It is the second hottest day ever recorded in London
It is the day Theresa May resigns as Prime Minister
It is the day that Boris Johnson is sworn in as the new Prime Minister
That is a lot of hot air that we have to deal with.
And deal with it we must, as it is the day Gordon and I reunite in England before embarking on another cruise.
We are staying at the Langham Hotel, one of London’s older and more sedate hotels.
It is not somewhere we would usually choose or afford, but Regent Cruise includes one night there as part of their deal. I am not sure that “deal” is the appropriate word, as the cost of the cruise is anything but a deal. It is one of the most expensive cruise lines. However everything is supposed to be first class so we are anxious to see whether our money has been well spent.
London is in the grips of a heatwave and everyone is dripping with sweat. The second hottest day on record means that temperatures reach 37 degrees centigrade or 98 degrees fahrenheit. Yes that is hot, but for many countries in the world it is just an average day, and life continues there as it does on every other day.
But not in England.
Having grown up in England we are well aware that it is a country ill equipped to deal with any extremes of temperature. If it snows the entire country comes to a standstill for days. If it is hot like today the rail system collapses. Apparently the rails themselves get excessively hot and buckle and the overhead wires droop in the heat. Countries in warmer climes seem to have railway systems that run perfectly well.
But not in England
And if that isn’t enough to send the English into complete turmoil, then the sight of many guests wearing shorts inside the Langham Hotel certainly is. Never has there been such a flagrant disregard of standards. The hotel doormen still dressed in their full regalia are apoplectic as guests step out of their limousines dressed so inappropriately
The next day we have to make our way to Southampton docks to board the Regent Navigator. Regent has laid on a coach for us. A coach, dear readers! I am expected to travel in a coach! This is not how I expect the trip to begin, however it is included in the cost of the cruise which means that Gordon is determined that this is the way we will travel.
Many others, who do not not have Gordon for a spouse, decide that there are other more suitable ways to travel, regardless of the extra cost. Many choose to go by train, which I have to say, is only a very small step above traveling by coach, although they do offer first class which at least makes it sound better. But today is not the day to be picky. Those that go by train have a very bad day. The trains come to a standstill, often in the middle of nowhere. People are forced to wait for coaches that are slow in coming to their rescue. It could take hours and might make them miss the sailing. Some decide not to wait, and dragging their bags off the train go in search of taxis. A journey that should take 2 hours is often taking 6 hours or more. The ship is forced to delay the departure while we all wait for those unfortunate snobs who refused to travel by coach. We are not part of them and Gordon is trying hard not to gloat. He is a happy man.
We are sailing on the Navigator which is the oldest ship owned by Regent. We know that is not a good sign. The ship was originally a Russian Satellie Tracking vessel which we really know is not a good sign. We once owned a Russian car, we have stayed in Russian hotels and flown a Russian airline. There was not even a hint of luxury attached to any one of them.
Regent was not oblivious to this. They completely redesigned everything to create what they promoted as one of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships. Maybe, when the ship was first revealed to the waiting crowds, it was a wonderful success. But 20 years later it is a disappointment. Although it has had a much heralded refurbishment recently some of its wood paneled rooms, dark corridors and heavily draped staterooms (cabins to you and me) feel outdated. While the staterooms are large and spacious the open spaces are small and crammed full of furniture. And much of it is still a little worn round the edges. Like many of its passengers, it has seen better days.
If your stateroom is at the back of the ship you are kept awake by the loud throbbing of the engines and a strong vibration that goes with it. Our stateroom is at the front where it is delightfully quiet. But there is still the constant vibration which depending on your age either lulls you to sleep or keeps you in a constant state of arousal. Trust me when I tell you that for most passengers ” a state of arousal” is what happens when they are handed the perfect martini.
Cruising is not inexpensive and cruising on Regent is about as far from inexpensive as you can get. But it is the one cruise line where absolutely everything is included. Once you have paid the price there is no need to spend another penny if you do not want to. Everything is taken care of, from the flights to and from the cruise, to the excursions while you are on the ship. We had thought this would mean it would be a seriously well heeled crowd. But actually what it means is that it is a seriously old crowd, so old that they are incapable of, or unwilling to, organise one single thing themselves.
It also means, although we are not sure why, that out of the 490 passengers we are the only two gay men. You may ask how we know that. Well let me tell you, we have scoured the ship and all of its passengers and we most certainly are. We stick out like peacocks in a hen house.
And surprisingly we are not the only people to have noticed this. Ray and Sylvia are an English couple that we meet in one of the ship bars. Well to be more precise, they meet us. They appear to have been there for quite some time, but we have just arrived for a pre dinner drink .
We notice them watching us and clearly discussing us. Then they pick up their drinks and come and join us. Most people might start the conversation by asking “May we join you”
Ray and Sylvia start the conversation with the words “We are so happy to meet you. We thought there weren’t any gay men on board until we saw you”
As an introductory greeting it seems a little lacking in tact and charm. But being gracious as ever I am prepared to overlook that. It is of course Sylvia who says these words. It is hard to imagine any straight man uttering them. But a certain type of woman would, and Sylvia is definitely a certain type of woman. She is large, shapely, loud and brassy. She is 70, but looks a lot younger, presumably well preserved in alcohol. Tonight she is wearing a skin tight white dress, not a color well suited to a large 70 year old, and not helped by being two inches too short and two inches too tight. But it shows off her deep tan and her impressive cleavage perfectly, which presumably is the point. She would be perfect behind a bar in an English pub chatting up all the men.
But here she is on a Regent Cruise, still in a bar and still chatting up men, but this time it is the only two gay men she can find. While I am still wondering how she could possibly tell that we were two gay men (dear readers, I would be grateful if you would refrain from giving any suggestions) she launches into a story about how they never knew any gay men until they met a couple on a cruise 5 years ago and discovered how much fun they were. Since then they have gone out of their way to meet more, and now she has lots of gay friends.
They start dropping hints about joining us for dinner so at that point we beat a hasty retreat. This is a small ship and something tells me we have not seen the last of Ray and Sylvia
At this point you must be wondering what the hell we are doing spending all this money. Well Regent has a wonderful reputation and the itinerary appealed to us, especially after our last trip to Antarctica. This time we will be traveling up the coast of Norway into the Arctic circle and around the top of Russia before returning to the Shetland Isles, Scotland, England and finally Amsterdam. An interesting itinerary always appeals.
As does Regent’s version of Sunday breakfast