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The Game Is Afloat

On 25 August 2001, eight intrepid Adventuresses set sail on the Princess Danae on the Sherlock Holmes Society of London’s Jubilee Cruise. The eight seafarers were (back row, left to right) Marina Stajic, Sue Vizoskie, Maureen van der Flaes, Julie McKuras, (front row) Susan Diamond, Marilynne McKay, Evelyn Herzog, and Marsha Pollak. The entire group numbered over 70 and toured several British embassies in Victorian dress -- more about the itinerary can be found at the SHSL website.

ASH Jean Upton, now living in England, saw us off at the champagne reception — she confided that Holmes was wearing the original Baker Street exhibit costume and she had spent weeks repairing scores of moth holes.

In Copenhagen, Maureen was one of the winners of the “boat-spotting” competition — the idea being to spot as many boats with Sherlockian names as possible while cruising down the canal.

The Muse editors hosted “ASH Wednesday (observed)” on August 29 when Adventuresses and PALs (Prince Albert League, pictured l to r) Mike McKuras, Ed van der Flaes, Warren Randall, Ron Hosek, Allan Devitt, David Pollak, Ben Vizoskie and John Baesch  gathered in the McKay-Hosek suite for libations, snacks, and scintillating conversation.

The following day Marilynne and Warren proved formidable competitors in the “Just a Minute” panel game. Six panelists took turns discoursing for one minute on Sherlockian topics without repeating any words — subject, of course, to interruptions and challenges. Marilynne led almost all the way, but just as the cheers were about to begin, the host — Jonathan McCafferty, aka Charles Augustus Milverton... well, what could you expect? As they say in Chicago, “the fix was in.” While Americans definitely won the Revolutionary War, this skirmish went to the British. Marilynne graciously conceded, citing a preference for the fleeting spotlight rather than the stodgy record, and Milverton went back to blackmail.

Other games provided entertainment as well. Ben and Sue Vizoskie distributed a beautifully designed card explaining the rules of whist, while Julie McKuras conducted spirited classes in “nerts,” a Minnesotan card game for long winter nights or ice fishing weekends. For more details on “nerts,” the Milvertonian blackmail notes, and other cruise activities, we strongly recommend purchasing a copy of Sue Vizoskie’s compilation of cruise essays (similar in form to the superb collection she published after the unveiling of the statue in London) — it will be available at the New York weekend. For those of you unable to attend Birthday 2002, we’ll have ordering information in the next Muse.

In Tallinn, a “pick-up” ASH choir performed “Aunt Clara” at the historic Estonian song contest amphitheatre to the amazement and possible delight of all within earshot. On “Scottish Night,” Marilynne, in full brogue and sporting the McKay tartan, raised a glass (of guess what?) to Watson, ACD, Mrs Hudson, and the Scottish nurse.

The grand finale on the last day was the Holmesian Revue — a series of highly irreverent skits and songs hosted by the inimitable Richard Lancelyn Green.

The ASH contribution, led by Evy, was the first stanza of the original Aunt Clara followed by special verses composed by the ASH version of Rogers and Hammerstein:  McKuras, Stajic, and van der Flaes. Although the name combination doesn’t roll trippingly off the tongue, the lyrics were memorable:

Aunt Clara set sail on the SHS cruise,

She journeyed from Oslo to Kiel.

Her exploits on board will surely be news,

For she never appeared for a meal.*

She signed herself up for a tour of the bridge.

The ship’s officers stood at salute.

Then hors d’ouevres and champagne came out of the fridge

And to Clara each one raised his flute.

We never mention Aunt Clara,

But when I grow up big and tall,

I shall sail to the French Riviera

And let mother turn me to the wall.

*A reference to the Princess Danae’s far from memorable cuisine — the one “downer” on an otherwise delightful trip.

Frequent Muse contributor Warren Randall’s skit “I Have My Eye On A Suite-ee In Baker Street” was another high point with additional unexpected laughs provided by the collapse of one of the ship’s famous “break-away” chairs (the weathered plastic chairs disintegrated frequently under unsuspecting Holmesians). PALs Ben Vizoskie and Allan Devitt played Holmes and Watson, while Mrs. Hudson was played by Susan Diamond (subbing for Sue Vizoskie who was battling a touch of mal de mer). Ben and Allan also did solo turns that evening: Ben reading Bill Schweickert’s “A Long Evening with Holmes” and Allan/Toby leading a rousing round of “Sniff, Sniff for Old Pinchin Lane” to the tune of the Notre Dame fight song.

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