[email protected] - Swords at dawn in mid-Atlantic and other incidents

January 2008


As far as the eye can see, there’s a monotonous unbroken seascape of a glittering silver-blue. The last time land had been sighted was days ago yet, rather surprisingly, a magnificent and solitary albatross with a vast wing-span glided effortlessly overhead, checked out how things were on the bridge thirteen decks above sea level, noted the absence of fish and having decided that the captain seemed to know what he was doing, disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared.
It was, give or take a nautical mile or two, close to mid-Atlantic and the massive bulk of the Queen Mary 2 was slowly and inexorably gliding westwards on its way to New York. The weather was mild and the temperature pleasantly warm for early October. From time to time on the upper decks a hefty wind ruffled the hair of those who had any and put a gentle blush on the scalp of those without. There was less wind down at level three, but looking through the showcase windows of the library which is situated in the bows, the Atlantic seemed much more agitated than it did from the upper decks.
Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is a magnificent, ultra-chic and incomparable liner that measures 1132 feet (345 metres) in length – which to give you an idea is 35 metres shorter than the Empire State Building is high and 45 metres longer than the height of the Eiffel Tower; it is 236 feet (71.9 metres) high and weighs in at 151,400 tonnes. It took four years to build and cost approximately US$800 million which is, to put things in perspective and give or take a dollar or two, about one million six hundred thousand times what I’m getting paid for this article!
Kate and I were travelling to New York with Paul and Jane, two close friends, and we were enjoying six days of pure, unadulterated luxury. Food and drink was plentiful, and the days were filled with trips to a series of lectures on writing and publishing by Alison Baverstock, an author and former publisher, visits to the cinema, theatre, library, swimming pool and the gymnasium – which proved to be a necessity after the excellent lunches and dinners served in the Princess Grill.
On board there were several shops including a small, attractive Chopard boutique. I browsed around and when I saw the Queen Mary 2 wristwatch they had on show I asked the shop assistant if I could speak with the manager, explaining that I would like to write about the boutique. She tried unsuccessfully to contact her by ‘phone and suggested I returned during the afternoon. I didn’t get to meet the manager because when I went back the assistant informed me that they couldn’t talk to the press without permission from her company since this wasn’t a Chopard-owned boutique but a franchise agreement - as all the shops on board are. Undaunted, on my return to Geneva I contacted Pamela Jonker at Chopard and within a couple of hours, as you can see, I had a photograph of the Happy Sport Queen Mary 2 watch that is sold exclusively aboard.
There was also an excellent spa on board and I pampered myself with foot, neck and back massages and a couple of sessions with a charming acupuncturist who helped alleviate some of the pain I was having from
my torn Achilles tendon – but that’s another story that I’ll tell you about in front of a log fire with a glass of cognac some long winter’s evening.
While I was dressing after one of my sessions at the spa, Al, who had the cabin next door asked if we would join him and his wife for a drink later in the evening in one of the lounges. I asked if that was the one where the pianist gave a concert the evening before and his affirmative reply prompted a man dressing behind me to ask if I’d enjoyed the concert. Bent double tying my shoelaces I said that I had left after five minutes because although the pianist had a good technique he played without any feeling and I didn’t like his whimsical manner, nor his rather superior attitude when he asked for and then refused requests.
“It was me,” came the reply. I then turned to see the rather stocky, red-faced pianist and hoped his colouring was due to the fact that he’d just emerged from the sauna. I apologised and did my best to try and save the situation, adding as a last resort, “You did ask.” He suggested swords at dawn on the top deck, I said the offer was tempting, but I had a bit of a cold and asked if my grandmother could stand in for me. He finally smiled, but I would have preferred another foot massage rather than putting it in my big mouth.
The day before we arrived in New York, an elderly lady was standing at the railing of the top deck holding her hat on to avoid it being blown away. As I got closer I heard a man say to her, “Excuse me, but your dress is blowing up in this high wind.”
“Yes, I know,” she replied, “but I need both hands to hold onto my hat.”
"Yes, but you’re not wearing any underclothes,” the man said with some embarrassment.
The woman looked down, then back up at the man and replied, “What you see down there is 78 years old. I’ve only had this hat a week!”
Y’all have a nice day now and make sure you have a cool yule.

Source: Europa Star December-Januar 2008 Magazine Issue