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Greenwich 6


Cutty Sark, Foot Tunnel, North Thames views, Thames Clippers, River, Dragon on Prince Frederick's Barge

76. This is the state of the clipper Cutty Sark in August 2011*, undergoing* extensive repairs and refurbishment*, after the fire in May 2007*. The ship was already scheduled for conservation repairs and had been partially dismantled at that time. Having lived in the area for many years and passing the ship every morning on the bus to school, I found it disconcerting not to see the masts filling the sky, but instead several very large cranes. However, it was heartening to see the stern looking quite magnificent in black and gold, a taste of the glories to come. The fence round the site showed pictures of the progress, as well as the ship in full sail and a mock-up of how the finished site will look. The ship is held aloft on a steel girdle, so that visitors can walk underneath the hull. The glass enclosure meets the ship at water level. I would suppose that on a blue sky day the glass will look like rolling sea surrounding the ship, but on a grey day it might resemble the skirts of a hovercraft! Many people will know the ship from past televised scenes of the London Marathon, as the runners circle round the ship – the professional runners just getting into their stride, and the fun runners still managing to smile and wave, even though they are beginning to realise just what they have let themselves in for.

* "2011, 2007" Long slash to represent the current century, arbitrary sign with no phonetic value

* "undergoing" Not using the short form "go" therefore has the full diphone rather than just a dot on the Ing

* "refurbishment" Using halved M for "-ment", keep the En light and short, so that it does not look like "refurbishing"

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - final appearance mockup  
Mock-up graphic August 2011 - Real life January 2016

77. The repair and refurbishment began in 2006* at an estimated cost of £25 million but this figure finally rose to £45 million. The fire damage had added £10 million and an extra 18 months to the schedule. The ironwork and timbers are now protected and treated to prevent further decay. After six years of hard work and much fund raising, it was reopened by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on 25 August 2012*. Among my photos I found one that exactly matches the mock-up view that had been posted around the perimeter fence during the restoration. The ship is a glorious sight in the full sunshine and the undulating glass canopy really does look like a gently swelling sea, although not the calm surface that the ship would have been sailing on most of the time. I think Cutty's past sailors would not wish to have the sea so calm, as no wind meant no speed, no winning of prizes leading to further business, and probably no bonuses for the crew. On several visits I have seen people climbing about in the rigging, clad in harnesses and ropes, and I envy them the view from the top, but not the method of obtaining it. The next best thing is a close-up satellite image giving a gull’s eye view of the ship from an even greater height.

* "2006, 2012" Long slash to represent the current century, arbitrary sign with no phonetic value

http://www.camvista.com/webdir/London-Live-Aerial-Map-Views/1000176,4,30.html?map_type=google&item_id=101095&google_zoom=18&google_lat=51.482863&google_lng=-0.009624 Close-up satellite image of the ship and surrounds

http://www.johnsankey.ca/cuttysark.html Page has a photo of Cutty becalmed in the Doldrums

http://cutty-sark.org Cutty Sark 2Sail Foundation (charity) - a group of enthusiasts planning to build a replica of the Cutty Sark as a seagoing vessel, with the dream of commissioning her by 19 November 2019, the 150th anniversary of the original launch on 22 November 1869.


78. The Cutty Sark was built for Scotsman John "Jock" Willis. She is a sailing clipper built for high speed in order to* outrun rival ship Thermopylae in the China tea run, and later the wool run from Australia. She travelled all over the world* until 1923, when she was bought by Wilfred Dowman who brought her back to the UK and restored her. Her last sea voyage was in 1938 and her last time* in the water was in 1954 when she was towed into dry dock at Greenwich. The ship was named after a character in Robert Burns' poem "Tam O'Shanter". A girl called Nannie Dee wearing a short-cut shirt or undergarment, known in the Scots dialect as a cutty sark, was angrily pursuing Tam at high speed for having gazed at her dancing with the witches. Tam escaped by crossing a river on his horse Maggie* or Meg*, but at the last moment the horse lost its tail, grabbed by Nannie who was unable to cross the water.

* Omission phrases "in ord(er to)  "all over (the) world"  "las(t) time"

* "maggie, Meg" Names should be vocalised whenever possible

Greenwich - Cutty Sark - June 2006 
Before fire June 2006 & after refurbishment November 2012

79. The ship's figurehead Nannie spent the next 80 plus years crossing all the water in the world*, chasing the rival ship instead of a horse. Not only is her own cutty sark flowing behind her, but also the ship of the same name in tow, looking like an extension of her skirts. The ship's Scottish name ensured that the nationality of her owner and the builders went with her everywhere. Maybe Jock Willis also thought that Nannie's dislike of water made sure that the ship stayed on top of it, and not below, and that Nannie would provide maximum speed to get back to land! From the side view she looks young and beautiful but her face is actually frowning and snarling in anger. Whenever in port the crew would place in her hand a horse's tail made of old rope. Considering that the horse in the poem was marginally faster than Nannie, maybe it should have been considered for the job of figurehead, but it would not have inspired the same interest, loyalty and cautious* superstition from the crew. Most of all she embodies a teeth-gritting determination to outrun her competitor.

* Omission phrase "in (the) world"

* "cautious" Ensure the K is straight, so it does not look like "anxious"

November 2013

80. The design of tea clippers was based on the American Baltimore cotton clipper ships. The name comes from one of the meanings of "clip" which is to move swiftly. Their grace and elegance is aptly* described by George Campbell in his book China Tea Clippers – "The delightful form of the hull* of a tea clipper ... all being moulded perfectly into the curves toward the keel, must surely rank as the most aesthetically perfect manmade shape." The Cutty Sark's specification for building and fitting out lists not only the construction requirements and materials in precise detail but also an inventory of every item needed on board, from guns to teaspoons, anchors, foghorn*, deck scrubbing brushes, fishing lines and shark hook, teak hen coops and pig houses, copper tea kettle and coffee pot, complete tea service and fancy bread baskets – just a few of the hundreds of items listed. Reading the inventory is almost like a trip through an average day on the ship, although many of the nautical equipment terms would only be intelligible to those with sailing experience. Also required was "a figurehead by Allan with suitable carving about the stern* and to correspond with the name of the ship" and "the whole to be of the very best workmanship, material and finish."

* "aptly" Always insert the first vowel, see www.long-live-pitmans-shorthand.org.uk/distinguishing-outlines-list1.htm aptness/badness/pettiness

* "hull" "whole" Ensure both have their vowels, written clearly thick or thin, as the meanings are interchangeable in this passage

* "foghorn" On its own "horn" has Tick Hay

* "stern" = rear; stem (or bow) = front. As the figurehead is at the front, the carving referred to must be the ornate decoration at the rear (photo at top of page)

www.johnsankey.ca/willis.html Complete specification for building and fitting out the Cutty Sark

www.tea.co.uk/tea-clippers Brief history of the tea clipper races

www.stephenweir.co.uk/stained-Glass-Glasgow.html Cutty Sark in stained glass, example of a commissioned window

"The Crews of the Cutty Sark" by S F Bailey, 1989, published by the Cutty Sark Society, lists all the names and details of crew members.

Greenwich - foot tunnel Greenwich - foot tunnel reinforced section
Looking towards the centre, sloping down. The short length of narrower reinforced walls.

81. In the background of the Cutty Sark photo is the glazed dome over the lift and stairwell down to the foot tunnel under the river, which links Cutty Sark Gardens to Island Gardens in Tower Hamlets on the north side. The tunnel is 370 metres long, 2.7 metres in diameter and just over 15 metres deep. Its width does not sound much but it is not a cramped area. It was opened in 1902 to replace the ferry service, so that workers could travel more easily and cheaply from their* homes in South London to the shipyards and docks on the Isle of Dogs. At the north end is a very short length reinforced in steel and concrete, as that part was damaged in World War II. The original lift was a large room with wide doors on both sides and an attendant to operate it. It had seats on each side and the sort of varnished wooden panelling that you might see on a vintage train carriage. A guess at its capacity would be about 50 people. Passengers entered at one side and exited at the other and this arrangement enabled it to serve the large numbers of people using it to travel to work.

* "from their " Doubling to represent "their"

82. The tunnel is identical to the one at Woolwich. Some time in the 1920's my grandfather*, on his way to work in North Woolwich, saw a dog running up and down the tunnel. The dog was still doing the same when he returned home that night, never going far enough in either direction to reach the stairs. The tunnels slope down to the middle and the ends cannot be seen during the walk. My grandfather rescued the anonymous dog and took it home with him. In later years, he delighted to tell his children of the dog's great intelligence. After a theatrical pause, and seeing that all eyes were intently fixed on him, he boldly told them of the astounding exploit. He said he came down one morning and found the dog in the kitchen frying himself a breakfast of eggs and bacon. There would have been an explosion of incredulous laughter from the children and an equally resounding guffaw from himself at such an outrageous proposition. The moral of the story was: don't hang on to someone's every word, because they may be tempted to lead you "up the garden path". The other lesson from this is* the necessity to press on, and not give up and turn back, a useful maxim for any endeavour.

* "grandfather" On its own "grand" is halved

* "this is" Separate outlines reflect the pause between the words

View from Island Gardens over river to Old Royal Naval College Island Gardens cafe by entrance to Greenwich foot tunnel
Island Gardens and café

83. After your surreal journey along the tunnel, you emerge into Island Gardens where you can sit facing the river and enjoy the real world and fresh air. Looking at the waves reminds you of what was above your head on your subterranean walk, a fact which suddenly becomes even more pressing, as you will be doing it all again in reverse quite soon. There are river walks in both directions, which are more gritty than pretty, and a blue sky day would help if you prefer your photos to look more inviting and spacious. If you position yourself directly opposite the Old Royal Naval College, you can compare your own photo with the painting of this scene by Antonio Canaletto "Greenwich Hospital from the North Bank of the Thames".

Greenwich - View of Old Royal Naval College from north side of Thames

Compare this photo with the painting

Greenwich - Thames Clipper catamaran

85. I name this ship Spotted Dick! This is a Thames Clipper catamaran, real name Hurricane Clipper, painted in holiday mood colours and brightening up a grey day and the murky, cold, uninviting waters of the Thames. They really do zip past and you have to be quick with the camera. The crane is on the shore, not on the ship! A spotted dick or spotted dog is the name of an English steamed suet pudding, the spots being the currants. It is a favourite of school children and, with plenty of sweet custard, is ideal for warming one up, ready for a breezy* day's outing to Greenwich or along the Thames. This vessel is named after something that anticipates and describes its great speed and power, exactly the same reason as the naming of the Cutty Sark – an act of faith, confidence and expectation* before the ship ever hit the water on its first launch. Even when stationary, the name lets prospective customers take a good guess at its purpose. However, I doubt if a sea-going* ship named after a storm (as several of these clippers are) would inspire the confidence of its sailors, unless they and the ship's owner were of a defiant disposition.

* "breezy" Ensure the R Hook is clear, as "busy" would also make sense

* "expectation" Optional contraction

* "sea-going" Does not use the short form "go", therefore has the full diphone

Greenwich - Thames foreshore by Old Royal Naval College, looking east

85. We are now back on the south side of the Thames, in front of the Old Royal Naval College buildings, looking eastwards down river. At low tide there is both sand and shingle. Wide stone steps lead down at intervals and as you walk along the shore, your eyes are focussed on the stones, to see if anything of interest has washed up. Fragments of dressed stone and wave-worn rounded red brick lie scattered amongst the pebbles, conjuring images of Elizabethan or Tudor houses, or Roman buildings of long ago. There is surprisingly little modern rubbish compared to the piles of refuse that often accumulate in sheltered corners of seaside beaches. Although the river in the photo appears clean and blue, it is actually a thick mid-grey* from the silt that the river carries, and is not at all inviting, or even hygienic, for paddling. The green on the embankment* wall indicates the level at high tide.

* "mid-grey" Insert the vowel in "mid" as in this context "mud" would also make sense

* "embankment" Optional contraction

Greenwich - Thames Clipper catamaran

86. Here is another of the twelve Thames Clipper high speed catamarans that ferry tourists and commuters along the Thames, from the London Eye down to Woolwich. This seems to be our modern-day version of the Cutty Sark, boats built for speed in order to* capture trade, with a quick turnaround of "cargo", but offering vastly* more comfortable accommodation and calmer waters to travel on. After watching the boat speed past, and another passing in the opposite direction, I resumed my inspection of the foreshore for interesting debris and photo opportunities. A sudden roaring and growling of the water took me by surprise, as a succession of large wakes from the two clippers arrived at the shoreline, having made their way in my direction, completely silently, unseen and unnoticed. The grey soupy water rose up and pounded itself into white foam on the pebbles. The waves could have knocked over any small child standing at the water's edge and it was a stern reminder that the foreshore is not a playground. I did not find anything remotely interesting, no Roman coins or ancient pottery came into view. I returned up the stone steps, staying away from the slippery green edges and going gingerly up the middle where the sun had baked the stone dry. I was rather glad to be looking down on the river and not level with it. I don't think any of my doughty Greenwich ancestors would have recognised much of the seafaring* spirit in me that day!

* Omission phrase "in ord(er to)

* "vas(t)ly" omits the T

* "seafaring" The dictionary has this as one outline, but this take it too far into the line below

Greenwich - Thames foreshore wake waves breaking  Greenwich - Thames foreshore steps and pebbles

Greenwich - Thames foreshore by Old Royal Naval College, looking west

87. This view is looking upriver towards Deptford and eventually Central London. Greenwich Pier is on the left. The Cutty Sark ship is located behind the pier, wistfully watching the clipper catamarans going past and remembering her trips to China and Australia. She is well pleased with her refurbishment* and looks forward to regaling visitors and schoolchildren with tales of her 80 years of adventures around the world. Deptford is named from the deep ford over the River Ravensbourne, which was on the route of the Celtic* trackway that later became known as the Roman road Watling Street. The "P" in Deptford is not pronounced. It started as a fishing village and became a centre for shipbuilding.

* "refurbishment" Halved En used for "-ment", keep the En light and short, so that it does not look like "refurbishing"

* "Celtic" Can also be pronounced "seltic" which is sometimes used for modern items e.g. football teams. Archaeology generally uses "keltic" and it is occasionally spelled with a letter K

88. At one time* it was called West Greenwich, with the Greenwich of today known as East Greenwich, but this usage ceased in the 19th century. Queen Elizabeth I knighted Sir Francis Drake here. My own memory of Deptford is that it appeared to my young eyes to be merely a shabby extension of glorious historical Greenwich, and I felt I was stepping into an old postcard of grimy 19th century backstreets. I could just about see over the wall and look down on the Quaggy, a muddy little river discharging into the Ravensbourne. I was fascinated by its name, which is an adjective meaning soft or flabby, as in quagmire*. The Quaggy's silt will eventually find its way to the mud banks at Erith where the river widens and the mud is deep and treacherous-looking, with low tide exposing gullies deeper than a person.

* "at one time" Halving to represent the T of "time"

* "quagmire" Pronunciation "kwog" is correct but it can also be pronounced "kwag"

National Maritime Museum - dragon/sea serpent on prow of Prince Frederick's state barge - Pitman's New Era Shorthand
I hope you enjoyed your tour of Greenwich, and I will leave the last word to this hypnotic-looking golden dragon/sea serpent on the prow of Prince Frederick's state barge in the National Maritime Museum –

"May your shorthand pen glide over the paper as smoothly and swiftly as I did up and down the Thames. Say after me: I will practise my short forms, I will practise my short forms, every day, every day

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