Month: March 2020

No End in Sight

31/02/2020. Day 745673…. Still here. The company where I work now has key industry status and as such we are technically “key workers”. I will admit they are really trying their best to keep the virus out and us safe. So far though 109 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Gloucestershire and 8 have died in county hospitals. The UK tally is 22141 cases with 1408 deaths.  Around us life more or less goes on and people are getting used to the queues and delays although quite a lot are still out and about. Our local Morrisons is slowly getting their shelves packed and today is the first time I have seen toilet paper on the shelves in a long time. Online shopping and delivery have been bogged down though and some people are getting slots for a month down the line. Our local eateries are doing their best to cater to the demand that has been created for takeaways, and anybody that hasn’t been able to adapt will end up suffering until restrictions are lifted. Unfortunately I have had to buy a washing machine due to the closure of the local laundry, it was one expense I was hoping not to have to make. Hopefully it will be delivered on Saturday. Getting through to your bank is almost impossible with a large amount of people phoning in about the financial situation and how the virus will affect it. Unfortunately the virus is not only dangerous from a medical point of view but also from a mental point of view, so keeping busy is vital and going to work may be good for your mental health! (ya right…). So, nothing new to report. Still hanging in there. 

Day 384674….. still here, lost track of time. It is now the weekend, technically had all been hunky dorey I would have been on my way back from London after renewing my passport. Instead I am cold and grumpy, browned off  and depressed.  I had to get some shopping done and tried our local Morrisons but the queue was not going anywhere. They have complicated the matter by closing off the bicycle parking so I ended up chaining my bike to a pole. The queue was even slower than lines at an airport so I ended up giving up again and going to Tesco instead.  The town is like a ghost town, there are very few people around, most of the shops are closed and the traffic has halved. There is also parking available and heaven help you if you park where you are not supposed to (letters will be written to “The Times”).

Yet, there are still people manning tills, cleaning floors, moving boxes, delivering mail, delivering cargo, driving trucks, buses and trains and just doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.   The medical staff are in the front line and in spite of ticket wardens handing out parking tickets and yobs stealing their bikes they keep at it. Even Boris Johnson is infected and as much as I hate to say this it does show that he is human and not some stuck up suit in a distant office. At the end of the day we all have to ride out the storm together.

Back in South Africa the lockdown has been stringently enforced by police and military forces, and looking at the statistics for the country I can see why. There were 202 confirmed cases as at 20/03/2020, currently the total is running at 1170 cases with 1 death.  Unfortunately I fear that things will get much worse in South Africa as mob rule, criminality and xenophobia start to raise their ugly heads. I was reading a post last night about a German woman that was taken to a hospital in South Africa and there were people posting who were ready to use the pitchfork and burning torches. It made for very sickening reading and I blocked that post very quickly. 

On the positive side even the pigeons are laying low.

I would love to say “Things will get better” but at this moment in time that would be a white lie. However, we can count ourselves lucky that we were not living way back in 1665 when the “Black Plaque” was raging. The Public Domain Review  posted about “mortality” during the black plague and it makes for interesting reading. I know that I certainly would not like to be suffering from some of the things mentioned in those lists.

On one of the pages there is an exhortation devoted “To The Reader” and I advise you to take its wie word eriouly 🙂

I am heading back to work on Monday following my 7 days self isolation. At least I still have a job at this stage, but I do not know how much work there will be as the time passes. In the meantime I am busy making sure that if somebody does not hear from me for a long time that they check to see whether I haven’t suffered an attack of “Riing of the light” or “infant” or a “head mould hot“. 

DRW © 2020 Created 28/03/2020. Bills of Mortality are in the public domain worldwide and free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighbouring rights.  https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/


OTD: The Westdene Bus Disaster

On this day,  27 March 1985 it was supposed to be yet another school day for the pupils of Hoërskool Vorentoe, in fact it was supposed to be a normal day for the whole of South Africa, but the events surrounding the Westdene bus disaster changed all of that in a brief tragedy that will remain with us all forever.   The day was subdued after that, even though that was not true at Westdene Dam where divers were frantically searching for bodies and parents were standing grief stricken, knowing that their son or daughter would not be coming home on that day. 

Westdene Dam. (1500x466)

Westdene Dam. (1500×466)

The actual cause of the disaster was never really pinned down to any singular factor; the driver  never really gave an adequate explanation, there was no mechanical fault with the bus, and the weather conditions were not poor. I seem to recall that he said another car had swerved, or he had blacked out. Faced with the imminent backlash and the trauma that he had gone through too, it was no wonder that no single cause was ever found.  I won’t delve into the disaster because I was not directly involved and do not know the facts, there are others more qualified to do that. It was one of those moments in South African history that has remained in our pysche since 1985.   

Those that died in the disaster are mostly buried in Westpark cemetery in a dedicated plot close to the main gate. It is a tragic place to visit because the sheer sale of the disaster is only experienced when you are faced with seeing all of the graves together. 

In 2011 I spent some time in Westpark photographing all of the graves, sadly they were all desecrated a long time ago and never restored. I spent time hunting down the graves in the general cemetery and they too had been desecrated. Nobody has even been able to explain why this happened, and who was responsible. It was a sad pilgrimage for me, trying to match headstones with names, and seeing those names in the registers made it just a bit harder. The funeral for all of the children was held on the same day, and a sad day it was for so many people.

It took until 2007 for a memorial to be erected to the victims,  and even this has had its fair share of controversy.  

In 2014 I revisited the graves while I was down in South Africa and photographed the small photographs that were on some of the graves, one day I will match faces to names and make my own records of the disaster a little more complete. 

There are two graves that stick out for me, the first is grave number 7, where two sisters are buried together (Reinette and Linda Du Plooy) , and the grave of Caroline Brown who is buried in the general part of the cemetery in a grave that was stripped of its name like so many others.  The vandalism of the graves was not random, it was targeted, somebody went out of their way to hunt down the graves and desecrate them

It is just over 30 years since the disaster, had it not happened some of those children would have been mothers or fathers today, they would have had families of their own, and just possibly their children would have attended that same school that they had attended so many years ago. There are a lot of what if’s associated with the Westdene Bus Disaster, it was all a matter of timing. catching a different bus, or sitting upstairs or downstairs was the difference between life of death.

There were a lot of heroes on 27 March 1985, but sadly there were too many victims. May They Rest in Peace 

Images of the graves are available on eggsa. I sincerely hope that one day they get restored. 

My own page about the memorial may be found at Allatsea

DRW © 2016-2020. Originally created 27/03/2016


What was supposed to be (2)

Continuing where we left off..

When last you saw me I had bedded down for the night and it is now Friday morning. All around me is solitude. The world has come to an end? nope. It is just the coronavirus lockdown. Anyway, I am now continuing with my virtual trip around London that would have happened if a pandemic hadn’t broken out.  Theoretically either on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday I would have managed to get my passport renewed and had some time to kill. Theoretically I would have either gone to the renewal office in Whitehall or had the whole day to spare. 

I did not have hard and fast plans for my 2nd free day, and my trip to Nunhead was really inter-changeable. I did however have another cemetery on my list to visit and it is an interesting one that I picked up on in 2013 and which I always wanted to return to. Between when I was there in 2013 and now the status quo has changed and I would possibly be able to get to see behind the walls of Crossbones Graveyard.   

In 2013 I had wanted to join in an evening vigil that was to take place on the 23rd of March but came down with a chest infection on the day before. I left London at the end of March so my 2nd visit never happened. Between then and now Crossbones has gained a website and it is possible to visit the site on most weekdays between 12 and 2, assuming that there are wardens to open the gates. I do not know what drew me to this site, there was just something strange about it. 

Crossbones was on my list of places to visit on this trip but alas things have gone wobbly yet again.

There were a few other choices open to me if I had free time. I could have visited any of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries in London, or taken in a museum or three, maybe even taken in a show or a gallery? I was considering taking a boat trip down the Thames to the Thames Barrier, but that was based on when trips were available and where they left from. 

“The Thames Barrier is a movable barrier system that is designed to prevent the floodplain of most of Greater London from being flooded by exceptionally high tides and storm surges moving up from the North Sea. It has been operational since 1982. When needed, it is closed (raised) during high tide; at low tide it can be opened to restore the river’s flow towards the sea. Built approximately 3 km (1.9 mi) due east of the Isle of Dogs, its northern bank is in Silvertown in the London Borough of Newham and its southern bank is in the New Charlton area of the Royal Borough of Greenwich.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thames_Barrier) 

The image above is by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0 dated 6 February 2010 and is an 11 segment panoramic view. 

The last time I was on a boat trip on the Thames was way back in 2008 when I was in London on a business trip. I really wanted to do it again one day but never got down to it so maybe this was the opportunity? The images below are from 2008, and as you can see the weather was grey and gloomy.

As for museums, I would not mind paying a visit to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich again. I was not too enthralled by it last time I was there but there are a few things that I would like to relook. 

And being in Greenwich means that I will also be in spitting distance of the Cutty Sark although I would not do a repeat visit to her although would like to get some new images of her. 

Close to the ship is another remnant that I would like to experience:

This is the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel that links the south bank of the river with Millwall (London Borough of Tower Hamlets) on the north.  I have never ventured into the Isle of Dogs/Canary Wharf area before so this is one possible way of doing it. I could have taken the Docklands Light Rail too, but the idea of walking under the Thames is very tempting. 

The modern buildings above are part of the Isle Of Dogs developments and that is yuppie and banker clone territory. Wind back towards the 30’s and 40’s that was dockland, and ships abounded. I would really like to see what is left of the docks although may get turned away as I am not a yuppie. 

Talking about tunnels, I recently discovered another interesting artefact in London that I never really took notice of before. 

This seemingly innocuous building was part of the London Hydraulic Power Company and is the entrance to the long defunct Tower Subway. The other end was situated on Vine Street on the South Bank of the Thames.  The 410 m tunnel circular tunnel was dug through the London clay using a cast iron shield, and a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge railway installed  in the tunnel and from August 1870 a cable-hauled wooden carriage conveyed passengers from one end to the other.  Unfortunately this was uneconomic and the company went bankrupt by the end of the year. The tunnel was then converted to pedestrian use and one million people a year crossed under the river, paying a toll of a halfpenny. In 1897 it was sold to the London Hydraulic Power Company and closed in 1898 following the opening of Tower Bridge. Today the tunnel is used for water mains.

The structure is close to The Tower of London and while searching for the pic I came across my images from December 2014 when I went there to see the “Blood Lands and Seas of Red” installation. It was really unforgettable and when completed would have completely surrounded the Tower of London. 

Just across the road at Trinity Square is another symbolic display of red, although it is not related to either of the World Wars. 

I suspect that I would invariably gravitate towards the Thames as the day wore on, or even better headed to Hyde Park or Kensington Gardens, The latter is close to three of my favourite museums: The London Science Museum, The Victoria and Albert Museum and The Natural History Museum.  I have dealt with all three before and they are amazing places. 

Victoria and Albert Museum entrance

London Science Museum

Natural History Museum

The three are also reasonably close to Paddington Station so I am not too far from the hotel in case I decide to limp home dejectedly after 3 days walking and rubber-necking. Actually Kensington Gardens is quite a nice area to stroll through, you can admire the Albert Memorial

Or have a look at Kensington Palace

Admittedly places like that do not really interest me, although I am sure my brother would love to see inside. I have also seen Buckingham Palace from the outside so I am 2 up on him already. 

Now that I think of it, St James’s Park is not a bad place to spend some time either. Apart from the Palace it is a nice open space to unwind in. I also need to get photographs of the South African Royal Artillery Memorial.  Unfortunately it is very difficult to photograph without having somebody else in the picture.  This image was taken in 2008 and when I was there in 2013 those 2 were still there! 

With a bit of navigation you can exit St James’s Park and head into Green Park where the wonderful Bomber Command Memorial is. I photographed it in 2013 and it was a beautiful Memorial. 

and it is not too far from the Commonwealth Memorial Gates.  I really need to do more photography around the gates though, last time around it was perfunctory work and I missed quite a few things that I needed to see. 

On the right hand back of the image above you can see the really splendid Wellington’s Arch and the area around may be seen on the map below.

For a small fee you can go to the top of the Arch and see all of the War Memorials spread around you. I won’t go into detail of them but most are listed on my War Memorials in London page on a@s. And with a bit more road crossing you can then enter Hyde Park and cut across it to one last place that I would like to take in, although there is no guarantee I will be able to get it right and may have to arrange it first. The Hyde Park’s Pet Cemetery is behind Victoria Gate Lodge, adjoining Bayswater Road (Google Earth  51.511840° -0.172403°). Last time I was here I tried to have a look at it but there were construction works in the area and I could not really get to investigate it properly. This time around who knows? It is not open to the general public, although, a special one-hour viewing can be arranged by contacting The Royal Parks. The cost is £60.00 for up to six people. Unfortunately at that price I may give it a miss. I did manage some pics through the fence in 2017 but they don’t really show anything.

I remember looking for the cemetery in 2013 and not finding it, but then I was looking in the wrong place.  Hyde Park was a pretty stark and friendless place when I was there, so maybe I will take a better look at it if I have the time. 

The Memorial in the bottom right pane is the Cavalry Memorial and I did not really photograph it too well, intending to get back later but I never did so will try remedy that this time around. Hyde Park is a big space and there is a lot to see and a lot of ground to cover. Let us hope I manage to hold out and get back to my hotel for some supper and rest

However, with or without my renewal completed I would have to return to Tewkesbury on Saturday morning. Either via Evesham or Worcester. I think I will probably use the former as I can get some shopping done in Evesham at the same time. After all, I still have to get to work on the Monday. However, I created this virtual trip on the day when I was supposed to be in London. Instead we are all having to deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, and at this moment in time I have no idea when the renewal will play out and I will be able to relook the destinations I have marked in this post. All I can do is hope that we all get through this as soon as possible and that life can return to something resembling normal again.

DRW © 2020. Created 27/03/2020