Day 93 – Queen Mary 2 (Day 4)

After breakfast, we attended a talk given by Christopher Ward, the grandson of one of the musicians who lost their lives when the Titanic sank in 1912. His grandfather was buried in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and he laid flowers on his grandfather’s grave when the ship visited Halifax on the current trip. Despite this, he controlled his emotions remarkably well. He did fit the stereotype of the stiff upper lip Brit to a tee.

His theme was discussing the various ways that the disaster has been portrayed in the multitude of films, documentaries, etc., made since it happened, from the very early silent films to James Cameron’s 1997 blockbuster, and why it still holds people’s attention 110 years later. He included some absolutely hilarious clips from the old films, plus a German propaganda film aimed at dissing the British class system and the ineptitude of the management of White Star Lines.

The main comparison, though, was between a 1958 British-made film called “A Night to Remember”, which is probably the most accurate portrayal of the actual disaster, made on a budget of £500,000, with the James Cameron version, with its £200 million budget, which unashamedly nicked scenes from its predecessor. The earlier film used Ruislip Lido to film the scenes of the ship hitting the iceberg!

It was all beautifully done in a very self-effacing way, but the dénouemont came right at the end. Which of the two films did he prefer? Neither of them.

He then showed a clip which I subsequently found on YouTube.

If you are a Brit, and you’ve not seen this before, please have a look. It’s based on Boris Johnson’s assertion that he was going to make a titanic success of Brexit.

The Brits in the audience were in fits of laughter. I had tears running down my face. God knows what other nations must have thought, but he got enormous applause at the end. A sobering, provoking, but ultimately a thoroughly entertaining talk.

We “lost” another hour at midday, so the next talk was upon us more quickly than might have been expected. This was delivered by the resident historian, Dave Wright, who had given such an interesting exposition yesterday on Lawrence of Arabia, and it was about Mary, Queen of Scots.

Again, wonderfully delivered. A story of skulduggery, murder, political manipulation, sex, and human emotions that would make a real Hollywood blockbuster. No point in my going through the historical details – they are far better told by others – but he successfully portrayed her as a martyr. A woman who, on the face of it, should have had everything, but was imprisoned for 20 of her 44 years and was made to suffer dreadfully for her Catholic faith and poor choices of people around her. Harrowing stuff, but another great talk.

I next tried my hand at a table tennis tournament, up on a very sweaty Deck 12 alongside one of the pools. Loads of participants, some of whom had been playing here for the duration of the cruise (4 weeks or so). Knockout system, one game to 11 points. I had a 3-minute knock-up on a poor quality table with a dead bounce, lousy bats and against a very good player who’d been a) playing on these tables for weeks b) was a previous two-time winner of the tournament. Talk about getting your excuses in early…. I lost. 😮‍💨 So a consolatory beer was called for.

Still smarting from this defeat, I went down to the Golden Lion pub, an institution on all Cunard ships, to listen to a 5.30 p.m. presentation on the history of the guitar, given by Paul Garthwaite, of whom I have never heard. It was more a showcase of his talents at playing instrumental electric guitar, which were considerable. So we got some Santana (overrated as a guitarist in my opinion), some Hank Marvin of the Shadows (a hero of mine) and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits (who is an absolute god of the guitar). I was in my element. It was also refreshing to know that he was a Brit from Middlesbrough.

I had originally booked a meal in The Verandah, the poshest restaurant on board, for 6.15 tonight. As I enjoyed the electric guitar thingy so much, but didn’t know when it would end, after much agonising, I cancelled it and re-booked for lunch on Wednesday. As the guitarist finished promptly at 6 p.m., we could have made it. Note to self to feed back to Cunard about publishing finishing times for all these events….

The positive outcome was another meal in the company of Gary and Jay. Another very nice dinner and some great conversation.

We had not yet visited the G32 nightclub, so decided to stick our heads round the door. Quiet as the grave – it was only 9 p.m. after all 🙄 – and the DJ was playing 1980s pap, so we left.

The main ballroom, the Queen’s Room, was next door, so we stopped by for a look. Having been so impressed by the standard of performances of the Cunard entertainment so far, this was disappointing. The backing band was excellent, but the two singers were average at best. The music was ballroom dancing oriented, and there were a few exponents of the art on the floor, but, I’m afraid, not exactly riveting.

In an attempt to find something engaging, we next visited the Royal Court Theatre. A genuinely talented trio playing popular classics by Vivaldi, Debussy, Johann Strauss and Dvorak. Crowded theatre, all very proper, but not exactly my scene.

In a last desperate attempt to get some entertainment, we went back down to the pub. Glory be, a much livelier atmosphere and a duo, including the guitarist I’d seen earlier, playing stuff that we could both enjoy rather more.

Another late night, then. And we lose another hour tomorrow….

Just for a change, we decided to use Room Service for our breakfast tomorrow, having heard good reports of it. I’ll report tomorrow on that very important issue.

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