One of the many delights on the new planet, has been the friends I have made and with whom I have shared many an adventure. The last being a recent trip aboard a large craft that travelled across the great waters to other places unknown and exotic.
The craft itself is due some comment. Large-ish, carrying up to 900 passengers, it was sleek and beautiful, but to my mind, dated in its appearance and more particularly in the entertainment it provided. But then, considering that the average age of my fellow travellers, most octogenarians and many I suspect reaching for their century, I am not surprised. Now, fun though it might be to these grey-haired creaky-limbed travellers, afternoon tea dances and lectures by fading stars of stage and screen could have been deathly and I feared the worst.
To my surprise however, I found that listening to an ex-detective inspector who was one of the original investigating officers of The Great Train Robbery was in fact fascinating. But though I sat through a few of his rambling anecdotes, I did draw the line at watching second-rate dancing girls trying to stay upright as the ship tossed and rolled upon the rough waters. There's nothing graceful about a long-limbed dancer lurching out of control across the stage while trying to prevent her ample breasts from popping out of the top of her costume. Such events are guaranteed to get the giggles going and how could I do this to the poor girl? I could also not bring myself to chuckle at the stale jokes and out-dated comedy styling of the resident comedian...but that is all of little significance in the great scheme.
It sounds as if the adventure was dire, and yes, it could have been, especially as 75% of the travellers, including my friend, succumbed to a nasty bug that the vigorous cleaning and hand washing at every possible opportunity was unable to prevent. I escaped the horrors for some reason and spent time instead standing on the decks gazing out to sea, hoping for a sight of dolphins. No luck. I also encountered some beings from the Southernmost Colony, which helped enliven a few minutes. But truly, a highlight was getting to chat to the ancient and decrepit co-adventurers I chanced upon sitting in the sun or in one of the many lounges scattered about the craft. So easy to slip into a conversation over a cream bun and a nice cuppa, even if I did hope to spend some time in solitude reading my book. I eventually gave up this hope, and surrendered to the long, involved, repetitive and unbelievably fascinating tales of my fellow voyagers.
From the twinkly-eyed missionary to the one-legged Welshman with a hamster called Blondie, I have realised that this is the reason one takes a watercraft and cruises off to worlds unexplored. For it is in listening to their stories of daring-do during First and Second world wars, and the wealth of experience that they are so willing to share (often more than once or twice in the space of ten minutes) that I understood that there is so much more to life than worrying about whether or not my apparel was suitable for dinner. These wonderful well-developed beings, are stuffed to the eyebrows with wisdom and wit and seem completely oblivious to the petty little things that seem to occupy so much of our time. For these men and women have survived two global conflicts in which they lost friends and family members, have seen technology accelerate at frightening speed, and have watched as today's youth repeat the errors they too made in their own early years. Yet they remain calm and focused and have moved beyond the cares of childhood and middle-age-hood into their twilight years.
It was with shame that I consider how often these genuine gems of humanity are shuffled off to cold places where they are forgotten, as if they have always been old. But they are so much more than this, they are more than the wrinkled skin and the rheumy eyes. They are more than a burden to state and family, they retain their wit and intelligence (sometime a bit addled it must be said) and they deserve respect and awe.
To be so at ease in one's skin that appearing in front of 800 other diners in high heels, ankle-high socks, short shorts showing of the saggy legs in all their splendour and a skimpy vest allowing more than a peak at the drooping mammaries, without batting an over mascaraed eye, is surely a wondrous thing to behold. As is an 80 year old fake-tanned body shoe-horned into a sequinned lycra evening dress with no sleeves and plunging neckline and let me not neglect to mention the leopard-skin Speedo worn confidently by the overweight, antique Lothario who strutted about the pool deck leering at the 'younger' damsels -younger than 70 that is. Aah, that is a picture to summon up when in need of some light relief.
I count myself privileged to have met some of the wonderful old men and women on board, and had I not embarked upon the craft and given myself over to its old-fashioned charms, my life would be infinitely the poorer.
And this all before even stepping ashore on moon-like landscapes...