Category Archives: Thames

That’ll show the Cnut.

ImageBy God, it’s been a long time since last I posted here. The reasons are complicated – suffice it to say that I think we’ve heard the last of Baron von Hamstern. So, back to posting stuff about London!

There are various nursery rhymes on the subject of London and its characters. One of the most boring is surely ‘London Bridge is Falling Down.’ The lyrics you’re probably familiar with are,

London Bridge is falling down,

Falling down

Falling down

Falling down

London Bridge is falling down,

My Fair Lady

I mean, there are other verses, but that’s what everyone remembers. In all honesty, you’re not missing much if you don’t know the rest. But did you know that it’s based on a true story?

Oh yes. First, a little background. Now, as you’re no doubt aware, the unbelievably boring bridge that we now call London Bridge is far from the first by that name.ImageThe present bridge replaces one that was built in 1831 (which is now based in Lake Havasu, Arizona, as per this photo). The 1831 bridge replaced a medieval bridge which lasted for hundreds of years in varying states of disrepair. Indeed, the fact that it was falling to bits in the 17th century helped save Southwark from the Great Fire – collapsed buildings on the bridge formed a firebreak.

Image

Old London Bridge. If you look closely, you can see the heads on spikes, which were a popular tourist attraction. You had to make your own entertainment in those days.

So, case closed, right? The medieval bridge, or Old London Bridge as it’s popularly known, was basically all about the falling down. That rhyme could have come from almost any time in its history.

Could have, but didn’t. No, it seems the rhyme dates from even further back from that.

We need to go right back to the 11th century for the origin. At this time, London was under the rule of the Danish King Cnut, a man who was permanently one misprint from disaster. Cnut had conquered England and exiled King Aethelred the Unready, who didn’t see that one coming for obvious reasons.

While Aethelred was in Normandy, plotting his bloody vengeance, he formed an alliance with King Olaf Haraldsson of Norway. Olaf sailed his troops up the Thames to meet Cnut’s forces in London. The forces were arranged on either side of the river, with a substantial proportion of them based on the wooden bridge that was then known as London Bridge.

Fortunately, Olaf, unlike Aethelred, was ready for this, and had a cunning plan. He simply hitched his ships to the bridge supports and ordered his men to haul away. The bridge collapsed, killing the troops on the bridge and dividing Cnut’s forces. London was retaken, and the event was commemorated in an epic which begins,

London Bridge is fallen down.

Gold is won, and bright renown.

Shields resounding,

War-horns sounding,

Hild is shouting in the din!

Arrows singing,

Mail-coats ringing,

Odin makes our Olaf win!

This is commonly given as the origin of the nursery rhyme. Admittedly Cnut took London back a couple of years later, but nobody’s writing any nursery rhymes about him. Probably because of the aforementioned misprint issue.

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Filed under Buildings and architecture, Disasters, History, Landmarks, Literature, London, london bridge, Thames, Uncategorized

New York, Paris, Colliers Wood

I’d be the first to admit that, as guys go, I have baggage. That’s probably because the baggage I have takes the form of a stupendously awesome suitcase. Witness.

I picked it up today in Camden. I’ve wanted a suitcase like this for ages – a proper old-fashioned, battered leather thing with faded travel stickers. I do have a tin trunk from when my grandparents, ma and uncles moved to Britain from Kenya, but it’s needed to hold my grandpa’s judge wig (long story) and in any case is far too heavy and awkwardly-shaped for everyday use. Cases matching that description tend to go for big bucks, so when I saw this one for £15, I snapped it up in accordance with my “jetset lifestyle, Ryanair budget” mode of living.

I love the paraphernalia of bygone travel, the days of named trains and ocean liners. These days, nobody cares about long-distance travel. People get on a plane to the other side of the world as if they’re not flying at 500 freakin’ miles per hour halfway around the planet, and I think that’s just sad. The days of savouring the journey are long gone. No doubt I’m looking at it all with rose-tinted spectacles, and back then people were sick of taking six weeks to get from Britain to Australia by boat, but… well. There’s just a part of me that wishes there was a bit more effort required to get to another continent, that’s all.

So, what voyages has this suitcase been on? Let’s take a closer look at some of the labels. Apparently it belonged to someone in Holland Park, so for me in Colliers Wood that’s already pretty exotic.

The sticker on the right is pretty self-explanatory. It indicates that the owner travelled on the overnight train that ran from Victoria in London to Gare du Nord in Paris. Named trains are all but extinct these days, mostly existing as a nostalgia thing where they haven’t been abandoned altogether, but the time was when there were dozens operating on British Railways, with names that ranged from the thrilling (the Red Dragon, the White Rose, the Silver Jubilee, the Royal Scot, the Cornish Riviera) to the downright peculiar (the Flying Scotsman, the Master Cutler). Don’t they just make you want to abandon the morning commute and leap on board?

The Night Ferry was not the only international service on BR, there was also the Golden Arrow (also to Paris) as well as a number that only went as far as the port. However, thanks to its specially-built coaches, the Night Ferry was the only train to physically get on the boat without passengers having to disembark. The service lasted until 1980, and would eventually be made entirely redundant by the opening of the Channel Tunnel. Yr. Humble Chronicler was actually at the opening of the Channel Tunnel, and once again it amazes me how un-amazed people were at the fact that there was a freakin’ tunnel to France. I mean, you could walk to Europe for the first time since the Ice Age! Is that not just incredible? I think I need to lie down.

Oh wait, no time for that, here’s the other label. Ah, now, this is interesting. It’s not very clear from this shot, but this case was taken from New York on the RMS Mauretania. If you’re not familiar with ocean liners, you probably know that name from the film Titanic, in which it is mentioned by Kate Winslet’s character. That was the first Mauretania, which was the biggest and fastest liner in the world when built. This one was technically the third ship of that name, the second being a steamer to the Isle of Wight given that name until the completion of the new liner. Apparently this unusual measure was to prevent a rival shipping line from stealing the name and therefore the reputation of the old ship from Cunard White Star.

The third Mauretania was launched in 1938. She briefly ran from London to New York, and in so doing became the largest ship ever to navigate the Thames. When war broke out, she was requisitioned as a troop ship and repainted a drab grey. During this period, she had several exciting adventures, including setting a speed record between Australia and South Africa, sailing right around the world and fleeing attacks by U-boats.

Her postwar career was, alas, not quite so spectacular. She worked the route from Southampton to New York without any particular hitches, but set no more records. It was during this period, in 1958, that my case took its trip in her hold. By the 1960s, however, she was looking distinctly old-fashioned and at the end of 1965 she was broken up.

Four years later, the Boeing 747 would take to the sky and at that stage, I think we can safely say that the era was at an end.

Still, you’ve got to admit it’s a cool suitcase.

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Filed under 20th Century, Camden, Fashion and trends, History, London, Markets, Port of London, Thames, Transport

Holey Ship

Now, a couple of entries ago, I used this photograph wot I did take on the Greenwich Peninsula:

I must come clean. In my description, I must confess that I was perhaps not entirely truthful with you. I do not, in fact, own this thing. I know, you’re no doubt horrified that I might lead you astray with such an untruth, given my usual devotion to purest honesty which shineth forth like a beacon &c, &c. But you see, I think the real story behind this rather bizarre thing is worth an entry in itself.

It’s actually a sculpture entitled Slice of Reality, created by Richard Wilson. Wilson’s work is generally rather large scale and architectural in subject matter. He is, according to Wikipedia, interested in “unsettl[ing] or break[ing] people’s perception of space, what they think space might be.” Well, that’s pretty psychogeographical, now, isn’t it? I mean, that’s a lot of what psychogeography is about, perception of spaces and shit.

Perhaps Wilson’s most famous work is 20:50. This consists of a room filled with used sump oil. One walks through the room, looking down on the oil and into the upside-down reflection of the space you’re in.

Another, which I rather like, is Turning the Place Over. Wilson’s taken a nondescript building in Liverpool, one of those terminally boring blocks that appeared in the 1960s when Britain’s architects took a collective twenty-year holiday, and cut a hole in it. He’s motorised the bit he cut out so it spins around – effectively turning that section inside-out. Suddenly, a boring building becomes really interesting. Brilliant, eh?

So, what’s the story behind A Slice of Reality? I’m glad you asked, metaphorical literary device. You may remember the almighty balls-up that was the Millennium Dome, which I think we’re all keen to forget (seriously, it’s just a huge bloody marquee). It wasn’t that it was a bad idea per se, just really poorly executed and overall giving the impression that it had been thrown together the week before the opening with whatever they had to hand. Much like my school projects, in fact.

Anyway, one of the ideas had at the time was a collection of public art to be dotted around the Greenwich Peninsula, celebrating and commemorating the area. My suggestion (“Dump a load of toxic waste there!”) was not one of the ideas chosen, even though it would both have celebrated the history of the area and saved me a lot of bother later on.

Wilson’s interpretation of this was a section of a ship on the line of the Greenwich Meridian. This would have celebrated what Greenwich is most famous for, and would also have been a memorial to the ships that once used this area. Ironically, as I mentioned in my previous entry, this is probably one of the few areas of the Port of London that could still be called industrial, but then, what do I know? Not enough to build an installation reminding us of our obligation to the environment in past and future – okay, I’ll stop.

The vessel is, according to Mr Wilson’s website, an ocean-going sand dredger that has been cut down by 85%, leaving only the interesting bit with the cabins and engine room. The whole thing is, as you can see, pretty open to the elements, and up close it’s rather rusty and battered. Nevertheless, from certain angles it takes on a distinctly surreal quality – there’s a side-on photo on Wilson’s website that actually looks like it’s been badly Photoshopped, but is entirely unaltered.

It’s the only sculpture from the Millennium Experience to survive in situ, and for rather interesting reasons. You see, it was supposed to be taken down at the end of 2000, but for a technicality. According to the law, the river is not actually part of the Peninsula – it’s part of the Port. So Mr Wilson was able to take advantage of this nice little loophole of maritime law. As 15% of a ship is still a ship, he got the mooring permit and now he uses it as a studio. Which I think is just grand, especially as he opens it to the public on Open House weekends. Drink three bottles of red before going on board to simulate the motion of the waves.

Incidentally

This isn’t the only grounded vessel to serve as artists’ quarters – there’s a tugboat cabin on Eel Pie Island that does the same. Remind me to show you sometime.

Further Reading

http://www.richardwilsonsculptor.com/projects/slice%20of%20reality.html – Richard Wilson’s site.

http://diamondgeezer.blogspot.com/2010/09/slice-of-reality.html – Diamond Geezer’s entry on the subject, from which I have shamelessly swiped a lot of information. Nobody will ever know, as long as I don’t write about the plagiarism in my blog or something.

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Filed under 20th Century, Arts, Buildings and architecture, Canals and Waterways, East End and Docklands, Geography, History, London, Politics, Port of London, Psychogeography, Rivers, Sports and Recreation, Thames, tourism, Transport

Peninsula Envy

I had Tuesday off, and like most people, I decided to take advantage of this time by exploring desolate post-industrial wasteland. I invested in a shipping venture last year from Anatoly “Nickname” Chugarov (I think I mentioned that in the previous entry). Anyway, the whole thing seemed a bit dodgy to me, so I decided to pull out and asked Anatoly to give me my 5% of the venture now. I’ll admit I’m not too hot on this investment lark. Anatoly said he’d meet me on the Greenwich Peninsula with my share, so I thought I’d take advantage of this to kill two birds with one stone.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been fascinated by industrial urban desolation. This might explain why I find Amy Winehouse strangely attractive. The Greenwich Peninsula has long been known for these qualities, as I discovered myself when I ended up here by accident some years ago (put it this way – the Dome hadn’t yet opened). I was curious to see how it had changed in the intervening time.

As you can see in the photo above, it’s what we psychogeographer-types call “hostile.” Once you step out of North Greenwich Tube Station, you’ve basically got lots of roads, fences and barriers on all sides – not exactly hospitable to pedestrians. Once you finally get down to the river, you can see that this far east, London is still a working port.

On the right you can see Trinity Buoy Wharf, one of the oddities of London. Circled in purple are a couple of lightships, what they’re doing there I have no idea. Circled in green is the Bow Creek Lighthouse, the only inland lighthouse in the United Kingdom. I really wish I could have got a bit closer. Some other time, maybe.

On the left you can see a contrast between old and new Docklands. In the background, the Canary Wharf development is very visible. In the foreground, an old pier used for loading barges. This has been turned into a sort of wildlife preserve , part of a general policy to bring the area back to nature. After a century and a half of pollution, this is a motion I applaud. An interesting scheme in place elsewhere on the peninsula is to resist erosion by binding the mud with naturally-occurring plant life rather than artificial walls.

There was something unutterably surreal about the view on the right, almost post-apocalyptic. Although many industries have occupied the Peninsula, and several still do, the big one was gasworks – more gas was produced here in the mid-twentieth century than anywhere else in the world (insert fart joke if required). When North Sea gas was discovered, the gasworks were rendered obsolete. Though there are a few remnants here and there, most of the ground has been built over or – as here – cleared in anticipation of new development. This is another of those transitional things that I think is quite important to capture.

Now, this is taking psychogeographical hostility to the limit. You see that flooded road between the heaps of sand there? Yeah, that’s the footpath. I’m not joking. It was at this point that I began to get heartily sick of post-industrial wasteland. No, wait, I tell a lie…

this was when I got heartily sick of post-industrial wasteland. Readers may note the highly unsuitable choice of trousers. Consider also that this was actually quite early on in the scramble through floodwater/over sandbanks. By the end I was considering suicide, or at least buying a decent pair of boots.

On the right is an aggregate… tower… loading… thing. I don’t know what it is, if I’m honest. It has a conveyor belt. By this stage I was starting to go a little bit mad, I think. God only knows why I took a picture here.

In fact, I think I’m going to skip the next few photos. They mostly consist of mud and concrete. I found some rails where a crane once went, that was about it.

However, I did eventually find something more interesting, for a given value of “interesting.”

And here it is. These strange steel structures are on Enderby’s Wharf, once the location of a submarine cable works. Which made cables, you see, for going underwater. It’s quite interesting. I think, anyway.

The wharf is preserved now, but was locked up when I was passing. The actual works buildings are boarded up, which is lame.

Here is a breaker’s yard for boats. Again, not sure exactly what my thinking was in taking a photo here. This is actually one of the nicer photos.

I think I might have photographed this because it was a landmark I remembered from the previous visit. I also recall a chemical plant, which seemed to have closed down since then. I remember passing under some sort of loading-pipe-rig-type thing that was no longer there.

This is another of those “observe the contrast between the old Docklands and the new” photos. On one side of the road, grotty industry. On the other, shiny new flats. It makes you think. Specifically, it makes you think, “Christ, imagine having to look at that grotty industry every morning.”

Ah, now, this is interesting. This is Greenwich Power Station, built to supply electricity to the London Underground and London County Council Tramways from 1910. Despite its antiquated nature, it is still used as a backup supply. Architecturally, I think the main body of the plant is actually quite pleasant. Certainly compared to some of the eyesores I saw earlier (“eyesores I saw”… dear me).

And here we are at historic Maritime Greenwich. Incidentally, if you wondered how I came to be on the Greenwich Peninsula back in 1999, the simple answer was that I wanted to get here, and figured that North Greenwich wouldn’t be too far away. As the crow flies, it’s not. But when it’s cold and bleak and the path is muddy and the route winds around many huge obstacles, well, let’s just say it wasn’t worth avoiding the change of trains. And here endeth the lesson.

Oh, wait, the investment thing. Well, Anatoly was as good as his word, and did indeed give me my 5% share.

Son of a bitch.

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Filed under 19th century, 20th Century, Buildings and architecture, East End and Docklands, Flora and Fauna, Geography, History, Lies, London, London Underground, Photos, Port of London, Psychogeography, Rambling on and on, Randomness, Rivers, Thames, Transport

Ice, Ice Baby

Winter, it would seem, is well and truly here. I am basing this purely on the heinous amount of snow outside. Of course, this isn’t entirely unexpected – it’s been brass-monkeys cold for a while now. I’m not a religious guy, but on Saturday, with my hands purple and aching with cold, I had cause to thank God for Primark and their inexpensive gloves. Later that day I took the terrible photo above, showing that City Road Basin in Islington was partially frozen.

Back in “The Day,” (i.e. up until about the mid-20th century) frozen canals and rivers were a serious issue. Canals in particular, which don’t flow like a river, were vulnerable to icing up. This had obvious economic consequences for trade, particularly before the advent of decent roads and railways. The low-tech but cunning solution was to apply brute force and a certain amount of wiggling. This was achieved using the canal icebreaker, or “rocker,” as they were known in the business.

The rocker was like a shortened narrowboat, but instead of a cargo area, it simply had a long bar. The bow sloped upwards. A team of men would stand either side, holding on to the bar. When the rocker came to ice, the bow would ride up on top of the ice and the men would rock back and forth to break it (hence the vessel’s nickname). This was usually sufficient for all but the most Arctic conditions in London.

[PARENTHESIS: Did you know that the word “Arctic” comes from the Latin word for polar bear, “arcta.” Arctic literally means “place where there are polar bears.” Antarctic means “place where there are no polar bears.” Now you know.]

Now, earlier this year I wrote about the frost fairs that were held on the Thames when it froze over in winter. The idea of the river freezing over sounds like the sort of thing that went out with breeches and snufftaking. In fact, the end of the frozen Thames can be put down to several factors. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, the river flows that much faster these days. The construction of the Embankments north and south of the river has constrained it, which, if you recall your school physics lessons, speeds the flow up. The old London Bridge, which had lots of arches and waterwheels to slow things down, has been demolished and replaced twice – the new one allowing freer flow and also, interestingly, possessing heating elements for the road over it.

Industry since the dawn of the steam age has discharged a lot of hot water – and other products – into the Thames, raising the overall temperature. I would imagine residential and commercial premises, with their heating and lighting, are contributing factors as well – but I’m no scientist.

And down in South London, the draining of the Lambeth marshes (commemorated with the street called Lower Marsh in Waterloo) has meant that ice no longer forms along the banks there, preventing the freeze from getting a foothold, or whatever it is that freezes do.

That being said, I was surprised to learn how recent the last big freeze was. In fact, it was 1963. This was the coldest winter since 1740. Roads and railways were, as you might imagine, choked up. Rivers fared little better, and even the sea was frozen at Margate and Chatham (the Navy employed an icebreaker at the latter). The Thames, as you can see above in this view at Windsor, was no exception. At Oxford, one chap managed to drive a car across the river. The docks in London iced up like many others, driving prices of imported goods up. Kingston saw ice skating on the river, and bicycle races were held at Hampton. Below right may be seen boas iced up near Hampton Wick.

Will climate change result in us seeing another freeze like 1963, or are such sights finally confined to the history books? Well I don’t know.

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Going home?

Going home, as in returning to the place where you grew up, tends to be a weirdly alienating experience. Almost melancholy, in its way. Everything is slightly uncanny, at once familiar and yet different. It’s a bit of an odd time to make this observation, given that it’s not like I never see my family, and in any case I only live about an hour and a half away by public transport (20 minutes by car – what the hell, Boris?). Perhaps it is the march of age that makes me so reflect, or perhaps it’s the fact that I forgot to mail myself the entry that was originally going to go here and needed to come up with something else in a hurry.

I grew up in Twickenham, you see. The first few months were lived in Baron’s Court in a flat overlooking the Underground line, which perhaps explains a lot about this blog. But the vast majority of my childhood was spent in that leafy suburb. Oddly enough, I’ve never been a rugby fan – to me, all a rugby match meant was that the buses weren’t running and it would be a bugger getting a train.

Eel Pie Island, back in the day

The thing I particularly noticed on returning today was how very swish it’s all become. Very gentrified. I remember when the waterfront at Twickenham was mostly notable for the derelict swimming baths that my mate Tim swore were inhabited by vampires. These have now gone – there was an uproar when it was suggested that they might be replaced with a shopping complex, but happily a garden now stands in their place (do gardens stand? I don’t know).

I was also pleased to note that the waterfront now boasts a sign concerning Eel Pie Island. The Island, less well known as Twickenham Ait, has a significant place in the history of British music, with artists as varied as the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Hawkwind, Black Sabbath and Long John Baldry among many others playing at the Hotel. If you speak Internet, Long John Baldry was the one responsible for the “PINGAS” meme. If you don’t, then don’t worry about it. These days, it’s the closest thing Twickenham has to a bohemian quarter. Well worth a look if you get the chance.

Twickenham, King Street. The bank is still there, virtually everything else has vanished or been rebuilt.

Also nearby is Twickenham Museum, which is a really excellent museum given that it’s basically two rooms in a house. That sounds really patronising, but it genuinely is worth a look if you have an interest in the West London suburbs. And the Mary Wallace Theatre, in what was once a soup kitchen, has some good (albeit amateur) stuff on. So gutted I just missed a production of Glengarry Glen Ross there.

During the day, York House Gardens are a pleasant place for a walk. If you’ve ever seen Alfie, the sanitarium scenes were actually filmed here. I’ve heard there was a remake of this film starring Jude Law, but this seems ridiculous and I think we should all agree that such a thing could not possibly have happened, maybe burning anyone who says otherwise. The area is very popular for filming, due to the proximity of Twickenham, Teddington and Shepperton Studios. Off the top of my head, two of the Beatles movies (Help! and A Hard Day’s Night) were filmed here, as were A Fish Called Wanda and The Krays. There have been many others.

The reason I was here was to celebrate the Bro’s birthday. We were dining at a little Italian restaurant called La Serenata. By not being called La Dolce Vita it instantly gains a couple of points in my book. The thing I like about this place is perhaps the thing that most people would hate about it – it’s a proper retro Italian place. Faux wooden beams, family-run, wax-encrusted wine bottles as candle holders. You know the drill. The food is robustly Anglo-Italian, the menu clearly dating from an era when people were just starting to get the hang of Italian food but weren’t yet familiar with concepts like “balsamic vinegar.” Some would call it unpretentious, others would call it basic. But what they do, they do well – I particularly recommend the steak in any of its forms. I’m told that it’s to die for in the brandy and dijon sauce. The only things that were rubbish were the chips, but this was one black mark on an otherwise superb meal. As I’m no foodie, you can take or leave my recommendation.

Alas, it rarely seems to get much custom – we were the only ones here tonight, and reviews of the place seem to be singularly lacking. It’s the sort of place that Gordon Ramsay would come to and totally revamp while exclaiming “Faaahk me!” as often as possible. But I like it.

The trouble with this diet is that when I actually do get an opportunity to indulge myself, I can’t do so quite as much as I used to. This three-course meal has left me feeling utterly bloated, and more than a little stretched. I guess you can never really go back.

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Messing about with, in and around boats

I heard there was some sort of Thames Festival on this weekend, one held by the Mayor himself. Although I was engaged on Saturday in one of those places that aren’t London, I thought today would be a fine opportunity to investigate. On the left I may be seen as a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom I may devour in the shadow of Tower Bridge.

This boat is made out of cardboard. I am not joking.

The event that particularly took my interest was the Thames Revival in St Katherine Docks. This was a rather retro-inspired event, hence the hat (any excuse). It would feature various exciting displays, including a number of historic ships.

I’m a great one for historic ships. When I was about six, my favourite TV programme was the now-largely-forgotten Tugs, a series about tugboats set in the 1920s and way too good for kids. It was a sort of cross between Thomas the Tank Engine and On the Waterfront. Anyway, the result of this was that I developed a fascination with old-fashioned watercraft.

There was therefore plenty for me at this event, with representatives of seemingly every type of craft from rowing boats up to cargo ships. On the right you may see the steam tugs Portwey and Barking, as well as the coaster VIC 96. The latter was based heavily on the Clyde Puffers, versatile cargo boats used around the coasts and rivers of the Scottish Highlands, and immortalised by Neil Munro in the Para Handy stories.

I had a bit of a look around this vessel, and the picture on the right shows the view from the wheelhouse. The name “VIC 96” is, as you might imagine, a code. This was one of the Victually Inshore Craft, which were built during the Second World War to service Admiralty vessels, the Clyde Puffers having proven ideal for this task during the Great War. VIC 96 was built in 1945 and is one of only three surviving steam-engined puffers. She is normally berthed in Chatham. Interesting fact: it turns out that a fedora, velvet jacket and antique cane are not the best attire for climbing about a VIC’s engine room.

Having explored this ship, and as much of the Barking as I could, I returned to shore – though not before nearly losing my lovely new cane into the river. The Museum of London’s archaeology service have been singularly unhelpful when I have called upon them under similar circumstances, so I am pleased I did not have to do so this time.

I then enjoyed a fresh crayfish sandwich (not being brave enough to try crayfish in their shells – I’d blatantly end up with a claw in the eye or something) and a delightful scone with jam and cream. Basically, if you ever need to bribe me for any reason, a cream tea is a good start.

Thereafter, I headed over to watch a display of swing dancing, shown in the tiny photo on the left. You may recall my previous misadventures in swing dancing, which started as comical, became pitiful and ended with my instructor bringing out a revolver and resolving to “put [me] out of [my] misery.”

By this stage, the dock was filling up a bit more. For a start, I was no longer the only one in period fashion. The Chap magazine expressed a hope that this event would become the nautical equivalent of the Goodwood Revival, a similarly retro-styled festival. Maybe it will, and maybe it won’t.

To this end, and to give those with interests other than historic ships something nice to look at, there was a vintage fashion show. The marvellous Vivien of Holloway and Fairy Gothmother had a strong presence here, as you might imagine. I’m not going to pretend that I know anything about women’s fashion of the mid-twentieth century.

For unknown reasons, this yacht was the most popular.

I crossed the river at this point to the South Bank, where further festivities were going on. I was surprised to note a large number of rollerbladers crossing the bridge for reasons I have yet to ascertain. I choose to believe it was simply coincidence, and hundreds of rollerbladers happened to cross at that time entirely by accident.

HMS Belfast is having its masts replaced, so that’s good.

There was relatively little that I can write about in an interesting fashion over there. A lot of home-made jewelery, exciting food and beer tents. I discovered that chocolate fondue gives me an awful tummy-ache, and the woman telling me enthusiastically about Qi didn’t help much either. Damn their eyes, I thought it was a stand about QI. I was hoping for Stephen Fry.

I continued along the river as far as Southwark, witnessing a fine display of London-based art in the Bankside Gallery and a man going at coconuts with a machete. Were I hungover, such a fellow would be useful indeed – coconut water is, in my experience, about the best cure around.
The display on the right is in aid of saving tigers. If you ask me, this is somewhat naive – the tigers have proven in the past that they will make no similar concession to us, and so if these people achieve their goals then we will surely be eaten in our beds.
Thereafter, I walked through Southwark to Elephant and Castle, where some chavs commented adversely on my outfit. Unfortunately, they spoke in some strange chavvish argot that I was incapable of understanding. Hooray for boats!

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