There’s a necessary provisionality about day to day life aboard a ship – plans and timetables are changed by seemingly innumerable variables.
A ship’s captain and an entire crew must be among the world’s most flexible people – always having eyes and ears for what happened yesterday, what is happening now, and what looks most likely to happen tomorrow – and all the hours, minutes and ‘watches’ in between. The effects of Covid-19 are just the latest arrivals to voyaging complexity.
And every day I notice their calm and grace. Captain and crew appear largely unruffled by pretty much whatever’s going on. Challenges are met with a high degree of equanimity. Ship life, it is recognised, can be decidedly unpredictable, and a ship’s company has no choice but to respect that.
After recent Canarian warmth we’re now ploughing through moderate to rough seas, rain, and thick, low, grey cloud. Most of the passengers onboard will disembark tomorrow amid a flurry of intense activity, to be replaced with an entirely new company of adventurers. And the processes of making new acquaintances, heading back towards blue skies, warmth and a host of new provisionalities will – hopefully – begin again for captain, crew, and lucky me.
And between sunrise and sunset I find myself reflecting on new clarity in the phrases ‘going with the flow,’ ‘weathering the storm,’ and ‘riding the waves.’ And my well-loved favourite stanza from Louis Macneice’s Mutations echoes in every fibre of my being:
For every static world that you or I impose
Upon the real one must crack at times and new
Patterns from new disorders open like a rose
And old assumptions yield to new sensation;
The Stranger in the wings is waiting for his cue,
The fuse is always laid to some annunciation.