written and posted by members of Lancashire Dead Good Poets' Society

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Don't Mention the C Word...

Water and I have never been the best of friends. 

Don’t get me wrong - I like a nice relaxing bath or a bracing shower, I love a quick swim in the sea to cool down (rarely in the UK) and I have been known to cycle masochistically through relentless rain and thunderstorms without too much complaint, but put me on a boat or a ferry and I’m afraid I become that awful fellow passenger who goes green, groans loudly and races to the toilets to throw up. 

To be fair, I have had some pretty awful experiences which have led me to start hyperventilating and shaking my head vehemently as soon as the word ‘cruise’ is uttered - usually by somebody who has just returned from one - and is anxious to describe every glorious meal (to someone who could probably just about keep down a couple of rich tea biscuits without reaching for a carrier bag). ‘You don’t feel like you’re on a boat,’ they say, before telling me about the time the tables slid across the deck, the swimming pool was like a boiling cauldron and one of the ship’s entertainers skidded on a slopped trifle and spent the rest of the cruise trying to dance on one leg. 

I could deal with a broken bone.  Hopefully that would get me stretchered off in Madeira, and let me laze about recuperating before being flown home.  No, what I can’t cope with is the nausea that comes over me in a huge wave (which is pretty appropriate really) whenever I even think about being on a boat.  

I’m aware there is a psychological aspect to this, but one which I can no longer control. At present I’m on a train, a mode of transport I find quite enjoyable provided I have a seat, a coffee and a book. However, having started to write this blog post I can feel the familiar sickness creeping down from my head to my stomach and up to my throat again. 

Each year when the kids were little we travelled to France for a camping holiday. And each year I was happy to be crushed in a small hatchback with three hot and irritable children, a cool box in my back, my feet in a washing up bowl, and a husband who hated driving and spent the whole time, head down, hands gripping the wheel, only opening his mouth to receive a bite of a warm tuna sandwich or to shout ‘Stop kicking my seat!’ at whichever child had the misfortune to be behind him.  I could cope with that. What I couldn’t abide was the sickly dread that built up as we approached the ferry terminal.  

Once on the ferry and having extricated the five of us from the stinking car, the children made their way excitedly to the restaurant. As far as I remember we never actually bought any food but we did sit at a table and open the foil wrapped picnic we were supposed to be saving till we were halfway through France.  I can still conjure up the smells of sweaty cheese, hard boiled eggs and the ubiquitous tinned tuna which was enjoying a revival in the Reidy household circa 1987.  That culinary combination would have been bad enough but permeating the whole area was the strong smell of diesel, cigarette smoke (and on one journey a deadly combination of cigar and pipe!) and somebody’s overpowering Estée Lauder that had just been purchased at the duty free. I love perfume but please don’t come within 100 yards of me if you’re wafting your way across the high seas.

Each year I suffered the indignity of the ferry toilets, clinging to the seat, head over the bowl and feet sliding on a stinking floor, while the rest of the family ate their way through the picnic and played on the fruit machines.  They didn’t miss me a bit.  Returning to the car as Calais came into view meant holding my breath as long as possible to avoid inhaling the petrol fumes from hundreds of cars, and trying to tell the children off without opening my mouth.  Only when we were finally away from the terminal with a couple of hours under our belts, tootling through the French countryside could I feel myself beginning to recover enough to argue about the route. These were the days well before SatNav, I would have a huge road map open on my lap, all in French, and a husband who hadn’t got a clue where he was going.  This was still an improvement on my time in the ferry toilets.

One year my mum suggested taking two ‘Sea Legs’  before I set off.  She swore by them and had fed them to us before every car journey when we were younger.  She couldn’t understand that the spoonful of jam they were hidden in was probably what made us feel more sick than the travelling.  I decided I’d nothing to lose.  Little did I know.  As soon as we set off I began to feel drunk, and immediately fell into an uneasy sleep, which didn’t please the driver, whose sense of direction was as bad in England as it was in France.  By the time I lumbered onto the ferry I couldn’t walk in a straight line - and I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  I remember very little of the whole journey except that I still felt sick, but through a drunken, dozy haze.  

These days I thank my lucky stars that we no longer need to catch a ferry but can cross the water by flying several miles above it.  Now all I have to do is avoid anybody who has just been on a cruise and is desperate to convert me. 

Please don’t mention the C word…..

Please don’t mention the C word by Jill Reidy

I know, I know
It was fabulous
The food was delicious
Lobster, special pate with brandy raisins
And that creamy mousse
Oh and octopus, imagine... 
Saw some fantastic sights
The pyramids
Took the tours
Drove a jeep over bumpy roads
Laughed at the comedian
He was hilarious
A bit blue… 
Marvelled at the dancing
Even the one who’d slipped on the trifle
When the ship hit a storm
And the table tipped
No, please…ugh!
Made some lovely friends
Frank and Janice 
John and Jane
Oh and even Darren and Gareth
Sat at the Captain’s table
Groaning with food
Wore that new sequinned top 
You know, from Debenham’s 
Bargain in the sale 
With the classic black trousers
Ruined by the consommé when the ship lurched
Hair done by Bernice
It looked gorgeous
For three days 
Without a comb touching it
Every morning
Milky coffee
Every night
Pina Colada
Strawberry daiquiri
Whatever you wanted
No no no!
And the pool
The day of the hurricane warning
Waves, high as a house
Couldn't stand up
SO funny, water everywhere
Bleurgh bleurgh bleurgh!

Oh you’d love it
I wouldn’t 
You would, honestly,
The food…..
Pass the sea legs while I lie on the floor 
Close my eyes
And forget what you’ve told me

Please just go on your cruise 
But please, please, please don't mention the C word.

Thanks for reading, Jill  


Mary McDougall said...

Oh Jill I feel your pain. I am the exact same. I’m so grateful now that we can fly everywhere. But in recent years when we go to Glasgow and NEED to take the car I dread the sailing but as soon as we get on I lie down and force myself to sleep. Nothing to eat or drink till we’re off again. It’s the only way I survive the journey. John has always wanted to go on a C***** but I’m afraid it’s not for me. He'll have to go on his own lol. Well done on another great read xx

Myra said...

This reminds me of the time we agree R would drive to the ferry on the south coast and I would drive at the other side. However, Quells made me lovely and drowsy, but I knew how unfair it was so resorted to driving with one eye open while the other eye slept. It didn't work for very long so I slept all the way to our destination while R drove until he dropped.

Steve Rowland said...

I really enjoyed this Jill, humorous but heartfelt. I've no desire to go on a c***** either, but that's to do with the concept, not the sailing, which I have no problem with. My, I remember crossing the Bay of Biscay and the sea was so rough it was spraying in through the portholes as the ship rolled from side to side. Enough, I hear you say. Loved the poem.

Anonymous said...

What a great blog - even had me feeling queasy!

Twigger said...

Another good read, Jill.
The thing that would worry me most about going on a C***** would be having to spend a week or more in the company of hundreds of fellow passengers, all determined to get their money's worth of "fun"
No thanks