The Birds and the Big Question

April 21, 2008 -

John Heald

Deciding that your relationship is ready to be moved to the next level of getting engaged is usually sponsored by the knowledge that you love that person more than anything in the world………..or by massive amounts of Budweiser. Once that decision has been made it’s then up to the man to choose the right moment and the most romantic way possible to ask the one he loves to be his wife.

During my time as a Cruise Director I have had countless requests from guests who want me to help them “pop the question.” ………and often these proposals are highlights for the right and one time ………for the wrong reason.

We will come back to this theme in a moment but first let me say a very good morning to you all. It’s 8 am and after a wonderful dinner of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding last night I returned home, watched a bit of TV and had an early night.

I am not sure if I told you but recently Heidi and I moved to the countryside. We now live in a converted barn complete with oak beams etc. It has always been Heidi’s dream to live in the countryside whereas me…….well it has taken some getting use to. This morning when the sun came up ……..yes……we do have sun in the UK….I was awoken by my new best friend……..Peter the Pigeon and his mates. Now, living in the countryside means you share your life with a host of animals including squirrels, mice, deer and loads of birds.

Now, when I mean share I don’t mean they sit around the table and eat breakfast with me but when your house is surrounded by fields, nature is never far away. This morning, once again I was awoken by Peter and his mates who take great delight in sitting by my bedroom window making that awful coohing sound which some people may find cute……..whereas I ……..who just want to sleep a bit longer…. do not. 

Peter is a very smart Pigeon………he sits there coohing, daring me to walk over to the window and shoo him away…………and if I dare to do that……..he and I both know what happens next…………he and the Pigeon gang fly over my shiny Range Rover and crap all over it.

There is a huge difference between the countryside of North America than here in the U.K. In America and Canada anyone can walk through the forests and great outdoors dressed in camouflage gear ready to shoot a Deer with an AK47.  Here in the UK most of the countryside is owned by the pompous tweed wearing upper class who do their hunting from horseback watching 300 savage hounds tear into a poor little cuddly fox.

Nowhere in the UK is the class system more obvious than in the countryside. In America you can take off your Gucci loafers and slip into a pair of boots and spend time in the great outdoors……… the UK you have to ask permission of Lord Snoberton who will probably ask what school you went or test your blood for shades of blue before permission is granted.

Snobbery is rife in the British countryside. I remember the first time Heidi and I went to the local pub. It is the only pub in the village and as we drove into the car park the locals were all sitting outside, drinking pints of warm beer or Pimms, talking as though they had plums in their mouth to friends who have names like Henrietta and Charles ………… all eyes stared at Heidi and I as we got out of our Range Rover with the darkened windows with me dressed in my sweat pants and Miami Heat T Shirt…………I knew what the snobs of the countryside were thinking………..oh look the dregs have turned up.

Anyway, overall I do like the countryside but with just me in the house it feels very empty without Heidi. Today I am off to see Alan and spend some time with him if for no other reason then to realise that indeed………I am not the ugliest man in the world.

Alan actually proposed to his lovely wife Alison on the Carnival Ecstasy many years ago although that one was done late at night on the open decks with nobody else there. Alan assures me that he decided to do it like this because it was romantic. I personally think it was done like this so that nobody else would witness her saying no…… me Alan was astounded that any lady would want to spend the rest of her life with him ………… Alison is a warm, generous and beautiful lady with many great features………she is just as blind as a bat wearing a blindfold.

So, saying those words “will you marry me?” are for many a private occasion but for others the chance to do it in public and in front of an audience is the way to go. Therefore I am asked many times to arrange such a performance. The usual place to do this is on stage during or before a show and one or two spring to mind. I remember on young man who wanted to propose and therefore I arranged this to happen during the Talent Show. Now, just having him walk up on stage would have been a bit boring so I persuaded him to sing first and then propose at the end of his performance.

Now, with respect this chap wasn’t just a bad singer ………he was painfully dreadful and had he auditioned for American Idol Simon Cowell would probably have shot him. The good thing was he knew he was bad but this made the whole scenario that much more real. The song we choose for him to sing was “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and when I heard him sing it in rehearsal my biggest concern was would the band get through the song without laughing or shoving large lumps of cotton wool in their ears…………it was dreadful……..he sounded like a cat being castrated by Stevie Wonder.

It was showtime and I had purposely left this guy to last (I wish I could remember his name) and I introduced him on stage in front of 1,500 passengers including his girlfriend. Well, the look of horror on her face as I said his name and he came from the front row to sing was a picture of horror and disbelief……she had probably heard him sing before.

The band played the opening bars of the music and then he threw back his head and started to sing. At first the audience was embarrassed for him and didn’t know weather to laugh, cry or run back to their cabins and bury their heads under the pillows. He was putting his heart and soul into the performance and as he started singing the chorus the audience’s embarrassment changed to support and applause generated around the room. This gave him even more passion and he sang with gusto and feeling and quite unusually he sang this great standard by using only one musical note……….it was almost a rap song.

He finished with the most painful ear shattering high note that probably had dogs running around in circles back in St. Thomas from whence we had left a few hours before. The audience ……… only Carnival audiences do……….gave him a standing ovation ……….. and as he took his bow I stood next to him and once the audience started to take their seats I casually asked if they would like another song from the maestro……some said “yes” and some looked as though they would rather set themselves on fire.

Well, I asked who he was traveling with and mentioning his girlfriend’s name I invited her on stage………the lights dimmed……….and the band played Wind Beneath My Wings……..and he knelt down……..and said the magic words………I promise never to sing again if you will marry me…………the place erupted………she cried……..eventually said “yes”……….and there were hugs all around. The rest of the cruise was all about them and everywhere they went they were congratulated and I don’t think they paid for another drink during the rest of the voyage……………however, their fame was not over just yet.

On the last night we held our Carnival Legends show which if you are not aware features the guests as Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan, Elvis, Madonna, James Brown and Britney Spears…………half way through the show it was the turn of Garth Brooks and yep……….out he came…….and completely murdered “I have friends in low places”………it was beyond awful………yet he once again received a huge ovation and he left the ship the following morning with superstar status. I hope their marriage has blossomed and providing he never sings ever again I am sure they will lead happy lives together.

My favorite of the marriage proposals though was way back in 1996 on the Carnival Destiny when Fred proposed to Marge……….I remember their names because for many years we kept in touch ………do you remember letters?……written with a pen?………well Marg and Fred Roper used to write to me every week with all the news on their lives. Fred had asked me if he could propose on formal night and at the Captain’s party we made that happen. 

Fred was 80 and Marg just a few years younger. They had both lost their spouses and had found each other…………on a Holland America cruise. Anyway, Fred proposed and they were married a few months later.  Fred passed away in 1999 and for a while Marg kept writing but then her letters stopped coming and we lost touch……….I will never forget them though and the way Fred went resolutely down on one knee to tell his darling that he wanted to make her his …..Well that’s something I will never forget.

So, if you would like the Cruise Director to help you make this a romantic and someone what public proposal……let he or she know ………..just like this couple did last week on the Imagination. Here are ……………….Daniel and Kathy.  

I was asked if I could help Daniel propose and therefore I asked the kind assistance of George Solano the CD on the Carnival Imagination. He did a wonderful job, setting a private table out on the Adults Only deck and……………well……..rather than me waffle on have a look at these.

We wish them much happiness and again thanks to George and the Carnival Imagination crew for making this happen.

I see my sister is posting again. I have to admit she is quite a good writer and maybe I will take a week off and let her blog…………..except I would be too scared about all my deep dark secrets rising to the service. Therefore I have decided to be nice to her ………. something which has not happened for many years.  When I return from California next week as promised I will make sure I return to answering your comments. This is something I truly enjoy doing. I have been though replying to everyone who has marked a comment URGENT. These replies have been administered via Stephanie in the office and if I have not yet answered yours I will promise to do so ASAP. Please keep the comments coming, they mean the world to me. Last week we had over 50,000 hits again………thanks to you all.

Well, tomorrow I am off at 7 am for my trip to see the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton. For me this is a dream come true and as always I will be taking you all along with me. I will send a quick raspberry blog tomorrow night and a full report on Wednesday.

Let’s hope I get a good night sleeps with a long drive ahead of me. Today, I joined the country set and although its illegal to buy a gun here unless you have a double barreled name and are married to a German or your cousin it is not illegal to buy a crossbow ……..let’s see how much Peter the Pigeon coos with an arrow sticking out of his bottom.

Your friends
John and Heidi

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.