December 31, 2009

Saving the sun

ONCE AGAIN, we in the northern hemisphere have pulled the sun back from the brink. With our candles and flashing lights and the noisy festivities surrounding the solstice, we have persuaded our mother star to abandon its flight to the south. At this very moment it is inching back our way, lengthening our days and bringing back the warmth we so sorely miss.

Happy New Year to you. I myself am happy that its number is 2010. A nice, convenient, twenty-ten instead of the multisyllabic two-thousand-and-nine, or twenty-oh-nine. Or even twenty-aught-nine, as my Idaho relatives used to say, instead of twenty-naught-nine, as is only right and proper. They even spelled aught as “ott,” just the way they said it. But they’re only relatives by marriage, you understand. It’s not in the genes.

So what’s new for the New Year? Well, a cruise to Alaska, for a start. No, not on my yacht. On a real cruise ship. Yes, honestly. I know, I know, I vowed I’d never set foot on one of those floating monstrosities that have more in common with ugly slabsided condominium blocks than shapely ships of the sea. But, see, my sister and her husband are coming from South Africa for a short visit next summer, and they wanted to go to Alaska. So this seemed the quick and dirty way to do it.

I can well remember the trouble we had with cruise ships in the Caribbean, how I cursed them when we were making night passages through the islands in our 30-foot sailboat. They would appear ahead of us, their navigation lights lost in a 10-story blaze of twinkling lights, steaming slowly in wide circles so you didn’t know which way to steer to keep out of their darned way.

They were just killing time, of course, waiting for daylight to enter port and disgorge 1,500 stampeding passengers into a village with one main street and 50 duty-free jewelers’ stores, all owned by the cruise-ship company.

So I’m not expecting too much of the Alaska cruise. We have the cheapest accommodation on board, deep down in steerage, over the props and next to the rudder motors. There is no outside view. I just hope they’ll provide us with bilge pumps to keep the water off the floor -- although I expect to suffer some. It would only be right, considering that I’ve broken my solemn vow.

Today’s Thought
Travel seems not just a way of having a good time, but something that every self-respecting citizen ought to undertake, like a high-fiber diet, say, or a deodorant.
— Jan Morris, “It’s OK to Stay at Home,” NY Times 30 Aug 85

An old bachelor had been visiting an elderly widow every evening for three years. One day a friend said to him: ”Since you two get along so well together, why don’t you marry her?”
“I thought of that,” said the bachelor, “but then where would I spend my evenings?”

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