Being on a Saga cruise is a bit like (correction; a lot like) being a resident in an old peoples’ home that floats.  You are left in no doubt about this during the emergency drill when, in the unlikely event that the ship flounders and we have to take to the lifeboats, you are told to be sure to bring your medication.  I’d love to know the average age of my fellow passengers (638 of them) on our cruise across the Arctic Circle and to the top of Norway       (not to mention their average weight).  If I knew this statistic, I’m confident I’d feel a comparative youngster (and perhaps even slim(ish)).  Contrast is a wonderful thing.  Our clothes tended to shrink as the cruise progressed.  I put it down to the climate.

Women outnumbered men for obvious reasons, a salutary reminder of male mortality.  One seasoned cruiser told us we were far too young to enjoy a Saga cruise.  Normally this would have been a full blown compliment, but, in the circumstances, we downgraded it to a relative compliment.  I went on a number of shore excursions that were described as strenuous only to find they were very gentle saunters.  Six circuits of the upper deck was a mile but it was almost impossible to maintain a brisk pace as you negotiated a route through a forest of walking sticks.

One advantage of being trapped for 15 days with senior citizens is that there was plenty of time to explore their long and interesting (well, mostly interesting) pasts.  I chatted with a retired spy from Cheltenham (fancy a spy being allowed to retire, you’d think they’d have to be put down); a retired probation officer from Coventry who told me he had prostate cancer and urged me to have a PSA, despite the alarming number of false positives; a 90 year old mathematician who knew all about Bletchley Park; a farmer who claimed to have been ruined by inflexible demands from heartless Tesco inspectors; a woman whose husband was shot dead in front of her by intruders when they broke into their home in the Caribbean; a carpenter (perhaps not a very good one because he had some  missing fingers) who spent a career fitting out luxury yachts for oil magnates; various retired clergy who were coy about their rank (I suspected they were bishops); army/navy folk who told me they had lied about their age in 1939, joined up and won the war.  I didn’t encounter any retired bankers or politicians but I suppose they were busy pretending to be have been something else.

Our lecturers were noticeably younger than the passengers but no less interesting.  We had lectures about each of our Norwegian ports of call, unfortunately offering information that was largely irrelevant since our lecturer consistently described each place as it was in high summer (we were there in early March with temperatures at or below zero) and showed photographs of scantily clad Norwegians frolicking/picnicking in green meadows and canoeing on, even swimming in, fiords.  There was an astronomer from High Wycombe who explained how the Northern Lights come about as a result of plasma released from the sun two days previously.  Apparently the solar storm travels through space at a speed of eight million kilometres an hour and when the particles reach the earth’s gravitational field they burn up.  I think that’s approximately right, but I won’t tell you the astronomer’s name in case you send this to him.

There was even a so-called ‘enrichment  lecture’ (never heard a lecture described that way before – I think it was a euphemism for ‘possibly interesting but totally irrelevant’) about Captain Bligh and the mutiny on the Bounty.  Apparently, historians and film makers have got it wrong; the mutiny wasn’t Bligh’s fault, he was a thoroughly nice chap who rarely ordered floggings.

But the lecturer I enjoyed most was Sam Hall, who used to work for Reuters and then with ITN.  He regaled us with fascinating stories about the Vikings who undoubtedly were the first to cross the Atlantic and discover North America, the Sami people, the incredibly tough lives of farmers and their families who eked out a living on ledges high above the fiords, the courage of the resistance movement in Norway during the German occupation in the Second World War, and, by way of contrast, a final lecture of amusing behind-the-scenes anecdotes about his gifted/eccentric News at Ten colleagues.

All good fun.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that, way up above the Arctic Circle in Alta, we had a splendid display of the Northern Lights.

Since returning to the real world (London), I can’t help but notice how many young people there are.  I’m back to feeling old again!



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