My Week

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Kit Hes­keth-har­vey

Kit Hes­keth-har­vey car­ries on cruis­ing

‘Both par­ents and all sib­lings have, at some time, been on staff at the BBC

I’ve run away to sea. It was the chick­ens that tipped me over the edge. Hens tend to look per­ma­nently fu­ri­ous, but two months’ en­forced in­car­cer­a­tion, thanks to bird flu, and they were re­gard­ing me more bale­fully than a haystack. Then the pa­pers an­nounced a Ten Day Killer Freeze. Then Tara (P-T) died. Then my nephew was robbed of acres of snow­drops by con­men.

Fe­bru­ary’s a beastly lit­tle month. St Valen­tine him­self was beaten, stoned and fi­nally de­cap­i­tated. I was start­ing to feel the same and when Kate sug­gested that we buy a foot­ball to al­le­vi­ate their bore­dom be­cause chick­ens al­legedly en­joy play­ing foot­ball, some­thing in me snapped.

It’s a grab-bag break. Self­em­ployed, one never dares book a hol­i­day be­cause a gig may come in, but it dawned on me that it had been six years. The mighty Ed­die from does up-tothe-wire un­sold cruises at silly prices; you pack your holdall, shut your eyes and pick—like Scrab­ble. Three days ago, it was to have been In­dia, but the In­di­ans de­mand tire­some visas, so I missed that boat—or they missed mine.

I’m in Uruguay. At £80 a day all in, in­clud­ing flights, it’s cheaper than heat­ing the house: 27˚F in Nor­folk, 27˚C here.

Med­i­cal ad­vances within one gen­er­a­tion have evolved an en­tire hu­man sub-species: the un­re­tir­ing re­tired, al­though you won’t have met many as they’re more or less per­ma­nently off­shore. You glimpse them in the ad breaks for Mid­somer Mur­ders: men called Ken, guf­faw­ing in their Spec­savers two-for-ones, and their ladies (who do not look like Bar­bie) go­ing large on the duty free. (For scent, that is, not al­co­hol: the clouds of Opium are enough to send you to the lifeboats.)

They aren’t rich and they may not be the sort that Lord Man­del­son or Sir Philip Green might wel­come shar­ing their pas­sages; they’ve merely been con­sci­en­tious with their pen­sions. They aren’t par­tic­u­larly high­brow— they’re more ex­cited by Gavin & Stacey on the on­board TV channel than by the cathe­dral at Mon­te­v­ideo—but they at­tend the morn­ing’s ‘En­rich­ing Lec­tures’ and they’re very, very nice.

Nor­we­gian Cruise Line runs an ex­em­plary and ex­tremely com­fort­able ship. Is there some cu­ri­ous his­tor­i­cal link be­tween Nor­way and Uruguay, like Patag­o­nia and Wales?

I’ll stay in my beau­ti­ful bal­cony cabin, gaz­ing at frigate birds and por­poises. I’m not be­ing stand-off­ish; I have a novel to fin­ish. I may join the (oddly un­sexy) samba classes. I’ll never be able to shake my booty like Ricky Martin singing Livin’ La Vida Loca, but I’m hop­ing that an East African child­hood has given me a head start, as well as a love of long sea voy­ages.

In my case, re­tire­ment is aca­demic: cabaret singers never re­tire. How­ever, if medicine is cre­at­ing Methuse­lahs (my fa­ther has al­ready out­lived his own by two decades), then there’s only one log­i­cal an­swer to this pur­ported cri­sis in the NHS. If 60 is now the new 40, if we’re still samba-ing at 80, then, of course, we are now ca­pa­ble of work­ing longer, to pay for the gen­uine cof­fin-dodgers.

Nudge the re­tire­ment age up by three months each year, un­til the books bal­ance, and we will feel nary a twinge. One can take only so many cruises, al­though mighty Ed­die is, I’ve no­ticed, of­fer­ing a corker: a Cap­tain’s Mys­tery Cruise out of Har­wich on which you gen­uinely have no idea where you’ll land up.

You might never see me again, were it not that Ni­cholas Co­leridge is about to col­lect his own bus pass and there’s a whop­ping great thrash to get back for. As a Cam­bridge un­der- grad­u­ate, he (un­like the rest of us) knew ex­actly what he wanted to be: edi­tor-in-chief at Condé Nast. Hav­ing achieved just that within a few years, he’s been there so long that, rather than be­ing chair­man of the V&A (as he has now been ap­pointed), he should be its chief ex­hibit.

An­other edi­tor, my lit­tle sis­ter, Sarah Sands of the Lon­don Evening Stan­dard, made the news her­self this week when she took the helm of Ra­dio 4’s To­day. Cue flut­ter­ing trep­i­da­tion at the Beeb be­cause her ex­pe­ri­ence was in news­pa­pers rather than in broad­cast­ing, but she com­pletes a sin­gu­lar fam­ily flush.

Hear these com­fort­able words: ev­ery one of us, both par­ents and all sib­lings, has, at some point, been a staff mem­ber at the BBC. For what re­as­sur­ance it may of­fer, broad­cast­ing is in our DNA. An­chors aweigh!

Kit Hes­keth-har­vey is a So­ci­ety cabaret en­ter­tainer, lyri­cist, opera trans­la­tor and reg­u­lar BBC broad­caster (www. ki­tandm­c­ He lives in Nor­folk Next week: Ja­son Good­win

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