Friday, 19 September 2008

In the Suburbs

Life chugs along and we are now in South West London. The weather, raining when we left Anguilla (was the island crying, sad to see us go?), was delightful in New York and, after a little rain when we arrived in Southampton, has brightened into several days of Indian Summer now we are in the suburbs. We have picnicked twice with my parents in the sunshine and my father has complained of the heat!

We have noticed several changes to England. The green brigade has become more vocal since we left in January 2001. Now the environment is a community concern. The local recycling and waste disposal facility near my parents' home has just been reorganised and residents are trying to get used to the new layout and ways of doing things. Sign posts are low down and not easily visible from a car, so there are lots of pedestrians carrying or dragging large bags of rubbish from their cars to the point of disposal, often some distance away. I am sure that this will be sorted out eventually but for now, there are a lot of confused recyclers in Kingston! The point though, is that there are a lot of recyclers - the message is getting through and people are doing their bit.

I noticed that Woolworths, the store where I had my first Saturday job back in the dark ages, is in financial trouble and the huge shop it had in Southampton is now no longer there. Shame. I used to love wandering around this massive branch. You never knew what you were going to find on its shelves, although the last few times I visited I did wander if the decision makers at Head Office actually knew what their customers wanted. There was a bewildering assortment of pink TVs, sweets sold by weight and cheap household products. As I say, part of the charm was not knowing what you were going to find when you browsed. I shall miss Southampton's store when we move back to the area next week.

There seem to be a lot of large cars for sale now. No doubt this is due to the government's road tax amendments, which make it very expensive to run high powered, fuel inefficient vehicles on Britain's road nowadays. Joe and I are looking for another car and find we are spoilt for choice amongst those cars with engines bigger than 2.0 litres. We were thinking of a small hatchback, about 1.4 -1.6 litres and are finding that we are not the only ones who want such a car. Prices are high and we are blinking! We will keep looking I think.

We are staying with my parents for a short while. This is proving quite a nice way to reacquaint ourselves with our home country. As I have mentioned, we have been out picnicking and I took my mother out for a 'girls day out' to London yesterday.

This was a real eye-opener to me. My mother is not good on her feet after a very short while and so I decided to dig out the wheelchair she dislikes hugely and take that along with us on our day out. I called the railway and booked assistance and checked the various venues we might go to, to see if they were wheelchair friendly. They were, so off we went. Southwest trains were excellent and staff there provided ramps to get on and off the railway carriages with no hassle, City Cruises from Waterloo pier were equally helpful (as were several passersby - thanks gentlemen) so we had an enjoyable trip up and down the river to Greenwich and back, two taxi drivers were very good indeed in getting mother into their taxis with portable ramps that appeared as if by magic and the staff at Brown's Hotel, where we went for afternoon tea (wonderful), were completely unfazed by a lady in a wheelchair. This all made the day very enjoyable indeed.

Ok all for this post. We are helping my parents to sort their shed out - a mammoth task!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Queen Mary 2 is all it's cracked up to be and more! I know this is a subjective opinion and not all would agree with me but, I think she's wonderful!

We have met with nothing but courtesy and kindness. I keep getting lost and wandering around with a dazed expression on my face, much to the amusement of my husband! He, of course, knows just where he is the moment he goes to a place once and is able to navigate from one end of the ship to the other without thinking about which deck he should be on - he just knows!

A transatlantic crossing is not like a cruise. We do not go to one port after another for one thing. We last sighted land on Thursday and hope to see it again today as we are due in port tomorrow morning. In the interim we have had our days filled with all kinds of amusements and have had such a hectic social life it has been a bit breath-taking to tell the truth!

The forensic anthropologist and crime writer, Aaron Elkins, has been on board and we have attended several of his lectures on his life and work. He has a very down to earth approach to his work and did not write his first novel until he was fifty. Fame has come later in life and he gives the impression that it is still something of a novelty. A charming man, it was a pleasure to share a little of his time.

Also on board has been Nigel West, aka Rupert Allason (a different life completely), intelligence historian and writer, he currently lectures at the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies in Washington DC. He gave an excellent lecture on the exploits of 'Garbo,' the WW2 double agent and West's efforts to track down the elusive individual after the war. His talk on Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was equally interesting. Anyone offered a chance to hear this gentleman speak is well advised to do so. He is a witty and compelling speaker.

We have dressed up a lot this trip! My favourite ball gown, orange and black (sounds awful but is beautiful in reality) is showing a little wear and will need some TLC when we get back. I have worn it a lot over time and it shows. Joe too has to make some repairs to his DJ. He was dismayed to find he was missing a button and did not have a spare. On a smart ship like this, one cannot go out abroad with a missing button! Luckily, he has a tuxedo with him and it was just back from the dry cleaners...

I have been doing a little work too. I interviewed the Master of the QM2, the delightful Commodore Bernard Warner, for a British and an Indian magazine. Commodore Warner was interested and interesting and the resulting interview will, I hope, be enjoyed by many readers when it is published in January and November respectively.

Well, that is all for this post. More another time!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

New York, New York!

Well, we have left Anguilla.

We were seen off by several friends and well wishers, which, I must say, was as unexpected as it was welcome. We sat and thought about it and realised that we have lived in Anguilla longer than any other country in the last 13 years! It brought a lump to both our throats when we bade farewell and knew it was for the last time.

We flew on an Anguilla Aviation Services' charter flight to St Maarten (a fantastic service, giving us a chance to overfly Anguilla in a small aeroplane and see the island one last time before we finally landed in St Maarten), caught the American Airlines flight to JFK, (all our bags arrived with us in New York I am pleased to report!) and we are now here in the Big Apple.

It is a beautiful day and we have walked through Central Park, had a wander around some of the shops, stopped off at an internet cafe to check emails (I am awaiting replies to several messages) and will shortly go off and look for a new laptop as the time has come to try a Mac. This evening we have tickets for Spamalot, the Monty Python show we have been trying to get tickets for every since it hit theatres. We are both fans of Python so are looking forward to a good laugh!

We will be here until Thursday, when we board the Queen Mary 2 for our homeward voyage.

More on this in a later posting.