Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

A giant inflatable lobster may not be the most obvious of sights to expect on an Easter weekend, but this year Greenwich town centre hosted all sorts of activities as part of the Tall Ships Festival.

A concert stage alongside the Cutty Sark was belting out sea shanties and assorted Victorian comic songs, there were fishy-themed acrobats, no end of food stalls, and promotional stands for the lifeboats, marine conservation, boatbuilding and other aquatic pursuits: and to keep the children entertained, a Punch and Judy, a pirate ship - and the lobster.

A reminder that this new-fangled photography was a Victorian craze
Not to be outdone, there were costumed volunteers outside the National Maritime Museum explaining some of their collections and the stories they could tell about life on the old sailing ships, all under the watchful eye of Sir Walter Raleigh, who could probably add a lot more lively detail.

But of course, the event was mainly all about the ships, some moored here at Greenwich and others further downriver at Woolwich before setting off for a series of races from here across the Atlantic, this year to Quebec to mark the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.

The queues for a ticket to board the ships open to visitors were horrendous, and I've plenty of photos from previous tall ship visits to the area, so photos from a distance - and a video of the final procession as they set out -were all that was practicable:


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Up on the ceiling

This is as much as most people are going to see of the Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich for the next couple of years, unless they pay for a guided tour of the current restoration work.

One phase of the project was completed some time ago - the far end section, glorifying the Hanoverian monarchs George I and II and their Navy's triumphs. This you can contemplate while the guide introduces the tour and the history of the hall.

Now the conservators have moved on to the main part of the Hall's ceiling, and to see anything, you follow the guide up through the scaffolding to a platform right underneath the ceiling, for an explanation of the painstaking work of cleaning and repairing the painting, and the extravagant iconography.
Everything revolves around the central figure of William III, with his wife and co-monarch Mary seated beside him, she popular, lively, pretty and cultured (and credited with the idea of setting up this home for retired seamen in the first place), he dour, withdrawn and suspicious  - but, like Mary, a legitimate Protestant grandchild of Charles I, and even more attractive to Parliament - a history of successful generalship defending the Netherlands against Louis XIV. So while she sits to one side (with, as the guide points out, some daring workman's signature across her bosom, dated 1797), he triumphs over Louis XIV and the Pope, receiving an olive branch of  Peace and delivering the red cap of Liberty to captive Europe.

They are surrounded by images of the virtues defeating vices, approving figures of classical legend like Neptune, Juno and Hercules, the seasons, cherubs and roses and assorted images of naval grandeur and Greenwich's importance to astronomy and navigation.

At a less exalted level, the figure of Winter represents the retired seamen for whom the building was created - and the model chosen was the oldest pensioner of the time (and, it would seem, a somewhat rambunctious one).

Suitably equipped for health and safety, a tour party examines some detail
A confident - and accurate - prediction of the date of the solar eclipse due the year after the ceiling was finished

Sunday, 2 April 2017

A taxi marooned on a roundabout...

.... with a metal tree sprouting through its roof is probably a sign of artists somewhere in the undergrowth.



Sure enough, down a road bordered by anonymous walls and what look like sites just awaiting the latest batch of expensive rabbit-hutch flats is Trinity Buoy Wharf, once the home of a shipyard and the base for Trinity House and its lighthouses, but now an enclave for arts and crafts, and seemingly holding another open weekend.

Except that not much seemed to be on view, apart from the cafés (where there's art, there's a catering opportunity), and these ladies. Still, it was a good excuse for a bike ride on a sunny morning.