2003

(this starts with a posting from July 16th, 2003…)

She’s back, she’s fizzing and popping…. here’s a transcript of an e-mail I sent out last week.

BISCAY BULLETIN

So a notice goes up about the Shipboard Management Meeting, where crew grievances will be addressed; we are invited to table whinges on adjacent paper. The usual gripes come up; Why is the food so crap? (because it is…); When are we going to get financial parity with the Deck Department? (when hell freezes over…). I add my own; When are we going to change filthy pornographic calendar in Control Room for pictures of fluffy bunnies and daffodils? …the next day, I find that it has been laboriously scribbled over to make it entirely illegible, and FUCK OFF scrawled under it. “Right, this is war,” I think. But, to get things in context first, I check the big book of Company Regulations. There’s stuff about drugs and drink, standards of appearance and something called ‘horseplay’. But there is no company policy on pornography. I take a photocopy of this month’s FLUFF ‘N’ STUFF calendar girl, and show it to some of the girls who work up in the passenger department. They blanch. Fortified in my resolve, I pen my amended question;

What level of explicitness should be deemed appropriate for the pornography displayed in work areas? -for example:
* tits?
* tits and bums?
* tits and clits?
* blimey, you can see what she had for breakfast?

.this is what I understand is called a When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife
question, which cannot be answered without the answerer damning themself…

But I think I’d better have a word with the Chief to sound out the water. He points out that the engine room crew have been pretty accepting of me, in the main, and making an issue of the calendar might alienate me. Which is rather more true than I’d thought; Stig, the chief, really can’t see anything wrong with porny calendars. He puts it down to my hormonal changes; “In all those years at sea, you must have read pornography, surely, Dru?” “No, Chief; I’ve always felt just the same about it as I do now…” Stig wants to keep the matter ‘in house’. And so the matter rests, with a vague understanding that next year’s calendar will be a little less, er, risque…

And next morning, to make up for it, Chief enters the Control Room with a brisk “Morning, ladies and gentlemen.”
“I don’t see any ladies,” says Dave S, the electrician, a grumpy old bugger from Hartlepool, a town whose inhabitants gained notoriety for hanging a monkey, thinking it was a French spy.
“Drusilla,” says the Chief, gesturing royally in my direction.
“He’s got balls, hasn’t he? If he’s got balls, he must be a gentleman.”

With insight like this, one might reasonably fear for the safety of any monkeys unfortunate enough to find themselves in Hartlepool.

I come up with the great answers to that one, later, of course. Too late. O well.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

(and this one from August 29)

Zut alors, mes cheries. Encore des contes…

You may recall, and if you don’t, then read the aforegoing, that the porny calendar incident was left hanging; along, indeed, with the porny calendar.

A fortnight ago finds me back in the engine room after a few weeks’ absence. I find that the calendar in question has been grafittied; someone has written “DRU” in a very immature hand, and an arrow pointing to the vagina. I am outraged. I discuss it with the engineer of the watch. He gives his opinion that I should let it lie; “You’ve got to be broad minded at sea,” he says.

I mull it over, and by the next morning think maybe he’s right. Don’t want to be confrontational… but then I go into the Control Room and see everyone sitting drinking their tea, and this THING hanging on the wall as though it was perfectly normal. I take it down, call for everyone’s attention, point out the graffito, and say that it is entirely unacceptable. I then rip up the calendar and bin it.

Instantly I get two men shouting at me; one tells me I’m “….going to get done in; not if, but when….” I leave, and award myself the morning off….

(a friend helpfully suggested I have a word with the Union rep. “It was the Union rep who threatened me,” I replied.)

The Engine Room Trolls have a mutter, and decide to send me to Coventry. At last count, there are seven of them not speaking to me; they sort of glower sulkily as I pass, like little boys who’ve been caught out doing something they shouldn’t.

+++++++++++

A little update on the subject of the joys of seafaring; you may recall the incident of the pornographic calendar in the Control Room, to which I have referred… what with one thing and another, I was dreading my return to work last time, and was retching with nerves. Didn’t help that I was two weeks into Cyprostat at the time, and didn’t feel like doing much but falling asleep…

As it happens, I had a pretty good three weeks. It helped that the vile Scouse with whom I have a hate/hate relationship wasn’t there… and I spent almost the whole time on the repair team up in the passenger areas. Much more sociable than the engine room trolls… and, despite the grotty P+O uniform blues, I was being ‘loved’ as much as ‘mated’. Er, as it were. Well, the pills are obviously working…

Two little vignettes:

Me squatting in a companionway with the guts of a vacuum toilet spread out in front of me (don’t ask…). Passenger lurches by; “Orright, mate? …’ere, it’s not a bloke, it’s a bird… didn’t think a bird’d be doin’ that…”

Me assisting the Welsh Chief Engineer, as he teeters at the top of a stepladder in the galley, his head up through a hatch in the deckhead, trying to peer round corners and spot a steam pipe. He pokes his head down. “I’m not being facetious now, Dru, but would you happen to have a compact mirror?”

++++++

Meantime, on the home front… some people react badly at first and come round. Some people are initially supportive, but then… here’s a snippet from a mail received from an old friend

We don’t want to hurt your feelings more than we can help, but the nub of the problem is that it all seems like a tragic charade, because you didn’t ever seem like the sort of person with whom nature had made a mistake. Some doctors have made life-long neurological studies of patients who develop a passionate dislike of parts of their bodies (arms, legs, etc) and for whom, in extreme cases, amputation is the only – reluctantly undertaken – solution. I wonder if there are similarities with transsexuals.
Ouch.

+++++++

It’s almost two years to the day that I went to see the (insert your favoured epithet here) Prof Green at CX, hoping to get prescription for hormones, and being told to go away, start living full time, and then come back and maybe… That November was the lowest point in my life. And if I’m not exactly bubbling with joie de vivre just now, what the heck? -still on course. Probably. Full ahead both…

++++++++++++

Christmas at sea… since we were taking 1300 minicruisers to Spain for the occasion, the crew had their main celebration in advance, on Christmas Eve. We anchored up in the Solent, ate a huge lunch, and then partied on down in the main bar, with a discotheque, as you youngsters say, and FREE FANTA AND CRISPS. …. Hey, we were just wild childs… and tried not to be resentful of the other P+O boats alongside in Portsmouth, which had relaxed their “no alcohol” rule for the occasion… it rather reminded me of those uneasy social occasions of my youth, when the local Air Cadets and Girl Guides would meet up in the church hall, and eye each other mistrustfully.

…and Christmas Day in the Bay of Biscay. In honour of the occasion, I wore my festive flashing Christmas tree earrings, as I loped around fixing air conditioning and vacuum toilets.

“There’s something wrong with your ears,” said a passenger; “They’re flashing”

“It’s the radiation sensors,” I said. “They must’ve had another meltdown in the engine room.”

…and, in the evening, to the bar again, to see the special Christmas show that the entertainment team had come up with, and to see if Santa’s podium, constructed for the occasion by the repair shop, would collapse. At one point late in the evening, young Tim the singer bounded through the audience distributing rather unconvincing plastic imitation mistletoe; he rather gallantly proffered me a sprig; I looked around for a suitable snogee, and gave up on it. And so a day of mass self-indulgence, gluttony and drunkenness ended with a rendition of “Feed the world”, with audience participation and a complete lack of irony.

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