Busy, busy, busy!

Hi All.

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 own writing.

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 2020.

I feel worn out just writing all this, so I think I will go and have a lay down.

I will get back to you soon.

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IT’S A GAMBLE!

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 comparison.

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.

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I’m sorry!

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 like CARMEN.

I hope you enjoy it.

Don

P.S. I have changed my photo to something more realistic, but don’t let it put you off.

Pete

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 you understand?”

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 nothing.

—  #  —

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 needed.

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 squeeze her.”

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 else.

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.

“What’s made you so happy?” she asked.

End.

Don Graham 28-8-19

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Suez the Mediterranean and Home.

Suez next

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.

Suez at 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 ship.

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.

Parade in Valletta.

This is the garden at the top of the lift (elevator) from the port to the town.

Garden at top of lift in Valletta.

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.

Gibraltar.

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 retirement!

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, tap dancing.

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.

Lisbon.

Then it was up the Channel and back to our home port in the UK.

Disembarkation Day.

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.

Keep safe and treasure every moment of your life.

Nib

Don Graham

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Salalah, Oman and Aqaba, Jordan.

Tuesday 16th April 2019

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.

Plum tuckered out NIB

Aqaba, Jordan.

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 each peak.

This picture from our ship across the dock.

Aqaba across the dock.

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 dollars.

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.

Notice about Original Town.

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.

Royal Yacht Club and the mountains.

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?

Nib aba.

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A trip in Mumbai.

Friday 12th April 2019

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.

The Gateway of India.

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 submission.

“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 for.

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

Taj Mahal Hotel.

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.

Leopold Cafe/Restaurant/Bar.

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.

Nibbai

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Patong (Phuket), Thailand.

Saturday 6th April 2019

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.

Ship’s escourt.

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.

Buddist Temple.

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.

I liked this 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.

View of beach as we left.

Back aboard the ship I showered and drank cold beer. Florie took paracetamol and rested up.

Nib in the cool.

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