I am writing this blog between Shanghai,China and Cairns,Australia.I’m on the last few hours of my journey that started on Wednesday afternoon in Lisbon, it’s now 5.am Cairns time on Friday morning. People constantly tell me it must be a nightmare with all the travel I do with my job and yes it can be tough but it’s not that often I do a journey of this length. The last time I did, it was a year ago and it was even longer than this one by six hours as that one was thirty five hours from London to Samoa via Dubai,Sydney and Aukland.
I have been amazingly lucky on this journey as I was offered an upgrade to the upper deck on Air France from Paris to Shanghai on a brand new plane .The main deck was absolutely packed but upstairs there was hardly any of us. The service was as good as being in business class and the flight was one of the best plane journeys I have taken in a long time. Shanghai airport however brought me down to earth, I was only in transit but you’d of thought I was trying to smuggle the crown jewels in to China. I even needed a temporary Visa just to spend two hours waiting for my next flight.
Now I am travelling on China Eastern Airlines, the bad news is it’s a really old plane with no inflight entertainment apart from a few television screens around the plane showing Chinese cookery programmes and one movie. The good news is the plane is more than half empty so I have had a row to myself to sleep in after having attempted to enjoy the anorexic chicken and block of rice served up by the most miserable group of human beings I have come across since a gig I did in a caravan camp in Chapel St Leonards near Mabelthorpe one wet Easter weekend.
The last few weeks I have been so lucky to meet up with old friends in different ports and on different ships. When the Oriana called in to Port Canavaral, I met up with one of my oldest mates in the business Larry Larkin who lives in Florida not far from the port. We went out for the day and it was so good to see him. The stories and the laughs made the day go too quickly, he hasn’t changed one bit. He still carries props around in his pocket and will get a laugh out of the most miserable people serving in a shop or a cafe. We could do with him on this plane. It was also good to see someone in the business who’s enjoying life having slowed down and no longer chasing work. We had a great day. He couldn’t get over how we fly from ship to ship doing shows now rather than staying on one ship for a few months like he did when he was working at sea,
Then I fly to one of my favourite Caribbean islands Grenada and I am walking along Grand Anse Beach and I am aware there’s someone who I thought was a local walking along just behind me and then at the side of me staring at me. I tried to stay cool, I turned round and the bloke said ‘ It is you Jeff’…..the gentleman was in actual fact my mate and fellow water rat Ian Irving who was on holiday. He saw me walk past but wasn’t too sure if it was me as I was supporting a new beard. We ended up going out for a meal that night with Ian’s partner Fiona and their friends Peter and Nickie. We had a great night and it became the end of my dry January which I was trying to extend in to mid Feb. It was well worth it though even though I was a little fragile the next day. We were in the bar and Fiona and Ian kept saying there was a famous actor outside and that he was from the show ‘Last Tango In Halifax’. I have to admit to not having watched that much TV the last few years because of my time spent on ships. They even looked up on their iPhones for a photo of the actor but couldn’t find him, I said maybe it was just a lookalike. A few days later I got on the Britannia and I was introduced to one of my fellow entertainers on the ship, his name is Dean Andrews who is a great singer who plays the lounge where guests pay separately to go and watch his show and have dinner. I went in one night and it was packed with his fans as he is well known for being in the show ‘Last Tango In Halifax’…..the puzzle was solved , it was Dean on the beach in Grenada. Once again Dean inspired me as I would really love to do some straight acting and he didn’t start getting parts until middle age. He played a part in a Ken Loach film and it all fell in to place from that part. Watch this space…..
The day I left the ship my fellow comic Mark Walker was taking over from me. We went out and had lunch in Aruba, it made me feel old as I remember Mark when he was a young comic just starting out in the 80’s. Our paths have crossed many times over the years, even on the comedy club circuit where we were both brave enough to cross over from the so called mainstream circuit. It turned out to be a sensible move as we had some great times and worked with some great comics. Now we are both doing the cruises, I wonder what circuit we will move to next?
Having spent twenty four hours at home with my wife Jane and our son Harvey celebrating our 22nd wedding anniversary I made my way to the Ventura in Southampton where once again I was to find my self working on the same ship as another close friend Paul Emmanuelle. If you managed to read my last blog, I mentioned the first cruise I performed on back on the Canberra twenty eight years ago. Paul and I worked on that ship doing our first cruise and we have been great mates ever since. Sadly we don’t get to work together that often but when we do it’s an absolute pleasure and always great to catch up. Last time I saw Paul was in Birmingham when I was supporting Johnny Mathis and I managed to get Paul and his wife Hollie some seats as I knew he was a big fan. We worked on the same night on Ventura but I managed to see half Paul’s show where he pays tribute to Nat King Cole, what a fantastic show and Paul is singing better than ever. We even managed to grab a lunch in Bom Jardin, the chicken place in Lisbon that we all used to go to back in the Canberra day’s.
So as my old Chinese plane edges nearer Cairnes I sit here and wonder who I will be working with the next month down here in Australia, I know that there are lots of friends down here doing the various ships I just hope some of us are in the same port on the same day as a night in Sydney with a few mates can not be beaten. I know one thing I am very lucky to work with so many great acts out here on these ships and that’s one of the reasons ‘I Love My Job’………………..Thanks for reading this, will maybe keep a diary of my Australian trip with a few recommendations of places to eat just don’t fly China Eastern.