Sailing

My experience of cruises is limited to sailing from Poole to Cherbourg, a five hour trip on the Bar Fleur, for days out or holidays in France, and our one trip to Bilbao, northern Spain.

Poole Harbour – not the Bar Fleur

Our voyage on the Pride of Bilbao was one of their three-night weekend mini cabaret cruises, off peak season in October, with vouchers Cyberspouse got people at work to cut out of The Sun newspaper, a paper I never let him buy! When we boarded at Portsmouth all the other passengers looked like Sun readers. On the Friday night we went to watch the cabaret and were not surprised that when it was finished the entertainers reappeared in their crew members’ uniforms.

Our inner cabin was like a prison cell; I took the top bunk, not wishing Cyberspouse to crash down on top of me.

But the next day was sunny with plenty to do on board; relaxing in the lounges, taking part in Whale and Dolphin watches on deck or from the observation lounge, going to wildlife presentations in the ship’s cinema with the resident wildlife officer from the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme.

After our second sleep came our early arrival in the port for our six hour turn around. On board we could book one of three coach trips; there was a lot of port and industry between us and Bilbao town, so you couldn’t just get off and ‘have a look around’. The fishing village outing was off, not enough takers. We had plumped for the Guggenheim Museum, but regular passengers told us it wouldn’t be opening for another hour, so we changed to the trip into town with hot chocolate and a snack at a quaint tiled coffee house. We spent the remainder of the time wandering around a nice department store near the coach pick up point, because it was cold and also I was worried we would not find our way back or be late for the coach!

That day’s sailing was very pleasant, sitting in the sun lounges, reading or writing and listening out for summons to see whales – we only ever saw distant sprays of water. I decided I enjoyed cruising. On our last night we slept well and were surprised when the next morning the Captain said we had been through a Force Eight ( or was it Sixteen? ) Gale; the Bay of Biscay is known for rough seas. I might have thought twice about going if I had known that, but it seems our inner cabin was far more stable than the better cabins.

The elegant Queen Mary 2 – the world’s only ocean liner, not a cruise ship

We have been on trips to Southampton and crossed Southampton Water on the ferry, so we have seen plenty of cruise ships and most of them look like huge floating blocks of flats, how do passengers find their way around? We never could afford seriously considered going on a proper cruise.

One of the strangest remarks after Cyberspouse died was from the reclusive retired couple in our little road. It’s not that they don’t talk to us, just that they don’t engage much with the rest of the neighbours. Pre Covid He spent all his time in the driveway and garage making things, while She was always out playing golf. He had been over once to say how sorry he was to hear Cyberspouse was ill. I was in the front garden one day and surprised to see them out together and coming over to chat. When he asked how I was getting on I thought he meant as a widow of over a month, but it turned out he had missed the dying part and thought Cyberspouse was still isolating indoors. He then compounded the awkwardness by asking if I was going to do anything exciting… adding like going on a cruise! I can imagine what his wife said to him when they got indoors!

The other day I was watching an item on the news about P&O Cruises offering round Britain cruises for UK residents who have been vaccinated…

Sailing at reduced capacity and with new health protocols, the line will offer round-trip short breaks on Britannia and week-long cruises on its new ship Iona from Southampton from June 27 until September 19, 2021.

For a moment I was tempted, they won’t actually be stopping anywhere. After so long with Covid constraints, many of us will need the security of not being able to do what we like. If the ship never docked anywhere I would also be saved the tedium of queueing up to disembark with lots of old people and their walking frames ( so I have heard ) and of course my fear of getting lost and not getting back to the ship in time. I could stay in my cosy cabin writing or stroll the decks looking out for familiar parts of the coast we have visited. Perhaps I would pretend I was a famous writer going on a great voyage…

Not a P&O cruise ship

Then the presenter asked if the crew would also all be vaccinated and the answer was No, they had crew from ninety ( or was it sixty ) different countries. Then I remembered how in pre Covid days cruise ships were always having outbreaks of Norovirus – yes the vomiting etc one – and I would probably get lost on board; even in Premiere Inns, where the corridors are like being on board ship, I always turn the wrong way out of the room. So perhaps I won’t go, perhaps they are already booked up …a blogging opportunity lost.

Wednesday Wonderings

Have you had the jab yet – whoops sorry, those who have a phobia about needles do not like to hear that word and certainly do not like seeing the constant images on the news of smiling pensioners being vaccinated against Covid. But this is the biggest programme of vaccination in The World ever, so there is plenty to talk about; have you had it, why hasn’t my ninety year old aunt had it yet, which one did you have, should I have it…

I had the phone call on Friday to turn up at 4.30pm on Sunday for AstraZeneca; all weekend  the news was about the effectiveness of AstraZenica, would it resist the South African variant etc.   Who do you trust? There is a sizeable group of people, in every country, who do not trust any Covid vaccination, ranging from those who have a genuine medical reason and have been told not to have it, those worrying if animal products or alcohol are used to make it, through to CIA involvement. I don’t know if those with a needle phobia will also be avoiding vaccination.

This is another issue to divide people, as if we hadn’t enough already. It’s not compulsory in the United Kingdom, but the big picture is to get as many people as quickly as possible vaccinated for any chance of life returning to normal and to save as many lives as possible. Anthony Fauci is one of the world’s leading experts on infectious diseases and now chief medical advisor to US President Joe Biden, who no doubt listens to him more carefully than his predecessor. I heard him on the radio saying if people ask which vaccine they should have he tells them to have whatever is offered as soon as possible, because we can get vaccinated again. Other experts say similar things; my lay reading of all this information flooding into our brains is This is just the Start. Most of us have absolutely no idea what goes on in laboratories, except it involves microscopes and tiny glass droppers. Viruses mutate and in the same way that different flu vaccines are offered each winter, Covid vaccination could need to be updated and offered every year.

Meanwhile back in Southbourne-on-Sea, the fact I was called so soon, when I am not vulnerable, is nothing to do with my age, but the rattling rate at which the NHS are getting the vaccines done! Procuring vaccines in the first place involved a huge operation and cooperation between government and private concerns. This was followed by a great deal of organisation and commandeering of buildings from leisure centres to fire stations.  Regular NHS staff have been joined by retired doctors and nurses and army medics, plus an army of volunteers to herd people safely.

But I did not have to go anywhere adventurous or blogworthy, our local GP surgery was doing jabs with seven rooms open. We all lined up safely spaced and after a couple of minutes outside, it was only ten minutes from going in the front door to going out the back door. As there was a bitter easterly wind, the ten minutes included divesting several layers of clothes and scarves to have an arm ready and putting it all back on again. We filed to desks to get a sticky label with name, date of birth and a mystery number, which was stuck to our information sheet. The advantage of having the NHS is we’re all on the computer; all that has to be done is print out millions upon millions of sticky labels… When I arrived at the needle point there was a doctor to jab and a person tapping into the computer. We get a tiny card to bring back for the second jab, no date, but in 10 to 12 weeks. Of course I am bound to forget where I put the card, so remind me it’s in the top drawer left hand side…

Wednesday When, Why, What???

…and Which, Wonder, Winter, Widowhood, Worries, Will???

In French the Questions will be  Quand, Quoi, pourQuoi…

Most of the world is asking when the pandemic will end and a further multitude of questions about variants and mutations, with no straightforward answers. Ironically, while England is still deciding whether to quarantine people in hotels, Perth, Western Australia detected its first case of coronavirus in almost 10 months; a quarantine hotel security guard. Nearly two million residents were placed into a five day lockdown on Sunday.

One thing most of us in lockdown don’t have to worry about is summer bushfires. Thousands were told yesterday and today to ignore the Covid stay-home order and evacuate their homes, as a bushfire in the hills on Perth’s outskirts gained pace. But the most chilling warning is  It’s now too late to leave, you must stay in your home. The blaze, which is the largest the Western Australian city has seen in years, has already burnt through more than 9,000 hectares, destroying at least 71 homes.

Perth spotted one little weak spot in its robust Covid protection status, while many of us see great gaping holes in our countries’ defences. Hindsight is a great thing, but I think medical experts and even ordinary folk had enough foresight to see more should have been done earlier. There are people who have isolated completely for nearly a year, but most of us, every time government advice eased off, have had visitors or been on a little outing; some people have been jetting all round the world.

 If you listen to the news too often you will drown in numbers and go round in circles. But one positive thing is the vaccination programme in the United Kingdom, which is rattling along at a great pace. With little new to talk about in lockdown, the gossip is who has been immunised lately.

What is everyday life like now after months of Tier systems, November Lockdown 2 and a month in Lockdown 3? Grandparents have been unable to see new grandchildren; weddings, moving home and plans to have babies have been put on hold all round the country.  I have been widowed for five months now and half of me is still happy for normal life to be suspended, but the other half is missing family and friends and being able to visit and get out and about. Then there are the not so regular events that can’t take place; luckily Cyberspouse said he didn’t care what we did with his ashes, so he wouldn’t mind that they are still in the cupboard with all his camera equipment…  

Going for walks is now the national occupation. I don’t drive, so I am used to walking to get places. Then there is the traditional going for a walk with your partner, family, friends or by yourself to recover from a stressful week at work. Whether locally or on a day out, The Walk used to involve stopping for coffee at a beach front café, lunch in ‘The Stables’ at a National Trust property or popping into interesting shops in that nice town by the river…

In lockdown you may get a takeaway coffee when you meet up with the one person from another household for exercise if you are living on your own. I am too dyspraxic to walk, talk, avoid tripping over dogs and drink out of a hot cardboard cup at the same time. But it is good to be out seeing  people. The cliff tops and promenades are full of folk and plenty of those are also taking brisk walks by themselves, though I am the only one in a bright pink coat. Most of us are managing to adhere to social distancing and I think it is safe out in the fresh air or gale force winds.

A walk around residential streets as it’s getting dark is also quite fun; lights are on but curtains and blinds are still open. I have always enjoyed looking in people’s windows, all the different decors and cosy interiors and life going on. Some people still have Christmas lights in the front garden or Christmas trees indoors, it all helps brighten up this strange winter.

When we are not out, many of us are on line. Those of you working from home or trying to teach home schooled pupils are probably heartily sick of Zoom, but it’s still a novelty for me. We could all be in space ships or in a space colony. Is this the future?  At the weekly Saturday evening quiz I see people I would never meet in real life. I have started going to our camera club Zoom meetings and members can put their pictures on the screen  – not me obviously, my technical skills only stretch as far as typing in the meeting code – but it is nice to chat and see both familiar and new faces. Lounging on the sofa with my ipad instead of sitting on a plastic chair in the church hall, what’s not to like? Will people want to go out on dark winter evenings when they could just stay home? Those who are not on the internet or are nervous of technology could miss out, but the disabled, those who can’t leave children and those without easy transport would all be on an equal footing in Zoomland. Will this be what we wish for?