This was Brian’s idea. He turned up this morning along with Charlie and we hurtled off to South Shields to have a look at the Ark Royal which had an open day today before receiving some aircraft at sea tomorrow.
Unfortunately, the ship was parked in North Shields, so, after some excitement amongst the road works of the new Tyne Tunnel, and the old Tyne Tunnel, and getting ourselves trapped inside a maze of “No entry except buses” signs, we abandoned Brian’s car amongst some traffic chaos somewhere in the posh end of South Shields and went off to find the ship. There was a bit of a queue. (About half a mile, I should think) Some shivering was done, but eventually we came to our turn and were allowed up the gangplank and into a hangar. There were various displays of weapons and engineering and forces and lifeboat charities. The crew were all quite keen to show off the ship and tell anybody about it who cared to ask.
We followed the crowd upstairs (I expect that this isn’t the correct term) – where there were armed guards, a helicopter and various vehicles including a venerable crane. It rained and yet more shivering was done.
So we left. It was good to see. This is where the ship was built, so there seems to be a strong link. Some of the sailors were asked if they were enjoying their time in Newcastle. Some of them could remember….and some had only vague recollections of a night in the city.
We went to the Fish Quay and had haddock and chips in the Kristian, and mooched around the seafood shops and other foody places – and the fish dock itself. I thought this part of Britain’s heritage had gone. But apparently not. There are only a few trawlers left, though. I left with a kipper.
Brian decided I needed a bit more in the way of a tour, so off we went to Tynemouth where the waves were breaking over the piers and the lifeboat museum was closed.
More touristy stuff took us to see the surfers at Whitley bay – then on to St Mary’s Island and, finally, to a Charlie’s old workshop in Newcastle and his ex-local pub where various people seemed to recognise him. The big window in the pub has a superb view of the Tyne and its bridges and the beer was wholesome….
The final act was visits to a couple of Tescos and a ride through the snows of North Durham. Hopefully, Brian will have got home. It was still snowing a bit…
This is a fascinating area – full of it’s very own character. I’ll have to come back.