These are uncertain days for QE2. Storm clouds hang over the hallowed ocean liner once again as she gradually prepares for an October 18th departure to some as yet undisclosed Chinese shipyard, allegedly for ‘conversion’ into a three hundred suite luxury hotel.
The voyage will apparently take her via Singapore and Hong Kong. Seven of her nine diesels are now said to be in working order, and she will indeed make the voyage under her own power.
Of course, the great unknown is: what actually happens when she gets there, as opposed to the very terse amount of information actually being eked out by the owners. Ever since her Dubai landfall in November of 2008, her new owners have proved extremely reluctant to engage with the outside world regarding her future. Their few attempts to do so were so clumsy and ham fisted that I thought they had been written by Kim Jong Il’s PR team.
The result has been a disconnect; a deepening chasm of distrust between the millions of loyal fans that this legendary liner still has, and the owners, who see that what they do with her as being their business alone. They paid for her; they own her. We- the people who invested time, faith, toil, and an incalculable amount of emotional currency in her- should just sit back and trust.
The owners are dealing with QE2 as simply a hard headed business proposition. But for those of us who really know the ship (and her owners clearly don’t) the perspective is very different. It is a perspective seen through the prism of our own memories and experiences of the QE2 as a living, breathing entity. To us, she was- and is- a vital, elemental life force, to be revered and treated with dignity and respect.
To her owners, I suspect that she is just another trophy. A glittering bauble that can be embellished or tossed aside on a whim.
These two contrasting views collide, spark and grate like tectonic plates. They are close, but hardly compatible. They have mutual areas of interest. But mutual areas of concern? I doubt it.
To get the best out of QE2- and to allow her to shine- you first have to know and understand her. That involves putting away the calculators, the flip charts and the profit forecasts, and actually spending time on the ship. Letting her get into your soul. Sensing her moods, her mystery and her ageless sense of star presence. Not just seeing her as a balance sheet; but actually letting her in.
To those of us who know and love her, this is anything but rocket science. Of course, it means surrendering a little bit of cold hearted logic up and just going with the flow. But, in the end, wasn’t THAT what she was all about?
After all, what was ‘logical’ in spending five days at sea, on the most notorious ocean in the world, when you could fly across that same ocean in eight hours, eh? And yet…. those of us that have lived that fabulous adventure know, full well, that the experience went way beyond any hard faced, rational decision. It worked, on some soul deep level that no computer or financial accountant could ever put a true value on.
I, like many others, can only hope for the best while being prepared for the worst. Over it all hangs the ghastly spectre of the funeral pyre of the old Queen Elizabeth in Hong Kong harbour. if our concerns are perhaps over the top, verging on paranoia in some cases, then I would argue that they are, at least, understandable.
If I could offer one consolation to all of us who continue to care for and cherish the QE2, it is this. While the Dubai owners may possess her body, and have it at their disposal, I think that a little bit of her soul- her true, undying essence- lives on in each of us that cares so dearly what becomes of her.
No welder’s torch can ever tear apart our memories. They can never take away the smiles that drift across our faces when we remember the countless, cherished good times enjoyed on board her.
They may have her all right, but so much more of her lives on in all of us. No matter what happens- and let’s keep some optimism alive here, folks- we are the soul of the ship; the guardians of her memory. You. Me. Passengers. Crew. Every last damned one of us.
The biggest cheque book on the planet cannot begin to approximate the true value of that. Good luck to our great lady of the seas. Speed, bonny boat. Like a bird on a wing…