Monday, February 27, 2012

'Old Father Thames' the deity.

'Old Father Thames' atop the Port of London Authority building at Tower Hill.
Every river and stream I'm sure has a life of it's own, it's spirit and deity of which will be known locally, forgotten or never before known. A mighty few will be revered by many, and have monuments of their personifications built.
One such river is the Thames.The personification of the Thames is Old Father Thames , he looks suspiciously like Neptune, so much so that the grand statue of him atop the Port of London Authorities former HQ at Tower Hill  is sometimes mistaken for Neptune, the sea anchor and Trident he has probably help that. This is one of many images of him along the Thames, and my favorite. The building mentioned is by Trinity Square where the Merchant Navy war memorial is. He stands proud in his near nudity pointing out to the river and docks by Tower Bridge. His doppelganger seems to be Father Rhine also similar in statues to Neptune, in Dusseldorf you can see him with his daughters, representing the great rivers many tributaries.... Father Rhine Fountain
I think Father Thames would have a problem there, part of his span is named after informally Isis, a far more important Goddess, it all causes ongoing debate about the origin of his name, see here... River Thames Etymology money is on the Isis name being a contraction of the old (probably Celtic) name of Tamesis.

When Gracie Fields sang the song Old Father Thames in 1938 she sang something I ought to have listened to when I was a London dispatch rider, like a lot of other Londoners I couldn't get anywhere fast enough, I couldn't do anything fast enough and people depending on me didn't want me to think so.
Portrayed as a carefree soul in the song (he won't always forgive a fool) sometimes he's the man to carry your troubles away if you want him to help you help yourself, and you don't have to jump of a Bridge for him to do that.
Sometimes I go down to the Tower Bridge, the final crossing in London before he flows on to the estuary and sea a day or so after the full moon, at a time when the tide has peeked and staring it's journey back out too, and toss all my troubles written on a piece of paper off the bridge for the forces of tide, river and newly waning moon to carry away and it works, I feel better for a few days at least, come what may everything that can be right again will be at some point.
I'm glad we are treating tolerant Father Thames now with more respect than we used to...Victorian Thames cartoons  ..even Salmon and the occasional seal come upstream now.
In June the world will be treated to a new carving of Old Father Thames painted in glittering Gold flake, he will adorn the prow of the Queens Diamond jubilee barge Royal Barge Figurehead I am looking forward to this!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Battersea Power Station is being wasted

At a time in 1979 when I was nearly destitute, as a seaman having trouble getting a ship with all but no money handy, I booked into the awful but grandly named International Hostel in London's otherwise affluent Pimlico area, I was shown to my top floor room with slanted ceiling and two room mates who were nearly tramps, one was another seaman...charming. I asked if there was a view out the small window seconds after I arrived. 'What of..Battersea power station'? one of them asked, as if it was the last thing I would want to see. Actually, that giant Dinosaur with it's four huge chimney's that were still active was a depressing site for someone with plenty to be depressed about without it. 
It has many friends in the right places it seems though. 'One of London's best known landmarks' some say, but for who, somebody who needs to see where Battersea is from where they are?
It's a 1930's brick building, with another half added in the 1950's, in Europe designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who also designed the Red Telephone box and Liverpool Cathedral. But Bankside Power Station just downstream and now housing the Tate Modern Gallery is both those things too, same thing, same designer so it's hardly unique, even if it's Art Deco , there's lots of those in London including the brick OXO building nearby on the Thames also.
Meanwhile this now derelict sacred cow has had hundreds of millions poured into it and still stands empty and wanting to die, even if it is the largest brick building in Europe.
All I see when I see Battersea power station is an urgent need for dynamite, to that end it is indeed being wasted, dynamite demolitions of substantial buildings make for a great public day out!
Now the site is going on open market sale for the first time, with lots of strings attached no doubt, and I bet dynamite won't be discussed. That's a pity, then could turn it into a prison. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cutty Sark nearly ready..

In a dry dock by the Thames at maritime Greenwich lies the worlds last Tea Clipper, the Cutty Sark , shes been there as a public exhibit since the 1950's. This ship and her like fascinated me as a child, I've built models of them and painted them, I own an extensive collection of books about them, needless to say I've been on board many times and joined the Cutty Sark Trust.
On 21st May 2007, shortly after she had been closed for restoration she caught fire, I feared this was the end of her, however her legendary luck held, if she was ever going to have  a of the main destroyers of wooden ships, now  was the time to have it because about half the ship wasn't even there, but in parts being restored elsewhere.
Also, she was one of only eight ships that were of composite construction, that is wooden with an iron frame, and that was probably why there was enough left to warrant saving her.
She is now expected to be open to the public in spring this year.
I went down to her today to view the progress, public access is still very limited as it's still a construction site but you can see shes in much better condition than before. She is sitting higher than before, I'm not sure I like the glass surround shes been given, but it's a relief they dropped the idea of moving articifial water around her....that's for  Disneyland not here! The gold paint of her carvings is gorgeous, masts and bulwarks gleaming. The naughty figurehead of the Witch Nanny is also back, her outstretched arm with it's horses tail not yet attached, glad they are taking care, it's been lost before, as late as 1952 just before her docking. You can see and read the story about this interesting Witch figurehead here.. Cutty Sark Figurehead
Was she the fastest sailing ship ever built? That will always remain debatable but she does hold the record for distance traveled in 24 hours, 363 nautical miles!
Go Nan go!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Introduction to 'Down by the Thames'

I've long thought about doing this blog, so here it is. The Thames is a river I love, not just because I'm so familiar with it, I've crossed it daily, beach combed it's banks, worked on some of the river boats, even had it's tides come in handy for a sending my troubles away.
I'll write things about it as I please, current events, past events, my thoughts and history when I meet it or feel like writing about it. Why just write news, that wouldn't be my whole relationship with  Old Father Thames.