A couple of months ago, I was in a play called “And Then There Were None”. It was based on the novel by Agatha Christie which was in turn based on an old nursery rhyme called “Ten Little Soldiers” which was actually a more politically correct name for the original rhyme! In short, the story was that eight people were invited to spend the weekend on an island off the coast of Devon (the fictional Soldier Island although it really does exist under the name of Burgh Island!). They would be tended to by two house staff. This meant there were 10 people in total on the island.
One by one and in accordance with the rhyme, each of them would be murdered! Although my character survived to tell the tale.
The following week, I was on a mini cruise. I say mini cruise, that is how it was advertised, but it was more of a ferry crossing. Let me explain…
On the south coast of England is a city called Portsmouth. It has for many years been one of this country’s main naval ports and is the home to two of this country’s oldest ships, HMS Victory and the Mary Rose. However, it also has a ferry terminal. Ferries sail from there to the Isle of Wight, the Channel Islands, France and Spain. One of the French destinations is Le Harve.
My mini cruise was from Southampton, England to Rouen, France. Two nights at sea and one night in port. Neither of these ports are actually on the coast of the English channel, as they are both further inland and require some navigation up stream.
To reach the English Channel from Southampton, the ship has to pass the Port of Portsmouth. Similarly, across the other side of the channel, the ship has to pass Le Harve port to reach Rouen. This means that the only ‘cruising’ to be done was effectively that of the ferry crossing route.
And for many, that would prove to be a crossing too far!
The first night of our cruise was quite rough. We were, initially, unaware just how rough the channel was going to be because we had a couple of hours sailing down river first to reach the open channel. For those not initiated in the ways of cruises, there are two dinner sittings, one early evening (about 6pm) the other mid evening, (about 8.30pm). The ship set sail about 4.30pm which meant the early sitting would be enjoying their dinner just as the ship reached the channel.
We were booked into the late sitting.
As the shipped cleared the Isle of Wight, the full extent of the rough sea could be felt. People were being tossed about like rag dolls; crockery flung from starboard to port and back again; waves crashing over the bow and flooding the decks to the stern.
OK, slight exaggeration!
However, it was rough and people were struggling to stay upright on their feet. And those who had eaten, or were eating, were struggling to keep their food down. Those yet to eat were not looking forward to their food.
Paper bags suddenly seemed to be growing on board like mushrooms. Popping up every where you looked; poked behind pictures and hand rails waiting to be used. Ten minutes later, there wasn’t an empty bag to be found! 😦
Like the play, I was in a party of eight. We headed to our table to be served by two waiters, determined to enjoy our dinner. We weren’t going to be put off by a few waves.
And just like the Agatha Christie play, one by one our numbers dwindled, although we only succumbed to sickness, not murder! With each crash of a wave, one of our party would either leave the table or give up eating until, finally, as with the play, I was the last man standing. And then there was one!
I’m not sure what that says about my constitution, but there was no way I was going to miss out on one of the most moist, succulent and tender lamb shanks I have ever eaten.
A few hours later, all was calm again as we had reached the mouth of the river Seine in France. For the vast majority of passengers, this came too late to enjoy their first night of this mini cruise.