musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Southampton

These Two Days in History

Tonight history was made way back in 1912 as the RMS Titanic sailed into disaster and became a legend. The story has oft been told, and so much misinformation and downright untruths have permeated into legend that it is like watching the proliferation of fake news on Facebook.  

The fact remains though, many would loose their lives in the disaster, and so many lives would be altered, interrupted and irrevocably changed that they affected people from all around the world. Maritime safety legislation would be one of the many changes that would benefit from the sinking of the Titanic, although that would be way too late for those on board, but those regulations directly influence cruise ships over 100 years later.  The unimaginable happened in April 1912, but it can happen again in 2018, assuming we don’t all get exterminated in a nuclear holocaust this coming week. 

Titanic Engineers Memorial, Southampton

My own interest in the Titanic ended many years ago. There were too many instant experts that knew everything after seeing the James Cameron Titanic movie. And of course every Tom, Dick and Harry has taken to writing a book, and documentaries abound. There is nothing new to see, move along.

Postal workers memorial

Part of the closure I had came about as a result of seeing the artefact exhibition in the USA in 2000. It really helped to close the door on that chapter of my life, although it had a brief surge of interest when I finally got to Southampton in 2013. It had always been part of my dream to go there, and once I had seen what there was to see I was ready to call it quits. However, every year around about now I remember those events, and those people who never saw home, and those who waited for a loved one to return. It is part of history, you cannot change it, it did happen. Aliens did not sink the ship, an iceberg did the dirty deed. 

Charles M Hayes Memorial, London

So tonight, when I am bedding down after a long days vegging I will know that way back in time a ship was heading towards her end, nothing could change it, and her memory would carry on long after the last survivor passed away.  

Titanic Musicians plaque. St Mary’s, Southampton

She is not forgotten, and the souls who died on her will always be remembered.

Assuming that we don’t get destroyed in a nuclear holocaust first. 

DRW © 2018. Created 14 April 2018

Updated: 14/04/2018 — 17:48

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

Hopping Across to Hythe

While doing my Southampton retrospective I realised  that I never did a post about Hythe, although did do a short page on the Hythe Pier Train at aas. Realistically there is not much to say about it, although like everything it does have odd quirks that are worth highlighting.  How do you get there? you hop a ferry at Town Quay of course. Please note that things may be slightly different now and this post is about how I experienced it way back in 2013. 

When I was in Southampton there were two ferry boats that operated to Hythe, the main one being “Great Expectations”

and the standby boat “Hotspur IV”. Sadly she is no longer available as she is “on the stocks” and in a poor condition. 

Technically the ferry runs every 30 minutes from point to point and the first time I went to Hythe was to see the Oriana on the 14th of April 2013. You get nice images of ships berthed at QEII terminal from the ferry, and of course you get nice images of everything coming and going into the harbour. 

This was the first time I had seen Oriana since 1997, and it was like seeing an old friend once again.  Also in port was Azura at Ocean Terminal, Arcadia at Mayflower and Saga Sapphire at City Terminal. 

Arcadia and Saga Sapphire

Hythe pierhead

Our ferry ride over I strolled down the pier, more interested in seeing the sights than rattling down that short stretch onboard the pier train. 

The pier opened on the 1st January 1881, and at the time was the 7th longest pier in the country.  The pier train came into operation in 1922; it had been built in World War 1 and was originally used at the Avonmouth Mustard Gas Factory. It is the world’s oldest continuous operating pier train. 

(1500×640)

My pier promenade over I was finally in Hythe and there was not a lot to see.

   

Don’t blink now, you have just seen Hythe. Actually there is much more to it, but I did not explore too far from the ferry terminal.  I did however find a War Memorial to the Royal Navy (Beach Head) Commandos that embarked from Hythe en route to the beaches of Normandie on 06 June 1944

Parish church of St John, Hythe

Hythe also has a small boat marina, and it was a favourite spot for ship viewing because of the view of the harbour. 

At this point we will leave Hythe and return again on the 26th of April 2013 when I went to photograph the Queen Mary 2 that was sailing from Ocean Terminal. 

Return to Hythe

My next expedition to Hythe was to see that Queen Mary 2 sailing, I had watched her arrive from her world cruise in the morning but wanted to see her sail from here.

As much as Town Quay is a useful viewing platform for ships in Ocean Terminal you still end up battling sun, mist and clouds. At least at Hythe the sun is behind you so things are easier. The problem was that on this particular day the weather was iffy and there were dark ominous clouds in the sky. I headed across to Hythe and walked up to the marina and a suitable photography spot. Occasionally drops of rain splattered against me and I was really in  bad position if a storm broke out because there was no shelter nearby. 

The lifeboat below does not seem to be in operation, as it was high and dry in the marina. She is named R.N.L.B Ruby and Arthur Reed, she was built in 1966 at the yard of William Osborne at Littlehampton, West Sussex and is an Oakley class self-righting design which combined great stability with the ability to self-right in the event of the lifeboat capsizing

She is a really famous old lady and lives out her retirement safe from the battering of the sea. It is sad to see a vessel like this because ideally she should be afloat.

By 19H00 there was movement at Ocean Terminal and they started to back the QM2 out of the terminal. It was quite strange that she had berthed bow inland, usually they back the ships into the berth, but then I have seen many odd things while ship watching and without local knowledge of why and wherefore it is just conjecture as to why she was berthed like that.  

I have not reproduced the complete sequence of movements but the image above is her best angle as far as I am concerned. I just wish they would raise her funnel. 

Photography completed it was time to head for home. I had already started walking towards the terminal because at some point the ferry stops running and I did not want to be stuck on the wrong side of Southampton Water.

While I waited I poked around and investigated the rolling stock of the railway. It is really self contained and is an attraction all on its own, albeit with a very short track and only 3 coaches.

The late afternoon sunset was beautiful though and I captured quite a few stunning images on my walk. Fortunately I managed to make it in time to get back to Town Quay.

I made one final trip to Hythe to see Black Watch sail past, again it was late afternoon and once again I was blessed with beautiful sunsets.

And that was Hythe in a nutshell.  I always regret not having a good look around, but was always really tied to the ferry schedule. I really needed a reason to visit a place like it, and sailaways are always great, and there is the added bonus of a wonderful sunset. I should have really gone to Hythe for the maiden arrival of Britannia but never considered it at the time, and of course once again I was on the clock.  Who knows, maybe one day I will return. 

Random images

 
 
   

DRW  © 2013-2018. Retrospectively created 09/04/2018

Updated: 13/04/2018 — 08:38

And then I was in Southampton

Continuing with my retrospect of events that happened 5 years ago.

By the end of March 2013 I was ready to leave London, although disaster was about to overtake me on the day before I left. The first disaster was forgetting the pin number of my new bank card, and the second was discovering that my cellphone package was not working as it expired at the point where I needed it most. The other disaster was a phone call that I received from the place where I was going to stay in the city, which left me having to scramble around for another place in a hurry. I literally grabbed the first I could see and hoped that it was not a dive. I was going to travel by bus to Southampton and duly reported to Victoria Coach station to catch my bus. Gads, the place was a mess!

I will never understand why long distance bus stations are such awful places, and why the Victoria  Coach Station doesn’t connect to the railway station in a logic manner!

Two things happened on that bus trip that would come back further down the line. On our way out of London we passed a set of really magnificent buildings that I eventually found out were the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as the Natural History Museum. I took the image of the Natural History Museum with my phone and kicked myself for not checking out the museums in that area (I was too busy in cemeteries).  I would rectify the V&A and Science Museum in June 2016 but sadly the Natural History Museum was closed for renovations when I tried to see it in 2017.  

The second odd thing to happen was when we stopped in the city of Winchester to collect onward passengers.

Winchester seen through the coach window

I did not really connect the dots at that point as to where Southampton was in relation to London, Portsmouth and Hampshire as a county. That was still to come. As was my visit to Winchester where I went for a job interview a few months later.  Oddly enough I never saw that statue on my visit, which makes me wonder whether that was Winchester at all. However, so quick looking up reveals that the statue if of King Alfred the Great, and it stands close to the site of the city’s medieval East Gate.

The first thing that struck me when I hit Southampton were the ancient city walls that still exist in places in the city. 

I have never done a complete post about the city walls, because it is difficult to work out how they came together, a lot were destroyed in the bombing of the city and a lot were lost by the town planners who rebuilt it. Southampton was badly affected by the bombing and would never be the same city as it was prior to World War 2. 

I also met my new landlord “Bob” who is still one of the nicest guys I have ever met in the UK. If it wasn’t for him I would have really been in serious trouble as my finances started to dwindle when I could not find work. He was a pillar of strength and an understanding ear, he was also took me to places that I ordinarily would not get to see, and when I finally left Southampton I was very sad to say goodbye to him. Thank you Bob. I will never forget you.

The first impressions of my new “home” were not favourable, in fact I was tempted to run away when I first saw it. The entrance was in a parking lot and you were immediately faced with a steep flight of stairs that were always chilly.  A further flight took you to the room and the bathroom on that floor. Inside the place was not great, there was a window, bed, washing machine, toaster oven, fridge, table and a broken wardrobe. The view was of the rooftop of Debenhams and in the distance a park. Somebody had dumped a whole dustbin load of rubbish on the rooftop and I needed to get that cleaned before the seagulls had a party. First thing though was to get the bank card sorted out as I needed to pay rent. I had the money for the deposit but my months rent was still sitting in the bank. Bob was not impressed but understood the situation. The problem was that I had to wait for a new pin and only the bank could issue that via post! Fortunately I was able to withdraw money through the cashier and pay my rent.

Next on my agenda was the harbour! and Bob took me up to the harbour to see the Queen Elizabeth. Unfortunately you could not get closer to her than the pic shows. She was the first cruise liner that I have seen since 2010 and  was berthed up at what is loosely known as “Mayflower” (aka 106). This image is the first ship photograph that I took in Southampton, and by the time I stopped taking pics in it there were 45 individual cruise ships in my collection.

After that he dropped me off at the pier and I was left to shiver in the cold and try to catch my breath as I stared agape at the cruise ship (P&O’s Ventura) berthed at the Ocean Terminal and the Red Funnel ferries sailing past as I watched. I would get to spend a lot of time at Town Quay photographing ships, and each was a special occasion. 

I hung around till the two ships sailed before trying to find my way home. To be honest I was not even too sure where home was! Technically I was living in town as opposed to any of the suburbs (St Mary’s being the closest to where I was). On my way home I passed an employment agency and made a mental note to go register with them as there was a job advertised that was just up my street. 

Many things would happen in the time I was in Southampton (7/03/2013-10/2013), I  cleaned up my room and found my way around (did I mention ships?), but jobwise I could not find anything. The agency turned out to only be interested in numbers and like so many other agencies did not do me the courtesy of a call back even after I registered with them.  I was able to snag a part time job as a baggage handler for the ships, but it was not consistent work and it really just tided me through till I found permanent work.

Unfortunately that job was way too heavy for me and I really battled with pain in my left arm as a result of it. However, from a ship buff’s point of view it was strangely interesting. I had sailed on ships as a passenger but here I was seeing things on the other side of the shell door.  I worked onboard some of the vessels as well, and Oriana was really the hardest to work on because it was always chaos. But, sometimes we had lunch and breakfast on board and that was great. 

From a cemetery point of view Southampton has three major cemeteries: The Old Cemetery, Hollybrook and finally Netley Military Cemetery They were all fascinating places to visit, and I spent many hours in the Old Cemetery hunting down war graves and the graves of people connected to the Titanic. Southampton has a number of Titanic memorials and other Titanic related places to hunt down, but the Titanic mania has meant that a lot of the other maritime history connected to the city has been neglected, and this was reflected in the Sea City Museum. Fortunately I am no longer obsessed with the ship.

Southampton is geographically close to Portsmouth and all of its history, and of course the Isle of Wight is just a ferry ride away. Hythe is situated across from the city and it is quite a popular shipwatching spot, assuming you manage to get back in time for the last ferry. 

Hythe Pier

The pier even has it’s own railway line, and close to the pier is a monument to Sir Christopher Cockrell (1910-1999), considered to be the father of the hovercraft. Unfortunately I never really explored Hythe properly so I am sure there is a lot that I missed. I did do a retrospective post on it though to add to my memories.

(1500×576). The Itchen Bridge

The harbour is fed from the River Test and Itchen, and there is a wonderful road bridge over the itchen with Southampton on one side and Woolston on the other. That bridge was a long steep climb though but I saw so much from it.  

Southampton links in 3 directions to almost anywhere and was quite a convenient base to search for jobs, but realistically I should have lived in Reading to get more out of jobhunting. Jobwise Southampton was a dead end, and while I did go for interviews none were successful except for the last interview that I had in Salisbury. The irony is that in all my time in Southampton I went for more interviews and made more applications than I did between 2011 and 2012 in South Africa. 

South Western House

St Mary’s Southampton

Terminus House

Central Hall

The Bargate

Civic Centre

Former Royal Pier building

Netley Castle from Southampton Water

Queen Mary 2  at Ocean Terminal

Former docks post office building

I found permanent employment in Salisbury in September 2013, but only moved at the end of November so lived inbetween the two cities for over two months. I was sad to leave Southampton though and will always consider it to be my equivalent of “the place where I was born” (for want of a better description)

(1500×247) Hamtun Street Mural. Depicting landmark buildings and events from Southampton’s history, from the Romans and Saxons to the modern docks and liners. Created in 1978 by artists Henry and Joyce Collins, and restored in 2011

Unfortunately Bob lost his wife in mid 2013 and I saw much less of him after that, but he was always a friendly face in his trademark blue shirt. The empty shopping centre next to the flats was demolished, the original plan was to build a Morrisons there. By the time I left the city the plans were seemingly intact but I heard that it all fell through and chances are they would have erected student accommodation or yuppie pads in it’s place. The sad fact is that Southampton is really like a giant parking lot with many of the historic buildings made into yuppie pads or care homes. In fact that is also true in many of the cities in the UK. 

(1500×284) Town Quay

There were lots of places to visit that were not connected to the Titanic, and some of these may be found listed in the links (the links work from the top downwards chronologically).  

DRW © 2013-2018. 

Updated: 13/04/2018 — 08:38

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

Remembering the Mendi 2017

Every year around this time I commemorate the lives lost in the sinking of the troopship Mendi on the 21st of February 1917. This year is no different and each year I know more about it.

Earlier this month I discovered a new Mendi Memorial in the churchyard of St John The Evangelist, Newtimber, Sussex. The memorial is to  “Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase” who perished on the Mendi.

TQ2713 : Memorial to Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase by Bob Parkes

Naturally I wanted to know more and took a good long look at my Roll of Honour and drew a blank. The big problem with the ROH is that it is really inaccurate, and there are a number of reasons for that. I consulted with the local co-ordinator of the South African War Graves Project and he replied as follows:

“This whole Mendi RoH is troubling, it seems to me that there were initial errors made in some of the names, errors crept in as a result of “tweaking” the facts and a general misunderstanding of the history of the casualties (probably due to the unavailability of any documentary evidence.) Many of these errors are now on memorials and plaques and seem to be copied from one to the next (or sourced from the internet) and how do we address that? We have forwarded copies of the documents at the SANDF Archive  that list the recruitment details of these chaps and I hope that these will eventually be filtered through the system and the graves/memorials amended. Lets see…

Typical documentation for SANLC

Henry Bokleni:   (7587)  His father was Bokleni and he was Henry. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. It seems he was a Chief/Headman at the time.

Richard Ndamase:  (9389)  His father was Ndamase and he was Richard. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Dumezweni so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Mxonywa Bangani:  (9379)  )  His father was Bangani and he was Mxonywa. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Nongotwane so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Isaac Williams Wauchope : (3276) His father was Dyoba (also known as William Wauchope). Isaac was a learned man, holding the posts of a teacher and a clerk/interpreter to the magistrate and married his wife Mina as per Christian rites. He was a minister at a church in Blinkwater when he got sentenced to 3 years in Tokai Prison for forgery. He enlisted in 16 Oct 1916 as a clerk/interpreter and not as a chaplain (it is unlikely he would have got the chaplain post as he had a criminal record) The Chaplain job went to Koni Luhlongwana (9580), who also died on the ship.

 It does not seem that he used his father’s name as surname at all during his lifetime and so the use of “Dyoba” is incorrect. The reasoning behind the attempts to ‘africanise’ his name remain a mystery.

New Memorial to the Mendi :  There is also a problem with the 670 (it was 646, including the crew) who died. We have identified the home provinces of some of the casualties – Transvaal (287), Eastern Cape (139), Natal (87), Northern Cape (27), OFS (26), Basutoland (26), Bechuanaland (8), Western Cape (5), Rhodesia (1) and SWA (1) so not all were from the Eastern Cape.”

The reality is that the memorial contains incorrect information, and it is perpetuated as there is no real way to correct many of the errors. I am relooking my own RoH and correcting it to conform with the data that SAWGP has.  

However, in spite of the errors, the fact remains that people have not forgotten the Mendi, in fact we probably know more about it today than we did way back in 1917. 

This year, apart from the Services of Remembrance being held at Hollybrook and Milton Cemeteries in Hampshire, a South African Warship, SAS Amatola, (a Valour Class Frigate) will lay a wreath at the site of the disaster.  On board her will be some of the relatives of the soldiers who died on board that ill fated troopship.

The Mendi has not been forgotten, it is now prominent in the military history of South Africa, The men who lost their lives have not been forgotten, the sea has claimed them, but their spirit and courage still resonates 100 years after they died. However, we need to broaden our vision and recognise that all of the men of the battalions of the SANLC and NMC who volunteered to serve overseas are remembered too, because the non combatant role that they played was equally important to the ending of the “war to end all wars” 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 21/02/2017.  Image of Newtimber Memorial © Copyright Bob Parkes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:40

Photo Essay: Just in Time

I won’t say I am an expert on clocks, but I do appreciate the engineering that goes on inside one. Many years ago I used to work for Transnet in Germiston and I was responsible for the very decrepit station clock; I was not amused. 

This short photo essay really starts out about an old clock in Tewkesbury, and then heads off on a tangent all of its own. 

Situated on the outside of what is now a funeral directors, the clock is mounted on an elaborate bracket that sticks out into high street.

I have seen a number of similar clocks in the towns and cities I have visited in the UK, and way back then a public clock would have been very useful to townsfolk that did not have the convenience of a wrist watch or cell phone with which to tell time. 

Age? in this we are lucky because affixed to the side of the clock is a small sign.

Does it still work? yes it does; because a bit further up high street is the clock above the Town Hall. Although this image was not taken today, the time on the clock above was the same as that below.

A bit higher up in town there is a nice clock on top of the Library. I do not know how many times I have walked past the building and never really noticed it before. 

Clocks elsewhere.

There is a very nice public clock on the House of Fraser in King William Street, London

and a station clock in Victoria Station.

and Waterloo Station.

Somewhere in London, St Paul’s is in the background and I was in the Bank area, so it is somewhere there. 

I photographed this beaut in Birmingham, and as a bonus it has the 3 balls that indicate a pawnbroker.

Now, about those other time pieces:  many towns had clocks in towers, and many are loosely based on Big Ben in London.

Salisbury had one on the outskirts of the town centre in Fisherton Street, and it is a very interesting structure.

On the side of the small structure at the base of the tower were two indicators of what used to stand on that site before. 

At the time I did a double take because that was not the sort of thing you expected to see on a building. However, on the other side of the structure, and half covered by foliage is another sign that explains why the image below was there.

I rest my case. Unfortunately, the placing of this plaque means that unless you are lucky you would never know what secret this part of the town was used for in days gone by. The proximity to the river would have made that gaol a damp and miserable place to be locked into.

There is a really nice clock tower in Worcester, although it is not in the centre of town.

Lichfield also has one of the grand clock towers, and one day I made a quick trip to it to see what it was like up close and personal.

There are two plaques that can date this structure.

The Crucifix Conduit? In St John Street, next to the Library is a water fountain that may provide a clue.

The filenames of the Lichfield images are all marked “Birmingham” and that is where we will head to now; because there is another clock tower of interest in that city.  Called “The Chamberlain Clock”, it was unveiled during Joseph Chamberlain’s lifetime, in January 1904.

This clock ties into South Africa and Joseph Chamberlain, and it is worth reading the article about how Joseph Chamberlain and Alfred Milner  helped to drag South Africa and Great Britain into a long and costly war that devastated the country; and created rifts that would never heal. “Chamberlain visited South Africa between 26 December 1902 and 25 February 1903, seeking to promote Anglo-Afrikaner conciliation and the colonial contribution to the British Empire, and trying to meet people in the newly unified South Africa, including those who had recently been enemies during the Boer War” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Chamberlain#Tour_of_South_Africa)

He is buried in nearby Key HIll Cemetery 

Heading back South again we are suddenly back in Southampton, and another clock tower of interest, although it is more of a monument than a dedicated clock tower. This clock is no longer where it was originally erected,  

The monument was designed by Kelway-Pope and bequeathed to Southampton by the late, Mrs Henrietta Bellenden Sayers, 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,

while the second is above the drinking fountain.

The clock is situated on a triangular island at the east end of Cobden Bridge in Bitterne, between St Deny’s Road and Manor Farm Road (Google Earth  50.924432°,  -1.376106°) . 

Southampton still has a clock tower in its City Hall, but I really prefer the one above.

While living in Southampton I attended a job interview in Surbiton, and it was there where I spotted the Coronation Clock. 

I did not really investigate the structure, but did manage a photograph of the plaque.

More information about the Coronation Clock many be found at http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/art/architecture/johnsonj/4.html

The seaside town of Weymouth has a clock tower too, although again I did not really investigate it as I had limited time available.

Known as the Jubliee Clock, it was erected in commemoration of the reign of Queen Victoria in 1887. Originally positioned on a stone base on Weymouth sands, in the 1920s the Esplanade was built around it to protect the sands from the encroachment of shingle from the eastern end of the beach. The clock is a Grade II listed building.

Bath Abbey has a clock in the Spire that we saw from inside, I seem to recall it faced the municipal offices. 

It really reminded me of those days when I used to fix that clock on Germiston Station, although I am sure that the Abbey clock was less decrepit than the Germiston Station clock. 

And having said all that I shall now head off into the sunset. I am fortunate to have seen these buildings with their clocks and plaques. Generally they are ornate structures, and many are very old and have acquired listed status. Yet, in our modern world they are anacronisms from a different age. We are all so tied up in our plastic devices that can do almost anything, that we miss the beauty right under our noses. 

I am sure as I wade through my images of London I will find more clocks and towers to add to here, after all. I still have to consider the mother of them all…

But that’s another story for another time.

 

© DRW 2013-2018. Created 22/01/2017 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:42

Looking for Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel looms over the transportation system of Southern England, his influence left a legacy that can still be seen today, many years after his death. His influence on the Great Western Railway (GWR) is easy to find if you know where to look. 

I suspect the first real discovery I made was when I found his grave in Kensal Green Cemetery in London in 2013 

Image from 2016

Image from 2016

My travels took me to Southampton, and inevitabley to Portsmouth too, and it was there that I found a monument to the engineer; that was unveiled on 7 April 2006 to commemorate the bicentenary of his birth on 9 April 1806 at Portsea. 

From Southampton I moved deep into GWR territory and relocated to Salisbury where I used GWR trains quite regularly.  The current station at Salisbury is not a Brunel building, however, the former GWR station still exists, albeit in a different role as the Railway Social Club.

A blue plaque proclaims the heritage of this small easily overlooked building.

One of my expeditions took me to Bristol in January 2014. And it was in this city that I encountered one of the very tangible relics of Brunel.

The SS Great Britain was one of the many ships I had read about as a child, I even remember seeing photographs of it on it’s way back to Bristol for preservation.  Standing on the decks of this grand old lady was really something, It is however one thing to read about a ship like this, and a totally different thing to stand on board her.  I have been hoping to get back to the ship, and almost got there in 2015 but got distracted along the way. 

Bristol is also home to Bristol Temple Mead Station, yet another Brunel creation. However, the current building is not the original Brunel station.  I have still to investigate the Brunel station, although it seems to be perpetually under renovation. The glorious wedding cake of a station that is currently in use was expanded in the 1870s by Francis Fox and again in the 1930s by P E Culverhouse. Brunel’s terminus is no longer part of the operational station. It stands to the left of the current station façade (where the coaches are). I do not have images of the entrance of the station yet, but hopefully one day. 

Bristol also houses yet another Brunel creation, the magnificent Clifton Suspension Bridge that I visited in August 2015.

Between Bristol trips I was somewhere else, and while I was there I paid a visit to “Steam, Museum of the Great Western Railway” in Swindon. It was here that GWR had it’s locomotive workshops. You can also come face to face with the great man and one of his broad gauge creations. 
Actually those drive wheels are from Brunel’s broad Gauge Locomotive “Lord of the Isles”, built in Swindon in 1851. They are 8 feet in diameter and weigh about 4 tons. Brunel was just over 5 feet.

Inside the museum I came to a replica of  the 1837  “North Star”, and it is really a comparatively simple loco when compared to the machines that rule the rails 100 years later.


The original was purchased by GWR and ran one of the first trains between Paddington and Maidenhead in 1837. There is no consideration for crew comfort in this machine, although I am sure these locos did not break too many speed records. This locomotive was not a Brunel design though, but it was modernised to run on his Broad Gauge (7 ft (2,134 mm), later eased to 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm)). Unfortunately Broad Gauge was not too good an idea and was not universally accepted and GWR had to change all of its rolling stock and relay its track down the line.

Leaving Bristol the train passes through Bath Spa, and the station there is also attributed to Brunel.

In June 2016, travelling South East from Cheltenham I passed though Swindon, Reading and finally into London Paddington Station which is where GWR terminated. The station today is quite a hodge podge of design, having to cater for the massive expansion of rail into the capital.

If you known where to look you will even encounter Brunel seated on a chair watching the comings and goings. What would he have to say about what they did to his station?

And if you tarried long enough in London you could always retire to your hotel that was a part of the station.

This imposing building is the London Hilton Paddington, or, as it was known: The Great Western Royal Hotel and it was opened in 1854. 

And that sums up my Brunel discoveries for now, I know there are others, because most GWR stations had a hotel attached to it, and I am quite sure that Brunel was involved in at least one of them, but that is another exploration for another day.

Brunel was an engineer. He was a man who could turn his mind to bridges, ships and tunnels. He left behind a legacy that has endured, and his work will probably be here long after this blog has closed down. He created and designed and influenced, he was an inspiration, and the world sadly has been replaced by accountants who create nothing, or managers who could not manage their way out of paper bags, and directors who dip their hands into tills with alarming frequency. Where did we loose the engineers?  why do we not have engineers that create on a scale like this? Brunel made mistakes, but his success outweigh his failures. He was a man of legend and we are so much richer because he was in the right place at the tight time.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 01/11/2016  

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:35

Modelling the Union-Castle Line (2)

Continuing where we left off, my newest additions have arrived and I am about ready to transform them into members of my ever expanding fleet  

(This page is undergoing reconstruction)

The available affordable UC models had more or less dried up by now, although some were available from Convoy Models in military garb so I decided to get at least one for the collection, and I chose Stirling Castle. The model was outstanding, and it is hard to believe how much detail is on her. She is easier to paint because you only really need 2 colours: grey and black.

Here is my Stirling Castle and her sister Athlone Castle together. Stirling is in front. (image from 10/2017)

Union Castle also had a large fleet of cargo ships, many of which served in the war. I decided that I needed at least one representative of that fleet and I chose one of  “fruit ships” namely MV Rochester Castle,  Built in  1937, she took part in Operation Pedestal during WW2, and was broken up in 1970. There were 4 sisters in this class: Rochester Castle, Roxburgh Castle, Richmond Castle and Rowallan Castle. I think Convoy has them in military garb too. 

The fleet as at 26/11/2017:

(L-R) Pendennis, Pretoria, Capetown, Stirling, Athlone, Reina, Dunnottar, Durban, Llandaff, Rochester Castles. (back row) Victoria and Victoria

The two ships behind the fleet are both called “Victoria” The right hand ship being the former Dunnottar Castle, that had a very long life. First operated by the Incres Steamship Co and later by Chandris Lines under the names Victoria and The Victoria. In 1993 she joined Louis Cruise Lines as Princesa Victoria and was finally scrapped in India in 2004. 

The model I have is by Mercury I believe, and here she is with her UC iteration. 

The other Victoria on the left is amongst the many ships that I like. She is the former Sea Princess (built as Kungsholm), and she called in South Africa on a number of occasions, although mostly in Cape Town.

My usual source for UC ships also had her available in a resin cast, and she was easily adaptable to Sea Princess or Victoria, a name she carried later in her career with P&O. It was as Victoria that she did the Union-Castle 100 year centenary voyage in the year 2000.

I decided to make Sea Princess in the P&O livery

This sublime model above was in the window of a travel agent in Salisbury. How I coveted that model! 

I am considering repainting her in the Union-Castle livery so that she can join the fleet. 

At this point things dried up for awhile and I worked on other projects, the biggest one being my St Helena project and I also looked at scratch building a Carnarvon Castle, but shelved that idea when I realised that I did not have the eyesight or skills to do it successfully. However, another thought crossed my mind and I did some thinking and reading and decided on a new project. 

SA Oranje.  23/02/2018.

I have since added another Capetown Castle to my collection and it is the same as my other Capetown Castle. The reason I bought it was to convert it to SA Oranje. Theoretically I should have converted my Pretoria Castle model, but it is a commercial model and there was no way I was going to stuff it up. 

This is what I was aiming for…

SA Oranje in Cape Town (Postcard)

The only real work I had to do on her was remove the aft deckhouse and lifeboats and raise the funnel. I then modified the deckhouse and reglued it so that it was only a docking bridge, I also added a pool between it and the next deckhouse and used the top of the original funnel in my newly constructed funnel. I also have to fabricate a new mast for her and of course expend lots of white paint. So far she looks like this: 

I really like how she turned out though, and will make an interesting addition to the fleet which now stands at… 12!  I have since drilled out the area between the lifeboat davits on her and on Capetown Castle and Dunnottar Castle, now to retouch the paint. I am kind of ashamed at how many area’s I did not paint on the UC ships though and touching up shall be done! (30/03/2019, work has ceased on the ship as I am liable to damage her more than enhancing her. Make space in the showcase!)

Update 29/03/2018. 

Managed to snag myself a Transvaal Castle by CM. She is not in a mint condition, but makes a good addition to my collection. Unfortunately her signal mast was missing so I fabricated a new one, although it did not turn out too well and really needs to be remade. I always thought her conversion to Festivale enhanced her looks, she never really appealed to me. 

30/03/2018.  The Fleet now stands at 12 (plus 2 cruise liner versions).

(1434×501)

05/04/2018

I managed to buy a Windsor Castle this week, and she is made by Albatros and is really nice. Looking at her signal mast I definitely need to relook the signal mast on my Transvaal Castle and Oranje.

Hopefully this weekend I will get pics of her with the fleet bringing my collection up to 13.

13/04/2018

RMMV Carnarvon Castle by Albatros. And she is a real beaut, although some spars and masts got bent in transport. I can’t believe I wanted to try scratch build her. Good thing I broke her up on the stocks.  

I am very fond of the Carnarvon, she just looked “right” although she was much better looking after she was upgraded to a single funnel with a proper bow.  There is a really stunning model of her as an Armed Merchant Cruiser at the war museum in Johannesburg. It is not an easy model to photograph because it is quite large and the glass case reflects something awful.

The list of additions to my collection also lives on my More Small Ships page, and of course there is a master list of my collection too. What else is available? it really depends on what pops up on ebay, however I would like to add one of the wartime fruit ships to my collection, I am steadily building up a nice collection of freighters in wartime garb and she would fit in quite well. 

Keep visiting here to read about more of my UC ships. They aren’t spectacular, but are nice to have. 

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 22/07/2016. Updated and shuffled around 25/03/2018, rebuilt page again 05/04/2018.

Updated: 13/04/2018 — 13:24

Dry docked.

While rooting around amongst my pics I remembered that I had some interesting ones that I took in Gloucester in August 2015. I was hoping to get back to the city at some point, but then other things intervened and I never did (since rectified).
 
This post is about dry docks and ships, and it is really a series of images that I took way back in the 1980’s when we were in Durban and got the chance to go down into the Prince Edward Graving Dock. There were two vessels in the dock on that day and it was quite a thrill to walk underneath those tons of steel. The ships were Mobil Refiner (top image) and Regina D (lower image)

Mobil Refiner

Mobil Refiner

Regina D

Regina D

For those that are interested in these things, the principal dimensions of the dock are:

Overall docking length 352,04 m Length on keel blocks 327,66 m
Length on bottom 352,04 m Width at entrance top 33,52 m
Width at coping 42,21 m Inner Dock 138,68 m
Outer Dock 206,90 m Depth on Entrance MHWS 12,56 m
Depth on inner sill MHWS 13,17 m    
You really get a sense of scale when you get to see how big ships actually are, and these two were relatively small vessels compared to what is floating around nowadays.
 
Unfortunately my images are not great,  The problem with taking pics down there is that there are patches of deep shadow and patches of bright daylight which really messed with the camera (and operator). Then the conversion process from slide to jpg further degraded the images. But, it is a great memory.

graving02

 

Cape Town has the Sturrock and Robinson Dry dock, and Clinton Hattingh was kind enough to send me these images of the latter showing the keel blocks 

The Robinson Dry dock is the oldest operating dry dock of its kind in the world and dates back to 1882. The foundation stone for the dock was laid by Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria.

Now wind forward to August 2015 and to Gloucester where there were two dry docks, and one was occupied by a sailing ship.
gloucester 548

I don’t think that caisson has been opened in many years, although in 2017 I revisited Gloucester Harbour and that dock was occupied. 

The vessel is the Den Store Bjorn, built n 1902.

Of course there are a number of these drydocks around in the the UK, The most famous one in Southampton is the King George V,  and it was the place where the really big liners were overhauled. Many images exist of the dock with one of the Queens in it but sadly the caissons have been demolished and the dock is now used as a wet dock. What a waste!

Southampton also used to have the Trafalgar dry dock which is close to the Ocean Terminal, it too was used by many of the famous liners, including a number of Union-Castle ships. It has been cut in half and the one half has been filled in while the other is a rectangular pool of water.

These facilities were built for the ship repair industry that the city once had, but that trade has moved offshore to Europe and today these spaces are only really known to those who have an interest in ships of the past.

There are two other dry docks of interest in Portsmouth, both inhabited by famous ships.

The first is the dock where the Monitor M33 is on display.

and the drydock where HMS Victory has been for so many years.

And finally, there are two more dry docks that I would like to mention, both with preserved vessels in them. The first houses the Cutty Sark in Greenwich.

and the other houses the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

Both of these provide an interesting glimpse at the underside of ships, as well as the opportunity to marvel at their construction and how large they really are. 

When this post started out originally it was only really about the Durban trip, but it has grown into much more as I have experienced other similar docks, and what a fascinating journey it turned out to be.
 
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 02/05/2016, more images added 04/06/2017
Updated: 01/01/2018 — 15:27
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