15 March 2020

Not Poole, but not Belfast either

On Thursday evening we are told  that the ship will leave on high tide mid-afternoon Friday, one day later than scheduled. Rumours fly about all Friday morning on the Astoria, but it isn't until well after lunch that they announce that the cruise is to be "curtailed", because our destination ports are starting to ban entry of cruise ships.
We are disappointed but not surprised. We console ourselves with scones, jam and cream, and later a pre-dinner drink and our complimentary bottle of wine with dinner, as we work on our Plan B. About 2/3 of the passengers disembark as soon as the cancellation is announced, but we have the option of staying until morning, and as we have nowhere to go, we stay for another free dinner and night's accommodation. And it really is free because the cruise company is giving us a full refund AND a big discount on any future trip with them. Surprisingly generous - I hope it doesn't send them broke.
We begin contacting the various friends we were planning to visit post cruise. We are aware that we may be seen as a health risk, so we aren't really surprised that by dinnertime two friends have said "pass" and one hasn't responded. But a long shot email to a friend who is usually out of the country pays off - the virus has prompted her to return to the UK and she will be pleased to have us stay with her in Deal next week.
On Saturday morning as we are packing to leave, we decide that a weekend in Winchester is an attractive idea, and that's where we are now. Winchester is a lovely old town. The Royal Winchester where we are staying is a sixteenth century building close to the town centre. Once checked in we stroll the pedestrianised High Street where there is a Saturday market to poke around in. Later when we go to look at the Cathedral I find there is a performance of Bach's B minor mass tonight. I go online, buy a front row ticket (probably thanks to a virus-driven cancellation) and spend the evening listening to a top performance of a glorious piece of music in a beautiful cathedral. If I were home in Australia, it would have been cancelled, and I'd have missed the wonderful Hanover Band, not to mention the Southampton Philharmonic Choir and a collection of impressive young soloists. 
So we may not be in Belfast, but things are pretty good. Skin on my hands may fall off from excessive washing, but no other health issues so far.

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