Monday, 28 December 2009


SUNDAY DECEMBER 28, St. George’s, Grenada

I sleep VERY badly. Something ‘important’ keeps waking me and I have the overwhelming impression I have forgotten to do something vital, something for which a large number of other people are also depending on me. This happens three or four times and in the middle of the night I even find a pen and paper to write down what I think is the solution to this pressing problem. In the morning I find I’ve written ‘Griffin’ and ‘McGiffen’ which makes no sense whatever.

So I’m fairly thick-headed when I drag myself out of bed at 8am and open the curtains to see Grenada where I’m scheduled to go River Tubing. Actually, it’s a lot of fun if not very challenging as we are bussed to one of the highest points of the island and a dozen funny and friendly local guys load us into our bright yellow inflated inner-tubes for a sort of theme park ride down the very gentle bubbles of the local Balthazar River. The water’s quite low, and most of us are above average weight, so there’s a lot of chances for them to dislodge us from the rocks. One suburnt tattooed and fat idiot from the Midwest keeps falling in but as the river’s barely three feet deep there’s unfortunately no damage apart from the sight of his flabby white butt cleft when at one moment he loses his baggy shorts.

Grenada’s much nicer than I remember it from seven years ago when I stayed for two weeks. For a country of only 300,000 population, independent from Britain now for 35 years, I’m surprised how it survives and maintains a sizeable international airport, three hospitals and a University with medical, veterinary and academic faculties - and has managed to rebuild substantially after the 2004 Hurricane Ivan devastated much of the island. I’m puzzled how many students the University can have, even if 5% of the total population go that would only be about 500 eligible 18-21 year olds at any one time.

Again, the soft option is an afternoon on deck and in the best sunshine we’ve had so far I take advantage of it including a bit of swimming but my shoulder (what I think is a rotator cuff injury, but only from internet diagnosis rather than seeing a real doctor) is a bit painful and I have to float instead.

To ease my shoulder a bit I use one of the Jacuzzis at the back of deck 8, and am soon joined my another man about my age wearing what look like swim shorts but as he squats on the edge of the tub, I see it’s actually constructed like a skirt with no divider or leg holes and I therefore have a clear view of his personal equipment aimed at me like a small, but visibly loaded, cannon. I get out.

This evening 16 of us are booked in the ‘posh’ a la carte restaurant Todd English, apparently a famous chef in his native Boston and popular on US television, but I can see why Cunard are romancing Gordon Ramsay to give his global branded blessing to the signature restaurant on their newest ship.

David does the dividing of the group and claims for his table the three ‘birthday boys’ from Philadelphia, dapper and totally lovely Hal who is amazingly 83 but looks about 60. Fred, the elder of the ‘couple’ who turns 59 today and his puckish partner Chris who will be 36 in two days. Akjan and I are at the ‘other’ table but are delighted because we’ve got the naughtier group including the wickedly sardonic ‘Jersey Boys’ Louis and George, and the fun couple from Le Meridien in Montreal, Daniel and Marc, as well as the power lesbians.

Fred and Chris disturb me. Anyone who knows me will be aware I have had no fear of cross-generational relationships since there’s more than thirty years between me and Sam, but the body language and actual language between these two is unnerving. I’m pleased to learn from power lesbian psychologist Bianca that it disturbs her, too.

Whenever you have a conversation with Chris, say mentioning what a pleasant day it is, he’ll involve the topic of his partnership, as in “yes, what a lovely day to spend ashore with my gorgeous husband”. They are forever touching and kissing each other like newlyweds, or at least Chris is since it’s 90% his initiation and Fred, I think, indulges him. I’m sure he’s a product of a broken or abused home and is overcompensating with the need for constant reassurance and validation, but he’d be a happier homo if he could just relax and enjoy what seems a stable and mutually committed relationship approaching its third anniversary, rather than make such a twitchy feature of his attachment.

There's conjecture about which came first, Chris’s constant reiterations of his devotion to Fred, or Fred’s multi-million dollar sale of the ambulance business he used to own, but that’s just me being a cynical old witch. Well, me, David, Akjan, George, Louis, Bianca, Sue, Daniel and at least a couple of the Bobs so that’s a cynical old coven really.

Apparently it happened long before they met, but that doesn't spoil a good gossip.

In the champagne bar afterwards Mel, the elderly Jewish yenta, flirts with the undeniably gorgeous and totally fey gay Hungarian barman Csada, whom he has apparently also waylaid on the streets of Brooklyn during Csada’s days off ashore. I make a mental note to talk to Mel some time about what fills his life apart from cruising, booking cruises and mentally undressing the hired help.

I have the recurrent bad dream again, waking several times with the pressure of the uncompleted task. The third time is about 5.30 when I’m so convinced I’ve remembered accurately what it is and what I have to do about it in the morning that I go calmly back to sleep.

Of course when I wake for real at 8, I’ve completely forgotten it.

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