Wednesday, 29 July 2009


Now we are on day 5 of our transatlantic crossing I thought that I would pull together some of my musings.

1. A lot of people exercise on board. They go to the gym, to one of the exercise classes or they walk or run the promenade deck. I haven’t had any chance to observe the people at the gym or in classes but I have become one of the walkers. Strangely, more people run or walk counter clockwise, than do clockwise. When I go out, I walk counter clockwise and it would seem wrong to do anything else. Now that is really strange. Does it have something to do with right or left-handedness? Who knows! However, I did observe to Cliff that a right-handed person draws a circle in a counter clockwise direction. Could it be that a left-handed person does the opposite and is there a link to the direction in which people walk.

2. There are a lot of people who don’t know how to use to a knife and fork. We went to dinner in the Chef’s Galley last night, an intimate restaurant for 20, where the chef cooks the meal in front of you and explains what he is doing as he goes. This was an environment where the dinners had a certain level of sophistication but even so some of them had difficulties. I’m not a table manners fanatic but it is interesting to note that, as with many aspects of manners, there has been a loosening of acceptability (to use a non-judgemental phrase). Goodness, I do sound like a prig!

3. Everyone is very ‘nice’! The crew is delightful and with only one exception has been smiling, happy and there to help with any needs. The passengers are ‘nice’ as well. Strangers talk to each other and there never seems to be any conflict among them. Though, I did hear today that the library had to stop providing Internet copies of daily newspapers because on a recent voyage two men almost came to fisticuffs over one of them. Does it have anything to do with stress or lack of it? Are people ‘nice’ because they aren’t stressed out? Do they get nicer as the voyage proceeds?

I’m off to an art auction now. More observations Friday after our visit to New York!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Three days out

Today is day three and we really are getting the hang of on-board living! Tea or coffee, juice and toast in our cabin at 7 and then something more substantial about 8:30. Then I do a mile around the deck at a fast pace. The pools are too small to do any meaningful swimming so at the moment I am trying 3 miles a day instead.

Yesterday morning I had a massage, my first ever! I followed it with some time in their aqua-therapy pool. That was amazing! So amazing in fact, that I went back again in the evening for an hour. When I came out of the water my entire body was tingling. It was the strangest sensation, but very pleasant nonetheless!

Today we are going to a lecture on New York skyscrapers. This is the third in the series. We’ve seen the other two on the shipboard television channel but would like to go to the final lecture. What we have seen so far has inspired us to do a self directed walking tour when we get to New York to look at various of the building highlighted.

This evening after dinner there will be a performance of The Importance of Being Ernest by the RADA group. Last year Emma and I saw Under Milkwood by another RADA group. It was wonderful so I imagine that this one will be as well.

After the performance there is a big bands ball so it’s just a matter of deciding which dress I will wear!

Some may be wondering about my writing! Yes, I have been working on one of my novels. I am going through it and making some adjustments. Then once I have re-read all 7 chapters, I will recommence. By then I should have a clearer idea of where I am going and how I am going to get there.

Now, enough of day-to-day goings on!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Finally on holiday!

(I know Cliff doesn't look particularly happy, but he is!)

Well, after everything (finishing school, reorganizing my new library, organizing for our move, moving, trying to unpack at the new house, and packing to go away) we have finally made it onto the Queen Mary 2 for almost two weeks of total relaxation. Unfortunately, we have already visited the medical centre because moments before we left home, Cliff grazed his arm and it keeps bleeding. I’ve never been to deck 1 in the bowels of the ship before so that was interesting but the $40.00 price tag of an adhesive suture was annoying!

The trip down by coach from Heathrow went without a hitch…other that the bus driver getting lost at Heathrow before he found us and the Terminal 5 bus station! I had spent the days and weeks of July full of energy but the moment I was on board and in my cabin, I was overwhelmed by fatigue. I had a short rest on the bed after the lifeboat drill, which set me up to go on deck and watch as we sailed out of Southampton. It is truly amazing how they managed to turn this ship around in such a small area.

Today, I’m still tired but isn’t it wonderful to know that they is absolutely nothing to do. I stayed in bed late, had some tea and toast delivered to our door for 7 (8 U.K. time as we have already changed the clocks back one hour). We’ve made reservations for dinner at the Chef’s Galley for two nights and for dinner in the Carvery tonight. The Chef’s Galley is a very small restaurant accommodating no more than 20 people, where the chef cooks the meal in front of you and explains it as he goes along. You are also given the recipes at the end of the meal. We’ll be going to the French cuisine meal and the steak dinner.

This afternoon, there is a matinee of a reduced Othello, entitled The Spotted Handkerchief, which is performed by RADA students. If I have the energy I’ll go but if not, it may be on again.

Well that’s it for now. Hope everyone is doing as well as we are!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Swimming and me

If I am very lucky, there is no one in the pool when I arrive and the water is like of mirror. If I am very lucky, there is no one in the jacuzzi either and the entire area is silent. I slip into the pool and the water ripples away from me. I do a few laps with my flutter board to loosen up and then I turn on to my back and start to swim. The first few strokes are liberating. I glide through the water. I'm not tired yet so each stroke is effortless. My mind clears and I only count the lengths. I am one with the water.

When I decided to join the health spa in the summer following the end of my cancer treatment, it was to use the swimming pool. I had thought that I might also use the gym from time to time and take some classes. To date, I have spent 15 minutes on a running machine (but only in walk mode) and I've attended one yoga class. However, I swim almost every day and when I haven't been able to swim, I really miss it.

I've always enjoyed swimming but I think that the attraction lies in more than the obvious health benefits. If it were only exercise, the novelty would have worn off by now. I told someone recently that I work on the characters of my novel while swimming and in that lies the other important element- isolation. When I get into the water and start my lengths, I turn off to every one and every thing else around me. This works particularly well when the pool is empty.

When I started swimming two years ago, I wasn't very good at it. I did so many lengths with a flutter board and so many of back stroke. Mostly, I used the flutter board. Sometimes, I managed 20 lengths, sometimes only 10. Why back stroke only? I have problems getting enough air when I do front crawl. I know that I just need to practice but by the time I've swum for 40 minutes, I don't really feel like practicing for a few more lengths.

Now that I am in better shape, I swim a kilometer a day. It isn't always as restful as I would like. Sometimes other swimmers make it difficult to swim and so I have to concentrate on just getting through the lengths. Other times, I can let my mind go and as I mentioned, I may think about what I am writing or something that I've read. I try not to think about the day I've just been through or the one ahead. This is a time to relax, and become one with the water.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

My Summer Reading List

Though I haven't really been reading much of late, I have been gathering in books and now I have finally started them. I have Andy Murray to thank. When I watch his matches, I get so nervous that I have to leave the living room and do something else. It is so warm here at the moment that I have been going out in the garden to read. Cliff brings me regular reports on the action so I don't get too anxious... and I read.

So, here's my list:

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Airman by Eoin Colfer
The Dark Side of Love by Rafik Schami
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Black Money by Ross Macdonald
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
The Information Society: a study of continuity and change by John Feather
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
August Heat by Andrea Camilleri
A Cure for All Diseases by Reginald Hill (finished today)
Outcasts United by Warren St. John

A strange group of books, if I don't say so myself! I said earlier that I hadn't been reading of late but that isn't entirely true. I have been very tired and stressed out so my reading has tended towards escapist, recreational literature. Some who know me, know that I'm a detective fiction fan and so I have been working my way through the books of Andrea Camilleri, the most famous Italian fiction writer. The stories take place in Sicily and have a wonderful sense of place and equally wonderful descriptions of food!