Last full day of the whole shooting-match (sob!).
Got up early (for us, anyway) to see a talk by Dave Wright, the resident historian, who’d done some excellent material earlier in the cruise on Mary Queen of Scots and Lawrence of Arabia.
His topic was St. George, the patron saint of England (and, it transpires, many other countries too). Who was he, and did he really slay a dragon?
It proved to be fascinating. George was born in Cappadocia, now modern Turkey, the son of an adviser to the Roman commander, Diocletian, who later became Emperor in somewhat dubious circumstances. This was in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D., a long time before the Crusades with which he is often associated. He grew up to be a committed Christian, brave, humble, clever and an all-round jolly good egg. After his father died, he offered his services to Diocletian, who was only too glad to have somebody of George’s calibre on his side.
However, a major split came when Diocletian wanted to enforce the Roman pantheon beliefs, including sacrifices, and the Christians suffered terribly at his hands. George had the courage to confront Diocletian, who was taken aback, but ordered George to keep his Christian opinions to himself. George ignored him, and started to spread his Christian beliefs.
This enraged Diocletian, to the extent that George was executed on 23rd April (St. George’s Day) after suffering the most dreadful torture to try to force him to recant. He never did.
The dragon-slaying was a myth, unsurprisingly, an allegorical fantasy dreamed up in the 15th century with the dragon representing the end of the Roman Empire and George the superiority of Roman Catholicism.
As regards the association with the Crusades, this is down to Richard the Lionheart. The flag associated with George, the red cross on a white background, was originally Genoese, back in the day when they ruled the Mediterranean. Richard wanted to sail into the Mediterranean to pursue his Crusades, so he agreed to pay the Genoese, whose patron saint was St. George, for the privilege and fly their flag as he did so. From that point on, St. George was associated with the Crusades as a symbol of courage, chivalry, leadership and victory.
His adoption as the patron saint of England was the doing of Edward III, the Warrior King, who started the Hundred Years’ War against France, and was looking for an inspirational figure for the English to rally behind. St. George got the gig.
This, of course, is a seriously potted version of the whole story, but it was really interesting and well delivered.
Our dinner companions, Jay and Gary, had mentioned that they were booked on one of the first trips that the new Cunard ship, the Queen Anne, was scheduled for in March 2024 to northern Norway. This pricked my imagination as seeing the Northern Lights is on the Walker bucket list.
As a result, I’d made an appointment a couple of days ago to see the voyage sales consultant, to which we duly turned up this morning. After some discussion, we signed up, as it could be secured with a low deposit and some generous incentives. So we now have a cruise on a brand-new ship booked for early 2024…..
Back to the stateroom, then, to start the rather sad process of packing to leave the ship tomorrow morning. The pain was alleviated by some fizz set aside for the purpose…..
The sea was flat calm and the weather remarkably mild, so we sat outside for a while on our balcony. For the first time for quite a while, we began to see fishing boats and hear aircraft overhead. As I write this, we’re within 200 miles of Land’s End. And, thanks to our daughter’s ministrations, I can now control the heating for the house using my phone, so we shouldn’t have to return to a cold house. Hopefully. 🙏
Attended another presentation in the planetarium on board, introducing the concept/reality of dark matter. Beautifully done, but again rather short on detail.
We left our cabin steward, Roderick, a hefty personal tip, as he has been superb. Unobtrusive, but helpful when needed, and his servicing of the stateroom has been impeccable. No single hotel we’ve stayed at during this trip has really matched his level, and the stateroom has been brilliant. Top man.
Despite being in the Princess Grill suites, we hadn’t actually visited the Grill Lounge, the area to gather for a drink before dinner in the restaurant. So we did. Pleasant enough, but too much dark wood around and not many social spaces.
Whilst we were there, though, an announcement from the bridge stopped all conversation. A coastguard helicopter was due to land to pick up a very unwell passenger. The captain’s tones were calm and reassuring, with apologies for disturbing our evening. Blimey…..
We honestly didn’t feel a thing. Remarkable. The whole operation was carried out with zero impact on us, and I’m delighted to report that it was a success. Thank God.
Dinner was great, once again in the company of Jay and Gary. Mind you, the roast potatoes were really not up to snuff. Tut, tut….
We went down to the main ballroom to sample the music of Changez, the party band for the ship. They were very good, playing mainly Motown/soul hits, but the atmosphere was rather flat and we had to get an earlyish night (says he, writing this at close to midnight).
Well, here endeth the adventure. We should be back home tomorrow lunchtime, having had a fabulous experience. All good things come to an end, but I’ll try and summarise it later on. In the meantime, I need to get my head down, and will be in touch tomorrow. Actually, later today. See you then.