Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Day Eighteen: Burns Night and bumpy seas….

I made only a cursory mention of Burns Night when I blogged last night as unusually for me I wrote it during the time between finishing dinner and going to the Theatre Royal. We normally leave the table around 7.50pm and take a slow stroll along the corridors and up one deck (two flights of stairs) from deck 6 to deck 7 i.e. from the Peninsular Restaurant to the Promenade Deck. Last night, because dinner took slightly longer, the theatre show started at 9.00pm and this gave me the opportunity to blog after dinner but before the show started.

We have never had anything at all to do with Burns Night, in fact I didn’t even know that it was always held on January 25th but this year was the biggie as the celebration was for his 250th birthday. The Scots regard him as the greatest poet, writer of love songs and general all round good guy that ever lived. Bill, our true Scot on our dinner table dressed himself up to the nines and was resplendent in full tartan trews, wee black jacket with lots of buttons and a plaid (pronounced ‘played’ we were told several times) that was thrown over his shoulder and pinned in place with the biggest brooch that I have ever seen. It must have been 5 inches across, ringed on the outside with white stones and for its centre had a pale lilac stone that had it been real would have cost ten times the price of our tickets. We first saw him and Alison outside the Medina Room where we were to meet the dignitaries of the Masons, the Captain, the Purser and sundry other officers. Alison was dressed in her finery too and wore full length silver gloves that reached the top of her arms and were complemented by silver bows. My comment that Lewis Hamilton wore gloves like those but without the bows when he drove for McClaren did not go down too well.

The Masons were a friendly enough bunch, one or two looked askance at foreigners entering their lair – maybe they thought that we were going to reveal their secrets – and one in particular who was a friend of Richard spent quite a long time with us. He turned out to be an ex-Army padre called Robin and he and Richard had met some while ago in one of the Hong Kong lodges. There were a lot of toasts, The Queen of course, the Ladies, a reply from the Ladies, the President of the Oriana Lodge, a reply to the President it all went on and on but it was for a good cause and was in aid of 4 ladies on board whose Mason husbands had died and they were having a whip round for them. A big plus was that the champagne and wine for the toasts was free for us visitors so I was already half smashed before we got to our dinner table.

None of the above of course has anything to do with Burns Night which really started as we entered the Peninsular where bagpipe music was playing. Resplendent in our dinner jackets and best dresses we went through the ritual of having our chairs pulled out for us, napkins placed on our laps, looking through the menus (haggis was on the menu as both a starter and as a main course – with neaps and tatties) and then the bagpipes were turned up loud as the Address to the Haggis ritual was enacted. The purser (in kilt) started the procession carrying crossed bottles of Scotch Whisky and she lead a procession that included the head chef carrying the haggis on a silver salver. Ending the procession was a full regalia Scot who turned out to be the director of the ship’s Highlight Group that has given us so much enjoyment with their shows. This director then performed the address (‘wee timorous beastie) as written by Rabbie Burns and did it so well and convincingly that Alison – who was seated next to me – declared it to be the best address that she had ever heard. This first picture shows him in full flow. After that it was back to the normal routine except that at the close of the meal the entire catering staff marched through the restaurant to receive the applause and take a bow for all their good work so far. Remember that we are approaching the end of the first leg tomorrow and tips are on everyone’s mind.

The evening show featured the haggis addresser in a one man show called the Best of Britain and to my mind his was the best and most professional show that we have seen the whole trip. He started off with the English, a wonderful mickey-take as well as Land of Hope and Glory, moved on to the Welsh – Land of my Fathers, then the Irish – Danny Boy and finally the Scots - Ye’ll tak the high road. It was a great end to a great day.

So that was last night and now I am in the CyberStudy typing while Hilary is bronzing Jimmy and his completed picture is the second one for tonight. We woke to Force 7 winds from the North North West and temperatures in the 50’s. We have been battling headwinds all night and from looking at the map we have not made a great deal of progress but I expect that we will arrive in San Francisco on time. We will be going under the Golden Gate in darkness both times; the first time at 5.45am and the second around midnight, but we expect that it will be lit up and will try and get some video of it. Our immigration problem seems to be solved and we were told today that we will not need to fill in any of the forms and that our Green Cards will be accepted. However clearing immigration is scheduled to be completed at 10.30am and if the notes are correct no-one can leave the ship (including the crew) until everyone has been through immigration. I can’t believe that is true, they don’t hold up the entire passenger list of an aeroplane before they let people out so why do it for a ship? Time will tell.

Hilary will tell you all about it in her section but the couple in our third picture holding our bear are the Aunt and Uncle of the English woman working as a teacher in Saudi who was jailed for allowing her pupils to name their school mascot teddy bear Mohammed. It was a big scandal a few months back. For now I will continue to type under difficult circumstances as the ship is bouncing around in quite bumpy seas, just the kind we were glad to avoid in the Bay of Biscay but they have now caught up with us. A few hours ago we passed San Diego so we are well on our way but I won’t be sorry when this leg of the journey is over. It is actually worse when you are typing so every now and then I have to look out of our window and just look at a nice stable horizon, it has crossed my mind that I might put on the SeaBands and maybe take a pill but I would like to tough it out if possible. No one has been out on deck today, we have seen no offshore birds, nor are we likely to see any dolphins or whales.

We organised our tips for the first leg today as we have decided to do it leg by leg in case any of the staff helping us are not going all the way round with us; we are not sure what others are doing but we talked it through and decided that this would be the best way for us. Just heard that Murray is out of the Australian Open – bummer I would have put money on him if I had any left.

Tiz I. First of all I wish Jess, Nathan and all their Chinese friends a very happy new year. May you all have an excellent year, good health, lots of fun and much success in everything you do. I have no idea what to expect from the year of the ox but I am sure you will make the best of all your opportunities.
The ship is pretty much devoid of activities today as a lot of people will be packing their bags and paying their bar bills etc today. Sam saw one man with pages and pages of his final bill and he was trying to figure how he had managed to spent so much in such a short time.
I spent a very happy hour this morning bronzing Jimmy and he is now complete. The teacher of the class, Mr. Denis Berry, gave me a small tool box in which he had brought supplies on board the ship. It is the perfect size to store away Jimmy and to keep him safe until we get him home. Then we bought a model he had made of a wizard and he gave me another tool box. I will need another suitcase to come home with all my treasures. The wizard is for Pat – so don’t read that bit Pat.
I am getting a reputation for the being the teddy bear woman around the ship. Sam and I have taken teddy on all the photo opportunities as we came into the ports and apparently people have noticed! Today a woman who lives in St. Germans, Cornwall stopped me and told me that her niece was the teacher who was arrested for calling her classrooms teddy bear Mohammad. The story was in all the national press. She asked if my bear would like a photo taken with her and her husband – well yes so the bear is getting a more interesting scrapbook than I am, is that fair? I am meeting some great people onboard! Have to get ready for dinner so will blog again tomorrow. God bless.

Ok just returned from dinner and another fabulous show by the Headliners, this one was called “We write the Songs” and featured the hits of Barry Manilow and Elton John. They had some fantastic routines and I particularly like the one I’m Still Standing which featured the cast dressed as boxers; their timing was spot on, great choreography. The nice thing is that if you don’t rush out the door the cast are waiting there and you can talk to them afterwards. We are looking forward to seeing more of their shows as they are booked to go all the way round. Must close now, we are having an early night, although we do gain one hour but as we go under the Golden Gate so early then we must be awake for 5.30am after that we have to bumble around until 10.30am when the W’s are scheduled to meet Immigration. I would advise Jess that if she ever travels on Oriana she should put the Adair before the Woollard, she will get through quicker. On second thoughts that won’t make any difference as they repeated again tonight that the 10 Immigration Officers coming aboard must clear ALL the passengers and crew before ANYONE is allowed off. I still think that is a bit paranoid. Goodnight from a very bumpy ship.


samw7 said...

Jimmy looks great. What a wonderful reminder of a great trip. I spoke with janet last night and she is having difficulty trying to figure out how to post a message, but she wanted to let you both know how much she is enjoying the blog. She wanted Dad to know that she thinks he should write short stories and mum to know how creative she is. Woke up this morning to the weather folks saying we are expecting an ice storm for the morning which should make flying out interesting. On the other hand, Chicago is going to be clear. Guess I forgot to include Austin in my positive weather thinking. Oh well, I'll get there when I can and I have the kids phone and e-mail information to connect with them. Hope the seas calm down soon. Enjoy San Francisco it is a great town. Next time I blog it will be from China.
Love to you both, Sam

Hayley said...

Jimmy the drummer is a legend! What fantastic skills you have! I'm glad the bear is introducing you to so many interesting people, what a great way to draw new friends into your life and people to learn from. Have a wonderful time in San Fransisco, Aunty I hope you get the haircut you're dreaming of! (even tho i'm sure you look lovely anyway) and enjoy your free chocolates! :) Visualising calm waters.....