Wednesday 18 May 2022

Reluctant record

There are some horribly big numbers out there right now: the US recently reached the chilling milestone of one million Covid deaths, and there've been over 6 million world-wide. Not long ago NZ scored a million cases since the start of the pandemic - one fifth of the population - and then today we finally, inevitably, not only reached but surpassed 1000 deaths from/with Covid - 90% of them people aged 60+. It's pretty scary how fast that last number shot up after Omicron arrived, because back in only February, we still had just 55 deaths overall since the start of this whole sorry business, and there were long periods with no deaths reported at all. Things have changed so quickly.

So, even though we’ve also scored another big number - 95% eligible population double-vaxxed, plus over half so far also boosted, it feels a bit dodgy that the border, already now open to lots of countries, will reopen to everyone from the end of July. Of course the tourism industry is desperate for that to happen, and my travel writer colleagues, sick and tired of dredging up old material, and competing with each other for local stories, are already heading off overseas, despite flight uncertainty and general infection risks.

It certainly is tempting, seeing their photos of overseas destinations looking so adorably and excitingly foreign. I’d love to go. Maybe, since the experts are gloomily predicting another five years of all this, we should just lump Covid in with all the other risks and uncertainties that give travel its addictive frisson? 

Monday 9 May 2022

Who, where and what

While I was otherwise occupied, my brain drifted off this morning and dredged up Mnangagwa from ages ago. I'm guessing it was prompted by reading about Ncuti Gatwa being selected as the next Doctor Who, which is causing exactly the sort of kerfuffle you might expect. Mnangagwa, though definitely sounding familiar, I had to Google to identify - and, of course, it's Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is President of Zimbabwe.

Having read the name three times now, you too will have it filed away in your memory recesses ready for when that question pops up in your next game of Trivial Pursuit. Which is entirely why I learnt it in the first place, since over the last dozen years or so, the only time I've played TP has been on cruises, and more often than not it was on a Silversea cruise with Moss Hills as quizmaster. Moss, though looking and sounding proper Home Counties, was born and brought up in Zimbabwe, so it was a reasonable expectation that one of his questions might at some point be about the president. (Sadly, though, never.)

We came across Moss on three separate cruises with Silversea, and always enjoyed his work as Cruise Director, organising and presenting the entertainment programme, and being approachable and sociable around the ship. In all those interactions, though, he never mentioned this major life event which, for no obvious reason, has had him popping up recently in various media including a BBC podcast that I've been following for ages.

Turns out, in 1991, back when he was a long-haired guitarist on board the Greek liner Oceanos, he ended up supervising the evacuation of the ship when it was sinking off the coast of southern Africa in a big storm. It's a terrific story, and he comes out of it deservedly well, putting himself in real danger as, in the absence of the ship's officers who had commandeered the first lifeboat and blithely saved themselves, he and the other entertainers helped guests into the other lifeboats and lowered them into the sea. Then the ship listed too far for that so, after managing to contact help, Moss supervised loading passengers into rescue helicopters. He and his wife were the last to leave the ship, which then sank. No lives were lost, thanks to him, plus the other entertainers who included a magician. The ship's captain and senior officers were later found guilty of 'negligence'.

It doesn't take much effort to work out why Moss never mentioned this adventure while we were all sailing the high seas in a cruise ship. But since you're no doubt sitting safely at home, you can read all about it here and here.


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