DONNA THE DANCER

My first ship in foreign waters was the MV Atalante, based in Cyprus. We used to do short four day cruises stopping off at Haifa, Israel, and Port Said, Egypt, along with the odd week- long tour around the Greek Islands.

As with my previous contracts, I’d managed to snag one of the dancers in the entertainment team. Her name was Donna McKitrick, and she was from Liverpool.

I was besotted with her. After our shows, we’d head up to the deck at around midnight, and after the bars and pool area had closed, the ship’s outer lights would be turned off.

We’d share a sun lounger, a bottle of Absolute and a bucket of ice. With zero light pollution, we would gaze at the brilliant stars lit against the jet black Mediterranean sky. We’d happily lie there all night, never running out of things to talk about.

The best part of the cruise was when we’d be approaching Israel. The sun would start to rise, there would sometimes be a little sea mist, and the sky would glow with a multitude of reds, oranges and pinks, illuminating Haifa, which stands proudly at an elevation of almost 1,000 feet above sea level.

With the gentle rocking of the ship, the smell of the sea, and the warm breeze together with that view and a belly full of Vodka, I defy anyone to suppress their desires. Donna and I didn’t do much suppressing.

Taking the fact that she was kind enough to stamp my card on a regular basis out of the equation, I think Donna was possibly the first girl with whom I could envisage a future.

After just a few weeks, that bliss came to an abrupt end when she came down badly during a dance routine on stage and broke her little toe. No one wants to see a hobbling dancer, and she was flown back to the UK. I felt like someone had opened my chest cavity and ripped out my heart. I felt empty.

We would stay in touch, and meet again when we were both in the UK three years later. Days before we met, my heart was pounding in anticipation, and I realised that I’d been in love with someone I hadn’t seen for a very long time.

When we did finally meet, the passion was still there, just as strong as it had been as we’d watched those majestic sunrises.

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