Things that go bump (and flash) in the night.

Well it was the last night in the rainforest and we thought we were all alone. The previous night I awoke at about 4am and thought I saw a light in the forest (everything is black until about 5:30). I could hear twigs snapping and things moving but this is expected because the ground is patrolled by Tapir, Armadillo, Puma (although the Puma are not often seen) and a host of other small/medium sized mammals, so maybe I had just imagined the light. This morning at about 4:30am I awoke again, I could see a light, it was too big and white to be fire flies, somebody was out there! The source of the light was about 40 metres away, it occasionally was pointed upwards and lit the canopy, it lit the bushes, and sometimes disappeared. I remained silent and watched. I tried to think what did I have that could be used as a defence tool? bugger all was the answer, but then remembered the bottle of Trivu Malbec I had bought for Jade (my daughter). It was close at hand so I was comforted. Either intentionally or unintentionally, whoever was holding the light source circled the tent, it took them about 30 minutes. The light then moved away into the forest and was gone. Only 30 minutes to go until it gets light, and the bottle of Malbec was still intact.
At breakfast I told the guide of my experience, she told me that a security ranger makes his rounds and usually gets to this part of the forest at around 4am…..pheew!

A walk in the park!

September/October have been incredibly enlightening, for those who have followed my https://singersbitz.wordpress.com blog you will know that the boat gig opened my eyes another type of life.
Last nights walk in the park opened my eyes to:- 2 species of Sloth (2 toed and 3 toed), Bullet Ants (so called because if they bite you it feels like you have been shot), more species of Frog that I thought possible (many of them are very poisonious if touched), a Bushwacker Snake, a couple of huge Tarantulas, a jumping Wolf Spider (whose venom is deadlier than the tarantulas), lots of bitiey insects (with giant in their names) and finally, while crossing a swingy bridge (like they have in “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here” ) a family of five Racoons who thought Raccoons have right of way over humans when they meet on rope bridges. It was a good job I had a Costa Rican Bear Grylls with me who shooed them away and taught them the “Costa Rican High-bridge code”.

I wonder what stow-aways I will find in my guitar case when I open it?

Chair throwers, air guitar players and a thoroughly nice bunch of chaps/chappettes).

Warning

It is very late now and I have just returned from the night club so my spelling and grammar may be even worse than usual.

Well its been nearly a week since my last blog update, the main reason that I have been quite is because I have been socialised.

Last week I was sitting alone and about to write this blog when my space was invaded by some of my entertainment colleagues (who are now friends). They asked if I was posh or just anti-social, they thought this as I sat alone and was forever playing with my laptop rather than mixing and being friendly.

Many of those who know me will not believe this, but the main reason that I was keeping myself to myself was that I was feeling shy. At home I am in control of my environment and I can mix on an equal footing with anybody I meet, however, here on the ship all of the entertainers have a great deal more experience of cruising (I had none) and they all know one another very well.

So where I had no doubts in relation to my performing ability I did feel a little inadequate socialising. My new friends have changed that, I now sit with people in the mess and socialise after gigs. By doing this I have made a few friends who are not even entertainers (they work in retail on board), it’s great!

So the blogs have suffered but I am much happier.

Highlights of last week:-

Chair Thrower.
A passenger collared me between sets. Most of the passengers stay just two nights on board however I had noticed this passenger sitting at the front of the stage on 3 or 4 occasions, so I thought she was crew. I was wrong, she told me she regularly travels this route on business. During the conversation she asked me if I was impressed with the archipelagoes, I had to admit that I didn’t know what they were. For those of you who enjoy my lack of formal education I am not going to explain what they are, you can look it up. Anyway I was told that the best way to view them was by taking a seat in the Bow Bar when the ship leaves Stockholm, I thought I had explored every part of the ship but didn’t even know there was a Bow Bar. The following afternoon before the passengers embarked I went and found a seat in the middle of the Bow Bar (a bar at the front of the ship with a spectacularly large window). There is bench seating and comfortable small armchairs positioned across the window. I sat in the middle armchair. About 20 minutes later the passengers arrived. I heard somebody who was obviously angry shouting (in Finish or Swedish) but did not turn as I thought it had nothing to do with me. A moment later the armchair next to me was picked up and thrown to the floor. The chair thrower was a man in his late 60’s with a very red face who looked like steam was about to come out of his ears, he was glaring at me. Before I could say “English” to him he turned and left the bar, the woman (I assume his wife) followed. A few of the other passengers looked shocked, some laughed and I looked puzzled. A guy picked up the upturned chair and placed it back next to mine, he and his girlfriend sat. He smiled and spoke to me in Finish, I explained I was English so he switched his language to mine. He told me the elderly chap was a lunatic and was screaming that I had taken his seat, he queues early to ensure he is always the first on board and he and his wife always have the two seats in the middle of the window. If only he had asked (in English) I would have gladly given him my seat.

Air Guitar Player
Half way through my first set a big Finish guy who was very drunk approached the stage and tried to tell me something, I thought it was a request so leaned down to see if I could understand (I couldn’t). After a number of tries I understood, he was telling me “I vil elp you”. “Elp me do what”? I shouldn’t have asked, he pushed me aside as he got onto the stage and stood beside me, he looked friendly and smiled as he drank what appeared to be vodka form a pint glass. The punters looked amused so I continued with my next request which was “Changes” a Black Sabbath slow ballad. As I started to sing my partner on stage started to play an air guitar and violently shake his head, I continued to sing “I’m going through changes” All was all quite bizarre but OK until my vodka drinking partner started to leap about. The security officers quickly removed him, I once again was a solo act.

A marching band, a cloven hoofed creature, a woodland pet cemetery and a tall tower. episode 5

Singersbitz

Sunday night and Monday night gigs went well without anything that interesting or unusual happening, however, after the gig on Sunday night I sat for many hours with a varied group of ship’s entertainers. A couple from the Ukraine who do some amazing things hanging by their teeth from hi wires many many feet above a very hard wooden floor. A few show singers from South Africa, lots of dancers from Hungary (and all the girls look very thin), some jazz musicians from Italy, a sax player and DJ  from Sweden (who work as a team on the promenade deck), a Bulgarian 7 piece function band, and a pianist who never said where he came from. All were sharing details of their contracts and T&C’s. I was surprised that all of them are amazingly different, this is because everybody is working for different agents. The hi wire couple perform for just 10 minutes every night and although are proportionately (if worked out fee per minute) are the best paid entertainers on the ship they risk life and limb every time they climb their rope ladder. So even if I could do what they do I would never swap with them. The length of our contracts varies from, my 14 nights to the show singers 6 months. I was so pleased to chat with the guys as I have learned that other than the jazz band I would not swap with any of the other acts on board.

Observations

I am pleased I decided to give Stockholm another try. I decided to walk into the centre and found that I have changed my mind about the place. I had a lovely walk through interesting residential and commercial areas. It took me about 50 minutes to reach the centre and I was very surprised that there were no cup shakers, maybe they all take Sunday off? I wandered around the centre of Stockholm and enjoyed myself. Some of you may know I have child like admiration for marching bands so imagine my joy when I heard one in the distance. I followed the sound and found them, a large military band followed by a few dozen soldiers marching with shining swords and bayonets. I learned it was “the changing of the guard” the soldiers were the Swedish Royal family life guards. I found a parkland route back to the ship that followed the waterside and arrived back at the ship with an hour to spare.

Monday,  I returned to Helsinki and felt like I was getting to know my way around well, I heard an English couple talking they struggling with a map looking for the railway stain and I gave them directions. That brings us right up to today (Tuesday). I have just had a very weird Stockholm walk. I ventured out without a map and found some steep woodland. I walked a path for about 90 minutes without seeing a soul, what I did see was a number of horses wandering the woods (one made a loud whinny noise at me and frightened me). In the mud I found a set of large cloven hoof tracks, I walked very quietly but didn’t find what had made the tracks. Deep in the woods on an overgrown path I turned a bend to find over 100 gravestones many had lit candles in front of them. When I went to investigate I found it was a pet cemetery, there were the expected cats and dogs but also some of the headstones had pictures of horses, goats, a pot bellied pig, birds and reptiles. What a weird find, I wondered how did people get there as it was so far off the beaten track. When I left the cemetery I found a much wider path that led to a dog training centre, two silhouetted Dobermans were depicted on a sign that looked like it said hound training centre. I was now worried as there were 3 empty cages but still no sign of any human presence, I was also ware that I had now been walking for a couple of hours and should try to find my way back to the ship. I cam to a clearing and poking above the trees I saw a huge telecoms tower so I went to have a look. Imagine my pleasure when I found that there was a tarmac road that led to it, a souvenir shop at the bottom of it  and an elevator  for the public to access to the top, up I went. At the top was a bar with fantastic views of the surrounding area and I could see my ship. I had walked for a couple of hours along finger of woodland that followed the peninsula, to get back to the ship I could walk directly across some moorland which only took about 20 minutes. I am now back on board and going to have a kip before my nights performance.

Sorry in Stockholm but Happy in Helsinki (episode 4)

Observations Saturday Morning.

Yesterday (Friday) I went ashore in Stockholm but I didn’t blog anything because I didn’t have anything nice to say. The dock is outside of the centre of Stockholm and a courtesy bus is provided to transport us to/from the ship to the centre.
I missed the bus so got the tube. On the tube there was a couple of Eastern European women begging, I tried blanking them but they just talked at me, so I shook my head (which I thought was a universal movement that means no) this is not the case with beggars in Stockholm, when a beggar sees a head shake they think it is a signal to shake a cup at you lots and lots of times, so I suppose I will have to learn/translate some appropriate Swedish head shakes.

I alighted at a stop that had “centre” in it’s name and I was there.  The first thing I noticed/experienced when leaving the train was the extraordinary number of beggars, they are extremely colourful looking wearing  vibrantly bright long skirts, beads and scarves however that is the only positive thing I can say about them. When talking to one another they laugh, shout and display a host of different emotions, however when they approach a target, each and every one of them have the same look of despair and anguish (a face like a slapped arse). Within minutes I had decided I disliked them. Static ones sit on the floor at every street corner (some in the middle of the pavement) mobile ones follow their targets shaking their cups at them.  I think I may have said in a previous blog that I have a bit of a “counting” compulsion, be it good things or bad things  I like to have a number placed against it. I decided to see how many beggars I could spot from a department store second floor window. The 16 static ones were easy to count, however the mobile ones kept sodding moving about, changing directions and crossing in front of one another, I think there were 11 mobile beggars but I am not sure, what I am sure about that my inability to count them made me dislike them even more.

I wandered around for a couple of hours but eventually found the annoyance that was being caused by cups being continuously shaken in my face was turning to anger so decided to go back to the ship. Not sure if I will venture into Stockholm again.

Saturday Helsinki

The boat docks very close to the centre of town, I had already walked around a bit with my Italian friends however today I was to explore alone. On leaving the dock there is a small market, vegetable stalls selling strange coloured fungus’s (I wonder if that is the correct way of saying more than one fungus)  stalls with bright fish (both cold/wet and cooked), souvenirs and lots of other interesting things. At the end of the market most people were crossing the road and going towards a big church, so I went straight ahead following the waterside. I walked for a couple of hours through beautiful waterside parkland, nice residential areas, some touristy bits and back to waterside parkland. Sometimes there was not a soul to be seen, sometimes there were lots of people jogging, sometimes there were tourists doing touristy things and sometimes there were Helsinki people just doing Helsinki type things. I had looked at a map before I left the ship and thought that if I carried on walking along the coast eventually I would get to a railway track and if I then followed the track to the left I would get back to the town centre. It happened just as planned and I was very pleased with myself. I really, really like Helsinki.
As a treat I stopped at a waterside cafe an bought myself a beer!
Back to the boat ( I have got to decide if it’s a boat or a ship).

Singers Bitz
Saturday Night gig
Beka the bar manager finished his 10 day board on stint so has gone, the new bar manager is Oz he is a tall Nordic looking guy and has a shaved head. He is friendly but seems far more serious than Beka. In my last blog I mentioned the fact that it seemed obligatory for a nutter to attend every one of my gigs, well all rules are made to be broken and the bar was nutter free last night. Lots of very drunk passengers with the most varied taste in music imaginable. One lady asked could I play Paranoid (Black Sabbath), I oblieged and a note went in the tip jar, 10 minutes late she was back asking for anything by Bonnie M
(so I gave her a Brown Girl in the ring and got another note in the jar). Another woman asked for AC/DC and then later requested Country Roads (John Denver) She only gave me coins. By my last set my entertainer friends had arrived, and I closed the set feeling good. Off to the other bar for a late one!

The Fireman, the bikers and the dilemma (Episode 3)

While on this gig, I have decided to split these blogs into 2 parts, initially my blog was set up and intended to focus on all things professional singer related, but I have realised on this gig that half of what I am blogging could be written by anybody travelling. Therefore from here on forward we will have SingersBitz and Observations. My observations section for this blog is missing as they were not very interesting yesterday.

SingersBitz Night 4 (Friday 26th Sept)

Update on my last blog Episode 2:- Boris the Russian was not kidding when he said he had left a large tip to encourage/request an Abba song, I found one of his $50 notes amongst my tips.

Here is my Friday night update.
I had a slight “what’s the time” mishap tonight. Onboard all staff (including entertainers) clocks are set at Finish time which is 2 hours ahead of UK time. However passenger time (including announcements for when the shows are to start etc) is set according to the last port of call, so sometimes it’s 1 hour ahead of UK time and sometimes it’s 2 hours ahead. To add to this confusion, sometimes my phone automatically updates to local time, but if there is no signal it doesn’t. So although I am not a bassist or drummer I now have timing issues.  In my cabin at 2 minutes to 10 I realised my show was to start in 2 minutes. My cabin is about a 4 minute jog away from my stage and my guitar was with me and I was undressed.

I dressed got out of my cabin onto the outside deck and ran. Thankfully the outside deck was deserted so I arrived at my stage at 5 past 10, my friendly Fin manager (Beka) had not reported me missing, so if the Cruise manager never finds this blog he will never know.

Beka was right about the party starting on a Friday night, the bar was full and a great deal of alcohol had been consumed. It has become apparent that it is obligatory to have at least one drunk nutter attend my gig every evening, it is also obligatory for the ships security officers to remove the nutter ASAP.

Last night’s token physcopath came in the guise of a 5’4” Russian dressed as Johnny Cash, he arrived with some friends sat nicely for about 10 minutes (but I could see he had an itch), the itch needed to be scratched so he came to stand directly in front of me and stare at me, I am not sure if he was attempting to be attentive or menacing? The stare continued for about a minute or so, then he very, very, very badly trid to lip sync what I was singing. I soon found out that my cowboy admirer/competition for attention, was totally bald with a tattooed head. I hear a huge chorus of you asking how did you find that out… well if you wait a minute I’ll tell you. It’s because the toy cowboy attempted several times to put his cowboy hat on my head, this was a thankless task as his head was only slightly bigger than my granddaughters, therefore the tiny hat he was wearing would not stay balanced on my head, it fell to the floor many times, each time the hat fell to the floor the Johnny Putin Cash became more agitated and tried to put it back on my head. After a while I got bored of this game and so I impersonated the movements that Jerry Springer’s guests make when they are stressing a point. The audience were amused but the cowboy wasn’t, security were nowhere to be seen. I was now pleased that a little earlier in the evening I had won a couple of giant Sweedish bikers over, by singing “Born to be wild” and “The Ballad of Easy Rider” they were sitting by the side of the dwarfish Putin cowboy so I was confident that if my ankles were about to be bitten the perpetrator would be swiftly apprehended.

My first set ended, my ankles were not bitten and I retired to the bar. Shortly after my arrival at the bar a commotion erupted in front of the stage, the tiny Russian had removed his shirt and was attempting to kiss and cuddle a very tall pretty blonde, the tall blonde in turn was looking very cross and slapping the coyboy about his bald head (the coyboy hat was once again on the floor), one of the giant bikers brought the conflict to an end by picking up the toy cowboy and passing his jerking body to a security officer. It looked a bit like a scene from a Chucky horror movie. Johnny Putin Cash was taken away and placed in a lockable toy box.

At the end of the gig I was approached by a very well dressed young Russian guy who had earlier arrived with an equally well dressed lady, his female companion had now left and he was sitting with the big bikers, they were all very drunk.

The Russian was obviously beckoning me but I could not understand what he was saying, it sounded like we wanted an ice cream and a Selfridges walking frame so I was intrigued, I accepted the invite to join them at their table. I learned via one of the bikers that that a fantastic plan had been hatched, the young Russian named “R2” (well his name sounded something like that) was going to propose to his girlfriend, and at this proposal I would be singing “Unchained Melody” the bikers had been invited to join the post proposal celebrations (where I would continue to provide musical entertinment).

So the only thing to be decided was how much would it cost to entice me up to his suite on the VIP deck (where this event was to take place).

I explained that the music had stopped in the VIP areas an hour earlier as some VIP’s liked to sleep, and that although he had a VIP suite we would not be allowed to make any noise as the VIP’s in the other cabins would complain and I would be thrown off the boat. In reply R2 explained to me that the all top deck VIP cabins on the port side of the ship had been taken by his girlfriends family as her dad was celebrating becoming a politician. None of the neighbours  would mind being awoken, and they would all be happy and probably join the celebration. I regretted accepting the ice cream/walking frame invite and  was becoming more and more worried, while my new friends were becoming more and more instant that we were going to party. I desperately was looking for a way out. Then I thought I had found one! As this was an impromptu engagement I knew the what the answer would be when I asked, “do you have a ring”, the wind was taken from R2’s sails (and I had found an escape) R2 looked so sad and deflated until hairy Biker “1” offered to give R2 one of his rings, the giant hairy biker had about 46 rings on each of his fingers “oh bollocks I thought.

I told my new friends I had to return to my cabin to leave my bits and pieces there and would meet them in the late bar in 10 minutes, I had no intention of going to the bar.

When I got to my cabin and realised that these guys may be coming back on the return journey so I would have to face them again, and they might not be so friendly if I had previously left them sitting waiting for me in a bar. I would have to go to meet them and face the music (but without playing any). I went to the bar (without my guitar), I was going to explain that I was not allowed to go into passengers cabins (which might even be true) and I would suggest that R2 could propose to his beloved tomorrow with a proper ring, I would gladly (for an appropriate fee) perform for him then. The bikers didn’t like this idea but R2 agreed. I thought that R2 even seemed a little relived. Later I learned R2 used to be a fireman, this changed when he met his love, she did not want him to be a fireman and so her dad had employed him as a manager (in one of his many companies). R2 was not really sure what he was the manager of, he was paid much better than he had been as a fireman but he did not really enjoy being a manager. As the night progressed R2 told me that he was not going to propose to his beloved tomorrow because she wasn’t really his beloved, he was only with her because she wanted him to be with her,  he remained with her because he was very frightened of what her dad might do to him if he disclosed the fact that he wanted to return to being an unattached fireman.
Another interesting end to an evening.

PS The giant bikers were amongst a number of guys here that are over 6’6 tall so I am of the opinion Sweden and Finland seem to have a dis-proportionate number of giants, I am going to start counting how many I see on my travels ( I have a compulsion to count things).

Not so new boy! (Episode 2)

I feel very proud of myself as I am now able to find my way back to my cabin without first visiting every corridor on deck 5. As I explained in my last post I was not expecting to have a tips bucket on the stage so the extra money is a surprise gift. The first couple of nights were quite in the bar but produced a heavy weight of coin and a few notes, I took these back to the cabin and emptied the lot into a carrier bag and thought not a lot more about it. Yesterday I was befriended by a group of Italian entertainers who showed me around Helsinki and spoke in English the whole time (which I thought was very nice of them), I accepted a Facebook friend request form Lorenzo and found that we had five mutual friends small World huh.
Last night the bar was much busier, I tuned up, had a quick sound-check and was about to start my first set when a very drunk woman came to the stage, smiled at me, then lay on the stage in front of me and immediately fell into a coma. Two Finish blonde female officers were quickly on the scene picked her up and carried her away, the drunk woman appeared to be repeating some of the lines from a 1960’s Donovan hit as she was carried away.

It was a good evening with lots of requests, I learned that in this area of the World Bad Company, Black Sabbath, The Doors and The Kinks are still very popular, so I was in my element.
At the end of the night I was accosted by a couple of punters (Herty and Gerty) who are reps on the boat for a conference, they were friendly but a little over refreshed, so I was very pleased when my new found Italian friends appeared with even more new friends (more entertainers). I was invited to join them at the Atlantic night club where a band continue performing until about 3pm. I grabbed my tip bucket to take it back to my cabin (en route to the club) and was a little disappointed to find it was much lighter than it was the previous two nights, but c’est la vie.

The band in the night club are just what is needed for that time of the morning, the dance floor is kept busy with drunk people entertaining the entertainers. After a while most of my entertainer friends decided to join the punters on the dance floor, this made the whole experience even more amusing, as initially there was a distinct separate area where the entertainers were dancing together, the rest of the floor remained a passengers area. However within minutes the professional dancers had attracted the attention of male passengers (who had previously been only “dance watchers”, but now they ventured  onto the floor). Most of these guys were my age but believed that their “dad” dancing technique would attract the  professional dancers (who were all probably younger than the dad’s daughters).

I was having a good time people watching until Herty and Gerty appeared, they were being followed by a couple of Russians who had also been at my performance earlier. Herty and Gerty had decided that the best way to loose their unwanted followers was to sit at a table with me. Boris and Karlov came and joined the table. Boris (who’s English was decipherable) told me that earlier in the evening he had given me a big tip and requested an Abba song but I had not sung it, Gerty translated for me. Boris showed me his watch (a Rolex) and a roll of American 50 dollar notes, he then gave minute long monologue in Russian. He ordered 5 ½ bottles of Champagne and Gerty told me one was for me.

As soon as the opportunity arose I escaped by going to join my entertainer friends on the dance floor, in an instant I realised I now looked like one of the predatory dad’s!  I left the dance floor on the far side and went to the “New York’ night club, no live band but safer. I sat and watched the passengers on the dance floor and all was well. Thirty minutes passed and my Italian friends appeared so I had some company, 10 minutes later the pro dancers arrived followed by a hoard of drunk passengers including Herty, Gerty, Boris and Kalov. So in the words of Zebberdee “time for bed” and to write this blog.

Tomorrow I think a trip around Stockholm beckons.