Posted November 11th, 2008, 12:16 PM
Last edited by Dan Askin; November 11th, 2008 at 01:07 PM
From U.K. Editor Kelly's latest report:
We made the five-minute trek on foot along the harbor, past the Southampton Marathon Museum and its large display of the doomed Titanic (exhibits on Cunard and the history of the port town available inside), to Mayflower Park. From our current vantage point, you can just about see the aft of the ship and some of the side, moored up alongside the terminal, but we're quite far away.
Down on the green, a giant movie screen is showcasing archival footage of the QE2 -- its famous mid 1960's sea trials in the Clyde, in fact. At that point, the iconic funnel, so emblematic of QE2, was nowhere to be seen, the ship slicing through the water with the hair style equivalent of the "flat top," a 'do popular in urban American settings in the 1980's. Snippets of the smiling Queen naming the ship flash by shortly after. Forty-odd years out, it's quite odd watching such a vision of the past, with so many memories -- of celebrities and royalty, a stint in war -- having come between then and now.
The park is still pretty empty, with probably 100 people milling about, others in town for some pre-event sustenance, and a dozen or so people sitting on lawn chairs, having staked out their spots for the evening festivities. At the moment, there's a feeling of expectation, killing time, waiting for the already low-slung sun to descend and for the QE2 to do her thing one last time.
Those who are about include people from the South Coast of England, some from Portsmouth -- but so far none that we've talked to had ever sailed on QE2. Instead they're here to pay respect to a British icon, the most famous cruise ship on the planet. One older gentleman knew someone who had worked on the original Queen Mary back in 1953, and the sight of the QE2 brings him back.
But despite the crowds having not yet arrived, a feeling of patriotism hangs in the air, with many donning their poppies for Remembrance Day, paying respect to those who've served the country -- which of course includes QE2, whose duty in the Falklands is well honored. She is, so it seems, a national hero of sorts, and a source of pride.
There's also a bit of a fun fair vibe, with rides for the tots, burgers, hot dogs, etc. Red, white and blue flags (1.5 pounds), hats and other knickknacks are on sale, but business is so far slow. Likewise for the loads of memorabilia, some original, some facsimile, and local paper selling commemorative editions that mark the historical occasion. There's also an industrious Travel Agency, Bath Travel, using the event to make some deals on special sailings for QE2 soon to be former sister ship Queen Victoria.
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