Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dolce far niente, British-style

Few accounts are more tedious than those of other people's vacations. Feel at liberty to skip this one, even if you were wondering where I had got to.

At ease, above, in the Winter Garden lounge of the Queen Mary 2.

Kathleen's parents, Paul and Bonnie Capcara, wanting to do something special for her impending ending-in-zero birthday, booked passage for the four of us from New York to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2.

After our daughter, Alice, posted a couple of photos on Facebook, people who might have known me better remarked on my wearing shoes rather than flip-flops on deck and being dressed in slack, shirt, and jacket while enjoying a quiet ale. Think about what you would wear in a North Atlantic crossing when the daytime temperature rises to the low sixties and there is sunshine in one day of seven. 

The liner is admirably arranged for the activity for which I am best qualified: loafing. Breakfast, followed by a mile or two around the promenade deck, reading or writing through the morning, lunch, lounging on deck with a book, tea (the formal one, with still-warm scones and clotted cream served as a string quartet plays), resting, a restorative pint of John Smith's bitter before dinner, dinner (four courses, fresh china and silver with each), a meditative nightcap, and so to bed. 

Oh, there are lectures and shows and movies and musical performances and classes, but all are easily dodged. The Queen Mary 2  has enough bars that when one is invaded by someone conducting a trivia quiz or flogging vulgar gemstones, there is little trouble in finding a quiet one. (There was one evening in the Winter Garden lounge when a bore monopolized the bartender with his experiments in creating a sweet martini, which he was determined to name "Mr. Winge." But in compensation I got to hear, after years of reading British murder mysteries, someone say "summat" in person.)

After a week of delightfully doing nothing, we arrived in Britain and crammed a flurry of events into a couple of days: Matins at Westminster Abbey, where the choir was singing Orlando Gibbons's Short Service; a leisurely examination of the Turners at the Tate Britain; the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum; a ride on the London Eye; a series of pints at the Marquis of Granby in Westminster, which still has the bell that rings when members of Parliament are summoned to a vote; and a performance of Mamet's American Buffalo with John Goodman and Damien Lewis. 

A flight back on British Airways and a return to home and hearth and letting Mr. Saunders in and out the door. Back on the desk come Tuesday.