30 January 2016

A Swimming Lesson

Today I joined my daughter at her gym, not for anything energetic, I'm way past all that treading the mill, lifting the weights, all that intense cardio stuff, I much prefer walking or cycling nowadays.
No today was a nice relaxing day in the pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. My daughter gets guest passes so today was one of those visits.
There was a little effort expected on my part though, I had asked my daughter to help teach me the proper breathing technique for swimming the breast stroke, the only kind of swimming I can do.
I learnt to swim at school but it was very basic, just staying afloat really. We learnt at the outdoor pool in Peterborough where I was born and bred. A bus collected us from school once a week. After changing into our costumes we all lined up at the shallow end and if we didn't jump in of our own accord the teacher pushed us in!!! Can you imagine doing that now!!!.....
Lessons consisted mainly of doing the correct arm movements whilst keeping one leg on the bottom of the pool. Eventually I gained the courage to lift the leg and I swam.
After drying off and applying a liberal coating of talcum powder we then enjoyed a mug of steaming hot bovril, thus ensuring we returned to school warm and invigorated. I can't remember what we did about drying our hair though, mine was long then and took a while to dry naturally.
I'm not a confident swimmer but I do enjoy it as long as I'm close to the edge of the pool, or not in the deep end. But because I was never really taught properly I hold my head at an awkward angle in order to breathe, and after a while my neck aches. 
So suitably equipped with goggles we started. It wasn't disastrous but neither was it a huge success, I couldn't co-ordinate arm movements, head up breathing in, head under water breathing out, all in a few seconds! I also had difficulty with water in my nose. So I need lots of practice, and a nose clip. 
After a few lengths we spent the rest of the time relaxing in the jacuzzi, steam room and my favourite - the sauna. After lunch we finished the day with some retail therapy. Daughter bought a pair of trainers, I bought plasters and chocolate!

How is your swimming technique?

21 January 2016

The Royal Observatory

Our next stop after the Maritime Museum

Situated on a hill in Greenwich Park overlooking the River Thames, the Royal Observatory is the “home of time” and the Prime Meridian Line. Flamsteed House designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1675 contains a world famous collection of timekeepers. It was commissioned in 1675 by King Charles II and the site was chosen by Sir Christopher Wren. At that time the king also created the position of Astronomer Royal to serve as the director of the observatory, whose job description was: "To apply himself with the most exact care and diligence to the rectifying of the tables of the motions of the heavens, and the places of the fixed stars, so as to find out the much desired longitude of places for the perfecting of the art of navigation." - Phew

King Charles appointed John Flamsteed as the first AR and the building was their home as well as an observatory. Since then ten royal astronomers and their families have lived there.  
The scientific work of the observatory was relocated elsewhere in the first half of the 20th century, and the building became a museum. There is a range of artefacts used by the Royal astronomers including their telescopes and timepieces. There are several astronomy galleries exploring how planets were formed, the mysteries of the universe and the opportunity to guide a space mission!

We took the fairly long steep walk up and the steps back down

Can you see  some gnarled faces?

The Royal Observatory is famous for supplying Greenwich Mean Time. 
Greenwich Mean Time is a time zone, the mean solar time at the prime meridian (the line of longititude where east meets west) which runs through Greenwich, London. There are lots of in depth explanations online, but my head was spinning trying to understand it all!

From 1833 astronomers made a daily signal to mariners in the Thames at 1pm (1300 hrs) by raising and dropping the time-ball on Flamstead House. In 1852 electric technology enabled them to send the time to the nation by telegraph. Visitors could also get the time without disturbing the astronomers, from the Shepherd Gate Clock outside of the observatory. The Shepherd Gate Clock is a slave dial that originally received electrical impulses from the master clock within Flamsteed House. 

Sitting Room

The Great Equatorial Telescope

This 23 inch refracting telescope is the largest of its kind in the UK and the seventh largest in the world.It was commissioned in 1885 by William Christie, Astroner Royal and completed in 1893

It was built to research double star systems and remained in use until the late 1960s. With the recent addition of a computer-aided guidance system and CCD camera, it continues to work as an excellent visual aid to observing the night sky.

The Meridian Line
Me  - black boots, grandson - trainers

I didn't take many photos this time, for three reasons:
I was getting tired
Grandson was getting fed up
I wanted to get back to a vintage market I had spied earlier

Lovely grandson saying "No more photos nan, you have enough now"

He was right of course, it was time to go.

And what better way to end the day than with a browse round the brilliant Greenwich market

And the vintage market

Need some cutlery


maybe a vintage fur coat

or a pretty tea set

a lace christening gown

some stuff

or a dog!

I bought this pretty ring

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my day at Greenwich
as much as I've enjoyed writing about it.

17 January 2016

The Maritime Museum

Next stop after the Cutty Sark and lunch was the brilliant Maritime Museum. We're lucky having so many free museums in London offering information, history and great exhibitions.

The National Maritime Museum Greenwich is the leading Maritime museum of the UK and may be the largest museum of its kind in the world. This historic building forms part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage site, which also incorporates the Royal Observatory and the 17th century Queen's House. 

I took 114 photos! no please don't go, I'm not going to show you all of them,
but it has been difficult deciding which ones to use.

King George V battleship built by Vickers-Armstrong Ltd in 1940 
difficult to see properly with reflections from the glass.

Buoys and Beacons
Herberts patent floating buoy; Herberts patent floating lighthouse; The Kentish Knock. 
The Kentish Knock was a Trinity House light vessel stationed in the Thames estuary. Light vessels had to be towed to and from their station. They were manned by a crew of ten. Traditionally they were painted red to make them conspicuous in daylight.

Eddystone lighthouse painted by Isaac Sailmaker. The Eddystone was the first offshore rock to be marked by a lighthouse. The original lighthouse was washed away in the great storm of 1703. The tower in this painting is its replacement.

                                                                                              The components needed


Grace Darling was the daughter of the keeper of the Longstone lighthouse. One stormy night in 1838 a paddle steamer was wrecked on some nearby rocks. Grace and her father, William 
set out into the gale in their open rowing boat to rescue the survivors.

Ajax and Bulldog figureheads. 
Ajax the warrior was celebrated in ancient Greek mythology.
The bulldog is a symbol of British aggression and tenacity. 
The leaping bulldog has the words CAVE CANEM (beware of the dog) inscribed on its collar. 

My favourite, Sunbeam, the child angel. It's a sad one. This gold painted half length figurehead was commissioned for politician Thomas Brassey's (later Earl Brassey) steam yacht "Sunbeam". It was based on his daughter Constance, whose nickname was Sunbeam. Born in Feb 1868, only four years into her little life she died of scarlet fever.

Ship's badges 

In 1894 the Royal Navy abolished figureheads for major vessels, after the introduction of new steam powered iron ships. In 1918 badges were introduced as the official symbol of a ship's identity.

Travelling in style
Frederick's Barge. In 1732 this limousine barge was built for Frederick, Prince of Wales. 
In the 18th century travelling by boat on the Thames was the fastest way to get around.

The Traders: the East India Company and Asia gallery.

For over 250 years the East India Company shaped trade between Britain and Asia, becoming enormously wealthy in the process and even taking on pirates with its own navy. This gallery looks at the commodities the company traded, the people who shaped its tumultuous career and the conflicts and rebellions that were its ultimate undoing, as well as its continuing impact on the world today.

The gallery features Japanese, Chinese and Burmese swords; beautifully crafted ship models and navigational instruments; Nelson’s Japan-pattern breakfast service; medals, journals, timepieces, spices, fabrics that shaped our fashions, tea which transformed from a luxury to a favourite national past time. Also involvement in the drug trade, resulting in two wars with China.

Opium was outlawed by the Chinese authorities 
but demand for it was provided by imports from India. 
This thriving illegal trade was the darker side of Britain's insatiable taste for tea.

HMS Seringapatam was a 46 gun warship launched at the Bombay dockyard in 1819.
This quirky chap was her figurehead.
It's thought to represent Tipu Sultan of Mysore riding a roc - a mythical bird of great strength.
As the ruler of an extensive empire in southern India, Tipu opposed the extension of Company rule in India.

Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith, Admiral James de Saumarez, Admiral Sir Edward Pellew and Captain Sir William Peel. What fine, handsome chaps they were.

This beautiful tranquil area houses stained glass windows 
from the Baltic Exchange building known as the half-dome. 
It is a fusion of classical and religious symbolism which celebrates the heroism and triumph of war. 
I'm not sure war is held in such high esteem nowadays though. 

The stunning Virtue Windows depict Hope, Fortitude, Justice, Truth and Faith.
The Romans established a long list of virtues as qualities to which all human beings should aspire. 

The virtues are common themes in Medieval and Renaissance art, 
where they are traditionally depicted as women

The Navy offered rewards for all those who joined. When an enemy ship was captured it and its cargo became a legal "prize". When the cargo was sold the gains were shared among the captors.
The prize money was sometimes a vast fortune and although the captain and officers took the majority, seamen also received a share.

Frigates were the workhorses of the Navy. 
They escorted convoys, acted as scouts, carried information and attacked enemy trade.

The Borough of Dover freedom casket 1918-19 was presented to Vice-Admiral Sir Roger Keyes
for his role in planning the Zeebrugge raid 

City of Hull freedom casket 1919-20 was presented to Admiral Beatty.
Hull was a key port for supplying seamen and vessels to the war effort.

There is also the excellent Nelson gallery and one covering both world wars but I only
had time to either enjoy the displays or rush around taking photos, I chose the former.

We finished our day at the Royal Observatory - up next

10 January 2016


The Royal Borough of Greenwich. Home to many grand old buildings and establishments, great markets, quirky shops and loads of history, there is so much to do, to see, atmosphere to soak up,
something for everyone. 

My most recent visit was towards the end of November, I had my grandson with me, I was anxious about security, but I wasn't going to change my plans and my daughter shared my feelings.

Perhaps one of the oldest and most famous residents is this lovely old ship.  

The Cutty Sark was once the most famous of the great clippers - the fast sailing ships of the nineteenth century that traversed the world’s major trading routes. 

She was built on the Clyde in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, commissioned by shipping magnate Jock "Whitehat" Willis who operated the shipping company founded by his father. The ship was named after Cutty-sark, the nickname of the witch Nannie Dee in Robert Burns's 1791 poem Tam o' Shanter

The ship's figurehead, attributed to carver Fredrick Hellyer of Blackwall, is a stark white carving of a bare-breasted Nannie Dee with long black hair holding a grey horse's tail. In the poem she wore a linen sark (a short chemise or undergarment), that she had been given as a child, which explains why it was cutty - far too short. The sight of her dancing in such a short undergarment caused Tam to cry out "Weel done, Cutty-sark". Originally, carvings by Hellyer of the other scantily clad witches followed behind the figurehead along the bow, but these were removed by Willis in deference to 'good taste'.

The white painted metalwork is part of the original iron framework. Almost all of it dates back to 1869 when the ship was built. The grey metalwork has been installed to support the original structure. The Cutty Sark was a masterpiece of sailing ship design. Her hull of timber and iron was sleek and strong and her three canvas masts propelled her to speeds of up to 17 knots. As a result she spent the 1870's speeding across the high seas, establishing a reputation as one of the fastest ships afloat. Speed was a major advantage to a merchant ship and created prestige for the owners. As well as prestige her speed also secured handsome profits, bringing the new tea crop from China to the fashionable tearooms and parlours of Victorian Britain.

So precious was this new commodity that when it was first brought to Europe
it was kept under lock and key in tea caddies.

The skilled Chinese stevedores could load more than 10,000 tea chests in two or three days. 
Bamboo matting covered with canvas made sure that the tea
was kept dry if water seeped through from the main deck.

The annual tea race was a Victorian sensation, the progress of the ships was  reported by telegraph and could be followed in the newspapers. Huge bets were laid on the outcome. The Cutty Sark was never first to the finish line, but she was still one of the fastest. In 1872 she was involved in one of the most famous tea races of all time, against the Thermopylae. The two ships were neck and neck until the Cutty Sark lost her rudder in heavy seas in the Indian Ocean. The accident meant Thermopylae beat her back to London by 7 days, but the Cutty Sark’s performance was nevertheless remarkable.

Whilst the opening of the Suez Canal offered steamships a shorter route to the Far East, cutting approximately two months off their journey time, the winds of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean were not suited to the clippers. Consequently, the increasing speed and cargo capacity of steamships soon rendered sailing ships unprofitable. By the late 1870s, the Cutty Sark had been pushed out of the tea trade and her future looked bleak. In 1880 she set off on a voyage to Japan delivering coal for the American Pacific fleet. She never completed the voyage though. A fight amongst the crew left one man dead, and when the man responsible was allowed to escape by the captain, the rest of the crew mutinied. The ship’s captain, realising his career was ruined, committed suicide by stepping off the ship’s stern into the sea. 
These dark events gave the Cutty Sark a new reputation amongst sailors, as a ‘hellship’ and a cursed vessel. The worst possible reputation for a ship. Determined to turn her fortunes around, in 1885 Jock Willis hired an excellent, eccentric clipper captain named Richard Woodget. Captain Woodget recognised that the Cutty Sark’s commercial advantage now lay in the dangerous wool run to Australia.

In this arena the Cutty Sark once again excelled, setting speed records between London, 
Melbourne and Sydney. 
She also carried whisky at least once as part of a general cargo from London to Sydney in 1890. 
The Cutty Sark brand of whisky was created in 1923. 

It's thought that she also carried coffee and silk and private cargo.

In 1886 in Shanghai, Captain Woodget acquired a bicycle like this one
which he learnt to ride on the tween deck. 
He also learnt to roller skate!

For a decade Cutty Sark established her fame through her lightning voyages, but by 1895, she was approaching the end of her life expectancy and had ceased to be profitable. After her heyday, she was sold to a Portuguese company, who renamed her the Ferreira. The ship spent 25 years transporting cargoes between Portugal, Africa and the Americas, and managed to avoid German U-boats during World War I. 

In 1922 she was purchased by Captain Dowman, a former clipper who remembered her from her glory days. Dowman renamed her the Cutty Sark and brought her to Falmouth, where she was restored and opened to the public. 
Upon Dowman’s death in 1936, the ship passed to the navy Training College at Greenhithe to be used as a training ship by British naval cadets. Aboard her, a generation of Royal and Merchant Navy cadets were trained on how to work a sailing ship. 
Time finally ran out for the Cutty Sark after World War II, when the College got a new training ship. Now facing the scrapyard, the Cutty Sark was once again rescued from obscurity. 
In 1951, the Cutty Sark Society had been established by her admirers. With the support of the public and the Society’s patron, the Duke of Edinburgh, funds were raised to rescue her. 
In 1954, she was placed in dry dock in Greenwich, London where  she served as a unique example of breathtaking ship design and as a symbol of Britain’s proud maritime heritage. She also became the memorial to the Merchant Navy and its losses in two world wars.
Over the decades, the same timbers that were once pounded by the storms of the Cape Horn came under new threat. Years of exposure to the elements took their toll. Her wooden hull was waterlogged and rotting and the iron frame that supported them was rusting. In 2007 comprehensive conservation of the ship was started. 
She has been damaged by fire twice, firstly in May 2007. Thankfully, she was undergoing restoration work at the time, and about fifty per cent of the ship had been removed, including the iconic figurehead, the masts and rigging, the coach house, and a significant amount of planking, so the damage could have been a lot worse. She was restored and reopened to the public on 25 April 2012. Secondly, on 19 October 2014 she suffered minor damage in a smaller fire.
In her long life she has faced the scrapyard many times. But thanks to good fortune and the hard work of her admirers, today she is the last tea clipper to survive. For fifty years she has stood in dry dock in Greenwich, where she has become a top tourist attraction and famous London landmark. 

She is, not least, a unique link to Britain’s proud maritime past.

She has been beautifully renovated

A bit of fun steering a virtual ship from Australia to England. 
Captain Woodget did it in 73 days.

                           My grandson did it in 84 days            I took 94 days, I went the wrong way round!!

         Master's Cabin                Captains dining room

“Heads” seems a strange description for a toilet! 
It derives from the fact that the toilet on a marine vessel was located at the front of the ship (the head), 
so that water from the sea that splashed up on the front of the boat would wash the waste away. 
The term is thought to have been used as early as the 17th century. 

As an army marches on its stomach, so too I imagine sailors sail on theirs. 
Everyone on a ship is important but probably one of the most important people is the cook. 

As we were looking around on deck I was suddenly aware that I could hear animal noises -  pigs to be precise, then I spotted it, no not a real pig, a pretend one. Livestock were taken on board for food.


Now I suspect you're going to have a bit of a chuckle here. For years I thought that short bunks were an indication of short sailors!! I know I know, shame, but the real reason didn't occur to me. A very nice man acting as Jock "Whitehat" on the ship explained that they were designed that way so that the men would repose with their legs bent thus ensuring that their sleep wouldn't be disturbed by constant rolling around - simple. I wonder if they wore knee pads!

The Long John Silver Collection of Figureheads was given to Cutty Sark in 1953 by Sydney Cumbers, also known as Long John Silver because of his eye patch and his love of all things maritime.

Does the figure in blue holding the flower remind you of anyone?

Thank you for reading, hope you've enjoyed this little bit of history. 
Don't miss the next installment - the brilliant Maritime Museum :-)

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