Saturday, July 26, 2008

Farewell to the 'C' class ships

Last weekend I had an enjoyable time in Pompey and the highlight for me was going down to Lymington and taking the car ferry across to Yarmouth (Isle of Wight) and return. This was the first time I've travelled on this, the shortest sea crossing, to the Isle of Wight and the reason for doing it now was to experience the faithful 'C' Class ships before they are withdrawn later this year.

The 'C' Class comprises a trio of sisters - Cenred, Cenwulf and Caedmon. They are now over thirty four years old and their replacement has been discussed for at least two decades! Finally, Wightlink, the ferry operator, has got new tonnage on the way in the form of the 'Wight' Class, which are being built in Croatia.
The 'C' Class were proceeded by a larger and less successful near-sister, the Cuthred, introduced in 1969. She was built for the Portsmouth - Fishbourne route but did not have a happy career due to being woefully underpowered and was subsequently withdrawn in 1986. The later sisters were introduced in the mid-70s and were a great advancement on the small and rather basic car ferries they replaced.

The Cenred and Cenwulf were introduced on the Lymington - Yarmouth route while Caedmon was pressed into action on Portsmouth - Fishbourne duties, switching to the Lymington route with her sisters following the introduction of the 'Saints' at Portsmouth. Since the mid-80s the three ships have spent most of their time on the Lymington - Yarmouth link with occasional visits to Portsmouth for overhauls and deputising for the 'Saints' when they've been out of service.

The 'Wight' Class ships which will replace Cenred, Cenwulf and Caedmon don't look terribly dissimilar and in terms of size are only slightly larger. The reason for this being the narrow navigable channel of the Lymington River and fears that anything larger would cause an unacceptable amount of wash, damaging the river bank environment. Environmental concerns is the main reason why the introduction of these new ships has been so protracted. Full details of the new Wight Sky, Wight Sun and Wight Light can be found on the Wightlink web site.

It will be sad to see the 'C' trio disappear as they are the last of what I would term 'traditional' ferries to serve the Isle of Wight. The former 'Castles' operated by Red Funnel were replaced by the modern-looking 'Raptor' Class ships some years ago and the Shearwater hydrofoils are now a distant memory as are the Southsea and Brading, the classic passenger ships that served the Portsmouth to Ryde route. Since 1986 this has been in the hands of high-speed catamarans and is also shortly to see investment in new ships, albeit catamarans again. Even the 'Saints' used on the Portsmouth - Fishbourne route are to see changes with two being 'jumboised' and one of the four original 'Saints' likely to be withdrawn altogether.

Finally the closest to a 'classic scene' on the Lymington to Yarmouth route in the 70s & early 80s as it is possible to get. Here is unit 1497 restored in a not entirely authentic BR livery of the 1970s at Lymington Pier awaiting departure with the branch service to Brockenhurst. In the distance is Caedmon, loading for her return crossing to Yarmouth. Now, if only she'd been repainted in BR Sealink colours this scene could easily have been mistaken for the late 70s!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Where I am at the moment

Well I had a rather nice surprise a little earlier when I collected my marked essay that I talked about in my last blog post. I scored 85%, which is far better than I thought I would do and my tutor thought I made an excellent and sustained argument. There were a few little points that I was picked up on, mainly stupid mistakes, which if I'd taken a little more time over the writing would have been sorted out before I submitted. Still, this is a good boost and it bumps up my average score for the course, which makes me happy :-)

I had another day at Bletchley Park (BP) on Saturday and I am enjoying my role there as a steward. In fact, I find it more satisfying than I do my day job. Although the days at BP are relatively long with few breaks I do get to meet and chat with some interesting people and I am learning new stuff all the time. The most common question I get asked is 'where are the toilets?' but I don't mind, I am enjoying myself and hopefully making a visitor's day there just that little more pleasant. I hope to find a free day one weekend to go there as a visitor and do some of the guided tours to learn more about the Park and its history as my knowledge at the moment is patchy at best. Everyone I've met so far has been nice and welcoming and I look forward to doing my next duty later this month.

Over the weekend I had an e-mail from a journalist who says he is writing a book about sub-cultures and would like to feature some 'trainspotters' for a piece he is writing. I do detest the term 'trainspotter' because it has such negative connotations and is so often used as a term of derision. I am always a little wary of these sort of requests as I wonder what the agenda is and I don't fancy putting myself forward for something that is going to be used to mock either me or what I do. Will see what happens...

I've started ploughing my way through watching all five seasons of Six Feet Under. I've seen them all before of course on TV but now I have all the seasons on DVD, I am re-watching it from start to finish, much the same as I did with The West Wing. Watching these early episodes of Six Feet Under I am struck by how great this show is and how inventive and fresh it remains. The acting is universally excellent particularly the main leads - Peter Krause, Frances Conroy and Michael C Hall. There is not a step wrong; the writing is superb, the production, design, just the whole feel and look of the show is dead on (excuse the pun!). Few programmes can make me laugh, cry and feel so despondent and happy in the same episode.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Thank goodness that's done!

I've had a bit of a stressful few days and evenings frantically trying to finish my latest OU course essay for the deadline this evening. The advantage of being able to submit online is that in theory as long as you get the thing in before midnight, you're okay! I always do this to myself though, leave the writing to the last minute and then find I really don't have enough time to do myself justice yet I seem to get motivated and work better when I am up against an immovable and fast approaching deadline. Anyhows it is done now, nothing more I can do about it. Just wait for the marked copy to come back and in the meantime start thinking about the next one...

Only two more essays to write and then an extended end of course essay and if, fingers crossed, I do reasonably well in these, I will have a Diploma in Politics and Government before the end of the year. That will make it all seem worthwhile.