MINERVA 14th May 2016 Part 12 London & Chelsea Flower Show
Wednesday 25th May 2016
I see my alarm was set for 6.30 this morning, ready for an early breakfast; soon after, those of us going to the Chelsea Flower Show were called for disembarkation to the tender and to collect our lunch boxes as we left MINERVA. I have been so looking forward to this day and excursion and now it is starting. The lightweight cardboard lunch boxes soon collapsed with the weight of all their contents, but I was prepared for that with my little lightweight rucksack, and the box went for recycling.
We went onto BELFAST before descending the steps to the pontoon alongside, and then onto SARAH KATHLEEN, for our very short trip across the River Thames to the Millennium Pier opposite. We had good views back to MINERVA, as we went ashore. The tide was going out and some of the riverside shore was visible; this reminded me of stories about the 'mudlarks' of old, scavenging on the muddy sand beside the water of the Thames.
Soon we boarded numbered coaches and were taken to Chelsea for the Flower Show. We passed The Cenotaph in Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament on our route. On arrival I was handed my ticket and advised about the departure time and rendezvous point, and I was then free to wander at will around this wonderful show.
With so many people wanting to attend the annual Chelsea Flower Show, the Royal Horticultural Society decided to increase the covered areas in the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea and this satisfied all the visitors, plus the legal requirements of the safety and fire regulations.
I spent a happy day looking at many exhibits under cover and outside in the grounds, and especially enjoyed the outdoor David Harber Ltd. stand which had won a five gold star award; my other favourite was in the Great Pavilion and this was provided by Interflora, the flower experts, and entitled The Floral Church. The colours and details of both these exhibits were exquisite, in my opinion.
One memorable sight was provided by five thousand small knitted poppies with the backdrop of the Royal Hospital. This was originally a tribute by two Australian women to their fathers who both fought in World War II, and has grown to 'become a worldwide outpouring of respect and remembrance to those who have served their countries in all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations'.
A picnic area with seating was provided for visitors, near the covered dais with a band playing most of the time, so that was a natural stop for those of us with the ubiquitous picnic. Jugs of Pimms from the Bars were going past constantly, I noticed. It wasn't quite raining but it was cool and damp and my lavender-coloured lightweight waterproof jacket came in useful.
Back on the coach, our route home to the ship took us alongside the River Thames of course, and I noticed TATTERSHALL CASTLE (built in Grimsby) and a pleasant place for lunch or a drink, and HQS WELLINGTON, the home of The Honourable Company of Master Mariners in London.
We left the coach near the Tower of London and I made my way to All Hallows by the Tower, the nearby Anglican Church in Byward Street. A few years ago I attended a service there in memory of Mr Peter Neville Buckley, Chairman of Caledonia Investments PLC. , whose group of companies included the Clan Line Steamers, the Union-Castle Line Mail Steamship Company Limited, and British & Commonwealth Shipping Company (motto Tendimus). A window was dedicated in his memory and now I wanted to take some new photographs.
All Hallows by the Tower is the oldest church in the City of London, founded in 675 AD, and built upon Roman remains. The Visitor Information leaflet told me it was damaged in 1650 by an explosion with barrels of gunpowder stored in the churchyard; repairs were carried out but in 1666 it was surrounded by the Great Fire of London and managed to survive. It owes its survival to Admiral William Penn, father of William Penn of Pennsylvania fame (who was baptised in the church), who had his men from a nearby naval yard demolish the surrounding buildings to create firebreaks. Samuel Pepys, the famous Diarist, climbed the spire with the Admiral during the Great Fire to survey the surrounding damage.
It was damaged in the Blitz of London, but was repaired and is in constant use today. I met the Assistant Priest and she made me welcome, as I explained my particular visit today. Photographs taken, I made my way to the Merchant Navy Memorial across the road,
and then back to the riverside and the little SARAH KATHLEEN, to return to MINERVA berthed beside BELFAST. What contrasts, I thought to myself.
The captain checked that I had come from one of the excursion coaches, and I explained that I had, but had been to visit All Hallows by the Tower because of the shipping line windows. He told me that it was the local church and he had been there for a Christening a couple of weeks ago. I mentioned my Union-Castle Line connections and he smiled and said he had a friend who had worked on the EDINBURGH CASTLE in 1966 or 1967, so I had to tell him that so did I!
Other passengers came on board, and we sailed across the River Thames back to MINERVA. I thanked the captain of SARAH KATHLEEN and his mate, we shook hands and that was yet another unexpected Union-Castle connection in my life.
Back on board there was time to prepare for drinks, dinner and this evening's concert; tonight's little contribution from the scratch passenger choir was to be part of "An Evening in London". This included singing 'Feed the Birds' from 'My Fair Lady', and we ended with a noisy rendition of 'Rule Britannia' by Opera del Mare, us in the choir and all the audience on board.
Ships seen: Minerva, Belfast, Sarah Kathleen (built in 1963), Tattershall Castle, HQS Wellington
To be concluded...