Bob "The Cat" Bevan sails the world - Blog

Old Boys Events  •  Football Newsletters  •  Newsletter  •  Posted 21st February 2019

RTW
Week 1
Sunday November 18
I did say I would do a diary and I have kept one but as it is already several thousand words I am assuming you would lose the will to live reading that. So here is the first of our weekly reports back.
As I write we are about to leave Funchal. We should have left yesterday but had we done so we could have hit 15 metre waves so Antigua has been cut out of the itinerary.
We don’t mind too much as Madeira is such a great place. New to me but not to Laura.
I have had to take only one pill even though the ship has been moving and Laura has had a clean sheet pill-wise so far. We are likely to be tested again in the next couple of days but fingers crossed!
We had a bad start in Lisbon when I was pickpocketed losing all my cards and cash. Not uncommon there apparently. I have managed to reinstate most things, apart from the cash, and Ed Stewart’s “widow” will hopefully bring the new cards out when she joins the ship in Brisbane in January. Until then I’m having to hit Laura’s cards!
That apart the ship, the suite, the facilities are good and there has been very little to complain about.
A brilliant classic singer on board, Emily Yarrow, shares an agent with Laura as does one of the dancers. In Madeira we bumped into Rosemary and Steve Snook. Rosemary has the honour to be Laura’s tennis coach and my chiropodist. They were there on holiday. During a rare dance the other night I saw a guy staring at me. I assumed he was admiring my newly-acquired foxtrot step but it seemed he recognised me from dinners at Crystal Palace.
I have been beating myself up about the theft but it has been put into perspective by the vicar on board.
On our first night when the Entertainments Director introduced all the performers and lecturers who will be keeping us amused on the trip the vicar started off by telling us that he had just come off a sister-ship’s cruise during which two people had died. He followed this up by inferring that as we were away for 107 days they may not be the last!
I remind myself about that and suddenly the theft doesn’t seem so important. Therefore we do hope we shall both see you all again or even be able to write to you all next week.
Keep smiling – The Cat and the Kitten x
RTW
Week 2 Day 16
Tuesday November 27
Now into six days at sea with plenty to do on board if you want it although they don’t seem very good at organising things other than cards. I was looking for a backgammon tournament but no joy so far.
After the disaster of Week 1 what could possibly go wrong? Well the chest infection returned and I was back on the antibiotics the Doc had sent with me. No booze allowed again.
Then on Day 13 hit by a stomach upset. Nurse called out in the middle of the night for an injection. My dance moves went from foxtrot to cat trot
This is all taken seriously on ships and you are isolated in your cabin for 24 hours. Only specialist staff can clean, nobody is allowed in and anything handed over has to be done at the door. No laundry is allowed out of the cabin or anything else. Perversely Laura can come and go freely!
So I missed getting off in Dominica (been there before) but Laura went to the beach with a nice Welsh couple. Amazingly they are on their fifth round the world cruise. Maybe the last one though as they apparently don’t sell. This is only about 60 per cent full and I don’t think other lines are doing them anymore.
Yesterday I was sprung at noon and went to the beach in Barbados to join Laura where I had a couple of swims.
In the evening, after 110 had disembarked and slightly more got on there was a local show before we sailed. The highlight was a limbo dancer who pulled out of the audience a 6ft 7in former Abergavenny rugby player. Later it turned out he was big into Glamorgan cricket and gave me the sad news that a guy who had booked me for a dinner locally had recently died.
What lies ahead? Laura goes to play short-court tennis at 4 every sea day (just like home really) and I plan to try and learn the waltz and the ukulele. Watch this space. Not sure why I’m bothering to try dancing as Laura is in great demand and snapped up nightly by the gentlemen dance hosts who make me look quite young if not nimble.
However the highlight of the week was my taxi driver in Barbados. He rejoiced in the name of Villeneuve V Greaves BA JP. He was into cricket and when I said I was a Kent supporter he immediately said “Michael Colin Cowdrey”. Encouraged I told him about my Presidency and that Mike Denness had nominated me. He knew of Mike and went into some detail about his career very accurately. I then told him how he had died three days before handing over to me and how I had become emotional speaking at the AGM, funeral and Memorial Service. I added that men were allowed to cry these days. “Certainly,” he said. “It doesn’t make you any less manly.” He then said something I’ll never forget. He said “Jesus wept.”
I almost wept for myself a couple of times this week but now we are moving forward and heading for Bonaire. Just 19,000 people and too small even to be recognised for full membership of FIFA.
Keep believing and smiling
The Cat and the Kitten x
RTW Week 3
Day 22
Tuesday December 3
Can we really be starting our fourth week and still three months to go?
I think we are getting institutionalised. Our two room cabin feels like our home and all the things we brought to do to pass the time have not got very close to the surface.
Laura’s sociability and showbiz experience means we have become very friendly with many of the entertainers on board and there has been a lot of name-swapping and discussions about the biz.
In fact we spent so long at the breakfast table doing just that this morning that they started laying up for lunch so we carried on and had that there as well without moving!
Our days follow a pattern on sea days. In the morning after Laura has done yoga and walked round the deck we have breakfast. She is on the sun bed, I do some work or a project before lunch. I read on deck after in the shade, Laura plays short-court tennis then we chill before dinner at 8 30 after which we can’t miss the latest entertainer’s show.
Sometimes we have a late drink but more often than not we are in bed fairly early and sleeping very well. We did go to the Advent Day service yesterday and I had to smile at the theme of the Vicar’s sermon. It was “Keep Awake.” Might be wasted on Laura.
Next two days sees us in two different places in Costa Rica before nine days across the Pacific to French Polynesia and crossing the dateline. We are now six hours behind you.
I have abandoned the ukulele and have not yet mastered the waltz. Not sure you can teach an old cat new tricks but I have a patient wife.
Highlight of the week has to be the Sky Sports News guy on our TV saying “Palace are playing like Brazil!” It must be Xmas.
Talking of which when we got back to the cabin last night there was a six ft. decorated tree in our sitting room. This morning they were all over the ship along with decorations.
Keep ho ho ho-ing
Ship’s Cat and Kitten x
RTW 4
Day 29
Monday December 10
It’s Monday and this is our fifth day at sea with still four of the nine to go. You’ll be pleased to hear that the week started with some rain including a whole day when Laura couldn’t get to the sun deck. She was on suicide watch.
However the negative forecast given to us earlier last week turned out to be wrong and we have had good weather since even though not as hot and sticky as it was in Costa Rica. There we had a special day doing our own thing with our new friend, tenor Shimi Goodman. It involved a trip into the hills, feeding wild cappuccino monkeys and a friendly almost dog-like racoon plus a boozy Costa Rican lunch.
To my horror I discovered on Saturday that our TV had not been properly tuned-in and we had spent a month without Sport 24 on which you can watch live Premier football. Given the time change this means at 11 am I am about to watch Everton v Watford.
Today has also been quite emotional as I was missing the funeral of my great pal Doug Stanley. He died just before we left and we went to the morning service on board where the Vicar mentioned him in our prayers.
Afterwards I told him Doug was a top card player so God may already be a few quid down and perhaps we should have a collection?
TV cock-up apart (although TV is cutting in and out to my frustration at the moment) all is pretty good and although the ship seems to be moving about a bit all the time still no sea-sickness which is amazing. Having said that the sea is not Pacific today.
Looking forward to French Polynesia on Saturday and no cabin fever yet.
We are now nine hours behind you and crossed the equator at 7 am. I felt the bump as we crossed the line. This afternoon there was a jokey inauguration ceremony for those crossing for the first time. This largely involves kissing a fish and getting thrown in the pool. Even the Captain got involved. Laura and I kept well clear although she said she quite fancied the fish as it wasn’t a catfish.
We send our love to all especially the Stanleys to whom we raise our dry martinis
Ship’s Cat and Kitten
RTW 5
Thursday 20 December
Day 39
Bit late after a busy time. Last missive had us at sea and six days later we finally found land on French Polynesia to celebrate Crystal Palace’s fine win.
Our sailing days followed the usual pattern with not much to report except that Laura’s dancing has had rave reviews from passengers and pros alike. Can’t say the same for the elderly dance hosts who are hired to escort on to the floor a whole range of ladies looking from smart to Les Dawson in drag. Unsurprisingly they seem to have their favourites.
Chatting to other passengers we learned that among the first group of dance hosts, who left in Barbados, one actually admitted to living in a care home.
Among the current group is a guy who clearly knows all the steps (unlike me) but also appears to have two wooden legs. He hasn’t but that is how he moves. He has snapped Laura up a few times (punching far above his weight) and she has said that on dancing with him she has encountered a definite whiff of Deep Heat.
So we have had some amazing adventures with Laura acting as tour organiser which has normally led to a beach on islands ranging in population from 2,000 to 200,000, the latter being Tahiti. French Polynesia is beautiful but a bit Third World. We fell in love with the capital Papeete though which had a great atmosphere.
My excellent French (O level-failed) has been much in evidence and sometimes we have actually managed to get what we ordered.
It has to be said that we are having a great time, well up to our expectations and Laura keeps pinching herself. Well, it saves me the trouble.
An elderly lady who swam past us in Bora Bora yesterday summed it up perfectly when she called to us “Adventure before Dementia.” It’s our slogan for the trip now as I order another rum punch. I just wish I could remember how many I’ve had.
Happy Xmas until we are in touch again. We’re trying hard to miss you all but it’s not easy.
Festive love from the Cat and the Kitten with flowers in our hair – not many in mine but Laura looks like a branch of Interflora.
RTW 6
Friday December 28
Day 46
Because of the International Date Line we lost last Saturday although so did Manchester City beaten at home by the Palace! So last week we were several hours behind you but now we’re 11 ahead. It could confuse a simple man. Fortunately I have an O level.
Following last week’s stories about the dance hosts my friend Dave Mew, fresh from a Saga cruise, told me of one of 82 on his ship who had been let go by Fred Olsen but was still good enough for Saga. As I approach middle age I must learn a few steps.
Fred Olsen put on quite a good show over Xmas – even a bowl of nuts in the cabin - and a Christmas Eve Carol Concert with 320 of the 350 crew. It was brilliant, even emotional.
Perhaps the most memorable event on Xmas Day was when the air conditioning went down when it was very hot and windless. It didn’t really affect us having a balcony on the top deck. I spent some time in the pool, with free mulled wine and got a bit sunburnt (a first on Xmas morning). Soon after lunch it was back on as Laura danced to a sweaty band on the sun deck. Xmas dinner was OK but not like home of course.
Boxing Day saw us on Mystery Island, Vanuatu which was straight out of a travel brochure and destined to become Laura’s screen saver. Next day we got to Noumea, Capital of New Caledonia, which replaced Tonga on the itinerary. Quite a big town of 100,000 people and a bit more affluent than Tahiti and notable for having just voted to remain under French rule but not for much else.
Boxing Day evening and the air con went again causing the cancellation of the panto to be replaced by a party on deck. Except that it started to pee down adding to the crew’s woes. Once again we were not really affected and were able to sleep with the balcony door open full of the free compensatory rum punch which seemed to be endless. This did lead to a bit of empty chair rage in the bar by one or two who had over refreshed themselves but also to £75 each compensation today so we hope it goes down again soon.
Other events saw me briefly back at work to do a reading of Alan Coren’s brilliant piece about the Three Wise Men which I delivered at the Lord’s Taverners Carol Concert four years ago. The ship’s Chaplain asked me to do it at a party he held.
Laura and I have renewed the Scrabble World Cup where I am 5-0 down – she can’t spell but her tactics seem unbeatable. I’ll keep trying.
I leave you with the one decent joke from over an hour of a rather ordinary comic. A lady asked the Captain how much food there was stored in the lifeboats if needed. He replied that there was good news and bad news. Good news – there’s 10 days’ supply; bad news there are four formal nights. Maybe it’s a cruise only joke?
We wish you all a Happy New Year and especially to a great friend of ours and many of you, the legendary Derek Ufton, who is currently in hospital after a fall. Get well soon mate.
Captain Moggy and his shipmate
RTW 7
Monday 7 January
Day 56
There has been a great deal going on and now we are at sea heading from Brisbane to Cairns and possibly into Cyclone Penny. My Aussie mates warned me in September that it is cyclone season in this part of the world.
Since I last wrote we had the sad news about June Whitfield who we knew and last met at Ken Dodd’s 90th. She even got me to play charity cricket for her in the rain once. Also Andrew Strauss’s wife. I spent some time with him during the first two Ashes Tests out here and we were around when he got the terrible news about his wife’s illness so somehow that made it, if possible, even worse for us to hear.
On a brighter note Alastair Cook’s knighthood delighted us especially as Laura got him to appear on my surprise wedding video six years ago. He is such a great bloke.
We have been in Sydney many times at New Year and last year were in a boat under the bridge. This time we were a mile or so down river and saw it from a different and panoramic position for the first time. It was brilliant and the ship put on a good evening apart from a bizarre decision to address the haggis and serve it for dinner which even the Scots on board couldn’t understand. What will they do on Burns Night?
We had a great time in Sydney for the next two days and you will all be looking forward to my new Kangaroo leather hat. We have fallen in love with Australia since we first came - me in 1986 and
Laura a few years later. We are especially fond of Sydney and could sit all day watching the ferries at Circular Quay. We both felt quite emotional as we sailed away. When will I see her again?
At Brisbane we once again happily clambered on board the river ferries to get into the City. Strange as we are living on a ship. We had to say goodbye to some friends we have met on board and who we could well stay in touch with. Eliy, girlfriend of our late mate Ed Stewart, joined the ship along with my new credit cards and some cash so I am no longer the kept man I have been since the pick-pocketing.
A new set of dance hosts have joined and three got a seal of Petal Approval. She took our new bear Fred to a pyjama party where he won a bottle of Cava and a woman wanted a kiss from me as her prize. Obviously I am part of the youth policy.
One of our new friends who is on the whole trip is a Welshman called Tom from Virginia Water. He is 92 but amazingly fit, great fun and a good dancer, frequently with the Petal. He is being stalked by a single lady passenger who gets the waiter to send him an orange juice to his sunbed to let him know she has arrived. You couldn’t write this stuff. Fortunately he is fit enough to do a runner.
We continue to marvel at the fact that this old boat is taking us all round the world. In Sydney I checked that we were 10,549 miles from Bells Yew Green but now we are heading home and a few hundred miles closer. We also marvel at all the places we have seen. Great detail in my full diary which is now at nearly 20,000 words.
A rather lack lustre comic did mention how difficult life is with political correctness when he did his final spot on board – thankfully. Some of the Pacific islands we visited were those involved in cannibalism. Amazingly on Mystery Island they almost gloried in it and even had a Cannibal Bar.
It reminded me of the non PC joke about two cannibals having lunch. One said “I don’t really like your wife,” to which his mate replied “well just eat the chips.”
Happy New Year as we stay close to the lifeboats
Cyclone Cat and Kitten
RTW 8
Thursday 17 January
DAY 66
Cyclone? What Cyclone? Penny passed us by although we did have a short period of ship movement. Otherwise the sea has been the calmest it has been since we left Southampton, and for several days.
In Cairns we had a wonderful day with my cousins. Aaron and Amy’s little boy Callan who I had seen in Melbourne in the autumn is now one and an absolute joy. We had a job to leave him after a day paddling and socialising.
We had not realised how far the Great Barrier Reef extends. Right up to Papua New Guinea. Thus we had lovely views as we sailed right up and around that big finger at the north-east top of Oz.
Our next stop was Darwin, the last notable place I had not been to in my 35 years of visiting. This city has been seriously damaged twice, once by the Japs and secondly by Cyclone Tracey when 75 per cent of the population had to be evacuated in 1974.
Consequently it is a very modern city of 130,000 and extremely friendly. We also learned that the Northern Territory, in which it sits, voted against becoming an Aussie State so therefore has no MPs in Parliament, just two representatives with no votes. Only 230,000 people live in the NT which is at least five times the size of the UK. I’d be happy to go back for a longer stay.
Then we departed for Komodo island to visit the famous dragons. It was fascinating and not unlike our bear-trekking in Canada or a safari and we did see six plus a baby of these quite awful creatures who have a potentially fatal bite and eat their young. They can grow to 10 ft long and run at up to 20kms an hour.
One other rather unpleasant fact is that they can smell blood up to 5kms away so any cut has to be assessed. As Laura had knocked her ankle the day before her trip was slightly in doubt at one point.
I did well to survive the two and a half hour walk in intense heat (I’m wonderful for my age) and it may have encouraged me to re-attempt the Easter dog walk again this year. While I headed back to the ship with my Komodo dragon fridge magnet the Petal set off for the Pink Beach. No surprise there although it is not as pink as it was and neither is the exceedingly brown Petal. This is all part of the Komodo National Park and the Petal asks me to point out it is pink because of the amazing coral. She does like a bit of detail in these missives.
Now we are on the first of three days at sea heading for Singapore where we shall meet up with Ben, son of our old friend the late Rachel Heyhoe-Flint. We shall also have lunch with another old friend who once, at two days’ notice, set up a dinner for me to appear at in the Singapore Cricket Club. He had heard I was in the area working in Phuket which will be our next stop the day after.
We have had one or two exciting incidents which I think we forgot to tell you. En route to Sydney a lady developed a blood clot and we watched in amazement as in some fairly high winds a Flying Doctor helicopter came and lifted her off. On New Year’s Eve we heard an announcement asking for a stretcher to go the Lido Lounge and learned that a guy had fallen and fractured a hip. After an operation he was told he could re-join the ship at Darwin but the company wouldn’t allow it.
I’ve been banned from asking if Komodo is an Indonesian toilet or for comparing them to Xmas with from Bells Yew Green in Sydney we were only 8,550 in Darwin. So in 41 days’ time we could be in the pub.
All the best to you all from a pint-starved Cat and his Brown Dragon
RTW 9
Saturday 26 January
DAY 75
Firstly it’s been a sad week as four people I know have passed away. An old colleague at the ferries, Chris Wales, actor Windsor Davies, sports writer Hugh McIlvanney and Gerard Bassett who founded the Hotel du Vin chain.
Chris who was only in his 60s gave me the Johnson Bros joke with which I became linked for many years. Windsor was a most delightful chap who I appeared with at charity events. He was nothing like his sergeant-major character. His son Danny went to my old school and played football for my old boys team.
Hugh was a genius as a sports writer and another lovely bloke. My fondest memory is when I went with him and Bobby Robson to a small private lunch in Edinburgh to celebrate Johnny Haynes 70th birthday. The stories from that day could add another hour to my act.
Finally Gerard was a legend in the wine business and booked me several times. He came to England to watch St Etienne play Liverpool 41 years ago and never went home to France. I always told him I could have understood it if it had been the other way round! He was only 61.
On to happier times and the Petal summed things up at the Captain’s Table last night when she said this is one long party and you know how she loves those. We were also hosted by the rather ineffective Future Cruise Sales Manager who I have christened the Sales Prevention Officer.
She is part of the management which has little or no concept of communication which rather lets down the bar, catering and cabin crew who are fantastic. Our Guest Relations Manager (we didn’t know she existed until Day 60) seems unmoved by the many complaints about that aspect and I was forced to remember a sign from a bar in Alaska we once saw. “If our service does not live up to your expectations, lower your expectations.”
Even so we are still having a great time and I had one day which was memorable for a period of the morning which made it clear that Laura will have a job recovering from being institutionalised.
Elly had kindly sent us some flowers which arrived when I was in the cabin. I asked for a vase after which Laura re-appeared and I asked if she was going to arrange them. She said she had no scissors so asked our maid for some. Within 30 minutes the florist had re-appeared to arrange them (he took about an hour until I got rid of him). While this was happening the ship’s tailor arrived to alter a skirt for her and the maid came in to clean. I tried to explain the English expression “this cabin is like Piccadilly Circus” but it doesn’t translate into Filipino.
Later I said the reason she does not have toast at breakfast is because there is nobody available to cut off her crusts.
So since I last wrote we were offered the chance to move cabins entirely for the management’s benefit which we were happy to decline. We called at Singapore and met up with the late Rachel Heyhoe Flint’s son Ben and were generously treated to lunch by Captain Sensible (aka Matt Streeton) of Singapore CC and his lovely wife and daughters. We also spent time in the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. An iconic but new landmark which was featured on a programme about amazing hotels on BBC-2. Running across the top of three 60-floor towers is a garden and an Olympic-size swimming pool. Up there drinks at the bar are an arm and a leg but well worth it for the view which we experienced both in the morning and at sunset.
Then we hit Phuket where we have spent sometime in the past. Busy, interesting, pretty poor and not totally my cup of tea. Still we had a nice lunch of noodles and a couple of beers and Elly had her hair done alongside a lady boy. Not the worst day out.
Best bit of the period was the arrival on board of a Brother Water Rat and great friend of ours Richard Gauntlett. He had no idea we were on board until during his act he asked for the name of a lady in the audience. That lady was my wife and he did a quick double-take then another as he clocked me. To his credit he continued on with his brilliant act, easily the best of the trip but sadly the inexperienced Cruise Director puts him on at all the wrong times.
His arrival means that until Dubai we are all together frequently and the people in the business and outside are getting plenty of ear-burning. More amazingly his twin brother Martin and he are friends of Palace saviour Martin Long and he will definitely know my accountant Mike Ludlow as his office is close by in West Wickham.
Despite a long friendship none of this I knew until we were sipping rum punch off the coast of India to where we are currently steaming before arriving tomorrow morning.
My child bride has instructed her administration staff (me) to wish you all well and has graciously permitted me to send my own good wishes at the same time.
All the best from
Curry Cat and Petal (from tomorrow Patel)
PS After more confusing time changes, including one of 30 minutes, we are now 5.5 hours ahead of you in UK
PPS On learning of Laura’s many assistants Richard suggested that when we get to Southampton 20 staff will get laid off.
RTW 10
Saturday 2 February
DAY 82
An amazing week for the Patel. A silver medal for dancing, modelling, a reputation for kleptomania, administrative staff still looking after her every need and a whole host of rather strange ship-mates.
More of this later after India week. First port of call was Cochin where we had probably the most magical day of the trip. This despite the fact that several hours in a tuk tuk did my back in until I was attacked by our Filipino masseuse. We ended at the Cochin Taj Hotel. Despite my plans to be a recluse on my return if there is one hotel I want to go back to this is it. Having been in good pubs all over the world I have never seen one in a better spot than this and the food was among our best ever – and cheap.
Goa was also very interesting and I found my second successive masala dosa, my all-time favourite Indian dish. Then it was Mumbai. We returned to the Taj Palace adjacent to the Gateway to India where we had a coffee by the pool reviving happy memories of the 10 days we spent here 13 years ago during the Test. Both teams were in the hotel and it seems amazing that we were by the pool with Jimmy Anderson and that he is still playing. We won here then. Not like the Windies today.
We also recalled our friend the late Christopher Martin-Jenkins doing laps in the pool before having dinner with us and Mike Selvey, then of the Guardian, on the edge. Happy days.
We also had another good curry in a dry restaurant, apparently it was Ghandi’s birthday. It was about half the price of a coffee in the Taj Palace. The city is crowded, interesting and cheap but also sometimes disturbing so, in some ways, it was a relief to sail away as we are now en route to Dubai and a lunch with our friends the McCarthy’s which will no doubt be at the other end of the budget.
Patel, now back as Petal, has won a silver medal in a none too serious Strictly – the 92-year-old got a gold - looked a million dollars doing some modelling (not too pleased at my suggestion to other
passengers that she was modelling handbags) and has had to put up with some comments from our mate entertainer Richard Gauntlett and I after she took a new Darwin-purchased frock from the wardrobe and found the plastic security tag still affixed. Her admin staff (me) was sent to the ship’s shop to protest her innocence and get them to remove it with magnets. New experience for me. Then after modelling and back in the cabin, she realised she still had the shop’s bracelets on. Her case comes up next week.
There have been some strange characters on board during the trip. First there was a tall unsmiling Russian travelling very much alone and straight out of a Bond film. At the Round the World Lunch we were on a table for four on our own and he was nearby on a table for one. I invited him to join us but he abruptly responded without smiling. “I prefer to be on my own.” I didn’t argue.
Later I saw him wandering about, alone as always, on the front of a Pacific island. He left the ship in New Caledonia and re-joined in Singapore, thus avoiding Australia. Very strange. I’ve left a coded message for M.
Then there is Geoff from the Midlands who is quite a good dancer of the jive and often grabs the Petal for a spin round the floor. One night early on he knew one of the female entertainers who lives near to him. Rather to our surprise he turned up for a drink with us all wearing a frock and was to be called, wait for it, Laura! He has thankfully remained as Geoff ever since and we have chatted about cricket although I can’t get the picture out of my head. I’ve had nightmares about him appearing in the fashion show.
A small Filipino passenger called Lily who lives in Jersey and who is often seen dancing rather well, came on with a partner who, for all we know, maybe her husband. Also on the trip is a very thin older guy travelling alone who I often saw by himself around the ship. Then, about a week or so ago I noticed he was dancing with Lily rather a lot and two days ago they arrived for breakfast together alongside us.
I’m always the last to know anything and Laura – that’s my one, not Geoff – informed me that the original partner is now in another cabin and Lily and this guy are not only now an item but they are getting off in Dubai and are planning to move in together. She will head from Dubai to Phuket where she has said she owns a house. She also told Laura (my one) she was a fashion designer in Jersey. If we cared could we trust a woman like that?
Is there a book to be written? Watch this space.
As we left Mumbai the ship put on a quite magnificent display on the stern deck for a Sari evening. Petal looked great in her Bollywood outfit and the show company dancers taught us some dance moves. They did it so well. Forced to appear in my Indian get-up I even tried a few steps before giving up. It was a really great show.
If I had a criticism it would be that, probably due to the current inexperienced cruise director, we do see too much of the on board entertainment staff, as opposed to the show company and the professionals. Some think they are gifted amateurs. Well, they’re half right.
In Dubai we lose our mate Richard with whom we have laughed for two weeks and Elly. We will really miss them. Can’t say we are looking forward to 200 newcomers getting on board in our space.
Petal’s Germanic control of her sunbed will have to be full on.
By the time we get back we will have travelled nearly 25,000 miles and as we head homeward (4,400 miles to go) and slightly north it is getting cooler and now down to the high 70s. I can feel your heart going out to us.
Keep the home fires burning.
Shivering Cat and the Klepto Kitten
RTW 11
Saturday 9 February
DAY 89
I think the Petal is heading for the Guinness Book of Records by coming off a world cruise even lighter than when she came on. This is despite the food remaining good and varied. Big Mike, the Head Chef who used to work at Newcastle United, is very creative and keeps us interested. It’s best to be served to avoid big portions rather than go to the self-service (aka motorway services). Petal is also now suffering from CoDaD. (Compulsive Dance Disorder).
On the downside the longer we stay on the more I realise this whole company needs a major communications audit. We went down to dinner during the week and found the ship had been decorated for Chinese New Year. There was even a dragon running round the restaurant – not from Komodo this time. Yet again nobody had told us so only a couple of people had bothered to dress up.
Then the Petal, making an enquiry about the next formal night at Guest Services, was handed a list with all the upcoming theme nights until Southampton. It has taken until Day 87 to be given this. Nobody else has it and you have to ask why wasn’t it sent round to all the cabins? Several times we have come down to find there is a theme night but nobody has been told. There is much more to report in this area but it would be too boring.
Anyway we are still enjoying it all and now we know we are having an Arabian night I have the full Sheik gear ready and plan to take one of my wives with me for the evening.
On Chinese night my fortune cookie said “Pay as you go. If you can’t pay don’t go.” Thus solving all the world’s economic crises in one hit. Talking of which my IFA, having read about Geoff/Laura in my previous issue and about my wife’s alleged light fingers, suggested that I take care not to bring the wrong Laura home and advised re-fitting her with that security tag.
We had a great five-hour lunch with our good friends the McCarthys in Dubai. Can’t believe it is two years since we were there. We love the comfort and opulence of Dubai but as the Chinese say “if you can’t pay……..”
Then we were in Khasab which is an exclave of Oman. How many of you know what an exclave is? I didn’t. I went into town but came back 10 minutes later. This is real Arabia and not the “lala land” of Dubai. Interesting but not too comfortable and with stricter dress codes.
Muscat was very busy thanks to a 4,300 guest cruise liner and the souk which we love was just too busy. Last time here we became friendly with a Kuwaiti who had studied engineering in Lewisham.
We discussed the place of alcohol in our culture which was interesting and have stayed in touch. Sadly he couldn’t meet us this time.
GADS (Geriatric Alone Dating at Sea) continues apace. Jersey Lily’s ex-partner is now ensconced with the ukulele teacher. Did he go to a lesson and admire her pluck? There is a dance host from the previous leg who has stayed on with a lady who is clearly no longer just a dance partner. There are others too. Will we come back together?
Entertainers come and go and there is a brilliant flutist called Bettine Clemen. She has played with major classical orchestras but her rather odd act is almost entirely accompanied by film of her playing to wild animals and small children around the world. Her opening film shows her on her ranch in Missouri with two horses, a donkey, a pot-bellied pig (obviously been on a cruise) and a Pyrenean Mountain dog. By the end she is living in Salzburg with no explanation. What happened to the ranch? Why is she on a job like this? Most important, what’s happened to the dog? We need to be told.
Today we are only three hours ahead of you, just over 5,000 miles away (bit further than last week because of the route) and, having left the Omani port of Salalah, heading for Jordan where we arrive in four days’ time. As we are in the area of Somali pirates there is razor wire around the rails, warning signs in Somali and many windows blacked out at night. Also warships roam the area, probably with a few SAS guys on board but we should be through the serious bit by 9 30am on Sunday. Until then not a good idea to wander round the ship saying “pieces of eight” “or ”fifteen men on a dead man’s chest”.
Under three weeks left before we get closer to the traumas in Westminster. Is there a place in hell for Mr Tusk? As the Northern Irish voted to remain why don’t they learn to live together and solve all our problems? As I watch Sky News I’m getting more and more tempted to sail away again. I know the Petal would come with me.
Still I have to come back to contact the RSPCA and find out about that dog, start filling in the Channel Tunnel and look for a Prime Minister called Will rather than May.
Keep Brexiiting on
Long John Cat and Kitten
RTW 12
Sunday 17 February
DAY 97
We survived Pirate Alley. They did get on board briefly and threatened to take the Petal until they found out she doesn’t iron.
One of the benefits of the black-out of the ship was the chance to see the galaxy without the light pollution that exists in our lives. It was a truly amazing sight with the sky resembling a showbiz star cloth. Even with my one eye the twinkling of the stars was something I was perhaps seeing for the first time. Initially I thought it was a plane going over. There were hundreds and thousands up there – stars that is.
Up among them now is my hero Gordon Banks. On reflecting after hearing the sad news I realised we had been friends for almost 40 years and the greatest time was when we did the Great
Goalkeepers’ Shows with Pat Jennings all over the country. Some 30 years ago I wrote the line about his save from Pele which everyone has since nicked, including Banksy himself (although I didn’t mind). “I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I think I’d have held it – I thought it was going wide anyway.”
For the past three months the Petal has been out on the sun deck chatting with her many fellow Brownies. Now the weather is getting cooler and this should help the treatment for their sunburnt tongues.
Yesterday we went through the Suez Canal, the first time for both of us. It was even more interesting than I anticipated. Normally you go through in convoy from 4 am but as a ship had had engine failure earlier and run aground we were delayed until 8 am. Also we had great weather, albeit chilly, so it couldn’t have been much better. We led 27 ships through.
One of many stories of interest was from the Six Day War when it was closed and 15 ships were trapped in the big lake for eight years. They became known as the Yellow Fleet as they were quickly covered in sand. The crews formed social clubs with such events as lifeboat racing, football on the deck of the biggest ship etc. When after eight idle years they were released just two were able to start up and immediately set off for home. Guess their nationality? Here’s a clue from the late and great Willie Rushton who once said “Where would we be without a sense of humour? Germany.”
Did you know that the Smithsonian Institute recently nominated seven new Wonders of the World? Neither did I. I was thinking of nominating the new Petal Lite until breakfast the other morning. Feeling a bit low with a cold and not looking forward to another birthday on Feb 26 (cards welcome) I said that I didn’t think I’d reach 80. Petal said “Oh I think you will.” Nice I thought until she added “but I’m not looking forward to it.” Well, it amused those within earshot. So I’m sticking to the new seven.
Of the old I have seen three – the Colossus of Rhodes and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (or what’s left of them) and the Pyramid at Giza. The latter is included in the new lot and I did actually go inside at dusk once when it was closed to tourists. This was thanks to a senior man from my clients at Sheraton and very spooky it was too.
Of the new lot we have seen the Colosseum in Rome and the Taj Mahal. Now we have seen the Lost City of Petra. Like Ephesus, where we arrive tomorrow, this is an ongoing and massive site of discovery that will outlast all of our lives and many more. But the sight of the Treasury building (worth looking at pictures on the net) is awe-inspiring when you think it was carved out of sandstone about 2,000 years ago. All in all a mind-bending experience.
Roman paving stones, of similar vintage to the Treasury, make for uncomfortable walking and even more so if in a horse drawn carriage. I felt sorry for the Petal….. and the horse.
As we move through our last leg, three hours ahead of you but soon to come down and just over 2,000 miles from home, the Petal has enjoyed a Valentine’s Night and we got the full sheik and belly-dancer outfits on for the almost unpublicised Arabian evening (must be the sight of it that caused my Jewish grandfather to send down my cold). Anyway those many passengers who were not aware looked at my outfit with amazement but little humour.
Later in the Lido a few more had made the effort and the Petal took part in Arabian line dancing. I didn’t as I’m still mastering my foxtrot.
So are we looking forward to coming home? Well the Petal could stay on here for ever and I am having second thoughts having heard our local shop has been ram raided. Even the sheep are turning criminal now. I blame global warming or Brexit or both.
We have just had our second lunch for the “All Rounders”. Not cricketers but those who have done the whole circuit. Hard to believe there were no speeches or thanks to the 250 there who had done the trip but we put together a table of eight and had a good time.
Rather irritatingly we also have a formal night tonight and I need to build myself up for a James Bond disco. Did he ever get a cold?
So as I leave you with happy memories of Willie Rushton and my mate Banksy’s win over the Hun, it’s
Aufedersein Pet-al and Fuhrer KatzeRTW
Week 1
Sunday November 18
I did say I would do a diary and I have kept one but as it is already several thousand words I am assuming you would lose the will to live reading that. So here is the first of our weekly reports back.
As I write we are about to leave Funchal. We should have left yesterday but had we done so we could have hit 15 metre waves so Antigua has been cut out of the itinerary.
We don’t mind too much as Madeira is such a great place. New to me but not to Laura.
I have had to take only one pill even though the ship has been moving and Laura has had a clean sheet pill-wise so far. We are likely to be tested again in the next couple of days but fingers crossed!
We had a bad start in Lisbon when I was pickpocketed losing all my cards and cash. Not uncommon there apparently. I have managed to reinstate most things, apart from the cash, and Ed Stewart’s “widow” will hopefully bring the new cards out when she joins the ship in Brisbane in January. Until then I’m having to hit Laura’s cards!
That apart the ship, the suite, the facilities are good and there has been very little to complain about.
A brilliant classic singer on board, Emily Yarrow, shares an agent with Laura as does one of the dancers. In Madeira we bumped into Rosemary and Steve Snook. Rosemary has the honour to be Laura’s tennis coach and my chiropodist. They were there on holiday. During a rare dance the other night I saw a guy staring at me. I assumed he was admiring my newly-acquired foxtrot step but it seemed he recognised me from dinners at Crystal Palace.
I have been beating myself up about the theft but it has been put into perspective by the vicar on board.
On our first night when the Entertainments Director introduced all the performers and lecturers who will be keeping us amused on the trip the vicar started off by telling us that he had just come off a sister-ship’s cruise during which two people had died. He followed this up by inferring that as we were away for 107 days they may not be the last!
I remind myself about that and suddenly the theft doesn’t seem so important. Therefore we do hope we shall both see you all again or even be able to write to you all next week.
Keep smiling – The Cat and the Kitten x
RTW
Week 2 Day 16
Tuesday November 27
Now into six days at sea with plenty to do on board if you want it although they don’t seem very good at organising things other than cards. I was looking for a backgammon tournament but no joy so far.
After the disaster of Week 1 what could possibly go wrong? Well the chest infection returned and I was back on the antibiotics the Doc had sent with me. No booze allowed again.
Then on Day 13 hit by a stomach upset. Nurse called out in the middle of the night for an injection. My dance moves went from foxtrot to cat trot
This is all taken seriously on ships and you are isolated in your cabin for 24 hours. Only specialist staff can clean, nobody is allowed in and anything handed over has to be done at the door. No laundry is allowed out of the cabin or anything else. Perversely Laura can come and go freely!
So I missed getting off in Dominica (been there before) but Laura went to the beach with a nice Welsh couple. Amazingly they are on their fifth round the world cruise. Maybe the last one though as they apparently don’t sell. This is only about 60 per cent full and I don’t think other lines are doing them anymore.
Yesterday I was sprung at noon and went to the beach in Barbados to join Laura where I had a couple of swims.
In the evening, after 110 had disembarked and slightly more got on there was a local show before we sailed. The highlight was a limbo dancer who pulled out of the audience a 6ft 7in former Abergavenny rugby player. Later it turned out he was big into Glamorgan cricket and gave me the sad news that a guy who had booked me for a dinner locally had recently died.
What lies ahead? Laura goes to play short-court tennis at 4 every sea day (just like home really) and I plan to try and learn the waltz and the ukulele. Watch this space. Not sure why I’m bothering to try dancing as Laura is in great demand and snapped up nightly by the gentlemen dance hosts who make me look quite young if not nimble.
However the highlight of the week was my taxi driver in Barbados. He rejoiced in the name of Villeneuve V Greaves BA JP. He was into cricket and when I said I was a Kent supporter he immediately said “Michael Colin Cowdrey”. Encouraged I told him about my Presidency and that Mike Denness had nominated me. He knew of Mike and went into some detail about his career very accurately. I then told him how he had died three days before handing over to me and how I had become emotional speaking at the AGM, funeral and Memorial Service. I added that men were allowed to cry these days. “Certainly,” he said. “It doesn’t make you any less manly.” He then said something I’ll never forget. He said “Jesus wept.”
I almost wept for myself a couple of times this week but now we are moving forward and heading for Bonaire. Just 19,000 people and too small even to be recognised for full membership of FIFA.
Keep believing and smiling
The Cat and the Kitten x
RTW Week 3
Day 22
Tuesday December 3
Can we really be starting our fourth week and still three months to go?
I think we are getting institutionalised. Our two room cabin feels like our home and all the things we brought to do to pass the time have not got very close to the surface.
Laura’s sociability and showbiz experience means we have become very friendly with many of the entertainers on board and there has been a lot of name-swapping and discussions about the biz.
In fact we spent so long at the breakfast table doing just that this morning that they started laying up for lunch so we carried on and had that there as well without moving!
Our days follow a pattern on sea days. In the morning after Laura has done yoga and walked round the deck we have breakfast. She is on the sun bed, I do some work or a project before lunch. I read on deck after in the shade, Laura plays short-court tennis then we chill before dinner at 8 30 after which we can’t miss the latest entertainer’s show.
Sometimes we have a late drink but more often than not we are in bed fairly early and sleeping very well. We did go to the Advent Day service yesterday and I had to smile at the theme of the Vicar’s sermon. It was “Keep Awake.” Might be wasted on Laura.
Next two days sees us in two different places in Costa Rica before nine days across the Pacific to French Polynesia and crossing the dateline. We are now six hours behind you.
I have abandoned the ukulele and have not yet mastered the waltz. Not sure you can teach an old cat new tricks but I have a patient wife.
Highlight of the week has to be the Sky Sports News guy on our TV saying “Palace are playing like Brazil!” It must be Xmas.
Talking of which when we got back to the cabin last night there was a six ft. decorated tree in our sitting room. This morning they were all over the ship along with decorations.
Keep ho ho ho-ing
Ship’s Cat and Kitten x
RTW 4
Day 29
Monday December 10
It’s Monday and this is our fifth day at sea with still four of the nine to go. You’ll be pleased to hear that the week started with some rain including a whole day when Laura couldn’t get to the sun deck. She was on suicide watch.
However the negative forecast given to us earlier last week turned out to be wrong and we have had good weather since even though not as hot and sticky as it was in Costa Rica. There we had a special day doing our own thing with our new friend, tenor Shimi Goodman. It involved a trip into the hills, feeding wild cappuccino monkeys and a friendly almost dog-like racoon plus a boozy Costa Rican lunch.
To my horror I discovered on Saturday that our TV had not been properly tuned-in and we had spent a month without Sport 24 on which you can watch live Premier football. Given the time change this means at 11 am I am about to watch Everton v Watford.
Today has also been quite emotional as I was missing the funeral of my great pal Doug Stanley. He died just before we left and we went to the morning service on board where the Vicar mentioned him in our prayers.
Afterwards I told him Doug was a top card player so God may already be a few quid down and perhaps we should have a collection?
TV cock-up apart (although TV is cutting in and out to my frustration at the moment) all is pretty good and although the ship seems to be moving about a bit all the time still no sea-sickness which is amazing. Having said that the sea is not Pacific today.
Looking forward to French Polynesia on Saturday and no cabin fever yet.
We are now nine hours behind you and crossed the equator at 7 am. I felt the bump as we crossed the line. This afternoon there was a jokey inauguration ceremony for those crossing for the first time. This largely involves kissing a fish and getting thrown in the pool. Even the Captain got involved. Laura and I kept well clear although she said she quite fancied the fish as it wasn’t a catfish.
We send our love to all especially the Stanleys to whom we raise our dry martinis
Ship’s Cat and Kitten
RTW 5
Thursday 20 December
Day 39
Bit late after a busy time. Last missive had us at sea and six days later we finally found land on French Polynesia to celebrate Crystal Palace’s fine win.
Our sailing days followed the usual pattern with not much to report except that Laura’s dancing has had rave reviews from passengers and pros alike. Can’t say the same for the elderly dance hosts who are hired to escort on to the floor a whole range of ladies looking from smart to Les Dawson in drag. Unsurprisingly they seem to have their favourites.
Chatting to other passengers we learned that among the first group of dance hosts, who left in Barbados, one actually admitted to living in a care home.
Among the current group is a guy who clearly knows all the steps (unlike me) but also appears to have two wooden legs. He hasn’t but that is how he moves. He has snapped Laura up a few times (punching far above his weight) and she has said that on dancing with him she has encountered a definite whiff of Deep Heat.
So we have had some amazing adventures with Laura acting as tour organiser which has normally led to a beach on islands ranging in population from 2,000 to 200,000, the latter being Tahiti. French Polynesia is beautiful but a bit Third World. We fell in love with the capital Papeete though which had a great atmosphere.
My excellent French (O level-failed) has been much in evidence and sometimes we have actually managed to get what we ordered.
It has to be said that we are having a great time, well up to our expectations and Laura keeps pinching herself. Well, it saves me the trouble.
An elderly lady who swam past us in Bora Bora yesterday summed it up perfectly when she called to us “Adventure before Dementia.” It’s our slogan for the trip now as I order another rum punch. I just wish I could remember how many I’ve had.
Happy Xmas until we are in touch again. We’re trying hard to miss you all but it’s not easy.
Festive love from the Cat and the Kitten with flowers in our hair – not many in mine but Laura looks like a branch of Interflora.
RTW 6
Friday December 28
Day 46
Because of the International Date Line we lost last Saturday although so did Manchester City beaten at home by the Palace! So last week we were several hours behind you but now we’re 11 ahead. It could confuse a simple man. Fortunately I have an O level.
Following last week’s stories about the dance hosts my friend Dave Mew, fresh from a Saga cruise, told me of one of 82 on his ship who had been let go by Fred Olsen but was still good enough for Saga. As I approach middle age I must learn a few steps.
Fred Olsen put on quite a good show over Xmas – even a bowl of nuts in the cabin - and a Christmas Eve Carol Concert with 320 of the 350 crew. It was brilliant, even emotional.
Perhaps the most memorable event on Xmas Day was when the air conditioning went down when it was very hot and windless. It didn’t really affect us having a balcony on the top deck. I spent some time in the pool, with free mulled wine and got a bit sunburnt (a first on Xmas morning). Soon after lunch it was back on as Laura danced to a sweaty band on the sun deck. Xmas dinner was OK but not like home of course.
Boxing Day saw us on Mystery Island, Vanuatu which was straight out of a travel brochure and destined to become Laura’s screen saver. Next day we got to Noumea, Capital of New Caledonia, which replaced Tonga on the itinerary. Quite a big town of 100,000 people and a bit more affluent than Tahiti and notable for having just voted to remain under French rule but not for much else.
Boxing Day evening and the air con went again causing the cancellation of the panto to be replaced by a party on deck. Except that it started to pee down adding to the crew’s woes. Once again we were not really affected and were able to sleep with the balcony door open full of the free compensatory rum punch which seemed to be endless. This did lead to a bit of empty chair rage in the bar by one or two who had over refreshed themselves but also to £75 each compensation today so we hope it goes down again soon.
Other events saw me briefly back at work to do a reading of Alan Coren’s brilliant piece about the Three Wise Men which I delivered at the Lord’s Taverners Carol Concert four years ago. The ship’s Chaplain asked me to do it at a party he held.
Laura and I have renewed the Scrabble World Cup where I am 5-0 down – she can’t spell but her tactics seem unbeatable. I’ll keep trying.
I leave you with the one decent joke from over an hour of a rather ordinary comic. A lady asked the Captain how much food there was stored in the lifeboats if needed. He replied that there was good news and bad news. Good news – there’s 10 days’ supply; bad news there are four formal nights. Maybe it’s a cruise only joke?
We wish you all a Happy New Year and especially to a great friend of ours and many of you, the legendary Derek Ufton, who is currently in hospital after a fall. Get well soon mate.
Captain Moggy and his shipmate
RTW 7
Monday 7 January
Day 56
There has been a great deal going on and now we are at sea heading from Brisbane to Cairns and possibly into Cyclone Penny. My Aussie mates warned me in September that it is cyclone season in this part of the world.
Since I last wrote we had the sad news about June Whitfield who we knew and last met at Ken Dodd’s 90th. She even got me to play charity cricket for her in the rain once. Also Andrew Strauss’s wife. I spent some time with him during the first two Ashes Tests out here and we were around when he got the terrible news about his wife’s illness so somehow that made it, if possible, even worse for us to hear.
On a brighter note Alastair Cook’s knighthood delighted us especially as Laura got him to appear on my surprise wedding video six years ago. He is such a great bloke.
We have been in Sydney many times at New Year and last year were in a boat under the bridge. This time we were a mile or so down river and saw it from a different and panoramic position for the first time. It was brilliant and the ship put on a good evening apart from a bizarre decision to address the haggis and serve it for dinner which even the Scots on board couldn’t understand. What will they do on Burns Night?
We had a great time in Sydney for the next two days and you will all be looking forward to my new Kangaroo leather hat. We have fallen in love with Australia since we first came - me in 1986 and
Laura a few years later. We are especially fond of Sydney and could sit all day watching the ferries at Circular Quay. We both felt quite emotional as we sailed away. When will I see her again?
At Brisbane we once again happily clambered on board the river ferries to get into the City. Strange as we are living on a ship. We had to say goodbye to some friends we have met on board and who we could well stay in touch with. Eliy, girlfriend of our late mate Ed Stewart, joined the ship along with my new credit cards and some cash so I am no longer the kept man I have been since the pick-pocketing.
A new set of dance hosts have joined and three got a seal of Petal Approval. She took our new bear Fred to a pyjama party where he won a bottle of Cava and a woman wanted a kiss from me as her prize. Obviously I am part of the youth policy.
One of our new friends who is on the whole trip is a Welshman called Tom from Virginia Water. He is 92 but amazingly fit, great fun and a good dancer, frequently with the Petal. He is being stalked by a single lady passenger who gets the waiter to send him an orange juice to his sunbed to let him know she has arrived. You couldn’t write this stuff. Fortunately he is fit enough to do a runner.
We continue to marvel at the fact that this old boat is taking us all round the world. In Sydney I checked that we were 10,549 miles from Bells Yew Green but now we are heading home and a few hundred miles closer. We also marvel at all the places we have seen. Great detail in my full diary which is now at nearly 20,000 words.
A rather lack lustre comic did mention how difficult life is with political correctness when he did his final spot on board – thankfully. Some of the Pacific islands we visited were those involved in cannibalism. Amazingly on Mystery Island they almost gloried in it and even had a Cannibal Bar.
It reminded me of the non PC joke about two cannibals having lunch. One said “I don’t really like your wife,” to which his mate replied “well just eat the chips.”
Happy New Year as we stay close to the lifeboats
Cyclone Cat and Kitten
RTW 8
Thursday 17 January
DAY 66
Cyclone? What Cyclone? Penny passed us by although we did have a short period of ship movement. Otherwise the sea has been the calmest it has been since we left Southampton, and for several days.
In Cairns we had a wonderful day with my cousins. Aaron and Amy’s little boy Callan who I had seen in Melbourne in the autumn is now one and an absolute joy. We had a job to leave him after a day paddling and socialising.
We had not realised how far the Great Barrier Reef extends. Right up to Papua New Guinea. Thus we had lovely views as we sailed right up and around that big finger at the north-east top of Oz.
Our next stop was Darwin, the last notable place I had not been to in my 35 years of visiting. This city has been seriously damaged twice, once by the Japs and secondly by Cyclone Tracey when 75 per cent of the population had to be evacuated in 1974.
Consequently it is a very modern city of 130,000 and extremely friendly. We also learned that the Northern Territory, in which it sits, voted against becoming an Aussie State so therefore has no MPs in Parliament, just two representatives with no votes. Only 230,000 people live in the NT which is at least five times the size of the UK. I’d be happy to go back for a longer stay.
Then we departed for Komodo island to visit the famous dragons. It was fascinating and not unlike our bear-trekking in Canada or a safari and we did see six plus a baby of these quite awful creatures who have a potentially fatal bite and eat their young. They can grow to 10 ft long and run at up to 20kms an hour.
One other rather unpleasant fact is that they can smell blood up to 5kms away so any cut has to be assessed. As Laura had knocked her ankle the day before her trip was slightly in doubt at one point.
I did well to survive the two and a half hour walk in intense heat (I’m wonderful for my age) and it may have encouraged me to re-attempt the Easter dog walk again this year. While I headed back to the ship with my Komodo dragon fridge magnet the Petal set off for the Pink Beach. No surprise there although it is not as pink as it was and neither is the exceedingly brown Petal. This is all part of the Komodo National Park and the Petal asks me to point out it is pink because of the amazing coral. She does like a bit of detail in these missives.
Now we are on the first of three days at sea heading for Singapore where we shall meet up with Ben, son of our old friend the late Rachel Heyhoe-Flint. We shall also have lunch with another old friend who once, at two days’ notice, set up a dinner for me to appear at in the Singapore Cricket Club. He had heard I was in the area working in Phuket which will be our next stop the day after.
We have had one or two exciting incidents which I think we forgot to tell you. En route to Sydney a lady developed a blood clot and we watched in amazement as in some fairly high winds a Flying Doctor helicopter came and lifted her off. On New Year’s Eve we heard an announcement asking for a stretcher to go the Lido Lounge and learned that a guy had fallen and fractured a hip. After an operation he was told he could re-join the ship at Darwin but the company wouldn’t allow it.
I’ve been banned from asking if Komodo is an Indonesian toilet or for comparing them to Xmas with from Bells Yew Green in Sydney we were only 8,550 in Darwin. So in 41 days’ time we could be in the pub.
All the best to you all from a pint-starved Cat and his Brown Dragon
RTW 9
Saturday 26 January
DAY 75
Firstly it’s been a sad week as four people I know have passed away. An old colleague at the ferries, Chris Wales, actor Windsor Davies, sports writer Hugh McIlvanney and Gerard Bassett who founded the Hotel du Vin chain.
Chris who was only in his 60s gave me the Johnson Bros joke with which I became linked for many years. Windsor was a most delightful chap who I appeared with at charity events. He was nothing like his sergeant-major character. His son Danny went to my old school and played football for my old boys team.
Hugh was a genius as a sports writer and another lovely bloke. My fondest memory is when I went with him and Bobby Robson to a small private lunch in Edinburgh to celebrate Johnny Haynes 70th birthday. The stories from that day could add another hour to my act.
Finally Gerard was a legend in the wine business and booked me several times. He came to England to watch St Etienne play Liverpool 41 years ago and never went home to France. I always told him I could have understood it if it had been the other way round! He

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