Saturday April 6th
It was another very busy day at sea. I am beginning to think that I need port days to recover from the exhaustion from sea days.
I am having ongoing issues with my craft project, but it was nothing that a lot of unpicking and re sewing couldn’t cure.
To take my mind off of my inadequacies as a seamstress, I went to the lecture on pearls given by one of the jewellery shop salesman, no doubt in an effort to get us to rush out and buy a string of Mikimotos from him. Now I fancy myself as an expert on pearls, so I thought I would enjoy it. Everyone knows where pearls come from, but I had never really given it much thought. However, listening to description of how each poor little oyster, who is just there minding its business, has an irritant inserted into its shell, which the oyster then works very hard to deal with, and next thing that’s it – end of oyster and start of pearl necklace. Not a very fulfilling life, even for an oyster.
I looked at my necklace, and thought about how many oysters had given up their lives for it. I did not feel the urge to go out and buy another one right there and then. I briefly became obsessed with the whole futility of an oyster’s life. Is it better for one to be eaten and instantly forgotten, or give up its life for a pearl, and to be memorialized for decades to come in a beautiful pair of earrings? And then there is the whole issue of the bad luck of being born into polluted waters, where one is neither eaten nor remembered for one’s pearl. One just dies of pollution. All in all an oyster’s lot is not a happy one.
Brian distracted me from my thoughts, and reminded me that we needed to hand in our scavenger hunt photos from yesterday (you had to have your photo taken at 9 random places around the ship – easy to do), so off we went to do this and get more stamps in our activity booklet. If they still had Cunard pens we would probably be at the number of stamps where we could exchange our stamps for a pen. If there are no pens, I think we are now at a 2-pencil level.
After that it was time to watch us go through the Straits of Messina. It was great to see land again so close to the ship.
Graham, the destination lecturer, explained what was happening as we sailed through the straits. We saw Messina on one side,
and Reggio di Calabria on the other.
We came to an area with small whirlpools, and Graham reminded us of the story of Charybdis, which I vaguely remembered from a course on Greek Mythology at school.
Charybdis was a sea monster who was believed to live under a small rock on one side of the strait. Opposite her was Scylla, another sea monster who lived under a much larger rock on the other side. Sailors transiting the channel would come within the reach of one or the other. Not good. They would have to try to find a route that avoided both. Three times a day Charybdis would swallow huge amounts of water, before belching it back out again. This created large whirlpools capable of dragging a ship under water.
I was just contemplating whether the whirlpool would be big enough to drag an ocean liner our size under water, when Brian reminded me that we wanted to go to a talk on a ship sinking. Not by Charybdis, but by an iceberg and assorted other errors.
Our some time tablemate Geoff (aka Lord Yarrow), is a maritime historian with a particular interest in the Titanic. He gave an informative talk on the “real story” of why the Titanic sank, and the attempt by the White Star line to cover up the incident. He also had his own collection of Titanic memorabilia on display. His talk is normally 4 hours long, and he tried (unsuccessfully) to condense it into an hour. It was held in the Queens Room, and they needed him to stop so they could set things up for afternoon tea.
At the end of the talk, seeing as I was already in the Queens Room, I decided to join Heather and Geoff for afternoon tea. Just as I was about to sip my tea, Brian appeared (he had decided to avoid tea), to tell me we could see Stromboli from our cabin. Now I am a huge fan of volcanoes, and had been quite disappointed that Mt Etna was hidden in the clouds when we went by her earlier today, so getting a good view of Stromboli was a real treat.
We sat on the balcony watching her as we slowly sailed by, discussing whether we shouldn’t actually go out on deck, so that lifeboats did not obstruct our view. We decided that we did have a good enough view, and took loads of videos and photos. It looked like steam was coming out of her crater. It could have been a passing cloud, but it certainly looked like she was blowing off steam to us.
Wow, whirlpools that can swallow ships, evil sea monsters, active volcanoes. This was turning into an exciting day.
We returned to the Queens Room, this time Brian accompanied me. By that time everyone was already on their scones, but the waiters took pity on me, and soon I had my fill of sandwiches, cakes, éclairs, and tarts, and was ready to join in the scone consumption. Brian is very good with his low carb diet, and just stuck to drinking tea. I wish I had that kind of self-control. Maybe I could have avoided the sandwiches, cakes, éclairs and tarts, but certainly not the scones. Well maybe also the éclairs, and I would have to have at least one little sandwich. OK, so a low carb afternoon tea would not work for me.
We had a lovely time eating and chatting, listening to the string quartet. This is certainly one of the reasons I love to travel with Cunard. You just can’t beat this sort of experience.
There was a pre-dinner show tonight, a magician. Although he came with good credentials, he really wasn’t that magical. The after dinner entertainment was the crew talent show. Now that was really great – I do believe that some of the crewmembers have more talent than some of the paid entertainers. It was a wonderful show, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
I can only hope that our choir performance will be as good. I’m biased, but I think it will be!