Svelte model Shivanthini
Last week I jumped on the 188 bus , then proceeded to bury my head in a book like I usually do. When I looked up the bus was stopping in a completely different place to where I expected to be. It had been going in completely the opposite direction and instead of ending up on The Strand, I was in Greenwich which is way over in the South East corner of London . Wandering around looking for the bus stop that would take me back, I saw the rigging of a ship . Curious to see something so nautical in an otherwise normal high street, I strolled in that direction. It turned out to be the famous Cutty Sark , the world's only surviving tea and wool clipper, built in 1869 . Alongside it was the Gipsy Moth IV, another record breaking boat , which made history when Sir Francis Chichester made the first round the world solo navigation.
He deserved a prize for not going stir crazy on this tiny cramped boat , which is about the size of a Sri Lankan private coach, only not as smelly and decrepit.
Feeling in a nautical mood , I decided to do something I've always meant to do - take a cruise down the Thames and see London from a maritime perspective. So I paid my fee and hopped on board the 'Pridella'- strange name , strange boat . A launch with the distinct odour of mouldy cheese , this assailed my nostrils so much I had to go out and sit on the chilly quarter deck, aft of the boat. (quarterdeck, aft ....pretty nautical terms for a landlubber, eh ?) Once I was out of Toejam City, I felt thoroughly refreshed, despite the fraudulently named 'coffee' I had purchased from the mess. The sun was shining overhead, the wind was crisp and nippy, seagulls danced overhead, the deck was pretty.......slippy (I'm a poet and I didn't even know it). For some reason, the captain decided to stick an Ella Fitzgerald album on, so we sailed along to the strains of her lovely, liquid voice.
The surrealism of the situation was augmented by the fact that I was the only passenger on board. Even so, the chubby guide felt he had to go through the whole rigmarole with the microphone and his spiel, so there I was sitting in the back, with him in the front mouthing off and looking at little old me......tres bizarre. He drawled through a dry little commentary as we went past, making wry comments about some of the buildings. 'On your left is the home of your friend and mine ....the IRS'. We sailed past Canary Wharf, the monument to Eighties cassness that Tony Blair is now trying to turn into a symbol of New Britain. We also sailed past the HMS Belfast a World War II battleship that is still on show and another haven for old battleships, the Houses of Parliament .
We sailed past Shakespeare's Globe, now reconstructed to the delight of American tourists who can now say they trod the same boards as the bearded bard himself - and no doubt, buy the same souvenir t-shirt. I personally liked the many bridges we passed under, with my favourite being the sky blue Tower Bridge, that still opens and closes several times a day . We ended up at Charing Cross, and feeling most invigorated and quite frozen, I stepped off in search of a decent cup of coffee. But that's next week's column.
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