Tuesday, 21 April 2009


Today's posting will be a collection of photographs taken during the week after Easter when we had a delightful few days on the South Coast of England. Having stayed a few times in Travelodges I get regular e-mails from them telling me about their special £9 or £19 room sales. A sucker for a bargain, back in February I put together a few nights of cheap Travelodge rooms for the week after Easter. I tried various intineries including Bristol and the West Country but each time a rather inconvenient £50+ room kept breaking into the cheap set. Now a Travelodge room at £19 is good value (you get what you pay for) but £50+, well I ask you! So finally I got two nights in Portsmouth (where I'd stayed for DJ and Chopper's joint book launch) and two nights in Eastbourne.

Now the weather forecast at Easter for the following week showed as "sunny intervals", "light rain", "heavy rain" and "heavy rain" for the four days we would be away. I was half tempted to cancel - I mean Eastbourne for two days of heavy rain! However the actual weather was "quite warm and sunny", "warm and sunny", "warm and sunny" and "quite warm and sunny". And by "sunny" I mean clear blue skies. So much for the BBC 5 Day Weather Forecast. I wonder how many people actually did cancel their plans based on the erroneous forecast?

On our first day in Portsmouth we met up with DJ, her N3S, Leigh, Leigh's husband and her three children. So Troy Junior had some good company and so too did Mrs Troy and I. We had a lovely few hours on the beach at Southsea, watched the IoW Hovercraft come in (most impressive run off the sea up its slipway) and had fish and chips in the fresh air. Here's the hovercraft charging into towards the beach:

The next day, the three of us went up the Spinnaker Tower. This is a remarkable landmark in Portsmouth. Oringinally planned for the new Millenium but I believe was completed a couple of years late and (again I believe) well over budget. However it now is a wonderful attraction on the waterfront. A real asset to the city. This is the tower:

The view from the lookout area is impressive with views out over the Isle of Wight. In the other direction is the naval base and the historic dockyards which include HMS Victory (Nelson's flagship) and HMS Warrier (the first iron-hulled warship in the world). In this picture the two historic ships can be seen (click on photo to enlarge) plus HMS Invincible aircraft-carrier and in the distance the brand new HMS Daring destroyer.

On the way to Eastbourne we parked at the Seven Sisters nature park and walked down to see the chalk cliffs where the South Downs meet the English Channel.

Later in Eastbourne we walked up to Beachy Head. It was a long way but fortunately Troy Junior is a good walker (he's had a lot of training in his eight years). It was worth the walk as the view from the cliff top down to the Beachy Head lighthouse is well worth seeing.

The only downside to holiday was that someone vandalised my car on the last night we were there. Just the wing mirror but most annoying. Eastbourne obviously has its share of mindless morons as well as nice genteel folk.

On the way back home near Edenbridge we met up with an old work colleague of mine who we hadn't seen in about 12 years (well before Troy Junior was born). So new friends, an old friend and some great sightseeing in excellent weather - all in all a great few days away.

Thursday, 9 April 2009


No we are not that old to be celebrating our 40th Anniversary today! In fact we've only been married just over two years having lived "in sin" for about fifteen years.

The 40th anniversary to celebrate (and to some extent also mourne) today is the first British test flight of Concorde. On this day forty years ago the British prototype of Concorde took to the air for the first time from Bristol. If you click here you can see archive footage from the BBC. Older readers will feel nostalgia too in hearing the unique voice of commentator Raymond Baxter.

Concorde was, and remains a wonderful achievement. We got it wrong economically in so far as we should have been making a "Jumbo Jet" equivalent of the Boeing 747. However Concorde was an amazing technical achievement. I remember following its development in my youth; the collaboration with the French, the cost overruns, the initial intransigence of the Americans in not allowing it into their country because they hadn't built it, the effects of the oil crisis in 1973 and the resulting poor sales.

Much later, in the 1980's when I lived in first Kew and later Brentford, I would see (and/or hear) it fly past on its way into Heathrow at 6pm and 10pm each evening. On a Sunday evening we'd quite often drive up to Heathrow by the runway end to see the 6pm flight come in. An amazing audio-visual experience of which we never tired. I never got to fly in Concorde, but I almost did. I actually booked a special flight through Goodwood Travel to take Concorde to the Monaco Grand Prix. I got it at a real bargain price but the organisers subsequently reneged on the deal I booked. I think they mispriced it and then cancelled my booking.

So to my lasting regret I never flew in her before she was withdrawn from service. On her last Sunday in service we took a very young Troy Junior to see Concorde land. He was too young to remember it but he can still say that he saw her. On the day of her last flight I took the afternoon off work and took the Piccadilly line out to the station before the airport. There, along with many others, I saw three Concordes come in to land one after the other, capturing it on video forever.

Concorde is also unique in so far as when she was withdrawn from service she was not replaced by something superior. Instead the withdrawal marked a backward step for aviation. So if you've a few minutes to spare in your busy day take a nostalgic click on the link above and see vintage footage of Concorde's first British test flight.