SEADREAM ...WHEN IT WAS SEA GODDESS.
I gazed from our balcony on to the beautiful blue Aegean Sea, so calm it could be a sheet of clear glass. A plumb line of late afternoon sunlight shimmered across the unbroken surface, almost to my feet. A hard-earned morsel accidentally dropped from the beak of one of the many beautiful, hovering seabirds and created a ripple, spreading ever outwards, the only break on that vast expanse of water. I likened the circles to the closeness of the people in my life. At the centre was my lovely wife, the first line belonged to my three kids and grandkids, then further out my only sister and her husband. Good friends followed and my long-gone parents, once at the centre, were no longer there but would always be in my memory. Everyone has a pool of circles that changes as we go through life but we learn, often painfully, that the circles are not forever. In the distance above a high cliff, I saw square, flat-topped houses, their absolute whiteness reflecting on a background of clear blue sky. Way beneath is the interior of a massive crater and I visualised the blinding steam that was created as molten lava boiled the sea when they collided beneath the blackest sky many thousands of years before. As the top was blown off the great volcano the sound reverberated around the whole Continent, the seas rushed into the fractured crater, and the romantics believe the legendary Atlantis was thus created. I knew this place as Santorini and wondered at it’s beauty. The water now gently lapped up to the hard, black, sandless, beach at the bottom of the cliff. My wife and I were privileged to be amongst only 80 passengers on The Sea Goddess, a luxurious passenger yacht, moored in this water- filled, seemingly bottomless, crater. I leant on the enclosing beech wood rail, closed my eyes and felt the warm, afternoon sun beating through my white dress shirt. The salty smell of the sea and the intermittent screeches of the hovering seabirds took me back to my childhood in the slums on the Mersey waterfront. Oil-based smells of the docks and warehouses were now only in my memory, and I knew it was unkind, and untrue, to say the most likely sound of the seagulls of Bootle would be a cough. As I opened my eyes and lifted my crystal whisky glass to my lips my thoughts were broken by a cheerful “I’m ready dear. Can you zip me up” and I moved through the patio doors to see she was ready at last. The dress code for evenings aboard this ship was always formal and we enjoyed that. She helped me on with my white tuxedo, nodded her approval and, unnecessarily, tweaked my already straight bow tie. She was perfect, as usual, and she wore a beautiful black, full-length dress with, of course, all the coordinated accessories. Her jewellery was unpretentious and perfect for the occasion. I gently brushed a fleck of glitter from her cheek. We looked the part and exchanged a smile of mutual approval. An unsaid “Lets go then” and I followed her out into the corridor fingering my cufflinks and pulling my shirt cuffs to the correct length below the coat sleeves. I heard the swish of her dress and smell her light perfume. Her hair is short, a soft silver grey, and at 5’ 3” her figure is still slim and shapely. She is more beautiful than when she took my arm on our wedding day, almost thirty years ago, except her hair was brown and down to her waist and her jewellery was less expensive. If only our proud parents could see us now. Smells of polished wood handrails and newly vacuumed plush wool carpets competed with lingering perfumes of earlier dinner guests as we silently moved to the end of the corridor. Three floors below the glittering, open-plan, spiral staircase I saw the tuxedo clad pianist at his white baby-grand. The moment became perfect, as if by prior arrangement, he started to run his fingers over the keys at the start of a classic medley. We exchanged smiles with the pianist as we passed and entered the cocktail lounge. It was almost full. Couples of all shapes, sizes and nationalities, dressed to the nines. Men wearing tuxedos, their ladies in magnificent evening gowns of all colors, materials and designs and no sign of a fake amongst the array of jewelry. The air was heavy with all manner of expensive perfumes and every couple was convinced they were the best dressers in town. There was a hubbub of conversation as we moved to the corner, unnoticed, except for the ever-watchful waiter, wearing coat tails and as smart as anyone in the room, who emerged from the throng. “Will it be the usual Mr. Jackson -- Blue Label whisky, two ice and with dry ginger on the side? Tonic Water. No ice, for Mrs. Jackson?” He asked, efficiently and politely. “Yes please, George. But no caviar or canopies tonight. Thank you.” I replied, smiling, and with a humourous, knowing wink, enjoying the moment. A few minutes later we were sipping from our ubiquitous crystal glasses when an odd couple approached. The male, a double of Groucho Marx, but without the moustache, and holding a fat, unlit cigar, his merssage of defiance to the none smoking policy. We indulged in exchanging the usual formalities before he went on to hog the conversation. His eccentric partner was a petite bubble blonde, at least forty years his junior, wearing a full length grey lace dress, pill box hat and matching gloves to her elbow. She was ‘Harpo’ in drag and may as well have been dumb in her partners self-important world. In this room she was one of many classy dressers but would surely have caused a riot at the Bootle Mayors Ball. Predictably, and not without a little assistance from myself, the loud Mr. Marx maneuvered the conversation around to all the VIP’s and members of ‘Whose Who’ with whom he usually associated and, having prepared the ground, had mistakenly taken my apparent interest as a form of weakness. Confident I can’t match him he said, nonchalantly, in his gruff, broad Texan accent “So, what do you do for a living, Ernie?” I had already recognised his Modus Operandi and was well prepared. “I am a retired policeman” I reply, almost matter-of-fact. He showed mock surprise and exaggerated shock, pretended to almost drop his cigar, and looked around the room, supposedly to gather his thoughts. He then pushed his advantage home with a blow under the belt that would surely bring me to my knees. “How the hell does a cop travel on a ship like this? Were you crooked?” By this time we knew we hated each other and it is full out war so I replied immediately, lying boastfully “Well, as a matter-of-fact, I was personal escort for Her Majesty the Queen” This was my atomic bomb, the battle was won and the war was over. Groucho coughed and spluttered slightly as he sipped his drink in a vain effort to gain time but realizes it is futile and his silence indicated his unconditional surrender.. Harpo had witnessed an event she had never seen since their relationship began and gave a wan smile. I think she actually enjoyed his dilemma. They were both now in awe and so did not see the deliberate, well-aimed, kick to the shin I received from my wife. It was a good time to leave so we excused ourselves and moved on into the dining room. We later saw the same couple, now with two other, obviously less formidable guests, whispering together and glancing towards us. With a knowing smile I gave them a casual, ‘Royal’, wave of the hand. It was worth another kick to my shin. Later during that cruise I was asked several times if I was aware the Queen’s escort was a passenger on the ship.
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