musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Retrospective

Retrospectively Wading through Weymouth

This is another retrospective blogpost that I should have done way back in 2013, on returning from Weymouth for a job interview. The exif data puts the images at 19 June 2013.

Weymouth is a seaside town in Dorset, and I was hoping to really see what the Brits were like when they were on their summer hols.  I on the other hand was burdened with a tie and my usual interview gear so could not get dirty or sweat stained, and I would have to make sure that I was on time for the interview. I even left my bucket and spade at home!

91500×498) I do like to be beside the seaside…

I also could not dally too long either as I had a train to catch back to Southampton.

The station was close to the beach, but I do recall stopping at a taxi service to get a business card just in case I needed to get a taxi in a hurry.  Because it is a seaside town most of what I saw was centered around the beachfront, although I did make an excursion into the industrial area. Naturally war memorials were priorities to photograph, and any big ships too although Weymouth Harbour is really geared towards the fishing, pleasure craft and tourism industry. 

It was not too crowded either, although that could be because I had arrived while everybody was having breakfast. ​I hoped that the much loved seaside landlady trope had not been perpetuated into our new century and I am sure many of the beachside “boarding houses” had been where so many of the typical seaside holiday stories had been written. 

   

There were three War Memorials of note along this stretch of beachfront. The first was an ANZAC memorial for the First World War, I covered this memorial in allatsea

In the image above you can see the town War Memorial with a poppy field between them.  It commemorated “The Citizens of the Borough who made the Supreme Sacrifice during the Second World War”. It also lists those lost during World War 1.  (allatsea link)

Weymouth, being a port city was also defended by Fort Nothe which is situated at the end of the Nothe Peninsula on at the entrance to the harbour. I would have liked to have had a close look at it but did not have the time to do so.

 

This side of the harbour mouth was the home of one of those strange towers with a rotating doughnut on it, although it was not in operation by the looks of it. There was construction work going on in that area so I could not really see what I wanted to. You can see the tower sticking out in the image below.

King George III was a frequent visitor to the town and he has a statue in it.

The king used to take a dip there because he had been advised to bathe in seawater to help with his Porphyria.  Unlike today one did not just leap into the sea, and the much talked about “bathing machine” was taken out into the water, whereupon the person could have his paddle in private.  Huzzah! they even have a bathing machine on display.

Staying with our beach theme, my experience of going to the seaside as a child was probably very different to that of a child in England, and there were some activities that we did not seem to have in common during my era. The first being the Punch ‘n Judy show:

Although I suspect Mr Punch has been sanitised and made more politically correct, and of course the seaside donkey ride. 

Donkeys at the seaside in Weymouth

It was quite a strange feeling walking along this beachfront because so many odd memories kept on popping up and I had to resist the temptation to roll up me trouser legs, tied a knotted handkerchief around my head and go for a paddle in the sea.  I now headed for the harbour as time was marching and the harbour was a good place to navigate from. A lifting bascule bridge joins the two sides of the harbour and allows access to the inner harbour.

I stopped at the church that you can see on the left and came away with one very poignant image. It is quite odd to think that he really lives on in this church while his “schoolfellows and friends” have all been lost to memory.

Shortly after my harbour visit I headed off to my interview in the industrial area. It was not a long walk, but it was becoming quite a hot day and I longed to dispose of that tie. I did not get the job though, and I suspect I was much too under qualified anyway. On my way back I paused at the local cemetery and church before arriving back in town.  I had time to kill so headed off along the Esplanade. There was a church in the distance that I wanted to have a look at.

(1500×503) A church in the distance…

The esplanade is composed of converted Georgian terraces that serve as flats, shops, hotels and guest houses. Many were built between 1770 and 1855 and they  form a long, continuous arc of buildings which face Weymouth Bay.

This iteration of the Royal Hotel hotel was opened in 1899 and is a Grade II listed building. During World War 2 it was requisitioned for use as the local headquarters of the United States military.

The Memorial in front of the building serves as a reminder of the part Weymouth played in the invasion of Normandie.

 The inscription reads:

IN MEMORY OF AMERICAN SERVICEMEN 1939-1945. 1944-1945. 

THE MAJOR PART OF THE AMERICAN ASSAULT FORCE WHICH

 LANDED ON THE SHORES OF FRANCE 6 JUNE 1944 WAS LAUNCHED

FROM WEYMOUTH AND PORTLAND HARBORS. FROM 6 JUNE 1944 TO 7 MAY 1945, 517,816 TROOPS AND 144,093 VEHICLES EMBARKED 

FROM THE HARBORS. MANY OF THE TROOPS LEFT FROM WEYMOUTH PIER. THE REMAINDER OF THE TROOPS AND ALL THE VEHICLES PASSED THROUGH/ WEYMOUTH EN ROUTE TO PORTLAND POINTS OF EMBARKATION.

PRESENTED BY THE 14TH MAJOR PORT, U.S. ARMY. (Added JUNE 1999:) 

There is also an a reminder of the tragedy that befell man who were being trained for the assault at Lyme Bay:

28 APRIL 1944
LYME BAY
749 DIED DURING D-DAY 
TRAINING EXERCISE ‘TIGER’
WHEN A CONVOY OF LSTS WAS ATTACKED BY E-BOATS
OFF PORTLAND
24 DECEMBER 1944.

The other landmark in this area is the Jubilee Clock Tower, built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 50 years of reign in 1887. 

My destination was in sight, although still quite a walk away. If only I had my bicycle back then. 

I suppose I could have caught “the train”

Or hired a boat

Make no mistake, the sea was flat calm out there, and you would be able to wade out quite far too. In the bay was a sailing ship and I was able to zoom into her and later identified her as the 1971 built  TS Royalist.

and then finally I was approaching St John’s Church.

The church stands out for me as it had what was probably the scariest angel I have ever seen on a church building.

And then it was time to turn around and head for the station. 

The exif data says the image below was taken at 17H39, but that could be when I uploaded them. At any rate, my train is here, its time to go.

My trip to Weymouth would not be complete without random images…

(1500×423)

DRW 2013-2018. Retrospectively created 11/08/2018

Updated: 12/08/2018 — 11:29

Retrospective: The Old Southampton City Walls (1)

Getting back to the city walls.

Cast your mind back to 1450 for a moment, and imagine that you were approaching Southampton by pigeon or seagull or UFO, and this is what you would be looking at (more or less). Use this image as a reference when trying to understand this post. 

Surprisingly a lot of the old walls still survive in the city, although it is a hit and miss thing because age, progress, bombers, politicians and n’er-do-wells have all left their marks on the remains. In some places there are ruins that are identified as being a specific feature of the walls and in this post I am going to try to make some sort of coherent exploration of the the town walls. A lot of of time has passed since I was last in Southampton so I do not really remember too much. However, the map below may be of use to somebody interested in them.  I have had to split this post into two separate pages as it has grown quite a lot since I started trying to create a coherent record of what I saw. This page deals with the western half from the Bargate to the High Street

Key to image above:

1 – Bargate, 2 – John Le Fleming, 3 – Arundel Tower, 4 – Catchcold Tower, 5 – Castle East Gate, 6 – Medieval Boat Building,  7 – Westgate, 8 – Pilgrim Fathers and Stella Memorial, 9 – Yacht Club, 10 – The Wool House, 11 – Watergate, 12 – God’s House Tower 13 – Round Tower, 14 – Friary Gate, 15 – Polymond Tower, 16 – York Gate,  

The most obvious remnant of the walls is the Bargate. 

The Bargate (North side)

The Bargate sits plumb in the middle of High Street that originates (or terminates) at the shoreline, and at one point the road ran through the main gateway and it is quite odd to see images of a bus poking its nose out of there. Eventually the roads were diverted to either side of it but that meant that portions of the city walls were removed. Nowadays the area around it is pedestrianised but there were not too many viable businesses left in the shops around it.  

The other side of the Bargate (South side)

“During the 12th century the northern entrance to the medieval town was a single round archway. In the 13th century two round towers were added and early in the 15th century the North Front was extended. The Guildhall was formerly the town’s administrative centre and used for public functions and for performances by companies of strolling players” (text from a plaque on the Bargate). 

The building has seen use as a prison, Guildhall, police station, museum, storeroom and probably other things that I do not know about. Unfortunately when I was in Southampton no part of it was accessible, which was really quite disappointing. 

1- Bargate, 2 – John Le Fleming, 3 – Arundel Tower

Looking at the map above, to the left of the Bargate is a feature of one of the walls that I covered in a previous blogpost called “Someone is watching you”

That someone is John Le Fleming, former Mayor of Southampton from 1295 till 1336, and I suspect he may be looking with distaste at the consumerism that happens at the nearby West Quay. The Bargate is in line with this set of walls and and you can see one of the lions outside it just behind the lamp post. If you turned around and walked away from John Le Fleming you will cross a bridge and this is the view you get after the bridge and you can see the Bargate in the distance.

Arundel Tower

The next major structure in the chain of wall is called “Arundel Tower”

Arundel Tower and old city walls heading south (1500 x 646)

“Arundel Tower may be named after the magical horse of Sir Bevois, one of the founders of Southampton. Legend has it that Arundel was so fast he could outfly swallows. When Sir Bevois died the horse flung himself from the tower in sorrow. 

Sir John Arundel, a knight and keeper of Southampton in 1377, could also be the Tower’s namesake.

In 1400 you could have looked out from the tower and heard the lapping of the water below. The Tower’s open back design prevented attackers from laying siege, while the wall, running south along the shore of the River Test, protected the town from sea raids” 

Arundel Tower and Orchard Street)

The above text and image comes from an information board at the tower.

In the image below, the tower is on the left and it matches up reasonably well with the painting above, although at the time I took this the area was a car park.  Apparently the round tower to the right of Arundel and in front of the office building was called Catchcold Tower. It is always possible the men standing guard there coined the phrase because of their exposed position.

Catchcold Tower

The view from Catchcold Tower looking South is very different now to what it must have been so long ago. The high building in the image may be the one mentioned in the information plaque for the Castle East Gate as standing on the site of the former Southampton Castle.

The Castle East Gate

It provided access into the town from the Castle’s Inner Bailey and while no longer connected to the wall it is surviving portion of the original Southampton Castle.

Unfortunately I did not photograph the information plaque, but the transcription reads:

“The remains of the drum towers flanking the principle gateway to Southampton’s Medieval Castle were discovered through archaeological excavations in 1961. the castle itself formerly stood on the site now occupied by a 20th century block of 12 storey flats. the twin drum towers, now partially restored, were added to the defensive bailey wall of the Royal Caste during the late 14th century and were originally over 20 ft high.”

Blue Anchor Lane

One of the gaps in the walls is at Blue Anchor Lane. “It was used to take imported goods from the Quayside into the medieval town and the Market at St Michael’s Square. The stone arch forms part of the town walls. The Portcullis slot is still visible. In the 1330’s Blue Anchor Lane was known as Wytegods Lane after John Wytegod, the owner of the property now known as King John’s Palace which stands to the south..” (Information board transcription)

The Arcades,  West Gate and West Quay

I did not take many photographs of these, which is a pity because I believe they are quite rare. The arcades closed  off access to West Quay other than through the newly built Westgate. I will be honest though, I do not really understand how this area comes together because it has an inside and an outside aspect to it. The original West Quay jutted out into the water near here. 

The image below is the back of the Westgate (town side). On the image above this gate would be on the right hand side of the white building (“The Pig”)

The information plaque on the outside wall reads:

“This important west gate led directly to the West Quay which for many centuries was the only commercial quay that the town possessed. The grooves of the portcullis gate and the apertures through which the defenders of the town could harass attackers may still be seen. Through the archway marched some of the army of Henry V on their way to Agincourt in 1416.

The Pilgrim Fathers embarked here from the West Quay on the Mayflower August 15th 1620.”

On the inside wall there is a somewhat mysterious plaque that really needs some research on.

Medieval boat building

If you followed this wall southwards along the Western Esplanade you will come across an area set up to display the long lost art of Medieval boat building, and the information plate credited the display as being funded by the Southampton International Boatshow. Personally I liked the display, but sadly it was being vandalised by the time I left the city at the end of 2013. I only photographed it twice when I was there, which with hindsight is a pity. 

There was a general information board that covers various aspects of ship (or boat) building the old fashioned way, and I am reproducing it here, unfortunately it will not really be legible as it is a large board on a small screen.

The arched area that you can see in the image above is called “The Arcades” but I did not photograph it. The White building is “The Pig” and the Westgate is the arched doorway next to it (closest to the camera) 

The boat above is a replica medieval cargo vessel and it would have been used in the 14th century to export wool and import wine and other goods.  This boat suffered the most vandalism as some bright spark made a fire inside it (or possibly tried to set fire to it). That is why people can’t have good stuff! 

You really have to view these items as part of a much bigger picture of Southampton so many years ago as opposed to the glitzy West Quay development nearby. As I mentioned before the city was walled and very different then to what it is now.  The current Western Docks required the reclamation of 400 acres of mudflats between Western Esplanade and Millbrook shore. It was the largest reclamation scheme ever undertaken in the country at that time and the work started in 1928 and was completed by 1934. Way back in the 14 century the shoreline was in a totally different place, even lapping at the quays that may have existed in front of these self same walls. 

Western Docks (1500×402)

Further down from the boat building and just before the Stella and Pilgrim Fathers Memorial are another short series of arcades.

The image below was taken from the battlements of this structure and you can see the Pilgrim Fathers Memorial behind the tree.

The arcades are really the last stretch of high walls on this western side of the city, from here onwards the wall is quite low and interrupted by the very beautiful former Yacht Club building that was standing empty during my time in the city.

While the building next door to it was the site of the former Maritime Museum before that moved to the Civic Centre Complex (and became a Titanic Museum and not a Maritime Museum). The building is actually called “The Wool House”

These two properties are prime real estate because they face onto the waterfront (actually the Red Funnel Ferry Terminal) and the length of street in front of them is a very busy one. Just after the old museum there is a grassed open area and the walls do not exist as a contiguous structure. The area around Porter Lane has ruins as opposed to walls. 

The only real part of the wall that exists in this area is known as “The Round Tower” and it is indicated by the red arrow below. This area is the southern entrance to the city and is also known as the South Gate.

 

From behind and in front.

There is also a Jane Austen plaque affixed to the stonework.  Like so many places Southampton, tries to grasp at straws from her life, and frankly I do not really see the connection too much. I will however allow you to make your own decision. As I have said before, the city I was seeing was very different to the one that was around in 1912 when the Titanic sank, or during the Victorian era and the Middle Ages. 

The Watergate (not related to Richard Nixon) was in this area. Although logically the land has been extended outwards from this point because the current Town Quay is no longer butting onto the edge of the city. As far as I can see the period quays were really where the Town Quay Road is today. 

Customs House and Town Quay

This area also has one of the main roads (High Street) into the city and the bus from Town Quay travels up this road to get to the station. If you follow the road on foot you will end up walking into the back of the Bargate.

Town Quay from High Street

That concludes the walls on the western side of the city, we will cross High Street on the next page. Use the arrow to turn the page. 

forwardbut

Acknowledgements.

There are probably much better sites out there that can give a more coherent picture of the walls, and one of these is CastlesFortsBattles.co.uk that has a whole page dedicated to the ancient fortifications of the city.

Wikipedia has a few pages dedicated to various parts of the wall, the Town Walls Page is a good place to start

Don’t panic! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Earth Edition has a good write up on the walls  too

Sotonopedia has a searchable index that is quite helpful too

There is a very nice PDF available for download at at discoversouthampton.co.uk

The Southampton City Council also has an 1870 Ordnance Survey Map of the city available

Much of the information here is from the numerous information boards and plaques provided by the Southampton City Counceil that relate to specific places in the walls, and they are a mine of information as well as useful images. I do not know who did the original artwork that I have used and would love to credit them accordingly. 

DRW ©2013-2018. Created retrospectively 11-16/05/2018

Updated: 13/08/2018 — 12:51

Retrospective: The Old Southampton City Walls (2)

Continuing where we left off. 

I have attached the map from page 1 into this post too because it is relevant to the information below.

Key to image above:

1 – Bargate, 2 – John Le Fleming, 3 – Arundel Tower, 4 – Catchcold Tower, 5 – Castle East Gate, 6 – Medieval Boat Building,  7 – Westgate, 8 – Pilgrim Fathers and Stella Memorial, 9 – Yacht Club, 10 – The Wool House, 11 – Watergate, 12 – God’s House Tower 13 – Round Tower, 14 – Friary Gate, 15 – Polymond Tower, 16 – York Gate,  

Across High Street.

If you manage to get across High Street without being flattened by a car/bus there is not all that much to see until you get to the corner of the block, in fact there is very little left of the walls from here onwards, although there are a number of interesting structures that may or may not be connected to the original city walls.  (Don’t you love the name “Winkle Street”?)

God’s House Tower

This building is probably not part of the original fortifications judging by the stonework, but it is not a recent addition either. There are 2 plaques affixed to this building. The first identifies the building as “God’s House Tower“, and an inevitable Jane Austen reference is added in just for information. I believe that part of the building used to be the Museum of Archaeology but it had closed in 2011.

The area behind the archway looks like this

And this area is quite interesting too is it contain the only other remaining substantial part of the original hospital, the Church of St. Julien,  I was really curious about this building but never pursued it. From what I heard it was very difficult to get a visit to. 

and of course just outside the gate is the Old Bowling Green, the oldest bowling green in the world which dates back to at least 1299 and of course Queen’s Park with the General Gordon Memorial

The map below really shows the context of this area quite well. 

John Speed’s map of Southampton 1611

In it you can see the spur that is Town Quay at the bottom and the West Quay jutting out on the right and God’s House Tower with the green line heading upwards which where the Town Ditch is/was. The shoreline at that point was where the street is now, and if you know Southampton you will understand how much land reclamation has happened over the years. 

Round Tower and Friary Gate

The town ditch area looks like this now (as at 2013). The small gated area in the distance to the right  is called the Round Tower and is explained in the plaque and image below it.

From here on upwards it is difficult to find a part of the wall that has some sort of identifiable feature left, probably because not much has survived over the years. The city outgrew its walls and once the land reclamation happened the walls became a feature instead of an integral part of the ebb and flow of the city. The walls occupied space and that space could be used for revenue earning things instead. 

This gateway is known as the Friary Gate, named after the Franciscan Friars that settled in Southampton around 1224 and occupied the south-east quadrant of the town. In 1373 the town wall cut off their access to Newton and they successfully lobbied for Friary Gate to be added. Permission was granted as long as they defended it themselves. Once the city started to grow eastwards the gate became moot anyway. The Friary was closed by Henry VIII in 1538, during the Dissolution

The Friary (John Hodgson 1986)

Yuppie pads now look out over the remnants of the eastern walls, although these have been incorporated into the area. In 200 years time the walls may still be here but the yuppie pads would have probably fallen down or been overtaken by bigger and more expensive yuppie pads or hovercar parking, or maybe a space port?

The Eastgate

There are no remnants of the East gate that probably stood at the end of East Street and to the east of Back-of-the-Walls. The Eastgate was one of the earliest gates in the medieval town (along with the Bargate), and was built around 1110 and demolished in 1774. It was originally just a free-standing tower with a gateway through it and ramparts on either side. 

York Gate and Polymond Tower

Apart from a very short stretch of wall near East Street the next major section of the wall is up by York Walk. Polymond Tower is the hooked piece on the right of the image below.

I do not really remember this area very well, in fact it is really just a section of wall and not much else.

  

The yellow car is parked by what is known as the Polymond Tower, and by some strange miracle I have a photograph of the information plate.

In the image above there is an opening to the right of the wall, and if you walked through that opening you would be passing through what was once known as York Gate, although it is now just a gap in the wall leading into the Bargate Shopping Centre entrance.

The Bargate Shopping Centre was closed when I was in Southampton, but one of the entrances led out into the pedestrian area surrounding the Bargate. 

That more or less concludes my retrospective of the walls surrounding Southampton. Surprisingly I managed to get images of a lot of it, but they are somewhat disjointed because of the often haphazard way I discovered things. I am NOT an expert on them and it is probable that my understanding of them is not always correct. I may relook this post at some point and change it all; it has taken long enough to actually complete as it is!

Acknowledgements.

There are probably much better sites out there that can give a more coherent picture of the walls, and one of these is CastlesFortsBattles.co.uk that has a whole page dedicated to the ancient fortifications of the city.

Wikipedia has a few pages dedicated to various parts of the wall, the Town Walls Page is a good place to start

Don’t panic! The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Earth Edition has a good write up on the walls  too

Sotonopedia has a searchable index that is quite helpful too

There is a very nice PDF available for download at at discoversouthampton.co.uk

The Southampton City Council also has an 1870 Ordnance Survey Map of the city available

Much of the information here is from the numerous information boards and plaques provided by the Southampton City Counceil that relate to specific places in the walls, and they are a mine of information as well as useful images. I do not know who did the original artwork that I have used and would love to credit them accordingly. 

DRW ©2013-2018. Created retrospectively 11-16/05/2018

Updated: 13/08/2018 — 12:54

Retrospective: The Pilgrim Fathers Memorial

There is one memorial in Southampton that I never really investigated (actually there are two, so I am including it here too), and this memorial will explain why there is a Mayflower Cruise Terminal. To know the context of the memorial we have to go way back to the Mayflower and the Pilgrim Fathers, and her voyage across the Atlantic way back in 1620. 

The ship by the standards of today was a small one, probably about 100 foot long with a 25 ft beam, and she had a crew of about 30. Why the uncertainty? because the measurement standards back then were different to what they are now, and of course there does not appear to be a set of blueprints to check with. We could also put it like this: Shieldhall is 81.69 m (268 ft) with a beam of 13.56 m (44 ft 6 in), she makes the Mayflower look small in comparison. 

The story of the Mayflower and her companion “Speedwell” is not for me to tell, there are places that can give a much better description than I can.  But once they sailed from Southampton they were effectively out of sight; until such times as somebody brought back word of their success in crossing the Atlantic or not. Speedwell did not live up to her name though, as she had to turn back because of persistent leaks.  The voyage took just over a month and it must have been a very crowded ship. As we know today the voyage was a success and Mayflower sailed home after delivering her passengers. She was probably broken up 4 years later, although even that is uncertain. Unlike so many of those sailing ships from back then, the Mayflower sailed into history, even though we know very little about her. We probably know more about those that made that long journey to a new world, and their epic voyage and history is what this memorial is about.

I managed to photograph two plaques and an inscription on the memorial:

There are other inscriptions on the memorial but I did not photograph those as far as I can tell from my images. The tip of the memorial is capped with a nice sailing ship representation, but I never considered photographing it from close up because there was nowhere around that would have given me the height to get a close up of her. 

The memorial from the old city walls nearby

The Google Earth co-ordinates for the memorial are:  50.897951°  -1.406901°.

———————————————————

Memorial number two is one I want to include even though I do not have decent images of it. The story is quite a complicated one and needs to be read in the context of its time. The memorial is known as the Stella Memorial (previously known as The Rogers Memorial and before that The Stella Stewardess Memorial Fountain) and is located on the Western Esplanade in Southampton, and is in close proximity to the Pilgrim Father’s Memorial. 

To my dismay I only have one photograph of the memorial, and it is a poor one. Judging by the filename I took this image when the Rotterdam was in port

I did photograph the plaque though.  It reads: 

“In memory of the heroic death of Mary Ann [e] Rogers Stewardess of the “Stella” who on the night of the 30th March, 1899, amid the terror of shipwreck aided all the women under her charge to quit the vessel in safety giving up her own life-belt to one who was unprotected. Urged by the sailors to makes sure her escape she refused lest she might endanger the heavily-laden boat. Cheering the departing crew with the friendly cry of “Good-bye, good-bye.” She was seen a few moments later as the “Stella” went down lifting her arms upwards with the prayer “Lord have me” then sank in the waters with the sinking ship.

Actions such as these – revealing steadfast performance of duty in the face of death, ready self-sacrifice for the sake of others, reliance on God – constitute the glorious heritage of our English race. They deserve perpetual commemoration, because among the trivial pleasures and sordid strike of the world, they recall to us forever the nobility and love-worthiness of human nature.”

The memorial was unveiled on Southampton’s Western Esplanade by Lady Emma Crichton (daughter of the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire) during the morning of Saturday 27th July, 1901. Mary’s sister, son and son-in-law were also present. 

By her bravery Mary Anne Rogers earned herself a place at the GF Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice. in London. I visited there in 2013 and it was a very interesting place too and is really worthy of being restarted. 

The sinking of the Stella was the subject of a Board of Trade enquiry on 27th April, 1899 and concluded  “…. the SS Stella was not navigated with proper and seamanlike care.” While the wreck was discovered in June 1973, by two Channel Islands divers. It lies in 49 metres (161 ft) of water south of the Casquets which lie 13 km northwest of the island of Alderney. The tragedy is sometimes referred to as ‘The Titanic of The Channel Islands

Mary Anne Rogers went down with the ship, and as such became yet another statistic in the toll of the sea. Nobody dreamt that in 1912 an even larger catastrophe would affect Southampton, and it would relegate the bravery of this stewardess to the back pages of his history. Fortunately her story has not been forgotten and there is a very good resource that tells the story so much better than I do, If ever I return to Southampton both of these places are on the list to revisit. 

DRW © 2013-2018, Created 05/05/2018

Updated: 23/05/2018 — 12:19

Retrospective: Northwards to Northam

As a follow up to my last retrospective post about Woolston and Weston I have decided to do the equivalent post about the other side of the Itchen bridge towards Northham, St Denys, Swanwick and Bitterne. Bear in mind that this all happened nearly 5 years ago so my memory may be wobbly when it comes to detail. To give you some idea of what I am waffling about; this is what it looks like north of the Itchen Bridge. I did a post about Northam Train Depot way back in 2013 and it is worth having a squizz there too. The pano below shows the view north of the bridge with the Griffon Hoverworks operating by the big structure on the right. (image is 1500×443)

If my memory serves me correctly whenever I did the major excursion in this direction I used the Northam Bridge by St Mary’s Stadium (on the left bank of the river). There are really 4 bridges involved in this area of the river: firstly there is the Itchen Bridge, then the Northam Road Bridge, then a railway trestle bridge and finally Cobden Bridge.  

Northam Road Bridge

Railway trestle bridge

The Cobden Bridge crosses the Itchen and joins the suburbs of St Denys and Bitterne Park. The present bridge dating from 1928, but there has been a bridge on this site since 1883.

Cobden Bridge

On the Bitterne side of the bridge is a triangle and that is where the you will find a monument in the image below that was designed by Kelway-Pope and bequeathed to Southampton by the late, Mrs Henrietta Bellenden Sayers, “In evidence of her care for both man and beast”. After 45 years in its original location in Above Bar it was then moved to its present site in 1934 when roadworks were being carried out in the city centre.  There are two plaques on the clock, as well as a small drinking fountain. The first plaque dates from when it was inaugurated way back in December 1889

Before the Itchen Bridge was built the vehicular and pedestrian traffic across the river was via the Woolston Floating Bridge, it operated from  23 November 1836 until 11 June 1977 but sadly that is now history, and although there is still a chain drawn ferry in Cowes I have still not been on one!

Moving even further back in time there used to be a village at this historic crossing point since before the middle ages, and with it being an important area because of the aircraft industry, it became a prime target for the Luftwaffe during the war and the area was heavily bombed. The end result was that the village was totally devastated and  never restored.   

(1500×869) looking south towards the Itchen Bridge

My one excursion into this area was to photograph South Stoneham Cemetery and I think I caught a train to St Denys as it was close to the cemetery.  The cemetery is very close to Southampton Airport and I had a strange encounter while I was there. One of the graves I was looking for was that of RJ Mitchell, the designer of the Spitfire, I was standing at his grave when I heard an aircraft, it was unlike anything I had heard before and I looked up and flying overhead was a Fairey Swordfish of World War 2 fame. It was  a poignant thing to see while standing in front of the grave of the designer of such a successful aircraft. 

South Stoneham Cemetery also has a memorial commemorating those who were killed at the Cunliffe-Owen aircraft factory on 11 September 1940. 52 people were killed and 92 were injured in this incident. 

When war broke out the factory was used  to produce parts for the Spitfire and as such became a target for the Luftwaffe. Unfortunately the reflections from the glass really makes the Roll of Honour almost impossible to take decent photographs of.  

The cemetery has 66 CWGC identified casualties buried in it from both wars, as well as 79 casualties identified on a screen wall from the former Southampton Crematorium.

And, on a roundabout close to Southampton Airport is a large Spitfire replica on display. 

Southampton is Spitfire territory and I have documented a few of the Spitfire related references in the city. 

Heading back from South Stoneham I could walk along the cycle path that runs next to the railway line heading towards Southampton. The trains to Portsmouth and onwards trace a circuitous route to cross the river at the railway trestle bridge and then head back the way they came but on the opposite side of the river. The next station being Woolston. 

The one discovery I made in my walk was an area that was designated as Chessel Bay Local Nature Reserve, I suspect you would call it a tidal mudflat but I am no real expert. 

(1500×589)

Unfortunately there was not much to see apart from mud and slime and the opposite bank of the Itchen in the distance, although that in itself had some interesting things afloat (or on the hard). 

The other discovery I made was a series of derelict boats on the mud right up against a housing complex next to where the Itchen Bridge meets land. (50.916270°  -1.383975°)  The biggest wooden boat must be quite old, and I was fascinated by her. If only there was a way to find out her history. 

There were quite a few derelict boats visible, and I have to admit I am puzzled why they have seemingly been abandoned, some appear to be in a reasonable condition too, they even have running water in them. The other odd thing I saw on my walks was bicycles that appear to have been dumped into the river. Why? Don’t ask me, but one possibility is that they had been stolen elsewhere and then dumped. Personally I think it is part of the national psyche to throw bicycles, prams, shopping trolleys and traffic cones into bodies of water. In the case below I can imagine a little girl hurling her bike into the water because it was not pink enough!

There are numerous boatyards on either bank of the Itchen and the river is very popular with leisure boaters and moorings extend for quite a distance.  Not everything was abandoned though as I did see a number of boats that appeared to be inhabited, or in regular service. This beauty is called Cymyran Bay  and she is an “Extreme Semi Swath (XSS) Offshore Support Vessel.”

One vessel that caught my eye was this small coaster that probably hasn’t been anywhere in years.

The boatyards on the river were fascinating places but they are also private property so I could not explore them properly, but could only admire them from a distance.

The Northam bridge is not the only bridge on that particular road. There is a nice railway bridge close to the train depot that affords a nice view of trains passing down the line towards to wherever they go, 

This trestle bridge has a makers plate on it from 1908, and was made by “Braithwaite & Kirk, West Bromwich”. In the years when boat trains used to run there is a good chance that this line connected to the pierside platforms. Trains also stop here when St Mary’s Stadium is in use and there is a dedicated line especially for them. 

 

My visit to this area would have been incomplete if I did not include Jesus Chapel in Pear Tree Lane.  It has the unique distinction of being the first new church to be built in England after the English Reformation, and is the oldest Anglican church anywhere in the world. 

It just goes to show how much history is all around if you really go looking for it, or bump into it by accident.  That pretty much covers a lot of my excursions north of the Itchen Bridge. I spent many a hot day up there looking for graves and of course admiring the view. The shipyards and aircraft industries on the Itchen are now history, yuppie pads have taken their place, and what were once working class areas are now the property of the rich, with access to the river rapidly closing as more and more complexes get erected. As I have said before: Southampton has changed; the war bringing about enough disruption that the character of the city was lost, and successive politicians have wreaked havoc on its ancient fibre. Its maritime heritage revolves around a ship that sank on its maiden voyage, and floating blocks of flats have replaced the ships of commerce and migration. It is still a fascinating place to visit though, and if I was able I would quite happily live there, because I consider Southampton to be my home town. 

DRW © 2013-2018 Retrospectively created 02/05/2018

Updated: 23/05/2018 — 12:19

Retrospective: Woolston and Weston

This is yet another of my retrospective posts about my time in Southampton. and it really encompasses the area I lump together as Woolston/Weston/Southampton Water and of course the River Itchen. I grew up in a landlocked city so never really had the opportunity watch the tide come in; Southampton has an unusual phenomenon known as “Double High Water” and frankly I am not qualified to explain how this works because there are so many factors that come into play. If you are really interested please go read up at the Associated British Ports website where it is explained in detail. The important thing to know is that it results in unusually prolonged periods of high water which makes things easier for large ships (of which there are quite a lot) calling in Southampton.

My exif data has 4 separate dates for the images I took in this area, so I am really going to lump them together as one.  To understand where the images occur you really need to see the River Itchen from the bridge. The area I am dealing with is on the left of the image just past the pier that juts out from the land.  Southampton is to the right of the image. 

The ship underway is the Arco Dee, and I did a whole series of images about her transiting the Itchen Bridge en route to Southampton Water.  Our story really starts at Woolston Station, which is below.

Actually I cheated by crossing the bridge and not using the train.

The line extends all the way to Fareham and onwards to Portsmouth.  I then took Victoria Street to get to my destination. Woolston is really a village and is rich in maritime and aviation history, but unfortunately the Vosper Thornycroft yards closed in  2004 and when I was in the area the site of the yards was being redeveloped. ​

 

The Woolston Millennium Garden  was completed in 2002. Its focal point is a 10-metre tall metal and recycled glass feather intended to signify Woolston’s history of flight and sail. The garden is divided into three areas, signifying the earth, the sky and the sea. Many of the crew of the Titanic came from Woolston and there are bricks in the pathway through the garden that are inscribed with their names. Unfortunately I did not realise that the bricks did have those names otherwise I would have photographed them too. Many of those who died on the Titanic are remembered on graves in Southampton Old Cemetery.

The church I associate with Woolston/Weston is the Holy Trinity Church. there is one Second World War casualty buried in it’s churchyard. There is also the grave of Ada Maria and Charles Valentine Clarke,  2nd Class Passengers on board the Titanic. Ada survived while Charles was lost.  
 

   
   
   

Eventually you will come to a sewerage plant. You will probably smell it first though. Carry on a bit further and  you will run out of land unless you start following the road to the left. It was here that I spent some time observing the tide and exploring the area. This is also the route I took to reach Royal Victoria Country Park in August 2013

The Domesday Book has the following to say about Woolston:

  • HundredMansbridge
  • CountyHampshire
  • Total population: 6 households (quite small).
  • Total tax assessed: 1 exemption units (very small).
  • Taxable units: Taxable value 1 exemption units. Taxed on 0.12.
  • Value: Value to lord in 1066 £0.5. Value to lord in 1086 £0.3.
  • Households: 3 villagers. 3 smallholders.
  • Ploughland: 1 men’s plough teams.
  • Lord in 1066Tovi.
  • Overlord in 1066King Edward.
  • Lord in 1086Reginald (Cnut).
  • Tenant-in-chief in 1086Reginald (Cnut).
  • Phillimore reference: 59,1

It was a hot day, the sun was strong and the sky blue, that water looked very inviting. Fortunately I am not one of those who dash into the water flinging clothing aside and then doing a swan dive into it. 

The ship at Ocean Terminal was Queen Mary 2, and this image I took on a different occasion. (1500×443)

That is the Itchen Bridge in the distance.  I found the water fascinating, and the yellow boat was on the slipway when I arrived and was afloat and heading out to sea when I left. I wonder where it eventually ended up?

The movement of the water really transforms the shingle beach, it creates a whole new submerged environment that is inhabited by numerous critters that depend on the tide and the ecosystem around it. Dogs however are not included in that equation, like me they are casual visitors.

And of course the comings and goings of cruise ships do not affect the dogs but they do sometimes cause people to shade their eyes and stare, wishing that they were on board and looking at the shore. This is Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth in Southampton Water (1500×707). 

If you continued to walk and follow the road through to Weston you would see the buildings that comprise a housing estate. These buildings sufferer some of the problems that are associated with this type of housing, but Hampton TowersHavre TowersOslo TowersCopenhagen TowersRotterdam Towers and Canberra Towers are a very distinctive landmarks when viewed from Southampton Water. Just imagine what the view must be like from there…. The recent fire in a tower block in London has thrown the spotlight on fire safety in buildings like this, and I suspect a lot of rethinks will be required to sort out any potential issues in these buildings.  

The final oddity I wanted to add in here is called “Fox’s Monument” and it may be found in Mayberry Park.

This memorial is a tall unadorned obelisk on a square base commemorating Whig politician Charles James Fox. It was erected in 1810 in the grounds of Mayfield House by his admirer and friend William Chamberlayne of Weston Grove. Charles Fox’s name does not appear on the memorial but there is an inscription that reads: “The Earth is the Lord’s, and the Fullness Thereof“. 

That concludes this disjointed diatribe, it did not quite turn out the way I would have liked, but I hope it does leave some sort of impression on what the opposite bank of the Itchen River looks like. I am hoping to do a similar sort of post about Northam, but not today. Bits and pieces will be added to as and when I get the urge. 

DRW © 2013-2018. (Domesday image and data available under the CC-BY-SA licence, with credit to Professor John Palmer and George Slater, (Opendomesday.org)

Updated: 13/04/2018 — 08:38

This time last year

This time last year I was in the air somewhere over Africa (I think) heading South towards Johannesburg.

Approaching ORT, with Johannesburg in the distance (1500×964)

It was a trip that I had to organise at very short notice and was one I did not really want to do unless I really had to. The reason behind it was the ever declining health of my mother who lived on her own in the South of Johannesburg. When I finally saw her early the next day I was shocked, it was hard to believe it was the same person I had known for all my life (my father passed away in 1981).   

There were a few problems that needed dealing with, and we were fortunate that things happened when they did or we would have been in an extremely difficult position.  The decision was made that we needed to get her into frail care. She was not coping well and a recent fall had really robbed her of self confidence and raised the alarm bells. The complex where she lived had no facilities for frail care, or even a resident nurse or caretaker. Too many occupants died unnoticed in the past and it was a situation we wanted to avoid at all costs. 

I won’t waffle on much in this post, I just wanted to say that a year down the line she is doing better than she was this time in 2017. I wont say she is healthy as a 70 year old, but at least she is in a better place physically than she was in March 2017. 

She moved out of her flat in May 2017, and that must have been a horrible experience for her. Leaving your life behind to embark on what may be your final days is not something to be taken lightly, and I do understand her reticence about going into frail care. Naturally the question is: did we do the right thing? whether it was right or not is irrelevant,  what is important is that it was the only option we had and it was better for her in the long run. 

Only time has the answer to our situation. Fortunately I am in a better position visa wise, but there it is inevitable that at some point will have to make another trip down south. There is very little I can do about it and just next year this time I will be doing a two years down the line post, let’s wait and see.

DRW © 2018. Created 20/03/2018 

Updated: 13/04/2018 — 08:38

Counting down the days

Having left South Africa we are almost at our destination… sort of.

En route to London

My post for 02/03/2013 has the following to say:

“It was time to put my new visa to the test, and surprisingly enough passing through immigration was easy. Now I had to find my way to Kennington in South London which was where I was staying until 8 Feb. There were 3 options: Heathrow Express, Tube, or Coach. I suspect I am sucker for a train so chose the Tube. I had to change trains at 3 different places but surprisingly that in itself was a breeze.  I do remember sitting on that tube from Heathrow with my luggage and heavy eyes from the lack of sleep; with people all around tied up in their own world of cell phones, headsets or books. They were on their way to work, I was on my way to a new life.” 

I have never forgotten that tube ride, it was my first time riding the tube too, but I think at that point I was feeling very uncertain of what I was doing. Fortunately finding your way on the tube is reasonably simple, assuming you know how to read a tube map  you can get almost anywhere in London. The only tube line that runs to Heathrow is the Piccadilly Line, and I rode it to Leicester Square where I changed to the Northern Line and bailed out at Kennington, and then did a short hop to Oval Station for some or other odd reason.

When I exited Oval Station I was very disorientated and I had been hoping to find a taxi to take me to my destination, but contrary to my expectations there were no taxis at Oval. I re-orientated myself, grabbed my suitcase by the hand and headed down the road. My suitcase was not one of the wheelie bags, it was a suitcase with a set of wheels on one corner and a handle on the other. It rolled easily enough assuming that the pavement was level. By the time I got to where I would be staying I was exhausted. But I had arrived. 

Camberwell New Road

The owner of the flat had cooked me breakfast although she was not at home at the time and a friend of hers showed me the ins and outs of where the loo was and how the shower worked and all that sort of stuff. I seem to recall I only met the owner the next morning. While I had not really crossed too many time zones I was still tired after being on the go from the afternoon of the 28th up till the afternoon of the 1st. I did not have a sim card for my phone yet and that was something I needed to do and I seem to recall that afternoon heading down to Camberwell after having a shower to buy myself a watch and a sim for my phone. The shenanigans of my watch having finally cheesed me off enough! Strangely enough I still wear that replacement Timex that I bought at Argos for $19.99.  

I spotted a cellphone shop somewhere and did some enquires about airtime packages. The person on the other side of the counter was a South African and she recommended I rather go try a place up the road because the people she worked for were overpriced. It was quite an odd encounter but I did appreciate her honesty so ended up going elsewhere and was connected probably an hour later. That cell phone package would come back and bite me in the rear end as we got to the end of the month, and my time in London. 

Brixton

Opening a bank account was easy as it had been pre-arranged, all I had to do was sign on the dotted line and bob was my uncle! However, the banking worked slightly differently to how we do things in South Africa and it took me a long time to get used to it. It too would bite me in the rear end when I left London in March. 

St Mark’s Church, Kennington

My immediate need for accommodation was solved when my landlady (another South African), let me stay for another month while I sorted myself out. She was very helpful and weaned me off the tube and showed me how to use buses! I had not travelled on one of those in years either and the bus service is London is amazingly efficient although it can be very crowded at peak times. Do not expect to see any smiles either because nobody seemed to smile on the buses. If only they had experienced the poor public transport back in SA they would have jumped for joy at what they had in this incredible city. 

I will admit I did a lot of the touristy things in that month, but it was very clear that there were a few snag in my job search. For starters I had to get my qualifications assessed and that would take at least 3 weeks. I was a tad too old to work in the customer service industry and I was really struggling with my hearing. There was a lot of competition for some of the jobs and I was at somewhat of a disadvantage. I was however prepared to relocate, although did not find any jobs outside of London at the time. The usual lack of feedback or responses by agencies also happened in the UK, and of course I also sat with that almost 2 year gap in my CV after my retrenchment. I did know one thing though, I had to get out of London and Southampton was really my city of choice. With hindsight it was a bad choice, if anything I should have headed to Reading or Basingstoke, but purposely avoided the latter  because it supposedly had a lot of South Africans in it. I wanted to avoid those if I could. It is not that I dislike my countrymen, its just that I tend to see things differently to how many of them see it.   

Kennington Park

My time in London spanned from 01 March till I left on 7 April. I saw a lot of things in that month and literally walked myself into exhaustion. The one issue that had plagued me in London was what I suspect may have been shin splints, although it may have been as a result of the extended cramped conditions on the 2 flights. Irrespective of what it was I was in pain for quite a lot of the time. Unfortunately I am allergic to ibuprofen and almost everything that I saw had Ibuprofen in it!  I also discovered that many of the pharmacists are really poor compared to what I was used to in SA. I battled for quite a long time to rid myself of the problem, but it was not fun at the time. 

I won’t even try to explain all I saw or all I did in London, there was just so much. My London folder has over 13000 images in it, and it is doubtful whether there are 2000 of them on this blog.  I started blogging halfheartedly in January 2011 and it really took off when I hit London. All of my travels are in here, and I often go back and reread what my thoughts were back then. I recall that I was at Lewisham one day and while I was there I found the old military hospital, and it was at that hospital where my grandfather was treated after being wounded at Delville Wood. It was a strange encounter, and I could not help but wonder what he thought of the place. I had a love/hate relationship with Lewisham for some unfathomable reason, and yet it turned out to be a very handy location for some of the places I visited. 

Lewisham

A lot of the places that I visited were “cities of the dead”;  when I left South Africa I thought that I would not be doing any war grave photography in the UK. I was very wrong and have photographed twice as many war graves here than I photographed in South Africa.  

At this point I will stop my waffling and draw your attention to the London galleries that I have added to the blog. They can be found under the old Photo-Essay pages.  My London Memorials page is at allatsea

It is also worth looking at the index for March 2013 and the many links inside it. Theoretically they all open in a new tab/page

Finally  I would like to thank my landlady in Kennington, we lost touch in 2014, and I hope that she is still well and has managed to sort herself out with a decent job. Thank you for everything you did for me. 

DRW © 2013-2018. Initially created around about 01/03/2013 but still adding bits as I go along. 

Updated: 18/03/2018 — 16:13

5 years ago

On this day 5 years ago I was facing my last day in South Africa. At this point last of my possessions had been moved to the storage unit and there were no more sleeps left as I had to catch my flight. I had accommodation organised for my first week in London, but anything after that was uncertain. On arrival my priorities were: find a place to stay,  open a bank account, obtain a National Insurance Number, have my qualifications assessed, and find work. I had played these scenarios out in my mind a number of times, but was pretty sure that the odds of finding work almost immediately were small. When I had originally planned this I had decided that I really wanted to settle in Southampton, although that depended on whether I found work elsewhere first. I had visited the UK in 2008 so was not completely in the dark about what it was like. At least I more or less knew where London was!

I had a lot of stuff to store, so much so that I hired a storage unit to keep it all in, and the last week I spent driving to and from the unit and offloading into it. The unit also had to be big enough for my car which I had not sold. It is scarey how much stuff I really had at that point, much of which would be superfluous with me being the UK, but I was loathe to dispose of my books and other collectables. 

At my age (52) packing up and leaving is not easy, I literally had to turn my back on everything I had accumulated since I moved out of the family home so many years ago. Make no mistake, I had no loyalty to South Africa, I could easily turn my back on the place without a second glance. I would not be missing “braaivleis, rugby, sunnyskies and Chevrolet”, although I would miss Mrs Ball’s Chutney.

My visa was for 5 years and the start date was 1 January 2013. My original plan had been to leave on the 15th of Jan, but as things turned out I finally left on 28 Feb. 

The last sunset I saw in South Africa for a year

My flight was not a direct one, but via Dubai, and it would be a long schlep with roughly 17 hours in the air and 4 hours in transit in Dubai, and unusually it was partly during the day but I was still dreading the flight the most.

There were many preparations that I had to make; that included changing money (I seem to think the exchange rate was around R14 to £1), getting enough medication to last me at least 3 months until I had organised a doctor and a new repeat prescription. I was not lugging too many clothes around although, and was technically “traveling light”. Because my arrival would be towards the end of Winter I did have to take warm clothing and that included my infamous 20 year navy parka. I also needed comfortable shoes, and bought a pair that seemed perfect but which turned out to be hell to wear. At the last minute I also bought a pair of Hi-techs that served me very well through many cemetery visits. I was also going to take my coal burning laptop because I would really need to search for work and frankly my small smartphone not be adequate for that task. 

I closed my bank account and killed off as much debt as I could, the one thing I did not need was having to run around trying to placate my creditors. A last minute snag with my broadband provider did cause me a lot of trouble and I ended up fighting with them while waiting for my flight at the airport. Fortunately when things went pear shaped at work my car was finished paid for so it was really a case of paying insurance while it languished in storage. 

It is very difficult to believe that 5 years have almost passed and I am now heading into year 6. I have seen many things in this period or my life, and have taken thousands of photographs to prove that “I was there”. The most difficult thing to believe is that I have literally started over. Although realistically starting from scratch really started in Southampton and not in London.

Was I scared? I would have been an idiot not to be, if things went pear shaped I was up the creek without a paddle, and because I had a one way ticket could not return to South Africa easily. I did not have any friends in the UK that I could call on and I really had to make a success of it as quickly as possible.  The fact remained that I was not able to find work in SA, I was prevented so by the constitution and legislation that enforced discrimination in the guise of “transformation”. It is important to know that my retrenchment was not a result of any racist agenda by the company I worked for, but rather a result of skulduggery by those in charge. Many of my African co-workers were similarly retrenched when I was.

In the 5 years I have been in the UK I have lived in London, Southampton, Salisbury, Basingstoke, Burntwood and Tewkesbury. The furtherest North I have been is Crich to visit the Tramway Museum. I have been to many museums in my travels, and walked myself to a standstill on a number of occasions.  I am much more physically active here than I was in South Africa. I have even started to ride a bicycle, but have not driven in the UK yet (although I do have a license to drive).

What do I find different?

For starters their postal system works! But the much vaunted NHS does not live up to the Doctors and medical professionals that I encountered back in SA, although I was a paying patient in SA (I had a medical aid). What amazes me in my day to day life is how many people I see. Dogs get walked, children accompany their parents to shops or the park, the trains and buses work, the weather is not only overcast and wet, houses are not fortresses, and life does not revolve around driving from home to the mall and back, or braai-ing meat over a weekend

There are negatives too: accommodation is expensive and hard to find, meat is pricey, food can be expensive depending on where you shop, London can get horribly crowded, employers do not tolerate slackers and works starts and finishes on time with overtime being paid unlike in SA. Safety in the workplace is often crazy but it is also there for a reason. 

I have met people from many countries, and I have worked with all manner of nationalities. Unfortunately my poor hearing and their accents does sometime create odd looks. Tatoo’s and “vaping” are very big, as are tanning salons, betting shops and nail bars. Many of the cities in the UK are in a decline as they are realistically built around old towns with a much simpler layout. I currently live in a small town and it and goes back many centuries and it too is suffering from the accommodation shortage and declining business within its borders. My council tax is roughly £75 per month and on top of that I still pay National Insurance and income tax. I was fortunate enough to find a bedsit and lead my own life surrounded by my ships and toys. I do miss my books, although have quite a collection already. I came to the UK with 1 suitcase and a wheelie bag, I now have 3 suitcases and 3 wheelie bags (and a wodge of other bits and pieces).

The experience has been a life changer for me though, at my “advanced age” (nudge nudge wink wink) I have had to adjust myself to a whole new country, timezone, hemisphere and culture. Fortunately I am somewhat of an anglophile so it was not too difficult. My biggest challenge has been in the workplace. Lets face it, my skills are out of date and my poor eyesight really negates me applying for jobs that require small work. I have however worked 3 temp job, the first as a baggage handler, the 2nd as a “recycling operative” and the third as an “assembly operative” in the manufacturing industry. Those entry level jobs do not exist in South Africa and if they do come available get flooded by thousands of applicants.

Like many places the UK has its problems. I was here when the Brexit referendum occurred and by the looks of it will be here when Brexit actually happens. Gang violence does occur in some cities, knife crime is commonplace and drugs and alcohol abuse are a problem. Hooliganism and petty vandalism are common too, but alcohol does play a major part in it. Overall people obey the rules of the road (which can be confusing), and parking is expensive. Relatively speaking cars are quite cheap to buy but not as cheap to operate. I do miss my car, especially where I live now which is somewhat of a public transportation dead zone. Rail fares are not cheap either, especially if bought on the day and in peak hours. Bus fares are expensive too (Day rider is £7.50 to Cheltenham and back). However, public transport does exist unlike in SA. The transport system in London is to be seen to be believed. 

The weather does play a major part in our lives, and flooding happens more often here than it does in SA. Gloucestershire suffered a disastrous flood in 2007, and I tend to be nervous when it rains.

Snow is welcome but not an every day occurrence (at the time of writing we are suffering from a week of low temperatures and possibly snow too). I have seen snow 4 times in the UK which is 4 times more than I saw it in SA. Generally though most of the places I have lived had warm but short summers and long cold winters, and 2017 was probably the closest I have come to how the weather is supposedly in the UK; cloudy days and low temperatures in summer.

When Spring starts to arrive the country becomes a riot of colour as the flowers bloom and everything wakes up from its long winter sleep.

I have picked up some strange new habits and have a whole new line of food to try. I have developed a taste for cod ‘n chips, I tolerate “brown sauce” and I really enjoy a glass of cider. Pizza is not that great here, so my consumption of it has declined. I was never much of a meat eater and now eat even less, although I do live on “ready meals”. I do not own a television and if I did the TV license would snag a chunk out of my salary, I do not intend buying one. I have really quick broadband and my cellphone has 4G of data.

I could probably rattle on all day about this stuff, but I think I have covered it pretty well in blogposts that stretch from 2013 right up till 28 February 2018. 

It has been quite a ride, but stick with me because I am here for another 5 years, and who knows what changes will happen in South Africa while I am gone, or what will happen when the UK finally divorces itself from the EU. It is going to be interesting though. Talk about Interesting times.

I will periodically return to milestones in my sojourn from a retrospective point of view. It is always good to look back and say “Wow…. I did that?”

DRW © 2018. Created 28/02/2018

Updated: 04/03/2018 — 08:28

Looking back on 2017

Like 2016, 2017 was not a good year, the world has become an even more dangerous place than last year, and the political rumblings in many countries became roarings!  In South Africa the corruption and incompetence continues and Cape Town is running out of water (bottled and tap). We also saw the death of a number of old school entertainers and celebrities,  and fake news still proliferates through social media, and racism is still alive and well. And now for the weather…

Amongst those who passed on in 2017: Willie Toweel, Sir John Hurt, Peter Skelleren, Simon Hobday, Joost Van Der Westhuizen, Chuck Berry, Colin Dexter, Joe Mafela, Ahmed Kathrada,  Sue Grafton, Mary Tyler Moore, Hugh Hefner, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sarstead, Glen Campbell, John Hillerman, Adam West, Helmut Kohl, Fats Domino, Don Williams, Charles Manson, Ian Brady, Harry Dean Stanton, Della Reese, Roger Moore, David Cassidy, Sam Shepard, Martin Landau, Gordon Kaye Richard Hatch, Tom Petty, Michael Bond, Al Jarreau and Bill Paxton. Unfortunately though some dictators will outlive us all.  

I did not have a busy year, although there was a major spurt of activity in March when I had to go back to South Africa at short notice.  This new year is crunch year for me,  and I am sitting on a fence with lots of spikey bits. These are some of the highlights (and low lights) of my year.  

January:

Was a quiet month, and I really relooked some of the places I had seen as well as some of the interesting objects that you normally do not notice. Clocks were subject of choice for January

February:

In February I finally hit Worcester and specifically Worcester Cathedral.

Worcester Cathedral

I ended up making a second trip to the city, and it was quite a nice place to visit. 

March:

In March I had to return to South Africa as my mother was doing poorly. 

I was able to revisit a number of places and a decision was made regarding her future care. She was not amused, but our options were extremely limited.

April:

Amongst the places I revisited was the James Hall Transport Museum

I arrived back in April, and just in time for the GWSR World War Weekend. 

May:

I looked back on the three cemeteries in Portsmouth (Milton, Highland Rd and Kingston)

I seemed to have stayed indoors a lot in May because the only noteworthy thing I seemed to do was attempt to scratchbuild a model of the RMS St Helena. I now have a new one I am busy with so all in not lost. However I am kind of baffled at how long this exercise has taken. 

June:

June was a busy month and I seemed to do quite a lot in Gloucester. One of the many things I saw was HM Prison Gloucester and it was fascinating. 

I also popped into the “harbour” in Gloucester, and it was quite an interesting place to see, although it is no longer the bustling harbour it used to be

July:

The Tewkesbury Medieval Festival was held once again, but unfortunately I missed out on the Wellland Steam Fair this year. 

August:

The Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival was held in August and it was bigger than last year too. Some real blasts from the past were on show too. 

1904 Mors 24/32 HP

September:

September I ventured forth into Stroud and inadvertently ended up in Painswick too which was quite fun but very tiring.

October:

The weather was rapidly turning as we October, but then the whole year had seen lousy conditions most of the time. It really dampened my excursions too so I had to do some thinking about what to post. Sadly I heard of two pets that crossed the rainbow bridge in this month and their loss is always a sad one.

November: 

November is the month when military veterans take out their berets and caps and don their medals and poppies to Remember The Fallen. I also managed to photograph the War Memorial in Prestbury

December:

And suddenly it was December, and the biggest story in December was…

And that was my year. May the new year be full of love, light and laughter, and may the sun shine brightly and may peace and prosperity be with you and yours. 

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Updated: 04/03/2018 — 08:29
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