We spent Monday cruising, which gave us the chance to get better acquainted with our cruising companions and to find out what diversions were offered on board.

There were various energetic things available, from Tai Chi to shuffleboard and table tennis, or for the less energetic, wine tasting, a demonstration of ice carving, card making or the one we went to, a talk on Helsinki (our next port of call)

We had morning coffee with a fascinating 93 year old lady. She told us of her time as a nurse during the war. Although she was not fully trained she did suturing and gave anaesthetics. I wonder what today’s graduate nurses would think of that!  Of course they did not have ambulance chasing lawyers peering over their shoulders 🙂

She was a vicar’s daughter, but kept us entertained with rather bawdy versions of nursery rhymes. At the end of each rhyme she looked at us rather like an impish child might, as though she was assessing how far she could go with the next one!

We had a rather dreary lunch time, (not due to the excellent waiters, rather to our table companions) We must have had a selection of the few miseries gathered together. One whinged on about her diabetes and the difficulties of her diet, another was a rather taciturn lady who gave monosyllabic answers to my attempts to engage her in conversation and confined herself to grunts to the waiters for more wine. The third one spoke in a loud voice about the other (better) cruises she had been on, and pushed the excellent food around her plate disparagingly, whilst making disapproving faces. I felt my palm itching to smack her hands and tell her to behave herself! We finished as quickly as we could resolving to avoid this particular bunch, and giving thanks for the lovely group we had for our permanent dinner companions.

After lunch we eschewed the offers of tap dancing for beginners or joining the choir and sat listening to 2gether.before going on deck to watch the sea go by, (one of my favourite occupations. I think I could spend half my life doing this!)

JW  favoured the top deck where he could take photographs, and I joined my new friends on a lower deck. It was a small group that I got to know quite well over the next couple of weeks. They were mostly Northerners and we swapped memories of places we had been, childhood memories and generally put the world to rights!

They were all from similar working class backgrounds to me, none of them had been to university and few had been to grammar school, but, despite the myth that anyone who failed the 11+ was a failure for the rest of their lives, they had all had interesting jobs and travelled widely. Most had done 5-7 year apprenticeships and gone to night schools. One of the things we were all agreed upon was that having supportive families was the greatest help. We were also agreed that we were a fortunate generation, too young to have been affected by the depression, but old enough to benefit from the upturn once rationing finished.

 Before dinner we were invited to meet the captain at a cocktail party. This was one of the formal evenings and everyone loooked very smart in their evening clothes.

After dinner we watched the Show team put on their nightly show and we had a pleasant evening listening to the various groups and chatting to our new friends, before this “night owl” went to bed at 11pm and slept like a top again!!

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