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.