Not what you expected

holyroodThis is what’s left of Holyrood Church which is down towards the water in Southampton. I would’ve taken my own photo but, when we were there last Friday, there was a couple of people who, despite a few tourists looking for a picture opportunity, insisted on spending a good fifteen minutes sucking each other’s faces. It’s not really what one expects. As B commented, she’ll have a very nasty rash around her mouth later.

Holyrood Church, built in 1320, was once, like Friday’s female, in better shape . Not so good though according to Sir Henry Englefield who commented that ‘it does not seem to have ever been of elegant architecture’. Things got a lot worse in November 1940 when it fell foul of allied bombers during the blitz. What makes it worth a visit are the many memorials within to various elements of the crew of the Titanic.

DSCF0932Of course, one invariably trips over the multitude of Titanic memorabilia in this most superficially unattractive of cities. There are lots of other unexpected stories to discover, however, if you look between the awful mish-mash of the place. November doesn’t seem to have been a great month for the city: witness this plaque on the exterior of Holyrood. At 11.15pm on 7 November, 1837, fire broke out in the stables of local merchants. Horses may have been housed within – what wasn’t known was that the building also contained 150 pounds of gunpowder along with thousands of gallons of oil, turpentine and varnish. Local workmen and passers-by, in an act of selfless citizenship, rushed in to try to thwart the spread of the flames. Sadly, and regardless of valiant and magnanimous attempts, explosions began just after midnight and most were burnt beyond recognition. Despite the close proximity to the sea, the shortage of water and the lack of fire fighting equipment contributed to the inquest jury’s condemnation of the city’s complete unreadiness for such an occasion.

DSCF0933Continuing our pre-dinner stroll, we came upon this memorial raised by relatives of those who sailed on the Mayflower.  Walking around this part of Southampton is a bit like being on an unexpected treasure hunt: poking through pubs and restaurants to locate who knows what. There are lots of stories engraved on this tower, placed by those who could afford to do so, but my favourite was on an unattractive drinking fountain just out of the frame.

maranne rogersMary Ann Rogers was the senior stewardess on The Stella – a passenger steamer that left port on Maundy Thursday, 1899. Her husband had already drowned in 1883 and Mary Ann was working to provide for her children. When the Stella went down in fog off the Isle of Wight with the loss of 105 lives, she gave her life jacket to a child and gave up her place on a life boat, thus saving many women and children. Hoorah for someone who acknowledged a woman.

DSCF0934Here’s the view from my hotel window on Friday night before we set sail. It’s not that attractive but to have such wonderful weather and a sunset like this was totally unexpected in these days of berried hedgerows and indecisive mornings. The following day we went to the Isle of Wight. Despite living on the south coast for so many years of my life, I’ve only ever been once. Hendrix was present – huge yawns from my children at this point.

DSCF0953Here they are. And here we are in Bembridge having purchased all things smelly from the delightful garlic farm. Lovely countryside, a seafood lunch, the welcome but unanticipated autumn sunshine and so on and so on. But my over-riding memory will be coming down a hill, round a corner and confronting the development of a new retirement home where the agent’s sign declared, to the aged folk who had not considered they might be abandoned by their families on an island, ‘not what you expected’.


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