Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Planes, Trains and Watermobiles

flybe propeller planeThis being my one true free day where everyone else is back at work, we decided to make it Grandad day. So, as ever, we sought to contrive the busiest day possible for the 87 year-old, as he has less than 2 decades left.
Amazingly the motorway was empty and we got there in only 34 minutes. But this was still sufficient for me to write a report on the Scout Camp to enter into the get-published-in-the-district-magazine competition. I can't quite write as quickly as the torrent of ideas provided by my fellow passengers but got most of it down.
hythe pier from ferry gangplankGrandad was visible in his front room so we picked him up and sped off to little-known coastal town 'Hythe'. We've been there before and witnessed a cricket match in which all the outfield players had to put their pint glasses down when the bowler started running.
But it was clearly market day (with added bunting and old people) in the buzzing metropolis and traffic wardens were patrolling the Waitrose car park so Bud hid the car miles away and we met up at the ferry. The Hythe ferry is very proud of its historical origins and longest pier with the oldest continuously running electric train and you can sponsor a deckboard on the pier and have your name carved into it.
hythe ferry view of container ships loading sothampton docksAnd we walked the length of the very long pier with 4 minutes to spare before the ferry was due to leave and it sat there attached to the dilapidated pontoon for another eternity waiting for the train, like in all the best old blues songs. It was lucky I had a coat because it's quite windy out on the water, but Jof had bought a sunhat. Look, you can see the pier train coming.
Various container ships (such as Wallenius Wilhelmsen and CMA CGM and Hoegh Autoliners) wandered past and they are all curiously square and tall. The journey is only 15 minutes or so but we saw lots of big ships and ferries and planes flying over from Majorca and Jersey.
3.7 inch anti aircraft gun When a bigger ferry goes past, you rock'n'roll most amusingly on their wash. The Hythe ferry lands at Town Quay next to the international ferry terminal where Bud first set foot in England and only a couple of hundred yards away was the old Jewish Ghetto where we walked with Grandad last year.
From there we strolled past the 15th century old god tower (now Maritime Museum) and many splendid edifices and vast impressive monuments to the former wealth and importance of this port town. But an awful lot of it is now labelled 'For Sale' or 'No Entry' or '270 prime waterside flats coming soon'.
And there was a single-track railway with derelict sidings that crossed the road on its way into the port, not sure if it's still used but the tops of the rails were still shiny. We got to the Admiral Sir Lucius Curtis (with dental practice upstairs) which is a Wetherspoons. I get on well with Wetherspoons because I like the food and they're usually in nice big buildings in the middle of town.
rolls royce merlin engine from spitfireThis one had a huge bar with many unknown beers and a big line in historical photos and Southampton Football Club memorabilia. So we all independently decided on the corner table with the big windows in the sun and all got hot again. One of the beers was 'Stonehenge' and you've just got to try it for the name, so 2 of us had pints. What was not known before that decision was that Stonehenge Beer is green. And not just a little bit. So Jof and I laughed at the men with their green beers and we all got stuffed on the burger/scampi/lasagne/gammon meals and didn't need pudding.
From there it is only a hundred yards to Ocean Village which is like Gunwharf Quays but with more sleek expensive yachts and motor boats so we stood there choosing which ones we wanted.
solent sky flying boat southamptonAnd just round the corner was our main target which was 'Solent Sky', a museum of local aviation with a distinct slant on flying boats. Of course the Spitfire was born here so that figured strongly but they boast the only flying boat of its class where you can go in the flight deck and look out of the roof.
This purpose-built warehouse space has a special nook where the tailplane of the biggest plane can fit and there are planes and helicopters of all sizes hanging from the rafters and filling up the view with rotors and propellers and engines and wings and wing-floats and it's all rather fun. None of us knew it was here.
The nice man at the desk gave me the young persons' quiz and promised me a prize if I got 10/10 and you had to look for the caricature faces and note down the names of the planes or their engines depending.
solent sky aviation museum southampton
This may not be Jof's thing but she climbed into 'Beachcomber' the flying boat like the rest of us and sat in the seats and it was built in 1947 with guns but then converted into a passenger plane when we ran out of wars. There is a 3.7" anti-aircraft gun and loads of planes and models and medals and a whole section upstairs for the Police and fire brigades and jets and hang-gliders and quite a few things with sticky-tape on saying don't touch, it's broken, and some transmitters*.
And they've got maps of where all the German bombs fell and maps the Germans used when they planned the invasion and photos of buildings before and after air raids. And they have a Guinness Book of World Records certificate signed by Norris McWhirter himself about Squadron Commander Rose who flew 54 different types of military aircraft for 11,539 hours over 47 years without a break in service.
flying boat
At the end I got 10/10 so won a small balsa wood model that was on sale in the shop for 50p and so I got a Concorde model as well and gave them some coins because it was only £17 for all of us and it was all rather good and most worthy.
The ferry back to Hythe seemed quicker but our legs were getting tired so we got on the train back along the pier and it was rattly and trundly and funny. Hythe was still having market day so we bought 2 identical man-bags for the adults who have very definite ideas about what bag you need and ice creams too.
electric train hythe pier ferryOn the trek back to the car we passed over another disused railway, the one to Fawley which I hear is going to be redeveloped so they might need the railway again.
At Grandad's place he taught me about graphs and gave us chocolate and lo, it was a good day.
* Back in 1950 something, Grandad worked for the Post Office Telephones and came top of the whole country at their exam. So he was the youngest senior engineer until he did his National Service teaching people about electronics in the RAF and met transmitters and satellite systems and stuff, and they were so interesting he left the Post Office and went to Africa to run phone networks for warmer countries instead.

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