Tuesday, 8 June 2010
When I’ve been scared or worried in the past, people have offered me advice:
“Grow up, you sad arse!!”
“Why don’t you just grow a set?”
“Try typing How To Get a New Spine into Google.”
I’ve taken one of those valuable recommendations on board in the past two weeks – “Be BIG!”
Unfortunately, I have taken it quite literally; I am now twice the man I used to be. Let me explain.
I have just returned from a two week holiday to Canada and America. Mrs PM’s father suggested the trip to us last year. Mrs PM was adamant that we should go, so we did.
We spent a week on a coach touring the Canadian Rockies and a week on a cruise ship visiting a couple of places in Alaska. It is this latter part of the holiday that I want to focus on today.
I had never been on a cruise before and nobody warned me about the dangers until the day before we embarked.
The tour guide on the coach hinted that there would be a lot of food. Of course there will be a lot of food, I thought – it’s an American cruise ship. Unfortunately I didn’t appreciate exactly how much food there would be and, worse, I didn’t realise that it would all be free – absolutely totally free (when I say “free”, I don’t mean that the holiday company gave away the grub – the price of the cruise included the food) and absolutely totally freely available.
When I arrived in Seattle and saw the size of the cruise ship, I kind of got my first inkling of the gulf between my expectations and the reality of the situation. The ship was huge; it had 16 decks, several restaurants, even more bars, a fully seated theatre, two nightclubs, several swimming pools, a gym, a tennis court, a jogging track, a library, an art gallery, several shops, a casino, a spa, a simulated golf course, at least 2500 passengers and at least 1000 crew members.
It took me the whole day to explore the ship – it was like a floating town.
The cabins were smaller than your average hotel room – but only just. The one assigned to Mrs PM and myself had a double bed, a wardrobe, a desk, a TV, a bathroom with sink, toilet and shower and a safe. The shower was, shall we say, cosy but it was perfectly adequate for a slim person like me and my good lady.
On previous trips to the States, I have applied a measure of willpower and self control to my consumption of food. The sheer volume of food that you can acquire in America is colossal. In a restaurant, you can ask for a small portion and you still end up with a meal that would feed the population of a small country.
Take last year, for example. Mrs PM and I found ourselves in a restaurant in Boston and, feeling like a little piece of home, both opted for “Fish and Chips”. The meal, when it arrived, was gargantuan. It looked as if a trawler had been dispatched to the Atlantic Ocean and a day’s entire catch had been dumped on our plate. I have never seen so many chips in a single place. They were piled so high that there was snow on the peaks and I swear I could see a couple of skiers navigating the slopes.
Back on the cruise ship, I wandered around with my little guide, identifying the bars, restaurants and other interesting places and began to notice something strange; there were one or two people who, and I’ll be kind to them here, looked like walking whales. These guys were enormous.
Upon seeing them, my mind drifted back to the cosy shower in our cabin and a vivid scene began to form in my warped imagination; the walking whale trying to crowbar his bulk into a tiny shower.
I began to have serious doubts about the ability of these walking leviathans to crowbar their bulk into the bathroom, let alone the shower. One guy in particular was enormous. I suspected that he contributed to swaying of the vessel on the open sea, such was his bulk. Had he leapt overboard, the rest of the passengers would have mistaken him for a humpback whale.
My imagination began to work overtime. I began to wonder how this man would manage to have a shower. Here’s what I came up with:
(1) He strips naked in his cabin - I apologise for the image that this may conjure up but, believe me, I have had to live with this image for days now and I see no reason why you, dear reader, shouldn’t suffer with me.
(2) He asks his wife to wrap a rope around his colossal belly – this gives a whole new meaning to the question “How long is a piece of rope?”
(3) His wife pushes him into the shower with the aid of a crowbar, leaving the two ends of the rope outside the shower – perhaps she asks the crew of the ship for help.
(4) When the man has finished washing his bulk, the woman hauls his soapy arse out of the shower using the rope – again she might ask for help with this task.
I thank my lucky stars that I am not like this whale-human hybrid. I can still picture the distressing image of this man wearing shorts and a T-shirt that was a little too small for him, allowing part of amazing gut to spill over and say “Hello” to everybody. His legs were enormous and wobbled as he walked. I have rarely seen anybody so fat that their legs actually wobble.
I saw him on several occasions over the course of the cruise, once dressed in a suit. I wondered where he managed to find a shirt to cover his enormous belly – “Tents’R’Us” perhaps?
Unfortunately, the temptation to emulate the ingestion feats of the walking whale proved almost impossible to resist. Why? Allow me to explain.
On the first day of the cruise, we arrived at the restaurant in the evening and enjoyed a very rich four course meal with all the trimmings. I was stuffed. I felt like I had eaten a horse. As we left the restaurant I asked Mrs PM’s dad whether the meal was typical.
“Yes,” he replied. “There is so much food that you won’t know what to eat first.”
He wasn’t wrong. Breakfast the next day, for me, consisted of:
A melon slice, half a grapefruit and an apple, followed by a whopping plate full of scrambled eggs, sausages, bacon, hash browns, two slices of toast and a yoghurt all washed down with two glasses of grapefruit juice and two cups of coffee.
As I ate this massive breakfast, one thought ran through my head – this food is paid for and I’m bloody well going to eat as much of it as I can.
Mrs PM, on the other hand, was sensible and suggested that we eat carefully. However, when I was wondering around the ship, I spotted a pizza outlet and simply couldn’t resist a big slice.
At lunch, the buffet was enormous and I helped myself to sandwiches, meat, vegetables, chips and cake with lashings of coffee and Sprite.
In the evening we indulged ourselves once more with a massive four course meal washed down with beer and wine (thankfully the beer and wine weren’t free, otherwise I would have taken full advantage of that).
And so it went on. Every day I had a massive breakfast, followed by a snack and a massive lunch with yet another four course meal in the evening. Had I wanted, I would have been able to get up in the middle of the night and helped myself to yet more food from the night menu.
At one point, I saw the walking whale eating. He was sitting at a table on deck next to one of the swimming pools, with a massive plate full of pizza and a cheeseburger and fries at the side. And this was at four o’clock in the afternoon, just a couple of hours before the evening meal.
And there were other people eating similar copious amounts of food.
And, worse, as the cruise went on, I realised that I, too, was eating far too much.
It was six days into the voyage when my greed finally hit home.
After a couple of days, Mrs PM had mentioned that I was eating too much and that, if I had a big breakfast, perhaps I should skip lunch. She was, as usual, very aware of the side effects of stuffing your face, and had been restrained in her consumption of food. I, on the other hand, had been a idiot, convinced that I was svelte even at the tender age of 47, and that I could eat as much as I could when I was 21. I actually started to listen to her and take heed when disaster struck.
The ship was struck down with an outbreak of Norovirus.
Norovirus is a particularly nasty little bug that basically gives victims eight hours of agony with vomiting and diarrhoea. And it is highly contagious. The captain and his crew enforced a high level of sanitation when this happened, making sure that the whole ship was napalmed with every conceivable bug killer every hour of the day as well as making sure that every passenger washed their hands repeatedly, particularly at food outlets. Every restaurant had hand sanitiser fluid, an alcohol based liquid that destroyed all germs and passengers were forced to clean their hands before entering anywhere that food was present.
Unfortunately, despite the precautions, Mrs PM fell victim to the Norovirus and, after eight hours of hideous noises in our little bathroom, was confined to the cabin for a further 48 hours. Incredibly, I wasn’t confined at all and was free to roam the ship, which I did. I wasn’t alone because I had Mrs PM’s dad and his wife to keep me entertained. Alas, Mrs PM’s dad didn’t care whether I mutated into a bloated mass of flab and when I began to consume lots of food, he didn’t warn me of the consequences of my over-indulgence. Mrs PM wasn’t there to make sure that my eating habits were constrained. Consequently I welcomed the freedom, driven not by common sense but some weird concept about value for money.
So I ate. And I ate. And I ate. And I ate.
In the meantime, Mrs PM, a prisoner in the cabin, was allowed to eat only bland food during her quarantine, food which was so unappealing that she lost her appetite.
I am still puzzled by the fact that Mrs PM was quarantined and I wasn’t. During the quarantine period, a “hit squad” of cleaners came twice a day and napalmed the cabin with detergents and chemical bug killers and I was requested to wash my hands every ten seconds. By the end of the quarantine period, we had the cleanest cabin on the ship and I had the cleanest hands on the planet.
Even more incredibly, I didn’t fall victim to the virus at all. I remained in full health for the duration of the cruise and ate accordingly.
After six days, my greedy excessiveness came back and slapped me in the face because I had to wear my penguin suit for the second of two formal evenings on the ship, the first evening being on my first full day.
How did my greed slap me in the face? My trousers were too tight, telling me that I had added unwelcome inches to my waistline.
Thankfully, I was able to make the necessary adjustments but such was the shock that I took a closer look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t like what I saw. My belly, already increasing with age, had had a visible growth spurt and my boobs seemed bigger.
I am not a whale by any stretch of the imagination but my pot belly has definitely grown, nuking all my previous attempts to beat it into submission.
Damn you, cruise food, damn you!
Damn you, will power, damn you!
Damn you, bloody Norovirus, damn you!
Mrs PM has now put me on a diet. I have returned home and Jasper, my overweight fat bloater of a moggy, is now my kindred spirit. We cry into our empty plates each night.
Looking back, I should have known better.
Anyway, apart from over indulgence and Norovirus, the holiday was amazing and I shall, in due course, be posting lots of photos on The Plastic Mancunian’s Eye as well as mentioning a few other choice observations in future posts.
In the meantime, Mrs PM, now fully recovered, will be keeping me in check. She’s just gone out to do some shopping. Hopefully a crowbar and a rope aren’t on her list.