Friday, 29 April 2016

Ship Ahoy


Chief Officer's Cabin
                                                                s.y. Wendorian
Although it seemed like hard work at the time, in retrospect I am grateful that I was able to complete a trip in this lovely old vessel.

She was built by Hawthornes of Leith in 1903 and was christened Stephanotis by her first owner, Charles Arkcoll. He sold it ten years later to Norman Clark-Neill who used her until 1923 when ownership passed to Duque de Tarifa. Then, in 1939 her name became Wendorian under George E.Milligan.

In 1950 it is rumoured that holiday camp magnate Billy Butlin leased the ship to entertain his investors. In 1951 it was acquired by King Edward VII Nautical College who used her as a training vessel until 1961 by which time the hull was deemed to be beyond economical repair and she went to breakers in Rotterdam.
It was aboard Wendorian  that I discovered 'A Sailor's Life' by Jan de Hartog ... an absolute masterpiece of amusing descriptions about life on an ocean wave. This ex-library book came my way the sweet way and the seaway courtesy of eBay.

From the Author's Preface

Friday, 22 April 2016

Birth of an icon

Tomorrow, April 23, is the 70th Anniversary of the Italian company, Piaggio, registering the patent for their first Vespa scooter. Innocenti followed later in the same year with a sleeker version that became the Lambretta ...
Even now, above my desk, there is a canvas by an unknown artist showing a postman's Vespa in a typical Italian streetscape.

However, my ownership of a Lambretta was brief.  I was still living at home with my parents in Mitcham and making a daily commute to navigation school in the East End of London. This involved a bitter walk across the common in an icy and often misty dawn for the 630 trolleybus to Tooting Broadway. Then the Northern and District Line tubes to Aldgate East. 
The novelty of this soon wore off, so I was happy to buy a rather beaten up Lambretta Li 125 for about £60. It was two-tone rust and puke green. Within a couple of weeks and a few cans of Brushing Belco Cellulose it had gained a new red and grey livery. So had my Father's beloved back garden lawn which doubled as my paint shop. He was not happy.
My journey times and costs were halved, I had more freedom than ever before. Unfortunately my route took me through the Rotherhithe Tunnel. I was on my way home on a rainy day. The cars using the tunnel left wet tracks for the first few hundred yards, then the road was damp. Then it was dry. I did not anticipate the effect of these changes on the tiny wheels of the scooter. About half way through the tunnel I fell off. The scooter went on and I caught up with it shortly after a spectacular 20 mph slide on my posterior.
With a mixture of pain, shame and anger I pushed the now knackered machine to a small garage that was then near the south end of the tunnel and accepted the offer of a tenner [as long as I 'threw the helmet in too'] and so ended a three month affaire.

I was more than ready to return to sea and never rode another scooter.
But, I kept my love of Italian design  ... and yes, even an affection for Vespas and Lambrettas. 

Friday, 15 April 2016

Magazines + Photography

Magazines have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and certainly since childhood. It saddens me that more and more titles are changing from print [at ever increasing prices] to digital download, [with ever increasing hoops of registration to jump thru] although I do understand the economic reasons.
I have been a reader, contributor, photographer, designer and editor at different stages of my life and have reached a stage where, if the price of a print copy increases another penny I shall be an ex-buyer. Although I DETEST reading magazines and books on screen it seems to be the only option beyond seeking out old copies in junk shops. By the way, I don't hoard with each copy being passed on when I have finished with it.
I hear that Playboy is seeking a buyer ... it used to be the hallmark of quality in men's magazines ... so sad that it is a mere shadow of its former high standards. I am surprised it has lasted this long as the decline has been apparent for the last decade. Shameless imitator Penthouse has just quit print products but is apparently available as 'an e-sub'.
My interest in models and photography is sustained by our daughter's photo modelling career. She is featured in digital titles like Purpleport and Photoshoot. I go crazy finding and downloading 'her' issues ... and with Photoshoot at £13 a pop in print, there seems no true option. This is a screen shot from one of her recent features,
Look out for the International lifestyle monthly Monocle, a hefty 400 page brick of an up-market title with excellent journalistic and design ethos and a very fair £5 an issue. A great read if you are into design, architecture, fine dining, posh hotels and first call travel ... even tho; I can no longer afford such hobbies. 
Meanwhile, it is time for a Caffe Nero coffee break! We understand that this branch in Waterstones has another four years left on its concession contract. Assuming that Waterstones can survive beyond that date I sincerely hope they don't replace Caffe Nero with their own insipid looking and tasting 'W Cafe' brand which is already replacing in-store Costa concessions ... see reviews on line! It surely cannot be worse than the Harris & Hoole 'coffee shop' in  Tesco.
Speaking of Tesco Extra, our local store still sells a handful of CDs and of course we get Clubcard points instead of Amazon post and packing charges for orders under £20 ... and most Tesco offers are price matched. If they don't stock a chosen title it can usually be found in HMV on the nearby Westwood Cross strip mall.
We really enjoy compilation albums of 50s and 60s pop and rock. This new release has 44 tracks by the original recording artistes on a double CD pack for £9.99.
Guess the creative guys at the record company ran out of ideas for titles as they have repeated one from a couple of years ago. This older version  [left] has 40 tracks on two CDs for around a fiver with several different tracks.  As you might expect we don't use MP3 downloads or smart devices.  It's a generation thing like reading on screen instead of from the printed page!


Friday, 8 April 2016

Why do they do this?

My last post had a distinctive sea breeze about it. Sailors are notorious for having the odd strop during their usually happy voyage through life. So here's another nautical topic and a massive 'Why the expletive, expletive, king sized expletive, do some traders do this ...?
My heading photo is from a company in California. Their word picture description of the featured CD is an amazing bit of writing ... just like the better sleeve notes that featured on some 12" LP Albums. I decided to reward their originality by placing an order.
I went through the whole on-line procedure to be told, 'we do not ship outside the USA'. Why not? I know there are companies in the US that will receive and forward such parcels, but at around $30 a pop this is not a viable option for a single purchase. It is over a week since my email asking if they have a European distributor but they haven't bothered to answer. Why spend megabucks on creating a great website and excluding the world of potential customers outside the US?
I couldn't find this CD on any other site except who had two used copies but again ... we cannot ship outside the USA on this item. Any suggestions on getting a copy please?
Don Wood at the Promote Thanet Blog ... link on the right ... alerted me to a massively expensive pencil roll. I checked the site where the price is shown in sterling as '£54.13 plus shipping' and guess what ... not available for shipping to the UK. Why?
And why the hell come up with such a cockamamie price ... why not £56 including tax and freight to any address in the world. Frankly, I wouldn't deal with such an outfit if they were giving the damned things away.
Business note: Make it easy for customers and clients to buy from you [And that includes shops that cannot be bothered to spray a bit of WD40 on squeaking doors or adjust the hinges on those that are difficult open]
It ain't rocket sciene and it ain't nautical sense.
I was still in 'sea-breezes' mood when we spotted this reed room fragrancer in TK Maxx. Not quite as good as wandering along to the local beach and taking a few deep breaths but it prmised something similar in portable form for a penny under £5. Full marks to the package copywriter who gave full vent to their imagination. Shame about the random scattering of Upper Case letters ... maybe Australian schools are even worse than ours ... and, shame too that the contents have a vaguely chemical pong with overtones of disinfectant.That's the trouble with these reed diffusers, you can't tell the smell until you open the pack and have no idea how well it will work or how long it might last. I vaguely recall that ozone is good in the upper atmosphere but toxic to humans in close concentration.
 My search for a genuinely believable 'sea' scent continues!


Read on ... full marks to the author of the next who deserves a better retailer than this!


Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Journals - Law of Attraction - Photos not taken = Once a Seaman

JOURNALS ... From the vast range of notebook and journal styles, I have finally settled on my favourite for 2016. It must be A5, lined paper, soft cover, affordable and durable.
In the past I have been critical of the reducing quality of Moleskine brand but, I must now admit, their Volant model is certainly durable - as it should be at around £6 a pop. Then I discovered that discount store Wilco have the Italian made Fabriano brand. This has 40 stapled pages compared with 96 in the sewn Moleskine equivalent and at a much healthier £2.50.
LAW OF ATTRACTION ... Fascinating to check this out on line. In essence it says that 'we attract into our lives that which we focus on and not always from an expected source'.  Last week I pictured this journal and bemoaned the fact that I couldn't find a copy anywhere. Enjoying Sunday sunshine we noticed that the Margate RNLI shop was open for the first time since last season [seemingly] I found an anchor keyring for £1.50, removed the metalware and bunged it on the cover of a Fabriano journal and my quest was over. 
PHOTOS NOT TAKEN ... In nostalgic sea mood I regret that I kept so few photographs of my time at sea, especially interior shots of the ships' bridges where I spent eight hours a day as officer of the watch. [Still have a habit of pacing up and down as an aid to creative thought, just as I used to on watch ...8 or 9 paces from side to side] With the blast of the past released by anchor iconography I dug out a couple from the internet reminiscent of my time as Third Mate on the T2 Shell tanker Trochurus. She was a happy ship and it broke my heart when we laid her up in Loch Swilly at the end of her 13 year career.

ONCE A SEAMAN ... you always have salt water in your veins and a weather eye on the tide and sky. This is wonderfully captured in Capt. Frank Fellows' book which is a collection of true anecdotes and a deck officer's wisdom as A Ship's  Log. A gifted author who wrote this book in 1988.
Thanks for sharing this trip down the sea lane of my nostalgia moods.