Running away to sea (again!)
They say there are two stages to seasickness; the first is when you’re afraid you’re going to die and the second is when you’re afraid you’re not. Conditions were not particularly severe in the Bay of Biscay on Oceana’s first day out from Southampton, just a bit of an echoing swell from storm Barbara further north, but for some reason it got to me. I should have been prepared – I know my geography, I know what happens when a deep ocean hits a continental shelf – but after six trouble free weeks across the Pacific last winter I assumed that I was fine with big ship motion.
Wrong. My cabin is down in the bottom of the boat, with the crew, and I woke up woozy. All I had to do was lug my case of art materials out of the room, try and find my way to a lift, set up in a corner of the allocated restaurant, and give two sparkling introductory art lessons. It was appallingly difficult. By the time I’d unpacked my art stuff, I was sweating. Fortunately, the first class was small, and my students were sympathetic when I had to stop mid sentence and rush to the loo. The rest of the day passed in a blur. ‘That’s it with boats and the sea!’ I told the toilet bowl sternly. ‘From now on I’m going to stay ashore and take up knitting. Or gardening, or flower arranging. Something nice and still!’
Most of that grim day was spent clutching the toilet or trying desperately hard to get through a sentence without rushing out, and apologising to my class (the afternoon lot very kindly helped pack up my gear again because I couldn’t move my head). Ever travelled in a lift when feeling sick? Not recommended.
Eventually, it was all over and I collapsed on my bed, not to move again until the next day when, mercifully, we docked in La Coruna and the motion stopped. In terms of making a favourable first impression and inspiring confidence in my abilities as onboard art tutor, I can safely say I had not been a success.
After a day in La Coruna (cool, cloudy, pretty architecture but graffiti-covered) we were off again and life improved, the ocean returned to its lovely gentle deep sea rhythm as we headed south for Morocco, and I was feeling fine. Being at sea is a splendid thing – whoever would want to do gardening or knitting instead – madness!
Both my art classes on board are quite small – about six students in the morning, a dozen or so in the afternoon – so the teaching is much easier than it was on Aurora when 50 people tried to cram themselves in on my first day. This cruise is a different kind of thing – much shorter, quite a few families, more of a Christmas holiday than a way of travelling. The temperature rises about one degree a day, the ship’s public spaces are festooned with decorations and the loudspeakers play relentless seasonal hits (yes, I knew I’d be in for that!). I taught my two classes as usual on Christmas day, then went to a yoga class (note to self: take some exercise in 2017 you slug!) and in the evening met up with the girls for a pleasant Christmas dinner in the buffet. Annie and Trish are doing musical drama with the children, and Cherry is the youth DJ. We all met up on the first day wandering bewildered around the lower decks failing to find our cabins.
Most of the time I’m on my own in the evenings, which is strangely restful. It’s also restful to escape the self imposed tyranny of phone and social media, as I’m offline and with no phone signal on board. My routine is to dress for dinner (most days ‘evening casual’, occasional days ‘black tie’), go up to the buffet to eat – oh what a joy to be cooked for! – then choose a bar with some live music to listen to with my glass of wine and a book from the ship’s library. There’s a choice of shows every evening at 8.30, usually cabaret style with the onboard troupe or visiting singers, so occasionally I’ll go to one of those, then back to the cabin where I can read, write, practise my music very quietly or work on some of those half written songs I say I never have time to finish. It sounds very virtuous, but in fact I have been very lazy, and for a few days after my bout of mal de mer I just wanted to sleep all the time.
We are now cruising the Canary Islands, so I am off duty until 1st January, which gives me a chance to go out sketching. My confidence took quite a bashing after the eye op as I haven’t been able to sketch for pleasure for several months, so this is a good chance to get that confidence back. I have to – my next lesson to the class is how to keep a sketchbook diary so I have to have something to show them!
Temperatures are now around 20 degrees, which to most of you is probably wonderfully warm but to me is only just the right side of chilly (I am wearing leggings under my cotton trousers and have a warm fleecy jacket on as I sit on deck writing this!)
That’s it for now, I’ll do another update later. I’m ashore in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria sitting in a bar chatting to one of the newly arrived crew from the Lord Nelson, berthed close to Oceana (she looks tiny!). The bar has wine but no internet, but Alan has kindly let me tether to his iphone so I can upload this – bon voyage, Lord Nelson!