Coffee-time daydreamin’

I shall miss my first coffee of the day here in this library – one that, literally, transports people to new worlds! This morning I’m thinking of a conversation before dinner last night.

Her face illuminated by sunset, leaning on the stern rail aboard MS Borealis, a fellow ocean lover told me: ‘every morning, when I open my eyes, I ask myself “what’s the best that might happen?” – and pretty much every day outshines whatever I imagined.’

And here comes sunrise! Thank you, Borealis ☀️🙏

Bookish dreams

Time and again I have asked myself whether there was ever a time, in the bookish dreams of my boyhood, when I seriously envisaged mornings like those I’ve enjoyed recently. I don’t think there were, dreamer though I’ve always been.

Imagine a beautiful, quiet, floating library, in which excellent coffees and hot chocolate appear as if by magic, with ever changing views from the wide windows, and the kind of contemplation and relaxation that opens one to being entirely up for whatever a day might bring. I’m currently sitting in it. Pinching myself.

And I’ve written here in recent days of a kind of relaxed and necessary provisionality that is part and parcel of ship-board life. So I’ve been well prepared for last evening’s news that the current global situation has led to postponement of our onward sailing to the Caribbean and Central America. Instead we’ll spend a week riding the high swell of the Bay of Biscay heading home to the UK – each of us promised another opportunity to sail Southwards again, when safe opportunity arises.

The really great thing about picking up a ‘new book’ – especially the kind that you’ve never even dreamed of – is the not knowing how the story will end. And the inextinguishable hope that, having reached the last page, there’ll be a fabulous sequel …

Variables

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.

photo FOCL

Sea Cloud

It’s pleasantly warm here in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria this morning. One of the joys of a cruise voyage for me is the never quite knowing what a day will bring – the people, places, or the weather. Every hour of every day brings someone or something new – and I pinch myself sometimes as, on board a ship, ambling around a port, or dining in glad company, my boyhood dreams of sailing the seven seas keep coming true, but better than anything dreamed of then. Ships have wonderful personalities of their own, as do the people who sail in them!