10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, happy New Year! Holding hands with complete strangers, singing an old song that makes no sense, and wishing people who can hardly stand "all the best". Oh how I hate New Year's Eve. I've never really enjoyed it. When I was a teenager, the idea was to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible as cheaply as possible. These days I realize that the drinking was a valiant effort to maintain the ceaselessly wretched expectations of fun. I’d rather watch it all on the telly, preferably in bed, eating toast.
This holiday season, to get away from it all, I went to sea. After celebrating my 40th in London, I joined the Queen Elizabeth for Christmas and switched ships in Barbados for New Year's Eve on the Queen Mary 2.
In true Cunard style I was joined by some great lecturers and entertainers: Des O'Connor (who told me the world’s shortest love story - see below), my pals John Martin and Greg Scott, and two Lords - Robert Winston and John Prescott. I haven't seen John and Pauline Prescott since they used to come see me singing jazz in Beverley years ago. You can say what you like, but I like them. John’s very funny, a straight talker and had the strength of character to admit, in hindsight, Iraq was a mistake. More than can be said for his boss.
That's one of the great things about cruise ships - you never know who you’re going to meet, especially on Queen Mary 2 which attracts guests from all walks of life. On a single day last week I met a former Lieutenant Commander of the US Navy, a family of restaurateurs from Mexico and Beatrice Muller – a magnificent lady who has traveled with Cunard for over 4000 days!
As I type this I am in New York by Times Square about to see Kelsey Grammar in La Cage Aux Folles. After a few more days here it’s back to the UK for a concert celebrating Fred Astaire with Kim Criswell and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by John Wilson (almost sold out); the very next day I fly to Bora Bora to join the Seabourn Sojourn. I’ve then got a week or so off in Auckland before coming back for another concert with John Wilson, this time at The Sage with the Northern Sinfonia and the music of Nat ‘King’ Cole, perfect for Valentine’s Day! Two days after that I am off again – this time to Rio to join the Seabourn Odyssey and after a week off there it’s back on this Queen Elizabeth, this time in Malaysia.
During this World Record attempt for the most Airmiles collected in three months, I’ll be working on the new live Nat Cole album, which I hope to have released in a month or so. Oscar winner Don Black has agreed to write the sleeve notes and I must say, the more I listen to it the more impressed I am with James Pearson and his trio. You’re going to love their playing.
* In case you feel like a dose of New Year’s romance but only have 20 seconds, here’s the world’s shortest love story, according to Des O’Connor: A handsome young price meets a beautiful young princess. The handsome young price says to the beautiful young princess, ‘will you marry me?’, and the beautiful young princess says to the handsome young prince, ‘no’. And the handsome young prince lived happily ever after.