We left Plymouth at a leisurely hour in the early afternoon on the 23rd. Rocky’s daughter Katie had dropped by in the morning for a brief visit (her brother Duncan stopped by yesterday) and they gave me a gift certificate for one of the local stores. Not being one to allow a travel schedule to get in the way of some retail therapy I, of course, dropped everything and went shopping. Well, I HAD to – I wouldn’t have been able to use the card once I left the area otherwise! While I was gone Bruce was helping Rocky to set up a bike Rocky had recently acquired. Hey Rocky: Bruce says you’re a natural on a bike - he said you ride as though it’s part of you! High praise indeed, coming from Bruce!
From Plymouth we hit the fast road to make up some time as we headed towards Glastonbury. Just before Exeter, however, we took a short detour down to the lovely village of Ashprington in Devon. I was keen to see the place where the family of my first son-in-law (Mike) originated. The Carwithens have a lot of history in this community and there’s a wonderful old church with a beautiful carved pulpit that was donated by an earlier Carwithen (with inscriptions carved inside the pulpit). The Carwithens provided several Rectors to the Parish over a couple of centuries with the earliest one (shown on a scroll in the church) dating back to 1757. Another Carwithen is listed as having been a magistrate in India and he was Sir Michael Carwithen. I used to rib Mike that when clocking in at his job as a sheet metal fabricator he should say ‘Sir Mike is in the building’. The Canadian connection is that one of the Carwithens (probably a second son who was sent off to make his own way in the world) was one of the first four white men who stepped ashore from a kayak in the Comox Valley and there is a cairn with his name on it (near Courtenay) that commemorates the event and there’s a Carwithen Road nearby. This is the branch of the family from which my wonderful grandson Reid stems so it was fascinating to see it all.
We stayed that night at Glastonbury, but our schedule didn’t allow us any sightseeing in this historically rich area. Unfortunately, we just can’t do it all – no matter how much we’ve tried!
In the morning our goal was the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, Somerset, where they have the first Concorde (002) on display and you can actually go inside the plane. (001, which was developed simultaneously by the French, is in France of course). This particular plane was built strictly for research and not intended for passenger travel, but there is a mock-up of a seating area as it would have been on later models – the rest of the airplane is stuffed full of research and testing equipment. Anyone who has known me for any amount of time knows about my long involvement (about ten years) with the Victoria Air Show as a Director, so it was natural that I should want to see this incredible display of airplanes and we weren’t (either one of us) disappointed - Bruce thought it was fantastic, too. Aside from the Concorde there are numerous other airplanes and static displays (including a helicopter simulator), and there is an ‘aircraft carrier experience’, where you are ‘flown’ aboard it and toured around the various operations centres, including a pretty good simulation of take-offs and landings on the ‘deck’. Loved it!!!
From Yeovilton we proceeded towards Portsmouth, staying in a B & B that we passed just outside the city limits. We were both tired and didn’t want to have to go around in circles inside the City looking for a vacancy. We found a decent enough B & B, The Newhaven, with a large deck off our room that was nice to have on the hot, sunny afternoon, but there was no breakfast available there. In the morning we drove on into Portsmouth, stopping at Waterlooville for breakfast, then we went to visit my last surviving Aunty (my Mum’s sister-in-law) Ethel, who is now in a retirement home in Southsea. She is now 96 and still pretty sharp – she’s always had a great sense of humour and we had lots of laughs (punctuated by comments from a lady who went into the toilet right beside our small seating area and who gave us running commentary from within complete with sound effects before – half an hour later! - emerging to ask if we could smell anything!!! Bruce said it smelled like lunch to him (they were just starting to serve it in the next room), but the woman said “I don’t smell like lunch!” My aunt looked a trifle pained but was very pleasant about it all, saying that the woman was someone from ‘her table’ and that she kept them all entertained with her chatter. It was sad leaving because, at my Aunt’s age and with no idea when I’ll ever return to England, I’m pretty sure this was the last goodbye.
Afterwards we carried on down to The Hard, the busy Portsmouth waterfront, to have some lunch. We returned to the same spot where we had stayed last time we came to Portsmouth and it was just as fascinating. There are a couple of beautiful old pubs where you can sit outside to enjoy your lunch right on the water front – and it’s a BUSY one. The tides just race through there and the water is choppy with conflicting currents – it looked like fast, open water rather than a harbour. Nevertheless, numerous cross channel and Isle of Wight ferries come hurtling in there at high speed, right beside where we’re sitting, and then we saw pleasure boats trying to get off to one side (difficult with the waters) and two large tugs take up position side by side just in front of us, but quite far apart, in the middle of the channel. Then suddenly, from alongside of the pub where we were sitting, a huge naval ship (maybe a destroyer or a frigate?) came hurtling into sight and was scooped up between the two tugs to take it down channel. It was a really exciting moment because of its close proximity and its speed, but my photos absolutely failed to do the event justice. We were elated to be there at that precise moment, as were others who said it was quite a rare event and there we were for it, sucking back cider and munching on a salt beef sandwich! (I have a fabulous movie clip that I wanted to include here, but it was such a technological effort to make it possible that I finally gave up, sorry to say.)
The ferries race into that area at high speed and dock right beside where we were sitting. Some of our Gabriola ferry ‘drivers’ could take some lessons from those guys as to docking a ferry because the ferries we were watching are much larger than ours and they have to deal with flooding tides and raging cross-currents conditions in Portsmouth at the same time as docking the things – they’re masterful mariners, that’s for sure.