Weekend trip to Portsmouth, lunch today in the Still and West pub in the old town. It has a great photo of the last British battleship, Vanguard, nearly hitting the pub on its way to be broken up in 1962. We were right next to the water, and over the green water we saw the Lübeck sailing happily into the harbour, big flag flying, sailors at attention.
(The good weather has broken. But in a place like this with colours like this, sunshine is not so important in how you feel as you look at the landscape and the sea.)
Earlier in the day we visited the Mary Rose, Henry VIII’s ship that sank during a battle against a French invasion in 1545 and was raised from the mud in 1982. I don’t know whether the ship itself, these 500 year old timbers, or the bits and pieces gathered up from the crew, bowls and tiny dice and a dog’s skeleton, are more moving.
A man I know who works there told me they are in frequent contact with the Vasa people in Stockholm. The Vasa people say they do things first, then the Mary Rose does them better.
Ian McEwan, quoted in the Guardian yesterday, comments on a scene in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey: What’s striking is that in the very early 19th century before the railways had transformed the country, long before the telegraph, [this scene] evokes a world that is so connected, so in touch with itself. Today, that feels like a description of Europe.