided to stay on board today
whilst 1200 of the 1400 people got off.
With the ship to ourselves, we
got our bits and pieces together. We took them up to a sheltered area on the
sun deck that had a lovely breeze. We could not believe how lovely it was in
the shade. I got on with writing my story which flowed like a knocked over jug
of milk. Florie read a book finding it wonderful in the slight breeze.
We couldn’t believe our luck at
lunch time, we had steak and kidney pie. Our favourite, and came complete with
a large cold beer for me.
Afterwards we continued our rest
in the shade until people started returning to the ship at about 1.30pm. It
began to get noisy and the breeze we had was now was being spoilt with the
arrival of the smokers. So, it was back to the cabin for a rest before the
rigours of the afternoon and evening entertainment.
tuckered out NIB
Monday 22nd April 2019
I’m sitting out here on deck 12
under a veranda in the shade, it’s about 26C with a slight breeze. As I look up
from this diary, there are mountains round the ship. The ship is berthed at the
end of the Gulf of Aqaba; and for me this is a most wonderful sight in the
bright morning sunlight. It is picking out the different coloured sediments
that formed the mountains and I can see the lines of erosion that run down from
This picture from our ship across
The town lies at sea level in a
small plateau nestled in a flat area of the surrounding mountains. Aqaba is famous
to us older Brit’s for its portrayal in ‘Lawrence of Arabia.’ In the film, he
and the Arab tribes attacked the town from the dessert side and conquered it.
There was picture of him on a camel at the edge of the sea where we are now.
Florie and I went into the town
today not knowing what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to get off the
ship and into town very quickly on the free shuttle bus. It was 9.35am when we
got off the coach and the town had a lovely relaxed feel to it. Apart from the
aggressive taxi drivers looking for fares, they had compunction about standing right
in your face and asking you if you would like to taxi ride out to Waddie Rum
cheep. This was also featured in the film
Having left behind the tenacious
taxi touts, we had a leisurely and very pleasant walk round the town. As we walked,
I was reminded of Kirkenbosch in Cape Town, a lovely memory of a beautiful
place. Also because we had a most spectacular view of the Gulf of Aqaba and
that reminded us of our visit to the Canadian, ‘Bay of Islands’ in Cornerbrook.
Another place bathed in brilliant sunshine just like today.
After walking for a while, we
stumbled across a Tax Free Shop where we thought to buy some beer and
chocolate, ‘man cannot live on beer alone!’ At the checkout, there was also an
official in uniform who didn’t want to accept our copy passports the ship had
instructed us to take ashore. We stood for a long, long time while this
official spoke on the phone. I was fed up waiting that long for just a few
items, so I went up took my papers and told them to stick their goods. All of a
sudden everything was fine, they accepted our ID and took our money, putting us
in front of some locals who were buying thousands of cigarettes for just a few
We continued along the road adjacent to the shore, and came upon the remains of Ayla the original port town that was built in 605 AD. The stone remains were there excavated with the help an American university grant.
We walked round the site at
leisure for about twenty minutes then just as we left, four coaches of tourists
turned up and filled the site with people and noise. We hastily walked away and
crossed the road to some local shops where Florie perused the Arab jewellery,
none of which would go with any of her outfits, so we left away empty handed.
It was getting towards lunchtime by now, we were lucky when we came across The Royal Yacht Club menu in a fancy notice board on the road. It was a long walk on the boardwalk to the club, but worth it. We sat looking out at the Gulf in a shaded area with a slight breeze. I could see the mountains rising up at each side, I was in heaven. Florie was using the free Wi-Fi to catch up on her emails.
The view from our lunch table.
Then it was time for lunch; our
waiter brought hot freshly made bread and cold white wine and water while we
chose our meals. I chose shrimps and when they came they were the size of
baguettes. Florie had chicken escallops, which she assured me were delicious.
My shrimps were scrumptious; washed down with a second glass of wine. I was sat
with the woman I love, eating a delicious meal with stunning vistas, what more
could I ask of life?
Afterwards we slowly walked back
to our coach pickup point, where luckily, there was one waiting. The whole area
was quiet now; all the taxi drivers had gone.
Back aboard the ship, I filled the fridge with beer and
chocolate ready for later.
Then went up to have a coffee in the buffet area before
coming out here and sitting in the sun looking at these beautiful mountains
each time I look up from my writing pad. Isn’t life wonderful sometimes?
Its 2pm and I am sat in my air
conditioned cabin drinking a cold beer and thinking that I haven’t done a diary
for a few days so I’m sorry you missed out on a couple of ports.
I’ll start from yesterday,
Thursday, a day at sea, my day like most on this cruise ship was spent in our
cabin writing, but Florie, my wife, met up early with two Indian ladies who are
wives of officers on the ship and they spent most of the day doing exercises or
walking around the top deck, or talking. Florie grabbed me out of the cabin for
lunch where I met the two ladies; they are about 40 years of age, judging by
what they said about children and getting married. Anyway one is a lovely lady
with a bob cut and a bubbly personality that borders on a volcano erupting, her
personality hides her intellect, she teaches 15 and 16 year olds maths and
science, that takes some doing! She is a really happy lady with a ready smile
and giggles a lot. She and Florie really hit it off when they met a few days
ago. The other lady was from a different part of India and did not speak the
same language, so she appears to be quieter.
This lady is taller than the first and has a mass of long black hair,
she is slower to smile, I think partly because she cannot speak English. She
does not understand the quick conversation that happens when there are four of
us at the lunch table. She has dark brown eyes that smoulder and a warm smile
that pulls your heart right out of your chest. She was the quietest of the four
of us. Considering she did not get much in the way of translation that wasn’t surprising.
She was quiet but picked up on odd things and then she would smile a wide
bright smile. In the evening we met again at dinner and things got a little
easier for the four of us. Though I was the odd one out and got the worst of it.
Both the ladies asked about my writing, which isn’t exciting at all. The lady
with the long hair turned out to be a poet in her own language. I felt she
would like to have talked more about that but our lack of communication and
time prevented it.
I wake up at 5am because the
clocks keep being put back an hour or the last two half an hour, so we wake up
earlier. When I looked out of the cabin window our ship was slowly approaching the
port of Mumbai. I could see about a dozen disused oil rigs in the early morning
light. A while later our ship was worried by two tugs that pushed us into our
berth. Opposite our window we could see about 60 odd oil rig support vessels
all laid at anchor, they stayed there all day, either this is a resource, or
their oil industry expansion has collapsed.
Outside the temperature was
climbing towards 36°C. After a light breakfast we donned the lightest clothes
we owned and silly looking hats that covered our necks as well and we went and
looked for a taxi to take us from the port to The Gateway of India a beautiful
edifice that draws thousands of tourists from all over India as well as Europe
indeed worldwide tourists alike.
A Taxi ride in India is unlike
anywhere else in the world, it is both exciting and horrific at the same time. The
little old man who approached us as we passed through the port gates looked
over 80, thin as a rake, “Taxi” he offered, $5 US to the Gateway of India, the
old battered black and yellow cab was clean with the usual open window air
conditioning. When he started the cab it sounded like someone shaking a box of
old nuts and bolts and the gears crunched until he finally forced them into
“Where are you from?” He asked,
turning to us in the back seat, as he turned the cab right into a line of
traffic all blaring their horns at him. My heart-bypass being tested to the
limits. “England.” We shouted back as he blew his horn at the motorist who had
just dared to push in front of him.
“Too many cars, not enough roads,”
he said forcing the delicate black and yellow cab into a higher gear, where it
obviously didn’t want to go. Florie and I are in the back saying The Lord’s
Prayer in unison, as a moment or two later he veers out into a main road full
of four lanes of traffic on a two lane road. The six or seven cars and buses behind;
all have their horns blaring, from the little horns of the taxis to the deeper
blaring of the lorries and trucks all using this main road next to the port. We
are now taking in toxic traffic fumes from the air conditioning.
“Too many cars, you should have
come out later,” the old man says, looking back at us again, and slamming the
little cab into gear and moving off into a space I would not have taken on a
push bike. “About 2pm the roads have the right amount of traffic,” he said,
eventually turning round to look at where he is going. I ask Florie to look to
see if he has an extra eye on that side of his head. By the way the old man
drives I assume he has led a full and happy life and has nothing left to live
Fifteen minutes later in an
unexpected surprise we arrive, hearts pounding, at The Gateway of India, with
my hands still shaking I give the old man the $5 and $1 to put into the
collection box next time he goes to pray to whichever God is protecting him. I
stagger to a recently vacated seat to recover and take deep breaths.
I realise Florie and I have
chosen the most popular sight in India after the Taj Mahal. Coaches from two
ships are discharging 50 people a time one after the other in quick succession
in a line of coaches, the London rush hour doesn’t come near to this
congestion. As we sit there enjoying the diesel fumes from the coaches moving
at a snail’s pace past us, trying to encourage the two coaches at the front; still
discharging their loads. The horns of the coaches sounding like a herd of elephants
along with the taxis horns squeaking like a herd of gazelles.
“Come on Florie let’s get out of
here!” I utter and because I’m big and ugly I push my way through half the
population of India to get close enough to The Gateway of India to take a
picture of it and after pushing some people out of the way I get a shot of the
Taj Mahal Hotel next to it
The next bit was more difficult
as we tried walking past the shops around there. As we approached, the owners appeared
asleep in their chairs outside. Woke up one by one and invited us into their
emporium, some in quite an aggressive manner. We ran out of shops to look in
and changed direction and ending up on the Collabra Causeway; a main road with
a large market down one side. About a mile long this market starts about 10am
and is quite something to walk in. Rivalled only by the Arab Souks, it is noisy
with the traffic honking on the road and the stall holders all vying for your
business. You have to walk up a narrow passageway, that, back home, would be
wide enough for one, but here, two and three people walk up and down. As we walked
the smells were amazing, we passed shops selling handbags, some selling spices,
we also past an open sewer, somewhere we passed a leather shop, a perfume shop,
some of the stalls sold material and these gave off a delicate smell I can’t describe.
This was all mixed with the constant smell of diesel and petrol fumes. By far
the greatest numbers of customers were Indians, yes there were westerners from
the two ships in the port, but we only saw a few people there.
We did find a great
restaurant/cafe/bar, in an old colonial building with high ceilings and fans
going at full belt, it is called The Leopold Cafe and they served us ice cold
beer and mango drink and two delicious blueberry cheesecakes which were light
as a feather to eat and tasted gorgeous. I just wish we hadn’t eaten a cooked
breakfast as the main course dishes looked really good on other people’s
tables, the place was very busy, it opened in 1871 and with the look of things
it should be good for many years to come.
After going up and down the
market we were tired in the heat and as if by magic when I happened to say to
Florie “do you want to go back now?” a little wizened old man appeared from nowhere
and cried “Taxi!” He asked, “To the port?” To me he looked suspiciously like
the older brother of the chap that brought us. No sooner had I shut my door
then he blew on the horn and pulled out into the busy main road. “Where are you
from?” he asked us as he took a 90° left turn missing two people and a motor
bike by inches.
“England,” we answered together holding
each other’s hands for comfort, I am sure they only ask that so they know what
country to return the bodies to.
He wove his way in and out of the
traffic as if he hadn’t got long to live, so it didn’t matter. Every single car
on the road I saw had scrapes and bangs all around them, I wonder if they do
this in the showroom, when they deliver the car so that they can fit four cars
across the two lane roads! At one point I thought the old man was going to get
out of the car and push someone off the road, as he shouted out of the air conditioning
at someone who wasn’t moving fast enough. At this point there was a motorbike
trying to get in my door, the man looked down at me with a scowl as if it was
my fault we were in his way. I gave him a weak smile and pointed to the driver
and raised my shoulders, then there was a slight movement in the traffic then
he shot in front much to the consternation of our driver who leaned on the horn.
By this time I had worked out how
The Highway Code works in Mumbai, ‘He
who is in front is king.’
I noticed a large white car
appear in the right hand window overtaking us, then our little old driver
turned in front of him, Florie and I were deafened by the horn that the angry
driver kept honking under the bonnet of his shiny new car, our driver I suspect,
is deaf to all of this, due to all the honking he has endured, I think he would
make a good chariot driver and could have given Ben Hur a run for his money.
We are in the right had lane
ready to turn right at the junction to the port, the shiny white car still
honking behind us, the lights changed against us and I braced myself for
stopping, but NO! Our little old man, white beard flapping in the wind, accelerated
as four lanes of traffic started to cross the junction towards our little taxi,
all honking their horns in unison. I closed my eyes picturing the Mumbai fire
and rescue men standing round our battered little taxi, three dead bodies
inside, each of the rescuers holding an old can opener that had a spike that
you punched through the metalwork and opened it up in a rocking action peeling
back what’s left of the roof and trying to sort out where one body ended and
another one starts.
Then I was thrown forward and hit
my head on the back of the front seat, “we’re here” Florie said, “Heavens be
praised” we were at the dock gates. I got out of the tiny yellow and black
vehicle, my legs hardly able to support me after my ordeal. When I realised
there is a little girl maybe eight or nine years old holding her baby sister in
her arms pushing the child at my crutch, I am trapped between her and my cab
behind me, the cab races away taking a layer of clothing and skin from my
buttocks with him. I nearly fell backwards without the cab there, “stop messing
about” Florie shouts, “get those landing cards out, we need them to get into
the port!” These landing cards are actually an A4 sheet of paper with our
personal details on and are not to be creased!
Meanwhile, this little girl is still
trying to put the baby in my pocket with one hand and holding her other hand
out for money; her big sorrowful eyes have tears in them. A guard at the gate
says something in Hindi to the little girl and child and she scurries away. “I
need the form to get in now!” Florie bellows at me. The security guard is scowling
at me, I’m, trying to unzip my backpack. Florie moves off and the scowling
guard is now towering over me with his hand out for my and Flories papers. The
day is not going well in all this heat. I feel like a pig about to be slaughtered
in this tiny pillbox.
“I think he needs this,” Florie
says to the guard, he gives her a beaming smile and takes the papers, and then
turns to me with a scowl and points for me to go. I can tell you I was never so
relieved to be in the cool of the air conditioned ship and after a bite to eat
and a shower picked up my pen to tell you all about it.
Today is the fourth and final day
of tours organised by the ship. We used the boats from the Port to transport us
to the shore. From the landing dock we walked across a beautiful beach, which
looked miles long in each direction. We walked into a crush of people on the
pavement (sidewalk); being tall I could see a NUMBER 1 about 30 yards away, our tour number. I guided Florie
pushing her through the crush of people in front of me.
The heat was oven like, at 30°C plus with over 60% humidity like yesterday (a bit warm for a Brit like me). We walked over a mile along the promenade and up a road, through a restaurant into a car park. We heaved our bodies bathed in sweat up into the coach and dropped into the first available seat under the cold air from the vents. I was feeling bad because the walk was so difficult with people pushing past; and you needed to keep looking down to make sure of your footing. So we did not take in the surrounding scenery.
On the way we heard the crackle
of jet skis starting up on the beach; only a few feet to our left. Then there
were noisy motor scooters driving past only a few feet to the right. As we turned
onto another road leading away from the beach we got the high pitched staccato sounds
of Thai women enticing us into their particular shops or restaurants. The time
was 9am and the whole town was beginning to wake up for business.
Our ship’s escort was an
attractive blonde young woman with “Get lost again in paradise” on her T shirt
across her bosom.
The local guide was a tiny Thai
woman in her 50’s looking about 30. She knew English, but had to slowly
retrieve each word from deep within her memory. Then when she put the sentence
together; she repeated it over three or four times.
Our first stop was a Buddhist
temple where there was an enormous amount of activity. This was due to the fact
there was a collection of holy water being taken to the Capital Bangkok ready
for the king’s coronation on the 5th May. The place was frenetic
with official vehicles; the temple itself was awash with officers, men and
women in white official uniforms. And hundreds of people all in yellow T-shirts
with pale blue baseball caps. All lined up to be part of the ceremony, which unfortunately,
we did not see. The temple itself was resplendent in reds blues greens but
mainly shimmering gold, and spectacularly beautiful in the morning sun.
We only went a couple of miles to
this viewpoint which was quite beautiful, there was another temple to visit
here but we had seen enough temples, so for now we just enjoyed the view.
Our coach went a short distance
to a Cashew Nut Factory; here there was a tree outside with cashews growing on
it. They grow underneath what looks like a small apple in a shell; the nuts are
broken off the fruit and then boiled gently and crushed in order to get the
outer shell off the nut. This factory then processes them further; coating the
nuts in flavours which we were offered to taste. Of course, we walked out with
a carrier bag full of goodies for our snack cupboard back on the ship.
Our next stop was to a very big
well organised jewellery shop; calling it a shop did not do it justice. It was
an enormous complex, coping with fifteen coaches easily; lots of well dressed
staff welcomed you directly. The outside of the building was black and
futuristic looking; very expensive. After going through hallways with fabulous
large jewels headdresses and orbs behind thick glass, we went through a display
of priceless rocks. Finally we got into the long inner sanctum where about
fifty glass counters were manned by attractive Thai women in tight grey worsted
suits with short skirts. These lovely ladies were all beautifully made up, and
their counters would specialise in rings of so many carats or bangles of another
quality or green or white jade. We walked through this quite quickly as nothing
was under 25,000 baht. This included a small room full of handbags and shoes
made from crocodile skin. The only people buying anything in there were the
Chinese and Koreans. We had to walk through the souvenir shop, with almost
affordable things in it. I believe it has taken me longer to write this than it
did to walk through that shop.
Finally we were taken to a beauty
spot on the island where the locals go to see the sunset. Here we were left for
half an hour to bake in the heat. Just standing in a little bit of shade, I
just poured with sweat while Florie checked out the inevitable stalls.
The nice coach driver, God bless
him, gave each of us a small sealed cloth out of an ice box, as we got back on
the coach, and I have to tell you that was the most refreshing part of the day,
as that cold cloth moved slowly across my brow and reaching my neck, oh what
bliss that was!
On the walk back to our tender
boat Florie took a tumble and has hurt her hand, but nothing seems to be
broken, she does worry me sometimes! This is a view of the beach from the boat
back to the ship.
Back aboard the ship I showered
and drank cold beer. Florie took paracetamol and rested up.