Well its been interesting, not realizing that I know so many OLD friends in Britain. It is as if my past karma is coming back to make me repent. It was also unusual that two totally unrelated OLD friends lived in the same area near Portsmouth..the southernmost tip of Britain..perhaps trying to get close to South Africa? So I decided to kill two OLD birds with one stone and visit them over the Easter weekend.
I was thoroughly spoilt and taken on tourist destinations, eating some South African delicacies like Biltong. I do miss the tastes of my home.
I was given some English Breakfast, lunch of a huge plate of fish and chips (all very British) and then we went to a very traditional looking British pub for dinner, but it was run by a Thai family. The barman was Thai and they had traditional Thai food where profits were sent to support an organisation in Thailand.
Anthony and his wonderful and ever patient wife, Fran took me to Chichester cathedral
where there was both old and new art, wonderful huge tapestries. I saw a stained glass window by Marc Chagall, full of colour.
Also a very interesting huge painting that was dark but had luminous lights above the heads of a group of disciples, showing the holy spirit descending. Then we went to a Roman palace that had huge well preserved mosaics. Most of the artifacts found were kept in storage, but they did have examples of the early wall paintings.
The problem with preserving the past is that they build these ugly warehouses over them…very far from looking like the original palace.
I was very humbled by a special visit from Anthony’s mother..a tiny mexican woman who is in her eighties but filled with verve despite her recent hip operation, and his sister, Roz, who I had not seen since she was the irritating little sister, who was now a beautiful older woman with two grown up children. Yet she was just the same. It felt like a bit of a time warp.
Portsmouth is on the edge of Britain and sits between Britain and Europe. It has a safe harbour and so the city surrounds inlets and water. Two things struck me. The one was the incredible amount of yachts that were parked in the bays. The money floating was enormous, and one got a sense of the wealth floating in the world, as maintaining a berth and the yacht without even costing the boat needed extraordinary extra wealth. Not to mention some of the waterfront flats that fetched a huge price. Definitely a lot of “haves” here.
The shops in the shopping centre had designer names like Saint Laurent and Tommy Hilfiger..strangely all the models were modelling torn jeans!
The other was a visit to the nautical museum at Gunwharf Quays. Besides the fact that this also cost a fortune to enter, luckily sponsored by an OLD friend of mine, Andrew, it was a celebration of British War History. There were 4 ships that had been or were being restored and parked over the way, was a new warship with fancy state of the art weaponry.
The 4 ships came from different eras of war. The first was the Mary Rose..built by Henry the eighth that had so many guns that the ship sank as soon as it was launched. As it is busy disintegrating, a huge amount is going into restoring it, including building a whole new building around it. The building looked like a space ship, but was really more like a warehouse.
The second was Nelsons war ship, HMS victory 1758, which was quite small in size, but that had 5 levels of cannons (104) and tons of guns, bayonets and pistols. Nelson was killed on board despite this. The level of armoury was awful, to think that it was there just to kill people.
The third was HMS warrior 1859 which is an enormous ship decked with 40 cannons guns and pistols,also 5 levels deep. It was the first metal hulled ship with both steam (huge steam engine) and wind power with huge iron masts.
Was never used in combat because it was too big and unwieldy, but was used as a support ship
The fourth was a small tin box of a ship used in the first word war to invade Turkey (rather unsuccessfully it seemed). Here they had a video of the events that really made you see the fruitlessness of war. There were many children being taken around by their parents, and I wondered what they said to them when inevitably asked “what are the guns for?” Did they teach them to idolize the war?
We were not allowed to go onto the new HUGE warship, but it had everything needed to destroy much of the world.
We also went up the spinnaker tower, built in 2000, that looks for miles over to The isle of Wight. Had some tea and caught up on 30 years or so.