I'm back! We got back yesterday, disembarking from the Jewel of the Seas at 6:40 AM, shuffling into in-processing at Harwich, England, then riding the bus for several hours to get dropped off at Heathrow Airport. Moving a group of 19 individuals who span all ages is not an easy trick, so I made sure there were no stragglers and tried to listen to pertinent announcements and such. It's really inaccurate to say we visited England at all, since 2/3 of my time there was on a bus and the remainder was either in Harwich or Heathrow. Didn't really get to interact with the locals or pick up on the local flavor or anything. Which is a shame since I've wanted to see England all my life.
But we got in yesterday around 5:30 PM, paid for a taxi van to our apartment, unloaded and played with the cats. They didn't seem too resentful of us and were quite affectionate. In my stack of mail there were three postcards from my sister and niece who were vacationing in Seattle, actually, plus four postcards gotten through Postcrossing, which was awesome. Also, my Bachelor's diploma finally turned up in the mail--I'll get that framed, likely--as well as a package from Gene Wolfe. He wrote me a thoughtful letter which answered several questions I've had about craft and writing, and autographed a copy of Castle of Days for me. I'm a little ashamed because I did hint rather clumsily that I'd hoped for a copy, but that was my first and last specific request of him. It's a very important book as a writer's resource, even crucial. As well as including an excellent array of short stories, there is a large section of his correspondance with other writers and his own thoughts on the subject of writing. Few things could be as valuable for me. I wish I had more to bring to the table for him, though--right now the exchange is markedly one-sided. I hope I'm at least entertaining.
We were so exhausted with our travels that we went to bed at 9:00 PM, missing out on all the firework action, but woke up at 5:00 AM. I wouldn't mind staying on that kind of schedule, actually: it's very useful to wake up early, and what do I do at night anyway? I don't go to the clubs anymore, I don't hang out with friends, I don't really go out and do anything interesting at all. I'm kind of at the same crossroads I found myself at in high school, when, after three years of screwing around and scraping by in my classes, I reconciled with my situation. I had no friends, I was not in any way socially active, and "going out" entailed nothing more than camping out in the town library until it closed. I buckled down and focused on homework instead of pretending I had anything else going on, and I made the Honor Roll my senior year. I was chagrined to have thrown away the three years before it.
I might as well buckle down on my writing. I kept up kind of a travel journal on the cruise, but honestly they kept the action going on pretty constantly and it was difficult to peel away and write for an hour without someone taking it personally. We'd go out on a shore excursion for most of the day, get back around 5:00 PM, sit-down dinner was 6-8:00 PM, then an hour of malingering before the theater performance started at 9:00 PM, and that was 45 minutes, and then there was always something going on at 10:00 PM, so there really was no downtime between waking up and going to sleep. I got some writing in but later discovered that taking time out to do so was perceived as antisocial behavior and indicative of a poor attitude. Perhaps, when one is out on a cruise, one should forgo all one's habits and pastimes and just focus on cruise-ly things to do. You've got to drink the Flavor-Aid and play ball. Well, I've never been on a cruise before so I didn't know, but now I have advice for anyone else who might find themselves in my situation.