Cheshire personality John Stalker's life on the ocean

PUBLISHED: 11:26 17 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:54 20 February 2013

John Stalker

John Stalker

A life on the ocean wave is recommended, especially when the boat's <br/><br/>full of Cheshire people, writes our guest columnist from Lymm

The Cheshire Navy used to be a faintly disparaging label attached to people from Wilmslow who moored their boats at Abersoch marina. Twenty years ago it may have had some dubious provenance but not any more. The boats are still there but the horizons of Cheshire sailors are now much wider than an attractive coastal town in North Wales.
In the last couple of years I have sailed the worlds oceans from New Zealand to Nantucket with people from Cheshire rarely more than an oars length away. I refer to life on cruise ships. I doubt there are supporting statistics but my guess is that Cheshire is the lead county where cruise holidays are concerned. Perhaps it is an antipathy towards airports or a sense of adventure or merely respect for the value of money that impels Cheshire folk to far-flung shores. I dont pretend to know the reasons but I can claim inside knowledge.
Since 2007 I have spent much time on cruise ships as a guest lecturer. After a lifetime of investigating serious crime in Manchester and a second career as a crime journalist and broadcaster I am now invited by Cunard on their on-board talks programme. I began on the recently decommissioned QE2, transferring to their new ships Queen Victoria and Queen Mary 2. The brand new Queen Elizabeth will be in service by the end of this year.
As with so many happy relationships it began by accident. I was in the Caribbean as an ordinary passenger and was asked by the QE2 Cruise Director (another Cheshire man) to fill an unexpected spare hour in the lecture theatre. I enjoyed doing it, the audience liked what I said and the result is a continuing love affair with cruise ship lecturing. In early April I shall be on the Queen Victoria on a section of her world cruise from Singapore and the usual high quota of Cheshire citizens will introduce themselves to me. The coterie of Cunard lecturers are an esoteric bunch and includes, on the Queen Victoria world cruise, Archbishop Tutu, broadcasters John Humphrys and Murray Walker, former Tatton MP Martin Bell and comedy script writers Dick Clement and Ian Le Frenais. John Cleese is also a Cunard regular.
Lecture audiences are sharp and knowledgeable and respect well-argued strong opinions. Their accumulated experience is always awesome. Cruises attract successful professional and enquiring people and a good lecturer never forgets that. Humour is vital but I have learned the hard way not to expect the same response from other nationalities as from British audiences. A popular lecturer is public property while on board, at any time or any place. But, as an ex-cop, being on duty 24 hours a day is not a new problem.
It seems every month a new cruise ship is launched as adventurers in their thousands look to the sea for new travel experiences.
So, the Cheshire Navy will live on but now with a world-wide membership. I am glad to be on board and in the crew. Or should that be Crewe?


John Stalker is the former Deputy Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police. He lives in Lymm.

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