NEWS

July 2019

I am sorry that I haven’t been back for a while but the loss of my friend DJ hit me harder than I thought. I hoped going away only a few days later would help but I just kept beating myself up about whether I’d done the right thing. The trouble is that having a pet is like a member of the family and he was with me for 15 years so it is difficult to just shrug it off.

The other thing that bothered me is that his ashes were not going to be ready to pick up until after I went away and I worried that there might be a mistake if he was left at the vet for 2 months. Thank goodness for friends, my neighbor Pat and her lovely husband Brian went and picked DJ up for me and from then onwards I slept better.

Celebrity Silhouette is like my sea family and it is always lovely ‘going home’ but I nearly didn’t make it. I left my home in Telford at 7.30am as I like to get to Southampton with plenty of time to spare. An hour into the three-hour journey disaster followed as the rev counter shot to 7000 revs per minute. I know nothing about cars at all but I knew this wasn’t right and turning the radio down I could hear the gear box was grinding. I noted that the services were only three miles away and I was desperate to make it there rather than pulling into the side of the motorway.

There were two men leaning against a van when I pulled in and I asked if they knew anything about cars. Not a lot one said but I explained the problem. That sounds like the gear selector one said and I queried if I could drive on albeit at a slow speed. The look on their faces said it all and after telling me that I could blow the engine up I rang my breakdown company 24/7.

They told me that as my car was an automatic there was very little they could do roadside and offered to tow me back to Telford free of charge. I calculated that if I did that I was in danger of missing the ship as I would have had to order a taxi that could take my 11 pieces of luggage and cost me a fortune, meanwhile the car would have stay in the drive.

The quote was £300 to Southampton and I had no choice but to accept as if I’d been able to get a taxi from my home it would have cost me that each way. I was told someone would be with me in 45 minutes. Several phone calls and two hours later a tow truck arrived. It was nearly 11am and I was by now extremely nervous about my chances of making the ship especially as the breakdown guy told me the tow truck could only do 56mph. I explained the crisis and he calmed me down saying he had another vehicle that could do 70mph. I was worried about the time another vehicle would take to get there and the guy pointed across the forecourt to behind the petrol station where there headquarters was!!! I was floored as I’d waited 2 hours for someone to arrive but he explained that although they had plenty of vehicles all the drivers were out on another job.

Another half an hour and we were finally on the road. It was nearly 12.30pm by now and I frantically sent me boss a text to clarify the latest I could board the vessel. Silhouette was sailing at 4pm so 3.30pm was the latest. There was nothing I could do except keep everything crossed.

The driver was brilliant and after I explained that not only could I lose 4 months of work but my whole contract with Celebrity he told me that he was only supposed to drive me to another service station and from there I would have to wait for another tow truck to arrive. I was flabbergasted. I had no idea that the quote of £300 didn’t include a direct drop off. As I said the guy was fabulous and after I had a complete meltdown said he would drive me all the way.

En route I rang a local Southampton garage, Purple Garage and booked the car in but with 30 miles still to go, it was doubtful I would make the ship if I went to the garage first and then waited for a taxi to take me to the port. Even though it was against company policy the driver told me he would drop me off first and then take the car on the Purple Garage.

We pulled up to City Terminal at 3.10pm and the porters had to climb up to the tow truck and form a human chain to get my luggage off. In all the years of working for the port they had never seen a passenger arrive in a tow truck before! I ran through the terminal which was completely empty and then undertook the long walk up three long corridors to reach the ship trying to pull my extremely heavy hand luggage behind me. I boarded the ship at 3.26pm and felt as if I was going to throw up.

I managed to get to my ‘office’ on Deck 12 and grab a seat and then I realised I was shaking from head to tail. I opened my soda remembering I hadn’t taken my medication and once done I tried to calm down. Big ask. We sailed out of Southampton 25 mites later and it hit me how close to the wire I was from missing it. I had no idea where the car had gone nor did I care at that point.

Invariably there are a lot of crew I know from past voyages so you never feel alone and within a few hours I felt somewhat normal again. My first trip was to Ireland and Iceland and although I have done Iceland before I had never done Cobh or Dublin.

Cobh is a town in Ireland, on an island in Cork city’s harbour. It’s known as the Titanic’s last port of call in 1912. Titanic Experience Cobh is a themed attraction in the former White Star Line ticket office. More displays on the liner are in the Cobh Heritage Centre, which also explores how Cobh became an embarkation point during Ireland’s mass emigrations.

On Sunday 14th April 2019, ceremonies were held to mark the 107th anniversary of the tragedy. The ceremonies, in the last port of call of the Titanic remembered all those who died when the ship sank, but in particular the passengers who boarded in Cobh.

The proceedings commenced at the Titanic Memorial Garden at the east end of the Cobh waterfront, which overlooks the final anchorage of the Titanic. Here a ceremony of prayers and wreaths were laid to musical honours provided by the Commodore Male Voice Choir. A wreath was laid by the chairperson of Cobh Tourism, Jack Walsh at the Glass Memorial wall which bears the names of the 123 Queenstown passengers.

We also missed the commemoration of the 104th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania which took place in Cobh on Sunday 5th May, 2019.


The ceremony commenced at the Lusitania graves in the Old Church Cemetery just outside Cobh. Following prayers, musical honours by the Commodore Choir and the laying of wreaths, the proceedings moved to Cobh Town Centre. A Parade led by a Colour Party from the O.N.E. and representatives of the Royal Naval Association and other maritime and historical groups left from the Old Town Hall on Lynch’s Quay to the Lusitania Peace Memorial in Casement Square. Although Silhouette arrived two days after the event there was evidence of the anniversary everywhere with wreaths laid to mark the occasion.

I didn’t get as far as Cork because there was so much to explore in Cobh itself. I met up with my friends David and David, who had come on the cruise to surprise me and went to the Rob Roy, a traditional Irish pub full of character and old-world charm. We split up as I wanted to walk to the end of town and ended up at the Titanic Bar & Grill. I’d only gone on for research for my book and to check out the disabled toilets but I was drawn to the outside area, a huge deck overlooking the harbour. I couldn’t resist sitting in this stunning spot and grabbing a burger for lunch. Fabulous.

Dublin, is a lively capital city that’s as intimate as a village and as friendly as your local Irish pub. With its seamless blend of classic visitor sights, excellent social scene and the natural playgrounds of Dublin Bay and the Dublin Mountains framing it on all sides, this laidback city is an adventure in itself.

The two David’s and I were on a mission to visit Temple Bar, one of the most famous pubs in Dublin. It’s history goes back to 1599 when Sir William Temple, a renowned teacher and philosopher, built his house and gardens here on newly reclaimed land around Temple Bar. His son, Sir John Temple, went onto developed what we know as Temple Bar after a ‘sea wall’ was built in 1656 to hold back the Liffey. The area thus became known as Temple’s Barr (A ‘Barr’ was a raised estuary sandbank often used for walking on). In 1707 -a new customs house was built on the site where U2’s Clarence Hotel stands today and soon after warehouses, taverns, theatres and even brothels shot up at every corner. The boom lasted barely a century when the new Custom House was built across the Liffey in 1791. Temple Bar fell into disrepair and became a run-down inner city slum until the mid-20th century. The state transport company CIE started buying up property here in the 1980’s with the view to building a huge bus depot. The area however let out the empty premises at cheap rates. Attracted by the bargain rents, artists, fringe boutiques and alternative eateries started to shoot up all over the area. This lead to the area becoming a unique bohemian buzzing quarter. The Irish state got involved in 1991 and set up a non-profit company to oversee the future development of Temple Bar. The Temple Bar has 450 bottles of rare and interesting whiskeys gathered for decades from all over the world and is Ireland’s largest collection.

Offering the largest selection of sandwiches found in any Irish pub, over 100 in total, this is a truly unique menu featuring a distinctive culinary range of Gourmet Open Sandwiches, Gourmet Triple Decker’s, Gourmet Hot & Toasted Sandwiches, Vegetarian & Vegan Sandwiches.

The Temple Bar is also famous for their fresh Irish Oysters ‘They say that all oysters taste their best when washed down with pints of Guinness’ which has long been regarded as a perfect complement to all seafood but I didn’t fancy the oysters but I promised my son that I would try a Guinness, which he assured me tasted quite different in  Ireland than England. Against my better judgement I tried the brew and then wished I hadn’t. Ugh. Nothing more to add, lol

Our last port of call on that cruise was Lerwick. The old waterfront is thronged with pleasure boats, visiting yachts, historic craft and working fishing boats. There's a variety of lively bars and clubs, ranging from popular "theme" bars to more traditional hostelries.

Lerwick is Shetland's only town, with a population of about 7,500 - although about half of the islands' 22,000 people live within 10 miles of the burgh.

Founded as an unofficial marketplace to service 17th century Dutch herring fleets, Lerwick took a long time to grow. Because of its illegal status (and alleged immorality!) the straggling hamlet around the shore of Ler Wick ('muddy bay') was demolished by order of the Scalloway court in 1615 and 1625. The Dutch burnt the fort in 1673 and the French set fire to Lerwick in 1702 but Britain’s most northerly town still stands.

I went over on the tender and headed straight  to the ‘boutiques’ my name for charity shops. It’s amazing that one small high street has 4 charity shops and 4 banks! The library on Silhouette is fazing out and as such there was nothing of interest to me but I armed myself with 12 books and then say in the café’s courtyard while dining out on a smoked salmon bagel and  coke. Perfect.

The next 3 cruises were all to the Baltic with virtually the same itinerary that I’ve done for the last 5 years and I love all the stops apart from St Petersburg. I’ve done most of the tours in the past and I’m not prepared to pay hundreds of pounds for an independent visa so it makes a great excuse to stay on the ship and work on the book.

Yes I’m still plodding away. Please don’t ask when it’s coming out because I simply have no idea. I’ve worked flat out for nearly a year but firstly Norway is seasonal and no one was answering any of my emails while others couldn’t speak English and Google Translate doesn’t always convert the way you’d like it to. But I will stay at it and see how I get on in a month or two.

Back to the car: It went to Purple Garage for a week or two and they pinpointed it was a software issue so had to book it into Kia in Eastleigh, which meant a wait of more than 2 weeks! Kia couldn’t find anything wrong. It went back to Purple Garage and they tested it again but couldn’t get the car to reproduce the fault. I was very nervous driving it home yesterday and sure enough as soon as I got on the motorway the rev counter hit 4 and at one point 5. I slowed right down determined to get home in it. Now of course it is booked into Kia Telford on Wednesday. More money to tell me what???

I will say though that Purple Garage were marvelous. I don’t know what I would have done without them. They emailed me at sea every step of the way and took the time to take it and pick it up from Kia. God forbid you ever need a garage in Southampton, they are the people. Although they couldn’t find an issue they genuinely cared and wanted to get to the bottom of the problem and thereafter picking it up from Kia didn’t charge me for the extra testing.

I’m home for six weeks now and all systems are go for the release of a brand new album in October/November. Called Stranger in Paradise, this is one that every Matt Monro fan will want. I will tell you more next month.

In the meantime, here’s my schedule for the year.

Cruise/ Work Dates 2019

11 August – 25 August - Celebrity Silhouette
25 August – 1 September - Celebrity Silhouette
1 September – 8 September - Celebrity Silhouette
8 September – 22 September - Celebrity Silhouette
22 September – 3 October - Celebrity Silhouette
3 October – 13 October - Celebrity Silhouette
13 October – 24 October - Celebrity Silhouette

Cruise/ Work Dates 2020

6 January – 24 March – Cruise & Maritime
16 May -30 May – Celebrity Silhouette
30 May – 13 June – Celebrity Silhouette
13 June – 27 June – Celebrity Silhouette
4 July – 18 July – Celebrity Silhouette
18 July – 1 August – Celebrity Silhouette
1 August – 15 August – Celebrity Silhouette
15 August – 28 August – Celebrity Silhouette

 

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight feature this month, I know so many of you enjoy them. This month we look in on the ever-popular Elvis Presley

Here’s hoping that your month is an eventful one, for the right reasons, and that the rest of the year brings you joy.

Much love to one and all. See you next month.

Michele xxxx

 

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