The Lola Boys set sail on the titanic ‘Britannia’, P & O’s impressive flagship, shortly after arriving back from a marathon trip to the Far East.
They had managed five flights in eight days – two of them ‘long maul’! A feat, Paul imagined, which would tax even the toughest of trolley-dollies.
And he’d met a few hard ones in his time!
Even he and Andrew would normally avoid such a full on itinerary, yet there was a special reason to head to the far west. It was Paul’s mum’s birthday.
Linda was to be seventy.
Although one would barely believe it. Her youthful approach to life and her sheer vivacity made people think her much younger. But a septuagenarian she was about to become, and to celebrate she had gathered her family around her to cruise the Caribbean on a monolith of a ship.
It was not the first time Paul and Andrew had been cruising. They’d also been to sea! Both having worked as production singers whilst ‘resting’ from the legitimate theatre. Paul had always wondered why professional performers were so snobby about working on liners, especially those actors who were hardly given a line when employed in the theatre. He maintained that it was working the boats that had sharpened his cabaret tools – not appearing in shows such as ‘Cats’, where one was a mere feline puppet.
Purring on cue!
He’d hated that!
A year of frisky dancing was not, at least to him, the cat’s whiskers. It had been more like working in a litter tray. But he knew he was being catty.
Now, over twenty years later, he and Andrew were back at sea, and this time as passengers. It was utterly fabulous.
Paul’s gorgeous Sister Tina was onboard too with her lovely children, Will and Grace.
Paul knew a sit-com could be in the offing! They were not what one would describe as an ordinary family. He was almost sure that their motley crew of six were gonna rock the boat. He only hoped none of them would end up in the brig.
Not before his mother’s birthday at least.
They arrived in St Lucia quite jaded and bloodied by Mary after a long flight and an excessively bumpy bus trip. St. Lucia had more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel, and they seemed to take them at a rather high-speed.
Eventually they turned the final corner and there was an audible gasp as the ‘Britannia’ came into few. None of them had thought she’d be quite as large as she now appeared.
‘Jesus!’ Tina exclaimed, ‘she’s massive’. There was more than a little trepidation in her voice.
Andrew also added that he’d never seen one quite as big, the entire family knew he was prone to exaggerate, and Paul, for one, definitely knew he was being quite disingenuous!
After embarkation, they were subjected to a photo shoot, to which they all unreadily agreed. After all, no one ever looked their best after an arduous journey. But Paul had insisted they catch the moment. He knew he’d regret it when he saw the shot, as it was usually him that came off looking like Ken Dodd, whereas the rest of the family were rather photogenic.
They eventually hit their cabins and prepared for the compulsory lifeboat drill which all passengers must endure before setting sail for the first time.
Paul’s mother got entirely confused with the strap which went under the crotch and made herself rather popular with the ship’s crew before the boat had even set sail. The long journey and the growing realisation of seventy steaming up upon her had obviously taken it’s toll.
There was much hilarity!
After they’d untangled themselves the family headed for their respective cabins to prepare for their first meal aboard. It was, Paul was relieved to discover, suitably impressive. He’d read some dodgy reviews before embarkation, but so far none of them seemed to be accurate. The staff were friendly and the boat ship-shape – although he had a horrible feeling that some of his crew may change their shape during the voyage. There appeared to be a lot of eating to be done.
As the ‘Britannia’ proudly sounded her horn, they moved majestically into the Caribbean Sea and toward the lovely island of Antigua. The ‘sail away’ party was fun and the water smooth. Paul was glad. He’d once been on a ship in the mid-Atlantic when a rather large American woman had thrown up her Lobster Thermidor all over the dining room in a force seven gale. She’d managed to put quite a dent in the appetites of those surrounding her, yet hers had not been touched.
‘Bring me another Lobster’ she said loudly to her waiter, ‘I just lost the first one!’
Terribly shellfish behaviour Paul had thought at the time.
Thankfully, the following day onboard ‘Brittania’ was a Sea day. Calm waters on which they could all recover from their marathon journey.
Paul had always loved sea days when previously on the ocean waves. They often forced the passenger into contemplative mood as the vastness of the sea and sky dwarfed those aboard. Suppressing all ego.
Or so Paul had thought.
He was soon to learn otherwise.
The next morning started with a bang. It was the cabin door slamming at 6am as Andrew made his way towards one of the ship’s few smoking sections and the gym!
Day 1. At Sea ………