Have Bag, Will Travel
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Lined on each side with caramel coloured houses with terracotta tiled roofs, the Calle de Valencia followed the line of the old medieval town wall and half way to the castle we passed through the Puerto del Porto Mayor which was once the main gateway into the narrow streets of the old town and from here there was a final twisting climb to the Plaza del Castillo and the Parador Hotel.
“Ancient Greeks had no sense of time or distance. No reliance can be placed on their measurements, just as no reliance can be placed on the modern Greeks when they are dealing with space and time” – Lawrence Durrell, ‘Propero’s Cell’
Horology is the art or science of measuring time. Clocks, watches, clockwork, sundials, stop-watches, egg-timers and marine chronometers are all examples of instruments used to measure time and although the word has Greek origins this is surprising because generally speaking Greek people attach just about the same amount of importance to schedules as they do their tax returns!
Opening and closing hours in the shops and bars, even banks are an example of this and this disregard for time is one of the charms of the Greek Islands. But when it comes to public transportation this is a different matter!
In Amorgos one morning after breakfast at a harbour side café we walked to the coach station for the scheduled ten o’clock bus across to the other side of the island to the Byzantine Monastery of the Virgin Mary Chozoviotissa, but the driver was working to GMT, that’s Greek Maybe Time, and the confused crowd that began to build up all had to wait until a little after ten-thirty when he finally arrived for work.
It was about a half an hour journey across the island and then another half an hour slog on foot up a rocky path on a very sharp incline to reach the entrance to the monastery.
Once there it became immediately obvious that we were going to have some difficulty visiting the interior because we were deemed to be inappropriately dressed. We had shorts on and apparently Monks don’t like shorts. They don’t mind short dresses, denims or cropped trousers but they don’t like shorts!
There was a long wait for the bus back we decided to walk along the road to the beach at Aggi Anna where the bus turns around to go back to the port. Based on the earlier delays to the schedule I calculated that we had plenty of time to achieve this and we set off down the twisty road at an appropriately leisurely pace. To our surprise and horror we were only about three quarters of the way to the bottom when the bus appeared, bang on time, and we had to get a bit of a rush on to make the connection. Actually we had to do a bit more than just hurry up and the last two hundred metres turned into a full sprint under the hot midday sun.
On another tense occasion we were leaving Koufonisia on the way to Ios and our transport from the hotel arrived and we said goodbye and in just a couple of minutes we were at the quayside with a handful of other people waiting for the Seajet. As ours was a tight connection in Naxos for the transfer to Ios we really needed the ferry to be on time so we looked out to sea scanning the horizon for signs of its arrival. Eventually it came into view and was soon in the port but it was already five minutes late so this reduced our transfer window to eight minutes.
I tried to use thought transference to will people to board quickly and then to get the captain to slip the moorings and leave and it must have worked because everything went smoothly and soon the Seajet was easing away from Koufonisia and was soon at full throttle, rounding the southern end of Naxos and heading efficiently north towards the port at the north end of the island.
The ferry lost no more time and pulled into Naxos only a few minutes behind schedule but as the doors opened and we prepared to disembark we could see that our next ferry, the Aqua Jewel, was on time, already loaded with passengers and cars and I used thought transference again to get the crew to hurry up and dock.
The Aqua Jewel was almost ready to leave so we pushed our way to the front of the queue and as soon as were off we ran to the other side of the quay and made it with only seconds to spare. It wasn’t very elegant but at least we were on board and that was important because if we had missed this connection then we would be stuck in Naxos for the night.
“Ross Tiger” by Grimsby Artist Carl Paul – www.carlpaulfinearts.co.uk
“Grimsby is a town that shuns the notion of heritage” – Daily Telegraph
I think this statement by the Daily Telegraph is a little unfair. No, it is a lot unfair. Grimsby is a lot like Hull and bear in mind here that the city of Hull on the opposite side of the Humber Estuary has been named UK Capital of Culture for 2017 and no one in England, except for the awarding judges, can really understand why.
Today, my plan was to visit the National Fishing Heritage Centre which is where I take all visitors when they come to see us in Grimsby. It is a very fine museum run by the local council. It recreates life in 1960s Grimsby in and around the dock area and then takes visitors on board a trawler to experience life at sea in pursuit of the cod. It provides an insight to life in Grimsby when it was the biggest and most important fishing port in the World but as I mentioned before this has all gone now.
In 1958 Britain went to war – this time with Iceland. The First Cod War lasted from 1st September until 12th November 1958 and began in response to a new Icelandic law that tripled the Icelandic fishery zone from four nautical miles to twelve to protect its own fishing industry.
The British Government declared that their trawlers would fish under protection from Royal Navy warships in three areas, out of the Westfjords, north of Horn and to the southeast of Iceland. All in all, twenty British trawlers, four warships and a supply vessel operated inside the newly declared zones. This was a bad tempered little spat that involved trawler net cutting, mid ocean ramming incidents and collisions. It was also a bit of an uneven contest because in all fifty-three British warships took part in the operations against seven Icelandic patrol vessels and a single Catalina flying boat.
Eventually Britain and Iceland came to a settlement, which stipulated that any future disagreement between the two countries in the matter of fishery zones would be sent to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and the Icelandic Minister Bjarni Benediktsson hailed the agreement as “Iceland’s biggest ever political victory.“
But it wasn’t the end of Cod Wars because there was a second in 1972 and a third in 1975 when on both occasions Iceland further extended their territorial fishing waters without consultation and continuing to protect these is what keeps Iceland from joining the European Union even today.
Today Grimsby is dominated by the fish processing sector rather than the catching industry. Processors are mainly supplied by over-landed fish from other UK ports and by a harsh twist of fate containerised white fish from Iceland.
The visit started well enough and after I purchased the tickets we took a look around the first rooms with their displays of ships and fishing and then we carried on to the trawler reconstruction and this is where things started to go wrong. As we walked through the ship, the wheelhouse, the crew quarters, the galley and the engine room we met a succession of life sized models which, and I hadn’t really noticed this before, are all rather intimidating. My eldest granddaughter declared them to be monsters and started to hurry us through at a pace that we couldn’t really appreciate the experience.
To be fair to her they are a bit ugly and scary but then I suppose life at sea was like that and what about this picture of the Duchess of Cambridge when she visited the museum, I don’t know if it is just me but that crewman seems to me to be inappropriately leering at her and that’s not right, because she is after all the future Queen of England.
We were racing through the museum now until we came to the end, a recreation of a Grimsby street complete with authentic sounds and smells. My youngest granddaughter rushed through and out into the reception area where some more visitors were buying tickets and she dashed across to them with some advice – “Don’t go in there…” she said, “…it stinks!” and although they found this amusing they carried on regardless.
So, the visit to the National Fishing Heritage Centre was not a huge success and the children were so keen to get away that they didn’t even pester me to look around the shop (there isn’t much in it anyway) and we left with unnecessary haste and went to find a fish and chip shop for lunch. At the table we ordered Haddock because since the war with Iceland Grimbarians won’t eat Cod and will tell you that Haddock is a superior fish.
On a visit to the Black Forest in Germany we stayed at a nice hotel in the town of Offenberg. One evening when going to the restaurant we were disturbed to find a bus tour from the Netherlands had pitched up and they were all in the dining room right now.
Because they were so busy the service was slow which meant that we drank more wine than is advisable and to pass the time I started to poke around the bric-a-brac and the ornaments and then foolishly started to fiddle with an impressive large cuckoo clock hanging on the wall behind the table.
Immediately I wished I hadn’t touched those cone things that drive the mechanism because it unexpectedly whirred into life and out popped the cuckoo, which had been dormant for a thousand years which unfortunately turned out to be a rather loud cuckoo.
And then as the chain headed non stop towards the floor it popped out several more times, each time announcing itself with its little song that just seemed to get louder and louder each time – the doors were banging, the chains were rattling, the bird was going berserk and I wondered if I might eventually have to throttle it to shut it up.
This impromptu and unscheduled entertainment seemed to amuse the people on the bus tour who were giggling and laughing and I just wanted the thing to get back in its box . There was no such luck (some people thought it was a fire alarm and made for the exit) and the clock went through twenty-four movements in under two minutes and believe me that is an awful lot of cuckoos.
Then just as I was giving up all hope the thing thankfully finally exhausted itself and it stopped and with me red faced with embarrassment we slipped out of the restaurant and went back to our room before I could get up to any more mischief.
“Home Port” by Grimsby Artist Carl Paul – http://www.carlpaulfinearts.co.uk
I still had another day to entertain my grandchildren so after Cleethorpes and the seaside I thought I would introduce them to Grimsby, for the time being anyway, my adopted home town and a place where I am very happy to live.
Grimsby is an ordinary, unremarkable sort of place today but it used to be famous, it used to be great, in fact the Parliamentary constituency for the town is still called Great Grimsby and the sign boards at the entrance to the town still cling on to this lofty status. Until only recently (1970ish) is used to be the biggest fishing port in the World. In the World! In the 1950s the trawler fleet landed hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fish and there was so much cod in Grimsby it was used as an alternative currency.
I occasionally measure greatness by place names and how far they have travelled and I was happy to discover a Grimsby in Ontario, Canada, near Niagra Falls and another in Illinois USA. It isn’t Boston, Massachusetts by any stretch of the imagination but nevertheless it is there. In fact Grimsby, Illinois is so small it is categorised as an ‘unincorporated community’, whatever that is.
But greatness can be temporary (look at the Roman Empire for example) and now there is no fleet and no fish. The concessions that Britain made to Iceland as a result of the Cod Wars of the 1970s put lucrative fishing grounds off limit and at a stroke destroyed the fishing industry in the town. It is said that many men who survived perishing at sea came home without jobs and drowned in beer.
Consequently the docks are a rather sad and forlorn place now, abandoned and decrepit, as though everyone walked out of the place one evening and left it in a time warp of crumbling buildings, pot holed roads, streets of empty houses, redundant warehouses and a giant ice making factory which is now a listed building that no one cares for as it is slowly being demolished, not by a wrecking ball but by the simple passing of time. It is a place however which still has the character and spirit of hard working class labour, blood, sweat and toil and this is a place that should be a UNESCO World Heritage Site if ever there was one.
I confess that the old docks are not the best place to take small children for entertainment but today I was going to take them to the National Heritage Fishing Museum and on the way took a short detour because there is one building within the dock area that is really worth going to see.
Lincolnshire is a flat county, a great deal of it struggles to rise even above sea level and this means that any tall building can be seen for miles around. In the south there is the Boston Stump (St Botolph’s Church, the largest Parish Church in England) in the centre there is Lincoln Cathedral (third largest Cathedral in England) and in Grimsby there is the Dock Tower.
This is a water tower built in 1852 to provide hydraulic power to operate the giant lock gates of the dock. It was designed by a man called James William Wild who had visited Siena in Italy and had so admired the place that he based his design for the Grimsby Dock Tower on the Torre del Mangia tower in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena city centre.
This fine piece of Italianate architecture on the Humber Estuary may not be Portmeirion in Wales by Sir Clough William-Ellis but is a very fine building. At three hundred and thirty feet it is the tallest building in Lincolnshire, fifty feet higher than either the Boston Stump or Lincoln Cathedral. If it were in Bristol or Newcastle or Manchester then it would be a major tourist attraction but it is in Grimsby and hardly any one visits Grimsby so not many people have seen it.
Or have they? Let me take you two hundred miles or so south to the County of Berkshire and to Legoland Windsor. Legoland is a theme park and one of the attractions is a zone called ‘Miniland’ which is basically a model of London built out of Lego bricks and here there is Buckingham Palace, The Palace of Westminster, St Paul’s Cathedral and a whole host of other famous landmarks.
There isn’t much room for anywhere else but right there alongside the buildings of the capital is a model representing docks – not Portsmouth or Dover or Southampton but Grimsby. Grimsby! To me that is completely astounding and I can find no explanation as to why the designers of ‘Miniland’ should select the remote town of Grimsby to be represented in this way, maybe they got lost on their way over from Sweden?
There are probably about two hundred visitors to Grimsby every year (I imagine), there isn’t even a dedicated Tourist Information Office, but there are over two million visitors to Legoland so a lot more people have visited Grimsby than they ever realised. If, like me, you find this hard to believe then here it is…
The Dock Tower (1), Grimsby Port Offices (2), Corporation Bridge (3) and Victoria Flour Mills (4).
My grandchildren enjoyed their visit to Legoland in 2015 but they weren’t especially thrilled by Grimsby Docks so we didn’t stop long and moved on to the National Fishing Heritage Centre.
Is there anything surprising about your home town? Do tell…
I suppose I have to concede that the most famous and best loved steam locomotive is the Flying Scotsman, but my personal favourite is the garter blue LNER Mallard, a class A4 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive, designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built at Doncaster, England in 1938.
I visited the National Rail Museum in York just to see it and was not disappointed when I got up close in the exhibition hall, taking pride of place it gleams to almost impossible perfection along the entire length of its fashion-model, streamlined body – it must take several hours every evening to get the fingerprints of the admiring visitors removed!
The Mallard is the current record holder of the world speed record for a steam locomotive which it achieved in 1938 by reaching a speed of 126 mph (203 kmh) in Lincolnshire between Grantham and Peterborough. It is difficult to imagine what this must have felt like as the one hundred and seventy tonne engine and tender dragged its coaches at top speed over railway lines that were designed for much lower speeds, the noise and the shaking must have been unimaginable. To see what it might have been like I paid £4 to take a ride in a simulator which tried to recreate the record breaking attempt.
In the 1930s some people were obsessed with speed and breaking records. In the same year that Mallard broke the steam powered record a man called Rudolf Caracciola drove a Mercedes-Benz W125 Rekordwagen at a speed of 268 mph (433 kmh) on a German Autobahn which is a record that still stands as the fastest ever officially timed speed on a public road.
In February 1938 Squadron Leader J.W. Gillan flew an RAF Hawker Hurricane fighter plane from Edinburgh to London in forty-eight minutes and achieved a record land plane speed of 409 mph (660 kmh). I expect that he was in a bit of a rush to get back to the officer’s mess before closing time!
Also in 1938 Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the water speed record in Bluebird K3 when he achieved a speed of 141 mph (227 kmh) on Lake Maggoire in Switzerland. In the following year he broke the record again in K4 on Lake Coniston in the Lake District in England.