Daily Archives: June 28, 2005

England expects every woman to have an umbrella

It is interesting, I suppose, to ponder the historical significance of the hot bath. If tales of Roman times are to be believed, the relaxation of soaking in a bath of hot water is fairly well established in ancient history, and I’d guess even Nelson would have enjoyed luxuriating amongst the bubbles after the battle of Trafalgar… if he hadn’t been dead, that is. But, wonderful though the sense of relaxation and gentle thawing was this evening, it only slightly compensated for the disappointment of missing one of Britain’s greatest battles… a point that is even now being rubbed in by the persistant rumble of gunfire in the background as I type.

Yes, even now the Battle of Trafalgar is underway and we’re not there to see it. It was inevitable, really. We stayed on Ryde seafront as long as we could. We gazed open-mouthed at the ranks of ships littering the Solent as far as the eye could see in every direction – battleships, cruise ships, tall ships, yachts, tiny little boats – hundred upon hundred of them from 35 different countries, no less. The binoculars were worth their weight in gold – it was incredible how clearly we could see through them, even making out the sailors lining the decks of the ships as the Queen sailed past doing her international fleet review. We “oohed” and “Aahed” at the flypast of various RAF planes and helicopers, wondering how on earth some of the bigger ones ever stayed in the air at all! And we marvelled at the aerobatic skills of the Red Arrows as they did the most complex tricks mid-air, travelling at over 400 miles per hour and passing with their wingtips only 10 feet apart!

(I was, however, rather disconcerted to discover that my history-mad, ship-and-aeroplane-mad children were completely disinterested in the once-in-a-lifetime marvels around them and that I had actually suffered the mental torment and guilt of keeping them off school simply for them to revel in the opportunity to build yet another sand castle!)

But, alas, our plans of staying in situ all evening were thwarted. OK, so Nelson wouldn’t have let a bit of rain put him off, but honestly, it was torrential. That really cold, wet stuff. One minute we were sitting in our deckchairs, sipping coffee and admiring the view, the next we were deluged with an intense shower of near-ice daggers which soaked our clothing, even through our waterproofs, and ran down every single crevice of the body with an icy determination to reach the very bone. As the sky turned increasingly dull and misty and the rain showed no sign of relenting, we decided to admit defeat… not least because Tiddles is still incredibly tired after his trip away and my friend M who was with us suffers with a weak chest and already has a bad cough. So here I sit at home, snug and warm after my bubbly bath, the children fast asleep in bed, and the sound of the Battle reenactment and the biggest firework display ever held in the UK echoing in the distance behind us. Somehow watching it on the telly just won’t be the same.

Still, hopefully we’ll see at least some of the ships again when we go over to Portsmouth for the International Festival of the Sea at the weekend. I’m glad Dad’s staying up at my sister’s for the fortnight because it means we can go there with an easy conscience as it’s something he’d absolutely love but would be unable to manage. As it is, we can go for the entire day… thunderstorms permitting.