It was a slight relief to be back on board the Queen Mary 2. The barricades protecting the sidewalks on London Bridges reminded one of the dastardly Islamic terrorists who have made so many people leery of travel, but sensible folk know there are plenty of ways by which one is far more likely to die. I remember the IRA attacks in London many years ago when post boxes were sealed off to thwart bombs. Had I been more timorous and stayed home, I would have missed a glorious trip and the satisfactory attempt to live at least briefly en grand Seigneur.
I have met interesting people on the ship, including a practicing goldsmith, a grandfather who played in the original King and I as a child, and an eighty-year-old Roman Catholic Deacon who is doing his Ph.D. on the oral history of Chinese Americans in this country. Still, I would say having a traveling companion or companions is a good idea. It helped me when faced with my first cruise. That way you should have at least one person to help save your sanity at dinner, though this time the conversation was better than it was on the sailing from New York.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of sailing is also its greatest liability – copious good food and corresponding high caloric intake. Four o’clock tea is (at three-thirty on the Queen Mary 2) is fairly standard fare, but it is very popular. If one goes for the music, say a string quartet or a harpist, one can easily consume a meal’s worth of calories in scones, sandwiches, and sweets.
Dinner is even better. So far, my steward at dinner has never steered me wrong, and the food is very good. While it is, as expected, not as memorable as dinner at Alain Ducasse (and the Cunard kitchen is preparing thousands of meals), it is clearly a cut above most restaurants. However, it is girth-expanding. So far the only whale I have sighted at see is me in the mirror.
Sunday I stumbled into the Interdenominational Sunday Service, led by the Captain. To my pleased astonishment, it was almost entirely from Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer, though the usual reference to “the Holy Ghost” became “the Holy Spirit.” However, with some shillyshallying between “You” and “Thee,” we still got the old prayer book disliked by pointy-headed Episcopalian bishops whose literary skills are worse than their theology. Cranmer’s translation of Medieval liturgy still is unrivalled. We even heard “and there is no health in us,” which was not cut in the Confession as some would do because of fear their parishioners might therefore momentarily think Creation itself was “unhealthy.” Rubbish Having attending BCP services at the Ancient Universities’ Choral Foundations, I was aware of this quibble. You see, the bishops, who worry about the supposed literal-minded bêtise of their flocks, did not care (or perhaps did not realize) that Cranmar, a great Latinist, followed the Ciceronian cursus of the Latin sentence: thesis, antithesis, and conclusion. Quoting from the leaflet provided, “we have left undone those things that we ought to have done, and we have done those things we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us.” The complete lack of health (because of sin) may upset literal-minded prelates, but any Latinist, even as poor a one as I was, stubs his toe when the conclusion is omitted. Apparently unlike Cranmer, I am very keen on the theology of Real Presence in the Eucharist, though the Book of Common Prayer allows for a surprising amount of theological variation, from retaining High Church traditions Rome has cut to those Protestants who seem to cling to “the Real Absence” in the Eucharist.
It was refreshing to be taken back to my University days when I heard the Anglican Choral Foundations using the Book of Common Prayer. We sang “The Navy Hymn,” as was most appropriate for a sea-faring congregation.
My last extravagances will be a flight of very small servings of the five First Growth Clarets at the last Black Tie dinner. Then it will be a song-and-dance show. I and the Deacon will dine the last night in the gourmet Verandah Restaurant. Then I take the train home to recover from my vacation.
I have learned a few things from this trip:
- Orange juice looks orange in England, but it is nothing like the Florida original!
- “Gratuities Included” is something of an exaggeration.
- “Orchard Pig Reveller” Cider on draught in a Somerset Pub is much better than “Orchard Pig Reveller” in a bottle onboard ship.
- Pretty shop girls have the edge on getting males to buy things. You knew this.
- A Gentleman’s Club is a Good Thing, even when it is “mixed.” However, though the “unmixed” clubs may be Politically Incorrect, I still like them even though my own club is “mixed.”
- Deriding clubs one will never be asked to join is ignoble. Envy is still a sin.
- Vacationing requires a good amount of recovery time after the fact, and not only for one’s wounded wallet.
- Living en grand Seigneur or en grande Dame is probably more fun when it is not one’s ordinary lifestyle. If one always lived in such grand style, it would not be nearly as special as the occasional treat. If one’s ordinary drink was First Growth Bordeaux, it is hard to imagine what you open for a special occasion. One of Thomas Jefferson’s bottles? It is like buying a new car; even if it was “pre-owned” (isn’t it then still in the factory?), it is at first the exciting new car. Then in time it is the car. Then it is “when are we going get rid of this old car?” As my legacy dissipates and I return to life as an Old Age Pensioner, I shall try very hard to keep this in mind.