24th September 2015
Question: how many witches were executed following the Salem witch trials of 1692 and 1693?
Answer: none….because of the twenty people hung or crushed to death none of them were actually witches (so I was told)
We had another bright and sunny day to explore ashore, but with only a few hours before we head off for the next stop we have to get a wiggle on as there appears to be a lot to do.
Salem is a fairly new location for the cruise industry, although many thousands of tourists flock here every year on the ferry from Boston, so maybe we need to be on our best behaviour if we want to be invited back.
First impressions are this is a very pretty town and, but for the history of the appalling and harrowing events of over 300 years ago, it would probably be a very sleepy place too.
But it isn’t, far from it.
First of all, as you leave the port, there is a house with all kinds of junk in the garden and around the house. It’s the same stuff we’ve just spent the last eight months getting rid of back home, but the owner has used his/her imagination to create works of art….or just things of interest. It would be possible to spend some time looking through the bars of the fence at all the immerging artefacts, but like I said….wiggle, wiggle.
Once outside the port there is a red line to follow, a tourist trail which takes you to or past every point of interest in this vibrant town. The House of Seven Gables is first followed by the court house and the historical maritime area. There are waxworks, museums, houses of interest, a cemetery, a pirate house and more ghost walks than you could rattle Jacob Marley’s chains at. And it’s all good and overall not too demanding on the pocket book (wallet for us English)
Now the most interesting place for me was the memorial area for the victims of those heinous accusations. I’ll not go into much detail but I found the walk past each marker dedicated to a prematurely despatched, ordinary human, quite emotional. I’m sure their only ambition in life was probably to be happy, healthy and allowed to live as long as possible, in peace.
But then there’s always someone with an axe to grind, a point to make or just wants to be a spoiler for no other reason than they can.
Anyway, back to Salem, and we’ll certainly be back if given the chance, although maybe the witch theme is just a little OTT. I suppose this is definitely a case of ‘if you’ve got it, flaunt it’. I’m sure Salem has more to offer than that but on this occasion we didn’t have the time to find it.
My joints are stiff and rusty
Old paint’s already peeled
I’m looking fairly shabby
With all my faults revealed.
And my undercarriage droops a bit
Well, a lot to be quite fair
My fallen arches need a lift
And success in love is rare.
But at least I’ve had the chance to live
A full and active life,
Free from persecution
Safe and happy, little strife.
It doesn’t matter who I am
Or what my interests be.
Criticise me all you want,
You can’t stop me being me.
(A grateful tribute for life, inspired by the innocents of Salem)
23rd September 2015
Well we’re back Boston, just like we said we would be.
Definitely one of our favourite US cities….but first there’s the time consuming, people fuming, disaster looming, officials presuming, paperwork confusing….immigration formalities.
Well to be fair this lot do look a bit dodgy so who can blame the boarder agency for wanting to deny them entry if at all possible.
Previously the process has been very serious, tedious and fractious, but today it was different and a big gold star goes to the immigration officers for a job quickly done….and with a smile….so unusual.
And so we were off. It was a lovely sunny day so the walk along Summer Street (appropriate) was very pleasant and we passed through a couple of areas we hadn’t been to before.
There’s a Macy’s near to the end of the walk, and opposite there’s Primark….nuff said.
We reached the park marking the start of the Freedom Trail and here we left our companions to tread the red line around the historic sites of Boston whilst we headed towards Quincy Market for a coffee.
Our plan today was to visit the New England Aquarium in the harbour area and after a pleasant ‘cuppa’ we headed off to get tickets with high hopes of an interesting visit.
Now we weren’t disappointed as there are lots and lots of penguins….many more than we’d expected. Anyone who knows my dear lady will already be aware of her love of these little critters and their antics. She walked round for the next couple of hours with a permanent smile attached, with many a ‘They’re so cute’ and ‘They’re so very little’.
As well as many fascinating smaller display tanks all around the outside of the building there is the huge cylindrical reef tank in the middle. A spiral ramp allows the visitors a 360 degree panoramic insight into this ‘fishy’ world, and also allows the swimming occupants a close up examination of the human viewers just the other side of the edge of their world, where the water appears to have set solid.
There are so many species and each have their own characteristics.
Anyway we had a good time and came away with an extra skip in our normally grumpy demeanour, heading all the way back to Quincy market for clam chowder….always a great choice.
That done, we headed off for a gassy beer and a walk around the lovely little park in the harbour area.
We’re really fortunate to be enjoying very good weather this trip so we continued walking around the city for the next three hours, finally returning back to Quincy Market to meet up with friends for a few more beers.
The walk to Chinatown took no more than twenty minutes and we found the small ‘cafe type’ restaurant almost immediately. Despite the fact we’d warned our companions in advance that this place resembled a greasy spoon rather than an eatery they looked worried.
We went in anyway….it only took a little gentle persuasion.
“Table for four please.” We were shown to a table where one lone lad is sitting with his phone. The waitress ushers him away with a wave of her hand. He didn’t appear to be eating but we immediately felt guilty as he stood to leave.
“You don’t have to go,” we said, but he nodded, smiled and scurried away.
Menus at the ready we were ready to order as a nervous young waitress headed our way.
“Can we have a sweet and sour chicken please?”
“What?” the girl looked really puzzled.
“One sweet and sour chicken please.”
We had starting to think that maybe her grasp of English was not very good.
“Sweet and sour chicken,” we’d repeated whilst pointing to the appropriate line in the menu.
“Oh,” she said with a smile, “You want sweet and sour chicken.”
“Yes please….and a special chow mein please.”
“A special chow mein.” Frantic page turning followed by a pointing finger.
“Oh….you want a special chow mein.”
“Yes please….and a beef and vegetable please.”
At this point we weren’t quite sure if someone was taking the proverbial. But the order continued with each dish being duly questioned, pointed at and then pronounced perfectly by our server.
When the food arrived we realised that maybe we should have bought more people with us….or ordered less….there was rather a lot, and it was tasty.
All went quiet as we set about the feast.
Anyway….long story short….it was lovely and the walk back to the ship was necessary to settle our overly full abdomens.
Unfortunately we didn’t have an overnight this time so by the time we got back it was time to leave.
Another Bostin’ day in Boston….thanks, you never disappoint.
Fifty Shades of Red
Well we’re heading south for the rest of this trip so the weather will improve and the sun should make a bit more of an effort to join us….we hope.
And as if by magic we meander out on deck to be greeted by a crisp cool morning….with a clear blue sky and sunshine.
It’s only 8am and there has already been a scramble for the sun loungers.
I know I’ve said it before, but it still amazes me that despite so many health warnings about over exposing our skin to the harmful UV rays of the sun there are still many who never seem happy unless they are excessively tanned (leave the room if you had improper thoughts then) Don’t get me wrong, I too love to expose my pasty body to the warmth of the sun (sorry) but I prefer to sit in the shade more often than not.
By lunchtime I think a fair few had underestimated the power of our great yellow sky companion, with several turning some interesting shades of angry pink.
Here comes the sun,
You folks must run
To grab a spot to lie.
Hitch up that skirt,
Before it passes by.
But stay it may
For just this day,
So get it while you can.
Don’t whinge “It’s sore,”
Grit teeth much more
Stand up and be a man.
Forget the creams
Their blocking means
Delaying darker skin.
Avoid the shades,
In many ways
They stop the ray’s way in.
For panda eyes
Are no disguise,
You need an even spread.
Just like a spit
Rotate a bit
To brown from toe to head.
Now stay all day,
Not shift or sway.
Raise arms above your head,
Red bingo wings
And other things
Will burn tonight in bed.
But that’s the plan,
You have to tan
To prove a time well spent.
If pale you stay
While you’re away
Then no one knows you went.
The first thing that strikes you here is a bloody enormous fiddle (I’m talking musical instrument here and not a scam) it’s huge and reputed to be the largest in the world (I’m still talking about the fiddle, which is a musical instrument not a scam) Wow is just about all I can think of saying, and of course you have to take a picture……it would be rude to ignore it.
To be honest this thing is so big that it appears in every picture we took in Sydney….even the ones we took at the park over a mile away the fiddle was in the background.
Anyway, we don’t have a full day here so time to stop wittering and time to get round the town. First stop an old church which has been restored to its former gloomy glory. It’s nice to see that they’ve kept the character and not added tons of new materials. Very pleasant.
Next is the Jost House. Now this too has been restored and is crammed with artefacts and interesting ‘stuff’. The guides give us a detailed history of the house and the family who had built it, adding different parts as their needs changed. There was even a room full of old apothecary equipment, medicaments and preparations, absolutely fascinating. Best of all was the reception and farewell we were given by a complete stranger with hugs all round and a genuine sense that our presence was appreciated. Nice……..
Anyway (have you noticed I love that word?) we visit a couple more churches then it’s time to head back to the port.
We then set off in the other direction along a neatly constructed ‘boardwalk’ which takes us along the water’s edge for about a kilometre. Turning left and heading for the town we first encountered the local fire station with a couple of the splendid engines in the process of being cleaned and polished.
A short walk from here takes us to a small park with lots of ducks and statues and stuff….very pleasant. The main shopping area of the town consists mainly of one street and this is crammed with the usual interesting shops and eateries.
Our last visit here was marked by a wonderful meal (and a drink or two) at ‘The Governors’ with our table companions (you know who you are) As two of that party are also onboard this time we arranged to meet up there again and toast absent friends. It was as good as the last time (except for the absence of a certain couple (yes talking about you two again) and we spent a couple of hours doing what comes naturally to this party, eating and drinking.
And so it’s time to leave, but not before one last hunt around the souvenir market at the port. There’s a shop selling sculptures which is crammed with ‘dancing polar bears’. Now we’ve seen quite a few of these before in most of the Canadian ports we’ve visited over time, and they’re so cute. They really do convey a sense of joy and happiness and then the owner tells us why. Apparently the Inuit’s believe that if you are a good hunter then when you die you come back as an animal. Now if they come back as a polar bear, which of course is at the top of the food chain, they are so happy they dance. What a great philosophy 🙂
Well with that in mind I just had to buy one….well I had intended to anyway as I’d always regretted not getting one last year.
So off we set, sadly just one port in Canada this time so USA here we come.
We’ll be back
Don’t you just love a know it all?
There you are sitting quietly and enjoying the sun, now it’s finally made an appearance, when a large shadow blots out the light and a loud voice asks if “This seat is taken?” referring to the spare chair next to you.
You politely look up from the book you’re reading to inform the unknown enquirer that it isn’t ‘taken’ and they are welcome to use it.
They thank you and sit.
With the obstruction now settled next to you the warmth of the sun is immediately restored, and you return to the complex plot of the indulgent murder mystery you were enjoying.
“Isn’t the sun wonderful?” the arrival asks just as you’re trying to get your head round a new blood stained clue.
You don’t wish to be rude so you answer, “Very,” but you also don’t want to perpetuate a conversation so you remain head down, avoiding eye contact.
Unfortunately the one subject this numpty has no knowledge of is the art of reading body language.
“I lived in Bahrain for three years,” he announces, “Forty degrees in the shade, day in day out.”
You sigh and look up from your book. Bad move.
“Really….how interesting.” Even worse because you have now offered an in.
“I use to play golf out there….well they don’t really have golf courses, just sand and greens. I was part of the women’s PGA golf tour you know….”
You have nowhere to go and as you glance around at your fellow travellers with a look of ‘Please help me’ on you face you have to accept that….
You’ve been hit by….You’ve been struck by….‘A Smooth Know It All’
Now luckily this didn’t actually happened to me today, but rather to the poor unfortunate sitting just a few feet away from where I was also enjoying a rare kiss of warmth from the sun. Yet everyone in earshot knows that the ambient peace has just come to a very abrupt end.
Several folk give up, get up and leave, others (like me) settle in for a bit of entertainment….and I’m not going to be disappointed.
To try to record or even remember the ensuing onslaught meted out on that poor individual, whose only desire when he awoke that morning was to immerse himself in a really good book, would be impossible. To say the least we were transported around the world, played every sport, met every imaginable famous person who had ever lived and spent several fortunes in the process.
Wow, and all that before lunch.
Well here’s my tribute to him and the many like him who just excel at ruining someone’s day.
What Do You Know?
Can’t you tell that I’m a smart arse?
Have an answer every time,
And I know you’ll love my stories
Every anecdote sublime.
You’ll be hooked by revelations
Gripped by every single word.
Laughing at my clever humour
Loud and proud, I must be heard.
This my umpteenth cruise with Freddie
They consult me every time
I know every port in detail
Where to shop or wine and dine.
Port talk speakers, what do they know?
And the singers, pile of poo.
Entertainers? Bunch of posers,
I could teach a thing or two.
I can tell you want to be me
Don’t deny, I see your face
Cause your life will be so much richer
If I let you take my place.
I know exactly what you’re thinking
That you love me, can’t deny.
You hang on every sentence
Every other word being I.
But please don’t try, you can’t out do me,
Been there, seen it more than most.
Bigger, better, more expensive
‘Is that all?’ my favourite boast.
You should really do things my way,
Entertainer, champion Brit,
Not to mention greatest lover
Can’t you tell I’m full of s**t.
15th September 2015
Sea Day….time to reflect!
I’ve been out of the habit of writing for the past few months because my days have been taken up with a ‘slightly more’ demanding project. Life has certainly been hectic so far this year (something I’ve not been used to for a long while) so I haven’t had much spare time to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and the desire to be creative has been severely beaten into a corner by apathy and fatigue.
But now things are different and I find myself returning to a more acceptable state of lazy limbo again. This being the ideal opportunity to re-establish my relationship with my reliable companion and boredom buster, ‘writing’ (or technically….typing) I charge the battery on my neglected laptop and begin the search for inspiration.
Now if someone had told me that writing is a bit like exercise, meaning the less you do the harder it becomes to get back into a functional rhythm, I would have seriously laughed at them for suggesting such an absurd notion.
But at this moment in time I have to admit I couldn’t be more wrong.
I’m sat in the most ideal place, surrounded by a million and one things to take pleasure in and yet I’m struggling to string together a single coherent idea. I’m even starting to wonder if maybe my lack of attention has ticked off my abandoned friend and companion and it has no desire to return to this heartless traitor.
I reflect on the times when ideas had come so fast that many were forgotten long before being recorded. They ended up in limbo somewhere in the back of my mind with a hope of their resurrection on a barren day, but even these little gems have deserted me.
Inspiration is definitely like a snowball, the more it rolls the more it grows. But it has to be cultivated and supported because if neglected it may very well roll off down the hill, taking all the good ideas with it, and that means the process has to be started all over again.
Where is that inspiration?
It’s such a fickle friend.
Sometimes it overwhelms me
With ideas that have no end.
Another day it taunts me
And tells me many lies,
Promises an insight
But delivers nothing wise.
Why won’t the words come quickly?
I’m stuck with no idea.
I need you Inspiration
Right now….I’m over here.
Give me mountains not a molehill,
I need a new intent.
I promise to stay faithful,
If you help me I’ll repent
And I promise not to leave you
Just like I did before.
Please help me Inspiration
Come feed my mind once more.
14th September 2015
Well here we go again.
The last few months have been very busy as well as a touch draining, but things back home are almost back to normal again, so it’s time to head off on another adventure (it’s possible that not all of our trips were well deserved….but this one is J)
We’re off for a cruise starting in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada which then takes us all the way down the eastern seaboard of the USA to Miami. Then we’ll return back to the UK via the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Azores.
As usual we stayed at in a very comfortable Premier Inn last night and the process of embarkation this morning was faultless and efficient.
Normally there’s not much going on during the first day that hasn’t already been commented on in previous blogs….except today something different happened.
Muster is always a bit of a necessary evil. The vast majority of passengers have gone through this drill many, many times before and trudge bored and uninterested to their assembly station. We all reluctantly listen to the master drone on about the safety of the ship and what we should all do in the event of an emergency. Then we all don our life jackets with a distinct lack of enthusiasm and stand wondering how much longer this is going to take before we can get back to the important matters in life….like eating and drinking or watching the hapless stevedores kicking the last few pieces of luggage across the dock and onto the ship.
But one of the assembled has become quite poorly, quite suddenly and is in desperate need of medical attention. Now this is not an uncommon problem on a cruise ship, after all a fair number of our fellow travellers are well over their allotted three score and ten….but most of the previous ‘code alphas’ have at least been able to enjoy a modicum of the holiday before disaster has stuck. This poor person is off loaded into the care of the NHS whilst a thousand others who remain onboard head off for the sun, the sun that poor individual was hoping to enjoy as well.
I’m suddenly reminded that life is, and will always be, unpredictable.
I consider that my dear lady and I are really fortunate to be able to take these trips and I hope we never take these experiences, or our health, for granted.
But the incident did get folk talking, specifically about their own ailments and the medication they take to control their many problems….so I give you
Please Forgive Me if I Rattle
The tablets keep me going,
They lower this and that,
There’s a tiny one for water
And a larger one for fat.
Three are for my ticker,
Two to keep me sane.
A puffer eases breathing,
Sixteen capsules numb the pain.
There’s a daily dose of aspirin
So my platelets don’t occlude,
And a blue one gives a little lift
For when I’m in the mood.
There’s a yellow one for weight loss
Which results in smelly poo,
And a pretty shiny pink one…
God knows what that will do.
Now my kidneys barely function
And my heart beats way too strong,
It’s because I’m hypertensive
That I have to play along
With this medication buffet.
Omeprazole stops acid
With Gaviscon on the side.
While Metformin fixes sugar,
Quinine stops cramps at night,
A heavy dose of iron
Puts anaemia to right.
Diuretics, just the start.
And a hefty swig of Lactulose
Plays a most important part.
Now when it comes to pain relief
I’ve tried the blooming lot,
Codeine, Morphine, Pot!!
And I’m sure a course of HRT
Would really do me well,
It’s the only thing that’s missing
From my medication hell.
So forgive me if I rattle
It’s because as you may guess
It’s the drugs that keep me going,
Is it really worth it?…YES.
It has been a while since my last post here and I apologise to those who have visited my blog only to find the cupboard bare. Now it’s not that I’ve had nothing interesting to report but more a lack of internet access during our last couple of trips.
I fail to understand why some cruise companies can offer a very realistic and affordable package to get online and some can’t….but ‘hey ho’ them’s the breaks.
Earlier this year we took another chance to visit Norway, the land of the Northern Lights. But as a bonus the trip also coincided with an opportunity to witness a total lunar eclipse of the sun. Here is the piece I wrote at the time…..
Even at the best of times I’m not a great fan of standing in the rain and getting soaked, worse if it’s also icy cold and blowing a gale.
I really struggle to understand as to why some of the great musical composers have glorified what is essentially a cold shower by associating the experience to being ‘happy again’ or suggesting it’s something you should do with the ‘one you love’ in order to glean the very best out of a relationship. I’m certain a nice warm bath together would achieve a much better outcome.
Either way a box of tissues should be readily available.
Anyway, here I am standing in a puddle of freezing cold water with my feet slowly going numb, my hair is saturated and a steady procession of drips are meandering down the back of my neck in search of somewhere to accumulate and make my existence even more uncomfortable….if that were even possible at this moment in time.
Now believe it or believe it not, I’m quite content to stay in this same spot for at least another hour or so despite the fact that I am a self confessed wimp and a warm, dry environment is just a few feet away.
Am I completely mad? Have I finally lost the plot?
Well no more than usual, but I do have an exceptionally good reason to be doing this. Today is Friday 20th March 2015 and I’m standing on the upper deck of the cruise ship Oriana just outside the port of Torshavn in the Faroe Islands. The time is 08.40 and the moon has just started a rare transit across the sun. At around 09.40 there is to be a total lunar eclipse.
Unfortunately the heavens are almost fully veiled by a heavy grey cloak of cloud which is determined to spoil the day for around two thousand expectant pairs of eyes. But there is hope because there are a few tantalising gaps which allow the onlookers a brief glimpse of the moons progress as it slowly engulfs it’s mightiest of companions in this small corner of the universe.
Everybody is furtively scanning the firmament….pointing and gesturing in various directions….estimating the wind speed and the subsequent movement of the swirling vapours above us.
Will we or won’t we?
Then a gap opens up and quickly the assembled don the cardboard glasses which have been issued to protect fragile eyes from the harmful light. But the combination of the dark filters and the natural foggy barrier on high renders them all but useless this time.
Now as it happens I’ve actually come fully prepared….for once….and had the foresight to bring along a couple of sheets of dark blue gel. These have been cut into several strips which I can combine any number of to get a good view of the proceedings, as well as affording the required protection.
There’s just enough time to see that the moon has managed to cover around half of the sun and then, just as quickly as it appeared, the ongoing spectacle vanishes behind another encroaching bank of cloud.
Time passes and the tension increases….as does the volume of cold water collecting in my underwear.
There’s a surge of chatter with a frantic waving of arms from a nearby group who loudly voice the suggestion that if all two thousand of us blow at once then maybe….just maybe….we can disperse the offending obstruction.
Then a bright shaft of light hits the sea half way between us and the horizon and another multitude of voices rise as one to demand the captain quickly puts the ship into warp drive to delivers us ’OVER THERE’….ah well, if only.
With just a few minutes to go a hush of reluctant disappointment descends to mute all but the insanely optimistic into silent reflection. And at that very moment I observe many of my fellow cruisers looking to the heavens whilst quietly muttering. Many a request for divine intervention was being offered to the almighty, maybe in return for the promise of abstention or a greater future commitment….and as if in appreciation of this renewed dedication there was a sudden and significant response.
With almost perfect timing the cloud cover clears enough to see that all but a thin sliver of the sun remains….and it’s bright enough to make the cardboard filters useable and necessary.
There is an audible gasp of gratitude (there will be plenty of opportunities to review any rash, spur of the moment promises made later)
The next few minutes were undoubtedly some of the most dramatic I’ve encountered (certain events aside J)
At first the thin sliver of sun which remained seemed to hang around unchanged for quite a while. Then in the last few seconds before totality there was a more noticeable movement of the moon, until the solitaire ring was displayed, a flaming diamond on a golden band. This pinpoint of light finally vanished like someone had flicked a switch.
For just a second or two everything disappeared from sight….AND THEN….there it was….the iconic sight of a total eclipse….the black disc of the moon surrounded by a corona of radiant light.
For two whole minutes the ice cold trickle down my back didn’t exist and I just didn’t care how numb my feet were anymore.
No words can truly describe the event itself but for me there was reflection.
Along with fleeting thoughts of the terror this phenomenon bought to my ancestors, there was the understanding that these eclipses have been occurring for millions of years, long before I came into existence, and they will continue to do so long after. For the attending it was special, but in the grand scheme of things it was just another day at the office for Mother Nature.
Once again I marvel at the wonders of our universe and realise that in the bigger picture I’m quite insignificant after all. But at least I got to make my mark and humanity has to acknowledge that no matter how trivial my presence is in the grand scheme….I was at least here to witness one of natures’ most amazing spectacles.