Royal Barges

Cleopatra's barge...


The barge she sat in, like a burnish'd throne,
Burn'd on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar'd all description: she did lie
In her pavilion--cloth-of-gold of tissue--
O'er-picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour'd fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.

I kept thinking of this yesterday when we went to the Royal Barges Museum and I started munbling about Cleopatra's barge and the burnish'd throne line...but everyone looked at me as if I were crazy and no one responded with the purple sails.  Well, the Royal Barges didn't have purple sails but they must have had a lot of tired rowers. The prows had different decorations: a daunting dragon; a bevy of monsters, with teeth; a curling serpent's head (I think it was a serpent), There was a throne seat in the centre for the royal derrière. Oh, and there was a slim, mini barge for candles, no rowers. Maybe it floated with the current or else was attached to the main barge. Awesome.

Our party didn't proceed on barges. We were on longboats, with a canopy against the sun and motor-driven. But I sat on the right side of my seat and stuck my elbow out and enjoyed the breeze, very welcome in the 90-degree heat. Before we docked at the museum, we slowed down by a temple to feed the fish. We were handed mini loaves of bread and tore off pieces, as instructed, to toss into the water for the fish.  What fish?  Those fish that gathered below is in a frenzied food scramble, much like piranha.  I think  they were catfish, quite large and no wonder. They hang around the temple for the food; apparently it is a blessed gesture to feed animals or fish or birds, whatever.

The last part of the excursion I didn't like so well. It was getting late but we were taken to a Gem Gallery to be persuaded to spend welcome tourist money on jewellery.  (Thailand has sapphires and emeralds.)  We were due to be picked up for the next excursion, a Thai Extravaganza: dinner and drinks and puppets and Thai food and dancing and fireworks.

I remember when my daughter Liz was about 12 years sold, we went to a parade in St Catherine's (Ontario) , part of the annual Grape Festival. Liz was sad because she said it was terrible to have seen the best parade of her life at such a young age. Well, I saw one of the best fireworks display in my life and seeing how old I am, there's not likely to be any better in the time that's left, so I'm happy.

That was the day that was. Have to move on to the next day today, that is, March 28, but I might wait until tomorrow. There's lots more. 

too much to say

Tomorrow we spend a day at sea and I will get caught up with the events of the past two days. It's amazing how much time leisure takes, especially when someone is organizing it. Late to bed last night, after falling over at 8 or 9 o'clock; lights out at 11 last night and I slept till almost 6, just in time to swim but not to write. This morning, if all systems are go, I am meeting a friend from Ontario (Guelph, actually, when he lived there), married to a Thai woman and living in Bangkok. this will be very interesting.  

The biggest challenge on this trip so far is the search for a good cup of coffee.  More anon.  It's 9 a.m. and I have to find Harry outside at 10.  Or not.

 

busy busy busy

Here I am again. I had my swim and breakfast and washed my hair (do you really need to know that?) and then I went to arrange my day.  I'm going on a Royal Barges excursion at 12:45 for five  hours, so I had to figure out where and when I could have a bit to eat for munch  before I go.  I get back about 5:15 and then go on A Thai Extravaganza special tonight, leaving at 5:45.  I will be fed on that excursion.  So you see, I had better check in here before the day gets ahead of me...and guess what?

Low battery. GAK, as Marla says.

Anon, anon.

oops

Just when I think I know what I'm doing, I don't.  Less time to fiddle this morning, so more fiddling required. I began a blog and lost it, finally found it in a strange place, and now I have very little time left because I started later and must join my cabin mate for our morning swim at 6. It's okay, though, because my plans for the day are somewhat amorphous, so I'll have time to report later. 

A life of leisure takes getting used to. I am in awe of the ways that people pursue to keep themselves busy.  A close friend in my building told me to be sure to allow for enough time to gaze at the ocean, and another friend told me to watch for the green flash at the moment the sun sets below the water's horizon.  Yes, indeed.  Those are far more important activities than Happy Hour (2 for 1) at 5 p.m.; Trivia at 5:15 or water-colours at 5:30, not to mention Table Tennis from 9 a.m. to 9 p,m.

Catch you later.

And maybe I can find my missing blog. It's called win some lose some.

I cook Thai

What a wonderful day! In Kamosai - have to check the spelling - like something out of a movie.  Plenty of time for a swim and breakfast by the pool before showering and dressing to board the tender taking us over to the mainland (i.e.island). I feel like a kid at a summer camp; the destination managers sort us out with numbers and water and check us out as we leave and enter. The drive in an air-conditioned van through the markets and streets (one street?) took about 40 minters, but with a long stop at a very large farmer's market (I'm working at getting a photo of it into my blog- very time-consuming at first. I'm on a slow learning curve.)  There is  a Mennonite expression that they eat every part of a goose except the honk. Well, here in Thailand they eat every part of the chicken except the cluck. The chicken feet on display looked lovely and I know they will jelly the stock.

Pigs' ears we know about but oh, the size of the pigs's heads on offer was daunting. Some people were repelled but I have seen sheeps' head in the markets in Reykjavík; it's called svið. If you've ever had head cheese you'd know something about it. I must admit I've never cooked it, but I have an open mind - and palate.  The wealth of food available is wonderful with treasures of the sea and earth available, some of it quite expensive (our guide gave us sample prices) and some of it very cheap.  He showed us dried squid strips that he used to chew as a child; he was very poor.  

Well, we are not  We drove on to a resort hotel right on the ocean, with little bungalows for rent on a winding path down to the beach. On a covered deck open to the breeze, above the waves, a long table was set up for the cooks, with tables close by for us to sample what we cooked. Talk about prepared!  Everything was measured and set up for us. We worked in pairs, following the instructions of a lovely Thai cook and checked, when there was heat involved, by a young helper who took care of the little propane elements. We were each given a chef's hat and apron and a brochure with the recipes of the three dishes we cooked, and we received a certificate attesting to our skill when we were finished. 

We ate what we cooked and it was delicious. I'll try to include a photograph of our coconut-bowl soup. Those of you who are within range of my home kitchen may profit by my new-found skill when I return.  

On our way back to the tender, we stopped at a Buddhist temple.  Those who were able climbed the 60 or so steps up to the statue to pay respects and take in the view.  Well, I had eaten a full meal, it was 32 degrees Celsius and I'm 84 years old, in good shape but I didn't want to push my luck. So I sat in the shade with others of my group.  (There were only 12 of us and only 4 opted for the climb.)

Back on the ship, I began to struggle with the iPhoto to send a couple of pix with my blog. I'll do it soon, but the battery is running low and I haven't written in my journal yet. Also, I have to write my date in Bangkok to arrange our reunion on Saturday. 

My son Matthew has an expression when we're travelling together, beginning when we're coping with paper work and hanging around, and kind of bored or tired.  He says, "Are we having fun yet?"  Then when we are having fun, it's all the more meaningful "Are we having fun yet?"

Yes!!!

Thailand ahead

Food again, but more than that. My first excursion involves a Thai cooking class.   We dock - somewhere - this morning, will tell you later. I tiptoe to the library so as not to disturb my cabin-mate. It's a lovely room ad I will try to take a picture of it.  It's 4:15 a.m. I think, although my poor mixed up computer thinks it's 5:15.  I'll swim at 6 and have breakfast in my wet bathing suit by the pool, dry off and try to figure out what to wear.  Siri says it's going to        We gather at 9 and head out for a SIX-hour junket, so it won't be all food. More intrepid (younger) souls are going to ride an elephant.  Nope. My lust for experience is tempered by my serene acceptance of my physical limitations. I am sooo lucky to be able to do what I do.  No skydiving or elephant-walking for me.  I'm not complaining.

Well, of course, the adventure is in the trip ("Oh the places you go, the things that you see!" as Dr.Seuss said) but the people I'm meeting are a revelation.  I have to start taking notes.

I have all the time in the world, you think, on a luxury cruise, but you'd be amazed how busy I am. I'll get back to you, soon.

listen!

It's still today, I think, according to my webblog. I'm just back from afternoon High Tea - but no more Devonshire Cream tea for me. Once a year is enough and I just had it two days in a row. I met more people, and I'm going to have to go into detail about some of them, though not now  I came back to change because there's a Captain's Cocktail Party this evening and Himself is going  to speak. Then I'm going to the Grand Dining Room (not as good as the Polo Grill, so I am told) because I want the appetizer: blinis with caviar. I like caviar. 

Now don't judge me too quickly. I had to cancel my online Weight Watchers because they can't reach me here, but I know what I'm doing and I'm doing a mental check of my Points each day. I'm okay, not great, but okay.  Still settling in, still too self-indulgent, but it's early days.  I found the library, BTW, and it's lovely. My sleeping habits are appalling, as usual, worse because my body doesn't know what day or time it is. According to my poor confused watch I hit the library at 3:30 this morning. It's taken me a while to find my way online, I'm picking up speed.  And speaking of the library and every place else, I take my security blanket with me everywhere. My son and daughter-in-law gave me a lovely (blue, of course) travel blanket for my birthday and I have worn it every day.  I mean, worn.  The air conditioning on the ship is aggressive, to say the least. Lesley Towers, you would love it. I am so cold. I put it on over everything I wear. Last night I tried to go without it when I went to dinner to try to look slightly more presentable.  I was shivering so before my hot consommé arrived that the mâitresse d'hotel went and got me a blanket from the spa to keep me warm while I ate. So I looked like a cult figure in a (blue, I'm happy to say) cocoon and no one saw my pretty jacket from Tilleys.  I don't mind. I brought very few  clothes with me, as you know, so people will have lots of opportunity to see the jacket and everything else. 

Right now I'm wearing my long denim skirt, a tank top, a Shetland sweater, and my security blanket. All blue . At least I'm colour-coordinated.

still confused

People are asking for photographs and I'm still a bit vague about going on line, catching up with mail, and writing my blog. I am still not even sure what day it is, and the time keeps changing.  I think we're recovering an hour a day, or going back an hour, I'm not sure, as we begin to go north- east, I think, to Thailand.  

This morning we were on time for our swim - I'm happy to tell you that my room-mate likes to rise early and swim - but the pool was still filling and choppy. We had coffee while we waited and talked to a fellow swimmer from Alabama (she hates Hillary Clinton) who slays she was named after the great Confederate general Sedge. I said my knowledge of American history was a bit spotty and she looked shocked until she realized I was Canadian and she admitted her knowledge of Canadian history was a bit spotty, too.  Anyway, Sedge likes to swim, too,  and we three had to wait until after seven to swim. Laps are hard in a short pool but fortunately, my fellow amphibians prefer to do knee and leg exercises at the side of the pool.  We ate at the Waves Grill, a little restaurant beside the pool, continental breakfast for Liisa and me; Sedge went in to a dining room for bacon and eggs. 

You don't want to hear all this, do you? There are multi eating and drinking places and myriad activities each day and I'm still trying to find my way around.  My sense of direction is being sorely tried and you would be so proud of me for the effort I am taking with names. 

Right now I'm going back for afternoon tea - just the tea, not the food - and an interesting couple I met from New Zealand. 

Wow, another day!

 

p.s.re hi-tis

High Tea is served in Horizons on Deck Ten at 4 p.m. every day and though I don't intend to eat that much on a regular basis, I went yesterday to this lounge ("dedicated to cocktails and conversation") to sample and compare with Raffles.  Insignia wins hands down.  Instead of a three-tier épergne holding an indifferent assortment of sandwiches (level one), dry cakes (level two) and dull pastries (level three), a three-tiered oblong oval table on wheels is driven to your table by a white-gloved waiter who delivers your choice with tongs on a small plate (either removed or stacked as you proceed). The choices are delightful, although there were no cucumber  sandwiches ("not even for ready money"): finely minced watercress in a filling I couldn't identify. The scones, strawberry preserves and clotted cream were comparable, I mean, how can you go wrong with a classic Devonshire Cream tea?  But after that...Let's begln with the tea, still not as good as leaf tea at home with a traditional tea strainer, but in Horizons, a choice was offered from a treasure box of tea bags (!). My companions in conversation (from New Zealand) and I chose Earl Grey and made it at table in individual teapots, supplied with pitchers of boiling water. At Raffles, we were given a "silver" pot pre-filled with tea, no leaf, no choice. I asked what it was and it was English Breakfast. 

I didn't eat any more. One must be careful on a hedonistic cruise ship. But I examined what was on offer and questioned the waiter and my companions about the goodies. The strawberry tart had while raspberries instead of one strawberry cut into three slivers and the base was custard instead of  strawberry pudding. The tart container in both places left something to be desired. The fruit cake was cut into generous slices instead of minuscule squares.  There was a gluten-free something or other none of us wanted to pursue. Who wants gluten-free tea time? That's almost an oxymoron. The gentleman at our table tried a meringue- too large, I'm afraid, and sticky.  In Canada one does not attempt to bake a meringue unless the humidity is low.

I was plunged into darkness I will return .

at last!

It has been a long time, with change of venue, change of time and change of date, oh, and change of provider.  Go back a bit.

The flight from Toronto to Hong Kong was looong.  We took off at 1:25 a.m. the morning of Friday, March 20.  Every time I looked at my watch we seemed to be the same time as Toronto, except I realized it was p.m. not a.m. and I forgot about the International date line, so that by the time we landed in Singapore ( a separate flight from Hong Kong but still Cathay Pacific airline, business class, very comfortable), I had no idea of the time or the day.  I met my roommate in the hotel as we waited for a room key, my companion for the next 109 days. We were both tired; Liisa had flown from Vancouver (from Port Alberni, B.C.),  We were booked, as I think I told you, for High Tea at Raffles Hotel, so we got ready, looking fairly elegant though tired, and took a short, frustrating cab ride arriving in time. at 4:30 p.m. on Match 21. I think.  I'm not sure where the rest of March 20 went. 

Well, High tea at Raffles was very disappointing. I've had better at the Windsor Arms in Toronto, and the Empress Hotel in Victoria (though they're a bit patronizing; I  make a better high tea myself, including the scones.  I had a glass of champagne (extra) though my room mate did not. The champagne was the best part, and the scones were okay (mine are better); the rest was abysmal. The cucumbers in the cucumber sandwiches were neither plentiful nor crisp and there was more mayo than butter - in fact, no butter.  The dainties/cakes/pastries, what have you, were pretty but tasteless, bland and not very sweet and rather tired. We noticed that others were sending their three-tiered servers back almost full, untouched. Somerset Maugham and Noel Coward would not have been impressed. 

The room,however, was lovely - the Tiffany Room - looking like something out of  British colonial days, very clean and fresh, circa late 19th century.  Of course, I forgot to bring along Minnie (my iPad-mini) so I didn't take a picture.  I'll get used to the idea soon, I hope. More to come.

Right now, having taken forever to get online (did you know that a message has to travel the equivalent of four times around the world to reach me here?  Wow),  I have to fill in a form and hand in my passport so we can be allowed into Thailand -tomorrow or the next day.  I think I can write again today, or tomorrow.  

We'll see.  The point is, I'm here, at last. 

count down for real

See, I have to decide what pants to wear. I have to dress to leave as if I were in Hobart, Tasmania. That's the coldest place I'll be, some time in June, winter there and about 10 degrees Celsius. I have a turtle-neck long sleeve T-shrit right now and a corduroy shirt-jacket. When I get to Hong Kong (temp there is between 24 low and 31 high, with showers), I'll put on a sleeveless blouse and a skirt, and I have a very civilized dress to wear for High Tea at Raffles at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon or whenever March 21st is there.  

I'm still packing. I'm still pretty hyper. Once I get into the airport, I'll calm down.  If there's WiFi in the Hong Kong airport I'll do a blog, otherwise, hang in there until I get into the Pan-Pacific hotel - I think that's the name of it. 

What a world! In other times, people going off like this knew that they would never see their loved ones again. That, of course, is why so many women, so many emigrant women, kept diaries.  Their journals were their letters home, never to be mailed, or read.  Who knows who is going to read my blog, aka my letter home?

I found a cartoon in an old New Yorker this morning: two little kids in a playground and one is saying, "I  thought I'd be a successful fashion blogger by now." I'm taping it in my diary.

Anon,anon.

nope

--not yet

It was another day of frantically trying to get ready to leave.  GST today (not finished); plus cruise papers and notes to people re my absence,  plus cooking for people, plus another small party, before an unexpected dinner.  I don't think my dishwasher is going to miss me. It's going to be so nice to be on that ship with a routine and quiet (I hope).  I'm gettin' there. 

I keep checking the weather in Hong Kong and Singapore. It's going to be a climate shock. But I am also apprehensive about air conditioning. I don't really like AC. I'm taking shawls and sweaters and socks, even though Singapore's temperature is abut 32 degrees Celsius.

I've waited too long to write today My mind is jelly or maybe yogurt - it's a culture, anyway....

I'll tell you one irrelevant thought from my inner dialogue today.  I picked up an old clipping from the NYT with pictures of 3 small antique biscuit jars.  My mother used to collect biscuit or cookie jars, or maybe my father did.  He kept bringing them home to her after she had evinced some interest. He had a source of supply: the homes  he visited (he used to make house calls).  He'd see something he admired or maybe even things he didn't admire, if the people appeared rather close to the bone (i.e. poor).  That's how we ended up with 6 family Bibles. He would admire the object and offer to buy it and pay the owners anything they asked.  Hence the cookie jars. 

There were so many cookie jars, not just special ones but everyday household cookie jars, that my mother used them as kitchen canisters. No labels on them, of course; you just had to remember that the green & yellow one contained raisins and the browny-gold one had cornmeal, and so on.  I was too young to understand the reason for this use. When I got married, I bought plastic canisters for everything, and I still transfer the contents of store packages to nice jars and storage containers. That's how  traditions and habits are formed: out of necessity and then out of habit. Mother needed to use the cookie jars, and then I thought that was the thing to do.

Now there was an irrelevant thought to sleep on....

Anon, anon    

 

happy St. Patrick's day

It's always been my belief that when the leprechauns were run out of Ireland (along with the dragons?), they took the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and set up lotteries in the New World. No one believes in leprechauns any more but boy, do they believe in lotteries. 

That's irrelevant. I'm trying to think of something other than my churning gut. It's a lethal combination: getting ready for a huge trip AND trying to do my income tax. And you know, when I say do, I don't mean do, I just mean I gather together all the papers and dump them on my accountant's desk, well, not dump, exactly, and I do collate things and I paperclip stuff together and I always date my donations in chronological order, things like that. But it's very hard on my nerves. And I still have to do my GST report. 

GAK, as my friend Marla says.

Think of something else....

My concierge (that's what they call her, though she's not on the ship and I'll never meet her, so she's not my concierge) informs me that my plane leaves Toronto at 1:25 p.m.on Friday but my flight arrangement information sheet says it leaves at 01.25 on Friday morning.  And Cathay Pacific doesn't give any flight information more than 24 hours ahead. However, If I go by today's and tomorrow's schedules, the flight to Hong Kong leaves in the early morning and not in the afternoon. 

My gut hasn't settled down yet. 

Why isn't anything simple? 

 

no more

I can't. I'm too tired and I'm still bogged down in numbers for my tax presentation - to my accountant. He has to make final sense of what I'm struggling with. I'll feel better tomorrow. I hope.

That's all.

maybe

You might or might not hear from me today.  I am doing my income tax preparation - for my accountant, not the gummint - for him to make sense of my papers, which I really do try to organize for him, but it takes a lot of serious procrastination to do this.  I hate hate hate numbers. You'll never catch me playing Soduko or whatever the name of that numbers grid game is. So it takes me a long time not to do my tax prep,  and I had orzo for lunch - fattening but calming.

Maybe I'll get back to you

Or maybe not.

Just so you know, I'm not enjoying this.