As my cruise holiday approaches the final destination, I cannot but feel a need to be reflective after many days of being purposefully circumspective. This is my first holiday since I turned 60, suddenly the senior citizens are no longer “they” to me, they have become “us”.
The Captain’s welcome speech informed me that one day’s cruise is equivalent to a gain of one pound in weight. It took my slowing brain three attempts to work out that I would gain 5 kg in ten days. My personal challenge of only bringing slim-fit tight pants with me suddenly appeared foolish.
At lunch on the first day, I overheard a loud Asian woman sharing her story with a companion about how she and her 85 year-old husband almost missed their flight. They overslept, failed to hear their alarm go off, or maybe they forgot to set it, or maybe they set it to pm instead of am? The taxi was blaring away in the wee hours, late to fetch them to the airport. She had to shake her husband to wake him up. He was all shaken up, and in the taxi, he told her he had forgotten to bring his reading glasses with him. That’s alright, darling, you will just have to forgo reading when we are at sea. They got into the plane breathless, hardly had time to buckle up before the plane took off. Phew, that was intense. As she started to relax, she shook her husband and abruptly asked him, did you remember to put on your dentures?!
I met an American couple on the second day. From Denver, Colorado she replied when asked where they come from. It would have sufficed, I am sure to just say from Denver. Is there another Denver somewhere else? Her husband, a substantial man with a substantial weight, returned to our table with an Espresso ice-cream cone in one hand, and a sorbet in the other. Realising that I was looking at his busy hands, he exclaimed convincingly that is why God made us with two hands. They had joined the cruise from Barcelona, three weeks ago. Ah, he would have been a skinny man then, I calculated.
Last night was Beatles Night, which meant a packed theatre. I got into the theatre late, when Yesterday was being sung and lights turned low. The lyrics suddenly hit me, hard.
I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly
Suddenly, I hit something hard. I am now an old man, and had walked right into a pillar, either it was too dark for my eyes or was I watching the new fab four and not what I was walking into. Much like an iRobot vacuum cleaner, I crashed onto the pillar blindly, took a step back, and continued away from the pillar without fuss. Now I need a place to hide away. Oh, I believe in yesterday.
Tonight, the ship sailed into Stockholm. The pool was empty, everyone was at the deck level to admire the cobalt Baltic sea lapping at the shore of Statsgården and the nearby 13th century Gamla Stan, or Old Town. Great! I took the opportunity to enjoy a luxurious time alone in a luxurious setting, hopping from the hot spa to the steam room, and from the steam room to the Snow Grotto, a room covered with real snow. All that luxury, all for me to enjoy on my own. Then back to the Steam room. There, Rasputin came into my thoughts, and so did the Romanovs. I felt immense gratitude that we are so lucky to live in the 21st century with all the luxury and conveniences that we enjoy. It was only a hundred years ago, when Tsar Nicholas II ruled Russia. Could he and his family, with all that pomp and riches, have imagined such luxury that we ordinary folk now almost take for granted? My introspection in the Snow Grotto was disturbed by another substantial man of substantial weight. Another old American. Ok, enough of Rasputin, let me drive him out of my mind, empty my mind. I focused on the soft meditative music instead. Suddenly, an uncontrolled fart blew loudly. Not me, the old American with substantial weight chirped with a mismatched squeaky voice. Yeah, sure.
In the change room, whilst drying myself after taking the cold bucket challenge, a much older man, walked in from one of the shower cubicles. Ghostly white in his white robe, he looked much too frail and pale. There were warning signs pasted everywhere, deterring those pregnant or with heart conditions or are immune compromised from enjoying these facilities. He didn’t belong there. I didn’t like his ghostly looks, so I hurriedly left the room. Outside, a gorgeous lanky Swedish masseuse asked me if there was anyone left in the room. I nodded. She knocked at the door, opened it a little and called out: Mr Joseph, Mr Joseph, are you in there? Mr Joseph? No reply. She told me he’s late for his appointment. So, I walked back in to hurry him along. Anyway, this is not a blog about ghost stories…. so I shall not continue.
Oh, let me tell you about the old Welsh woman, she is quite tall but far from skinny. She had noticed I never turned up for breakfast. So, she asked me why. I told her I practise IF, Intermittent Fasting. No! No! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you must not miss it! Besides, you’ve paid for it, so enjoy it, you’re on holiday! A really kind caring woman, this old Welsh woman. I did not bother telling her about the many potential benefits of IF. Animal research has successfully linked IF to improved heart health, brain health, reduced Type 2 diabetes, reduced risks of cancers, and definitely will result in weight loss and reduced body fat. I could also have informed her about the 2016 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, Yoshinori Ohsumi for discovering the benefits IF provide in enhancing the process of autophagy. But, she said I look a bit like Rasputin, so I avoided sounding like a fake healer.
I am totally unqualified, an illiterate in the field of Physiology, best I keep quiet. But I can profess with total confidence one definite benefit of IF is it allows me to ask for packed lunches, everywhere, without guilt. I quite often approach the kitchen and tell them I am fasting, and will miss breakfast and lunch. Oh, yes, I know, it is Ramadan, I fast too! A cook said. And then I get to pack a big lunch, for free. Who says there is no such thing as a free lunch?! Anyway, one afternoon, I was sharing a lift with this kind caring old Welsh woman when she suddenly sneezed. A middle button of her dress popped off and landed next to my right shoe. She casually bent down (with some difficulty), picked up her button and stared blankly at the door of the lift. She never bothered me again about missing breakfast.
The old Welsh woman has an older sister travelling with her. She calls her Older Sis. Older Sis has had a bad fall once, and three missteps so far during their holiday. After following in the footsteps of Rasputin in Yusupov Palace, she had another misstep. I offered a helping hand and told her of my observation, that she tended to be doing something such as closing her bag or putting on her scarf whilst she was walking. Older people should focus on one thing at a time, right? Older Sis was rummaging through her handbag whilst walking towards a terminal after our Peterhof Gardens visit when the old Welsh woman asked her what she was looking for in her handbag. My sunglasses, I think I may have left them in the bus, Older Sis exclaimed with some dismay. A few of us looked across at her, and burst out laughing uncontrollably. Older Sis peered at us with a baffled look, through her sunnies.
This is the penultimate night in this cruise ship, my ninth night. After dinner, I was at the lifts, failing repeatedly to scan my ship card to activate the lifts. Suddenly, it hit me. All I need do is press the arrow up button. Cruise ships do not have access controlled security lifts! Oh no. This local idiotes (an old Greek word that does not mean idiot) from Australia has become an old urghhling too.