A Travellerspoint blog

Setting Sail

It's my last week on the boats, and the last couple of days have been a strange return to my early days in the job. I've had a nice, easy, self-directed job that allows me to take lots of long breaks. I've had the freedom to wander the ship, to sit in the mess and read a book, and to suddenly appear from a back door and help out people who are getting swarmed by passengers, but with that warm feeling of being able to abandon them whenever I feel like it.

I've been working in the platehouse in the restaurant and I've already cleaned up after the paltry few diners. The private passenger deck is empty so I go outside, like I used to when I was working nights all the time. I lean against the rail, buffeted by the wind and wettened by droplets of sea spray that cut right through the thin material of my shirt. I take my MP3 player out of my pocket and I put on some atmospheric music. A force eight has been predicted, and the sea has been threatening to stir up all day.
I lick my lips and taste the salt. I breathe in the sea air.
It's the evening now and I take a moment to admire the setting sun, burning beneath a bank of clouds. I turn my head and see France getting smaller and smaller beyond the stern of the ship. The sun is setting. France is disappearing behind me.
'This is all a bit metaphorical, isn't it?' I think.

Posted by TimDudman 10:39 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged boat ship leaving metaphor Comments (0)

Ill Communication

The ship is in port and we've cleared up the mess from the previous load of passengers. We have ten or fifteen minutes until the next load start boarding, so we're taking a little break. I've been working with a couple of new people, and although they're nice enough, they are quintessential small-town Kentish. Rough as guts, as the Aussies would say.
“I want to check the football scores, but I can't get wifi on my phone in here.” says one.
“Have you tried by the windah?” the other asks, pronouncing 'window' with the unmistakable inflection of the English.
“The windah?”
“Yeah. The windah.”
“Where's the windah?”
“Over there. That windah.”
“Which windah?”
“That windah!”
“That windah?”
“Yeah, that windah.”
“What about that windah?”
“You can get wifi by the windah.”
“You can get wifi by the windah?”
“Yeah, you can get wifi by the windah.”
“That windah?”
“Yeah, that windah.”
“You can get wifi by that windah?”
“Yeah, you can get wifi by that windah.”
He goes over to the windah and, sure enough, he can get wifi. By the windah.
You can get wifi by the windah.

Posted by TimDudman 10:37 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged window stupid internet wifi coworker colleague Comments (0)

From the Mouths of Deckies

Since I have been writing this blog, my attitude towards life has changed somewhat. Like an artist who sees beauty everywhere he looks, I find myself appreciating a relatively mundane scene as a sort of unintentional theatre.

A lot of people disapprove of swearing. They think it limits the vocabulary, sounds crude, and robs a sentence of its gravity. In many cases they are right, but the solution isn't always to cut out cursing entirely. Sometimes, you just need to swear more.
The deckhands on the ships are notorious for being the roughest of the crew. There are exceptions, naturally, but the majority of them seem vaguely out of place unless they're slurping tea out of a chipped white mug, farting heartily, and talking loudly about tits and sport.
Of course, to paraphrase Orwell, all deckies are rough, but some are more rough than others.

It's breakfast time. The mess is serving up the usual ladles of grease and processed animal genitals, and everyone is tucking in with gusto. A deckie appears with a heavily laden plate. He sighs with contentment, turns to his mate, and unleashes the most excessive use of swearing I have heard in a long time.
“You fucking can't fucking beat a fucking fresh fried fucking egg fucking straight out of the fucking pan.” he says.
My fork pauses on its way to my mouth, its load of minced pork trotter and sawdust quivering slightly as I take in the unintentional poem. It's an ageless truth, powerfully stated with a raw emotion and muscular prose worthy of Hemingway himself.
'Fucking hell, that's so fucking true.' I think.

Posted by TimDudman 10:35 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged ship swearing fuck eggs deckhand cursing curse Comments (0)

The Rattlesnake

A couple of weeks later after my conversation with the Jetsetter I am in the rest area in the port. There is an upstairs section that serves as an unofficial staff room since the passengers generally don't go up there. I go outside onto the balcony to get some air and to see if the ship is in sight yet. Jetsetter is there. I panic but am constrained by politeness so I stay outside. He's with a couple of other people; a girl in her twenties and a man of around 40-ish.
They are talking. I stay on the periphery of the conversation and make sure I don't get involved.
“You remember?” the 40-ish man says to the girl. “When those blokes were bothering you, and I warned them off. I said 'you'd better stop that, or I'll go for you.'”
The girl nods.
40-ish man seems an unlikely white knight, but I have to respect him for standing up for a girl who seems quite reserved.
Jetsetter and the girl go back inside, and I am left with 40-ish man. Thinking it's safer to stay outside than to go back in and face the crushing minutiae of a conversation with the Jetsetter, I nod to 40-ish man, and try not to look like a person trapped by circumstance.
“It's true, you know.” he says to me.
“I'm sorry?”
“Those blokes, they kept talking shit, so I warned them off.”
“Good for you mate.”
“I'm not going to let people be disrespectful to a girl.”
“Right on.”
“I don't take any shit from anyone.”
“There was this bloke, a chef, and he was on my arse all night.”
“We were in the mess, and he asked me if I'd replaced the milk yet, and I said 'Careful mate, you'd better leave me alone or I'll go for you.' One of the other blokes who were there, they said 'Careful mate, you'd better leave him alone or he'll go for you.' Let me tell you, if I'd gone for him, it would have taken ten of them to pull me off.”
“I'm like a rattlesnake. If you step on me, I'll bite you back ten times as hard.”
This seems like a good cue for me to leave. I leave the rest area and go to wait at the berth, happy to eschew seats, fresh coffee and shelter in exchange for not being surrounded by fucking lunatics.

A few months later I'm working in the food court. One of the other people working there seems familiar but I'm unable to place him. There isn't much to do, and I'm leaning against the hatch to the galley, sharing an affable silence with one of the chefs. Familiar man comes up to collect some chips. He says something to the chef, and leaves.
“He's mad, isn't he?” the chef says, with the bemused cheer of a man who has found an unexpected source of entertainment in an otherwise boring workplace.
It hits me. Familiar man is the Rattlesnake.
“I knew I'd seen him before!” I exclaim.
“In One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest?” the chef asks.

Posted by TimDudman 10:30 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged crazy insane mad rattlesnake Comments (0)

The Prince of Darkness

I'm sitting outside waiting for the crew bus to take me to the berth. As ever, I am reading. A coworker arrives and sits next to me. I've been working with this guy and he seems like a nice fellow, so to be polite I put my book away and greet him.
We ease into small talk, and, since the season is coming up, I ask him if he has plans for Halloween.
He does. He tells me about them. He tells me at great length.
The exact details of the party itself don't matter - I think it was in a pub. What he does tell me about is his costume.

“What are you going as?” I inquire “Have you got a costume sorted out?”
“I'm going as the Prince of Darkness!” he says, triumphantly.
“The what?”
“The Prince of Darkness!” he repeats.
“As in Satan?”
“No! The Prince of Darkness is Dracula's son.” he corrects me, patient with my ignorance of what I assume must be a character from Bram Stoker fanfiction.
“Oh. So, fangs, a cape?”
As it turns out, this was a bad question. I will give you an abbreviated version of his monologue.
“Well, I have a set of fangs, which cost me £4.11. They're not like the normal rubbish plastic ones. These go directly over your canine teeth and they look really good.”
“Cool.” I say.
“I have a black cape lined with red material, that cost me £11.94.”
“That'll look good.”
“I have TWO cases of PROFESSIONAL make-up, which cost me £12.77 each from Ebay. I got two because I thought that one might not be enough”
“I have a top hat which cost me £21.33.”
He goes on to describe the hat. I forget the details. Thankfully.
“I have a black cane with a skull on the top of it, that cost me £12.98!”
“I have a set of claws which cost me £4.84. They're two inches long and I can't pick anything up when I'm wearing them.”
He finishes a while later. I can't remember the exact details of everything, and for those of you who are working out a budget for your own Prince of Darkness costume, do be careful as I made up the prices. The point is, he listed every item in his costume, where he got them from, how much they cost, and the possible problems that would arise from wearing all of this while trying to enjoy yourself in a shitty pub in Dover.

The topic draws to an end, simply from him exhausting all of his material. Somehow, we get onto dentistry.
“I need to have loads done to my teeth.” Naturally, he lists everything that needs doing. It takes less time than the costume details, for which I am grateful. “It's going to cost me about £2000.”
“Jesus!” I say. “Can't you get it done on the NHS?”
A silly question it seems. He tells me why his local dentist is so superior and worth paying an extra £1800 for. The main reason seems to be that his Mum uses the same dentist.

The next topic is holidays. He tells me his plan.
“I'm going on a Holiday of a Lifetime!” he says, the pride ringing in his voice.
“A Holiday of a Lifetime?” I ask.
“Yes. A Holiday of a Lifetime!” he confirms.
“What does that entail?”
“Well, first I JETSET off to LA for two weeks. Then, I JETSET off to New York for a week. Then, I JETSET off to Singapore for eight days. Then, I JETSET off to China for five days. Then, I JETSET off to Ibiza for a week.”
Again, I may not be entirely accurate with the itinerary – I know there were a few more stops, but I do remember that the entire country of China was due less than half the time he planned to devote to LA. Also, I'm not sure how JETSETTING is different from flying, but he was emphatic about it so I included it.

The crew bus arrives. I sit as far away from him as I can.

Posted by TimDudman 10:26 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged halloween work dentist holiday_of_a_lifetime coworker Comments (0)

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