Tuesday, March 27, 2012

(No.192) Royal fighters, H.L. Mencken & SS Norway

by

Alastair Rickard


Here is a footnote to the recent series of three columns on RickardsRead.com offering some tips on cruising.

Captain Paul Von Knorring , a 20 year Finnish veteran of the Norwegian Cruise Line ship Dawn, recently related this anecdote from his time as commander of Norwegian's Sun.

The Norwegian Line's record frequent cruiser was (when Captain Von Knorring knew her) an 82 year old woman who, after she retired, made 327 cruises with Norwegian. This is not as amazing as it first seems since she literally lived on the cruise ship.

She started out cruising on Norwegian's first liner, the Norway (formerly the French transatlantic liner SS France purchased by Norwegian in 1979). She switched to the Norwegian Sun when the Norway went out of service. She even had her name on her stateroom door.

Captain Von Knorring said the only time she lived off the Sun during his time as its first officer was when the ship went into drydock for several weeks and she was not allowed to remain on board during this period. She apparently chose to make a Norwegian Cruise ship her permanent retirement home regardless of where it cruised.

During cruises most lines hold cocktail parties and the like for their 'frequent cruisers'. It is common on such occasions for the captain or cruise director (knowing the answers full well before they start) to poll the assembled guests about how many had cruised with the line 30 times or 50 times, etc etc. It is not unusual to have couples present with 60+ cruises.

This octogenerian was in a class by herself.

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On March 26,2012, the television columnist and critic for the Globe and Mail of Toronto, John Doyle, wrote a column not only lauding the superiority of today's television programming but arguing further that today's television drama had become superior to the novel as a cultural form. This seemed to me to be an argument bordering on the risible. In response I wrote the following letter to the editor of the Globe.

Sir:

John Doyle is one of my favourite columnists. His views about television are mostly well-founded but occasionally they are overwhelmed by an excessive use of hyperbole.

His column today ("The novel made the modern world, but good television is superior to the printed word", March 26) presents a respectable argument for the case the column heading encapsulates. However to argue that a relatively few televison dramas produced for a handful of mainly American cable networks like HBO are somehow representative of what televison today brings into the home is simply silly.

Even a jog through a program guide for the channels most Canadians can access is to see the preponderance of televison hours taken up with the broadcast of stuff as vacuous as the programming that was available to us in the "pre-cable era" to which Mr. Doyle refers.

H.L. Mencken observed decades ago that television is like a steak: a medium rarely well done. The arrival since then of a small proportion of television drama that is excellent has not changed that picture nor, for that matter, has the novel thereby been eclipsed.

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In conversation recently I was asked a question the person posing it did not realize was a trick question: who was the last British monarch to fight in battle?

The answer, if the question means a monarch who was king at the time of his active service, is King George II (1683-1760). He led British troops against the French in 1743 at Dettingen, a battle in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748).

However the correct answer, if the question actually refers to any active service undertaken by a British monarch during his lifetime, is King George VI (1895-1952), our present Queen's father. On May 31, 1916 Prince Albert, as he then was, took part as a junior officer serving in the Royal Navy's HMS Collingwood in the First World War's Battle of Jutland off the North Sea coast of Denmark against the German high seas fleet. The future king left the Collingwood's sick bay and manned a gun turret throughout the naval battle, the largest during W.W.I. In fact the Battle of Jutland was the largest sea battle in naval warfare history before or since in terms of the numbers of battleships and battle cruisers engaged.

If the questioner had asked who was the member of the British Royal Family to see active service most recently, many who follow the news would know that the answer is the Queen's grandson, Prince Harry. As a junior officer he has seen active service with his regiment, the Blues & Royals, in Afghanistan.

The last member of the Royal Family to see battle prior to Prince Harry was his uncle Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. He flew a helicopter in various engagements during the Falklands War in 1983.

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email: Alastair.Rickard@sympatico.ca

blog: www.RickardsRead.com

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