Queen Elizabeth 2 in cruising mode at Lisbon, 2008

Queen Elizabeth 2 in cruising mode at Lisbon, 2008

Somebody the other day asked me what the funniest thing was that I had ever seen in all my travels. And, while there have been some screamingly funny moments and encounters in all corners of the globe, there is one that does, indeed, stand head and shoulders above all others. It involves a peer of the realm, a Queen, and some really bad karaoke. Quite a combination, no?

The peer in question was ‘Lord’ Jeffrey Archer. He was travelling aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 as a lecturer, regaling rapt passengers with vivid accounts of his time spent as a guest of Her Majesty’s prison service. Being a salesman of the first order, His Lardship also took the opportunity to do a book signing. I am told that reams of his not at all lurid, fulsome and self serving memoirs were flying off the tables like flocks of bats out of a haunted mansion on Halloween.

But I digress. For Archer was to play out a most unexpected vignette that proved to be the single most entertaining moment on the cruise. What follows is not a second hand account. I was not more than ten feet from the centre of what follows.

Archer and his family deigned to mix with the hugger mugger of regular passengers in the intimate, packed Golden Lion bar for the last karaoke of the cruise. They swept in like a set of wannabe Romanovs, and ensconced themselves in the equivalent of the royal box, front and centre stage. By this stage of the evening, the karaoke was in full swing.

To my surprise- and probably that of everyone else in the room- the ever fragrant Mary Archer got up to sing a song. And what a great job she made of it. She stood and sang the Beatles’ classic In My Life to her husband. Her eyes never left him as she sang every word.

It really was a virtuoso performance; she nailed it quite beautifully. The room gave her a well deserved round of applause. As she gazed down at her man, I mused idly that, while love is often blind, it can on occasion be both deaf and dumb as well.

But more excitement was to come…..

The compere picked up the next request form. The next words were epic:

“And now, Lord Jeffrey is going to sing us a song. And the song is…. Jailhouse Rock….”

The entire room erupted in a torrent of laughter. More than one or two people almost choked on their drinks. But, as the smiling emcee took the mike over to Archer, he encountered a sudden cold front.

Archer sat there with his arms folded implacably across his chest. His serried tiers of chins and flabby jowls wobbled with indignant affront. Nasal hairs bristled like the tentacles of Portuguese jellyfish. Twice, the mike was proffered to His Lardship; twice, it was refused. After a minutes’ stunned silence, the host composed himself, and spoke again;

“I think this is somebody’s idea of a bad joke……”

Bad? The whole room shook with laughter from rooftop to floorboard for minutes on end.

It was clearly too much for Archer, who swept out of the room at warp speed with his family in tow, his dignity- or what passed for it- trailing somewhere behind him like so many discarded party streamers.

Had Archer actually gone with the joke and sang even a few bars- and let’s face it, Archer has plenty of experience of bars- then the entire room would have applauded him for being a good sport. His petulant umbrage spoke volumes.

The man had been more than happy to regale and reap profit from recounting his prison experiences, but the moment that some quick witted reveller instigated a laugh at his expense, he spat out his dummy like a petulant brat and exited, stage right.

And at this stage, I would like to nail a rumour of my own. It was not me that put in the faux request slip for Jailhouse Rock, as one or two naughty people have since alluded. But my God, how I wish it had been me. I would have been more than happy enough to have taken the credit for getting a laugh at the expense of this ludicrous, strutting circus show on legs. Alas, I cannot.

None the less, I have to truly thank Jeffrey Archer for the most hilarious little vignette I have ever seen at sea. The memory still makes me chuckle now. And, should you wish to avail yourselves of His Lardship’s learned tomes, any British Heart Foundation ship will be able to keep you liberally supplied. Just look between the Cheryl Cole and Katie Price autobiographies, and there he’ll be.

And at a bargain price, guv’nor. Ker-ching!

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