When I started this piece I intended to cover our journey to join the Cruise Ship with frequent flashbacks to my school trip on the SS Nevasa in 1968. I found, however, that my recollections of 47 years ago all came in a rush and that what I was writing about “the old days” was sufficient for a short article in its own right and would, if mixed in with the current story, have made the combined story excessively long. I have my own ideas of your attention span!
This then is the 1968 version.
I have absolutely no memory of packing my suitcase in preparation for the 16 days in the Mediterranean which means that my Father probably did it. He certainly wouldn’t have let my Mother do it as he did not believe that women had the faintest idea of how to do that task efficiently. I think it may have been something he learned in the army!
The first thing I do recall is being taken, very early one March morning, in our little green Vauxhall Viva with my suitcase and the rest of the family to the Copleston School car park where I was to board the coach taking us to Southampton. I remember, specifically, my little sister moaning about having to get up so early just to see ME off! A couple of years later I got my revenge by doing exactly the same thing in identical circumstances when she went off on a similar cruise.
Once on the bus I sat with my classmate John Lamb (who, you may remember, was the guy who nearly got me arrested for espionage in Piraeus, Athens – which you can read about at https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2011/09/22) and as I related in that earlier piece spent most of the trip consuming half a pound of wine gums. I did in fact have a third quarter pound bag with me in case I had been required to share and I ate that on the ship instead. It’s a wonder I remained so skinny!
The other exciting part of the trip was the singing! One of the boys had bought along a paperback book of really filthy Rugby Songs and we had a great time learning as many of them as we could!
The actual journey took around 6 or 7 hours – there were no M25 or M3 motorways and many of the main roads that were available were not dual carriageways and I have no idea of the actual route covered. Suffice it to say that we got to the port with time to spare.
The arrival at the docks and boarding the SS Nevasa is a complete blur in my memory – I have the impression of a terminal like a gigantic warehouse and the next thing I do recall is being up on deck watching our departure. This was delayed for a while as we had to wait for the QE2, returning I think from its first World Cruise, to pass us on the way to its’ own dock. That monster completely dwarfed the 22,000 ton Nevasa!
Once away from the docks we cruised down the Solent and I saw (and photographed) a hovercraft crossing from the Isle of Wight to either Portsmouth or Southampton. That was the first time I ever saw one.
The other thing I photographed (on a Kodak Instamatic 25 – look it up, it’s really primitive!) at the end of that first day as we approached open sea was the sun setting over the western English Channel. I don’t know how the 2015 departure will go but that at least is not likely to happen – the sun will set on the first night over land and at a later and later time as we travel northwards to Norway.
That will all be described in my next.