Rough Seas, Red Shoes and Tea

Or “It’s an ill wind.”

Our cruise ship sailed out of the calm waters of Hong Kong Harbour at 3pm.  By afternoon tea at four, we had hit bad weather.  Force 10 gales and 12 metre waves battered the little ships hull and this bad weather was expected to continue for the next 30 hours.  The ship was doing the slow storm dance, you know the one, going down at each corner in turn then dipping very low at the bow, quickly followed by the stern; then back to each corner again.

The dancing ship affected the passenger complement badly, the main effect was that half of them went to their cabins and stayed thereby halving the food queues and freeing up the limited seating on board.  Today for instance, was the first time Florie and I had afternoon tea sat down since coming aboard.  Whilst there, we enjoyed seeing the weird and wonderful walks that people do on a rolling ship.

My favourite was a brave chap wearing a smart red top, matching red moccasins with white shorts and socks.  His affluence had settled round his middle and was pair shaped in all directions.  He appeared from the tea making area at the far end of the long lounge, which had comfortable seating on one side and a wide walking space on the other; he was carrying two cups and saucers filled with tea.  Then steadying himself against the wall he looked at his wife at the other end of the room a good forty feet away and smiled, his bright eyes shining with confidence.  Then concentrating hard on the cups, he moved away from the safety of the wall and started his long journey to the other end of the room.  His first few steps took him gradually uphill to his right as the ship lurched backwards and to the left and you could see he was pleased with his progress by the smile on his face.  Then in a fatal misjudgement, he set off again, but walked backwards for three steps and left for six, the last three of which were very quick; as the ship lurched unexpectedly.

He came to a stop and leaned against a settee to regain his balance, then full of resolve he started his forward movement but, the ship was going the other way and he walked backwards for a good four paces still not spilling a drop into the saucers and came to rest against the original wall.  He did a grand job of keeping his footing getting a small round of applause from one or two the spectators watching from the safety of their seats.

He smiled back at the assembly, a slight blush of annoyance rising on his cheeks, he tightened the grip on the saucers and took a deep breath and with a hint of a smile on his face as if he had it mastered mentally.  He set off, going uphill at a pace; he was doing well, nearly a third of the way there.

Then the ship levelled and he ran faster, the stern rose Titanic like; propelling him forwards downhill and he ran faster.  For a few seconds I thought he was actually going to make it, but I saw that look of panic that spread across his face as he shot past my chair, his little legs moving very fast for a man of his age but his body was moving faster. He shot past his wife and loosing his footing, he keeled forwards arms and legs splayed out gracefully, like an overweight rugby player scoring a try. Letting go of the crockery, he hit the floor with a thump and bounced, giving off an involuntary groan.

The cups and saucers complete with their contents still travelling through the air; they hit the floor simultaneously smashing on contact seconds later their broken parts travelling forwards on the carpet, coming to rest against the wall near the main staircase, their contents reaching two feet up the wall.

The man in red shoes lay on the floor like a beached starfish, a few of the crew were appearing round corners to see where the noise had come from.  As they gathered and started to clear up the broken crockery, I thought they did a grand job of suppressing their smiles, as he struggled to his knees and loosing the last vestiges of control, his flatulence problem returning to haunt him.


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