HOW SUSAN BOYLE AND I ESCAPED FROM A PASSENGER FERRY.
The Unlikely 12-Hour Saga Of Susan Boyle And Astonishing Sod On A Passenger Ferry, or How Freedom Tastes When A Famous Singer Is Concealed Beneath Your Skirt.
Updated in real time, on the 24th of November, 2010.
We set sail for Wales from Dublin (wary of the student protests which are ongoing in the UK). What could possibly go wrong?
Have hidden Susan Boyle in my underskirt. Watching the sea rise and fall on the deck of the ferry. The smell of freedom in my nostrils.
Have asked Susan to at least lift up my skirt if she insists on smoking in there. Otherwise, high spirits.
Overheard that they’ll be showing Yentl in the cinema in an hour. Took a vote on whether to watch it. I said yes, Susan said no. Conflicted.
We’ve decided to have lunch instead. I’ll have to order twice and pass food down to Susan. Will need a system. She suggests I stand on table.
But flaw in Susan’s plan becomes immediately apparent, as it would entail drawing MORE attention to us, and possible damage to cutlery.
Now considering walking while eating and throwing scraps in front of us, to be “vacuumed up” by “my skirt” (in reality, Susan) as we walk.
A young gentleman has been looking quizzically at me from across the deck. I’ve just realised that he thinks I’m talking to myself.
Have wandered over towards the young gentleman, with a gait that - we hope - suggests composure & calm. Have explained that I was singing.
Oh dear. Overconfidence has led me to tell him that I sing professionally. He has told us it’s his friend’s birthday and asked me to sing.
Have now agreed to perform for his friends. This expedition is now sustained by a tissue of lies. I’m trying desperately to think of a song.
Susan just tugged at my skirts and tapped three times on my knee: our secret code for “you mime and I’ll sing”. The woman’s a genius.
The performance is imminent. We’ve decided (using pre-agreed coughing signals) to go with I Dreamed A Dream. Hoping I can remember the words.
So I/we have been introduced to the young gentleman’s companions. I could swear I heard muttered comments about my appearance. Emboldened.
Bit of a false start. Opened mouth to mime and forgot that I hadn’t given Susan the start signal. Explained that I hadn’t cleared my throat.
Just cleared my throat. About to give Susan the signal. Am hoping I remember the words to the chorus. Suddenly concerned about appearance.
The song went down well. Some of these young gentlemen appear to be crying. Bar staff dropped drinks. Crowd gathering. Making my excuses.
Have managed to make it to a quiet stairwell. Susan wanted to do an encore, but pressure too great. Searching frantically for a toilet.
Exhausted. We found a utility closet, locked the door, saw a vent in the wall, removed grate, crawled through and ended up in same closet.
Susan has suggested, sensibly I think, that we combine lunch and film options and eat in the cinema while watching Yentl. Must dash.
The popcorn stand was momentarily abandoned, so we grabbed some snacks and left money on the counter. Made it into the cinema. Pitch black.
Massively disappointed. As soon as Susan found a gap through which to peer (she’s kneeling), they cut the film in favour of live news.
Susan relieved; she “hates Streisand”. Although this footage of protesting students watching a fire resembles a monkey appreciating itself in the mirror.
Susan lamenting the rise of “say-what-you-see” rolling news. Having endured cutting remarks re. my weight during our performance, I agree.
Of course, my frame has been somewhat augmented by the presence of an adult woman hiding under my skirt. Must maintain thick skin.
Considering we’re on the run from the baying, starstruck populace of a car ferry, the news is providing a timely lesson on crowd control.
The key, we are sure, is to keep Susan concealed. If they knew what we really represented, the masses would undoubtedly go off the deep end.
Susan says students “didnae buy the album”, so she’s torn as to allegiance. I remind her that they were busy studying. She just says “Aye”.
We’ve agreed that, given abundance of fluorescent yellow onscreen, we’d rather watch Yentl; however, we’re powerless, much like that riot van.
Susan has noted a similarity between this news footage and the “ugly scenes” at her early concerts, pausing to add “…but they had knives”.
A young lady just ran out of the cinema. Not sure whether it was seasickness or dismay at those among her peers who had misspelled slogans.
Popcorn has gone cold; floor is sticky; Susan’s adamant that she saw Piers Morgan urinating on a police van. This day is going downhill.
To think, only a few hours ago, we were standing on the deck, Susan Boyle beneath my underskirt, breathing the salty air of hope.
To clarify: “salty air” was not a euphemism. I meant it in a very literal sense. We must tread lightly with public pronouncements these days.
A major development: the engines have been turned off. It seems the ferry is unsure whether to proceed to the UK or return to Ireland.
It’s been put to a vote. Everyone on the ferry getting a ballot slip with these options on it:
- proceed to UK
- return to Ireland
They’ve switched over to Irish news, for a bit of balance. Susan just exclaimed “for shite’s sake!” - I coughed over her. Got away with it.
Rumour has it that the ferry’s halfway between coastlines. Some are considering writing UP on their ballot slips, some opting for DOWN.
The votes are in; the ferry has spoken.
Spoiled votes: 2%
So it is. We float on the sea.
This new democracy could be invigorating. Votes now being cast to determine what we’ll watch next in the cinema room. I’ll be voting Yentl.
Susan just reminded me that the ferry has a finite food supply, and that as a result, we will all die on this boat. This is most inconvenient.
On the plus side, Yentl has been passed, with a narrow majority, beating Dude, Where’s My Car? (32%) and Rocky 2 (14%). Finally, some light.
Yentl to be screened at 8pm (Irish Sea time). Susan and I formulating plan to slip unnoticed to restaurant (in disguise), then back again.
We’ve decided it’d be best if I held our empty popcorn bucket in front of my face to avoid recognition, then shuffled towards the rear exit.
Susan, concealed again under my skirt, is doing a sterling job of picking up coins as we move towards the restaurant deck.
Have reached restaurant, although the stairs took longer than we would have liked. Am reading menu items in a loud voice so Susan can hear.
Worked up the courage to peer out from behind my popcorn-bucket “mask”. Astonished to find that the staff have vacated their stations.
Relayed the news to Susan, who really is being a trooper. Was unsure how to proceed. Mulled it over, then decided we should grab whatever.
Sad to have to resort to theft, but equally relieved not to have been stopped by admirers. Susan also glad. Now shoving pizza under my skirt.
Democracy in action again. Myself and Susan have made a unanimous decision to stockpile food & keep it in cabin. Flinging it into baskets.
Guilt outweighed by sheer volume of food now in our possession. Looking around, I’ve noticed that we’re alone, so I also swipe some forks.
Made it back to the cabin, although there was a close call back there when I thought someone recognised me. Was it my hair? Hard to say.
Susan, with a roar of relief, rolled out from under my skirt. Now cloistered in our cabin, we’re sprawled on the floor. Quick breather.
Stashed the meat-based dishes in the shower, pastry elsewhere. Hurried back through (despondent-looking) restaurant. Teabags underfoot.
Well, we’ve managed, against the odds, to make it before the opening credits. There was a delay because the projectionist slipped. Yentl ho!
I should clear that up: I had no intention of casting aspersions on Yentl’s honour. For “ho!”, read “ahoy!”. Excitement got the better of me.
The projector has broken. Disaster. And just before a song. Susan says it’s a “blessed relief”, her dislike of Streisand undiminished.
Cries of “We didn’t vote for this!” and “Lies!” from the rougher corners of the cinema. Things could turn nasty unless someone steps in.
Steeling myself, I made to stand up and appeal to the passengers’ better nature, but at that precise moment, the lights went up. Awkward.
Many mistook my standing up for a breach of solidarity; had to reassure them that I was rising to my feet to restore some unity to the room.
My protestations rather stuck in the throat, as we had - half an hour ago - stolen everyone’s food. Nevertheless, I carried on.
I’ve just been stopped, mid-speech, with a yell of “It’s that lovely singer who was in the bar earlier!”, followed by “Sing us a song then!”
Between a rock and a hard place. Susan (between my left and right knees) probably thinking what I am: we only have a repertoire of one song.
Having been recognised, I feel I have no choice but to entertain, at least until the gathered crowd are happy to leave us in peace. Thinking.
Brainwave - I just suggested to the others that I do a short set of Yentl-based jokes. This has been met largely with indifference.
With no indication of support from Susan (via the pre-arranged knee-tapping-signal system), I press on. You can hear a pin drop.
I begin with this joke: “The Yentl is the most confusing of the pulses”.
My first joke hasn’t gone down too well. Understandable, as the projector broke down before they could familiarise themselves with the plot.
With the dawning realisation that I have no more Yentl jokes comes a growing restlessness among audience members. I cough a signal to Susan.
We’ve tried to appease the passengers with shtick: no luck. Now, much as it saddens me, it’s time again for me to mime I Dreamed A Dream.
Have made it to the carpark. Can’t stay for long. Susan sneezed during the first verse; cover was blown. I fell over, mayhem. Just escaped.
Can hear roar - almost feral - of crowds on the upper decks, their fame-lust insatiable. Susan, ever resourceful, has stolen a firehose.
They want more than autographs. They want flesh. We’re tearing things that were not designed for combat off the cars: mirrors, screws.
Susan suggested in her gentle way that perhaps aerials and windscreen wipers might pack more of a punch. One of us just set off a car alarm.
Somehow, other car alarms have responded to the initial car alarm. A wave of experimental electronic noise is spreading through the carpark.
The noise is deafening. I lead Susan through the SUV section, pausing to remark upon the upholstery. We’ve found ourselves at an impasse.
Just in time: Susan spotted a service door, just as first wave of passengers spilled out into the carpark. The alarms ought to confuse them.
Barricaded the door with a spoiler that Susan ripped off a somethingbishi. I’m 1st on the ladder. Susan unperturbed; she’s used to the view.
Did the sensible thing and raced back to our cabin. After a light snack (scrambled eggs, cold toast), we’ve got a new plan, involving meat.
I hauled the enormous bag of meat and meat-based meals out of the shower. We’re going to leave a trail of cold meat behind us, then detour.
We’re on the move. I’m dragging the bag behind me, Susan’s leaving pieces of meat on the floor. It’s a good system. Nibbling as we go.
We just passed the arcade. I wrenched a couple of plastic guns free from their machines. They’re fake, but vaguely threatening from afar.
Running out of meat. Susan was a bit liberal with the sausages - mostly strewn along the duty-free corridor - so it’s half-portions now.
Our ammunition, i.e. vast quantity of meat, has now run out, save for a handful of sausage rolls each, for eating purposes. To the bridge!
Neither of us know where the bridge is. We’re also in agreement regarding lack of preparedness should crew turn out to be fans of Susan’s.
We’re taking a risk, but democracy has prevailed yet again, and we’re racing towards what might be the bridge with car parts in our hands.
That was not the bridge. Just a baby changing room. Calming wallpaper, yes, but this is no time to relax. Decision: Susan’s instinct is “up”
I found a stairwell. Susan yelps encouragement; I tell her to save her voice for a hostage situation. Up we go, in search of help.
Good and bad news. We found the bridge (good news). It was closed (bad news). Also not much of a view, because it’s so late (bad news).
Susan’s located a map, so now we know where the lifeboats are and where the aft is (we had wondered). The lifeboats are aft.
Something tells me we’ll need to cut a boat loose. I panic, having only stolen forks from the food court, but Susan went for the knives.
On the way to aft - if that’s the correct usage - Susan’s been littering the corridors with coins she picked up earlier, to slow them down.
Been busy. Trying to reach the lifeboats. No success trying to break plexiglass with chairs, so Susan proposed that we kick the door in.
Am wedged in hole where some of the door used to be. Susan struggling valiantly to push me through. Using sausage grease as lubricant.
Made it. Susan, more supple than I, made light work of it. High winds on deck - skirt flailing wildly. Impropriety not, however, a concern.
We’ve chosen a lifeboat, or life-raft - Susan, being too well-brought-up to correct me earlier, has gently insisted on my getting it right.
I’m sawing away at the ropes in the freezing wind, Susan keeping watch with a plastic arcade gun held aloft as a deterrent of some sort.
We’ve switched places. I’m guarding the door now. Still no sign of other passengers. I wonder aloud about which direction we should sail in.
We have agreed that it is best if nobody talks while Susan hacks at the ropes. She’s making progress. I think I hear shouting from inside.
Some passengers have made it as far as the windows. They’re banging and pointing. I hope the coin and meat traps have bought us enough time.
We’ve managed to free the life-raft, after much huffing and puffing and so forth. Preparing to heave it overboard, lifting from the knees.
The life-raft bobs beneath us on the waves, entrance unzipped. I shot a glance back at the door, which is giving birth to a dozen legs.
Rooting around in handbag for a torch, Susan knocked a sausage roll to the deck, upon which I slipped. Crowd thankfully too angry to laugh.
Just in the nick of time, Susan found a promotional record company LED torch. We look back at the door as the other passengers break through.
The sea has frozen my unmentionables, but I have hauled myself onto/into the life-raft. Susan, swearing indiscriminately, clambers in too.
We just looked back up at the passengers. The young gentleman we met earlier is mouthing the words I HATE YOU, finger pointed at my face.
I can hear coins bouncing off the raft. Susan suggests we return them with extreme prejudice. Better to hold on to them, though, for goods.
I add that, should we encounter another ferry on our journey, we can use the coins in the arcade. Susan is inclined to agree. Time to count.
- 3 sausage rolls
- 1 promotional record company LED torch
- wing mirror
- 2 fuel caps
- assorted coins
- 2 plastic arcade guns
We’re rowing away from the ferry, into the darkness. Susan singing Wild Horses. In retrospect, we could’ve had a go at that one. Poignant.
The ferry is but an angry, festive-looking blob, drifting away into oblivion. The sausage rolls taste of hard-earned freedom.
It’s get ing dark, nd we’r los ng rec pt on, so Sus n and I bid yo fa ewel . Goo ni ht