What Do You Get A Blog For Its First Birthday?

A momentous occasion (to indulge in a little rank hyperbole) would have passed quietly Blog's first birthdaywithout notice today had I not received this congratulatory, albeit terse, note from the folks at WordPress headquarters, (reputed to be located in a bunker buried deep in the Ural mountains).  The message read simply, “Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com.”

It is hard to believe that one year ago today an impoverished world was struggling along without benefit of my accumulated wisdom, wry wit and effervescent charm.  Planet earth must have seemed a very grim and dreary place back then.   Thankfully, one of the seven muses (nine according to some antiquarians . . . nothing is ever straightforward, is it?) arose from a long slumber and showered their inspiration on your humble blogger.  OK, perhaps it was more like a light dusting but let’s not quibble on such an august occasion.

English: United States Postal Service headquar...

United States Postal Service headquarters at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am sure, even as I pen these words, burlap bags full of well wishes, congratulatory cards and letters and even a few modest tangible expressions of appreciation are being sorted and loaded by our friends over at the U.S. Postal Service.  The fact that none have as yet arrived must be attributable to the voluminous increase in mail that always surrounds Father’s Day. (That was sarcasm in case it escaped you.)

To be perfectly frank, I have not achieved all the lofty goals I set for this blog one year ago today.  I am not able to report my 10 millionth visitor nor have I been asked to write the travel blog for USA Today.   What I can report is one of the strangest phenomenons associated with blogging.  To date my blog posts have been read by people in 104 different countries around the world.  Seriously!  When you consider that my quirky sense of humor escapes the appreciation of some people in my own family, you have to wonder how comprehensible it could possibly be to people in Malta, Albania, Senegal, Macao and French Polynesia to name just a few.

I have written 61 posts, each a veritable classic it goes without saying.  If you are doing 40 years to life in San Quentin and need a way to make some time pass (granted very slowly), just jump over to my What Did I Miss? page and you will find a complete listing.

I have somehow managed to persuade several otherwise reasonably sane individuals to let me interview them for this blog such as Vicki Freed, Michael Batt and John Heald.

Royal Caribbean's Vicki Freed        Mike Batt         John Heald Carnival Cruise Senior Cruise Director

Since so far I have not been sued in a court of law or made to do a perp walk through the county courthouse, I suppose I will keep plodding along in my inimitable mind numbing way until either the muses abandon me or my frustrated maker cries “Enough already!”  You are invited to register your reaction to this self-congratulatory epistle by taking the poll below.

John Heald: Carnival’s Wayfaring Wag (1)

A wag, according to dictionary.com is a person given to droll, roguish or mischievous humor; a wit.  What better way to inaugurate the first installment of Backroom BanterInterview than to introduce you to someone, if you haven’t stumbled across him already, whose occasionally ribald and frequently irreverent sense of humor has caused me more than one audible chuckle in inappropriate settings?  I strongly suggest you never read his blog in a library, during your sentencing hearing or in a church pew!

His name is John Heald and this brief self-introduction from the “Meet John” page on his wildly popular blog www.JohnHealdsBlog.com should suffice to acquaint you with the gravitas and solemnity which permeates his entire blog.

He writes, “I started this blog when a lady called Stephanie said “Oh John, please write a blog, it will only be for a week and won’t take up much of your time.” That was back in 1492 and here I am still writing in the same pair of underpants. I am Carnival’s Senior Cruise Director and Brand Ambassador, and I am here to share my life with you in all its boring and sometimes toilet-based glory.”

If you think my “Fool Disclosure” page is a little weird (and that does seem to be the general consensus among my readers), you should check out John’s “Disclaimer Thingy”.   John’s 15,000,000 views and counting make my page views look like a rounding error.   When you consider he began blogging, by his own admission, in 1492 and my humble blog is still swaddled in a preemie blanket, it is probably juvenile of me to be gripped by this insane blog envy I’m feeling.   I ask you, dear reader, would it be too much to ask for John to loan me, say, half-a-million page views until I get on my feet?   He would never miss them.  Heck, that’s just a couple of good weeks for John.

But enough about my own fragile psyche.  Let’s catch up with John and see what he the heck he is up to these days.

Q.  John, tell us a little about your upbringing.   Have you managed to squelch that ugly rumor knocking about (no pun intended) that you are the illegitimate love child of John Cleese and Margaret Thatcher?

A.  I was a cesarean baby which is why every time I get out of the car I go through the sun roof. OK, after that stupid joke I should say that I have been very lucky. I worked as a commodities broker and for Lloyd’s of London in England. Then In 1987 and much to the distress of my parents I answered a magazine (remember magazines?) article for cruise ship staff and began working for Carnival Cruise Lines as a bar waiter. I did not know the difference between a Pina Colada and a Slippery Nipple so the beards gave me a microphone instead and told me to be a social host. From there I became a cruise director in 1991 and senior cruise director in 2004. I was recently given the title of Brand Ambassador, as well. I am one lucky sod! I was a huge Thatcher supporter and Cleese is my idol so that is actually a compliment.

Q.  What was your first job with Carnival and in which century was that exactly?

A. I flew from Heathrow to Miami in 1987 to take up the position of bar waiter on the cruiseJohn Heald of Carnival Cruise Lines' Facebook Page ship Holiday. When I landed I had to find my own way to a hotel which was called the Colonial Hotel. It made a Turkish prison look like the Ritz. I was there three nights waiting for the ship to arrive in Miami and it took every bit of my will power not to leave. But that Saturday the MS Holiday arrived and on I went. My training as a bar waiter was intense. The bar manager gave me a tray, a pair of white gloves for formal night and said “go and serve drinks.” That was it. How things have changed today and I am proud to think that I am still probably the worst bar waiter Carnival ever had.

Q.  Would you describe a typical day in the life of John Heald?  Reader alert:  If references to a grown man working in his underwear are apt to make you queasy, skip to the next question.

A.  It sounds like a cliché but there really isn’t a typical day. With 4,000 different guests on board the Carnival Breeze each cruise there are new challenges each day. However I do mix my day between managing 70 staff, 4,000 guests, writing a blog, answering an average of 50 Facebook questions a day and most importantly being on stage and out with the guests which is still my favourite thing to do by far. One of the reasons I keep going is that no day is really the same and you never know what is round the corner……..and yes…..I blog best when I am dressed only in my XXL Marks And Spencers underpants.

To Be Continued . . .

As a shameless ploy to lure you back to this highbrow discussion, I am postponing the rest of my Q&A for John until my next post.  Now don’t go all mopey on me!   I promise John and I will be back before you can say “Honestly, there’s no rush!”