Sunday, August 31, 2008

Getting to know me, or not.

Good morning, blog. Although, actually, it's more like evening, seeing as how it's 7pm and everything.

It's probably morning somewhere in the world.

I have a friend on this ship who has a fetish for "Awkward moments". I'm sure he wouldn't like it to be called a fetish, but whatever, he really loves them. He savours them, as a connesour, specially saving them up and preparing them, finely planning moments of Awkwardness in the same way that a conductor of an orchestra prepares the finale of a grand opera.

He'll often say stuff intentionally to make people uncomfortable.

So I asked about a week or two ago, why?

And his response was something like,

(a) it's fun,
(b) I enjoy seeing how people really are.

And the second one is the bit that I took issue with.

He said watching how people react when they don't know how to respond gives a great insight into them, and let's you see them without the pretence and acting that accompanies so much of human interaction.

What's there to take issue with?

Well, seeing people when they don't know how to react, is that really how they "really are"?

It seems to me to smell slightly of the whole humans-are-nought-but-animals thing.

And also, the "You know the real person by seeing how they behave under pressure". - Likewise, the same.

There is some truth to it, of course. It's much easier to act nice and give a good image when you are relaxed and can concentrate on impressing others, or on behaving well, than when things are stressful and you're under pressure and don't have time to think about what to do next.

Others have also said that you know how someone is by what they do in their spare time, or when no one else is looking, and so on.

Some people seem to do well under pressure, and be able to think quickly and clearly. Others don't. Some people find it easy to find jobs to do and to use their spare time productively and pro-actively.

So... it's often very useful to know how someone behaves under pressure, but I don't think it really shows who they "really" are.

This would have been all nice and theoretical, and all that, except for this week.

I got sick.

And, it turns out, I don't act very nice when I'm sick.

Usually, when I'm healthy and fine and everything, I tend to use a lot of hyperbole, sarcasm, and irony in my general day to day language. It tends to be (I hope!) fairly good natured, and over-the-top enough that others realise it's not intended seriously.

"Could you play this CD for me?"
"Nope. It's completely impossible - the computer can only play CDs on Thursdays."

and so on.

Well, the thing is, recently I've started to tend to mix double meanings and more biting sarcasm into what I say, and, usually, it doesn't mean anything - to me.

Ie, "hey, the programme schedule says you're doing a song later, but you haven't put a form in saying you want any microphones or instruments or anything, so it's just a Capella, right?"

It appears though, my sarcasm and hyperbole and so on don't pan out so well when I'm tired/sick or stressed.

We had a wedding yesterday on board. About half way through the ceremony, right in the middle of a song just as I was mixing the band and having to be constantly mindful of the two wireless mics the MC and someone else had and things were quite hectic, when one of the people who was videoing it (a local) came over and asked "Do you have any power sockets? I need to re-charge my camera batteries".

"Yes, right here." (pointing at the sockets)

"Ah." (he pokes around)

"They don't fit..."

"Oh, right. Um, yes. It's European, sorry, the whole ship is set up with European sockets. It's a European ship, after all."

"You mean you don't have any standard sockets??" (disbelief in his voice)

And this is, I'm afraid, where my stunning wit came to the fore again, and really didn't help the situation at all.

"No, no. They're all standard sockets." *helpful smile* "European standard."

Very helpful, wasn't I. - I don't think!

Yes... I don't think. Maybe that's the problem.

I'm struggling a lot right now with trying to balance work with relationships. Not in that I work too much and don't spend enough time with people, but in that when people do things which really mucks up my work, I find it very hard to still be nice.

Part of it is I just really have no idea how to be nice.

Middle of a programme, pressing buttons and cueing video clips and trying to make the whole thing smooth and beautiful, and someone comes into the AV room from behind me, is standing right where I need to move to press a button on the video mixer, and asked "hey, would it be possible for you to play me a DVD in the other room in an hour or so?"

How do you respond to such things?

"Go away. I can't listen to you now." - Not really polite.

"Dear brother! I would be more than glad to hear from you, and to help you in any way I can, even though you've broken two of our published policies in the last 10 seconds, nevertheless, I completely forgive you and forget all about it so if you come back to me in 20 minutes then I'll be very happy to hear your request and see how I can most elegantly acquiesce to your desires." - too long, and I'm already late for a cue.

"Ask me later." - Usually what I'll try and say but, unfortunately, what people want is something they need more input for. And usually they leave it right until the last minute before asking us. Usually the reply I'll get from them (while they're still standing in the way of my mixer) is "Well, I need to know now so I can arrange a laptop or something if you can't do it."

"Oh, are you running the programme now? Since you're in the right place to press the buttons, does that mean I can leave?" - Unfortunately, something close to what's likely to be my first response.

And it's not that I really bear them any ill-feeling, or even that I mean to be nasty, mean, or sarcastic.

Sometimes as well, I've noticed I have a tendancy to use hyperbole, sometimes in ways which just don't make sense to anyone other than me:

"Oh yes, it's horribly frustrating when people forget to hand in their forms on time. I feel like screaming like a little child and jumping overboard whenever they do." - yes, it's frustrating, but not that frustrating.

I dunno.

I feel kind of like I've picked up some really rude sarcasm and humour somewhere. And especially when I'm tired, frustrated, under pressure, and sick, it really comes out and is just plain nasty to everyone.

Is this the real me, coming out at last?

Or is the real me the nice one?

"When a man's at his worst, then you see him the best."


"It's not how good you are, but how good you want to be".

*sigh* I have so far to go...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

From Carlisle...

Wind tore across the darkened misty moors of the Lake District, pounding along the side of the tent like a tidal wave breaking upon the highcliffed shoreline of a forgotten arctic land. Outside of the tent, tiny rabbits huddled together in their burrows shivering due to the icy drafts, while inside and close by rain-drenched men struggled through the mud to complete their epic task.

Less then 3 hours previously 6000 people had been standing while the melodious hymn of Amazing Grace washed around them, many, even 200 of them touched to the heart made their way forward to pray and be prayed for, to receive the greatest gift in the history of the world.

3 hours later, the knowledge of this gift was the warmth that glowed inside the men labouring to bring their flight cases, amplifiers and speakers into a truck and depart from the now empty canvas cathedral.

Finally the dismissal was given, and as the last few items were loaded in the the crew slowly dispersed. The 4 OMNIvision men removed their mud covered shoes, and climbed into their small car, and drove out through the dark unlit pathway to the main road, and off into the night.

Soaking wet, muddy and weary in mind and body, their spirits were none the less high as they left the town and none of them were expecting the sudden sliding skid towards the roundabout and the ominous crunch into the other car which told them the journey home would be longer than they had anticipated.

The driver -- a Scot -- immediately turned their car towards the side of the road and drove up onto the curve to inspect the damage. They climbed from the vehicle shocked but glad that none had been injured. The other car was significantly dented, but the driver was unhurt. After the routine exchange of sarcasm, licence and telephone numbers and insurance policy contact details, the other driver perked up and laughed. Quoth he "At least it wasn't my car, it's a company one, I'd have been really pissed off if it were mine!", whereupon he grinned, hopped in to his, or rather his company's car and drove away.

The four traveling companions were not so fortunate in their predicament. The bumper was only attached by one nut and dragging along the ground. Inside, the plastic wheel frame was twisted into the wheel, and the headlights were no longer attached and pointing in various directions. With still more than 100 miles of motorway to cover before reaching their destination, it was decided that to attempt to complete it in that mangled condition would be folly.

A phone call for help from the Automobile Association was made, and they settled back to wait for the assistance to arrive.

It was not long until it arrived, and their disfigured ride was lifted on to the tow. The driver, a friendly Newcastle man was quick and efficient, and as he climbed into the cab a few minutes later, he turned and said "No hado sinye fine sell bacun ahl droye temsix unwil mitwethe rileh tuhye hom. Shubetheh intwenni mints."

Our Scottish companion seemingly spoke this language and so replied, sitting in the passenger seat next to the driver, they passed the time chatting about the evening.

The two Germans turned to the fourth member of their party, a native of the land, although one who had spent most of his life abroad, and asked for interpretation. His eyes were as confused and uncomprehending as theirs, and much merriment was made by the continentals for his lack of understanding.

After about half an hour, they reached a certain motorway service station and they stopped there and moved the car across to a longer distance relay truck, and after buying coffee, bade farewell to the first driver, and climbed into the new cab and made acquaintance of the second.

The next 2 and a half hours passed fairly quickly, and they arrived at Carlisle before dawn had touched the skies with her pink streaked palette. The derelict car was left inside the shed, and the four weary travelers collected their belongings and went their separate ways.

I myself am one of these bold companions, and survived this ordeal with the a moral which I will now pass on to you: If you must drive around at midnight on wet and slippy roads in cars which have seen better days after yourself having worked for about 15 hours hauling heavy cases all over the place and are tired as anything, then drive slowly. Especially when approaching roundabouts.

In case you hadn't guessed, the above is from when I was in Carlisle, I wrote it as an email, but was informed that it needed to be posted as a blog article. So. Now it is.

Here's some food.
And some coffee.
I like coffee.

So, it's currently a voyage on the way to Sydney, we just finished our first port in Australia, Brisbane, hanging out in AV, blogging and emailing and listening to Flanders and Swann.

More up to date blog posts to follow, of course.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

At LAST...

OK. So, due to popular demand, this service will resume shortly.

It's now then.

I'm back on Doulos, I took the train down to Manchester, from where I flew to Dubai, from Dubai to Bangkok, from Bangkok to Sydney, from Sydney to Auckland, and from Auckland to Wellington where I joined up with Doulos again.

That was an epic adventure, in itself. There was a bombthreat in Dubai, with some English nutcase got himself drunk, and just as we landed got into a fight with a steward, and declared he had a "device" that he would use to blow up the plane. Of course, the crew had to take it seriously, and so we were sitting out on the tarmac for about an hour or so surrounded by police and firetrucks and SWAT teams and so on, before they managed to sort him out and let us off the plane.

Oh well, another day in the life of the brummie-not-yet-at-sea. Well, the trouble then came when about half of us from that flight were now late for our connecting flights, and so had to stay 24 hours in Dubai airport for the next plane.

If you're going to get stuck in an airport for 24 hours, it might as well be Dubai. I know it quite well, of course, and they did very nicely give me a hotel room overnight, and 3 meal vouchers. It was a bit complex trying to figure out sensible times to eat them, as I needed to leave the next morning at 6am, and was about to fly to Australia, so was trying to get my bodyclock as sorted as I could. So anyway, I slept the whole day, worked the night, and ate my mealtickets-worth at random times when I was awake.

So, right. I eventually got to Wellington, where some of my great friends were there with a ginormous paper origami crane bird thingy they'd made, attached onto a crown of old toilet-roll-cardboard, with dangly bits and all which I had to wear. It was so good to see them again. (In case you wondered). I'll see if I can find a photo of the amazing crown. It wasn't really my style, as such, but one does try to fit in, after all.

so. That was like a month ago now, and I'm settling in quite well. AV has been undergoing a few changes, some good, some... well, I have a differing opinion about them to the people who instigated them.

We're now in Brisbane, Australia. It's cool. I like it here. It's good to be back on the ship again. Many people are about to leave, and there are 60 odd new people... But, new in that they joined 6 months ago, just as I left, so they're already "old hands", yet I don't know them!

Anyway. It's traditional for me to start new paragraphs with "Anyway" for no apparent reason. Here I am, I've started writing again, and so new posts will be forthcoming, fear not. I have a few more stories from Carlisle which I'll be posting soon, but I figured it's best to get the blog going again up to date, before launching into the past.

Oh! Right, yeah. I moved cabin, so I'm now in a smaller but very nice 2-man cabin, with this funny Brazilian guy. I managed to bring my coffee-maker with me from the UK, and it looks a bit strange of course, so he was wondering what it was. I explained and he nodded and said "oh, that's nice.". Then, a few days later, when I started making coffee (using the steamer to steam some ex-vanilla-icecream that had melted, to make vanilla-lattes), he just sat and stared, and said "Dude!" occasionally. He is now, in his own words, very happy to have me as a cabinmate, and has forsworn local cafes in lieu of his own cabin. I still like the local cafes. I still have so much to learn.

So, that's the basic overview of the last 2 months or so, I'll fill in the details as and when I get time. Thanks for listening! (Or reading, or whatever)