By now I was getting used to the funny ways of my little cabin. Basic, yes, but also slightly problematic. When I first arrived, I noticed that immediately beyond the cabin bulkhead, the steel walls seemed to converge somewhat. The purpose of this marine architecture soon became apparent once we got underway. The sound of the waves slapping against the bow was a bit disconcerting at 3 in the morning.
I guess the likelihood of colliding with some unexploded ordnance or the odd ice-berg would be pretty remote in these latitudes. Accordingly, I took out some medicinal insurance (in 75 cl. bottles) to keep me warm in case I had to swim across the Tasman Sea.
My suit hung forlornly in a makeshift wardrobe. I was musing upon this apparent purchasing miscalculation when an invitation fluttered through the door.
The captains cocktail party no less! My mind fancy flew. Again.
AAAAHHH….The moonlight rippling across the gentle water, the air filled with the saccharine strings of Mantovani’s band …and… and… a young couple holding hands and gazing wistfully out to sea.
A Hollywood hologram no less.
Sod all that.
The reception area for the party was in an architectural style known as ‘EARLY GYMNASIUM’. Retsina and Ouzo seems mercifully absent from the drinks list. There were loads of olives and feta and all things Greek. The calamari was not a million miles away from a bicycle inner- tube. And, of course English and Greek are not the happiest linguistic bedfellows. Although glamour and chic had not caught this bus, it was agreeable enough.
Unhappily, my suit seemed to be a huge hit with the First Officer. Oh Dear.
At some point during the proceedings somebody picked up the communal boredom baton and indicated, inter alia, the good news that our ship had a table tennis table.
My ears pricked up at this. I was pretty hot stuff at this kiddie. The following day a group of us gathered for a few games. I felt like kicking off by handing out a good old fashioned thrashing.
So the score rattled along. 6-2, 8-3, 12,5 16-8, 20-12, 21-13, GAME OVER,
JOB DONE, THRASHED!
I got the 13.
She was bloody good.
AND STILL IS.
The lopsided passenger ratio on our luxury liner was accounted for by the high percentage of the sons of European emigre’s (mostly Greek and Italian) returning for a visit to their ancestral homelands. The gunwales were almost awash with these handsome lads, AND they oozed charisma to boot. Gloom. I had a couple of contingency plans up my sleeve, but I had not counted on being outflanked by this lot of Latin lovelies.
For some inexplicable reason (and one never to be repeated) I had kitted myself up with a suit! Not any old suit but a nice little pale linen number. The ensemble was given added glamour by the addition of a matching tie and classy suede shoes. When would I get to play this card? If at all?
Another such irresistible lure (or so I thought) was my genuine interest in the current vogue of existential philosophy. It wasn’t so much the goings on of Jean -Paul and Simone and their writings, but reading the novels of Albert Camus.
‘The stranger’ was impressive. When things were becoming unglued, I loved his concept of ‘the glorious indifference of the universe’. (my translation, others call it benign) [Editor: or “the tender indifference of the world” if you’re a Guardian reader!]
Hmmmm… Perhaps a bit heavy for a chat -up line. Of course, this combination of couture/ culture could backfire. Perhaps I might be approached by a woman of a certain age, of academic appearance, and clutching the complete oeuvre of Immanuel Kant’s metaphysics. These books would choke a horse.
She would be thrilled at the prospect of intellectual exploration and exchange of ideas that our relationship would provide for the next 30 days. I went to the library and got out a copy of ‘The Cruel Sea’.
Back to life on the ocean wave. The good ship Ellinis only stopped at five ports on this mammoth journey. They were Auckland, Panama City, Curacao, Tahiti, and Southampton. The happenings at one of them had fairly lengthy implications, to say the least…
A year of working in the theatre was drawing to a close. It was time to move on and go and see, for real, the artworks that I had been studying. Theatre life had been good, not only the painting, but also doing behind the scenes drawings of touring dance companies, the Russians in particular.
Working on a pantomime was great fun and was to have later repercussions. This one was all about the sea, with submerged wrecks, sea creatures, all manner of sailing ships and, of course, lighthouses.
Some things still stay with me.
1. How to get a dead level horizontal line running across 10 metres of stretched canvas.
I bet Raphael and his mates did this in Renaissance times. Simply attach a cord to the correct height at either end, ‘chalk’ and tension said cord. Stand in the middle, pull the cord back like a bowstring and let it go. SNAP! There is your line.
2. Painting scrims was also fun. This involved painting on an open weaved fabric (difficult), but when completed, if it was lit from the front it could be a brick wall, lit from the back it virtually disappeared.
3. My last theatre experience. This was at a different theatre and consisted of a one- man show of the most withering satire on Australian life. This guy was stunning, a class act. His name? Barry Humphries.
OK. How to get to Europe? The Boeing 707 was well and truly around by now, but pricey. The next cab off the rank was the good ship Ellinis. If one thumbs through the current crop of cruise liners, at jaw dropping prices, it might be tempting to put the Ellenis in this class. Not quite. Somebody less charitable than me described it as 8 million rivets sailing in formation. Unfair and untrue.
Prospects of loads of female company for the best part of a month lent a certain sense of anticipation to this sojourn. What diminished said keenness was, to put it mathematically, the male/ female numbers ratio.
It was lopsidedly male.