Crossing the Bay of Biscay with the swell in excess of 5 metres was uncomfortable. Continuous warnings throughout the ship to wear flat shoes, hold on to rails when possible and take great care on stairs and in doorways was sensible advice. Though sick bags had appeared overnight every 5 metres along corridors, even in the lifts, I didn’t see any evidence of spillage so they must have worked well.
One evening performance from the Dance Team in the Theatre was cancelled but otherwise the ship ran as usual. Sue and I had to be careful when playing table tennis, quite a few missed strokes were put down to the roll of the ship rather than the usual excuses of distraction by passing cruisers, dazzled by the sun or, “I would have got that ten years ago!” We didn’t witness anyone stumble, though I am sure there must have been some. When walking up or down stairs you suddenly found you couldn’t make the next step as your centre of gravity shifted with the rapid rise of the ship and conversely it was difficult not to rush forward as it dipped into the next trough, a very strange feeling! During the night, the quiet creaks and groans of an old ship steaming through placid sea conditions, rocking you gently as you slept, were replaced by louder, harsher crumps and grates that coupled with random ‘out-of-body’ experiences contrived for a restless sleep.
It was surprising that restaurants continued to be as full as ever at meal times and by and large the regular huge intake of calories by those onboard didn’t appear to be affected at all. A testament to the resilience of the human race. Perhaps NASA could save a lot of money in training their astronauts to adjust to the rigors of space travel by sending them on a cruise through the Bay of Biscay during stormy conditions. They could learn a lot from experienced cruisers and their ability to adjust to hardship.
On the last evening we sat with our two remaining dinner partners, Barry and June. Over the six weeks we got to consider them as friends, entering into conversations that you wouldn’t normally engage in with those whose company you didn’t enjoy. As with Chris and Ken we were sad to say goodbye and uniquely, if are ever near Bicester or indeed in southern Spain, we shall make every effort to pay a visit.
We arrived an hour late in a very murky and miserable Tilbury. Our taxi had previously been rearranged to meet us a day later than planned and after a phone call I added another hours delay to our pickup. We arrived at St. Pancras station with three hours to kill before our train to Harborough. We met Chloe (a friend of Sarah’s) in the station concourse, she was on her way to have her bridesmaid dress altered in London. She is soon to embark for a year on some independent round the world travel, she was keen to hear where we had been, and we to hear where she is going. We spent our time waiting in comfort in a pub located within the station itself, drinking tea and proper British beer, reading the paper and surfing the net until our train arrived to whisk us home.
Arriving home to a cold home is no fun and donning thermals again to keep out the winter chill after shorts and T-shirt seems quite alien, but this is winter in Britain and you can have just too much of “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, weather! The winter storms don’t seem to have caused much damage, just leaves, twigs and a random large Rosemary bush scattered around the garden. A couple of fence panels have gone, but they belong to the neighbour, other wise all seems well. Compared to some we appear to have got off lightly.
On Saturday (20th) we had the family descend on us. They arrived early in the morning, said hello, dropped their dogs off and then promptly left to have breakfast in town. Sue carried on with her mountain of clothes washing and I took the dogs for a very muddy walk through the swamp that is now the UK. They returned some time later for coffees and to receive the gifts that we had brought back from our travels. The most popular being the blow pipes that we had acquired from an indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest. They had great fun using them to skewer a make-shift polystyrene target in the lounge, with varying degrees of success! These weapons are used to kill monkeys and birds high up in the trees and on reflection they may have not been such good presents to give Lucas and Ellis, we just hope they are sensible with them as the supplied darts are the real thing, and are lethal!
They left just before lunchtime, leaving Sarah and Mia to take lunch with us (Lee was at his parents). She stayed until late in the afternoon discussing prams and baby carriers with Sue during most of that time. I watched the Six Nations rugby on the TV and only occasionally interjected to express disbelief on how a bit of plastic and metal could be so expensive!
That evening Sue and I went to seen an excellent performance by Purple Zeppelin at the Cube in Corby. They are a Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin tribute band, we had seen them some years previous and knew it would be a good evening, and it turned out to be so. A great combination of music for the two of us; I like Deep Purple and Sue likes Led Zeppelin, perrrrfik!!!!!!