Saturday, 19 July 2014

My guest blogger has returned ;-)

Do you believe in time travel? How would you set about doing it?

Are you a modern day genius who fully understands quantum physics and can hold ones own, debating the intricacies of wormholes with Carl Sagan or Professor Stephen Hawkins?

Or perhaps you are more likely to be inspired by the machinations revealed by HG Wells
in his novel The Time Machine (written 119 years ago, standing the test of time, if not travelling through it in any true sense.)

In either case, you will need a super brain, you will need to be imaginative, as well as being masterly in mechanics.

Personally, I believe in time travel and I do so, quite frequently.
I am no Albert E and can just about sharpen a pencil or boil an egg but I have cracked it. 
No, not the egg but time travel.
I have always been able to do it but have never really taken the time to explain my methods or my journeys.

Yesterday, however, was a special day. Not only was I sharing a delightful day with the 
LOML  but something quite unexpectedly jumped out at me from a gallery window in 
Topsham. It was a limited print of two sailing trawlers, titled, "Providence and Vigilance off 
Berry Head" by Tony Isham. 

We entered the gallery and had a very enjoyable conversation with the owner
and the very accomplished artist himself, Tony Isham.

I just had to have it and so, having exchanged coin of the realm, I carried the
precious piece back to my car.

'What has this to do with time travel?' I hear you ask.

Well, it became, there and then, quite evident to me, that this was not only a masterful demonstration of brushwork but a vessel to demonstrate time travel.
How so?

As soon as I saw the print, I recognised these beautiful vessels as trawlers from my home town Brixham, a top and historic, fishing port on the south coast of Devon, at the western edge of Torbay.

I was immediately taken back in time to my earliest memories as a small boy growing up there. How I enjoyed my father's stories of his service in the Royal Navy; submarines, frigates, destroyers and aircraft carriers to mention a few. These, then were all state of the art with all the advances of modern technology. But my family were also trawlermen with sophisticated vessels too, boasting radar, plotters, and radio etc.

But often the tales told would turn to our grandfathers and great grandfathers and their peers. These men were true fishermen. They had to have knowledge of the seas, weather and associated dangers. They had to know where the best fishing grounds were to be found. Everything they did, was by hand.

I was transported back in time and evocative images of two men in particular came to mind. My great grandfather Manny (Emanuel) Maddick and my best friend's grandfather Pop Ansell. Two men different in facial appearance but their bodies, reflecting the ravages of time and arduous work, very similar. Although old they were stocky, barrel chested, bright of eye and wit. They were still powerful men in their old age with powerful and muscular arms that would make Popeye's look like Olive Oyl's. They wore dark serge trousers and navy guernseys.

These men sailed similar vessels to Provident and Vigilance. I was gob smacked then at such tender years as I am today some fifty years on when I hear of how on occasions, if they were becalmed off Start Point, they would lower a boat and row back to the fish market at Brixham (a Herculean task for us today I can tell you, but they knowing no different took it all in their stride) with the pick of the catch in order to get at least some money to live on. 
There was no social benefits in those days.

Of all the tales I would learn things such as, she was a ketch or a mule, maybe a bee. She was gaff rigged and so on.

Of all the names Provident reigned supreme. My dad loved her as do I. I was blessed to see her at Brixham when I journeyed back home and fortunate, too, to have lived in the South Hams for many years and worked at Salcombe where I saw her plying her trade.

'Provident' BM28 was built at the yard of J Sanders in Galmpton in 1924. I believe that she was one of the last sailing trawlers to be commissioned. She was a medium sized "Mule" class having a gaff ketch rig. This meant she had two masts and the sails were hoisted using a gaff, a spar attached to the top of the sails. Having two masts meant that more sails could be hoisted, thus taking advantage of the wind conditions. They were easier to handle, especially by a small crew and more flexible as there were many permutations of sails of varying sizes that could be used. Up to eight different sails could be deployed, think of it as a car having eight gears when the competition only had four. More responsive and ultimately so much more powerful and quicker.

These Brixham style trawlers could not only race across the seas but they could also tow heavy fish laden nets at the same time, something the competition would later have to wise up to.

In 1930 Provident became a private yacht and in 1952 the ICC (Island Cruising Club) at Salcombe acquired her as a sail training vessel, a purpose to which she has been put to this very day. She is the green hulled vessel to the left of the picture (seafarers are superstitious and say that it is unlucky to paint a boat green as it will always look to land, run aground, hopefully just a silly superstition) Her dimensions are 90' in length with 70' desk space, 18' in the beam (wide) and a draft of 8'6" (depth in the water) She displaces 80 tons with all her sailing trim.

'Vigilance' BM76, the grey hulled vessel to the right of the picture, is bigger. She was built two years later at Upham's shipyard Brixham. The yard no longer exists as the coastal path way leading from the quay to the breakwater runs over the former site. During the last war she was used as a barrage mooring vessel. She is what is described as a beam trawler or a 'Smack'. She is 101' in length with 78' of deck space, 19' in the beam and has a draft of 10'. Heavier at 90 tons. A beam trawler hauls two trawls from outriggers spread to her sides as opposed to one trawl hauled from the stern. She is used today as a charter sailing vessel out of Brixham.

Leader, Pilgrim and Golden Vanity are also names that I fondly remember. But the two proudly displayed on my lounge wall, will always remain my favourites.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Oh what a circus! Oh what a show! ;-)

I've always loved musical theatre and I became quite excited

 when I heard that 'Evita' was coming to Torquay.

I was very lucky to have experienced this wonderful show,

when the original cast performed it in London in 1978.

And I was even luckier to have seen David Essex

in the role of the narrator, Che!

Talking of Che...

There is much debate as to why Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber

adopted Che as the narrator and, in fact, it is said that Che was

initially meant to be any Che, rather than the revolutionary leader, Che Guevara.

However, it seems that over the years, the Che in Evita, 

has been considered to be Che Guevara.

It is, however, probably true that Eva and Che Guevara never 

met one another.

What we do know is, that here are two people, each with differing philosophies

yet each like saints, to their followers.

And each became cultural icons.

In Evita, Che is the narrator; an important dramatic device which

binds the play together and at the same time, poses important questions in the

minds of the audience. 

The show, Evita, begins with a scene inside a cinema and the announcement

of the death of Che sings the words :

'Oh what a circus! Oh what a show!
Argentina has gone to town
Over the death of an actress called Eva Peron
We've all gone crazy
Mourning all day and mourning all night
Falling over ourselves to get all
Of the misery right

Oh what an exit! That's how to go!
When they're ringing your curtain down
Demand to be buried like Eva Peron
It's quite a sunset
And good for the country in a roundabout way
We've made the front page of all the world's papers today

But who is this Santa Evita?
Why all this howling hysterical sorrow?
What kind of goddess has lived among us?
How will we ever get by without her?

She had her moments--she had some style
The best show in town was the crowd
Outside the Casa Rosada crying, "Eva Peron"
But that's all gone now
As soon as the smoke from the funeral clears
We're all going to see and how she did nothing for years!'

You let down your people Evita
You were supposed to have been immortal
That's all they wanted
Not much to ask for
But in the end you could not deliver

Sing you fools! But you got it wrong
Enjoy your prayers because you haven't got long
Your queen is dead, your king is through
She's not coming back to you

Show business kept us all alive
Since 17 October 1945
But the star has gone, the glamour's worn thin
That's a pretty bad state for a state to be in

Instead of government we had a stage
Instead of ideas a prima donna's rage
Instead of help we were given a crowd
She didn't say much but she said it loud

Sing you fools? But you got it wrong
Enjoy your prayers because you haven't got long
Your queen is dead, your king is through
She's not coming back to you


So... who was Evita?

Well...Evita was the very charismatic Eva Duarte, an actress who wanted to

escape from her usual, mundane lifestyle and go to Buenos Aires,in order to

better herself.


'I had to let it happen, I had to change
Couldn't stay all my life down at heel
Looking out of the window, staying out of the sun
So I chose freedom
Running around trying everything new
But nothing impressed me at all
I never expected it to'


She eventually meets  the politician Juan Peron and she becomes his mistress

and then his wife. 


'It seems crazy but you must believe
There's nothing calculated, nothing planned
Please forgive me if I seem naive
I would never want to force your hand
But please understand
I'd be good for you.'


She is, indeed, 'the woman behind the man' and she encourages him to

attain supreme power.

In 1946 , Juan Peron becomes President of Argentina.

Described by a 'propaganda machine' by many, Eva becomes 

the heroine of the people of Argentina.


'But on the other hand--she's all they have
She's a diamond in their dull gray lives--and that's the
Hardest kind of stone--it usually survives
And when you think about it, can you recall
The last time they loved anyone at all?'


She has a huge amount of ambition and eventually she embarks

 on a world tour, which turns out to be less successful than she had hoped,

apart from in Spain.

At this point , just as she creates the Eva Peron Foundation, 

( set up to help the poor people of Argentina), we discover that

she is not well.

Eva passes away at the age of 33 years.

At the end of the show, we are left questioning her motives....and the narrator,

 Che, is partly responsible for this!

Without him, we would probably be more inclined to think that

Eva was a saint and very much ' for the people.'

With him, we consider and question her actions and thus we come away with

conflicting thoughts.


And of course, when it comes to the subject of Argentina,

 one can't help but bring other things into the mix...

thoughts such as The Falklands Conflict; thoughts such as

Diego Maradona and that 'hand of god' incident !!

One cannot get away from such thoughts. 

Should you get the chance to go and see this wonderful adaptation

of Evita, then do grab it!

The whole cast, the set, props, orchestra etc were top class.

Marti Pellow played the part of Che incredibly well...a part which, as

the narrator, must be pretty tricky. 

He was not intrusive... and that's how it has to be.

He slipped in and out of the action very well indeed.

Madalena Alberto (Evita) ...well what can I say about her?!

I don't think I have ever seen someone with such stage presence; she put her all

into her performance and played the part perfectly.

Her voice was simply amazing.

And on that note , I think I'll leave the last words to her alter ago:

High flying, adored, that's good to hear, but unimportant

My story's quite usual, local girl makes good,
weds famous man
I was slap in the right place at the perfect time
Filled a gap--I was lucky
But one thing I'll say for me
No-one else can fill it like I can