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.

An odd day of discomfort. Either I have a cold, or I really blew out my voice yesterday; sore raw throat all day, and it feels like a cold, but on the other hand I was talking in a loud voice from 7:30 PM to 2:30 AM, and that will take a toll. Drinking lemon tea right now, and it helps a bit, but it still hurts. I have another social hour and a dinner ahead, which means more strain.

The talking began at the Chart Room, where there was a gathering of the elect. I guess. A guest wanted to treat a few writers to free drinks, so that meant some Strong Talking. Then dinner, where I did most of the talking, and since that goes from 8:30 to 10:15 or so, that was a lot of palaver. Because of the acoustics I have to half-shout, which strains the cords.

I had the duck. There wasn’t a lot of it. The portions here are small and exquisite, incredibly delicious - quality over quantity. If you wanted to gluttonate you could go to the Kings Court and have plate after plate, I suppose. I’ve done that. There was an Indian meal the other day, and after I finished what I put on my plate I went back and repeated the experience.

Because you can.


  Shall we take a look at the menus of yore? Sure, why not. The cover of the menu for the Scythia’s on the left; the menu itself is handwritten and hard to make out, so never mind. (The ship was in service from 1875 to 1999; little more info seems available.) Let’s talk about the Queen Mary in 1937.



Bonny Boy Toasted Oats and Force Whole-Wheat Flakes. Onion soup, if that’s your idea of breakfast. Note: why is that your idea of breakfast.

Also on the morning menu: Yarmouth Bloaters and Lingfish. Lamb Kidneys. Devilled Beef Bones. FRENCH FRIES. For breakfast. Barbaric.

Speaking of Dining: I found another typo. I wonder if Cunard hears about these.



  I don’t think it was the Dining Doom.

The dinners are fun and it’s interesting to talk to people but it’s exhausting and they take forever. When they’re over the ship’s day is pretty much done, but I still have a few hours left and usually find someone for conversation, because that’s the best part of the day. The drinks and the palaver. So it was up up to the Commodore’s Club, which is the Crow’s Nest for this vessel - but much smaller, much more intimate. I like it a lot. Big bar. I talked with a few guests and writers until they closed the place around 1:30, I think - fine time.

But then I made the boneheaded decision to drop into the Churchill Room, which is the cigar place, and hello, audience. Held forth, greatly pleasing myself, until 2:30, and woke seven hours later with a raw, aching throat. It should be better by now, this being five PM, and it’s not, which makes me think this is a cold, except otherwise I feel fine. No aches or weariness, and appetite is huge. In any case I moderate a panel at 11 AM, and there’s no backing out of that. Well, we soldier on.

First, more wall art. I love this picture, taken minutes before the ship filled with water and dropped to the bottom of the sea:.


Cutaway illustrations were endlessly fascinating to my childhood self - hardly unusual, since these detailed revelations captivated many.

Interior cabin right under the dining room? That must have been great for naps.



Meanwhile, down in the incrementally less advantageous sections:



There are some pictures of the OQM, or Original Queen Mary's, old bar.



If you're wondering: it was red.


LATER: we had a social event in the Queen’s Court, and I started TALKING AGAIN. This can’t keep happening. I also had a glass of the bubbly, which helped, and because it helped I had another; this didn’t help, in another sense. But I found myself leaving the party after a decent appearance and heading to the back of the ship to see if I could text home. I could! Had a real-time conversation with Daughter, which was a delight and made me come alive, like inscribing letters on the Golem’s forehead.

LATER: voice better, but I probably wrecked it in the Churchill Room again tonight. At least I only talked for an hour. Dinner was moderate talking, and I felt the strain, but -

I just want to say I know this sounds ridiculous, because chances are you’ve never taken a vacation and worried about the timbre of your voice or whether your cords were overtaxed, but that’s every damned cruise I do. I talk so much. I get a year’s worth of talking in a week. And I love it. Dinner I kept it close, and didn’t shout, but when I got to the Churchill Room there were three people from a camera crew shooting a CW show about cruise ships, and, well, you know me and fellow media people! We’re all peers, right? Why, I’ve done TV!

Well, I have, but who hasn't these days. So it’s not silly to presume some sort of common tongue, and between the producer and the presenter, heck yeah, we can talk shop. The presenter was almost a dead ringer for a producer I had back in the 80s - she had the same laugh, too - and she used to be in radio, so we got into the elemental joys of the medium, slinging lingo, swapping on-air moments, and it made me feel energetic again. AT 1:30 AM. Great.

And then the Young People went to bed, and I felt old. Not in terms of energy or spirit, but just chronologically old. I have energy and verve and pizzazz! Up and at ‘em! Unless it was a late night and I’m ploggered with head-grot in the morning, but in general, yeah, I feel like I did when I was 20. But to the young TV presenter I was old, I'm sure.

Well, the fellow in the corner of the room was older than me by at least ten years. He was from Minnesota, as we discovered. Before I left the Churchill Room I said we should sing the U of M Rouser, and that we did, with enthusiasm, right down to shouting the RAH! RAH! RAH! RAH! in a room on a ship in the middle of the North Atlantic.

Possibly the highlight of the day, when I think about it. Two strangers effortlessly summoning the ancestral song as the gale-force winds lash the windows in the room that has become far less interesting since the presenter with the short black hair and leather pants left. But they always do, eventually, and we’re left behind sunk in the chairs, staring at the tip of the cigar, thinking:

Almost out. Better give it a puff. Anyone know a good song?



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