28 June 2014

RSPB Titchwell Marsh

Volunteering for the Birds

Avocet, image symbol of RSPB, and sifting sludge at Titchwell Marsh.  Not really posing for cameras; need to feed almost all the time, or will fade to grey and become a smudge.  My reflection follows me, back to front, up to down, blurry but fine, to make company for now.  

Gently, new ringed sedge warbler prepares to leave the hands of Volunteer Emily....

While tiny blue tit poses in Warden Paul Eele's care, for admirers and the press....

And elsewhere a Hawk Moth eyes the Avocet of the rspb....

And Barn Owl, tyto alba, perched to digest various creatures gobbled down, careless of their names or tastes. One might have been vole, another mouse, another small other bird, another snake.  I do not care; I have young to feed; if I do not digest and regurgitate my littles will squawk themselves into perpetual night.

My friend, my mate, quartering the fields for warm bloodlump foodthings.  So quiet and light-feathered that most times they hear not our stoop, but fail we occasionally dammit we do.....

Watchit!  Hand is ten ton times my squishable frame! I the unshaven, young beard-will-grow tit, beaky and eye-dark, lovely in my freshness, but helpless in trust of ringman.....  I ready to ping pink through the reeds, the bittern booming radar not.....

Family shot.  Grebes with great crests and littles on the back, shining contra-luce but discernible still. Play slide and peck with chicklets pedaloing from back to water and so annoying not yet grown up but fun!

What are we going to do?  Jungle Book? Grey Heron I but today I vulture like, dead tree spikes against the sky and I part of picture, perched and grey and stiff and dead like the lightning flood storm dead tree. Whiff of Belsen, trawler midden of bird fish beauty.  Those burning ashes.

Barry Hines. Sheffield bars, and Kessy films with boys and footie and falco tinnunculus the unsung. Here I hover, Windhover, instress, inscape, perched on air about to decide, or descend, 

this morning morning’s minion.....silion shine

and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, 

Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion

(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Where the bare bones of a sunken ship (SS Vina) reflect the brilliant sheen of milvus milvus (family Accipitridae) gliding and swooping to hold the man person back from the vasty tidal muds, where the waters swirl back in no times at all, predating fools who play the shallows.....

While low among the grasses, the bindweed and the reeds, moulting marsh harrier rabbit the young to fledge most soon, the nest to leave, to fly to soar, to pass their preys across the airs to their young mates to make the time to be the parents to chain the food to life ongoing.....  Circus Aeruginosus, what goes around, rusts around.....

While redshank poses in shimmering display atop the heath, the shine of evening sparkling smart looking seaward hopeful.....

As hunched and hurtful but unharmed, new ringed reed warbler glazed eyed would perch upon a finger long toed and delicate, few grammed complex cream coffee brown and frothy striped....

A little slender bird of reddish brown
With frequent haste pops in and out the reeds....
Ah happy songster man can seldom share
A spot as hidden from the haunts of care

(John Clare)

Kiss kiss nudging mother dozing, seal cub fat and sand, eyes dozed in quiet calm, oh still small voice, the sun is warm just now.....  The Brancaster Outlet creek just swimming in my eye....

Blithe spirit from Vaughan to dusk the outreach outstretch trill beguiles, my staring lark ascent accents the slipping dusk, lauding the sun under my wing, eye bright.....

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.

(Percy Bysshe Shelley)

And war time tanks sink sandwards spent, once targets for their friendly fires so long now past.

The Royal West Norfolk Golf Clubhouse, at low tide, par 71 and rising....  long time home of Ray Kimber, diarist of the marshes, teller of Titchwell Tales....

RSPB Titchwell, the contrast high with tender wiffles on the marsh waters, scrapes and mudflats, wormed for instinctive probes.

And so so small, young wren so well and fine and strong and head held high who is this finger fool who traps me net and ring and fixes me now for the glass eye snap?  Troglodytes troglodytes, Grazioso uccello dalla forma rotonda e paffuta, lo Scricciolo, con i suoi 10 centimetri di lunghezza, è il più piccolo della famiglia dei Troglodytidae. Dorso bruno con bordi neri e ventre più chiaro, ha una piccola coda bruno-rossiccia che tiene spesso sollevata e che gli serve per bilanciare il petto, per contro molto basso.

Agile, dinamico e scattante, si muove con destrezza accorrendo in ogni luogo, o verso ogni oggetto, che catturi la sua attenzione. Ama muoversi sul terreno, ispezionando tutto ciò che lo colpisce. La curiosità è infatti una prerogativa fondamentale di questo piccolo passeriforme, che vola di cespuglio in cespuglio e saltella sul terreno con grande abilità, tanto da assomigliare a un piccolo mammifero.....

Which is to say, I am am what I am, gracious bird, the Scricciolo.... agile and dynamic, dextrously skipping round everything and anything which catches my eye, checking out every detail of the ground, so much so that you could take me for a tiny mammal.....

Oystercatcher chick

And do I care?

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here 

Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion 10 

Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier....

(Gerard Manley Hopkins)

Now in black and white the sky boils bright, advancing eve with shafts of rain; samphire, so good.  The answer is yes.....

These pictures were all taken at or near RSPB Titchwell Marsh nature reserve, where I recently spent a week as a residential volunteer, an experience I most thoroughly recommend......

21 June 2014

Sicily 5 - Corleone

Coppole e Lupare - Flat Caps and Shotguns

If looks could kill, these two would have been spoken for years ago.....

La mafia non esiste!  The writing was scrawled on a wall.  The mafia does not exist!  It was in Trapani, Sicily, in 1989, and although it wasn't new, the sharp ambiguity still stings. The killing of Generale Carlo Alberto dalla Chiesa and his wife and driver in 1982 had opened a new chapter in the history of the Sicilian mafia, in a story that has not yet ended.  At the funeral in Palermo many of the mourners expressed their disdain for the Italian President and other senior statesmen present, by booing and jeering.  It was a turning point.

Secrecy, and lies

According to Norman Lewis, in The Honoured Society, the word mafia probably derives from the identical word in Arabic and means place of refuge.  In the 21st century, however, it is the word that covers four main criminal organisations defined by their control of territory and their links with uomini dello Stato (politicians).  The four are the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta, the Pugliese Sacra Corona Unita and the Campanian (ie Neapolitan) Camorra.  The name Cosa Nostra did not come to light until in the early 1980s the first of the pentiti mafiosi (supergrasses) Tommaso Buscetta, whose sons had been murdered by rival mafiosi, began to explain the structure and working methods of the organisation.  Having been suppressed by Mussolini, who imprisoned anyone with links, the mafia was given a new lease of life by Eisenhower and the US Administration in the second world war.  Legendary gangster 'Lucky' Luciano negotiated with the freshly released Sicilian bosses and huge amounts of money were imported to secure support for the invaders.  Post war alliances were maintained by the ruling Christian Democrat party, again with US support, partly to avoid any success by the communists.  The late Giulio Andreotti was closely involved in this, and, subsequently, Silvio Berlusconi sought support for his Forza Italia party from the Corleonesi in the 1990s.

Every dog will have its day

In the past, the Sicilian mafia may have had a social purpose, organising and perhaps protecting, the poorest labourers and their families.  However any nobility of purpose died out long ago, as hinted at in Sicily's greatest novel, Il Gattopardo (The Leopard), where Don Calogero Sedàra represents the rising order of mafiosi, distinctly classless but greedy for power, ignorant but astute at the same time.  As Tancredi says: If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change..... and again how neat is that ambiguity? How prescient was Giuseppe di Lampedusa, who wrote his novel in the very restaurant where years later Giulio Andreotti would have dinner with banker Michele Sindona and American mafia boss John Gambino.....?

Anyway, since the film of The Godfather brought the name Corleone to the attention of the worldwide public, intrepid tourists have been making their way there to see for themselves the real Sicily, even though not one scene was filmed anywhere near, as the modern town is not at all photogenic.  I wanted to see it, too, and so, intrigued by its Anti-Mafia Museum and by the Corleone on Tour Association, we set off, navigating through the vile outskirts of Palermo, and heading south on the Agrigento road.

The beautiful snaking ribbon of an empty motorway

I thought we had plenty of time, so we stopped for a coffee at the railway station at Ficuzza, a grand building, surrounded by scrub woodlands and backed by a block of craggy mountains to the south.  This was a station on the Palermo to Corleone line, a station used by the Royal family, who stayed at their palace in the nearby village, in order to shoot anything that moved in the countryside nearby.  Nowadays there is not a rail in sight, nor the toot of a passing train.  The station has become a bar and restaurant, a venue for weddings and celebrations.  Perhaps surprised to have customers on this quiet spring week day, perhaps out of genuine good nature, the barrista would not accept payment for our drinks, and, marvelling at how that would never happen at home, we pressed on for our appointment with the Associazione Corleone on Tour.

I thought we had plenty of time.  In my imagination (not entirely dispelled by research) I saw Corleone as a sleepy, unattractive and empty village, where parking would be easy, and reaching our appointment would be no problem. 

Old Corleone

I was right that the town is not exactly beautiful, but quite wrong in thinking it might be empty, or small, so finding a parking place, let alone our appointment, was a mission.  I had to drive round the town twice and then give up and park on the periphery, which meant a long hot dry and dusty walk to meet our guides for the TOUR MAFIA ANTIMAFIA.  We were late, but they had waited, slightly anxiously, with another couple itching to get going.

Our Guides

Thanks to The Godfather, everyone knows of Corleone.  However, what is not so well known is that Corleone really has a sinister and violent history of involvement with the mafia, and it was the home town of a number of convicted members of mafia families in recent times, including Salvatore Totò Riina and Bernardo Provenzano, who were the most powerful men in Cosa Nostra at the end of the twentieth century.  Riina was caught, where he lived untouched (for twenty years) in the centre of Palermo, in 1993, after a career of drug trafficking, crooked building contracts, and murder; Provenzano, nicknamed 'The Tractor' because of his imperturbable methods of killing, was eventually caught in 2006, in a house just outside Corleone, despite his lawyer's claim that he had died years previously.

The house where Bernardo Provenzano was found

Both these men are now serving multiple life sentences. Riina, who famously arranged mangiate (celebratory meals) for his victims - usually other mafiosi he had taken a dislike to - before strangling them, was the boss who ordered the deaths of the investigating magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Provenzano, who took over from Riina, posed more as a sympathetic, business-orientated and religiously minded leader, but he was not soft-hearted, allegedly having murdered the doctor who treated him for prostate cancer, to avoid adverse publicity.

Our tour of the town includes paying respect to Bernardino Verro, leader of the socialist peasant cooperative in the early years of the 20th century.  In 1915 he was shot dead with five bullets to the body and five to the head, and his corpse was left in the street as a warning to others.  

We also pause by a bust of Placido Rizzotto, a veteran of wartime resistance and a trade union activist; he was taken out of the town and shot in the head by Luciano Leggio (also known as Liggio) on March 10th 1948.  His body was disposed of in a deep ravine in the mountains between Corleone and Ficuzza, and lay there, mutilated and chained, for two years before being discovered.  It was not until May 24th, 2012, however, that he was given a proper burial with state honours.  In the meantime Leggio had taken under his wing the young  Totò Riina, and Bernardo Provenzano.

Placido Rizzotto

Further up the hill, in the old town, we are shown the Laboratorio della Legalita, which includes a shop selling produce from lands reclaimed from Cosa Nostra (Riina's estate was said to be worth £125 million).  The building belonged to Provenzano, as one of many that he owned in the area, and also on display are paintings depicting various infamous mafia crimes, including the kidnapping of J Paul Getty Junior, and the assassinations of dalla Chiesa, Falcone, and Borsellino, to whom the collection is dedicated. 

   Mafia - your silence kills as well

What came next was not what I expected.  We walked out of the village, and entered a small park - Il Parco Fluviale delle due Rocche (The River Park of the two Rocks [castles] - as the notice says, surprisingly, in English) and we are taken to admire a fine waterfall surrounded by wild Sicilian limestone country.  The notice board tells us to expect a run among the wonder of mother nature and the manufactured articles of the civilisations of the past.....  and my admiration of the Corleonesi begins to grow.  Not only are we being shown the horrors of the town's indelible association with the past, but they are also proudly showing us the positive side of life.  In respect for the illustrious corpses of dead heroes, the Corleonesi are living up to Giovanni Falcone's sentence: He who is silent and bows his head dies every time he does so. He who speaks aloud and walks with his head held high dies only once.  Corleone may be a typical southern town, a little scruffy perhaps, but it is not going to lie down and be killed by Cosa Nostra, and it is going to show itself off in as much glory as it can muster.

Not far from the waterfall we enter the church of  the Monastero del SS Salvatore, which dates from the 13th century.  It is wonderfully light inside with a marble altar and eighteenth century frescoes.  Having been damaged by a bomb in the second world war it is still undergoing reconstruction, but the remains of the cloister and the garden outside are cool and quiet. 

The town below is a patchwork of red roofs and concrete; the river is channelled between steep walls, and the streets are filled with cars, but our guides chatter on about holidays and festivals, and their infectious smiles aren't false.  Unemployment is high, as it is everywhere in the south, and for some there may still be an attraction to criminal activity, but the will to overcome tendencies to tacitly support the mafia is very clear.  At number 7, Via Orfanotrofio, is the home of C.I.D.M.A. (Centro Internazionale di Documentazione sulle Mafie e del Movimento Antimafia) which holds the archives of the maxi-trial of mafiosi that took place in Palermo between February 10th, 1986 and December 16th, 1987.  With the help of revelations by Tommaso Buscetta, Magistrates Falcone and Borsellino brought charges against 475 presumed mafiosi.  At the end of the trial 114 cases were dismissed, but a total of 19 life sentences, 2665 years of prison and 11 and a half thousand million lire of fines were imposed on the rest, some of them, including Riina and Provenzano, in absentia.  The centre also has a permanent exhibition of photographs of mafia-related deaths by Letizia Battaglia (who this year had a show at Liverpool's Open Eye Gallery) and a room dedicated to Generale Carlo Alberto dalla Chiesa.  The centre's objectives are to promote Culture, Progress and Legality, and to show visitors that Corleone is no longer a town of Coppole e Lupare (Flat Caps and Shotguns).

Corleone today

Since the eventual arrests of Riina and Provenzano Cosa Nostra has been relatively quiet, though the traditional activities of extortion (the pizzo) and drug trafficking continue without much change.  But despite the graffiti the mafia does still exist.  The 'Ndrangheta and the Camorra make more headlines than Cosa Nostra, but Sicily has not been purged and the anti-mafia movement needs support and publicity.  Only last August, Totò Riina's daughter, Lucia, defended her father and praised him as a devout catholic.  Then, last December, Riina himself was recorded in Milan's Opera prison vowing mafia vengeance against Palermo prosecutor Nino Di Matteo and his colleagues; issuing a death threat, as a good catholic would.

Just outside Corleone

Before disappearing into a witness protection scheme, and then dying in America, Tommaso Buscetta reportedly accused Totò Riina of ruining Cosa Nostra.  It is no longer Our Thing, he said;  it is now Their Thing (Cosa Loro).  And other voices repeat this; northern Italians say it is a thing of the south, not our business.  While the opinion is understandable, it is much mistaken.  Organised crime, especially that which infiltrates politics, is an offence to democracy.  Even today the details of the who arranged the assassination of Falcone, his wife and escort are still unclear and the probability that the state was involved cannot be ruled out.  Even though Andreotti is dead, and Berlusconi (perhaps) finished, the doubt about state complicity casts a shadow over all of us, and not just in Italy.  How close were the ties between Blair, Bush and Berlusconi?  As Paolo Borsellino said at the funeral of his friend Giovanni Falcone, just two months before his own death, La lotta alla mafia.... non doveva essere soltanto una distaccata opera di repressione, ma un movimento culturale e morale che coinvolgesse tutti e specialmente le giovani generazioni..... [The struggle with the mafia.... should not be just a cold repressive act, but a cultural and moral movement which involves everyone, most especially the young.....]

The Politics of Waste.  Paradise Lost

Corleone may not be the most attractive spot in Sicily, and perhaps making the trip might call for specialist interest, but it is a place that stands for resistance to stereotype, and integrity of purpose, and for that alone, it is worth the visit.  It is to be hoped that one day the graffiti La mafia non esiste!  will be scrawled across walls without any ambiguity.....

I have a confession to make.....

Totò Riina

14 June 2014

Portsmouth and Southsea

Man Overboard

Old Portsmouth and Spice Island from the Spinnaker Tower, St Thomas's Cathedral and the High Street left of centre, above the Isle of Wight Ferry.

In 1513 King Henry VIII had a hit with the song Pastime with Good Company. It had a catchy tune, and was performed widely. Evidence of its popularity lay for centuries in the hulk of the Mary Rose, and now is on display in the eerie new exhibition centre in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Pastime with good company

I love and shall until I die
grudge who lust but none deny
so God be pleased thus live will I

Remnants of the band on the Mary Rose

Thus, perhaps, will live I, with good company, and no denial, but the Mary Rose was a war ship, and the story of Portsmouth is inextricably linked to the navy, and warfare.

Long before the wreck of the Mary Rose was discovered, I surfaced from the waves of childbirth somewhere by the Southsea Canoe Lake (even though the Italian authorities would later insist I was born in Southsea Castle!) my nautical, naval and warfare connections pretty tenuous at that stage....

Somewhere here there should be a blue plaque......

My father, at the time, taught at Portsmouth Grammar School, 

and we lived just down the High Street, on the top storey of Number 16.

No 16, circa 1985

Portsmouth had for hundreds of years been a densely populated city, with courts and alleys in the area around the naval dockyards (Portsea) packed with tenements lacking running water or sanitation.  

The Dockyards: HMS Warrior in the foreground, Victory and the Mary Rose Exhibition Centre above

The writer Walter Besant, who was born here in 1836, recalled the scenes along the Hard:  The Royal Frederick had been paid off that morning and a thousand Jack Tars were all together chucking away the money in a few days which it had taken three years to earn..... There was a tradition that being ashore meant drink as long as the money lasted.  It sometimes lasted a week, or even a fortnight, and was sometimes got through in a day or two.  There were harpies and pirates in every house which was open to Jack.....

1 of 5 starsReviewed 12 April 2014
booked into this hotel because i remembered it fondly from when i used to live in portsmouth, it used to be a very nice place to eat. my god how things have changed.
my husband was quite appalled at the exterior of the hotel. things did not improve on the inside. we had booked 2 rooms for 2 nights, which we very quickly changed. the carpets were threadbare, the walls were filthy, the wallpaper was peeling off, the ceiling was falling down in places and that was just on the stairs

At the beginning of the twentieth century Southampton Row was 627 feet long and seven and a half feet wide; King's Bench Alley was 586 feet long with an average width of three to four feet. Portsmouth is the only city in the UK on an island, and is also the lowest above sea level  - global warming will turn Portsmouth into first a Venice and then a memory - but in the meantime, when in 1918 there were 23,000 men working in the dockyards, reformers and inspectors were busy with improvements.  In 1927, at Number 9, Blossom Alley, a family of ten lived in three rooms, the largest of which measured 13ft 6ins x 10ft x 6ft 8 inches.  Of course that was luxury compared to conditions on the ships: at the time of the battle of Trafalgar about 800 men lived on HMS Victory.....

And HMS Warrior (1860) was not much better,

Though Officers and Gentlemen lived in a slightly different world:

And if you were Admiral Nelson, you had the very best:

Even if he did have to sleep with a canon at the foot of his bed!

Portsmouth is still an important working dockyard, and there is a constant traffic of warships, supply vessels, and, in the background, ferries.

And local artists still cater for the flow of sailors, with their questions of identity.....

Across the island, past the War Memorial, past the D Day museum, past Henry VIII's Southsea Castle, at Eastney, there are the Barracks of the Royal Marines (which for years I believed was a project one of my forebears had a hand in, though I can no longer find the evidence.....)

Where a museum now inhabits the Officers' Mess.

War, whether Napoleonic, Crimean, World, Cold, or Falklands, has been part of the business of Portsmouth, since whenever.  As a child I remember my mother producing her ration book in the butcher's; we played in air raid shelters and bomb sites.  Much of the High Street had been smashed, families crushed and burnt in the rubble, the nave of the Royal Garrison Church still stands roofless since a fire bombing raid in 1941. The Cathedral, dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury, was only completed in 1991, as plans to extend it, following the creation of the diocese in 1927, were halted during World War II.  

As a child I remember sitting on my mother's lap during incomprehensible sermons, the temporary brick wall behind me of more interest than the liturgy. But then, with David Stancliffe as Dean, the west front, with its towers and rose window, was consecrated in the presence of the Queen Mother in November 1991.

I remember, or imagine I remember, tottering on the roof outside our flat, my mother hanging washing, while grey ships hooted their way in and out of the channels. I can see my mother laughing with a Russian sailor as he showed us round his cramped quarters. On 18 April 1956, the Soviet cruiser Ordzhonikidze, in company with the destroyers Sovershenny and Smotryaschy, had arrived at Portsmouth Naval Base and berthed on South Railway Jetty. This is the VIP berth immediately in front of the distinctive Semaphore Tower. Ordzhonikidze carried the Communist Party leader Nikita Khrushchev and Premier Nikolai Bulganin for talks in London with the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden.  The following day the public was allowed to board at least one of these ships, and, possibly at the very same time, war hero Commander Lionel 'Buster' Crabb, who had stayed the night at the Sally Port Hotel under the name of Smith, slipped into the waters of oblivion somewhere beneath us.

Family and friends (Molly and Freddie Howe) on the Camber
in the mid '50s

Fourteen months later a headless and handless body was found in Chichester Harbour, wearing the same wet suit that Crabb favoured.  The bodied was identified, and subsequently buried, as Crabb's.

Theories, at the time and since, have been broadcast, though official documents are not due to be released until 2057.  One of the most interesting accounts is that of novelist Tim Binding, contemporary and friend of my elder brother, in Man Overboard, which was published in 2005.  Subsequently Tim wrote that he had met Sydney Knowles, the man who was called to identify Crabb's body, who claimed that Crabb had been about to defect to Russia and so MI5 had rigged the events in Portsmouth Harbour and killed him.

Delightful Brutalism - a derelict building in Southsea

On February 7th this year, which would have been Charles Dickens's 202nd birthday, the first full scale statue of the author in Britain was unveiled in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, not very far from his birthplace museum.  Dickens did not stay long, nor for that matter did Peter Sellers, another famous Portmuthian.  But if my experience is anything to go by, those first salty breaths, the toddling steps in earshot of the sea, the press of history combined with the holiday air that scuds across the shingle and round the shelters along the esplanade, all remain ingrained in the soul, engraved on the cortex, imprinted on the heart.  The bric-a-brac of first impressions must help shape the soul?

Me and Fiona Reid, Ladies Mile, 1952

We moved from the High Street to Drayton, up the hill on the mainland, and then away all together, but I still remember the trolley buses in the town centre, the butcher's St Bernard, and the tiger skin on our dentist's waiting room floor.  I can also recall my father being launched in a glider on the playing fields, a team of boys running with the rope, and the ultimate child's toy, a Link Trainer, somewhere within the darkness of the school. Years later, a teenager, I returned to stay with my godmother, and wandered into a nightclub in Eastney to hear Victor Brox.  The streets then were all in black and white, and somehow the grey sea seemed to be leaking into my mind.

Later still, in the 80s, Amanda and I returned to arrange our wedding with the Dean of Portsmouth, who had become a friend.  Around the same time I witnessed a diminutive coffin being nailed shut in the cathedral crypt.  It was the coffin of a sailor from the Mary Rose, chosen, I believe, to symbolise all those who died.  Also present was a descendant of that sailor.

I've been back on other occasions - taking one of my daughters to see the dockyard, passing through to the Isle of Wight, visiting the Mary Rose, but I have no contacts there now.  The war did its damage, but so much more has changed since then.  Shopping at Gunwharf Quays is the attraction now, with the bold landmark of the Spinnaker Tower,

the University populates the boarding houses with students, the Mighty Mouse is a rusty shadow of its former self.

The Pier is closed, awaiting a millionaire to restore it, or perhaps the arsonist's kiss.

There is something about the British seaside.  On a good day it can shimmer with the abandoned fun of escaping from the daily grind.  But it is not what it once was.  It is not really well.  Rust persists through the thick paint while weeds push up through the cracks in the pavements.  Henry VIII may have enjoyed sunbathing on top of Southsea Castle, strumming his lute and warbling one of his hits, but even the stones of that hefty building seem tired today.

Where did the time go?

On my recent visit I purchased a Captain's Boarding Pass to the Historic Dockyard, which entitles me to many benefits (though curiously would not get me in to the Royal Marines Museum) and would readmit me at any time for two years.  

However, though I feel that, in a strange way, Portsmouth and Southsea are a part of me, I guess that I am no longer part of them, and I am not sure I will ever go back now.  Truth is, despite the pastime, or the times passed, with good company, I am now more of a man overboard.  As Henry VIII sang:

youth must have some dalliance

of good or ill some pastance

Company methinks then best

all thoughts and fancies to digest

The door is firmly closed.....