I write, now, from a distance. It reminds me that memories are hot just once and that they quickly cool. It takes conscious effort to warm them up again, to pull them back into touch. I’m busy doing that.
I met some beautiful people on the cruise, all of us strangers to each other even as some were known to the captain and crew. It awkwards people. They are suddenly unsure about how to move, where to stand, what to ask and when. There is hesitation around the dining table when dinner is called. I see it. I feel it and hear it in the flutter of an elevated voice whilst navigating the steps from one deck to the next, from the saloon down to the cabins. I feel it myself. I know, as the wife of a sailor sea-dog that nobody in their right mind ever attacks decksteps facing forward. Reverse is the way. Arrive at the steps, turn, locate step one and repeat until you reach the new horizontal. Well, we all long for horizontal but aboard ship this is never a given. But on this trip, once we had all got ourselves over the ‘trip’ thing, one that didn’t only apply to steps or dining table navigation, we knew we only faced sea-lochs, and, even if they can scoosh up a stooshie in a storm, the waters upon which we bobbed promised the odd rise and fall, like when you flap your hands in a bath tub to make the bubbles froth. And, we had a very skilled skipper who has taken many trips out to St Kilda where there is no land for generations and no promise of safe anchor. Looking at it this way, this cruise was like bobbing across a puddle.
The young chef did not fail us, not once, not even with a burned biscuit. The guide, far too experienced for her lovely youth, kept us intrigued and informed and although I did try to catch her out, I failed. The stewardess who did all of the caring, and I am not going to list her tasks because she was just always there should anyone want anything from a cup of tea to a glass of whisky, from another blanket to a reassuring and pro-active response to any question. And always with bright eyes and a smile. Jeez, I thought. How in the hellikins do these givers keep giving over so many months and to so many people, especially the ‘challenging’ ones? They just shrug when I pose that question. Most, they tell me, are lovely people, interesting and interested. I nod. Good, I say, and sheath my sword. I do this because these cruises are unusual and so thoroughly planned for the complete comfort of every single customer and it does mess with my sword action when someone complains, not because the cruise or the crew fail them but because they need therapy. Just saying.
The standard of service, the quality of the cooking, the service, in my opinion, was 5 star, if not 6. Catering to guests on board ship, facing ocean squalls and angry horizons is something we, as guests, might wonder about a bit, whilst we hold tight to the rails and reverse down deck steps but what it must mean to the captain and crew is a mystery, just as they want it to be. Our white faces may turn to ask, Are We Ok? and the answer will always be a smile. Of course we are! I remember it way back in Tapselteerie days and I mean way back, when I might be crew and the boat was something you could make out of lego and the sea huge and the prospect only just short of dire because at the helm was the auld bugger and he knew the sea and never ever felt he was in control of her. He negotiated with her, he told me. Work with me Lady, he would whisper but if any soaked and terrified passenger hand-railed him or her self to the bridge to seek hope, the auld bugger turned, grinned and reassured no matter the patter of his own heart. I digress, again.
The guests and I got over the awkwards pretty quick. Soon we just moved and flowed and navigated steps and so on as if we had lived together for longtime. Conversation began to flow and in that flow I watched hangups float downstream, those protection rackets that protect and confound incoming, friendly or not. I watched shoulders lower, eyes stay on another cross table, hand and arm movements flow freer. T’was a delight to see, like a dance. By the end, oh shame, the end, we were looking each other eyeball to eyeball, no shift, really pleased to have known what we have known of each other in four short nights. Humbled, or I was, encouraged and uplifted, astonished at times for the stories that lifted like roses from the dark ground of a person. As we waved farewell to each other at the end, I walked on with a new lift because of those stories. I may forget them but I will never forget the storytellers.
Thank you James, Lynz, Kat, Jordan and Hebrides Cruises. I thoroughly recommend.