Thursday, 26 June 2008

...Britannia rules the waves (not anymore!)

Yesterday afternoon we went to see the Royal Yacht Britannia. S had a hankering to do so and who was I to argue. We decided to catch the bus there as the stop is right outside our front door. Now in Scotland they have a funny rule for buses. There is a special area at the front for prams (aka pushchairs aka buggies) but only one unfolded buggy at a time. When we were about to hop on a woman got off with her unfolded buggy so we could get on.We sat down feeling pleased with ourselves and ready to enjoy our trip. However at the next stop another woman got on with a buggy. She was told
that she had to fold it, but as her baby was asleep and she had shopping in what I call the shoplifting basket that didn't seem fair. We offered to fold ours, S liberated Jack (much to his delight) and all I had to do was fold the buggy. Except that the basket was full of gumboots, raincoats, water bottles and balls. It's hard to fold a buggy when holding these things and being watched by a busful of people. I just needed a bit of room to fold it and I'd be right, but there was an old guy with a wheely bag and a cane who every time I moved to the left, he moved to the left, I moved to the right, he moved to the right. I just wanted him to back the truck up, as S would say, to give me some room but no dice. So I decided to swap places with the other pram woman but then EZ Company Ernie (who is attached to the side of Jack's pram) got wedged in the wheels of the other pram so it looked like we were doing some kind of weird, interpretive dance. All this while everyone was watching and the bus was going nowhere. Then these two bogan women decided to help yelling, "why don't you just fold the buggy?Just fold the buggy?!"
I think those women must have been visiting from Glasgow. I'm not sure if they were talking to me or the other woman but after she said she couldn't and they gave her a blast ("Woz I talkin' to yoooo?") I guess maybe they were talking to me. Eventually I struggled to my seat with a half folded buggy and a handful of wet weather gear and sat down and the bus proceeded.The rest of the ride was spent in silence, though I did see some interesting pubs and places down by the water.
The first thing I noticed when we got off the bus was that RY Britannia is housed at a shopping mall. We walked through the centre (though I did note there is a 'big space' like soft play centre there) to the Britannia entrance. We strolled through the exhibit (lots of photos of the Cabbage and Di though not together) and then picked up our audio tours and hopped aboard. It was interesting.We learnt that when Liz travelled she brought along 5 tonnes of luggage, which made me feel immeasurably better. We also learnt that on board no yelling was allowed (by the crew anyway) and so the sailors all had a system of hand signals to communicate. There were also strict rules about what to do if they came upon a royal while they were swabbing the decks or something similar - they had to stand still like a statue and avert their eyes. They were not allowed to wear hats as they performed these duties so no royals would have to acknowledge their presence by saluting (ie. can't salute without a hat). There was a great sunroom with some groovy cane furniture that Phil picked up somewhere on their travels and a concealed bar and stereo (it was behind the charts on the wall). There was also a great picture with a caption about loading supplies for a voyage with the Queen Mum but all I could see were crates of Gordon's gin. And so to the royal bedchambers. The portholes were higher than anywhere else on the ship to stop people peeking. We saw HRH Cabbage's bedroom with a very small single bed and Philip's bedroom (same bed but more masculine colour scheme). The bedrooms did face each other so I imagine they could've lain in bed and waved to each other if they felt like it. There was a double bed in the 'honeymoon suite' that Charles had installed and as it was also used for Fergie and Andy's honeymoon I must say that 's not much of a recommendation .
We travelled down through the ship and saw the Dining room and the drawing room (very nice) and then down once more to to the less commodious quarters for the crew. Apparently they used to play a simply HILARIOUS game called wombat tennis which consisted of throwing a toy wombat (kindly donated by a lady in waiting but not for this purpose) into a ceiling fan. Such larks.And further down through the ship, past the galleys (which are now used for commercial functions and for making fudge which you can buy there) to the laundry (huge - my mum would love it). Most of the staff had to change their uniforms up to six times a day so you can imagine how much washing was generated. But none of the crew's washing was allowed to be washed at the same time as the royal washing. Apparently once they turned the Queen's smalls blue. oops. She was not amused.
And then to the engine room which was very shiny. We found it interesting but I can't say that Jack felt the same.On our bus back it turned out that our driver had served aboard the Britannia as a royal navy marine and said that she is not what she was. Gone are the ebony tables and so many other amazing bits and pieces. Oh well. And though there were lots of photos of Diana (and I mean lots) there were no photos of Camilla till we got to the gift shop and then there she was alongside the corgis. But then maybe the only time she went aboard the Britannia was in Charles' head.

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