Afraid of Flying…..With The Thingy

January 14, 2009 -

John Heald

“Mr. Heald?” said the voice on the telephone. “We’re following up on your appointment. We wondered if you would like to go ahead and purchase the car.” Eh? Was this a bad dream? Was this… ah, hang on a minute.

Back in June, I visited a Mercedes dealership looking at buying a second-hand M-class Mercedes as that was considered to be less of a polar bear slaughterer than the Range Rover. I decided against the purchase and never gave it another thought. And now, all these months later, here was the follow-up call.

It’s been a happening a lot lately. Insurance salesmen, building contractors, even the bloke who sold me my new coat I bought last week; they’re all suddenly desperate to keep in touch. Last year, you had to be Donald Trump to merit a return call from these people. Now they stalk you with telephone messages, junk mail, cold calls. Yes, this is it. It’s confirmed…………the recession has reached our little village.
It has its good points though. For example: a few weeks ago, Heidi scratched the wing mirror as she was parking in a space 300 feet wide…….I am going to the doghouse for that one……..Anyway, I took it into the car body shop and was presented with a bill for £232.

At this point I did what I always do at garages: I became emotional. I launched into a long and somewhat poor-taste bollocks stating that I had been quoted £175 at a garage down the street. Then the repairman shuffled back to his shed pressed a few buttons on an old calculator and charged me £156. “Business is slow,” he explained.

I feel for everyone who has and will be affected by the ongoing credit crunch thingy and it seems many of you are taking advantage of the even more affordable prices Carnival is offering to take those downturn blues away. Now, you know me and this blog. I refuse to make it a sales tool and I always say what I feel. However, this time I do want to say that this is the time to cruise and we have the Fun to counteract the boredom of recession. So, with that in mind here is a Fun4All upgrade thingy deal thingy…….go on……treat yourself ……….you deserve it. (it ends on 1/23)

Some of you have been asking about the new itineary of the Carnival Miracle and why it was changed. Here therefore is the explanation and a reminder of the new itinerary. Once again, please except my apologies and if you have any questions please let me know

The Carnival Miracle has experienced a minor technical problem with the propulsion system, which is only impacting the maximum cruising speed of the ship. All other systems and hotel services are functioning normally. Due to the reduced speed, we will need to change the 8 Day itineraries of the following cruises until she
goes to drydock on 2/23/09.

Day Port of Call Arrive Depart
Ft. Lauderdale 4:00 p.m.
Day 1 “Fun Day” At Sea
Day 2 Cozumel 10:00 am 6:00 p.m. (was “Fun Day” At Sea)
Day 3 Costa Maya 8:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m. (was Colon, Panama from 7 am to 5 pm)
Day 4 Belize 8:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m. (was Limon from 7 am to 3 pm)
Day 5 Isla Roatan 8:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m. (was “Fun Day” At Sea)
Day 6 “Fun Day” At Sea (was Belize from 7 am to 4 pm)
Day 7 “Fun Day” At Sea
Day 8 Ft. Lauderdale 8:00 a.m.

This morning I went for my annual back to work haircut. Unfortunately Giuseppe, my faithful Neapolitan barber who has been cutting my hair since I was 7 years old has retired. This meant that instead of going to see the master who could cut my hair and teach me a dozen new swear words in Italian all in 10 minutes I had to go to one of those “poncy” ( ) unisex salons ……..this one was called Toni and Guy.

You know the sort of place I am talking about, loads of big red leather couches, cappuccino machines and 15-year-old girls ready to cut your hair. I had booked an appointment over the phone because Heidi had told me this was the law, so I did and was asked by the receptionist who usually does my hair. I thought this was a strange question but I answered truthly and said “Giuseppe”…….the 15-year-old then said they didn’t have anyone of that name working there and it was then I realized that she was asking me who did my hair in their salon. So, after realizing I was a complete idiot, the 15-year-old booked me an appointment.

When I arrived I was offered a coffee and sat on one of the leather couches. Giuseppe always had old copies of Penthouse and Playboy to keep you occupied while you waited. There were however no bosoms to look at Toni and Guy. Nope…….I was offered GQ magazine. What a load of bollocks. Apparently, according to this month’s issue the briefcase is unfashionable and any man seen with one is subject to arrest and will receive 20 years in a Turkish prison. Apparently, no man dares to leave the house these days without the holy trinity of keys, wallet and cell phone. Or, in my case, a raspberry.

Modern man is also expected to have on his person at all times gym kit, gluten-free nutri-bars, the latest novel everyone is talking about and a couple of stop-the-war pamphlets. And that’s why this magazine had three full pages of “man bags.” I was thinking to myself what kind of man would carry such an item when the answer walked in through the door.

He was wearing a red coat with a clutch bag tucked under his arm and was accompanied by his wife and son. I had seen “man bags” in the magazine but now I was seeing one up close and personal. There was even a miniature Sponge Bob Square Pants hanging off the zipper.

After seeing this fashionable gentleman, I am having second thoughts and might need a man bag of my own. I won’t have Sponge Bob on mine though……….I want one like Jack Bauer, one that will help me save the world.

So, I had my hair cut in this huge disco of a salon. There was loud music, lots of hair dryer noise and lots of foofing of hair. The 15-year-old asked me if I wanted to look at some photos of various styles. I told her to just cut the wings of the side of my head and make it short at the back. She seemed aghast that I also said no to the various gels, creams and lotions she offered me during the process.

When women crest the brow of middle age and start on the high-speed, unstoppable plunge to old age, there are many ways to pretend that it isn’t happening. Breasts, ravaged by gravity and babies, can be re-upholstered. Tummies distorted by pregnancy can be vacuumed away. And shops such sell exotic creams that soothe wrinkles and tell cellulite to bugger off. I saw Joan Collins recently, aged 70, and she doesn’t look a day over 55………… amazing.

Now, compare and contrast the fortunes of Ms Collins with the plight of Barry Manilow. We hear he’s had plastic surgery and what do we think? ……..mmm, that’s a bit girly. Mickey Rourke is said to have had Botox put in his face for his new movie The Wrestler……..girly. You see, I am old fashioned. I have never been one of those men who wear “product” in their hair, whatever the hell that is. Men who have combs or hairdryers. Men who wash their cars. Men in sandals. Men who go to the dentist when they don’t have toothache. Men who take vitamin tablets……….I don’t understand any of them. I wear clothes so that people cannot see my genitals. I have a stomach like someone put the world’s largest beach ball down my shirt because I like eating food. My teeth are yellow because I drink coffee and used to smoke cigars. My hair is cut with scissors. My bathroom scales are broken. I haven’t combed my hair since I was 12 and…… after today……..having paid £29 for a cold cappuccino and haircut…….I realize how much I will miss Giuseppe.

At least I will still have my next haircut onboard at one of our spas. By the way, thanks for all the feedback on this subject and if you have not had time to do so, please tell us what you think and what you would like to see to make your spa experience onboard even better.

Now, over on you will see some fantastic photos on James Cusick’s blog about the world cruise he is currently on. Yesterday’s blog featured some terrific photos of the upgrades the Arcadia has recently enjoyed. Go and see the ship’s new screening room which has probably the best looking and most comfortable cinema seats I have ever seen. The ship is currently in the Ionian Sea and as James will tell you, they have encountered some rough seas. Stop over and have a read of this great blog.

Snow is not something you usually associate with the Italian Riviera. However, in Genoa they have had snow……..lots of snow and this has caused some unexpected problems for the folks building the worlds most luxurious ship the Seabourn Odyssey. Their blog also reachable through http://www.bestblogsatsea.comwill tell you all about it and there are some stunning photos of the internal workings of the vessel. This is definitely worth a visit.

A few days ago I was talking to a friend of mine who for many years worked onboard our ships. Some of you may remember Peter Gibbs who was one of our most successful cruise directors and certainly the CD with more energy than anyone I have ever met. We chatted about the old days when Peter worked with me as a social host and he reminded me of the bridge tours we used to do together.

Do you remember the bridge tours? We used to have the guests meet in a lounge and in groups of 30 we would take them up to the bridge to see how the ship was run and in some cases meet the captain. I say some cases because while many were happy to receive guests on their bridge and interact and answer questions, many were not comfortable doing this and would hide under their beds until it was over.

Peter and I used to enjoy this event and we would make a show out of it…… was great fun. It was also amazing to see guests’ faces when they saw all the electronics that go into running the vessel and of course they all wanted photos next to the ships wheel which as you may know looks like one from a PlaystationXbox thingy. Then there would be the questions ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.

While some of the questions were excellent, many were just plain silly………who is driving the ship, etc? How ever the ones asked by men usually with beards who thought they knew all about the ship were my favourite………ahhh yes, this must be the bow thruster unit which drives the propeller shaft generating 30,000 bhp per milisecond …….ummm…… sir, that’s a pencil sharpener.

However, the most rewarding part of the bridge tours was showing the proud gents who had served in their country’s navy and hearing their stories and seeing their excitement at being on the bridge……….yep, that was always something special.

But thanks to the terrorists can’t do this anymore as security is obviously paramount. Just as the cockpit doors are closed on the plane so are our bridge doors………..and that is a crying shame.

Tomorrow, I want to tell you about some other events I miss from the old days.

One of the many hazards of living and working in America and much of the time among North Americans is that everything you do is automatically regarded by non-Americans as being in some way both strange and intellectually suspect – BrittneySpearesesque, you might say. Never am I more aware of this phenomenon than when on the phone from America or from onboard a ship with Mum and Dad back in the UK.

If you listen closely enough, you can actually hear their eyebrows on the other end of the line making their slow journey upwards.

Imagine, then, being charged with the uniquely perilous task of naming a child (my first), and then having to do it with them thinking that I may be influenced by American names such as Jermajesty Jackson (son of Jermaine Jackson) and Pilot Inspektor Riesgraf Lee (son of the actor Jason Lee). My mother is already expecting me to turn up one day carrying a little Keshawn Soprano Heald, or perhaps Porsche Apple Mercedes Heald.

Obviously these names guarantee having your head flushed down the school toilet

Still, the fear remains: will my son or daughter ever be able to utter their name with pride. In the old days; the biggest problem for parents was avoiding the names of people you didn’t like. Nowadays, naming a child is like naming a corporation: the name is a brand – and brands, as every ad executive knows, need to travel.

Your child doesn’t want to be denied that job in Tokyo on the basis that his name phonetically translates as “he who smells of rotten Sushi” in Japanese. But coming up with a global brand is expensive, hence the creation of a new LA profession: the baby name consultant……………as we Brits sometimes say……….”only in America.”

These people study social security data, phonetic structure, foreign translations, linguistic origins and so on, and then settle on something trendy (but not too trendy), or something innocent, like “Arit.” (Incidentally, this wouldn’t be good in Albania, where it means hairy armpit.)

The world’s growing population, and the challenge of Google (Has your child’s internet domain already been purchased; does he share his name with a porn star?) has further complicated matters. There are hundreds of baby name books and internet sites, all of which leaves the option of auctioning your child’s name to a sponsor (“The name’s Coke. Diet Coke”)

Apparently the most popular name at the moment for a boy is …. Leon … which is French ……which will guarantee you will get many a good view of the inside of the school toilets. The name game continues …………….and honestly, it’s bloody stressful.

Obviously The Thingy is foremost in my mind and a whole torrent of thoughts continually flow through it …………for example. Until now, I regarded the airport check-in question: “Do you have any infants traveling with you?” as being obviously absurd. Of course I don’t have any infants travelling with me. Why would I do that? Why would anyone do that?” As far as I was concerned, it was like asking if I planned on, say, deliberately contracting testicular elephantitis.

Of course, that is all about to change. I will forever be flying with the Thingy …. All things considered, I think I’d rather have the elephantitis. Flying is as you know something I enjoy about as much as having a baby alligator chomping on my nipples while Judge Judy gives me a lap dance. Higher fares, fewer aircraft, more delays, less legroom, worse food, fear of terrorism, fear of incompetent maintenance staff, fear of everyone looking at me hoping the “fat bastard” isn’t sitting next to them……. It all adds up to ensure a horrific experience, no matter what your cabin class or destination. At least with the right combination of prescription drugs and a few minutes of a Tom Cruise movie you can remain unconscious throughout.

Unless, that is, you’re travelling with an infant. I have watched people who do fly with babies over the years and I dread the time when I have to. Naturally, the airlines do their best to make everything that much worse (I came to the conclusion some time ago that American, British Airways and Easyjet exist only to remind us what life would have been like if the Soviets had won the Cold War or what it’s like to be French).

For example: they offer to let children under the age of 2 fly free of charge as “lap passengers” – the suggestion being that your little pumpkin will sit quietly on your knee, cooing and smiling and perhaps every so often clapping his pudgy little hands, while your plane spends 18 hours waiting for a take-off slot from Philadelphia’s airport (see past blog for details.)

This is, of course, complete and utter bollocks. For a start, babies do nothing quietly. I have flown with a baby that made a noise like a fax transmission being played back through AC/DC’S speakers and another who sang a techno version of whale song all the way from London to Miami……not even the BOSE noise restriction headphones could block out this little bugger.

Then there is the in-flight wriggling, punching, kicking and gouging followed closely by the violent and often unspeakable excretions that are somehow made possible by a diet of mashed carrot and peas. And, of course, you must also suffer the knowledge that every other passenger on the aircraft would love nothing more than to throw you and your offspring out of the emergency hatch.

So, this coming flight to Miami will be one I will enjoy for sure. I can be stuck in the back row, wedged into a middle seat between two French sumo wrestlers both whom like all good French Sumo Wrestlers will be allergic to soap……..However, that won’t matter because I will be flying for one of the last times without my Thingy…….and that means I will be flying first class.

Now, I just want to say thank you for all your kind words and thoughts for Heidi today. I without a doubt made the right decision to stay as the test she had was scary beyond belief. I held her hand and I don’t know who was in more pain because as the test got underway she dug her nails deep into my skin………but I took the pain like a man.

Anyway, it went well and it’s over and I am so glad I stayed to be with her. One other good thing……..I now know that during the birth to wear boxing gloves while I am holding her hand.

Your friends
John, Heidi and the Thingy

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.