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Published: October 30th 2018
October 29 at sea, 433 p.m., ship’s time
Around midnight last night, sitting on the stairs used almost exclusively by the crew to get up to the 12th floor, I finally managed to hook into the internet long enough to send off a couple of posts. According to the computer help desk person working last night, the reception in the staterooms is often so bad that you have to open the door to get a signal. He has the worst time getting hooked into the ‘net himself in his quarter, a constant source of embarrassment to a computer geek!
The Ipad works quite brilliantly out there. It is a touch uncomfortable but, what the heck, I figure you’re worth it. I do get the occasional strange look out there. Again, I am happy to get only the occasional strange look. Betters my lifetime average, that does.
We went to the captain’s reception for us Cunard veterans last night. Just the captain and 900 of his closest friends. There were people there who had sailed on the original Queen Mary, as well as veterans of 50? 60? 70?, voyages. Plus us. Show you can always go one better, doesn’t it?
We had gone down with the sole intention of telling Captain Wells what a splendid church service he had led. The free champagne had nothing to do with it.
There was a vast lineup to shake the captain’s hand and a considerably shorter one if you just wanted to sneak in and grab a crafty complimentary glass of bubbly. Guess what we did.
While sipping, we noticed that several of the ship’s female officers were standing in a group. No one was talking to them. Naturally, being empathetic and considerate, I went over to tell them how much we had enjoyed the voyage. The fact that they were all young and good looking and looked very attractive in their formal uniforms had nothing . . . oh, never mind, you wouldn’t believe me if I denied it anyway . . . , didn’t hurt in the least. I ended up chatting with one young woman, an assistant purser, who has worked for cruise lines and on ships for 14 years. She must have started when she was in junior high school because there was no way she looked old enough to have been out of school for more than 4 years, never mind 14. Oddly enough, she didn’t mind my telling her that in the least in front of my wife. I told her how much we were enjoying our voyage and asked if the crew were always as cheerful and pleasant as they have been so far.
It turns out that this is her first tour with the Queen Mary as she was brought in to fill a vacancy from her home ship, the Queen Victoria. She loves the QV and the people she works with there but, she said, and I braced myself for the negative, the Queen Mary takes things up to another level. She said she didn’t think it was possible but crew morale on this ship was even better than it was on her home ship.
I am convinced it has a great deal to do with Captain Wells. And, since I think that morale is directly related to leadership, I now really did want to shake his hand. We noticed that the receiving line had diminished to manageable proportions so we wandered over and got in line. By the time we got to the man, he had been on his feet talking to a constant stream of people for 35 or 40 minutes, and he does this two or three times every week. I thought he might at that point be a little weary of saying hello to complete strangers.
Nope. Seemed delighted to meet us and shake our hands. And, when we said how great we thought the church service had been, he enthusiastically and charmingly launched into a description of how it was that ships’ captains came to lead the church parade. As we did not want to keep the few remaining passengers waiting too long we had to tear ourselves away. He left me with the impression that it had been his privilege to meet us, rather than the other way around.
(Captain Wells announcing our position at noon today: “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, we are now in the middle of . . . , well, nowhere, really.)
Speaking of privileged (come to think of it, just being on this ship as passengers shows how privileged we are), at lunch today I met two gentlemen with whom it was a thrill to talk. Susan and I have purchased British style poppies from the purser’s desk so that we can commemorate the upcoming Remembrance Day. The man who asked me at lunch where we got ours turns out to be a retired Canadian colonel who has just had published a book about Canadian conscript soldiers in WWI. The books starts by telling the story of George Lawrence Price, the last Canadian soldier killed on active duty on the Western Front in WWI.
George Lawrence Price is part of the reason we originally planned this trip. I did not anticipate meeting anyone else who had ever heard of him, never mind anyone who knew more about him than I did. Patrick, in fact, had served with the RCAF in Belgium for 10 years, not far from GLP’s last resting place. Turns out that he and his buddy, Keith, also a retired colonel, will be official guests at the centenary celebrations at the town hall in Mons and then at another ceremony to specifically honour GLP. Keith is also retired airforce who has also written a military history, this one on the British Columbia regiment. Keith, heaven help us, went to the same elementary school in Edmonton that I did.
Their wives have let them run off to Europe for this event, and Susan granted me a temporary pass to join them for coffee and a general natter about WWI military history, world politics, poetry (Kipling, Service, and, yes, Shakespeare). As perhaps the most unmilitary of military history buffs, I could only join in by sharing stories of family members (Dad, Granddad, two uncles and one great uncle) who had wartime military experience but it was fun. I am grateful that I was able to fill in one tiny gap in their knowledge. They did not know that October 25 was St. Crispin’s Day and seemed pleased to find out. (That leads to another recitation of Henry V – noticing a theme here, anyone ?), which led to Kipling, Robert Service and off to God only knows where. I am very pleased that we are invited to join them for breakfast tomorrow to continue the conversation. I am really looking forward to it.
Yet another example of the fascinating people we have met at meals. We sat by ourselves this morning at a prime table by a window looking out over the ocean. We shan’t be doing that again, we have agreed.
Have I mentioned the phrase “Slow learners?” See below.
Last night, we were the first people to arrive at our regular dinner table and we were disappointed when Peter and Mary, Grita and Sharon (yes, I got it right) did not join us immediately. Well, as I said to Susan, they certainly not obligated to have dinner with the likes of us every night. There are lots of other places to eat on this ship, she agreed. Of course, said I. We are all adults, not children waiting for our friends to show up before we do anything, right? Absolutely, says I. We can certainly entertain ourselves for one night! Quite right. Independence personified, that’s us.
Oh, THERE they are!! Thank god! Wine steward!! (What can I tell you? They fill in for you while we are away.)
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