DREW-RASSIC PARK

My names Drew and I am a dinosaur!

Apparently acceptance is the first step towards enlightenment but good God – when did it happen to me? I am still so young and vibrant (to all my friends – SHUT UP! I AM). I pride myself in my effortless immaturity. I am hip, cool and groovy – kids still use those terms right?

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans it seems. Not sure what I was busy planning but I certainly seem to have been looking the other way. I was probably busy eating a Twix or something, I don’t know, but here we are, well into the digital party and I forgot to R.S.V.P.

I now seem to be constantly and unavoidably hit with barrages of technical babble just to enable me to get from A to B. A piece of poop for the majority it seems but, for me, you might as well ask me to scuba dive in a saucer because, frankly, I don’t want to play.

I think the online world has caused us to lose way more in life than we’ve gained. It’s become an iron lung we cannot seem to function properly without.

Whatever happened to :-

  • Talking to people face to face ?

  • Being able to spell ?

  • Forming proper sentences ?

  • Shake & Vac (OK, not a relevent example, but what DID happen to it?)

Call me an old fart if you like – and, after a quorn stew, you’d be uncannily accurate in that accusation – but we’re fast becoming a world of illiterate strangers.

Go on public transport, into any bar/cafe/restaurant or in pretty much anywhere there are living breathing people and all you see are heads looking down at some sort of appliance, ignoring their partners, friends and the outside world in general. Wasn’t the advance of communications supposed to bring people closer together rather than making us more and more distanced from one another?

Walking to work, its impossible not to notice that the bulk of my fellow pedestrians have earphones in and eyes fixated on a screen, thus cutting off two major senses. They don’t even look up at crossings to check if a truck is approaching.

It’s a pretty embarrassing demise if you get flattened by a tram just because you were too distracted watching a clip of juggling kittens or something equally trivial. No minister or vicar could deliver that eulogy with any dignity.

I have a friend who doesnt even use a credit card and steadfastly refuses to be forced into getting one, preferring instead to pay by cash or cheque! This may be extreme but there are many things in life that are thrust upon us with no choice, so if you can dig your heels in about other things I can see the twisted appeal. I’m not advocating we go back to barter and exchange – I don’t have any camels to trade at the moment – but often the simpler things in life remain the best.

A sunset, angel delight (Flake optional), a genuine belly laugh with that old friend who shares your sense of humour, turning on the radio and hearing a song you love – the list is endless and none of it involves charging anything up !

Maybe those of us without the natural inclination or desire to form relationships with computers should start a support group?

I concede that part of my aversion is a complete lack of interest and that now, more than ever, the working world largely rejects you if you’d rather cut your googlies off than create an excel spreadsheet but it’s square pegs, round holes people! We can’t all be good at everything. Some of us are just on a more spiritual plain (again, to my friends – SHUT UP!)

Mind you, if that shepherd job I’ve applied for turns out to involve electronic sheep that only operate on j-pegs I’ll be hugely disillusioned…

Perhaps I’d just prefer a hassle free life? A less meddle-some existence? Just yesterday, my email provider, for no valid reason, forced upon me changes in the format and design of my messages. It hasn’t made things better, its made them worse…way worse (with no option to change settings to suit). Why BT why? I was happy with the way things were in my limited little PC world (good name for a shop that – what do you mean there already is one?)

My name is Drew and I’m a dinosaur…and proud of it !!!!

CRUISE NEWS

A few years ago, as another winter dragged on and the leaves continued to sky dive from the trees, I clung on tenaciously dreaming of sunshine and getting fresh air about my nether regions.

If we Brits holiday at home however, we have more need for an ark than shorts or bikinis so I decided to migrate south on a Caribbean cruise.

I took the bold step of holidaying alone and immediately encountered 2 things as a result of committing to a solo trip of this magnitude…

  1. The rip off that is the ‘single person supplement’ – OK, I’m single, rub it in why don’t you and charge me twice as much as the partnered people !

  2. Being socially unacceptable to fellow holidaymakers who did find a travelling companion (do we ‘singles’ remind them of unhappier times on their own?)

Sure I would have preferred to have gone with a friend but I still saw a lot of grim faced spouses looking as if they’d happily shove their other half overboard if they knew they could get away with it.

Romantic thoughts of meeting someone special on board were immediately dashed at Fort Lauderdale docks and finding myself surrounded by coach groups of elderly ladies and retired couples looking lost. It was like a touring version of ‘Cocoon’. Pleasant though it was for there to still be a room where I was the youngest, as I don’t play canasta and still have my own hips, I felt I wouldn’t have much common ground with my fellow sea farers.

Who are you travelling with?’ the insensitive check in clerk loudly enquired. This was a question I was asked a lot during the trip. It began with the stern immigration officer I encountered while dashing through Newark airport trying (and failing) to catch my connection to Florida. He couldn’t grasp the concept of a guy taking a cruise alone and he clearly thought I must be up to no good.

Hwever, the worst solo stigma presented itself as I walked up the gantry – the ‘souvenir photograph’. This happened throughout the cruise, always against my will and always resulting in shots of me looking awkward and vulnerable. The results were displayed along Deck 6 for all to gawp at – an ingenious ploy as you felt compelled to purchase the wretched pictures just to remove them from the gallery.

As we set off we had a compulsory life jacket demonstration – captured by our happy snapper of course. The sight of a bunch of hapless people putting toggles through holes they weren’t meant to go through was hilarious…though if the ship did hit the rocks, we really were sunk.

I was shocked to realise I was in the ‘I’m screwed’ category when it comes to evacuation protocol. The countless women on board would get their bony fingered grasp on all the best lifeboats and single people would be way down the pecking order – presumably because they thought there was no one to miss us! My only hope was that my life jacket light and whistle – obvious ’must have’ accessories in any emergency – had the ability to transform into a speedboat.

The motion of the ocean during the night took a bit of adjusting to. Sleeping in a windowless room with the sounds and movement of the ship pushed my imagination into overdrive. Had we cruised into a tropical storm? Were dozens of pensioners fumbling with their life jackets at this very moment, none bothering to let me know because they forgot I was there? I quickly got used to the vibrations though several others never managed to.

The gorgeous weather raised all our spirits and the ocean views were spectacular but couples everywhere did remind me of my solo status. They were rubbing lotion on each other’s tricky to reach areas, watching each other’s stuff while they went for a swim and could use the double umbrella sunbeds. I tried one on my own but it went all lop-sided so I gave up!

It’s amazing how obsessed people are about digitally capturing everything on holiday – they’re so busy recording the moment they never seem to actually look up and be IN the moment. Most of them experienced the trip through their view finder.

I decided to treat myself a massage. ‘Who are you travelling with?‘ my extremely young Balinese masseuse asked as I stripped off to reveal my brilliant white skin (I’m Scots – we’re blue). I didn’t bother to answer and just collapsed onto the bed to let her get on with it. I nodded off and half an hour later woke up to find an old woman kneading away at my shoulders – how long had I been asleep for? My aches and pains had been too tall an order for the girl and they’d brought in reinforcements to tackle the job. It must have been a change for her to have a young-ish model on the table though as pummelling the older guests must have been like massaging a xylophone.

On-board entertainments were a treat for the ears and eyes and included a tuneless lounge singer regularly murdering ‘Chanson D’Amour’ and ‘You Are The Sunshine of My Life’. There was also a wonderfully cheesy, multi-lingual theatre show featuring a 7 strong dance troupe who wouldn’t know the meaning of ‘syncopation’ whatever dialect you said it in. Hats off to the juggling team though as they only managed to concuss half the front row when their routine went belly up as we hit choppier waters. Thank God there wasn’t a knife throwing act.

Cruising however, is basically about one thing – food. 3 hour breakfasts, 2 hour lunches, 7 course dinners – not forgetting afternoon junk food on tap, tea and cakes at four, plus midnight snacks. What’s curious is that your appetite starts to increase accordingly and before too long if you saw anything on a plate, you ate it. It’s a curious concept – you start off on a ship and end up becoming the size of one.

I signed up for an excursion to the rain forest at Puerto Rico. Once up in the mountains and the soaking wet conditions I realised that I hadn’t thought this through. I come from the home of rain so what on earth was I doing spending part of my sunshine holiday in a rain forest? Compared to the monsoon summers we’ve had in Scotland, it just felt a bit damp. It’s also surreal to see the usual tourist rubbish sold even in places of such natural beauty. Same crap, different island !

A second excursion in St.Marteen was just bizarre. I’m not saying they padded the trip out a bit but the guide’s commentary included informing us that the Dutch and French parts of the island have different electricity voltages – hold the front page! The driver also wanted us to participate in that age old crowd pleaser ‘if you’re happy and you know it, stamp your feet’. Hadn’t he studied his audience? These were people whose feet could barely manage decent circulation, let alone stamp.

Some fellow holiday makers did have genuine insights into life on board though. One woman felt that we were all sailing away from something we wanted to forget for a while – heartache, bills, ailments (it was amazing how my aches and pains seemed to disperse as the trip progressed). She was one of several travellers who never even got off the boat and didn’t care where we were. So long as it was sunny and there was luxury on board that was all that mattered !

In St Lucia I paired up with another couple who haggled with a very patient taxi driver who took us everywhere for just a few dollars. I was amazed at how lost in our own little worlds Brits can be. We drove past a little shanty bar where three pig carcuses were being prepared for barbeque. Not a pretty sight but still my taxi share couple’s viewfinders were itching to take a picture – until the bar owner started waving his machete at them. Like me, he didn’t appreciate having his picture taken against his will. Did the couple get the message and return to the taxi? Nope, they just kept snapping merrily away, oblivious to the situation. What part of a man waving a giant knife at them didn’t they understand? It’s pretty self explanatory in any language.

The shanty towns in this area were very poor with everyone trying to make a dime. One toothless old guy (not quite on the planet) came up to my side of the cab and waved a bag at me. As we sped past I asked our driver what he’d been doing. ‘He wanted you to pay to see the snake he had in his sack’. A line that could get you in a lot of trouble back home but anything to make a living I guess.

Soon, the ship became like a second home. A routine was dutifully followed – early breakfast, morning trip around whatever island we’d arrived at (Antigua and Tortolla were especially beautiful), back on board for lunch, off again for another wander then setting sail by late afternoon ready for another 7 course dinner – plus cheesy snacks – and another even cheesier show.

There is also something incredibly liberating about looking out on deck and seeing nothing but blue all around you – sea, sky, passengers’ varicose veins. It soon felt like we’d always lived together on this boat and as we passed the halfway point of the trip it seemed impossible to contemplate living any other way! Quite a contrast to how I felt at the start.

The liner company had also managed to rent out a small island that we were ferried to on small boats for the day. Beach bars plied us with boozy cocktails in coconut shells, people flung beachballs about and scuba dived beneath the blue – it was like a private piece of paradise for a few hours.

I also fullfilled a long held ambition to swim with a dolphin. Neptuno was a fickle character who delighted in my life long inability to float let alone swim and although his Flipper-esque cackle reminded me of my old PE teacher mocking my pitiful attempts to master the breast stroke, I felt me and my aquatic chum bonded. In fact it was the nearest to flirting I’d had all trip…although the fickle beast hasn’t kept in touch.

Inevitably, the cruise drew to a close. Bags were packed with tacky souvenirs that had been haggled over and we were efficiently disembarked. They had another boatful of travellers coming on board in an hour and I would’ve happily been one of them, glad to have had another chance to appreciate other cultures.

Now where did I put that authentic, hand crafted, bouncing lobster fridge magnet from San Juan..?