trapped but with a little perspective – first published 20 June 2013


Claustrophobia is a fairly common thing and, like most people, I begin to feel a bit panicky if I get shut in somewhere. When I accidentally got locked in the stairwell of the ship during a fire drill I wasn’t exactly thrilled but I did have a little something to keep me occupied and stop me turning into a gibbering wreck. In fact, this particular something put the whole thing into perspective.

20 June 2013

Another early start, this time for the ship visits. If only mornings started later they would be so much nicer. It is so uncivilised to get out of bed before six when the birds are still rubbing their eyes and clearing their throats. Gigi arrived on time for once. There was barely time to look at the dew on my poppy buds or the ring of purple campanula surround my fat, smiling Buddha before we were off to pick up Gail who is coming back from the frozen north for every ship visit. It was so sad to see her go on Friday and then, by Wednesday, she was back in the office making up all the visitor packs. Once the UK turnarounds are over it will be like saying goodbye all over again. I suck at goodbyes.


As usual Gigi managed to drive the wrong way round the car park at the port. It’s a wonder we survive really. At least this time all our paperwork was properly signed and we didn’t have to go back. Of course I got roped into lugging half the marketing gear up the gangplank as payment for my ride. Sometimes I think Gigi only suggested I apply for the job so she could get me to do sneaky marketing donkeywork when no one was looking. Either that or she forgets I’m not still one of her minions.



Once I’d helped marketing move things around and distributed a few flyers on tables in the restaurant it was off to the library. When I was little I quite fancied being a librarian, well until I realised it didn’t entail sitting around reading books all day. It’s actually not quite as much fun as it sounds. Straightening books, moving books, re-shelving books and, this morning, repairing a broken shelf front (luckily this only involved slotting a brass bar back into place so not quite as Bob the Builder as it sounds) is nowhere near as much fun as I’d thought it would be.

Then it was time to climb up to the top of the ship for the briefing. Whilst we were there I got a call to say one of my guests had arrived so I set off back down the stairs. Unfortunately this turnaround coincided with a vist from the safety inspectors. This is, apparently, a routine event but quite disruptive when you have ship visitors, passengers disembarking, and the new COO with a load of journalists all due to arrive. Even more unfortunately, I was on the stairs on the way down to reception when the watertight doors all shut, trapping me. Claustrophobic is not the word. It was possible to go up and down the stairs but not to get out onto any of the corridors or public areas. Thankfully my phone was still working so I staved off any feeling of panic by reading a blog.

The blog in question was written by the daughter of one of my artists. Last year, just after I’d started working with Arabella this artist had had to pull out of a cruise because her daughter had been given a terminal cancer diagnosis with possibly just months to live and, understandably, she wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. Last week I contacted the artist to find out, as tactfully as possible, if she would be able to run workshops on any 2014 cruises. It was a difficult email to write because my heart had gone out to her the moment we first spoke and I knew, if the answer was yes, it would mean the worst had happened. How do you deal with that kind of news?

Sadly, the worst had happened and I had a long conversation with the artist which was when she told me about her daughter’s blog. Sharkey and Willow is Ella’s story from diagnosis to a final, posthumous, post. Even though I’ve only just started to read it, I can tell it’s a story of great courage and hope, a joyous thing despite the circumstances. Ella was a credit to her mother and I wish I’d had the chance to know her. More than anything it puts things everything firmly into perspective, especially unimportant things like being temporarily trapped on a ship. I hope her mother gets her wish and it is published.


Eventually it was all over and I managed to find my visitor, who I’d spoken to on the phone while I was trapped and who, thankfully, took it all in good part waiting patiently in reception for me. We had quite a productive meeting over a coffee and then my salsa lady arrived and we set off on a ship tour. I’m beginning to get the hang of what is where, which is handy, and we didn’t even get lost.

The ship lunch was as delicious as ever, even if I was too busy schmoozing my guests and answering their questions to eat much. That can only be a good thing though because I’m sure it’s all full of calories. If I was on board any length of time I’d be as big as a truck for sure. Once lunch was over it was time to send the guests and visitors on their way before embarkation began. The marketing hat went back on and I was on farewell duty, saying goodbye, helping people down the gangplank and directing them back to the terminal building to collect their passports and, hopefully, book a cruise. This is the part where cheeks begin to hurt from smiling and every word starts to sound way too sincere to be healthy.


Arabella had meetings all afternoon so, once the last visitor had departed, she said I could go if I liked. The timing was quite fortuitous because Gigi and Gail were about to leave right then so I bagged a lift on the strength of my semi marketing assistant status. Better still, it would give me an extra hour or so to read Ella’s blog and count my blessings.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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