Continuing on from my previous post…
On Wednesday, I headed down to Southsea via Lee-on-the-Solent. Or, rather, I set off, realised I had left my camera at home, turned round and went back, got it, and headed off again.
I had made arrangements to visit the Hovercraft Museum, which is located at HMS Daedalus. Officially the museum is closed at the moment, but if you contact them you can arrange to visit by appointment. So, arrangements having been made a few weeks ago, I turned up at the gate to be met by a Security Guard who told me that the museum was closed, and that I couldn’t come in. I explained that I had made an appointment and that they were expecting me. She seemed unconvinced, saying it was all fenced off and inaccessible, but I assured her that I was expected and she let me proceed to the Security Portacabin. There I had to park up, sign in, get a site pass permit to display in the windscreen of my car, and then told again that they had no knowledge of it being open. Fortunately I had a phone number for my contact, Warwick, at the museum. Thankfully he was just approaching the gate as I phoned him, said he could see me, and that I should follow him on-site to the museum. Security were happy with this, so I jumped in my car, put my permit on the dash, and followed him.
After we’d parked up, and I’d been introduced to his two awesome dogs, Warwick explained that the museum actually has its own public access direct to the road but that because the museum is officially closed right now, and their car park is a building site, visitors have to go through the palaver of coming onto HMS Daedalus itself with all the hassle of passes and security gates that I had gone through. He then told me that he would go round unlocking things, and I should feel free to wander around to my heart’s content, and to climb into (and onto) any hovercraft that were open, sit in the pilot’s chair, whatever I wanted, and to give him a shout if I needed anything. So I got my dSLR out of my car (the one I had gone back to get) and discovered that it had no memory card in it. Arseflaps. So I was left with the prospect of taking photos with only my phone, which has a notoriously poor camera. Normally this is not a problem for me as I usually carry a decent compact camera in my handbag. Sadly, though, I was in guy mode and handbag-less.
I was at the museum for a good 2 hours in the end, and had a lovely time looking over the hovercraft, sitting in pilots chairs and secretly making “WooooooOOOOOOOO ROARRRRRRRRRR” noises (in my head, ‘natch). They had all sorts there, from the tiniest one-man ones right up to the gargantuan SR.N4 passenger ferry hovercraft. They also had several Military ones, too. One even had bullet holes in the windscreen, which was a bit scary.
The museum had a bit of a run-down air to it; a feeling of faded glory. Not just for the sad fact that hovercraft represent a bygone age, and that in all of them the cockpits were decidedly old school 20th Century analogue, but also because the museum seemed underfunded and run down, and the hovercraft all looked rather forlorn and in a state of neglect and disrepair.
I talked to Warwick about this over a cup of tea, and he explained that the museum is run on a volunteer basis and they are in enforced shutdown at the moment as Daedalus are refurbishing the hangars and that the museum’s car park is currently fenced off and unavailable to them. What little income they have is spent on bare minimum running costs, such as rent, lighting, heating, essential maintenance, and the like.
He pointed out the SR.N6 Twin Prop and told me that 3 years ago it had been freshly painted, but that since then it had been sitting out in the salt-laden sea air and had deteriorated to its current state in just that short period of time.
I felt quite sad about this. So much of the innovation and wonder of the past is gone – decommissioned, mothballed or scrapped. The hovercraft, the ekranoplans, Concorde, the Space Shuttle, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the like. It seems that only a handful of people like Elon Musk still have the vision to drive forward into the Future; most people seem content in staying only in the Present. 🙁
Anyway, we finished our tea and I said I’d like to make a donation. Warwick told me that the usual fee for a visit was £10 and if I could Gift Aid it then that would be even better. But I recalled that annual membership of the ‘Friends of the Hovercraft Museum’ was £25 and suggested I did that, with Gift Aid, as a way of supporting their work. I feel quite strongly that it is important that this museum survives, and that these examples of our cultural heritage of Great Britain’s former greatness as leaders in technology is preserved. I also felt that my donation might actually make a small difference. So we did that, and he joked that at least that meant I could come back again another time with a memory card in my dSLR and take my photos properly, since membership gives me free admittance . 🙂
After that, I thanked Warwick for his time and left him to lock up whilst I departed, handing my site pass back in to Security on the way out. I then drove round the bay to Southsea, with a view to finding the Antiques shops that had featured in Celebrity Antiques Road Trip.
I initially parked up on Marmion Road (free street parking – yay!), and popped into a few stores such as The Interior Trading Company and also Victoriana Furniture, but nothing caught my eye.
I did go into Fat Face though, and got this lovely bracelet which I immediately wore. Yes, in guy mode. But, so what?
What I really wanted to find was Parmiters Antiques, which I had seen on Celebrity Antiques Road Trip. I had checked their website for opening times before looking for them. My SatNav directed me to Albert Road and I parked up there (again, free on street parking – yay).
I quickly found them and they were closed. As were Langford Antiques. As were Tango Tea Collectables. This was rather a disappointment to say the least. It turns out that published opening times on websites mean “these are the times we’re open when we can be bothered to open”. The actual opening times are displayed on the shop window, on a small blackboard or whiteboard, which evidently is subject to change without notice.
I ended up walking pretty much the entire length of Albert Road and back, and did find a few interesting shops, but I didn’t buy anything. Still, it was good exercise.
I then drove round to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, with a view to having a wander around the exhibits. I parked up in their multi-storey and walked round to the entrance. A sign on the gate said that the site itself was free, but all the exhibits had a charge. However,lightweight barriers forced you into a building where the payment desks were. Each exhibit (such as HMS Warrior, the Mary Rose, Royal Marines Museum, etc.) carried a price of around £14-£18, with an all-exhibit pass at £28. Unlike the Hovercraft Museum, where I felt that my money was going directly to support something that clearly desperately needed it, this felt like commercial Tourist-gouging, so I elected not to pay and left. Instead I wandered down to Gun Wharf Quays for a spot of shopping and a bite to eat (it was 3.30pm by now and I hadn’t had a thing to eat that day). I didn’t find anything, and by then I was getting rather tired, so I decided that it was probably time to head home.
I drove back cross-country though, to make things a little more interesting.
I didn’t do much in the evening, but did have a nice long soak in the bath because I knew I would be stiff from all the walking that day, and with a trip up to London the next day I would have more of the same, so a good soak in muscle-relaxing Radox would probably be an extremely good idea.
But I’ll cover that in my next post…
Oh how wonderful. I emailed Warwick to alert him to this post (and also to link him some awesome articles on Dark Roasted Blend about Ekranoplans and Hydrofoils as he is interested in them too).
He came back with a lovely email that was totally accepting of me being TG and saying I should model some of their Hoverlloyd and Seaspeed uniforms one day. I would be so up for that! And as I’m a size 14 I might have half a chance of fitting them too, especially as I’ve been a 12-14 in the past and heading back there too. 😀