To be blunt, I have been looking forward to The Boat for a while. I was honestly day dreaming about The Boat and the cruise down the Thames when I was idle at Devotion. So yeah, this is one of the big ones for me.
Nothing flash, nothing fancy. No petticoats, no satin or bells nor would I be providing the catering. Straight service in a wonderful setting will be the order of the day. It may sound odd but without the monthly running around a certain venue it's this aspect of my life that I tend to miss the most: just being a maid.
This year the party was planned for the 4th of July, so we were expecting fireworks and celebration everywhere we went. For my part I started figuring things out as soon as I got back, where was my day uniform? Did it need pressing? Where were the accessories I usually wear with it? Although given the amount of time I had this was more of a slow potter than it was running around like my hair was on fire.
The general plan we had fleshed out so far was that on Saturday 4th we'd leave our home in Portsmouth heading towards MzWhipplash's residence, put the final touches to our respective outfits there and unpack our sleeping bags ready for our return, then the four of us would get in the car and much like last year head towards the Hay's Galleria for a pre-event drink. Although both myself and my Owner wanted to be on the dock for 8pm as both of us were working (me as a maid and her as one of the two DJ's)and it's a good idea to be a part of the "get in"; I also find I tend to be less nervous given a bit of a run up towards things.
And yes whilst jingling down the street in Birmingham was fun, the idea of running around London as the maid... giggle
But matters of practicality and probability have to be considered. Whenever we go to MzWhipplash's we always burn through our prep time chatting and have to run around like crazy getting ready. Whilst my Owner may not want to drive to far in her outfit, it made sense for me to pack a nice dress to wear home and go out ready to roll. That way I had maximum chat time :)
Of course things rather went up in the air a week before hand when I started to get tooth ache. I mean "climbing the wall with pain" levels of tooth ache. It took us a day to figure out and get an emergency appointment with a dentist but eventually we got one and had an answer to why I was in pain: I need a root canal done.
Fortunately the dentist instantly put me on antibiotics and miraculously after only two pills the pain faded away enough that I didn't need to take codeine to keep it at bay. No codeine no incessant itching. No pain no reason to not go and work my ass off on The Boat.
Although it was a bit fragile and I was having to be careful of chewing and biting things but beyond that and a weird taste in my mouth... I was good to go and preparations continued at an accelerated pace.
Yeah, which would of worked fine except that as most people know: Antibiotics can make you both nauseous and upset your guts. This hadn't been an issue all the days I was on the damn things EXCEPT Saturday as we closed in on Romford. Ironically, Sunday, despite some gurgling it returned to being fine. I suspect the home made pizza, which upset nobody else, was partly to blame for tipping the balance.
We also had the downside that several of the regular maids weren't able to make it. In essence you had me, struggling, and an unknown number of helpers available: could be just me. Fun but with two decks and all the food to cart around it was going to be very rough, even if I was at full health.
Still myself, MzWhipplash & Ella were dropped off outside the Galleria whilst my Owner headed off to find parking. Interestingly enough, we had arrived far earlier than last year yet sat on the dock was our ride for the evening with a crowd of people around it.
I headed down the walkway managing all the bags I was carrying (my handbag, the two cases with DJ gear for my Owner, my tray 'just in case') I lumbered on board, dropped her gear off at the front where the DJ's would be performing and ran back to where we'd be setting up the catering table.
Despite the crowd of people outside it looked like everyone had pretty much just arrived, which was odd, as I got busy holding the table cloths in place whilst bits of black tape were place to stop them wandering off. Several hot/cold boxes and both the Norgie's were sat waiting as were trays, napkins and such to do prep.
It was a bit chaotic, we're dealing with people who may only see each other once a year or indeed may only serve at this one event so there isn't a natural flow of team work. It's something I've made an occasional stab at introducing with a modicum of success. But that aside we eventually had a large platter of tortilla chips & dips sat on a table, two trays of sausages with pots of ketchup & wholegrain mustard in the middle of each, a similar number of trays with Swedish meatballs that, again, had a few pots of dip and the 'problem child' (for me) chicken drumsticks.
As you'd expect with drumsticks they were really quite greasy and whilst I'm sure they both smelt and tasted fantastic to anyone else at the event... they had very much the reverse effect on me. To the point I had to get away from them; this would be an issue that repeated a few times during the night.
Of course as we were busy setting up we had guests coming onboard and getting ready to enjoy themselves as apparently we were letting people on from 20:45; I don't remember this from last year but I thought it was probably due to the tides and such.
But with the food out and everybody coming on we started to figure out our plan for the evening. I elected, despite my knee, to take the upstairs. I figured it'd afford me the most fresh air and help deal with some of the issues that I had with nausea as the running to the bathroom thing was starting to pass... or at least not happen quite as often.
The first thing we noticed was the time and our location. 21:10 and still at the dock. It made us a little uncertain about how to go about things, neither myself or the two people helping really wanted to be ambling around with quite heavily loaded trays when the craft departed as it's quite a jolt and people do get sent reeling if they aren't firmly balanced... but we'd figured we'd start serving at 21:15 and I was sat watching the hands on my little pendant tick away.
Eventually, at nearly 21:30 and with the expected revving of engine and jolt we set off for our little cruise and we started hauling trays of goodies around. The Boat 22 had started in ernest.
Things went well, I was able to get to the bathroom when I needed and people, in general, seemed hungry. The two are not related in the slightest but I figured I'd mention both just to see who'd give a confused look.
After the initial push to get people fed and it was back to roaming around making sure people were having a good time and enjoying the scenery, whilst I might not be London's biggest fan the view from the river itself is actually quite pleasant. From 10pm till 11pm we decided to take a break, let people get on with whatever they want and settle down after the initial excitement of going under bridges and waving at people (something I'm not immune to either).
Whilst I did spent a chunk of time actually sitting down or chatting to people I did end up heading off to see what else I could do to be useful at various points in the night, it's rather annoying to be sat down and then see another person still working; makes you wonder if you've got the wrong end of the stick.
But well before midnight we'd already run out of sausages, the chips were decimated and we were stocking the last of the meatballs; although we had nearly half a Norgie full of chicken left. It wasn't as popular.
This wasn't much of a surprise in hindsight; grease + fetish gear? Yeah, even carrying napkins people weren't overly keen on them and you also had the issue of being left with a chicken bone at the end of it. Not something you want to either cart around nor are there a propensity of bins floating around; I can only be in so many places at one time so... yeah. People much prefer chips n' dip, sausages or the meatballs. Less mess to deal with all round.
One major oddity was the presence of doormen. It's not unusual in the London based clubs but at the last Boat they weren't present, it did cause some odd looks from the regulars but me being me and treating everyone equally, I made sure to offer them goodies from the trays I was carting around. Whilst the woman politely declined, on the grounds that she'd eaten before coming, the guy was all for it once he realised that a) it was food and b) no, I wasn't joking when I was offering it to him.
England, indeed most of Europe, is enjoying a very nice heat wave at the moment with a peak temperature of 27 degrees centigrade (75% humidity though so it was soul suckingly draining) with a low predicted to be 17. So unlike last year, where the majority of people went downstairs just after the sun went down and pretty much stayed there instead everyone was fairly mobile going in and out of the play area. For me this was a good thing, I'd elected to rotate through the upstairs first, try to head towards the downstairs bow but wouldn't risk crashing a scene. Last year it was an absolute crush downstairs but with people moving I could wander around quite happily.
After one too many sharp turns and patches of turbulent water I went up to the top deck to wait for the painkillers to take effect. Sat down and started chatting to one of the regulars.
This is when I realise I had a giant potential problem on my hands. We'd been handling food with gloves on, this in and of itself isn't a bad thing. It's a good one, especially for me and my issue of the night; I couldn't scrub up properly post run to bathroom with the facilities on the boat. The problem is they weren't catering gloves nor, in fact, were they vinyl. These are old fashioned powdered latex gloves; it's stereotypically what someone would think of when they were looking to do catering. What you should actually be using is these things as they are easy to spot (if you lose one), easy to see if a tear has happened and most important of all... people don't have allergic reactions to the vinyl ones! So that was me powering off in to the boat to stop my Owner from eating... well... anything really! I made it quite literally, just in time. Panic averted and whilst she was grateful I'd stopped her it did mean she had to sit there and not eat anything which had to be a major disappointment; although didn't seem to cause too much issue.
Whilst I was certainly pulling my game back from the arse over apex it'd been at the start of the night a lot of guests (and staff) were noticing that strange things were happening. For example our route last year took us past Battersea power station, this year we turned quite sharply before getting up to it. It seemed that instead of a cruise up (and then down) the Thames we were instead going in ever decreasing circles. The other odd thing which had people concerned is that twice the boat tried to dock up.
The first time was the Canary Warf pier. It came in, bumped the dock with a jolt and then instantly set off again. The second time it seemed to be heading in to where several of the firms other craft were docked... possibly parking up for the night and I'm sure in-between these happenings I heard a familiar voice getting a bit irate with someone from the company.
I heard rumours that just a police motor launch had tootled past someone had been playing on the top deck and this had caused issues but it doesn't really go to explain what was happening. Pulling over once sure, but different route and trying to stop multiple times? Not really.
It's one of those mysteries that I'll probably get to the bottom of sooner or later.
The final round of service was really getting rid of as much as possible, so I was looping around as much area as I could alternating between the last of the fruit platters and packs of Haribo sweets. Both went down a treat.
The boat pulled in to its correct dock and the music stopped playing. Curiously this was 15 min or so before 2am, talking to my Owner the music died because the staff pulled the power to the amplifier... and we had the door staff constantly repeating that the party was over and everyone should leave.
It made for, what felt, a rather hurried end. Although these were the only things I could fault with the night and as last year I had a wail of a time puttering down the river loaded down with sweets.
Here's to The Boat 23, happening in 2016.