Thursday, August 15: Queen Mary II, Day Four

1) Awake at 6 AM. I’d left the curtains open all night, and could see the solid fog without getting out of bed. But I did get out of bed, to get some fresh air on my little balcony. Lo and behold, through the fog - a speck of rose. The dawn! I hurried into some clothes and went up on deck.

2) Today I made a conscious decision not to be in my cabin so much. I breakfasted in the restaurant (I must say, I wasn’t really impressed with the eggs Benedict), strolled about, and saw a bit more of the ship than hitherto.

3) And I was early for one of the ship’s programs that really appealed to me, a Q&A with English National Ballet soloist James Streeter. Recalling the lines of everyone anxious for a good seat at tea, I showed up 30 minutes in advance with my copy of Queen Bees (a history of London society hostesses between the World Wars - because of course), and was able to get a front row center seat with zero difficulty.

4) Mr. Streeter is that special creature, a dancer who can engage verbally with an audience. The ship’s entertainment director interviewed him, and Mr. Streeter just took the ball and ran with it every time! I was especially pleased with his account of dancing at the Opéra Garnier in Paris and having to adjust to their steeply raked stage. He was also very candid about dancing with his wife, who is a principal in the ENB.

4a) The floor was then opened to questions - and they picked me for the last question! Having read that one of his favorite roles was in William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, and having seen that several times when I worked at the Pastel Prison, I mentioned that people sometimes thought of it as a stylized gang rumble and asked whether or not an “us vs. them” vibe had come up in the rehearsal process. Mr. Streeter delighted us all with his response, first talking about how he met Mr. Forsythe, but then that there was no us vs. them in the rehearsals, just one Company working together, and how wonderful Forsythe was to work with.

5) Luncheon in the dining room: cock a leekie soup, a burger (!), and chocolate opera cake. Mmphgh!

6) I did, I had to have a NAP for about an hour, and then I went off to a piano recital in the planetarium (a most Art Deco space; I rather hope its interior is based on the original Queen Mary). This was music of the Romantics: Chopin, Schubert, Liszt, Schumann. I wish he’d chosen some more pyrotechnical pieces, but I was enchanted to hear Liszt’s “Rossignol” for the first time.

7) Then late to Tea in the Queen’s Room, but it was the string quartet today. That poor harpist . . . poor thing, she can’t be heard over the din! Again I had managed a corner banquette on my own, but was happy to share with another straight couple in their 70s (they’re always straight, and always in their 70s) who were jovial conversationalists.

7a) We were all startled to hear the captain’s voice over the PA system; the musicians stopped playing and all conversation ceased. Silent surprise at his news that the ship had changed course slightly to accommodate a medical evacuation by helicopter! All decks were to be cleared immediately, including individual balconies, until the evacuation was complete. No idea what happened or the prognosis, but of course it’s a subject of shipboard conversation now.

8) People are always surprised that I have a socially anxious side; I joke that I have to know at least 60% of the people in the room to be comfortable. So until today I hadn’t joined the LGBT social hour (though my high school classmate on board had been encouraging me). A very pleasant hour passed, with the help of two aviation cocktails that completely coordinated with my outfit, with some very interesting and amusing gentlemen - some of whom had been at the dance program earlier in the day.

9) Dinner: smoked salmon terrine, sirloin steak, a light red wine, and a Valhrona chocolate fondant cake. “Well, we heard your question to the dancer, but I’d have known it was you because of your voice.” Everyone at the table had had an interesting day for different reasons, so the conversation was good - and we didn’t get mired in politics like last night, which just left me feeling so depressed.

10) So now I’m snugly back in my cabin listening to the sea rush past, ready to enjoy another day tomorrow.

Thursday Morning, July 18 - Tech Issues

1) Last night, to my horror, I found out that some friends put a photo of me through that ye FyceYppe everyone’s talking about - without my permission. So aside from the fact that the Russkies know everything about me now, what’s horrifying is the strong resemblance to my father and recognition of one of my cousins. The relief, of course, is that my hair is still all there. And it looks fabulous.

1a) This technology could be used for so much evil. Isn’t it bad enough they already have all our credit info after the Yquifyxxe hacking?

2) Also last night, I began to set up an account on ye Instygrymme for the first time, which one would think would be very very simple since the entire world is already on it successfully. WRONG! First, error messages about my username already being in use, and then, after surmounting that hurdle, the error message that the email address was already being used on another account. Attempts to get a lost password email at those addresses were met with a “No users known” error message. A friend found the right page on their help menu to send a message; THAT came back with “The requested page cannot be found.” I really have no idea what to do next.

2a) Mercury must be retrograde. What other explanation could there be?

3) At least the coffee maker works. :-)

Tuesday Morning, July 9

1) Between 4:40 and 6:18 AM I ended up falling unexpectedly into deep sleep, after roughly five hours of getting up every hour. It was beautiful.

2) Yesterday was the first day of my last three weeks at ye Instytytte; one down, 14 to go. On the way home I tried to get myself organized in my mind, realizing that I have four activity tracks in the next four weeks:

  • Professional: There is so much to wind down, so much institutional memory to share, and some volunteers who need a lot of managing before I go. The office feels very much like it’s in a state of transition, and not just for me.

  • Vacation: If my last day at the office is in three weeks, then the first day of my Big English Vacation is in four weeks! I’ve barely done any of my usual research. I need a new waistcoat to wear with my black tie, one that doesn’t make me look like a satin sack of something. And I need to firm up some other arrangements. Only yesterday I started rereading The Sway of the Grand Saloon, John Malcolm Brinnin’s magnificent history of scheduled transatlantic travel.

  • Creative: Oh right, I’m leaving my job to pursue my creative endeavors full time (and monetize them)! Aside from needing to get back on a twice-weekly schedule of columns, I need to launch another social media account, ramp up research for my talk September 17, buy a printer, firmly establish a home office in the study, and figure out how to handle some domain and other tech issues.

  • Domestic: The nice man is coming to repair Gramma’s bed on Friday. I’m living in a perpetual rummage sale and must at least move the boxes of stuff to sell into the basement. Plus I need to initiate some condo association business, now that the second floor is for sale. At this point I’m indisputably the dean of the building (this entirely honorary title based solely on length of ownership and residence), but now I’m also running it. On the plus side, benign neglect of our shrubbery is bringing back the vine of orange trumpet flowers I loved so when we all moved in.

3) To my delight, yesteday the new neighbors bought my Haviland china - the china that had been given me by the One Man I Could Call an Ex, the only china I have that isn’t family china. They are a really nice young couple, and I expect they will have some happy occasions using it. And I am pleased to have a handful of cabbage instead of a tax-deduction letter from a thrift shop.

Independence Day 2019

1) I just finished my annual tradition of reading aloud the Declaration of Independence. This is from 2017 - I just didn’t feel like filming this morning - but of course the text hasn’t changed. :-)

2) Go here for the text and read it aloud yourselves. It is a valuable and necessary experience to hear the words spoken.

3) Wishing you all a safe, beautiful Fourth of July!

Monday, July 1

1) Big realization on my commute: this was the first day of my last month at ye Instytytte.

2) You know Mother taught me not to talk to strangers, but this morning’s bus commute turned into a big gab fest, first with two wholesomely attractive young heterosexual couples visiting from Tennessee, and then with a colleague from another branch of ye Instytytte.

3) An important package arrived in the mail this evening.