This is a question I’ve been asked many times! The simple answer is that like a Troubadour of old, I tell stories, and sometimes sing some songs. I do not tell the passengers about the places they going to visit, as there are people already employed to do just that – and if they take a trip ashore then the local guides earn their crust by doing the same thing….so I tell stories about the areas we pass by, the countries we visit and the people that may have lived, or indeed did live there and what they did. So as we leave Venice on Sunday night, assuming I am programmed to give a ‘talk’, or ‘lecture’ as the Americans like to call it, I will be telling the story of Julius Caesar, his life and death and what he did for the Roman Empire – with a little help from William Shakespeare!! As we sail around the Eastern Med I will be recounting the tales of the Greek Heroes, Alexander the Great and the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World…..finishing with the sad tale of the abortive invasion of Turkey at Gallipoli in the First World War…. – not a lot of laughs in that one! Across the Med I will talk about Napoleon in Malta and Egypt, Hannibal and Carthage, The re-conquest of Andalucia by the Catholic Kings and their sponsorship of Chris Columbus, and the Battle of Trafalgar as seen through the eyes of one who was there – with a lot of songs. and on down the west coast of Africa with stories about Slavery, the Boer War, the Zulus, Napoleon in St. Helena and the First World War in Africa…..and then maybe a few cabaret shows thrown in to keep me busy! So maybe that answers the questions about what I do on these cruise liners! Well someone has to do it!!
The suitcase lies open on the floor waiting to be filled and the guitar is polished and ready to go. So it’s off to sea once more, first to Venice and then on to Istanbul and Tenerife and finally Cape Town in early December. The 19 or so lectures are primed in the net book and the notes are filed. I have dates, names and tunes whirling in my head as I await the timetable of my ‘duties’. It is always good to go, but also difficult to leave this beautiful place called home here in Andalucia. Yesterday, with a good friend I was in the mountains on the trails and footpaths where we gasped and stumbled up the slopes to take in the clear air and mind-blowing scenery of the Sierra de Tejeda and the Maroma peak, in glorious autumnal sunshine. The tired legs and bruised feet are a small price to pay for the inner satisfaction of being able to view such sights and still be able to make the climbs…..and then descend to the village carrying the vision of the large glass of ‘amber nectar’ waiting in Miguels bar! Another walk in the hills tonmorrow and then it must be some serious packing of that open suitcase….
Well, we are about to embark on a few weeks of sea-bourne activity….joining the Regent Seven Seas Voyager – a 6 star vessel for a trip around the eastern Med, starting in Athens and finishing in Venice and taking in Israel and Egypt enroute, not to mention Cyprus and Croatia! I’ve got 8 lectures in the suitcase, and the guitar.
And then at the end of the month, a long cruise from Venice, via Istanbul to Tenerife and thence to Cape Town. Julie will join the ship – the Nautica – in Tenerife. 19 lectures make up the luggage, and, of course, the guitar and few songs and stories. More on all of this later. But first, Los Fresones rise again, live, in Canillas de Aceituno, tonight!
Several lecture cruises have recently allowed me to return to my ‘favourite’ city…istanbul…..and so a little history..
Beneath the walls of Constantinople
In 1453 the walls of Constantinople fell to a combination of cannon fire – courtesy of a mysterious Hungarian who went under the name of Orban or possibly Urban – and the thousands of Ottoman Turks under the control of Mehmet II, ruler of all lands surrounding this last bastion of Christianity in the Middle East.
The siege had been brief as far as sieges go, only 6 weeks, and the defenders, who numbered at best 7,000, had done their best to defend their city against the several hundred thousand besieging it. Calls for help to the outside world had largely been ignored and the religious schism that had set the Byzantium Empire of Constantine apart from the church of Rome was to be its undoing. Apart from a few Venetian soldiers the aid offered to Constantine was far too little, and not just too late, but non-existent.
In anticipation of a lecture cruise to Cape Town in November (2010), I am including an article written following a visit there in 2008.
Heading away up the coastal highway, north-east from Durban, the endless swathes of sugarcane give way to the milk chocolate expanse of the Tugela River. A formidable barrier when in flood and a sticky mess in the dry season this is the historic frontier between ancient white and black supremacy.
Crossing the bridge, tantilizingly close to the site of the ‘Ultimatum Tree’ – just around the river’s bend to the north – the Zululand of the imagination and reality beckons. At this ‘tree’ in 1878 the terms of effective surrender to colonial domination were put to the representatives of the Zulu king, Cetshwayo, by John Dunn, a trusted adviser to both camps. The good burgers of Natal, British, Afrikan and native, were ever fearful of the perceived threat just across the river, and following a series of land, border and incursion ‘difficulties’ had resolved to bring the ‘savages’ to heel. The ‘conditions’ stated were impossible for Cetshwayo to sign off and retain his authority – much like the conditions required of Serbia by the Austro-Hungarians in 1914!
Natal was spoiling for a fight. The British Government, heavily involved in trying to secure India’s northern border through it’s own incursion into Afgahnistan, was not!