musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Month: April 2016

The new Star Wars movie. Yes or no?

A long time ago

In a galaxy close by

I finally sat down and watched

The new Star Wars movie on DVD

And it was not as bad as I expected it would be

 

Yes, it is official, I have just finished watching the new Star Wars movie.

And? what did I think of it?

It is not a great movie, but it is an OK movie.  There is a lot to like about it, and in my opinion the female lead: Rey  (played by Daisy Ridley) is probably one of the best things in the movie. There was just something about her that worked, and she was very reminiscent of the Chelsea bunned Princess Leia from the original movies.

I like the fact that there was a lot of homage paid to the originals, I could almost hear all of those cheesey lines but in new circumstances, and of course the score just worked for me

Han Solo? probably the best of the originals that appear in it. Even though he is grey and looking much older he has really just become a grey and very much older version of the original. Leia? a wonderful moment when you first see her, and a lot of criticism has been levelled at her, but I loved seeing her again,  she brought back the continuity that we needed to re-establish ourselves with the canon of Star Wars. Chewie? he is still as charming as ever, and still as handy with his crossbow.

For me one of the best scenes were the derelict ships on the planet where Rey scratches a living, and of course the usual Millenium Falcon erratic flying sequences.

I liked Finn, he has so much potential, and the new bad guy reminds me on a smarmy accountant with a fancy mask. Snoke? for some reason he reminded me of the Alien movies, there was menace, but on a different level to the original emperor Palpatine.

Without giving the plot away I will admit I was pleased with the new movie, but I did not watch it as a continuation of Star Wars, but rather as a new iteration of an old favourite. I saw the originals in the movies when I was young and while I have seen them many more times before I am glad that there is a new arc to enjoy. I have read some of the books, especially the “Old Republic” line, and they were fantastic, but everything that I read after the ending of the 6th movie was weak.  I think I need to go back to the drawing board and consult with my books as to what line this story is taking.

It has been awhile, but the force is still strong in me, even though I am more of a Jabba than a Jedi. 

Now for a rewatch… clear my schedule! 

© DRW. 2016-2018. Created 30/04/2016. 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 15:57

It is war I tell you!

Wartime in the Cotswolds played itself out this weekend, and I decided to share in the fun by visiting the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Steam Railway that runs between Cheltenham and Toddington. I have travelled with this heritage operation twice before and they run a very professional operation.  I had also encountered a very similar day on the Great Central Railway in 2015  so it would be interesting to see how this weekend played out. The weather was also very kind to us on this day, and apart from a chilly wind it was quite an enjoyable day weatherwise. I was also going to test my new camera on this trip and was very wary about running out of batteries, although I do have 3 batteries that I carry and if push comes to shove can still use my cell phone camera.

Of course being wartime you do have to be wary of surprises around every corner, so listen very carefully, I will say this only once… War is hell! 

The first train to leave Cheltenham Race Course was not a steam engine much to my dismay, instead it was the Class 117 diesel railcar. I have been on it before and it is somewhat of an odd vehicle. 

 

I managed to snag one of the front seats so was able to see the drivers controls and the view of the rails behind us,  This is a composite of 3 images. 

Driver sits on the left.

And then we were off, the train packed with people in period civilian outfits and military uniforms. It was amazing because they took so much effort to look the part, some of the women were truly stunning in their hats and gloves and seamed stockings, and for the first time I saw children in period clothing along for the fun too. They are the ones who will be doing this in 20 years time and it is great to see that the spirit will be carried forward with them. 

Our route takes us from Cheltenham Race Course Station to Gotherington, 

Through the Greet Tunnel,

To Winchcombe

Where we would wait for the next train to come past us heading towards Cheltenham Race Course. This train was headed by the immaculate 2807, a ’28xx’ class heavy freight locomotive, built in 1905. and owned by Cotswold Steam Preservation Limited and, after a 29 year restoration, is one of the GWR’s resident locomotives.

And then we were off again, heading to our final stop: Toddington. The station is really a destination on its own and in this case it was really a microcosm of Allied Servicemen and Women with a smattering of old civilian and military vehicles, although American equipment was dominant.

I bailed off the train, pausing to watch 4270 with the next train. She is a “42xx” class tank locomotive and made her debut at the 2014 Cotswold Festival of Steam and is now a regular performer on the GWSR.

I then ambled over to the exhibits, pausing to admire a really nice restored M4A4 Sherman that was formerly a “range wreck”

Behind the tank was Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway, and I had read that they would also be running trains on this day. There is a South African connection to this railway, and to Tewkesbury. But that was assuming the train was running. We had passed their loco shed and I had seen a steam loco in steam at their shed, so I was hopeful. 

Until then I walked around, looking at interesting exhibits, especially the military vehicles. 

Then there was movement and I headed down to the platform where the narrow gauge train was uncoupling, unfortunately it was a diesel as opposed to the steamer I had hoped for, The problem was that the train would not leave unless it had enough passengers, and so far I was the only one.

I drifted off to go look at the well armed half track that was parked nearby. Oh wow, I am so sorry they did not let off a few bursts with that quad browning.

And then there was movement at the narrow gauge railway and I headed back to it, boarding the small coaches en route for California Crossing where the steamer shed was.

The line is a short one, only 3/4 of a mile, and there is not much to see, However, the shed has 4 narrow gauge loco’s.

Chaka’s Kraal No 6 spent all its commercial working life in the South African sugar cane industry being delivered to Gledhow Chakaskraal Sugar Co. Ltd. for use on their estates in Natal. It was purchased by a group of members and returned to the UK in 1981. It had originally been built in Leeds in 1940.

My loco spotted, it was time to shake my head at the station name plate. 

Meanwhile, things were afoot back at the main station with the imminent departure of 7820- Dinmore Manor. 

Now which loco was at Platform 1?  

Talking about Loco’s I also went to the running shed viewing area hoping to get a decent pic of 35006 P&O, but once again a decent pic evaded me. I wish they would turn her to face the other way so that I can see her from the front.

The shed lines were surprisingly empty, but there was still a lot of trains and rolling stock in place.

It was time for another round of photography, and the images below are of various vehicles on display.

Unfortunately I was starting to tire a bit and decided to see what I could see at the station. Another loco was now waiting its turn and it was 2807, a member of the ’28xx’ class heavy freight locomotive, built in 1905.  I was considering heading back down the line to Winchcombe, and this train was not too far off from departure

Besides, the wartime music was driving me crazy. I still have “..it’s a long way to Tipperary….”  going around inside my head some 4 hours later!

I crossed the footpath in front of the loco and headed down to the field behind the station, it was jam packed with cars and was almost a mini military camp in itself.  In fact, there was even a sodding BREN there to torture me.

Fortunately I no longer have to worry about whether it is clean or not. My timetable said that the next train was about ready to leave in 10 minutes so I ambled across the footbridge.

The loco had moved to the head of the train so I decided to join this one and head back towards Winchcombe. It felt good to get a load off though. I was really pooped.

Departure was due to happen at 12.20, but nothing happened, instead the conductor came around and announced that we were delayed due to an “unexploded bomb” at Winchcombe. This delay threw my plans out because we would not budge until the train at that station was here. so we waited. It was now touch and go whether I would head fro home of bail at Winchcombe. Eventually the up train arrived and we were given the token to leave. 

It is not a long ride to Winchcombe and I did not really feel up to spending an hour at the station, it was bad enough that it looked like the whole cast from Dad’s Army and ‘allo ‘allo was standing on the platform.

Then we were off again, next stop: Gotherington.

 

And the other train was standing at the passing loop over there, being serenaded by a very nice lady with a magnificent voice who kept on telling us the “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…

And finally we arrived back at Cheltenham Race Course. The war was over for another day. 

The loco moved to the back of the train (making it the front), and I headed for the exit. I still had a long walk to the bus stop and then once in Cheltenham I still had to catch the bus back to Tewkesbury. 

It had been a long and busy day but I had enjoyed it. I am amazed at how the English go headlong into something like this, the amount of people in uniforms and costumes was amazing. I also saw a number of old men who were obviously veterans from WW2, and their numbers are dwindling too. But as long as there are those who are willing to go to the expense of acquiring a uniform then days like this will give us all a taste of what wartime Britain was like. I see a lot of evidence of it, the war is still remembered, it has not faded from the national psyche, it is still a part of the people of this country.

V for Victory, and may we never tread that path again.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 23/04/2016 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 15:57

Farewell to the RMS

*Update: 08/06/2016*

I have said my goodbyes to the RMS St Helena. 

*Update: 06/06/2016*

The  RMS St. Helena was to have finished with engines serving the South Atlantic island on 15 July upon arrival at Cape Town but has now scheduled three more return voyages into September 2016. The newly completely airport has not been certified due to wind sheer problems. One problem is reputed to be winds and another is the short runway. As a result the service of the RMS has been extended as an interim measure and for a limited period until air services begin. This service will be for passengers and freight. The schedule may be viewed at: http://rms-st-helena.com/schedules-fares/ and bookings will be accepted from Monday 6 June 2016. However it appears as if she will be withdrawn in Feb 2018. 

—————————————————— 

Round about this time of year I normally post about the RMS Titanic, this post is not about her; it is about another RMS, one of the last still afloat and soon to sail into history and memory.

My story really starts with the former Northland Prince, which is what the original RMS St Helena was called. I really took a shine to her because she was unique; a real ship with a regular route that was doing sea travel the way it it should have been. Unfortunately she was out of my reach, because by the time I cottoned onto the possibility of sailing on her she had limited time left.

The former RMS St Helena

The former RMS St Helena

A replacement had been ordered for her and after an almost disasterous build the new RMS St Helena was launched. Her builders, AP Appledore, were barely able to complete the ship, and she would suffer from engine trouble almost immediately.

The old St Helena was briefly rebranded as St Helena Island, and once the new RMS came into service rebranded yet again as “Avalon”, She was not a success.  

It was as Avalon that I first got my chance to sail on this little beauty in March 1991, from one end of the Ocean Terminal in Durban to another berth across from Ocean Terminal.  We watched QE2 arrive and sail from her decks,  But I knew then that this ship was unwanted, she was the wrong size, she was old and tired, and she never went very far after that, being laid up in Durban until finally sold for further trading as Indianoceanique. She was broken up not to long afterwards.

But what of the new RMS?

She entered service in 1990, trading along the same route, from the UK down to South Africa via St Helena and Ascension Island, she did occasional voyages to Tristan da Cunha, and was designed as a combi cargo/passenger ship. Her schedule was a demanding one, probably amongst the longest non cruise voyages that you could get. She was also very fully booked, and quite expensive to travel on in South African Rands. 

I got my first glimpse of her from the decks of the Canberra in Cape Town in 1992, and I was determined to try to get a voyage on her.

At that time she was operated by Curnow Shipping as had the previous vessel. I wrote them a nice letter requesting some info on her as I was doing some research, and I received a reply stating that she was doing her maiden call to Tristan Da Cunha in 1993, and there were limited spaces available in her “budget accommodation” The story of my subsequent cruise is on allatsea. It was one of the best voyages that I ever had, and it was on a real ship, not some floating gin palace.

 

It is now 2016, and the RMS is 26 years old, and now on her last voyages. She stopped calling in the UK a number of years ago, and is now managed by Andrew Weir Shipping. In fact she now is now more or less based in Cape Town from where she ploughs her lonely furrow to St Helena and Ascencion. Like the much missed Union-Castle Line, she too will be put out of business by the long distance jet aircraft as a new airport opens on St Helena in May 2016.

Where to from here?

She is scheduled to “return home” to the UK, arriving in London in early June, and will berth alongside HMS Belfast for a few days before making her last southbound voyage. Her future is not secure, and while there are those who are calling for her to be preserved as a floating hotel realistically that will not happen, and unless a buyer can be found she will end up on a beach somewhere being cut up.

She is a unique icon amongst ships, she is a real ship.

I was fortunate enough to see her in London when she arrived and said my goodbyes to her. I have dreamt about her many times, and even though I was never able to sail on her again, I always kept an eye out for her because she was such as special ship.

There will never be another RMS St Helena.   

 She is the last of her line.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 14/06/2016. Updated 09/06/2016

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 15:58
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