Departing the lovely Celebrity Equinox in Mykonos was bitter sweet. It had been one of those contracts that you know you will never forget. I was fortunate enough to work along an incredibly talented male vocalist by the name of Phillip Browne, who’s reputation in this industry already proceeds him. After ten years in the West End, appearing in the Lion king amongst other shows, it was no surprise that his voice was amazing and his performance flawless. It was my lucky day as he also agreed to sing a couple of duets with me.. much to the delight of the audience. As we both headed ashore that day to disembark, dragging our luggage onto the tender boat, we were greeted by smiling guests who were as happy as we were that we’d had the opportunity to work together. I hoped it was the first of many contracts. Phillip was heading home but I was winding my way to the Celebrity Reflection in Santorini. Knowing what I know about Mykonos, when the ship is at tender (there is only one small dock) the boats take the passengers straight into the town square and there is no taxi rank. We had asked the ship to arrange a transfer to the airport for us as most of this area is cobbled and pedestrianised and only cars with prior arrangements may pass.
Granted, the process of disembarking had been longer than we thought. And spending the last few moments having pictures with the guests on the quay side, whilst in no way a chore may have contributed to the fact that the car was no longer there when we arrived.
We sought advice from the shore side staff but it became quite apparent that the taxi was not coming back and so we would have to find our own arrangements to the airport. Mykonos is a beautiful but small island, known for its breezes. Today those shallow winds were taking a day off and the prospect of dragging my two suitcases and a backpack across the cobbles to the square for a cab did not inspire me a whole lot.
In preparation I removed my wildly inappropriate footwear and changed into flats. For those of you who know me you will be accustomed to the fact that I indeed wear heels almost all of the time and that my motto in life is that ‘Theres no such thing as being over dressed unless you’re a salad”
To that end, I had woken plenty early enough and washed and blow dried my hair, and picked an outfit that I thought said
“yes.. today is a travel day but I am well aware that the passengers know who I am now so I am mindful to be smart and well dressed, even on a tender boat”
It soon transpired even after the first few yards that my efforts had been entirely in vain and even though Philip had been chivalrous enough to drag one of my cases along with his own, we were both now sweating profusely, wandering aimlessly, had stretched our arms irreparably and were now cursing the whitewashed idyl that was Mykonos for not concreting the streets. Bump after bump and yard after yard, passengers stopped to wave us off, ask for a photo, tell us their stories as we became gradually redder and decidedly less glamorous. We reached the square we had been directed to with no sign of any taxis at all. I asked a local.
“Yes… taxi rank?? That way, across the beach and up the hill”
I saw the light fade from Phillip’s eyes. We had ample time to make it to the airport but nevertheless there was no ‘Mohammed coming to the Mountain’ about this scenario. By hook or by crook me, three suitcases, a back pack and ‘Mufasa’ would have to traverse the beach and the hill before any respite was coming our way.
Phillip was an absolute legend… Carrying the cases over the beach one by one whilst I waited on the road watching our wares as he delivered them. We finally reached the foot of the hill ( I say hill for dramatic affect… it was an INCREDIBLY steep slope..honestly!) we steadied ourselves for the final furlong of the epic trek.
“Come on Jayne you can do this!” Phillip hollered
“rrraaaaaaaa” I roared in my best Lion king-esque voice and we pelted up the hill like we were veritable olympians.
Safely ensconsed in the taxi I looked over to Phillip who was still, as always, beaming with a smile. Small and perfectly formed beads of sweat appeared along his shiny shaved hairline. I resembled a sweaty Velma from Scooby Doo and he looked like he could appear in an advert for some rich body lotion at any given point.
“I used to like him” I thought. And laughed.
I flew from Mykonos to Athens and whilst waiting for my flight to Santorini I resumed my usual position of sitting on the floor in the airport because it was the only place I could find a power supply. In this instance it was behind a glass door and as people entered the gate area and saw me settled there with my fizzy pop, shoes off and humongous backpack I think they assumed I taken up a permanent residence there.
I had pre arranged my transfer from the airport to the hotel after researching it on trip advisor and many guests had said they had struggled to find it. So after a trouble free flight to Santorini I headed outside to look for the usual name on a board situation.
I have been called many things in my time.. and often on ships people muddle up my stage name and my married name. But his was the first time I had been called ‘Jan Purry’ I laughed heartily and followed my driver to his van.
As the vehicle climbed the hills through the narrow roadways of Santorini at dusk, I had chance to take a better look at the island. I have been here many times before, joining and leaving ships but I have never been here overnight. It was not yet dark and I noticed a sign on the road side for the ‘Industrial Tomato Museum’
I’m not sure if it was the thought of an industrial tomato, or the fact that someone deemed it interesting enough to erect a museum to the subject but either way, it tickled me. Maybe next time I thought.
My driver dropped me at the side of the road with my copious amounts of baggage and as if out of nowhere a slim, young indian gentleman appeared proffering his assistance with my luggage.
“I take to the hotel” he said and before I could even ask who he was or where he had come from he had my suitcase on his head climbing the steep stone stairs through the streets.
“you wait here with bags. I come back” He said and about ten minutes later he returned looking rather less composed than after the first ascent. He grabbed the next bag which I am sure weighed more than he did and again with it placed firmly on his head he darted off up the steps and I scurried behind him trying to keep up.
I got to the hotel and checked in to my room, marvelling at the breathtaking view across the bay of Thira from atop the mountain from which my balcony opened out. After a quick dinner and a much needed shower I went straight to bed in preparation for the journey the next day. The town of Thira is situated as mentioned on the top of the hill and the only way down to the ship is by dragging your bags through the cobbled streets and on to the cable car down to the bay…. or on a donkey. No disrespect to the Virgin Mary’s transport mode of choice, but I prefer my animals between two slices of bread. And anyway, I didn’t have an outfit that said ‘Utility Ass-chic”
The next day I woke to prepare myself for the unusual trip with all three bags, up the three quarters of a mile hill to the cable car station and then down to the bay and the tender boats and as I opened my shutters I saw it there, shimmering in the turquoise waters. Not only the Celebrity Reflection, the ship I was about to join…. but the Celebrity Equinox… the one I had just left!
The contract on the Reflection was most enjoyable. I was lucky enough to be invited to a Greek restaurant for lunch in Piraeus, Athens by the Cruise Director, the Hotel Director and some other senior officers where we would eat the most beautiful local cuisine that never seemed to end. More and more amazing tastes arrived for us to try. Aubergines in tomato, beef and chicken Kebabs, tzatziki, salads, cheeses, breads, everything you could possibly want. My mouth is watering at the memory. And so very reasonable. It was a great day.
The next stop would be my journey from the Reflection in Kusadasi, Turkey to the Silhouette in Tallinn, Estonia where I would join her for the annual ‘Presidents Cruise’.
Once a year, the president of the company travels on a ship and meets and mingles with the loyal guests… taking them on special trips and excursions. I had been asked to perform there by my friend and colleague Lee Moreau who is the Director of the Loyalty Programme for Celebrity Cruises. I was excited, not just because it would be an honour to sing for the president of the brand I am so very passionate about, but because this cruise stayed over in St Petersburg for three days and I had been invited to perform on the special day trip to Moscow on day two.
But I had to get there first.
After troubles actually acquiring a taxi, I eventually ended up in the back of a mini bus heading on the hour long journey from Kusadasi to Izmir airport. A route well trodden by me and many other guest entertainers over the years, it’s an hours drive on a good day and as the ship hadn’t docked till 10am and my flight was at 1pm I was eager to make haste. I needed money for the journey and after initially missing the turning, the driver agreed to take me to the ATM. Now a little anxious about the tight schedule and clearly looking pained in the face.. my driver ‘Adams’ (yes, with an ’s’) asked me
“Lady! What is your worry? I will have you to the airport in time for your flight. I am a good driver. I drive this road everyday.”
So i relaxed a little and checked my emails and the suchlike as we headed out of town and onto the road through the hills to Izmir.
My serenity was short lived. Lewis Hamilton drives slower than this dude, I thought as I swung around the back seat from right to left, clinging onto my belongings in lieu of a seatbelt.
“I LOVE THIS RRROOAAAADDD” he shouted.
I began to doubt the sanity of Adams.
“I am an actor” He roared and I looked at his expectant face in the rear view mirror, clearly waiting for a reaction he was not going to get. I didn’t quite know what he wanted me to say. Worried that I might be appearing on some hidden camera show he rummaged around in his pocket for his phone and flicked through his photos whilst still driving like a maniac.
“Here, see!” He offered excitedly “I am the president of Turkey” and he showed me the picture on his phone of a man in military dress sitting at a desk. Now convinced of his insanity it took me a second or two to realise that the picture was indeed of Adams, apparently playing the role of the president in some project or other. He roared laughing like a mad man.
Knuckles white and stomach turned, we approached the final stretch of, thankfully now, dual carriage-way before we could reach our final destination. He weaved in and out of the lanes and between the cars like the proverbial snake in a basket. I’d have questioned at this point why it is I always seem to find the lunatic taxi drivers… but its happened so many times now I am literally resigned to it.
“Look… I am magic man” he laughed maniacally. “Every light is green!”
“Green… go… green” he shouted as he cast both hands forward as if performing a spell on the traffic signals and squealed with delight as each of them appeared to obey his command.
Both hands now no where near the steering wheel he waved his arms in the air shouting
“See!… 35 minutes to the airport… I am 62 I am 62!!!”
“You’re not going to see 63 at this rate mate” I thought and just defaulted to my usual closing of the eyes and saying a prayer for the rest of the trip. What I can’t see can’t harm me I reasoned.
I made it in one piece.. ready to fly to Istanbul and then on to Tallinn to stay the night before joining Silhouette in the Baltic sea. Quite a change of temperature in a day. I knew very little of what to expect on this voyage… only that I may indeed be singing in Moscow, in the city… for the president and her guests… without a permit to perform publicly. I’m going to be thrown in jail. I’m going to be the next ‘Pussy Riot’
I can just see it!