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All at Sea - Peter Langton tell it in his own unique style.

A couple of years ago I read Peter Langton’s first book “Not Wanted on Voyage” I was like stepping back in time to when I was an assistant purser on P&O, in fact, it covered the period 1967 -1982 my time with P&O was bang slap in the middle of this period the Mis 1970s. I recognised so many of the characters that were mentioned and indeed the stories he had to tell.

Peter Langton's First Book

"Not wanted on Voyage"

I have waited patiently for his second book” All at Sea” to be published. According to one of Peter’s friends, Purser Mike, Peter, and his notes had been separated by covid and due to lockdown could not be reunited.

Finally, “All at Sea” has hit the shelves or in my case the “e-reader” and has delivered all it promised and much more. I read it recently while on holiday and I’m sure my fellow holidaymakers thought I was quite mad chuckling away to myself on the sunbed.

As in his first book, Peter only mentioned first names and nicknames, but for those that sailed with P&O during this period,, the characters will jump out of the page at you. In his first book Passenger shipping is transformed from being a method of transport to a completely different role of holiday and vocational cruising, with the subsequent increase in entertainment and customer service.

In book two he moves over to Princess and spends much of his time on Sun Princess

The book gets off to a ripping start when “Big Mary” who suffered from excessive flatulence lets rip at the Captain’s Cocktail Party cause fits of laughter among the officers and stewards causing two trays of drinks to hitting the deck as they were overcome by laughter.

P&O ships employed Indian and Goan Crew. The Purser’s steward was from Goa and was very nervous and uncoordinated and tended to break a tremendous amount of crockery and glassware. He was nicknamed by Purser Jeremy (who incidentally was my training purser on my very first cruise as a purser cadet) Disco Dias. One day Disco turned up at Peter’s office with a letter from his wife claiming his neighbours were stealing his coconuts. It turned out that Disco had a coconut plantation back in Goa and others were taking advantage in his absence. Disco arms may have been uncoordinated, but he certainly had a business head on his shoulders.

Life onboard can be charged with sexual tension and often the pursers have to hear complaints from passengers who have noisy neighbours... I have my own story to tell about a retired clergyman who once told me he thought he was having a pleasant dream after one such incident. However, the boot in on the other foot in Peter’s book when he received one such complaint from two ladies in an adjoining cabin. It transpired that they had held glasses to bulkhead to hear the rumpus more clearly. They wrote to the Managing Director to Princess, stating that Peter the purser had not taken their complaint seriously. However, the letter did mention what they had heard “Ride 'em Cowboy” and “Ride me baby till I’m raw” were two of the choice phrases. On checking up who was in the offending cabin it turned out to be a young and attractive Rabbi who was onboard to hold the Passover service with his lady friend.

On the subject of sex. Two of the newer Princess ships had a TV system for the crew, no reception apart from local TV when in port, However, the Sun Princess had no such system, but the radio and engineer offices installed a crew system onboard financed by the Crew Club. Arrangements were made with video rental shops in St Thomas (Caribbean) and Ketchikan (Alaska) to swop movies every week. Inevitably videos from individuals’ private collects hit the screen. However, the private collection was not to last and ended with an unfortunate incident when a passenger inadvertently came across the special channel.

Uganda goes to war in the Falklands as a hospital ship with the call sign of "Mother Hen".

Not everything was plain sailing. In 1982 Britain went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Canberra and Uganda were commandeered and went to war. With the lack of a decent airstrip in the Falkland after the war, it was necessary for Uganda to return to the islands once again, this time to act as a troopship.

P&O decided that to be fair on all Officers, Deck, Engine and Pursers were to complete a stint on the troopship who by this had seen better days and the south Atlantic weather had stripped her down to bare and rusted steel by the time Peter joined her.

Uganda After her Troop Duties

The reason Peter writes using a pseudo name is to protect the innocent and the not so innocent. No holds bar he tells of dodgy dealing concerning exchanging Singapore dollars. He goes on to tell? about gambling debts and the pursers safe containing a cheque to maintain the balance. How shocking is that?. According to Peter, it was a sad day for Pursers, Barmen, shop Managers, casino staff and photographers when computers were installed.

The stories go on and on. I have hinted at just a few and you simply must buy Peter’s book to read all the scuttlebutt.

scuttlebutt early 19th century (denoting a water butt on the deck of a ship, providing drinking water): from scuttled butt. Sailors would traditionally exchange gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt for a drink of water.


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