Skip to content

Tag: Queen Victoria

The best-laid plans o’ mice

Having shared quite a bit of our good news recently, I think I owe it to all the lovely people who have been reading our blogs, to share the bad news too.

Two weeks into our seven week ‘holiday of a lifetime’, disaster struck when Hugh got a detached retina. Fortunately we were in San Francisco, rather than several days out at sea, so we were able to fly home straight away, and we are now awaiting an operation to save his sight. We are both, of course, pretty gutted by this; and I am also upset to be letting down the various venues where I was doing poetry readings in New Zealand. And we were really looking forward to seeing Hugh’s sister, Sarah, again after so long. But the main thing now is to get Hugh right and to look forward to spring.

I had intended to do a blog about the ship at some stage, but for now I’ll just put in a few photos to give a taste. We did have a lovely fortnight.

Pool, 500There were two outside swimming pools on board, so we were able to swim each day.  In the intense heat, this was very welcome, particularly after we’d availed ourselves of the gymn – something we never normally do.

It was pretty amazing how many people were able to lie in the sun for hours on end. We thoroughly enjoyed our dose of sunshine; but with temperatures in the high 30s, shade and water also became very attractive.

There was a full programme of lectures and entertainment. One of the celebrities on board was Gerald Scarfe, who happened to be hitting the headlines that week with one of his cartoons. His wife, Jane Asher, was also with us, and acted as his technician for the talks – arranging his powerpoint presentations and microphones.

Gerald Scarfe 500We also had some good lectures on climate change and oceanography.

cabin 500Our cabin was very comfortable, and had a balcony. I know this will sound silly, but it was astonishing how busy we were on board.
As well as the lectures and other presentations, there were dance classes (!), activities in the gymn, swimming and a full programme of entertainments in the evening, some of which were enjoyable and others well worth missing! There was almost unlimited music, with pianists, a harpist, a ‘cellist, a string quartet, several bands and other instrumentalists.

I had also planned to do quite a bit of writing, which is why I took my lap-top.

Then, of course, there were the formal dinners. Over the years I’ve had occasion to buy a few really smart clothes, for weddings and visits to Buckingham Palace and such-like; so it was great to be able to pack them for the holiday and have opportunities to wear them.
Formal dinner 500So, to end on a cheerful note: we very much enjoyed the holiday we had.

There will be more blogs in time; but not from on board the Queen Victoria.

Leave a Comment

Flight from the deep freeze

Snowy garden 3

 It was a bit touch and go whether we would get out of Heathrow on Sunday morning, as so many flights were cancelled because of the snow; but we were fortunate enough to take off only a little over half an hour late. First the plane had to be de-iced: I imagined that we would taxi through some giant warm warehouse rather like the railway sheds we went through when the train bogies had to be changed as we passed from Mongolia to China on the trans-Siberian railway many years ago; but in fact two lorries with cranes on top came to attend to us, dowsing us with appropriate liquids from long arms. They looked like maternal animals gently stroking us in preparation for flight. We left Heathrow in minus 1 degrees, and arrived in Miami to enjoy a very pleasant plus 27 degrees.

Hyatt pools 300

blackbird & bird table 600

We spent the night in an excellent hotel. I dislike smart pretentious hotels, but this one somehow managed not to be a all pretentious – though we were somewhat surprised to be put into an executive suite with two double beds. The next morning we did a tour of inspection of the boats in the harbour (always essential as one member of the family is a member of the Harbour Board!), then had a long leisurely swim to cool down a little. It was a change to be seeing lizards, dragonflies and parakeets instead of our friendly robin and blackbird who have been grateful for our bird table recently. I hope someone else is looking after them now.

The US is a country of dizzying contrasts. At Miami airport a long floral wall display assuring us that ‘All you need is love” welcomed us to the country that prefers to put an armed guard in every school rather than to ban the lethal weapons. Then, although the population is multicoloured, the society appears to be astonishingly stratified, with blacks and latinos doing the work while whites enjoy the party; yet the US has now twice pulled off the miracle of electing a black president. Barack Obama started his second term the day we arrived, and was sworn in the next day which happened, by happy coincidence, to be Martin Luther King Day.

Having flown four and a half thousand miles at around 500 mph to get here, we are now chugging along happily at about 25 knots. I’ve often wondered about the word ‘knots’ for speeds over water, and I’ve now discovered that it comes from the days when a rope attached to a log was knotted at intervals of 47 feet 3 inches and paid out over the stern of a boat. The number of knots that ran out while a 28 second sand-glass emptied itself gave the speed of the ship in nautical miles per hour. As with most knowledge, however, that fact leads to more questions, such as ‘why 47 feet 3 inches between knots?’ and ‘why 28 seconds?’ Discussing this at breakfast, Hugh reckoned that the 28 seconds was to measure a half minute, allowing for turning the sandglass over, and the 47 feet 3 inches is probably the same fraction of a nautical mile as 28 seconds is of an hour. Does anyone know if this is correct?

Anyway, just in case you didn’t know, a knot equals 1.15 mph over land.

It’s quite difficult doing this blog on a very slow connection. However, I was told firmly that I had to include photos of us, so here we are setting sail yesterday.

Setting sail 600

Next stop Montego Bay, Jamacia.

1 Comment