Well, finally I did disappear (see Going, going, gone 20/10/09). We disappeared, Doreen and I, more in the way we had hoped and less in the way that I'd feared. We had, long ago, I can now reveal, booked ourselves on a cruise to coincide with the refurbishing and alterations to chez nous. The reason that I would not speak of it before was a fear amounting almost to a certainty that it would not take place. Almost from the time we booked it, we each had a series of health issues any one of wish could have put the kibosh on the holiday. I told myself it would not happen ad quietly hoped that it would. Other events overtook us which began to seem like omens. And then a few days before we were due to sail, the ship, docking in Manhattan, had a disagreement with a concrete bollard and came off second-best. The trip seemed off, then on, then off and eventually on but delayed a day or two. It was in fact delayed two days
And so finally we left the house to the tender mercies of the decorators, electricians and others, to make our way to Southampton, to the Saga Ruby. We had cruised before , but on her sister ship, the Saga Rose. Two very rough days in the channel and across the Bay of Biscay left us wondering what perversity in our natures had led us to choose to cross Biscay at the end of October. (A word of advise: don't.) On the second day we ordered toast and coffee from room service. The ship decided at that point to do a double skip sideways. The tray sailed through the air and crashed to the floor. It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase half a cup of coffee. Not one piece of crockery escaped. The wind by then was gale force 8/9.
As if to compensate us for the rigours of those two days, The Mediterranean gave us ten glorious days of sunshine and cloudless skies, at times a little too hot.
At Cadiz we were taken to a winery and treated to a display of genuine Flamenco Dancing. The dancing was breathtaking. Partly, no doubt, because we were inches from the stage and had just finished the first tasting. I took numerous photographs - you can imaging - which no doubt would not have been technically brilliant, though far superior to those I took after the second tasting. Unfortunately, the memory card developed a fault (nothing to do with the tasting, I assure you!) and I have been unable to access them. Does any good soul out there know of a method to retrieve such images?
The sting was in the tail, though: returning across Biscay, the wind a mere force 7, but the sea feeling much rougher than the previous 8/9, Doreen was quite ill and had to spend all of Tuesday in bed. The final (nearly!) "highlight" came at 4 am when we were hit by a huge wave (shades of Hokusai!) which lifted the bows of the ship (where, as it so happened, yours truly was sleeping), stopping it dead in its tracks and doing - we were told - a great deal of damage around the ship. Not, though, to yours truly, the worst that happened to us was that a larg(ish) and very heavy safe mounted just below eye-level in one of the wardrobes crashed through the doors of said wardrobe and landed upside down inches from the foot of my bed - and feet, of course! It quite woke me up.
Other highlights were meeting up with the Saga Rose on its last journey and a day of celebrations beginning with a church service, led by Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and culminating in a spectacular firework display.
We made it home on Wednesday. The workmen had long gone, the boxes and the innumerable layers of dust were undisturbed. For the most part they remain so. I still feel like a monk, but now in a cardboard cell.
Of course there were others, not least the gastronomic delights, the chef's ice sculptures (shown in accompanying photographs - no more than snaps, really)and the various ports of call.
What a lovely homecoming, though, to discover that so many of you had thought it worthwhile to comment in my absence. So far beyond my expectations, that. Thank you all so much. I have posted replies, though not as personal as I would wish, time being at a premium at present with all these boxes now to unpack and much to be done before I can access my books.
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