Thursday, 27 November 2008


Further to my blog on 19th September, in which I was lamenting the loss of the Woolworths store in Southampton city centre, it was announced today that the company has gone into administration with debts reported by the BBC to be over £285 million.  With businesses falling at a rate of knots as the credit crunch becomes ever darker, it remains to be seen if the jobs of over 30,000 Woolworths' staff will be saved.  

Eling Tide Mill

The Tide Mill at Eling has been absorbing my attention recently.  I popped over to see it and have a chat with the Mill Assistants, John Hurst (pictured beside the giant waterwheel) and Andrew Turpin.  This proved to be a very informative afternoon and I was soon absorbed in the history of this unique place.

There has been a mill standing on the site for centuries.  It is mentioned in the Domesday Book and it was owned by Winchester College for over 600 years.  The current building was rebuilt about 230 years ago and is of a mellow red brick with low ceilings, narrow staircases and the pleasant odour of salt water, old wood and flour dust.  

The millpond, on the opposite side of the toll bridge outside, is a huge dam.  It is a haven for waterfowl and wildlife.  The tide comes in, opens the sea gates, fills the millpond and the sea gates close on the change in the tide.  On milling days the sluice gates are opened and the trapped water cascades over the waterwheel, sending the grinding stones around.  A simple idea using ancient, environmentally friendly and fully sustainable energy!

For those interested in visiting the last working Tide Mill in the UK, it is signposted off the A326 when you leave Southampton, Hampshire, going towards the New Forest.  It is open from 10 a.m.  to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday.  Flour milled there is for sale in the shop on site.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

A Final Farewell

Southampton said 'Farewell' in style last night to the QE2.  Thousands turned out in the bitter cold to wave, take photos and video as she backed up to Mayflower Park for a grand firework display and then steamed out of port for the last time.

A cacophony of sound surrounded her as hundreds of small craft, ferries and other merchant vessels all sounded their horns and milled around her as she left.  It was a memorable sight.  I could hear mothers explaining to their children, who were long past their bedtime, that they should watch, as this was history they were seeing.  Awed kids obediently stared, open mouthed as she started her final journey, lights ablaze.   

As she sailed down Southampton Water fire works saluted her from the shore and her horn sounded out a deep, 'Thank you and Farewell' as she passed.   

In all it was a momentous night.  The Queen Elizabeth 2 will be sadly missed here in Southampton. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Farewell Queen Elizabeth 2, continued

The wind blew and the cold numbed hands.  The boat I had booked a place on to go out and photograph the QE2 farewell events could not sail, as the sea was so rough.  

Undaunted I made for the shore at Netley, not the ideal vantage point, but better than not seeing her.  

Prince Philip bade farewell aboard the QE2, when he toured the ship and attended a reception with local dignitaries, the ship's Master, Captain Ian McNaught and long serving members of crew. At 11 o'clock a million poppies were dropped on the ship and there were two minutes silence to mark Remembrance Day.  

At 1.40 a Harrier Jet approached the ship, cleaving through the clear blue skies to the delight of expectant onlookers.  It hovered and bowed in stately salute to the Grand Old Lady before zooming off in a cloud of exhaust fumes.

RFA Mounts Bay then sailed past her, with horn blaring, leading a flotilla of small boats braving the swells, all determined to pay their respects.  

In all it was a fitting farewell for a much loved Old Lady.

Tonight she sails from her home port for the final time.  In Mayflower Park there will be a firework display and a recorded address by the ship's Master will be broadcast.  

It's All Very Interesting...

It has been pointed out to me that I have over-used the words 'very interesting' in my blog, 'An Interesting Week.'  

I hate to say this but this news is indeed very interesting!  It made me go back and look at the article and sure enough the phrase is there twice, 'interesting' is used in the title, and 'interested' is used twice too.  I am mortified!  Apologies to all my readers.  Let it be a lesson to me to read and re-read my work, looking not just for spelling errors and obvious repetition, but the more subtle kind too.  I promise I will be more careful in future and my thanks to Rob Innis in Spain for pointing out the fault.

Farewell Queen Elizabeth 2

The QE2 was determined not to leave service quietly.  Coming in to her homeport of Southampton for the last time this morning, she hit a sandbank and grounded.  According to the BBC, witnesses speculated that the high winds, which caused the cancellation of her last port of call in Guernsey yesterday, were to blame for the grounding.  The winds, gusting up to 70 mph in some places along the South Coast, have been responsible for flooding and disruption, with Dover ferry services interrupted and the container port at Thamesport, Isle of Grain, closed. 

On the BBC website, Eric Flounders, Cunard spokesman said, 

"She touched a sandbank called Brambles but with the tide rising she was able to get away.  We are not aware at this stage of any damage to the vessel and everything is proceeding today as planned.  We don't know exactly what happened for the vessel to get stuck."

Commodore Warner, Commodore of the Cunard Fleet,when I interviewed him for Hampshire Life magazine (to be published January 2009) commented that the QE2, 'is ending up in Dubai on November 27th.  She is becoming a hotel and conference centre in the Palms.  I think the great thing about it is that nobody wants to see the ship leave the fleet.  She is an old favourite.  There is plenty of money to make sure she is very well looked after.  I am sure she will be spending another forty years down there."

The 70,000 tonnes QE2 came into service in 1967 and since that time she has been in to her home port 700 times, crossed the Atlantic 800 times and has carried more than 2.5 million passengers.

Southampton will be saying farewell to this grand old lady with a series of events throughout Tuesday, which I will endeavour to bring to readers later today.

Monday, 10 November 2008

An interesting week...

Well, what a week!  It began on Monday with a Council meeting of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists.  This was my first meeting since joining the Council and there were a lot of names to learn!  I was made to feel very welcome indeed, which was appreciated.

Sylvia Kent, writer, author, photographer and charming lady, was there with her camera and now I can be seen on her blog, which is good of her.  For those interested, click here to read her short piece on new Council members.

While at the meeting I had several conversations with writers of all genres.  It was very interesting to meet poets (I have great admiration for someone who can write poetry.  The best I can do is a poor haiku!), novelists, journalists and fiction writers to mention just a few. Having written in isolation for so long, there were not many writers on Anguilla and we did not socialise as such, it is quite a welcome novelty to be able to talk 'shop' with like minded people.

One such writer is Anita Marie Sackett, who takes poetry into schools.  This friendly and likable lady is the Poetry Representative on the SWWJ Council. Her website is a riot of colour and gives much information on this talented lady, including details of her children's poetry and adult historical talks.  

Tuesday I moved into my office at home.  I was only a week late in doing so, courtesy of the local carpet fitters who had come ten days before, boarded out the office floor, laid carpet and departed. By the next day the board had expanded and there were large 'bouncy' areas where it had bubbled.  It took them ages to come back and sort it out, which they eventually did with much noise and no apology. 

On Wednesday I celebrated being able to work at a desk for the first time since I left Anguilla. I thought I would try my hand at writing a little something for The Observer newspaper.  The paper has a column called 'My Crap Holiday' and I have travelled extensively.  I thought I could mine my memory for something unfortunate and write it up.  The result was a short piece on our one and only family trip to Spain, which was awful to say the least. I sent it in, sat back and waited.

Thursday brought a parcel from America.  Regular readers may remember that I reported on the Anguilla regatta for several publications back in the summer.  I sailed on 'Hearts Desire' a 1925 Alden Schooner in one of the races, which was both fun and very interesting.  I have been contacted by a person who worked on the boat in the 1970s and we have been emailing ever since.  He has sent me a book of his father's war time letters home.  His father, a private in the US Army Corps during WWII was stationed for a time in England.  This book seems very interesting and I look forward to reading it and, perhaps, following up on some of the clues inside to find out more about this US serviceman and the people he met here in the UK. Watch this space...

On Friday I took time out and had lunch with our son.  This was a rare treat for us both as we are busy people.  It was good to have a little time to ourselves and to be able to chat.  

Sunday dawned wet and depressing.  I was raring to go though as I had lots of ideas for articles queueing up in my head and I wanted to get them started.  My husband nipped off to get the Sunday paper and left me to it.  He brought back The Observer and I was very pleased to see that my holiday had been thought bad enough to reach the 'My Crap Holiday' column!  If you are interested, read it here.  

I wonder what this week will bring?