Over that evening and the next morning friends arrived thick and fast...a happy morning eating baignets, buying wool (yarn across the Pond) and enjoying being together, then a less happy time being herded through the process of embarkation, surrounded by over-excited and fractious humanity. With each stage in the queuing process the noise level mounts, but is nothing compared to that which greets us when we finally make it aboard. This is Disneyland crossed with the Christmas rush in Oxford Street - with a dash of the last days of Pompeii thrown in.Everyone is intent on serious self-indulgence...a festival of aspirational over-consumption which is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I was perpetually conscious of the horrific waste - meals discarded after only a mouthful...stunning arrangements of food at the Midnight Buffet that would never even be tasted...oh, and the horrid indignity of waiting staff compelled to sing, dance and twirl napkins to amuse the guests at dinner, which sat ill with the gracious living ethos of our evening meals....Not comfortable (though the ice sculptures at the Midnight Buffet will linger in my memory as the melting reality could never do).
Thankfully our retreat leader Mary Marcotte exudes gracious calm and our first session effectively puts the lid on a mounting panic that being here on this ship at this time might after all be a colossal mistake. Not with these women it won't be...
One thing that startled me was, to state the obvious, how American you/they all are!
When you spend time reading someone over a period of months or years, yu can come to feel that you really know them very well - and in many ways, you do. But of course the slice of life that any of us presents on our blog is at best a very small window onto a much larger world. I had forgotten, I guess, that the world these RevGals share is shaped by a cultural context and a body of shared experience quite different from my own. It's not just a question of accents, idioms and turns of phrase...We are different, in ways it is hard to pinpoint.I am just about the least reserved person I know, very quick to bounce up to people with my labrador tail wagging - but I am truly astounded at the degree of openness and self-disclosure, the deep sharing of hurts and anxieties that my friends offer without hesitation almost from the word "Go". It was a privilege to listen, even when it didn't feel like the right time for me to talk (a novelty in itself - it's always the right time for me!)
I never did get to like the brash consumerism of the "Fun Ship" experience but I think I would have enjoyed a week on the tube in rush hour with this group, especially after we found our own safe space on the starboard aft deck. I can't think of a better place to spend the transition season, while I shed one identity and prepared to take on another, nor better company for this part of the journey.