Herewith an account of the adventures in England in 2017, written on the spot with scant reworking. The events depicted took place two weeks ago.
Tragedy has struck the ship: the soft-serve machine was down at lunch, and the other one produced dessert of insufficient solidity.
I’m ready to go home.
The two sentiments are not really connected, but the second is surely true. I’ve been away a while. The pace of shipboard life is agreeable and the routines of the day are relaxing, but I have exhausted the novelty and begun to fall back on habit. While I appreciate the romantic history of A Crossing, I think in the end I will be happier to say I did a Crossing than I actually was doing it. See that picture above? That was taken days ago. We haven't seen a ship in a long time.
But it's relaxing, sitting here drinking lemon tea. It's a nice change from Lemsip, the only cold remedy you can buy on board. I rather like it. I'm sure it comes in other forms, but the only one the ship sells is a powder you mix with hot water. It's delicious. Tea with drugs, really. `h
No idea what day it is. That’s good and bad. The normal order of the day at home has certain demands and rituals and pleasures that mark the time - the fact that we always have pasta on Monday, for example, or that Friday is Ice Cream day, or that I always do meth on Wednesday, or sacrifice the white goat on every other Saturday night etc etc. Here, no. There’s the Formal Night, which means a tie is required and you're supposed to have a tux or tux-approximating get-up. They’d like you to wear a bow tie and cumberbund, but it’s not as if they can put you off at the next port for wearing a black neck tie. I mean, everyone’s put off at the next port.
So the day has some routines. For example: Right now I’m having my post-nap coffee and snack, around 5 PM. Usually it’s a bit of salami and some cheese and bread. They’d taken up the light meat department, though, and put away the cheese. It’s a shame. Every day I come down looking for a repeat of that cranberry Wensleydale, and it’s not to be had. In a while I will go outside and walk around the ship, then go up to my room, perhaps iron a shirt -
No, amend that. I’ve ironed them all. There’s a launderette down the hall, and I have so much time on his ship I've not only ironed everything in advance, I’ve done a load of clothing, and will do another, ensuring that I arrive home with a suitcase full of clean garments.
There’s a great ad for the ship: a happy family sorting shirts, with the caption - we’re all doing laundry - again!
Cold is a bit better. Tthere’s a certain liberation in having a cold. No more hand-washing and Purell for me! I’m already sick. I can touch anything and rub my eyes!
Now, some more stuff from the walls.
After lunch I was wandering around the main atrium, and I heard Gershwin.
A fellow was playing the Three Preludes in one of the theaters. To be honest I’ve heard better, and I know that sounds horrible. Here's the amusing part, at least to me, because it reflects well on me: when he stopped the third prelude I clapped immediately, just to be encouraging, and then the rest of the auditorium joined in. He stood, thanked us, and said it was an odd ending to the piece because it was so abrupt, and you didn’t quite know if it was over or not. I wanted to shout WELL SOME OF US DO BECAUSE WE KNOW IT, but that was his canned spiel. Even though I’d ruined it by being Mr. Knowledge who just had to clap right away.
Then he talked about bringing lesser known composers to wider audiences, and how he’d discovered the work of some minor minor English pianist from the early 20th century who was hampered in his career by having two unpopular conditions, homosexuality and schitzophrenia. He hoped we would enjoy our encounter with the fellow’s work, and sat down to play.
I left after a minute. Sometimes there’s a reason composers are forgotten.
I mention this not just to be insufferable but to note that this is like a city where you walk down the street, hear a pianist, go in a door, hear a performance, then wander out, rejoin the rest of the people on the promenade, wander some more, then bitch about the soft-serve.
LATER We had the cognac and cigars night at the back of the ship. Lots of fun. Kind reviews for my panel - again, I was the moderator. This is my new job, I gather. Before I’ve been one of the people on the panel; now I run the panel. At first I was surprised, and a bit daunted: when you’re a guy on the panel, you wait, then you deliver Your Chunk. The moderator’s job is different: you have to devise a question the panel member may or may not answer, and then craft a way to the next question of the next person. I am generally a bad interviewer, because I want to be interviewed. Me me me! Me! ME! But once I figured I could basically interview myself for brief portions between speakers as segues to the next person, well, it all seemed like fun. And so it was.
Up tomorrow to do it again, with a five-person panel including a US Senator and Mark Helprin, the novelist for whom I have boundless regard. This will be fun.
It’s all fun.
Here's a question: where are we?
Well, that certainly narrows it down.
Say, how about a little bit more information?
No medium twixt the two, it seems. Not for us lubbers watching the captain's feed.
Tomorrow: the surprising conclusion!