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Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Okay, I admit it - as jobs go, this one was a bit of a beauty. Signing books and doing a couple of talks whilst travelling around the Eastern Med on P & O's Azura inbetween cocktails. Now I'm home and the house is like a Chinese laundry, but it's so lovely to look at the pictures and know that I truly painted a real portrait on life on board when I wrote Here Come The Girls. Strangely quite a few things happened that felt like I was in the book - our captain had a lovely gentle Irish accent for one. I wasn't expecting to hear dear Captain Nigel come to life.

Flawless bus journey down to Southampton on the Eavesway bus - with driver prattling on just like he did in my book about washing his bus. But by 1.30pm we were on our lovely ship feeling very much at home and heading for the Glasshouse. Have to christen the arrival with some lovely Canadian Peller Estates Icewine. 'Surprised it took you so long' came a flurry of texts from 'friends'.
Our lovely cabin steward was called Savio and night after night he made us animals and 'sculptures' out of towels which greeted us when we came back to our cabin at night - here's the candle. I tried to take a picture of the animals, but seeing as he'd used chocolates for eyes, by the time I'd got hold of my camera the kids had blinded them!
The people on our table were fab
- and one of the great surprises for us was spotting our old friend 'Ice Cream Jonathan', who is mentioned in my book. He was a waiter who was on our very first cruise and since then has been coincidentally on at least 7 others. He got his name because he used to be a waiter in the buffet and always sorted my kids out with their after-tea ice-cream. The kids were 2 and 3 then - and he's seen them grow (though he hasn't seen me grow... well, not upwards anyway). He's such a lovely boy, it was a great treat to see him again.
Evening dinner is one of the highlights of my cruise - and I've always been so lucky with the strangers they put on our table. Although another surprise was that one of the dinner guests was my sons' ex-headmistress from Barnsley. Luckily she's great fun and the kids were well behaved, so no detentions :)
Chocolates and little philosophies appeared on my pillow every night - including this one - which I used for the opening quote of my book because it was so apt - spooky!

Slept like a captain's log the first night and got up for lunch the next day. We always sleep soooo well on board. So much so that we slept through a freak force 11 gale the night before Cephalonia. I just thought I was in a giant cradle.
The sun never went out on the cruise during the day - just as it behaved in my book. We had a couple of sea days so lunched in our lovely Glass House with wines chosen by Olly Smith and a delish menu.
I had the Woodland Mushroom Risotto with Camembert - which is gorgeous.
Tez had the Bison Burger, which is HUGE but he shared it with his brother - and still they both had to leave some.

I had a visit to the spa to get a hot stones neck and shoulder massage as my neck was so crunchy it would have been told to shush in libraries. I had a rather handsome South African man de-knotting me. Sigh... Right - less of that and back to the cruise. Our first stop was Malaga - very very sunny Malaga, where we got off, walked around, my son bought some of his usual tourist rubbish and we sat by the cathedral under a fan that blew out a mist of cool water, and watched the world go by.

Next stop was Cephalonia. I'd booked a trip to the beach and the lads were moaning that it would be boring. Skip forward three hours and I couldn't get them out of the sea. Yep, sun, sea, sand and sunbeds and it was idyllic just riding the waves like human surfboards.
And here's the lovely view of the ship as we walked back to it :)
The entertainment was great in the evenings - wonderful shows, very funny comedians like Peter Piper and a blast from the past Aidan J Harvey. And the most amaaazing Freddy Mercury impersonator Steve Larkins. Sue Holderness, 'Marlene' from Only Fools and Horses did some fabulous talks - one really surprised me. It was about the Harrison Watch which Delboy's 'father in law' found and which changed their fortunes. Sounds fascinating - not - I know - but trust me it was brilliant. One of the highlights - very clever and jaw-droppingly inspiring.
Dubrovnik was the next stop - beautiful sunny gorgeous Dubrovnik which was ice-cream heaven for my son.
Here's the infamous Pile Gate where the girls get crushed - although they've put a rope up these days which strangely seems to do the trick because there were a lot of ships in.

And for all those people who asked - the water spout which appears in the book which I described as looking like Bruce Forsyth is here :)
The next stop was Venice - and you can't get more beautiful a sight than sailing in the Grand Canal in the early morning with just the merest hint of mist in the air.

We walked for ages in Venice, drank Peroni (well I did, the kids didn't) ate pasta and ice-cream, Tez bought souvenirs, I bought handbags, George ate more ice-cream.

We were knackered - blissfully so. Here I am smoking a bread-stick (obviously too much of that Peroni)
And then it was the turn of one of my favourite places - Korcula, a beautiful island where I sat in the taverna in which I imagined Vaughan and Frankie eating pizza and salad.
Gorgeous place. It's always lovely to go 'home' to the ship, but I could have stayed hours more on Korcula.
Then it was the time of lovely Corfu. I LOVE Corfu and we were looking forward to seeing our old friends of Restaurant Rex - the restaurant the girls go to in the book. The food is fabulous - the pasta and beef and Greek salads to die for. We sat there dining Al Fresco and walking the world go by for nearly 2 hours - bliss.
I worked a couple of afternoons on board doing talks about the reality of life as an author and a crash course in how to write a book. (Surprisingly I was advertised as 'not to be missed' - so lucky it was the Horizon and not the Police Marksmen's Gazette - ho ho). I was chuffed as buttons to find that both were packed out and I sold soooo many books that my arm nearly dropped off signing them. Plus lots of people had bought them before and brought them on board to sign. There was a fabulous response and I met some wonderful people on board. I even did a bit of stand up - what a rush!
I hope all the people who bought my books to take home as presents were happy and that I've been responsible for at least a few people taking the plunge and booking a cruise. I've converted a few friends over the years - and they've converted more. My friend ended up actually getting married on board after being bitten by the cruise bug.
The sea days were lovely and restful after a run of ports. The kids splashed in the pool, I read books and after boiling for a
bit in the sun, went to join them. Plus it was fabulous to sit and watch a film on the big sea-screen both during the day...
...and swaddled up in blankets at night (spot James Bond!)

The breeze was a gentle hot ruffle and was as gorgeous as Daniel Craig himself.
The lovely couple on our table had an anniversary so we had the 'choir' singing Congratulations and the balloons - but Geoff is a professional Tenor so we unplugged our ears and listened to a 'proper'serenade.
He even did a brilliant rendition of From Russia With Love on the final night at the 'X Factor' - what a voice, what a gift!

We managed a fabulous night away from the restaurant to take in Verona, the Italian restaurant on deck 15 where the steaks are served on molten hot lava stones which act as both plate and grill.
And you can get sizzling strawberries in Prosecco - yum!
Plenty of opportunity to dress up on the formal nights

And there was even a passenger choir which was so lovely to both hear and see.
I even had a visit to the casino on Black and White night when the ship was full of James Bonds and is my favourite night.
Vigo - our last stop - was great for handbags and purses and watches and the sun didn't stop burning for us until the late afternoon of the last day. That last sea day was marvellous for me as I drew open the curtains in the morning and saw a whale. I ran outside on the balcony and just watched it rising and blowing out a jet of water. I was shouting 'Look a whale' and it was shouting the same back to me - so it was time to go home and hit the yogurts.
As usual, I'm left with lovely memories of yet another belting P and O cruise and think of the last day of my holidays as the first day of counting down to my next one. Wonderful wonderful stuff - and I could have easily have written another book about it all :)
To all those people who have written to me asking if my book really is a true portrait of a cruise - yep it is. Go book one, and then tell me I'm lying. I bet you wouldn't be able to :)
Milly x

1 comment:

  1. A fabulous post Milly, thanks. Another shove towards a cruise holiday :) (the 'Girls' very nearly did it for me). My reluctance stems from all the years of my parents doing cruises. Maybe I need to get over it?