Reinventing myself

Autumn 2017

It’s been a long summer hopping on and off the ships but a very enjoyable one. I will admit that not all shows have been stormers, one or two were a little challenging and I am sure there has been the odd complaint. As any of my loyal Facebook friends will know, this comes with the job. I know that! I am probably the only comic to get ninety complaints and only one of the complainers was on the ship. That’s the power of a fan club of a legendary singer who’s nose I made a harmless joke about but I made it through the rain!!

It’s never easy to be constantly busy in show business which is why most of us comics have to keep reinventing our selves in order to keep a full diary. This came to mind last week when I heard the sad news that the comedy club chain Jongleurs had finally gone out of business. I say finally as there had been times where they had to close a few of their clubs yet they managed to battle on until last week. I felt particularly sorry for the comics who are still relying on the comedy circuit for their living. Many who started off on the circuit and worked Jongleurs regularly have moved on to become well known comedians on TV who fill arena’s as well as theatre’s. Those I remember working with from this group include Michael McIntyre, Mickie Flanagan, Paul Chowdrey, Jimmy Carr, Lee Mac and Jim Jeffries.

I will always be grateful to Jongleurs as they booked me for eleven years in to all of their venues, I even ended up headlining shows for them which for me felt like a big achievement as I had to reinvent myself to become a comic that could work their clubs and the comedy circuit. This used to be called the alternative circuit but by the time I got to work the circuit it was the new mainstream in my opinion.

The way I reinvented myself as an ‘alternative comic’ has been written about a few times but just incase you haven’t heard the story I would like to repeat it. Back in September 1999 I was a TV warm up man. I had been working almost constantly as a warm up for the previous ten years apart from the odd cruise, pantomime’s and corporate gigs. I was warming up on average six nights a week and day time shows as well. I warmed up for shows like The Generation Game, Pebble Mill, Barrymore, Parkinson, This Is Your Life and many more. Towards the end of my warm up career it started to feel like I was no longer a comic. It got to the point where I would feel like I was going to a factory rather than a TV studio to entertain audiences. I needed a change, my wife was pregnant and I could not see much of a future for myself if I didn’t like my job (I love my job now!!) At the same time many of the shows I worked on came to an end at the same time. My volume of work was reduced dramatically.

I was working on the show ‘Ready Steady Cook’ I was warming up food!! Well, that’s how it felt somedays even though I did enjoy the job. I knew my days were numbered on the show as there was so many other comics chasing after warm up gigs and not enough jobs so I decided it was time for a change. I had always been a big admirer of the comedy club comics as I loved comics who would write their own material. I often went to the London clubs to watch these comics and I had got to know a few great comics over the years like Arnold Brown, Bob Mills and Nick Revell. I used to scan a magazine in London called Timeout and on my night off I would go to Jongleurs or The Comedy Store to watch the shows. One day at the Ready Steady Cook studios, I was in between shows and I noticed an ad in Timeout advertising a comedy course run by a comedian called Michael Knighton. The course was being run one night a week at a club in Hammersmith called The Cosmic Comedy Club. I told Michael I wanted to have a go on the circuit but the problem being I was a thirty nine year old ‘main stream comic’. He told me that he would be very happy for me to join the course. At the course on the first night in that dark empty comedy club I can honestly say I felt excited for the first time in a few years. The students were a mixed bunch, there was a talk radio producer who I knew straight away would go on to do well, his name was Mark Dolan who’s now an extremely established TV presenter/comedian. There was an Australian lady called Pam Ford who went on to become a busy comic and still is. There was a couple of guys who worked at The Cosmic, Dave Russell and a guy called Steve. Micheal asked us to write atleast a couple of minutes of material each week and we would have to perform it on stage in front of the other students each week. At first this was a daunting task for me as even though I had always tried to write material for my act I was also guilty of including a few old pub jokes in my act. Within three or four weeks I was absolutely loving the challenge of writing to a deadline. I made a few calls to old mates like Matthew Willetts (He was now corporate booker for Jongleurs) and Martin Beaumont who had been on the circuit for years. Both told me to get out and do some open spots. Then Dave Russell asked me if I would be interested in doing the open mic night at The Cosmic, I would only have to do five mins and it would be a challenge for me not to panic and go in to my old act.

So I pitch up on a wet Wednesday evening and the Cosmic looked completely different to me as of course there was an audience, there was a buzz about the place. Dave then informed me that the comics would all have their names on a board and at the end of the show the audience would vote for a winner. Suddenly I felt that this might not have been such a great idea. After all, I was an experienced pro and if I died on my arse and came last this would not look good for me. I told Dave this and he asked me to make up a name then no one would know. I agreed to this and told him my name for the night would be Harvey Oliver.

I went on stage that night with an attitude of a middle aged man who was not happy getting older. I delivered two rants that I had worked on about docusoaps and living in London and to my surprise I got big laughs. The five minutes went by so quickly and I felt I had found a new voice!! I went to the bar, I was buzzing, I forgot that the show was also a competition. Then I hear a big cheer and someone said ‘Harvey, you’ve won’…….I won £20 but it felt like £20,000!!

Within weeks I was going out as Harvey Oliver doing open spots, half spots and very quickly Mathew Willetts had got me an open spot at Jongleurs Camden club. I did one open spot and I was in thanks to Julia Chamberlain and Donna Burns and the owner Maria. The diary filled up with Jongleurs clubs three nights a week up and down the country, I also played so many great clubs like The Cosmic. Up The Creek, The Comedy Cafe, The Glee, Frog and Bucket, and three clubs I still enjoy playing Downstairs At The Kingshead , Headliners and The Bearcat. This was all as Harvey Oliver, I even got to play the Middle East a few times and did a few Jongleurs cruises. At the time I didn’t want it to end , it was so nice to work with other comics but sadly the comedy clubs just like the music halls and cabaret clubs started to close. Jongleurs changed hands and the clubs were changing as well as the audiences. It was time to reinvent myself yet again which is why I retired ‘Harvey Oliver’ and I went back to being Jeff again.

Working the circuit was great for me as it made me realise that I can write and so now when performing on ships I can write new material about the ship or the ports as well as observational material.  The ships are now ‘ the circuit’ for me and many other comics. The cruise ships are getting bigger, the theatres are like Broadway or The West End and if you are prepared to travel and adapt to working to Americans, Canadians and Australians then the world is your oyster. There are still a few comedy clubs open and doing well, The Glee, Frog and Bucket, Kingshead, Bearcat and Headliners and of course The Comedy Store a club which sadly I never made it in to further than a half spot but that’s a story for another blog.

I am sure that I will have to reinvent my self yet again some time in the next few years, when that time comes I will embrace the challenge yet again. Thanks for reading this blog and I am sorry if its a little long and grammatically incorrect. I’m a comic!!

Just when you think you’ve cracked it.

I am sorry once again that I haven’t posted a blog for a few months but thankfully I have been busy since my last blog at the end of my Australian and South Pacific tour. I am also pleased to say that I haven’t just been doing cruises. I have managed to get in five wonderful nights for Warner Hotels and also a few comedy clubs.

It’s always been nice to shake it all up a bit as it keeps a comic like me on his toes as the ships and land work both require a completely different approach. When I got back from my trip down under I didn’t have a break and I went straight back in to cruising for a few weeks. If I am honest I had such a great time on stage on the Australian cruises playing to mainly Australian and American guests as well as quite a few Brits. This always makes up for a great show as I work off the crowd and spend a lot of time playing them against each other and it’s been really working well. I prepared myself for a bit of a come down to earth as I knew I was going straight back in to playing to mainly British audiences and once again I knew this would mean I would have to start working hard for my laughs again for a few shows until I adjusted to this way of working again. Well, I walked on to a ship prepared to work hard and it was like I was still in Australia, the audiences were really up for it and it was big laughs all round. Then I went on holiday for a week to Spain and I can honestly say I totally switched off. The diet went out the window, my walking was kept to a minimum and I became a gold card member of The Rioja Vino society once again.

Usually when I go away I keep up with the news and even make notes if I feel there is anything I can write about for the act. This week away, I did nothing! The following week after the holiday I had a few more days off at home and then after two weeks away from my act I went back to work feeling fully refreshed if not a little chubbier than a few weeks before. I was thinking I don’t need to think about the act as it will all come back and anyway I was working well before the break. I met up with a colleague in the terminal, a comedian who I have known for many years. he said ‘ Jeff, you are going to love this lot, they are totally up for it and love their comedy.’ I thought to my self’ let me at them, I can’t wait.’ All I can tell you is that from the moment I walked on and went in to my opening bit, this voice in my head said ‘ they don’t like you’……I thought ‘ no, I will keep at them and I will get them.’ No matter what I did I just could not turn this round in to a great show for me. Now you may have heard the phrase ‘gig fit’, well that’s exactly what I wasn’t. That two weeks off was exactly what I needed but it wasn’t good for my act. If I was in the middle of a run of gigs I would have probably been able to pull it out the bag but I didn’t. The show probably wasn’t as bad as I thought but to me it was a near death, it was nowhere near the level I like to keep up to.  For two days after this show I couldn’t make eye contact with the guests, I had the odd guest come up and say ‘ well I thought it was funny.’ This just makes a comic feel worse and it doesn’t help. The legendary warm up comic Felix Boweness once did a show the night before and we were chatting at the BBC TV Centre. I said ‘ Felix, how did the dinner show go last night?’ Felix said ‘ I didn’t die but I was very ill.’  Anyway, a few days later I did another show and the theatre on the ship was almost empty, some people had come back because they had maybe enjoyed my first show and some people came because they couldn’t believe my first show and just wanted to see if it would be as bad again. It was worse! The bad news is that one of the heads of entertainment from head office was on the ship and he had seen me in Australia having a few great gigs and then he saw me on this ship struggling. He just said to me they were a tough crowd and not to worry about it. That’s easier said than done, comedians are sensitive and you are only as good as your last show so now I feel like I’d lost it. The next cruise just a few days later I get on for the same company and I wont lie, I was nervous. I felt like a footballer who could be relegated to the bench or worse if I have another dodgy game. I went on that night on the next ship and it was as if the audience were taking the Micky. They laughed loud at everything, the confident voice in my head appeared said ‘ Welcome back Mr S’ . When I came off after two show’s who was there ? The man from head office and over a drink he said he now understands why so many comics are up and down. He couldn’t get over how the same material a few days ago got met with such a quiet reaction yet tonight had them rolling in the aisles.  I know this is a slightly serious blog for me but I just thought that any one out there not in the business might find this interesting where as anyone in the business, especially pedlars of mirth will totally get where I am coming from. I suppose the best attitude would be don’t get cocky about the great shows and don’t get down about the bad shows. Once again I apologise for my grammar and lack of it. Leaving school at a young age and going straight in to this game has come at a cost. That’s why I am pleased to say we are looking at University’s next week for our son who usually proof reads my writing but as I am at sea 45 miles west of Northern Spain that’s not going too happen.  I’m slightly worried as I have just had a great run of shows and as I said ‘Just when you think you’ve cracked it.’

World cruise season 2017

On a cold frosty February morning I enjoyed my breakfast with my wife and son knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing them again until the end of March. This is the down side of being in the business they call show, but I have to accept that if I want to stay busy and earn a good living this is all part of the job. My son leaves for school and I get a hug which makes me slightly emotional even though he is now seventeen and taller than his old man, how I coped when he was a lot younger I really don’t know. My wife Jane is amazing and like me accepts that the time away is unavoidable and we just have to get on with it. My taxi arrives on time and I kiss my wife , I take a look back at the house thinking that the next time I am home it will be spring time. I travel light with just one carry on case and a lap top bag, this is something that only comics or singers can do as I don’t have props or a musical instrument to carry about. This makes travelling through the airport a breeze. However, this time I really have not thought this through. I get stopped at the baggage check and told that I have too many toiletries and so they take away my mosquito repellant and sun cream. Unbelievable really as I can buy the same products from the shops air side and take them on the plane. I often wonder how many of the staff on the baggage check actually take the stuff home that gets confiscated, especially if it’s new.

My flight to LA on British Airways is pretty uneventful, I sleep , watch a few movies and we land in LA on time. I’ve always loved LA unlike a lot of people I know. I think the reason I love LA is because when I was in my mid twenties in 1986 I decided to go off to LA on my own for a three week holiday. This started me off on my love affair with the US that despite a certain president being in the hot seat, is still going strong today. There is an energy in the US that I love , it seems everyone is working hard to achieve something whether they are in show business, selling or serving in McDonalds. I may have mentioned this story a few times before but in 86 I managed to get myself an open spot at The Comedy Store on Sunset Boulevard. The LA store is the original comedy store and it’s the place that inspired Peter Rosengard and Don Ward to open a club in London under the same name but it was not linked in any way to the US store. I performed a ten minute spot in the smallest of the three rooms and I did really well. When I left the stage, a strange woman called Mitzy Shore who turned out to be the owner came up to me and told me I was funny and she’d like me to go and perform in the room next door which was the original room. I followed her and she introduced me to the MC with the words ‘ Get this guy on next, he’s funny, he’s from England and I want the TV people to see him .’ The MC looked at me in amazement as Mitzy walked away, he said ‘ Well done sir, if Mitzy likes you , anything can happen.’ So then I was told I was going to be on next, imagine how I felt, my first time in LA and now I am going on in front of some big TV producers in Hollywood. Just as I was about to be introduced on stage there was a bit of chat going on amongst the audience and there at the side of the stage was the late and great Robin Williams. The MC then introduced the great man and he then performed an hour of comedy gold. My night had gone from being right up there to being a bit of a disaster. As soon as Robin left the stage so did most of the audience including the TV people. I still went on but none of us comedians that went on after Robin got much reaction from the remaining few people in the audience, I got a few polite laughs but I knew that it was best to cut my losses and get off. I know there’s many comics with a similar story but at least I got to see Robin Williams work when he was at his best. As for my possible spot on The Tonight show, it was never meant to happen and I got over it and at least I have an ‘ I could have been a contender’ story to bore my friends and relatives with and now you dear reader.

A few hours spent negotiating US immigration, customs check and I make my way to another terminal to board my United Airlines flight to Honolulu. I travel nearly every week but there are certain places in the world that just jump out from the diary telling you that this is going to be a great trip. This time it’s Hawaii, I’ve only been to Honolulu a few times but nearly always on a late flight in and an early flight out next morning. After a sleep filled six hour flight I land in Honolulu and as I leave the plane the warm tropical air hits me and I am greeted with ‘Aloha’ by the driver that’s been sent to meet me. All the tension from the day’s flying seems to be easing rapidly and I am looking forward to exploring Waikiki even at this late hour. I am checked in greeted with some more Aloha’s to the very acceptable Double Tree By Hilton, my room is comfortable with two king size double beds. I waste no time in showering and getting out to stretch my legs on the streets of Waikiki. I am very impressed how clean and modern Waikiki is, it’s 10pm and there are still lots of tourists walking about. I walk past the Hard rock Cafe and then I see a restaurant called The Yard House and I decide to eat there . I am so glad I did as the spicy tuna roll they served me is the best dish I have tasted in ages followed by a Caesar Salad and a glass of Kendal Jackson Chardonnay, I am a very happy traveller. I make my way back to the hotel thinking that this is going to be a great trip.

As always after a long journey I awake early and decide to get out just before sunrise for my morning walk. I have decided that this trip I am going to try to shift a few pounds of weight and try to get my blood pressure down as it was higher than it should be on a recent medical. I have always battled with my weight and tend to yoyo between thirteen and a half stone and fifteen and a half stone. This has been a life time problem for me and the older I get the worse it is. Most ‘ship acts’ say that they put on weight on the ship’s and lose it when they are at home. For me it’s the complete opposite, if I am away I seem to be more disciplined and I use the hours spent walking in the morning and the evening to help fill the day with something to do. I can also stick to a diet on the ship but at home my wife is such a fantastic cook and we both love our wine so it’s more difficult. I have however decided that I am going to try to cut sugar out of my diet meaning no chocolate, no ice cream and no soft drinks. I am going to drink the odd glass of wine but even that I will cut down. I am also going to cut back on carbs.

The early morning walkers are out in great numbers and the sky is blue, it’s going to be a lovely day. I am not getting picked up until 11 am so I can go for it this morning. I walk for 90 minutes taking in the sun rise and Waikiki Beach which if I am totally honest slightly disappoints me. I quote on my Facebook page that it’s Tenerife without the football shirts. This is not a snobby remark it’s an accurate observation but it get’s a little misunderstood by a few people and I receive a little bit of friendly stick because of this. Walk over, back to the hotel, I take a shower and shave and still have time to go out and grab a bit of breakfast. I eat a very healthy omelette while watching Americans eating pancakes and waffles with maple syrup around me. I could never eat anything like this first thing in the morning but having said that, I have eaten curry for breakfast in India and noodles in South East Asia for breakfast so who am I to talk.

Meet up at 11 o’clock downstairs in reception and I am greeted by my fellow turn Clare Langan. We seem to work together on the same ships a lot, she is one of the nicest and most positive people I know and also a very talented musician and entertainer. We also meet the male dance host’s, always a very interesting group of gentleman. They all introduce them selves to us and it’s a little like a school staffroom at the beginning of term. On our way to the ship having disembarked the bus we bump in to Paul O’Loughlin the entertainment director who is an old mate from when we worked on Princess Cruises. This is going to be a lovely week that’s actually going to be a day short as we go over the International Date Line where we lose a day. More about this in my next blog, thanks for reading and I am sorry for any grammar mistakes or typo’s I’m a comic not a writer.


Off To Samoa

The Queen Elizabeth is a delight to be on as always, the audiences are mostly Australians , Brits and Americans and they are a delight to play to. I don’t know if it’s the climate but the Australian guests just seem so up for it. They are different to us, they don’t sit out in the sun like us Brits do and they love to go and watch a matinee film or a show. The guest lecturers are always very interesting on Carnival UK ships (Cunard and P&O and this week we have a retired member of the British CID who delivers wonderfully dark yet sometimes humorous lectures about various murder investigations and Clare Balding who I sadly only got to see once when she gave a talk about The London Olympics and her experience presenting for the BBC, it was truly magnificent and wonderful to watch a pro at work. I have watched so many great lecturers over the years on the ships and I have also learnt a lot from attending these lectures. I could not have wished for a better ship to start my six ship tour on as I know so many of the musicians, the entertainment staff and members of the crew. When you work on these ships as an entertainer you realise how hard the crew work to make the ship run well, it really is a team effort. As for the guest entertainers, as well as Clare Langan there’s also X Factor finalist Ben Mills. He’s a great guy and a lot of fun. As well as two fantastic shows in the theatre he also performs a late night more intimate show in The Commodore Club. He packs the room out and was absolutely superb. Clare as always had a storming show. All in all, Clare, Ben and myself have had a great week and Entertainment director Paul O’Loughlin is a very happy man. We arrive in Apia, Samoa which has to be one of the most laid back countries in the world. The locals are mostly strangers to a salad and they are so quiet but very friendly. It’s not my first time in Apia and I am pleased to be back. The good thing is that today I am going to see the countryside on the trip to the airport as it’s daylight unlike last time I was here. Samoa really is a lovely place and I am told by a good friend of mine that the island really is worth spending a few days on. He recommended me to the Sheraton resort, I make a note that if ever I join a ship here again I will use up my Starwood points for a few days here. The drive to the airport with my fellow turns really is beautiful, deserted beaches, villages that seem empty and lots of green tropical plants and tree’s. We get to the airport and we are expecting an old terminal and dreading we have a four hour wait. However, the terminal building is extremely impressive and just a few weeks old. It turns out that Samoa sold it’s fishing rights to pay for the building. I am sure this was very controversial locally but it’s certainly a lot better than the old terminal. All three of us are on the same flight to Aukland, I am sat next to a young guy and his girl friend and I don’t think I have ever seen anyone on a flight drink so much. He must have drunk nine large whiskey’s. He then tells me he is from Christchurch. After all the tragedy that wonderful city has experienced with all the earthquakes I wonder if that’s the reason why he drinks so much. It turns out he’s a construction worker, I hope he doesn’t drink too much the night before a big job. We land in Aukland, I say my good byes to Clare and Ben and I rush to make my next flight to Sydney.

I had to check my bag in as Air New Zealand said my one carry on bag was over weight. This is not good news for me as I love breezing through the airport at the other end. We have landed late and I have fifteen minutes to make the flight to Sydney. I run to the baggage check, I get to the gate thinking I am late and there are passengers sitting there so I know I am OK. I ask at the desk if they can track my bag just to make sure it’s made it to the Aeroplane. Not for the first time on my travels I am told that it’s the same plane that I just got off and it wont be a problem. The flight is delayed due to the late incoming flight which I was on, Oh the joys of travelling!!

I land in Sydney just as the sun has gone down. Now there are a handful of city’s that really excite me and this one is is way up there at the top of the list. Alongside New York, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Miami and Vegas. I have been a regular visitor to Sydney for many years ever since I visited Australia on holiday with my old mate and fellow comic Larry Larkin back in the mid 80’s. It’s a very modern city that still has that new just out the wrapper feel about it and it’s constantly expanding. One thing that hasn’t changed is the rudeness of the hotel transfer bus drivers. I ask where the bus is that would take me to The Ibis Sydney Airport. I get told to wait and a bus will be along in five minutes. The bus arrives and the driver says to me ‘Which Ibis you want to go to?’ I said ‘ The Airport one.’ he replies ‘ There are two, The Budget Ibis and The Airport Ibis.’ Now to be honest I am not that delighted that I am staying in an Ibis but I am hoping that the port agent has at least booked me in to the Airport one rather than the Budget. I ask the driver to take me to the Airport Ibis as I am sure that will be the one. He then raises his voice ‘Every day people tell me to take them to the Airport Ibis and then they get there and it’s the Budget Ibis, I don’t get paid to go to two hotels, just the one.’ Now I am ready to bark back!! ‘ Look mate, I have just spent all day travelling and I am told it’s the Airport Ibis so that’s where I want to go, give me your name and I will make a note and tell The Airport Ibis you would not take me, I will get a taxi.’ Now he changes his attitude, he reluctantly takes me to The Airport Ibis. I try to make polite conversation and I ask the driver where he’s from, he then tells me he is from Baghdad, Iraq. The conversation comes to an end and we pull up at the Airport Ibis where I am pleased to say I was confirmed and booked in. The joke is that the Budget Ibis was just a few hundred yards away from this hotel next door and I could have walked it, I think he just wanted an argument. Despite my unusually hostile welcome to Sydney it’s great to be back and I look forward to re-exploring the city again tomorrow as I have three days here before I leave on The Arcadia. More next time.


I don’t ever remember not enjoying a day or night in Sydney. No matter what time of year and what ever the weather it’s just one of those city’s that seems to smile at you. I stayed at The Ibis in a part of the city called Mascot. Now, the truth is it’s not one of the most attractive parts of Sydney but I cant ever recall a town near a big international airport being that appealing, I am thinking of Southall, Hayes or Slough. I still managed to get up before sunrise and get out and do my five mile power walk. This has become a bit of an obsession on this trip as I am really trying to get my weight, my blood pressure and BMI down through diet, less drinking and more exercise. So far it’s been going well and I am starting to see the results. I estimate that I have lost at least 7lbs since I left home two weeks ago. I am addicted to my ‘Myfitnesspal’ app, entering every walk and meal and staying within the limit for a man of my age and weight. I am also loosely following the 5:2 diet where I have two days each week where I fast and keep the calorific intake under 600 calories. I found this hard at first but now I don’t seem to be that affected on the fast days. To top this I have cut sugar from my diet, well as much as possible. This has definitely made me feel a lot better. The one thing I am just cutting down on rather than cutting out is drinking wine, I love my wine but I will just have to try and drink less, and just a few nights a week.

On my first morning in Sydney I walked for five miles and then after breakfast in the hotel I decided to walk in to the city which took me nearly two hours. Maybe this was a mistake as I had to stop a few times due to feeling dehydrated as the temperature was up in the low 30’s. I walked round Kings Cross remembering the first time I came to this city when this was an area that was like Soho in London with strip clubs, hookers and adult cinema’s. Now it’s a completely different area and in my opinion has lost it’s character. Most of the buildings have been turned in to extremely expensive apartment blocks and and there’s a lot of trendy restaurants as well as back packers stores. I hope this never happens to London’s Soho even though that area of London has also changed as well. I am starting to feel the affects of travelling over the last week or so, and I headlock to the Ibis for a much needed siesta. That night I went back to Kings Cross to watch an Australian comic and mate Trevor Crook perform as he is back in Sydney from London for a few months. I really enjoyed watching the show and especially watching Trevor perform his headline spot to his fellow Australians. So much material I have never seen him perform as I have only ever worked with him back home in the UK. It was also nice to see him and catch up.

On the Saturday, after walking again I make my way this time on the train /metro to Sydney CBD ( Central Business District) where I have a walk round the market and then make my way to Sydney Harbour where I have arranged to meet another comic from home who’s now hosting his own radio show in Sydney five mornings a week on Nova Radio. His name is Greg Burns and he is one of the really nice guys in the tough business of comedy and radio and I am looking forward to catching up with him. Greg texts me to tell me is on the fast ferry from Manley where he is residing and it’s great to see him. We walk round the Harbour towards the Opera House and decide to have a drink in a bar. We sit there all afternoon talking about the circuit back home, warm up’s ( we both did studio warm up’s) and after a few bottles of wine ( Yeh I know, got to have a day off the diet) we then relocate to a very nice Indian Restaurant. Now I am used to going for a curry after a night out drinking but at 6pm this seems a little weird. If I am honest my memory of the meal is a little hazy due to the wine consumed but my American Express bill tells me it was very nice! I made my way back to my hotel or should I say I stumbled my way back and I am tucked up in bed on a Saturday night at 9pm. My head ache the following morning is a big wake up call and I make the decision to think really seriously about cutting my wine intake down. I really don’t have a serious problem but it needs to be addressed and I am going to give it my best effort.

It’s Sunday morning and today I am embarking P&O’s Arcadia. I still get another night in Sydney as she doesn’t leave till the following evening. I get to the ship early but I cant embark till after mid day. This presents me with a problem as I am meeting my former BBC colleague Adrian Pegg and his wife Felicity for lunch. I decide to check in my luggage and make arrangements to embark later. My hangover beginning to subside and I meet up with Adrian and Felicity and we make our way on the ferry out to Watson’s Bay to the famous seafood restaurant Doyle’s. I have been trying to get to this restaurant for many years but for various reasons it has just never worked out. Well, I am glad I waited as this place just blew me off my feet. I loved it and it was so nice to catch up with Adrian who is working in Sydney and The South Pacific Islands on a series. We first worked together on Only Fools And Horses many years ago when he was the floor manager and it’s great to see that his career like mine brings him to these wonderful locations. If ever you are in Sydney I urge you to book a table at Doyle’s , outside preferably and go for The fish and chips, you know it makes sense.

Having embarked Arcadia I make my way back to Kings Cross where I catch up with another old mate who I haven’t seen for over 30 years. I see that there’s a comic working the clubs called JJ Mullard. I check Youtube to see if this is who I think it is and my suspicions are confirmed. It’s Johnny Mullard, a comic who I used to work with on the London stag show circuit back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Johnny and I have something in common even now as we both ventured from the old school mainstream circuit on to the comedy club’s. It’s great to see Johnny , he’s hardly changed and I remind him of show’s and venues where we worked together back in the day. The club he’s working that night is very quiet and having introduced me to the show manager, they ask me if I would like to do a short spot. I never say no and so all of a sudden I am now pacing up and down, watching the other comics and thinking I should not have agreed to this. The second half comes along and the audience are very quiet but polite. They are running late and ask me to keep it tight, this is music to my ears. I go on and try some new lines about how Kings cross has changed, they are met with stony silence. I then do an established bit from my act that gets me out of trouble but we all know the audience peaked before the interval. It was great to watch Johnny who dealt with the tough audience in only the way us old hands can. After the show he say’s ‘ Golden rule, invite a mate along and it’s always a crap night.’ I disagree, it was a typical Sunday just like we get at some clubs in London, no difference. Great to see you Johnny, I know you will be reading this.

Monday morning, the ship has moved and we are now in the middle of the harbour. I make my way ashore to buy another suitcase and when I get back to the ship I look back at Sydney and feel a little sorry that I am leaving again. I hope that I will be back next year, in fact I hope I come back here every year. As Sydney disappears in to the distance, the sunset is the best one of this trip so far.


It’s nice to get back on Arcadia and it’s a little like being home as I can watch Sky News, Sky Sports and it’s good to be back in familiar surroundings. I have a lovely balcony cabin so it’s going to be a nice week. As with most of the ships I work on these days, there are a few guests on board who I know from previous ships. It’s amazing now, cruising holidays are so popular and there are so many guests who cruise three, maybe four times a year. These people are not millionaires, they have just worked hard and constantly look for good deals and I think that’s great. Of course I do, it not only pay’s my mortgage but I have enough air miles to fly around the world ten times but there again, why would I when I can work on a cruise ship. I now feel like I am trying a new bit on you that’s not fully formed. Tough room!

The first day at sea between Sydney and Brisbane is nice and quiet. I perform my shows than night and both go well, once again the Australians prove they are up for a good night but it’s also great to also work to The Brits on board and get laughs out of Brexit, Corbin and co.

Our first port of call is Brisbane, I decide to book a coach transfer up to Surfers Paradise on The Gold Coast. On the journey to the coast my mind drifts back to 1984 when I was here on that trip with my old friend the comedian Larry Larkin. We were being shown round the coast by my uncles mate John. He was bragging about all the wonderful places and how much better than the UK it was and this was beginning to give me the severe hump. As we drove past this RSL Club called Twin Towns, I noticed that The Shadows were appearing there and that they were opening this very night. I asked John , who Larry and I were now calling The Maltese Falcon if he we could pop in and have a look. As we got out the car he started telling me how this was one of the biggest clubs in Australia and there was no clubs like this back in the UK. I went to the desk, introduced my self and asked if The Shadows were in the building explaining that I was a friend of the band from the UK. I then asked if Brian Goode their manager was around. Within minutes Brian appeared and greeted me like a long lost friend even though it was only a few months previously I had opened for The Shadows in the UK. Brian asked me what I was doing in Australia. I explained we were on holiday and introduced my mate Larry and John who looked totally confused. Brian then asked me if I would be interested in opening for them tonight as there was a power problem every other hour and they could not perform their full show. I ended up borrowing one of the backing band member’s suits and went on that night and for the rest of the week. This was what started my love affair with Australia. The fee I got paid covered the holiday and I have been coming back regularly ever since.

It was very interesting to see how Surfers Paradise has grown and it’s a wonderful clean modern resort. For me though, I prefer the city’s like Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. Maybe that’s the Londoner in me coming out. None the less I have a very pleasant day and also got to meet up with my cousin’s husband Brenton for a drink and a quick catch up. It would have been nice to catch up with the family but they were all out of town.

On returning to the ship I see that we have had a new intake of guest entertainers and a celebrity lecturer. It’s always nice when you see other acts that you know by name. Vernon Lewis is a great singer and I immediately warm to him as he is an ex pro footballer and has lot’s of stories that I love hearing, especially as some of them involve one of my favourite characters in football, Neil Warnock. The celebrity lecturer is one of the famous McGann brothers, Joe. I last worked with Joe many years ago when I was the warm up man for a show that he starred in. I am not sure if he will remember me but he does and we also have lots of stories to tell each other over a soft drink ( a very healthy week). I watch both the guys put on great shows, Vernon is an old hand but it’s Joe’s first time doing his speech on a ship. You would never have known it, no script and he performs it like a one man show he has been delivering for many years. There was also very clever pick pocket Mark Freeman who I have never worked with before but I am sure we will now work together a lot as always seems to be the case. At the end of the week we get to Yorky’s Knob, this is a real place name and you can imagine the gags I try to write just so that I can get some ‘knob gags’ in to my ‘ship act’. Apparently its named Yorky’s Knob as the local land owner was from Yorkshire and so they called it Yorky’s knob. I said its a good job he wasn’t from Biggleswade. ( Big Knob !!!)……..They didn’t get it either !!

So that’s it, two ships done, four to go but if I am honest I am not counting the days as I am really having fun on this trip and most of that is because I am getting fitter every day and continue to feel the weight coming off. It’s a never ending battle for me but this time it feels like one I can fight head on. I wait at Cairns Airport for six hours , it’s not the worse airport in the world in fact it’s very comfortable. I manage to get some writing time in and I look forward to my next adventure on Sun Princess in Brisbane, where I embark in the morning.


After a very pleasant flight on Virgin Australia I land at Brisbane Airport where I am transferred to the Mantra Hotel on the South Bank. It’s Saturday night and the area is buzzing with restaurants, bars and cafe’s full to the brim. The hotel is very nice but I get out and have a walk around taking in the atmosphere. it reminds me off when I used to appear at Jongleurs Comedy Club’s in city centre’s up and down the UK. It makes me feel old I have to say as the bar’s are full of trendy young people less than half my age. I find a Japanese restaurant where I dine on Spicy Tuna Roll, Noodles and a few well deserved glasses of Chardonnay, sod the diet it’s a Saturday.

I lay awake late watching football from the UK on my laptop, I learn that my team QPR has lost away at Preston and I drift off for a few hours sleep regretting I stayed up late. I wake just before 6 am and I join the Princess Cruises Crew bus to the ship. We all have to join early for operational reasons which I will not be going in to on here. Lets just say, it makes for a very long day for the entire crew on the ship and they cope admirably.

I only work for Princess a few weeks of the year and I am pleased to say that this cruise only came in a few weeks ago and filled a week that would have been empty. My good friend Kelvin Joy one of the company’s most experienced cruise director’s mentioned to the Princess head of entertainment that I was in the area and free so they very kindly stepped in and booked me for this cruise. Now, I have just got off a couple of ships where they were on their world cruises, this ship however is on a one week cruise out of Brisbane and back. In Europe we would call this a party cruise and that’s exactly what it is. The people who come on are ready to have fun in the terminal before they get on. The ship is a new one to me but I am lucky that a fellow act and all round good egg Tony Lewis the Robbie Williams tribute is on who I have worked with on other ships. Tony guides me through the process on this ship and shows me where to go and where not to go. We have a great week and even got to spend my 56th birthday at Curtis Stone’s Restaurant on board. The week for me was almost like a holiday as I was finished on the Monday and waited on board till the Sunday to get off.

One very weird conversation that really proves what a small world we are living in was when I bumped in to the resident singer in the cast, Laura Parke. We had a very pleasant chat about agents, the business, cruising and as I walked back to my cabin she asked me if I ever worked with any Jazz musicians. I said I had worked with all sorts of musicians and big bands over the years. She said her father was a musician and his name was Peter Parke, well it just turned out that I remembered touring with Peter and I told Laura I did a Howard Keel tour with him and many more back in the 80’s. She couldn’t believe it, she was four years of age and remembered this tour and the tours that followed with Johnny Mathis, Jack Jones and Shirley Bassey. She walked away thinking how lovely it was that here we were in Australia talking about her late father, I walked away thinking ‘ Laura was four………four!!!!! God, I feel old!! I watched Laura perform with the cast the next night and couldn’t help thinking how her dad would be so proud of her as she has such a lovey voice and presence on stage. I hope Arthur Daikin is looking after all the musicians up there in Heaven. Only musicians of a certain age will get that remark. Laura, good luck with your future career and I am sure we will work together again.


Another very pleasant flight to Cairns from Brisbane, this time I get to the airport and the port agent hasn’t turned up. This happens a lot and it can be a nightmare if you are on a tight schedule and need to get to the ship but today there’s no rush as I have two days before I join QM2 A quick phone call resolves this situation and I get transferred to yet another Mantra Hotel, this time The Mantra Trilogy in Cairns. I have stayed here before so I know what to expect, it’s more of an apartment block than a hotel but it’s very clean, modern and does the job. I am here for two nights and I know the town well so I just chill out and get plenty of miles under my belt with the power walking at sun rise and sun set. Cairns has a unique atmosphere and I really like it. It’s very laid back and most tourists and backpackers are here just to treat the city as a base to explore The Barrier Reef. I am yet to do this as I am not that keen on swimming with the Jelly fish, Sharks and Sting Rays. I will do it one day but preferably when my family are with me.

On my first night I dine out at an Indian restaurant called Indian Brothers, it’s basic and cheap but it serves the best Chicken Vindaloo I will probably eat in this part of the world. Monday morning I am out walking just before sunrise and The Esplanade is full of joggers, walkers and cyclists. On my walk I see an old friend, Fred Olsen’s shipThe Black Watch. It’s a long time since I last performed on that ship and it has many happy memories for me. I walk around the town that day and I know straight away if I pass any passengers from the ship. I have learnt how to spot passengers ashore and I can usually work out which ship they are from by the way they are dressed or acting. I decide to go to the shopping mall in search of a weighing machine as I want an update on my weight. I ask in a chemist if there is one in the mall and the very friendly assistant tells me they will weigh me and take my blood pressure. My weight was 14 stone which means I have now lost 24 pounds since Christmas and my blood pressure shocks me as it was way above what it was just after Christmas. They explain that this could be because it’s middle of the day and I have been walking. They tell me it’s best to check first thing in the morning. I decide to buy a blood pressure monitor, I check myself that evening and my blood pressure is almost back to normal, for an hypochondriac like me this is a great relief. That evening I dine at a Greek restaurant, The Hellenic Kitchen. I order a Greek Salad served with Barley, it’s delicious. I then have a Seafood Casserole dish and it’s superb, even better washed down with a few glasses of wine to celebrate my last night in Australia.

I get back to the hotel and bump in to Kevin Farrell from Warbey and Farrell who will be joining QM2 with me in the morning. It’s been a while since we worked together and I am so pleased to see them both as they great company as well as being a wonderful act. Next morning, up bright and early, walk completed, eat breakfast with Steven and Kevin catching up we make our way to Yorky’s Knob. I was so surprised when we got there to find that the ship was in actual fact not stopping at Yorky’s Knob for the day. QM was at anchor and the only reason she called by was to clear Australia and to pick up us entertainers. Bruce Morrison, Warby and Farrell, an Australian country singer called Joanne and my self. We wait, a tender boat arrives picks us up and we get taken to to the wonderful QM2. The guests are all watching over the side and I have to say this is one of my best entrances to an audience ever.

Queen Mary 2 is a bit like a second home to me, it’s probably the ship where I know most people. It’s always great to come on and catch up with lots of mates and as we always seem to have lots of days at sea there’s always time to chat. I have only been on the ship ten minutes and I bump in to guests who seem to be on the ship every time I get on .Linda and Andrew Haslam, two regular cruisers who have now become good friends. I can’t remember the last time I got on a ship where there was no one I knew. This is the up side of my job and having been doing it for a long time. QM2 is a unique ship as she’s the world’s only ocean going cruise liner. She may not be the biggest ship in the world now but she really feels like a liner with her bars, ballroom and a theatre that is like no other at sea. I have been working on this ship since the maiden voyage back in 2004.

The week passes by on QM2 so quickly, the weather was superb and once again the Australian audiences manage to make me feel I am a better comic than I think I am. After a few days at sea I leave the ship in Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo but part of Malaysia. I then spend the day travelling to Danang, Vietnam via Singapore and Saigon (HCMC). I arrive in Danang, I make my way to the Novotel Danang Premier Han River and I have to say, it was superb. If there was one hotel this trip so far where I would have loved to spent a few days in, it’s this one. The bed, the room and the food all first class.

Next morning I embark the lovely Seabourn Sojourn. Seabourn is another company I work for probably only three or four times a year. The ships are extremely luxurious and compared to the other ships I work for the ships are a lot smaller. It’s always a welcome change of pace for me and I always look forward to the wonderful food and service and of course a little wine. I perform my show on two different evenings and the audiences are very receptive apart from one American guest who is offended that I mention and tell a few jokes about President Trump. I was actually quite surprised but I dealt with the complaint by apologising in my second show, the weird thing is that the apology got even bigger laughs. I must admit I have been doing quite a bit of material about the US election and President Trump and it’s mostly been met with lots of laughs even from the Trump supporters. A great comic once said to me if you don’t get the odd complaint you are not doing your job and I think he was right. God know’s what the lady must have thought when she watched The Oscars, Saturday Night Live or the late night talk shows I don’t know. Once again I am blessed with wonderful company of other guest entertainers, this time from Australia. Deborah Krizak and Elton Jack or should I say Lance Strauss. It really does make the week fly by when you are on with sociable people. Also on Seabourn we get to host dinner once or twice a week, I really enjoy this as I have got to meet so many interesting people over the last few years.


I disembark the Sojourn in Hong Kong and meet up with the wonderful singer Lindsay Hamilton, we grab a half hour meet up in the terminal and it’s good to catch up. I then fly to Seoul, South Korea and then on to Honolulu to join my last ship of this tour , P&o’s Aurora. However, I have four days in Honolulu to fill before I embark the ship. You can imagine by now I am well ready for home as I have been away now for six weeks and I am really missing my wife and son. However, if I am going to make this week or so go quick I decide that if I really focus on upping the fitness and health regime I am going to go home feeling that I have really achieved something from this trip. So over the next four days I manage to get in some really long power walks that I am pleased to say included some running. I am also fairly disciplined with the eating and I drink two glasses of wine in four days. I can feel the weight continuing to fall off yet I am not starving myself. I absolutely adored Waikiki, loved the beach, the area and the weather but after four days I am ready for the ship.

The Aurora is a very friendly ship and once again there are crew, entertainment officers and passengers who I have known for a number of years. Some go back to the Canberra when I started cruising in the 80’s. I am made welcome as always and I have a great week cruising across the Pacific to San Francisco. I am still pushing myself every morning at 6 am out walking round the top deck, then I am walking again and running in the evening. My shows go very well and I could not have wished for a better week to finish the tour on. It also came as a big surprise to me that we were going to be in San Francisco overnight, which meant I would get two days in the city by the bay before I fly home. The morning we get in to San Francisco I make my way to the gym where I am going for a final weigh in before home. This is because you cant weigh yourself accurately at sea as it affects the scales. I weigh myself and I am 189 lbs That’s thirteen and a half stone, I am shocked but pleased. I have lost 30 lbs since Christmas, that’s 60 sirloin steaks to me!! I am feeling better but I know there is still a way to go. The only down side is that I have to go on Facebook and mention it as one or two people having seen recent photo’s have asked me if I am ill. Well, knowing what this game is like for gossip I am straight on to it as rumours like that would not be good.

Two wonderful days in San Francisco, doing all the touristy things on my own means this is the perfect finish to a great seven weeks away on this tour. I really enjoyed my two days in the city, riding the cable cars, lunch in China Town, dinner at Fishermans Wharf with my fellow turn Julie A Scott then a morning over at Sausalito where the Ferry ride gave me some wonderful views of the city as well as Alcatraz. to be honest, I don’t get the attraction of Alcatraz, it’s a prison on an island…so what. I was born next to Wormwood Scrubs, I don’t see tours going there!!

To all the fellow turns, the crew members, the cruise and entertainment directors ,the bookers and of course my agents Blackburn International ….Thank you for making the last seven weeks such a pleasure. Now if you don’t mind I’m off home for three days rest. More in a few weeks time.

Still working

It’s been a while since I last blogged and the reason being that there is only so many times I can post a blog about being on yet another cruise. Over the last few years most of my work has been on the ships and I am extremely lucky to have kept busy doing the job I always dreamed of doing as a kid. Over the last few months however I have decided that I am going to shake it all up again and try to get more work at home and just cut down a little on the travelling away. So in the last few weeks the phone has been ringing, mainly from bookers and agents calling me back due to my constant emails letting them know I am still alive and working and wanting to do some work on land. Last night I did my first TV warm up gig in quite a few years. The last warm-up I did was for Sky TV a few years ago for a sports awards show where I was asked not to be funny, to a few of my critics they would probably say that I was the right man for the job.
Any comic will tell you that to go on stage or on to a studio floor and perform without doing material can feel very strange. This is why I have the utmost respect for comics who are good comperes. It’s a great skill to be able to go out and just work the crowd without going in to the act. So last night I approached the London Television Centre on London’s Southbank with trepidation. For the first time in a long while I was nervous about a gig. I was booked to do the warm up for Piers Morgans Life Stories. A show that I had warmed up a number of times , most memorably when I was asked to do ten minutes before a Joan Collins interview. For one reason or another I ended up taking to the audience for nearly an hour. This happened again a few weeks later when Russel Brand turned up over an hour late and the audience were already in so once again they pushed me out there. I was praying this wasn’t going to happen again tonight as I didn’t feel that I would be ‘warm up gig fit.’ Fortunately the guest tonight was Boy George and I was relived to know that he was already on site and that everything was running to time. It was even more of a reliefe to find that the floor manager was Nick Keene, one of the best and also someone I had worked with many times before. I walked around and discovered a few more friendly faces, Chas the cameraman, Kieran the photographer.
Being in studio one at The London Television studios, brought back memories for me, some good and some bad. This was the studio where in the 70’s I was booked to do my first warm up that never happened!! I was asked to do the warm up for a Freddie Starr show. I was 17, when I turned up at LWT and walked in to the studio, the look of horror on the producer’s face was a look I will aways remember. When he found out that it was my first warm up and that I was only 17 he went off for a walk. I was then introduced to a gentleman who’s face I knew from the show ‘Who Do You Do’. His name was Mike Goddard and he was the associate producer and he told me that my services were not required but I was welcome to watch him do the warm up. Even though I was a little disappointed I knew this was the right decision. After all it was Freddie Starr and at the time he had a well deserved reputation as a mad man and a nervous inexperienced teenage warm up comic might have been the wrong booking. I watched Mike that night and he was brilliant and so a few years later when I eventually did my first warm up I was well prepared and once again it was in the same studio. On this occasion it was 1979 and I was one of the acts on a new LWT talent show called Search For A Star. I did well on the night getting big laughs but unfortunately the regional jury votes didn’t reflect this and I came fourth. However, the producer, the late David Bell liked my act and asked me if I would do the warm up for the show the next week as the regular warm up Bill Martin was already booked elsewhere. I had watched Bill many times and I learned a lot from his expert approach to the job so I went on well prepared and this led to a thirty year run where warm up’s were my main source of income. This also led to many TV appearances in front of the camera and most of them in this very studio. Back to tonight, I went on and did five minutes at the top, doing the usual chatting to the studio audience, introducing Piers and Boy George. After two and a half hours without a break the interview comes to an end, we just do a few retakes where I sit in as Boy George ….don’t ask!! I am on my way back to Pinner for a curry with my wife. I enjoyed the evening and hope that I will get asked again as variety is the spice of life. Another week, two gigs in the diary and I am off back to the ships on a six week six ship tour of the Pacific and Australia.

Back to old school

I am sitting here on The Azamara Journey in an empty bar at 9 am overlooking the beautiful port of Dubrovnik. I have just finished three days on this lovely ship and I am killing time before I leave to go to the airport to fly home for a couple of days before my next trip. The temperature here has suddenly dropped and there is rain coming in according to the forecast. This is a clear signal to me that the summer is coming to an end. A few years ago if I was in a summer show on the coast this week would have been the last week of the season unless you were in Blackpool where most of the shows would go on till the end of October due to the illuminations. I remember in 1986 performing in The Russ Abbott show and we finished the season at the end of October. It was freezing at the end of The North Pier yet our show (Well, Russ and Bella Emberg) still packed the theatre twice nightly. I loved doing my act every day even if it was only six minutes, yes this is true. I actually got a letter from the management asking me to watch my time on stage as it had been reported on three occasions that I had over run and performed for seven minutes. I did however appear in two sketches with Russ and the lovely Maggie Moone and it was a master class on how to feed a comic straight lines. I really think it’s a shame that the summer shows in The UK are now virtually non existent. My mate Phil Butler has been appearing in one at Cromer and I am a little envious as I know I would relish the opportunity to work on stage every night. I have been speaking to a lot of my fellow comics and entertainers who have just finished doing The Edinburgh Festival and they all say the best thing about doing Edinburgh is the fact that you get to perform on stage nightly for twenty six nights if you are doing the whole run. I am sure that this makes any performer a better performer in the short term, it’s a bit like getting in the gym five days a week, you become gig fit. The only down side is you can drift in to ‘walking the show’ or ‘phoning it in’ and getting a bit bored with doing the same act every night. This is why I try to put in at least two or three new lines every time I work some times more. The adrenaline rush that I get from trying a new line is like a drug. You never really know if it’s going to work and nine times out of ten the gag comes out completely different to how you worded it when writing it down countless times beforehand. I tend to work two nights if I am on a ship for a week. I know this sounds easy work but if I do two shows, it is two completely different forty five minute shows which for a comic who doesn’t sing or play a musical instrument it means you have to have or come up with a lot of material. I have got hours and hours of material in my file but not necessarily in my head. For my second show I always feel that I haven’t got enough material in my head to fill forty five minutes yet usually I find myself in danger of overrunning however I am yet to get a letter from the management.

In the last nine days I have performed on two different ships, Cunard’s Queen Victoria and The Azamara Journey. Both ships have been a delight to perform on as both audiences have been a mix of Australians, Americans and Brits and that suits my act these days. However, that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy playing to an all British audience like I play to on most P&O ships because I do. Both audiences require a different approach and that keeps me on my toes.

I am lucky enough to have a busy diary for the run up to Christmas which includes four transatlantic crossings on the Queen Mary 2. This will mean 32 days at sea over the next four months. The easiest thing to do would be just to sit back, watch movies, football and sample the legendary Cunard White Star service. But I am going to set my self a challenge to write a show that I could take to festivals like Edinburgh and maybe even to small theatres in the UK . From what I can gather , writing this sort of show is completely different to going out and performing in a club or on stage on a cruise. I want to make the hour consist of true stories, and memory’s from my long and mainly unsuccessful career!! I know I can do this, I just have to push my self and mentioning it on here is my way of making a statement of intent knowing that if I say I am going to do something I very rarely back out.
Have a great September.

Mid Atlantic Comedy

I am on Azamara Journey where the guests who we don’t call passengers any more are mainly from The USA, Canada, Australia and The UK with a few other countries thrown in to the mix. To say I have to be adaptable these days to survive would be an understatement. It’s a continuous challenge to keep coming up with new material as well as we are getting a lot of repeat passengers cruising three or four times a year. I have had conversations with some of these guests and when they say ‘ We have seen you four or five times in the last year, some of the material is still the same.’ I have a stock answer when they tell me this, I ask them if they go to musicals, I find out that they love a musical like Le Miserable or Phantom Of The Opera and I say ‘If you went to see it again do you think they would change the ending for you?’ It’s what we do and most comics will change bits and add new material but give us a break, even some of the biggest stars take a year or so to come up with a new hour.

Recently there was a comic on Facebook who has been around for a long time saying that the old school cruise comics days were coming to an end. The reason he was saying this was because he was performing on a ship where they had a comedy club and he could perform in there saying what he wanted to American audiences who in his words preferred there comedy modern and observational like his rather than the shared old gags the old comics deliver. Well, that’s great and a lot of us so called old school comics know that as some of us have been writing and performing our own stuff to Americans for many years. He also said in his blog that British audiences on cruise ships were old and sat there thinking they were important because they were dressed in formal attire. Well, I’m here to tell you that that if you can adapt your act like many of us have to those audiences, they can be an absolute delight to play to. I have had British audiences laughing at ‘edgy’ material that’s my own and so I don’t need you ‘said comic’ to tell me that my days are numbered just because after many attempts you are finally getting a good response on a cruise. I have had a long going battle with ‘said comic’ who’s taken to Facebook before to slag off old comics saying that they try to steal his material. If his material was worth stealing maybe he would be on television like most good young comics on the comedy circuit are but I am struggling to think of a TV show that he has appeared on in the last fifteen years. It’s no secret but I am a fan of both the comedy club circuit and the so called mainstream circuit. I think that both circuits could actually learn from each other which would be so much better than continuous slagging off like ‘said comic’ goes in for. I suppose at the end of the day it makes him feel important and it’s a bit of a boost to his ego.

My son has been doing his GCSE’s for the last few weeks and I’ve never seen him work so hard. He seems focused and really wants to do well. I am all for that, I don’t think I would be that keen on him being a comic. Son’s of comedian’s sometimes become very bitter and I wouldn’t want that to happen. Sorry but maybe sometimes you have to say what you see!

Forty Years A Comic!

APRIL 2016

I have worked with some wonderful fellow acts the last few weeks and most of them extremely sociable. However, I can’t help but notice that most weeks I am now the senior member of the group of entertainers. At dinner now it’s me with the stories that involve long gone days of working on Canberra, Victoria and QE2. My name dropping can include names from many moons ago like Arthur Askey, Dickie Henderson and Tommy Cooper. I have also noticed it’s now me who before 11pm say’s ‘Im going to call it a day guys, have fun in the night club’. It’s me that slopes off mid afternoon for a nap. I still feel like I am a young comic in my mind but I am now starting to feel my years. The sensible voice in my head say’s ‘slow down’ both off stage and on stage, the problem is I still love performing. If I slowed down what would I do, go on a cruise? The thought of retiring to the sun does nothing for me, last month I got so bored with the sunny weather in Australia I spent more time inside watching movies, lectures and reading than I do back home in London.

I started thinking the other day about how long I have been performing and I suddenly realised that next month I will be celebrating forty years as a professional stand up comic. I actually started as a child actor 42 years ago this September when I appeared as a teenager on a bike in a Piggy Malone sketch on ‘The Two Ronnies’ (RIP Ronnie C)…..however as a professional comic my first proper paid gig was at The Manor Club in Merton, a social club I believe is still open near Wimbledon. I was booked by an agent called Terry O’Rourke who ran a small agency called Apollo Entertainments. Terry was a lovely old man, he was a part time agent and booked a few clubs in London. Terry and his wife Dolly were great supporters of mine along with club booking agents like Billy Gee ,Jonny Laycock ,Benny Palmer, Jimmy Winder ( Book an act) and the much missed Wally Dent. Billy Gee and Terry O’Rourke used to run shop windows or showcases in The Tottenham and Edmonton area of North London and my mate Kim Smith and I would regularly appear on them just to get experience and stage time. ( if you are out there Kim, call me….would be good to catch up) When after two years of doing these shows as well as countless charity shows for senior citizens I finally got offered a paid booking it was the best feeling ever. In those days the procedure was this. The agent would call (on the phone not on email….happy days!) to ask if you were free on ‘what ever date’….if you were then he would ask you to pencil or hold the date. Then he would usually call you back to confirm, tell you what the fee was on offer and what was required time wise by ‘ I will put the contract in the post’….three days later the contract arrives by pigeon mail usually saying ‘act as known.’ There was a circuit of clubs in the London area consisting of working mens clubs, British Legion, Conservative, Liberal and Labour clubs. Some clubs had a reputation for being particularly hard to work. I can remember Hayes WMC in Pump Lane and Willesden WMC in Villers Road being at the top of the list. It’s sad now to think that these clubs are no longer regularly booking acts but that’s the way the business moves on. Young comics now work comedy clubs, university’s and festivals to get their experience and even that circuit is beginning to suffer with big chains having to wind up and close their clubs.

I was thinking the other day how many gags are still in my act from those days and there’s only one and that’s the opening gag I have used for years. It’s really weird as if I don’t do that opening gag I feel like I’m a trapeze artist without a safety net. The line is ‘ Last time I was at this club many years ago there was a bloke in the front row and he didn’t laugh once….(look at man in front) Nice to see you again sir’……It’s a crap line but for me it always settles me down as it’s a quick laugh within seconds of coming on. A few years ago I was first on at Jongleurs Battersea (sadly long gone). The MC was my old mate Simon Fox and as usual he opened the show in his inimitable style and got big laughs. When he went to introduce me, he told the audience that there was a bloke in the front row who never laughs every time he comes to the club and greeted him with ‘ nice to see you again’……I could not believe it , he had blown my opening gag just as I was about to go on but I did see the funny side and he made a comment to me as I walked on ‘ Now your f****d.’ I was reminded of this when someone published two picture’s on Facebook of an audience in a comedy club….one of an audience loving the show and laughing and one saying ‘ This is what a comic can see’ and in amongst all the laughing people ONE straight faced miserable audience member. Simon Fox was on Facebook and added the comment ‘ This bloke has followed Jeff Stevenson around for years’ or something like that….It made me laugh and took me back to that night in Battersea. It also made me think it was time to drop the gag but oh no, I went on the other night and I opened with the gag and a voice in my head said ‘ Remember what Foxy did….drop the gag.’ The tag to this story is that Simon is no longer opening his act with a stand up gag, his opening now is probably ‘Thats the way to do it’ as he is now one of the worlds leading Punch and Judy performers. I wonder if Mr Punch is telling Judy about the man in the front row not laughing?

Heading to the top

Well, I am still in Australia and today I am leaving the Queen Mary 2 in Yorkeys Knob which is a port of call near Cairns. The other night on stage as soon as I mentioned that last week I was ‘with The Queen Elizabeth near Yorkeys Knob’, there was lots of laughter from the British guests in the audience which made it even funnier as there wasn’t that many British guests on the ship. An American couple sat in the front looked bemused and asked me ‘ Why are they laughing?’ I said ‘I am a comedian’ she said ‘ I know but what’s funny about a knob and your Queen ?’ They laughed even more…..I said ‘ I cant go there.’ She said ‘But we are going there on this trip’ I said ‘ I know, two Queens heading to Yorkeys Knob in one week, what are the chances?…..’ Now the Brits were on the floor so I said ‘lets leave Yorkeys knob alone and move on.’
Some times as a comic you don’t have to write or tell jokes, just commenting on what’s happening and every day life gets laughs. That’s how Jerry Seinfeld and our own Michael McIntyre have become so successful. Some of my fellow comics have been a little disrespectful when it comes to McIntyre who has to be our most popular current comedian, certainly as far as the British public are concerned. Any comic who can fill massive arena’s like the 02 for weeks on end must be doing something right. Personally I can only admire what Michael does on stage and I really enjoy watching him work. I’m sure I am not alone in saying that the only thing that peeves me is when I sit there watching him get big big laughs and I am thinking ‘why didn’t I write a routine about that?’ I also think he has been one of a few comics that has paved the way for other comics to become popular enough to fill arena’s. It amazes me that certain comic’s take to social media to slag McIntyre off just because he’s not writing material that they think is funny, completely ignoring the numbers of punters that come through the door. Also what he has done is prove that comics can be a success by appealing to all members of the family from teenagers up to the grand parents without being racist, sexist or doing old jokes. Also he has proved you can perform without swearing as I and most comics on the cruise ships have. I know that he employs a writer who is also a great comedian in his own right and still works, I don’t see anything wrong with this but oh no, the purists who stand alone in a room above a pub talking to students fired up on pot noodles harp on that this is ‘old school’.
When I started out it was extremely rare to see a comic who performed his own material or employed a writer. Comedians were mostly working class and played working mens clubs, they were joke tellers. They worked like second hand car dealers, they would take delivery of a joke clean it up and in to the act to would go. Comics who I thought were very original with routines that I thought they had written, years later I would find out that they were from American comedians back on the vaudeville circuit. Milton Berle used to be known as the thief of bad gags, Alan King a comedian I admired for many years and still do was accused of stealing material from a well known comic. In this country lots of big name comedians have been accused of stealing material, I’m no saint ( I’m also not a big name) I was guilty of doing this in my early days. When I was a teenager, I worked for a few years honing my craft on the London stag show circuit. It was a great training ground and there would be a compere, two comics and three strippers on the bill. The first comic on would probably be doubling up ( two gigs in different venues) and by the time the second comic got to the venue he would have to rely on the compere to let him know what gags had been done. There was a code of conduct where if you knew so and so was coming later you didn’t do any gags that he did in his act, if you did then it would cause problems. I was once told by a great old comic who I used to drive around to gigs on my nights off ‘ If you nick a gag remember who you nicked it off and don’t do it if he’s on the same bill.’ Fortunately it was a habit I got out of as soon as I could and I have always tried to write most of my own material or when I was doing lots of television work I employed writers who have become life time friends. Of course I still have a few old jokes in my act but they are pub jokes, they have been around and they are associated with no one comic in particular. In one of my shows on the ships I have a whole selection of these jokes, and I tell the audience these are the jokes us comics no longer tell and guess what? They get big laughs….Today the problem of joke stealing is still going on. Keith Chegwin who I went to the same school as has started up an app on twitter with his favourite jokes. All the jokes are not pub jokes but jokes taken from some of my fellow comedian’s acts. The sad thing is it’s made me realise that none of my material is as funny as I think it is as Keith is yet to use any of it on his app. I totally understand where the angry comics are coming from as I know how hard it is to come up with new material and if it’s being wasted on an app from a second party then it’s totally out of order.

This subject has also been covered by my good friend Andre Vincent’s blog and I now realise that I could be accused of nicking the idea, trust me I didn’t it was only when I got to this point that I remembered his blog. Its well worth a read at!blank/cg05.

I’m in Darwin now in the tropical north of Australia, tomorrow I join Queen Victoria and head north to Bali and then I get off in Brunei. Have a great week.

I love my job down under

24th February
On the last day of my short three day gig on Ventura. It’s been one of those cruises that’s gone far too quickly as I was surrounded by really great people. My old mate Paul Emmanuelle, ship mates who I have sailed with before Clem Curtis and Rob Lewis both great fun and a new friend , a comic from Northern Ireland William Caulfield who is a gentleman and great company. After a lunch in my favourite Lisbon eatery Bom Jardin I embark on a long journey from Lisbon to Cairns. I am leaving Lisbon early evening on Wednesday I am due to get to Cairns just after breakfast on Friday. My fellow turns William and Paul are mercifully digging me telling me how they would be in such a bad mood if they were about to start such a long journey but I tell them I am focusing on what’s at the end of the flight. In reality as a guest entertainer, we know what’s going to be there at the endow the flight and it wont be the driver or the port agent. This is a regular occurrence and really is no big deal, it’s also not surprising as lots of messages get lost in translation. When you have been travelling around the globe for as long as I have it can always be dealt with. However, it must be a little scary for a new act, especially a female in a strange country having to contact the port agent especially if it’s late at night. I always make sure that I email the agent and booker to get information on which hotel I am staying in. I then contact the hotel to make sure that there will be a room available when I arrive. I also ask how much I should be paying to a local taxi should I take a cab from the airport. This has saved me a small fortune over the years and if a taxi driver try to rip me off, a quick nod in the direction of the doorman at the hotel usually resolves the situation.

The flights for the long journey were nowhere near as uncomfortable as I expected. I’ve never been a big fan of Air France but I have to admit that the flight from Paris to Shanghai has to be one of the most enjoyable flights I have ever travelled on especially as it was still in economy. I managed to secure an upgrade to the upper deck for a small charge. It was well worth it as the deck was almost totally empty apart from the odd business man who had decided to pay that little bit extra for a bit of space and comfort. It was just like being in business class and I would recommend it any time on a long haul flight. However when I got to Shanghai airport I was brought down to earth in more ways than one. Why when we are in transit and not even visiting the country we have to go through all the rigmarole of getting a temporary visa I really don’t know. I had three hours to kill and made my way to the lounge that thankfully accepted the Priority Pass card. The food in the lounge tasted like food in the worse Chinese restaurant you’ve ever been to late at night in a town you don’t really want to be in. I love Chinese food but apart from too rare visits to Hong Kong, I’ve never had Chinese food that has tasted anywhere near as good as it does in the UK or the USA. I remember the first time I visited Shanghai and I was so looking forward to a proper Chinese meal in a local restaurant and I was so disappointed. Then when I left a tip the owner of the restaurant chased me down the street to give it back to me. I didn’t know that in local non touristy restaurants tips are not encouraged. Now, I always check on my Blackberry what’s the tipping etiquette in these country’s, its saved me few quid the last few years.
My second flight was on China Eastern Airlines from Shanghai to Cairns. The only good thing I can really say about this flight was that it was empty. I now know why, the excuse for what was meant to be dinner was served up by the smartest dressed most miserable crew I have ever seen on a flight. Twice I got told that I must put my mobile phone away, when I told the 17 year old future traffic warden that it was an iPod he just shrugged his shoulders and walked away like I’d just told him off. The only good thing about the flight was that I had four seats to lay down on and have a nights sleep.

Feb 26th
It’s always a great relief to wake up and smell breakfast being heated up as we get nearer the end of the flight. Landing in Australia or New Zealand is always a pleasure as the customs and immigration officers are the most welcoming in the world. I do a routine about this, I am not going to give it away on here, if you want to hear it book a cruise that I’m appearing on!!
Once through customs and immigration and reunited with my luggage which is always a relief, I make my way in to the terminal. We usually have a driver sent by the port agent to transfer us to our hotel or to the ship. In certain parts of the world it’s almost expected that the driver will not be there and then we have to call the local agent and they talk to you in world wide mini cab language ‘the driver is just a few minutes away’…… Australia it’s very rare that there is no driver and so I was surprised to see this was the case. It turned out that my change of flight news had not reached this part of the world and a driver had been waiting for me for an hour and had decided I was a no show. All sorted, the agent turned up, a nice guy called Mark. He transferred me to the Mantra Trilogy Hotel on the Esplanade in Cairns. As hotels go it’s more like two towers of apartments rather than a hotel but it was clean and modern and did the job. As usual when I land after a long flight I wasted two hours online sorting out emails that were so unimportant and checked up on Facebook and Twitter just to see who had died, who was ill and who’s birthday it was. This is all I seem to do at the moment, there’s never been so many funerals I can’t get to come up in such a short time. I suppose it’s all to do with our age but I’d just like a few months to go by without having to write ‘ he or she was such a nice person and will be sadly missed’. It must be a record, this year already I have heard that nine friends or colleagues have gone to that cruise ship in the sky!! Just hope the cabins are nice.

I spent the day walking round in the 30 degrees heat, Cairns is a nice town but there really is not a lot to it. It’s full of souvenir shops, back packers tour agents and Asian Restaurants. There’s a really nice Esplanade and a lagoon for swimming in as the sea is dangerous tis time of the year due to the ‘ stingers’ and even the odd crocodile……seriously. For lunch I had a bowl of Vietnamese chicken noodle soup, I love this type of food and it’s cheap. In the evening, I walked around the night market contemplating on whether I should have a massage to deal with my jet lagged tension but decide against it and go for a Thai dinner. It was OK and thats the best I can say, Ive had a better Tom Yum soup and I certainly have had a better Thai Green Chicken Curry. I should have gone for a local seafood meal and will know better for next time. Having walked round feeling a little sorry for my self thinking how far I was away from family and friends I see a familiar face sitting in a restaurant. It’s Eve Sherratt , a lovey lady singer who I have not worked with for a few years. The last time I worked with Eve, she was my Florence Nightingale as I had a sudden kidney stone attack and had to get home. She got me to the airport and this was my chance to thank her. It turned out we were getting on the same ship and so we had a coffee and a chat and made arrangements to meet up in the morning.

Feb 27th
Up just after sunrise and out walking along the front, not a cloud in the sky and so many are out doing the same thing. There really is no better feeling than walking first thing building up a sweat and an appetite for breakfast.
Met up with Eve and another fellow artist Will Martin the singer from New Zealand. I haven’t seen Will for a few years so once again, nice to catch up. We boarded the ship in the comically named port Yorkeys Knob, I realise it’s only Brits who will laugh at this name but the thought of Queen Elizabeth calling in to see Yorkeys Knob makes me laugh……maybe it’s just me!! The ship was at anchor about a mile and a half out so I decided that I was going to stay on the ship for the day, walking round Cairnes in the heat of the day did not appeal to me.
A nice day on the ship, half an hour sun bathing ( it was all I could take ) a couple of hours sleep to deal with jet lag and some writing and the day was gone. I went to the theatre to watch Will Martin who stood the mainly Aussie audience up. He’s a great act and know’s how to work an audience. An early night was in order, it’s weird going to sleep down here with Jeff Stelling and the lads on Sky Sports Soccer Saturday on the TV. I fell asleep with the football on and woke up a few hours later and it’s still on. I did however wake up to some news that came as a shock. QPR had won 2-0 against Birmingham and the report was that they had played well and deserved to win. I was so pleased as I knew Harvey and Jane had been at the game and there’s nothing worse than a bore draw or another defeat. Maybe we are on the right road again, two draws and a win…

Feb 28th
My brother Tony’s birthday today, sent him a couple of messages then remembered it was still the 27th in the UK.
Got up early to walk , the sun rise was a little disappointing as covered by cloud but the sky cleared and not a cloud for the rest of the day. Great walk, healthy breakfast and I am out laying in the morning sun at for a couple of hours then it got far too hot. I decide that I am going to catch up on admin work and a little writing. I love being down here this time of the year but I am already missing home, I mustn’t dwell on this as I have another month to go. It’s so weird when I look at the watch and know that the UK is asleep and it’s the middle of the night. I don’t switch my phone on till late afternoon when I know my wife and son are getting up.
In the afternoon I go to the cinema to watch the new Bond movie, Spectre. I enjoyed it, love the stunts and the new characters. I’ve never really been a bog 007 fan but I enjoy watching the movie if on a plane or on a ship.
In the evening I went to watch Eve Sherratt’s show, she has a great voice and I always enjoy watching her show.
Early night, I am still suffering from jet lag. I can guarantee I will wake up early, probably around 3.30 am…why is that?

Feb 29th
I was right, 3.30 am I was wide awake. I am starting to think the only way to deal with jet lag into stay up late and drink a bucket load of wine. I’ve never had a sleepless night with a few vino’s inside me.
Another nice day at sea, we passed a few islands and the sky was clear and blue. We passed one island and it’s famous for once being the home of a Scottish naval captain who had eighty five wives. I wonder if any day was a good day and they were all in a good mood?
This afternoon Will Martin performed a matinee show to an absolutely packed out theatre. I’ve seen a lot of acts storm audiences on these ships but today’s show has to be right up there at the top the list. Well done Will if you get to read this.
John Nations the juggler did the evening show, another great show, these guests are certainly getting a lot of entertainment. Tomorrow night me and I hope to keep the ball in the air or the plates spinning or what ever saying it is that I am trying to think of.

March 1st
Woke up early, out walking the deck just after sunrise as we come in to Rabaul, Papa New Guinea. The township looks pretty run down and understandably so as the original city got completely destroyed in 1994 as a result of a devastating volcanic eruption from MT Tavurvur. During the eruption ash was sent thousands of meters in to the air and the subsequent rain of ash caused 80% of the buildings to collapse. I walked off the ship in to the town with Eve my fellow act. We could not get over how friendly the people were and they seemed genuinely pleased to see us. We had a walk round the market where they were mainly selling fruit and vegetables which was a bit sad as we are not allowed to take any fruit or veg back to the ship. It was an interesting place to walk round but if I am honest I was pleased to get back to the ship if just for some air conditioned comfort away from the mid day heat.
Tonight I performed to a packed theatre and the Aussies as ever were a delight to play to. Big laughs, lots of friendly banter and even an American couple defending Donald Trump after I made a joke about ‘ If Trump takes over the world, Im moving here ( Rabaul) ‘ All good fun, after the shows I went out for a few drinks with Eve and some of the entertainment officers on the ship. We all ended up out on deck star gazing as the night sky down here is spectacular. I’m not in the the stars and all that stuff but even I was amazed at how clear it all was. Still couldn’t tell you which one was Pluto, Saturn or Uranus!!! ( insert joke here…………………………………………………………………..)

March 2nd
First of four days at sea as we head north to The Philippines and our next port of call Puerto Princesa. Today at lunch time the Captain announced that King Neptune had boarded the ship and there was going to be a crossing the line ceremony as we were about to cross the Equator. He also mentioned that we were in The Doldrums , the area down here in Equatorial waters where there’s a lot of cloud, depression and frequent showers. Hence the expression ‘Down in the doldrums’ ….there you go, every days a school day!!
Watched Russell Harrison perform tonight to another packed out theatre. These audiences are the best I’ve known on a ship for a long time. Russell put on a great show despite having no luggage and having to try to get stage clothes which must have been difficult what with having size 13 feet.

March 3rd
Happy 55th Birthday to me!!
I woke up early and I opened my birthday cards from my family. It’s been a few years since I last had a birthday at home as it always falls during the world cruise season when I tend to be in Asia or Australia ship hopping. I checked my blackberry and my Facebook page was starting to fill up with nice birthday messages from around the world. It’s nice to know that so many friends from over the years are now in touch via social media. I know it can be a pain but it certainly makes you feel you are not alone when you can talk to friends and family at any time.
Tonight I went out for dinner with Eve and Ross , one of the entertainment officers. It’s great when we are on with other acts we know socially. We had a very nice meal in The Veranda Restaurant accompanied by a bottle of my favourite wine Cloudy Bay. It was a lovely birthday but I have to admit I am missing my wife Jane and son Harvey, I think maybe next year I will try to be home.

March 4th
Another day at sea but the sun is shining and we seem to be out of The Doldrums. Today I am doing a matinee show which is a first for me on a ship. Maybe it’s not so good that we have good weather as they may not come in to see the show.
How wrong could I be? The Royal Court Theatre was absolutely packed with standing room only, believe me it’s not often I say that even for an evening show. I’m not one to go on line and say what a great show I had as thats the way it should be, thats our job and thats what we are paid to do but today was one of the most enjoyable shows I have performed in a long long time. The crowd were just totally up for it and they made a 55 year old comedian very happy and there’s a slight risk my ego has been inflated far beyond it’s usual size.

March 5th
Day at sea, I decided that today I am going to try to fast as I am trying to shift that last stone of weight that just doesn’t seem to want to go. I tried so hard to stay below 600 calories but realised I just can’t do it. By 6pm I felt like I was a celebrity in the jungle waiting for a visit by Ant and Dec. I am just going to stick to healthy eating, forget 5:2 the only time you will see those figures for me are as a defeat for my beloved hoops.
Tonight I watched Eve in the theatre, great second show. She’s been great company as always, will be sad to see her go tomorrow in Puerto Princess, funny old game we are in, new and old friends every week in and out your life.

March 6th
After four days at sea we are in The Philippines, Puerto Princess. All looks very tropical and welcoming, looking forward to going off for a look around. I went off to the Robinsons Shopping Mall , it was OK but to be honest if it was your local shopping centre you wouldn’t bother. had a look round, I went in to Jolly Bee and orders a Tuna Pie for 45 peso’s ( $1). I jumped in to a TucTuc and asked the driver to take me to a place where I could get a good ‘decent legit’ massage.. The journey took about ten minutes up the back streets and I started to think I had made a big mistake. I could not have been more wrong, for an hour I had one of the best massages I have ever had. It cost me $15 when I got back to the ship I noticed that there was a few guests walking near the ship by the water’s edge . I decided to follow them and I was so glad I did. I bumped in to a few guests from Manchester who asked me if Id like to join them for a beer. We had such a great chat and it turned in to one of those nights where you knew that you were in a part of the world that not many of us Brits have ventured to. I am so glad I got to visit this part of the Philippines. The people are very friendly, as they are when they work on the ship. We have also got a lot of families of the Filipino crew members on board. It’s so nice to see and I even got a slight lump in the throat when I saw my room steward having dinner upstairs with his wife in the buffet. I know this sounds ordinary to us but they looked like they were having such a lovely time. I appreciate what it’s like being away for long periods but at least I get home every few weeks for a few days. These people work for months on end away from their family’s…..I have total admiration for them.

March 8th Manila
I disembarked the ship today in Manila but before I did I got the chance to grab a quick lunch with my fellow turn and brother water rat Richard Gauntlet. We had a great catch up and it was nice to talk ‘comic’s language’ for an hour. When I left the ship at 3pm it was a nightmare. Taxi drivers telling us all they were there to take us to the airport when clearly they had just listened in on a conversation between myself, Julian Smith and Captain Charlie the Australian military lecturer and his wife. It was so manic it was funny. We ended up travelling 150 yards in 90 minutes. Charlie who’s like Crocodile Dundee had a moment that made me howl, he told the port agent if she didn’t get us moving he would drive!!! He meant it.
So now as I start another journey down to Sydney to join Queen Mary 2 I will end this blog. It’s been a a lovely ten days, lets see what the next leg of the tour brings. I know this blog has been a little long but I just felt it might be interesting to read an every day diary from a ship turn.