All that stood between me and the coveted Miss Athena sash was a bright blue balloon and a handsome Portuguese entertainer.
Oh, and Margaret of course.
Margaret was my biggest threat, she meant business. Margaret was 82, and she wasn’t going down without a fight.
I was a guest of Classic International Cruises, sailing from Adelaide to Sydney on board the Athena. I was a reluctant entrant for the Miss Athena title, deliberately sitting at the back of the theatre to ensure I wasn’t plucked to go on stage. But I underestimated Pedro, the cruise ship’s animateur who pulled me into the spotlight with 13 other women, among them Margaret. My only option was to give the competition my best shot, win the title and score that sash, and I soon found myself in the final against Maureen, Jackie and Margaret.
That’s when balloons and Pedro became involved.
Asked to name our favourite star and then choose someone from the audience we thought resembled him, I recalled an old saying “don’t get mad, get even”. While the others chose their John Wayne, Clarke Gable and Tom Cruise, I chose Pedro, dragging him on stage and plonking him on my lap in a vice-like grip. At only about 24 and easy on the eye, Pedro’s worst nightmare had to be trapped on the lap of a middle-aged woman with a glint in her eye and revenge in her heart.
He knew he was in trouble.
Our challenge was to burst three balloons, one with the balloon wedged between us, another with the balloon on his lap and the third with Pedro leaning on a chair while I popped it from behind using only my hip movements.
I tossed the terrified Pedro to the floor, then backed up about three metres clutching the balloon to my chest. One can only imagine what was going through his mind as this lunatic in the sensible shoes and billowing blouse came barrelling towards him like a torpedo. I landed on top of him, the balloon bursting immediately on impact. Next, Pedro was cowering on a chair, the balloon the only thing protecting his manhood as the mad blonde came hurtling towards him again, landing, fortunately for him, smack on target. Another instant pop. The third and final challenge was less daunting for Pedro, but far more difficult, requiring a lot of wiggling and inappropriate movements for a woman of my vintage with a young man of Pedro’s age. But pop the balloon I did.
Surely, I had that Miss Athena Sash in the bag with all my creativity and comic strategy.
But I underestimated Margaret and her `John Wayne’. This pair of octogenarians weren’t to be outdone by any flibbertigibbet’s
exaggerated shenanigans. Shamelessly shimmying across stage to reach her target and then straining and struggling forever against her man to pop her balloons, Margaret won the audience and won that sash.
The next night the ship’s Miss Athena was cheered as she entered the restaurant, her sash adorning her slight frame and a grinning Pedro on her arm. Margaret ruled, Margaret rocked. Margaret was exactly where I’d like to be in 30 years time… happy, healthy and cruising.
Oh, and having a gorgeous, young Portuguese performer on my arm wouldn’t hurt either.