The blog


…if I got air miles for taxi rides… part one

Today is certainly a ‘delirious with tiredness’ kind of day. Therefore its probably not the best choice to be writing a blog in my current state.Goodness knows what I’ll publish. I look like a hobo. I’m in an airport where pretty much no one speaks English, I’ve been travelling for what feels like an eon so the computer is currently my only companion.
I have however just Skyped Steve who is presently at home in a snowy Bolton project managing the renovations on our new home. Walls and ceilings are being torn down, a new kitchen ordered and ready to be fitted. He was even brave enough to make a colour choice on our new electrical socket fittings today. I say brave, not because he finds things like that difficult, I say brave because I can’t believe he DARED make an aesthetic choice without first consulting me 😉
Before Christmas I spent three weeks based out of the states ship hopping between Florida and the Caribbean. Five cruises in three weeks, all whilst the completion of the house sale was going through. Due to numerous issues along the purchasing way, the sale had taken over six months to complete and we were on pins as to whether or not we would even get in for Christmas. We eventually did and Steve and his Mum so very kindly moved all of our things into the house in my absence whilst I sat on a sun lounger somewhere on the equator. I tell you this because I asked Steve at this point to fit a carpet in the living room so that we had one clean tidy room to host people at Christmas. I was pretty specific about what I wanted and even sent him an email with a sample of the colour I liked. On my return I was greeted with something entirely different and employed all my best university acting training to hide my apparent disappointment. It turns out however that after several spontaneous parties over the festive period (the first time we have lived in a detached house with no noise permutations) the darker coloured carpet was indeed the way to go… it hides a multitude of sins.

Currently I am sat in the airport in Bogota, Columbia. Yesterday I left the beautiful Celebrity Equinox in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. For those of you that have read my previous blogs, going back a way I have detailed the journey from the airport to the port in Costa Rica on more than one occasion. Yesterday I took the journey in reverse and what is always a three hour journey at least through the winding mountainous rainforest became a five and a half hour journey yesterday. Roadworks were being carried out along the single lane ‘freeway’ in the loosest of terms, which meant traffic could only flow in one direction at a time. This thoroughfare is the main commuter vein between San Jose and the province of Limon, where Stayton my driver had informed me many people travel to work. 80% of import and export comes in through Puerto Limon even though the journey to the capital is arduous and the and the bulk of the population of Costa Rica live in the capital San Jose. Maybe its my western impatience or my generation’s ability to acquire immediacy in almost everything we want or do, but five hours in the back of an ageing 4 wheel drive with no air conditioning, sitting stationary for long periods was not really my idea of fun. However its common place for the Costa Ricans.
Last night I flew the hour and a half journey from San Jose to Panama City where I checked in to a hotel at 22.30pm before checking out again at 02.30am to return back to the airport. I flew to Bogota, where I have currently been waiting for six hours. Just another hour and a half to go before my final three hour flight to Barbados before joining the Exquisite Celebrity Eclipse tomorrow.
Please don’t misconstrue this as a moan… I knew full well what this job entailed when I signed up for it. This is in truth, the part we get paid for. The shows and the sun loungers I’d do for free. Its the travel and the time away from your loved ones which isn’t everyones cup of tea.
This life certainly throws up its oddities too. You meet some real characters on your travels.

Before christmas on my ‘five cruises in three weeks’ stint I was lucky enough to have barely any travel days at all. The ships either all came into port together or on subsequent days so i could just wait for the next one in a hotel as I did in San Juan.
It was a perfect place for an overnight. The hotel was very large and busy and full of wedding parties but to be honest I was utterly exhausted and just holed up in my room for the night. I had been to the ‘Plaza de Americas’ shopping mall that day and done pretty much ALL my christmas shopping in a day, I even had to buy a new suitcase! I walked my little legs off.But it is SO much cheaper than the UK for shopping and it meant I could buy all my family nicer gifts for the same money. I was best pleased with myself.
At the end of this cruise out of San Juan I would leave in St Thomas and take my flights to Fort Lauderdale Via San Juan airport. It was such a breeze only having two flights in the entire contract. If this job was like this all the time.. wow it would be so much easier I thought as I boarded the plane.
The problems began when I got to Fort Lauderdale and realised my cases hadn’t made it.
Remaining remarkably calm, after all these things happen when you travel a lot, I headed to the airlines offices to enquire as to the whereabouts of my bag. I had already been informed that I would definitely be performing the following night in the welcome aboard show onboard the gorgeous Celebrity Constellation so I needed my luggage. My stage clothes were in it.
I was informed that my bag was being loaded onto the next flight into Fort Lauderdale from San Juan and that it would arrive at 11pm. It was currently 8pm and after a long day I was reluctant to wait in the airport for three hours for my cases. I had no choice though really as the last ‘lost luggage’ delivery had apparently left for the day and I couldn’t risk not having the bags. So I waited with what was the lesser of two evil dinner options… there was a wrinkled up damp sandwich or a less than crisp looking Caesar salad. I opted for the salad, which I immediately regretted as it transpired only the top layer of the bowl was green and the rest a kind of weary tea bag looking brown. Nevertheless I waited and waited and stood and watched all the passengers from the 11pm flight collect their bags and leave. My cases were well and truly AWOL so I dragged my weary self back to the airline offices to find out what was going on. After an apparent misunderstanding between colleagues I was told by a gentleman that his female colleague had no right to tell me that my bags would be here for 11pm or that I should indeed wait for them as according to his system they were still stood in San Juan like a pair of lemons.
By this point I was very close to exploding and though the employee I was dealing with was obviously not to blame for his colleagues errors (who I saw make a swift exit as I returned to the office) I was utterly exasperated at the breakdown in communication. I was told the bags WOULD be loaded onto the next flight and that they would send them to my accommodation in a courtesy hotel shuttle.I should expect them around 3am.

A loud ringing woke me from my slumber and reluctantly I dressed myself and dragged my now severely unwashed bedraggled self to the hotel reception to collect the bags. Tomorrow is a new day I thought. Its all behind me now.

After rising early and feeling all smug and productive about it, I headed to the local mall to finish what was left of my christmas shopping. My geography of the Florida area is based entirely on malls I have and haven’t been to. I’m not going to lie to you, shallow it may be but they are my happy place. After a mammoth speed shop I grabbed a slice for breakfast and returned back to the hotel to pick up my bags before making headway to the ship.
I ordered a cab and on its arrival I was greeted with a man the IMAGE of Morgan Freeman dressed as a native american. He was sporting a leather patchwork waistcoat vest and a giant leather stetson with what appeared to be wefts of other peoples hair braided into plaits tucked into the band around the hat as well as several large feathers. Each to their own I thought and got into the cab. The subsequent journey was odd to say the least.
He asked me my name and I told him.

“whats your name?” I replied

“ You can call me Red dog or Strong Deer” he answered.

“Those are the names my tribe have given me.”

Immediately I knew that this guy was not your average cab driver. Over the course of the longest twenty minutes of my life the conversation went from the sublime to the ridiculous. In an attempt to divert him from his bizarre need to confess all of his recent female conquests to me I asked him

“SO… where do you live? Here in Fort Lauderdale?”
Big mistake. Huge!

“I live in the back of my van.” he answered.

I’m a free spirit I live wherever I choose. There’s plenty of room for visitors. Want to see it on the way to the ship?” he added.

There was no way I was going anywhere with Red Indian Morgan Freeman and in my hurried panic to exit the taxi at my greatest expedience I left behind a grocery bag with my newly purchased christmas sweater I’d been so excited to wear later that day. It read “OCD… Obsessive Christmas Disorder”
Yes I was excited to go home after this long period away to a festive season with my family and friends but never more so than right this instant.

Back to today and as the epic seven hour wait for my flight nears to a close I’m having a good old think to myself about what the next few weeks holds for me.. a lot of travelling? Yes. Quite a number of shows? Certainly. But also the opportunity to happen upon old friends and make new ones. Because the size of the Celebrity fleet is in single digits, the fact I am working for them exclusively this year means I am coming across the same people more frequently. This is an amazing job no doubt but on days like today its also a lonely one. My mood is always brightened by thoughts of who I might get to see and spend time with on the next ship and when I might dock alongside friends on other vessels in various ports and we can meet and catch up. This job is funny like that sometimes. you never know who you might bump into on the beach.
This is a good feeling. I meet people every week from all walks of life. Over 60 nationalities on average are represented by the crew alone on these vessels. And then there’s the guests. The 3000 odd people a week I make the acquaintance of and share a little of my story with. When I think about it, and I mean really think about it, theres a little piece of Accrington in Lancashire and all that goes with that, being spread around the world through the stories I’m telling the people I meet every week of the year. And the best part about it is that a little piece of them travels with me also. Each lovely comment, word of advice, personal experience or story regaled makes an impact on me and without wanting to sound like I’m being too deep and meaningful in what is in essence supposed to be a lighthearted travel anecdote, I think these experiences are constantly shaping me as a person.
I’m proud of where I’m from.. that has I believe influenced me to the largest extent throughout my career.I am who I am simply because all my formative years were spent there and the people that have made the largest impact on my life are largely from that part of my life. But these crazy experiences I have like ‘Morgan Freeman the Red Indian Taxi Driver’ only serve to help me realise that I really do have the best of both worlds at present. I’m paid to travel the globe and sing songs to nice people. And then I go home. To my lovely new house in Bolton.. (well it will be lovely once we’ve stopped knocking lumps out of it) and the warmth and support of Steve and my family. Only four more weeks…..

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