Ferry tale


Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant in ‘An Affair to Remember’


WHAT a wasted opportunity it was, not getting stuck on that Irish Ferries ship that was stranded at sea for 48 hours on the way to Cherbourg this week.

The reason is that last year I bought the Rolls Royce of travel insurance policies for a princely €40. It covers me against accidents, acts of god, ash clouds, absent-mindedness, you name it. And I haven’t got any value out of it.

This is the sort of insurance policy that can even make a virtue out of a person’s shortcomings. If an item of luggage is delayed in arrival – delayed, mind, not even lost – I stand to gain €450, even though I’m too mean to spend money on clothes and hence can double the value of my entire outfit simply by putting a box of matches in my pocket.

Other personal failings are similarly rewarded. For instance, if my wanton unpunctuality causes me to miss my flight, am I obliged to trudge home in a sorry fashion, thinking about all the fun I’m not having? No, I am not. I am urged to sashay home and put in a claim for €1,000.

And what if, owing to my chronic reluctance to commit myself to a plan – any plan – and stick to it, I simply change my mind about travelling? Am I punished for my caprice? No, I am not punished. I am compensated, to the tune of up to €7,000.

Having never been knowingly overinsured before, I was really hoping to get the full use out of this. Instead, things have all gone swimmingly. Everything took off when it was supposed to; volcanoes remained stubbornly dormant; I didn’t break any bones while skiing (though I have only myself to blame for that, having neglected to ski); not a stitch of my impressive collection of outmoded polyester ended up in Abu Dhabi by mistake; because I travelled with people who still think you have to be at the airport two hours before, even when you’ve checked in online, I didn’t miss a single flight (though a certain amount of unpleasantness while we waited two sodding hours for the gate to open was unavoidable). And I flew Aeroflot, time and time again, without so much as a near-miss to show for it.

Now my beautiful insurance policy expires tomorrow, and won’t have benefited me in the slightest, not least because I wasn’t on that ferry. Worst €40 I ever spent.

The unlucky ship, the Oscar Wilde, left Rosslare last Sunday and was stuck outside Cherbourg because of the weather; when it finally docked on Wednesday, they couldn’t get the door open, so everyone was stranded on board for several more hours, gazing at that tent of blue which passengers call the sky, to paraphrase Oscar.

Only think of the cancelled hotel rooms I might have claimed for; the loss of my priceless mystery documents that got blown overboard; the ruination of my plan to spend a fortnight glamorously swanning around the Riviera in my manmade fabrics.

Having said that, it would take some effort to compensate a person for being stuck aboard a ferry. There are, of course, people who swear by ferries, but only because they’re too damn yellow to fly. So they pretend to enjoy the shrieking children, the stink of puke and chips, the tootle and flare of slot machines, and the society of a gang of merrymakers from Liverpool who are somehow still having a great time even though they’ve been drinking Carlsberg Special Brew for 24 solid hours and ought to have passed out long since instead of tirelessly trying to rope you into a singsong.

This isn’t what boat travel should be about. Boat travel should be about being Bette Davis in the second half of Now, Voyager. You begin as a frumpy middle-aged woman and by the time you’ve finished your cruise, you’ve lost ten years and ten kilos, while gaining the admiration of Paul Henreid and the ability to rock a hat.

Or better yet, you’re Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember. You manage to charm Cary Grant aboard a transatlantic liner, even though he’s a notorious dilettante and you’re a shade on the prim side, let’s be truthful. What a bit of luck. Then you meet his grandmother and the two of you get along famously. Things couldn’t be going better. Sure enough, you fall madly, hopelessly, teddibly in love.

Admittedly, for this ferry story to reach its happy-ever-after, you have to be hit by a car on your way to an assignation in the Empire State Building and end up in a wheelchair. But anything is possible: if he can paint, you can walk. And anyway, think of the insurance payout.


Published in the Irish Mail on Sunday, 17th March 2013