Boston

Container port. Surprise, surprise. To be fair, this is where Boston usually put us – this is their cruise terminal, but still, it is a container port, nonetheless. At the end of the runway of Logan airport (named after a local war hero, Edward Logan, who never set foot in it because he hated to fly), so the planes take off over our heads. I may have mentioned this a while back, but it’s still neck-damagingly entertaining to watch (have you ever tried looking up and ducking at the same time?!).

It’s odd, though. This trip has been a real eye-opener as regards national differences in attitudes towards holidaymakers. The United States see cruise terminals as very utilitarian places. Customs, passports, x-rays, out, a bit like when you arrive at an airport. That’s it. No shops, no cafes, you get a vending machine and some toilets if you’re lucky. That’s your lot. In the Caribbean, a cruise terminal is a cluster of shops, stalls, cafes, restaurants and information desks, not to mention crowds of taxi drivers vying for custom. It makes for a quite a stark difference in the tone of your arrival. In America, they just corral you onto to buses and off, out and on your way. Whereas, elsewhere, you stroll, you browse, you chat, you smile, you meet people. I think I know which I prefer…

Due to the speed restrictions last night, we didn’t arrive til 10am, so it was all a bit rushed. We were asked to collect a raffle ticket, in an attempt to make the disembarkation less chaotic (they would call us in groups of numbers to prevent everyone charging to the exits at once). This, however, was thwarted at the very outset by the fact that no one turned up to hand out said raffle tickets. I had to go down to Reception and make a scene. I spoke to a young man I’d never seen before, and told them that the queue was now over 125 people long. The young man said that the newspaper said the tickets would be handed out at 10 and they would be handed out at 10, not earlier. When I pointed out that we had docked early, he just said the same thing again. Then he said, ‘You’re not allowed off until 10 anyway’, to which I responded that I wasn’t asking to be allowed off, I was asking for the raffle tickets to be handed out – the idea was to reduce the scrum when we WERE allowed off. I noticed that, behind him, the supervisor, Kylie, was speaking to a blonde girl I didn’t know, but I did notice that, in her hand, said blonde was holding a book of raffle tickets. By the time I got back to dad in the queue, two decks up, the blonde had arrived to start handing out the raffle tickets. It’s as if thought is an alien concept to these people. Seriously, if one of them had a spark of initiative or independent thought, they’d explode. Did it really not occur to anybody that the raffle tickets needed to be handed out BEFORE the Captain allowed us to disembark?!

Shuttle bus to Quincy Market, which is an old market building that has been made into a sort of Covent Garden, only smaller. Inside, it has only a single aisle down the middle, and is entirely filled with food stalls. There is nowhere to sit to eat said food, except for a few benches in the centre rotunda. That’s it. All the ‘proper’ bars and restaurants are outside, in the cobbled streets that run down either side, along with some lovely shops that vary from the quirky to the REALLY expensive! I split up with the parents and browsed the shops at my own pace, including the obligatory visit to the Cheers memorabilia shop. After fighting my way between the mysteriously high number of schoolchildren in matching t-shirt parties being herded through the market, and shopping myself (or at least my credit card) out, I walked down to the waterfront and took a look at the marina, park and carousel, before heading back to the shuttle stop.

Once back at the ship, I dumped my bags in my cabin and picked up my hat (the sun came out after I’d left this morning), before grabbing a snack and heading back ashore. I was booked on a 1pm excursion to Salem.

The bus trip took us the long way round (the quick way is by ferry), through several towns, including Lynn, home to Lilian Pinkum (Lily the Pink). You probably know the Scaffold song about her (‘Drink a drink, a drink, to Lily the Pink, the Pink, the Pink, the saviour of the human race, She invented a medicinal compound, most efficacious in every case’). If not, try Youtube, but I warn you, once you hear it, you’ll have it in your head forEVER. Lilian invented a sort of herbal remedy that consisted of, mainly, let’s not beat around the bush here, 18% alcohol. It was so popular, particularly with women (for whom conventional medicine, particularly as regards women’s problems, was, at that time, virtually useless)(18% is quite an effective painkiller for a start…), and Lilian became a millionaire many times over. Despite selling it at only a dollar a bottle, she was able to support her husband, which was rather unusual at the time. The city of Lynn used to have a rather dodgy reputation generally – Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin, You won’t go out the same you went in. Very naughty. Ironically, on the way from Lynn to Salem we saw a church – for sale… still fairly Godless here then!

When we arrived in Salem, I was surprised it was so modern. The houses are virtually all old and made of wood, and are mostly very well maintained. Quite a lot are three stories high, which only happens in New England, as they built an extra floor to deal with a sudden influx of Irish immigrants. But in between them is a modern town. They have made no attempt whatsoever to blend in with the old stuff. They have just plonked down the new stuff in between the old bits. The only commonality is that some of the old public buildings are made of brick and the new buildings are likewise brick. Even when we went to the Memorial to the Salem Witch-hunt victims, it was bang opposite a brand new, modern museum, all bricks and glass. Very odd.

The Memorial is a small park with twenty stone benches around a rectangular lawn. Each bench has the name and date of death of one ‘witch’ on one end, so that you can sit down without damaging the carving. At the entrance, their respective last words are carved into the path. They have built over the words, so that they end in mid-sentence or even mid-word, to symbolise their sudden and untimely ends. “Oh Lord, help me”, “I am wholly innocent of such wickedness” and “I can deny it to my dying…” are just a few of them. What I didn’t realise, is that seven of the twenty who died were MEN. (What happened in East Anglia, with Matthew Hopkins, was much more misogynistic.) Nineteen were hanged, but Giles Corey refused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty and so he was pressed to death by having boulders placed on top of him. It took him three days to die, Heaven help us. The Salem witch trials are where the phrase “She will make devils of us all” comes from, and it’s not hard to see why. All caused by the hysteria of a group of schoolgirls. Having just finished reading “Connected”, I would have liked to hear more about the hysteria at the heart of the problem, as this is the aspect I find most fascinating. The deaths of twenty innocent people are chilling under any circumstances, but simply based on the madness or folly of some teenage girls somehow makes it even more horrible.

We then went to the Salem Witch Museum, which is located inside an old church (no irony there then). First, there was a very dramatic diorama presentation, where different scenes from the events of the Salem witch trials were portrayed by waxworks, lit in turn. The commentary and background music were very spooky, but the really chilling bit was when they used the real words from the court transcripts. Made me shiver. Not everyone accused was killed. Over 150 people were accused – some ended up in jail, some just went free. All the victims who died received posthumous pardons in the Eighties. Then we had a presentation from a live human being, who explained the origins and development of the various stereotypes about witches, including Hansel and Gretel, the two in the Wizard of Oz and the first advent of the idea of a green face, and talked about modern Wicca as a genuine and bona fide religion (recognised in the US in 1986). Then there was the shop.

And that was it. Back on the bus and back to the ship and dinner and watching the Oracle boat keel over on the news, which I’m afraid I find very entertaining. World’s most technologically advanced sailing yacht tips over just as easily as any other. What’s not to find funny? I’m glad we left Boston before the hockey started. The Boston Bruins won. It’ll be mayhem in town now.

I have just finished reading “Why We Make Mistakes” by Joseph T. Hallinan. The chapters have titles such as We Look but Don’t Always See, We All Search for Meaning, We Connect the Dots, We Skim and We All Think We’re Above Average. It’s a fascinating read and I highly recommend it. Some of it feels like stating the obvious, but some of it is quite revelatory. 65% of people forget their new password within the first week. Each extra syllable in a price reduces the chance of remembering it by 20%. So seventy-seven fifty one (eight syllables) is harder to remember than sixty-two thirty (five syllables). Isn’t that odd? When you ask people to estimate distances, they will judge the distance TO a place to be less than the distance FROM the same place. Like I said, it’s a fascinating read.

So now we are on the home stretch. I don’t know how much more there will be to say, really. We might get to Ponta Delgada (the Azores). We never have before, mind you, and we’ve gone past it three or four times, but you never know. Maybe this time, we’ll get there. Now it’s all just laundry and packing and To Do lists and how on Earth am I going to get it all in and do I really need the Horizon newspaper from every day of the cruise?

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One thought on “Boston

  1. hormiga says:

    Spose now I should read all your previous cruise blogs …… All new material for your book !!

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