NEWSLETTER FOR MAY 2015.
I apologise for the gap in sending out my usual monthly letter. As I think you know, I have been working as drama coach on the cruise ship Balmoral. I started to compose a letter at the end of March and then found I had not copied the group address onto my tablet, so I was unable to send it.
I have mixed feelings about the experience, coloured largely by the fact that David and I both picked up a bug that had us coughing and wheezing and which we never managed to throw off completely. Being asthmatic it hit me particularly hard. I even had to spend a night in hospital in Singapore. Wonderful service, but the cost!! I hope the insurance company will pay up. Well, we’re home safe and sound but still coughing. Now on our third course of antibiotics. Now comes the struggle to catch up on the admin and battle the weeds which have taken over the garden.
Anyway, here’s a summary of my conclusions.
Cruising is an unhealthy occupation.
It’s not a good way to see the world. Most of the far east ports were miles from anywhere you would really want to see and people were doing two and three hour coach journeys to spend an hour or so in Beijing or Bankok or at the pyramids. It didn’t worry us, because we’ve already been to all those places, but if you didn’t go on an excursion of some sort there was nothing to look at. I’ve seen enough ugly container ports to last me a life time!
On the plus side: It’s nice to be pampered and have your food cooked and your cabin cleaned etc – and the food wad very good. Also the entertainment. The resident company were all very young but extremely talented and we had a succession of visiting acts which came on a different ports, most of which were well worth watching or listening to, including some very good musicians. I particularly liked Matthew McCombie, a very talented pianist.
My work as drama coach was challenging, to say the least. People in the age range for a cruise like that, ie retired and mostly elderly, either can’t or don’t want to learn lines. However, I did find some talent and we put on two very successful productions. This, in spite of the unhelpful attitude of the deputy cruise director, who was supposed to facilitate with finding props etc. His first reaction to any request was to say ‘Oh, no that won’t be possible.’ In the end I found it easier to cut him out of the loop and go direct to potential providers – the restaurant for china and cutlery, for example. Basically, I don’t think anyone had attempted to put on a properly staged production on the ship before. But even allowing for all the hard work, I should have gone mad if I wasn’t there to do a job. The idea of lying around for months sunbathing and passing the time with various talks and classes and silly games just does not appeal! Would I do it again? It would have to be a very tempting itinerary, and I would far rather stick to teaching creative writing. At least then people are not required to learn lines.
As far as the writing goes I have had to put a hold on the new novel for the duration of the cruise. I simply didn’t have the time or the spare energy to write. However, I shall get down to it now. Meantime TWICE ROYAL LADY will be out this month. I do hope you will read it. I know the period is far from what you are used to in my other books, but I found Matilda a fascinating character. She was proud and sometimes arrogant and short tempered, but she was also intelligent and well educated and deeply religious. Betrothed at the age of eight to the German Emperor, married at twelve, widowed at twenty three and then forced into a second marriage with a boy of sixteen. After her brother was drowned she was her father Henry 1’s only heir; but when he died her cousin Stephen seized the throne. She had to choose between her husband and her three sons and her duty, as she saw it, to the people of England. Her husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, refused to support her claim and in the end she was forced to sail from France with a small band of supporters. Many rallied to her cause, but she had to battle it out with Stephen for ten long years. Meanwhile, her position prevented her from finding happiness with the only man she ever really loved. So it is a story of love and war, just like the other books. Do give it a try!