Friday, 13 November 2015

C&RT Council Elections

C&RT Council Elections 2015
November 2015

Those of you with long(ish) memories will recall that I stood for the CRT Council during the last election and may have wondered why I am not on the list of boating candidates this time round.

Well, if fact I am standing for election to the Council, but as a representative of the Business Boating constituency! 

Since I last stood we have developed the preserve business (The Jam Butty) and this has resulted in both boats having business licenses - hence my switch to the business boating side.

The elections opened on line today and when you have received your security numbers (by e-mail or post) you will be able to vote till 11th December using the single transferable vote system.

If you go the the election website you will see some buttons on the right which provides access to all the candidates manifestos and some have provided short videos to give you more insight into why they are standing.

So, if you hold a business boating licence do pay the site a visit and select your order of preference for the candidates.

I would love to represent the boating businesses on the Council and would ask you to cast your vote for me please.

Thanks on advance - Andy

The Martian - book and film review

The Martian
By Andy Weir

This debut novel has just been released a a major film starring Matt Damon and the book is everywhere. That is usually a reason to avoid it but I have always been fascinated by space so it's bang on the money for holiday reading.

It's no deep literature but it is an engaging, if somewhat predictable, tale of disaster, endurance and ultimately survival against the odds in the same vein as Apollo 13, but based on a theoretical manned mission to Mars in the near future.

The plot is that a crew member gets left behind on Mars and has to adapt his surroundings, initially to survive till a rescue mission is possible but then in a desperate escape plan in which his crew return to pick him up.

There is just enough real science to keep the plot plausible in the make do and mend sense seen in Apollo 13, inspired by the authors lifelong fascination for space exploration. It's a real page turner if you are keen on the subject and it's easy to see it becoming a massive film.

As I said, no literary classic, little character development but heaps of plot. I liked it!

Continuing this theme, I went to see the film version with Dan the other day and having just read the book it made me super sensitive to and fast and loose with the plot line.

As it turned out the bulk of the film stays very true to the book, which is something of a novelty. Where bits were cut they were non essential which was ok.

However, and you know there had to be a however, the script writers did tinker with the end but not in a manner which spoiled the film.  In the book there is a somewhat outlandish plan conceived by our "just been rescued" hero to claw the final yards he needed to get to safety. In the book this was discounted but in the film the opportunity to show Watkins flying like a super hero was too much to resist, so in it went. 

Finally, and perhaps more interestingly, the book closes inside the space craft with the crew recoiling from the stink of their comrade who hadn't washed for about three months. In American blockbusters your hero is fresh faced and clean so we saw him having a good shave just before he blasts off. I can see why they did this but it did amuse us somewhat.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Entry Island - book review

Entry Island
by Peter May.

This is a book borrowed from the QM 2 Library, picked out on the basis that I really enjoyed the Lewis trilogy by the same author.

I reviewed the other books by Peter May and selected this because 1. It is a stand alone tale and 2. It has a Hebridean link which I so enjoyed in his previous publications. 

The author has something of a formulae in his book structure, which involved jaded detectives investigating current murders with a personal back story with both strands coming together at the end. Providing you don't overdose on them this predictable pattern is ok.

In this case you have a murder on a remote island in the Gulf of St Lawrence linked to the clearances in the highlands which accompanied the ten year potato famine. Both stories rattle along at a good pace, sucking me in and saw me completing its 500 pages in just over a day - not that I did a lot else! Both locations are wild and windswept and it seemed fitting that as I was crossing the same stretch of ocean albeit 150 years later and in the luxury of a state of the art ocean liner rather that steamship steerage in which 10 percent died in the three week crossing.

All in all a good page turner and an author I will no doubt return to again.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Having a ball (6)

Having a ball
Friday 16th October

Whitecaps abound and a great nights sleep! We awake late and miss the formal breakfast, but that's not a problem. As well as the formal meals there it's always the Kings Court, an all day buffet of magnificent proportions which ensures we never go hungry. At first glance I worked out that food was available from 4.00 am till 2.00am each day, and was a bit worried about the two countries hour "famine gap" in between. But fear not, the 24 hour room service exists for all such gastronomic emergencies!

As on most holidays, as time passes we get lazier and lazier, getting up later and later. We had a gentle morning shortened by the loss of another hour at noon so a late breakfast nearly did a rear shunt with lunch and a trip to the theater to see an abridged version on Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare's plays I am familiar with and an engaging version it was too. This was followed by Helen attending a not so successful book group as I chilled out in the Commodore Lounge with its panoramic view of the seascape ahead.

The evening was the formal highlight if the trip, the Masquerade Ball. Everyone donned their finery, many including masks pausing for the obligatory photo sessions which are a feature of the voyage. For us this was preceded by a visit to the Commodore's Lounge for cocktails with two of our table companions, setting the tone for the night.

Photos. I need to mention the photos. The official photographers are ever present and clearly offer Cunard a lucrative money making opportunity, and the guests with professional standard momentous of the occasion. You can buy individual images for about thirty five dollars each or, as we did, buy one of the basic sets which includes five images taken from the seven nights afloat. This costs about 140 dollars, but does offer some enduring images for the wall. In some ways they don't really cost anything because the voyage includes spending money on the ships payment system, which is enough if you limit your alcohol intake. 

The masked ball is based in the ballroom which was heaving, with guests there to be seen as much as to dance. It's fair to say it was a bit of a preening experience and whilst we attended with our masks, we cried off joining the masquerade parade which felt more than a bit over the top! Watching from the wings was enough....

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Boating at the top of the World (5)

Boating at the top of the World
Thursday 15th October 2015

Bad day today. I picked up Helen's, cold which of course has evolved into man flu. I spent and uncomfortable and restless night and a day roller coasting between hot and cold. Not good. That said, it's only. Cold and I won't be making use of the mortuary service I mentioned previously!

Because I felt so rubbish we engaged with few formal activities, preferring to chill out in our state room, read, watch a film on TV and sleep.

The cold and grey North Atlantic continues to sweep past our balcony as we move over the eastern Atlantic tectonic plate with the better part  of two miles of water beneath us. This voyage is really bringing home to me just how big the ocean really is, and how empty. Just sky and sea stretching out to the horizon with no other boats or even wildlife, just at one point a flock of birds on a feeding frenzy. 

The QM2 is a huge and stable craft, but even with all its bulk it soon adopts distinct patterns of pitch, roll and yaw which are dictated by the size, direction and frequency of the underlying swell. Previously it had been a slow and very slight rock from side to side but today that changed to a slow screwing action, adding a steady pitch as the swell ran under the length of the ship. I find this a very sleep inducing rhythm

We had a late breakfast today and so skipped lunch, waiting instead for afternoon tea in the Queens Room, which is the ballroom low down in the back of the boat. This was very genteel affair with tea in China cups, sandwiches with the crusts removed, little cakes and some of the best scones I have tasted. This does introduce the subject of jam! Given its Cunard I figured they would be seeking only the best so it was interesting that they exclusively use Tiptree of Essex, who are probably the most exclusive non artisan manufacturers in the country. Each jar comes with a jammy slogan inside the lid, which have been duly noted for possible use!

Dinner was an optional formal / informal affair so we opted for the informal which, for me, was a quality tieless shirt with jacket but there were plenty of black ties in evidence. The dress code is both quaint and rather lovely. It makes the evening an experience to be anticipated and enjoyed. Dress up, enjoy a cocktail in The Chartroom and then into one of the dining rooms. Ours is the standard service but above us the Queens and Princess Grill classes which carry even better services and add ons but from my perspective even the standard level is superior to even the best hotels I have stayed on for business.

We dine with the same two other couples each evening which means you get to know them very well, and start to uncover all sorts of interesting facts about them. One couple we shared with were celebrating their 50th wedding and even after all that time we unearthed a fact from Kit's past that Gillian was unarmed of!  

We rounded off the evening with a trip to the ballroom where their usual contingent of lounge lizards hang out, strutting their funky stuff.

We discovered that there are a hardcore of maybe 50 die hard dancers, who come on the boat specifically to dance, and to be honest they are more than a bit intimidating for the rest of us. They sweep about and one notable couple rig up a video camera and film each and every performance, which gives the rest of us a good laugh. The lack of space and our limited experience made the dance floor an unattractive option fur us, but at least we can say we did it. Not only did we brave the formal dance floor we also made use of a nice flat area just outside the ballroom to run through our jive routine which was a lot of fun. We thought that we were on our own but it's a small ship and of course we attracted an audience who appreciated our "off Broadway" performance. Richard, our dance teacher, would be proud!