Friday, 5 February 2016

London and things

We spent a couple of days in London last week (we needed a capital fix!) and apart from chasing visas around embassies and wasting precious time ……..


…… we arranged to meet John and Nicola, (our delightful cruise friends from our last Caribbean cruise on “Arcadia”) at the Victory Services Club.


We had a splendid 3 hours of eating, drinking and (most of all) enjoying each others company. John and Nicola recommended us to stay at the club when we next spend time in London and we think we’ll do just that.


After leaving the club, just off the Edgeware Road, we took a few seconds to pay respects at the site of “The Tyburn Tree” at it’s very busy position where the Edgeware Road meets Hyde Park Corner. Sobering to think so many Londoners, innocent and guilty, were hung at this spot.


At 4 o’ clock, and late for another planned meeting with friends, we took the bus into town. There seem to be more buses than anything else in central London these days which is hardly suprising. London Transport really have pulled the stops out to provide one the best capital transit systems there is.


A quick look at one of our old haunts, Paddington Basin, showed a few empty moorings. Although none of the spaces have been allocated to winter moorings this year there were few, if any, visitors boats to be seen.


Having bought a year’s ticket to the Historic Dockyards at Portsmouth a while back, and it being only just down the road so to speak, we thought we’d pop along again and see another one of it’s fine exhibits. Last time was Mary Rose this time HMS Victory. Victory has been undergoing a multi million £ restoration over the last umpteen years with another 15 years before the present work is finally complete! Like a beached whale, it’s slowly collapsing under it’s own weight and there’s major work to be done inside, outside and even the foundations of the dry dock she sits in have to be reinforced. The upper parts of the masts have been taken off to lighten the load on her ancient timbers.


It’s all very magical when you get aboard. One of the first things we saw was where Admiral Lord Nelson fell when he was hit by enemy fire during the Battle of Trafalgar. Aiming to stop the invasion of English soil once and for all the battle was one of the most decisive we’ve ever fought. Had it not been successful we’d probably all have been speaking French right now!


This kitchen area is splendid. Very well preserved but small considering it had 800 or so men to feed.


Below decks it’s very cramped but clean and tidy and as health and safety conscious as they can be for the tourists. A far cry from the days when she went into battle.


Headroom and living space is minimal in many places. Nelson was only 5’ 3” but Captain Hardy, his right hand man, was 6’4”. They must have cut an odd picture together – a bit like a couple we know!!!


Near the end of the very informative tour we visited the spot where, three hours or so after he was first wounded, Nelson died. If an ordinary seaman died he would be sewn up in his hammock (with the last stitch through his nose to make sure he was really dead!) and then put over the side. If he died in battle there was no time for the hammock, he’d just be pitched overboard there and then. For the Admiral of the Fleet there were arrangments in place should something happen to him. Nelson was put head first into a large barrel and then it was filled with brandy and sealed for the six weeks it took to get him back to England. Just before he died Hardy (who WAS asked to kiss him!) told Nelson that the battle had been won.

Well, here endeth the lesson and the great afternoon we had in Portsmouth Historic Dockyards. There’s far too much to see, even in a day, so we’re glad we have an annual pass. We’ll be back again soon hopefully!

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