Tuesday, 2 August 2011

From Dawn to Dusk At Calshot Spit & A Whole New Blogger Icon For Me

Ever wanted to see the back of yourself? I mean…everybody else has, at some time or another. Some have probably even made a few unseen and rudely colourful gestures behind your back, when you’ve trodden on their sweeties in the past. Chances are, one of the few people you can really truly trust to watch your own back for you, when the chips are down and dirty is…you. Trouble is, you’re the only one who has to content yourself with doing it in the figurative and not the physical. There’s a paradox lurking in their somewhere, I just heard it scuttle behind my back.

Here’s me and my shadow playing around just after dawn together then, outside the castle walls. We would have got up close and personal for you (kinky eh) but there’s a big moat full of seawater keeping a safe & some thirty feet of distance between us, just out of sight here. Otherwise there might have been quite a riot. Imagine – ‘Man being questioned by police today after dawn raid, for chasing his shadow around castle walls in suspicious circumstances. His shadow has now been reported as officially missing, presumed drowned’

I wish. Now that would be a story worth selling to News International. ‘World Exclusive: Serial shadow stalker suspected of drowning his own shadow. Police looking for witnesses.’

Moving on then – In truth, this is not exactly headline material. It’s simply me capturing me from behind, just after sunrise one morning a while back, whilst waiting for a bunch of clouds to smooch into place just behind me to the east and thus into the early morning sunlight. I am stood on top of the old, outer moat ramparts that encircle the Napoleonic gun tower, which is rather euphemistically called ‘Calshot Castle’ – sitting sentry on the southwest most corner, of the shipping channels, that signal the gateway between ‘The Solent’ and ‘Southampton Water,’ in central Hampshire’s busy sailing coastline.

I got quite caught up for a few minutes adopting various silly poses with my new game here and my shadow reaching out with a posy of wild flowers, plucked straight from the castle walls. Clearly my shadow was trying to appeal to my feminine side for a moment there, cos I've got to admit, I was quite touched. Hmmm (?)  (!)

Needless to say I banged them all (the images) into Photoshop and started messing about with different interpretations’, one of which I’ve turned into a ‘Thank You’ card (that's the one with me holding out the posy of flowers – blokes!) and then more recently, the abstract coloured versions I’ve now adopted for use as my new blogger header flag and blog icon. So there it is. Now you know. Bish Bosh Bashy rides off into the sunset again then, to boldly go where no normal mortal shadow has ever gone before.

In the ‘blue dawn’ set of three images above, the one on the left shows the early morning, high speed, jet boat, catamaran ferry making its first run of the day across to Cowes on the Isle of Wight with Calshot Castle on the right of picture. The middle image is a local lobster boat on his way to the best place to drop his cages for the day, and the right hand pic shows the RNLI watch station with the imposing NCI Observatory watch tower looming up behind. Behind the rising sun, just out of sight is Portsmouth, home to the Royal Navy, and a couple of months further on still, by camel, is….Mecca itself.       Inshallah.

The greeny toned image above is the shot I was waiting to eventually capture, while I'd become otherwise boyishly distracted, being a complete and utter muppet for a few minutes here, skylarking around with my shadow. Just as I was beginning to get bored again, the cloud formation I'd been patiently waiting for, kindly cruised into play to make the whole scene look a bit more interesting and moody for a few seconds, and so I whistled up my pet gull ‘Gary’ there to swoop down into view, right on cue, as you do do doo, and thus managed to snap this particular picture.

The liner coming into view is the ‘Aurora’ returning from another Caribbean Cruise…in the Carbbean. No really, I’m not making all this up. It really is a Caribbean cruise liner that cruises around the Caribbean quite a lot. I correctly and diligently read all my junk mail. Always. Amazing what I've learned.

Personally, I‘ve never been the slightest bit attracted to taking a cruise on a great big metal and plastic floating hotel like this. The notion just doesn’t float my boat, what-so-ever. Packed in with all those mobs of 'cruisers' in their assortments of evening party frocks and war painted faces, to keep all the evil spirits away. Me?...well I’d be leaping over the side at the first sign of a port, and take my chance with all the nice sharkey warky's, as I made my bid for freedom.

Facing east towards Mecca again at low tide last Sunday morning around 6.00am, looking past the huge public slipway in the foreground to the RNLI station with its jetty, the NCI watch tower just behind and a bit of Calshot Castle itself on the right there.

In a couple of hours time, this slipway becomes full of jet ski trailers, speed boats, day boats, multiple canoe trailers  race dingy's, fast cat sailors, man boys, excited kids and mad dogs, all trying to hurl their floating kit into the water as fast as poss before hurtling off round to the right behind the RNLI station, heading south out into the Solent and beyond to Cowes and the Isle of Wight for a spot of lunch. The weekenders as they are called, who camp out in all forms of tent, truck and camper vans at the other end of the Spit grassland nearby. 

Even though I live just inland up the road from here, I always know they're up to their mischief by the constant cacophony of ships horns trumpeting their warnings and later, their wrath, as the constant flotillas of dense and often well lubricated day sailors weave and meander their hopelessly oblivious ways, back and forth, right under the bowsprits of the ocean going leviathans that have been steaming  the major shipping lanes here for the last hundred years and beyond.

No matter how many times I come here, I’m always drawn to the amazing contrasts of the light and shadows, given off by the iron jetty. It’s a living structure, like a chameleon, its plethora of surface textures, constantly altering and re-morphing as the sunlight follows its intrepid arc, and the perpetually undulating waves, send their shimmers of light motion, sparkling and twinkling at random, as they slosh and sluice there way through all the seaweed and barnacle coated sections of this charismatic old iron structure.

These four remaining jetty images have all been taken at dusk. The image immediately below was captured last Saturday evening around 9.00pm. As you look up through the right hand side of this image, you are in fact gazing towards Southampton Docks about five mile north in the distance. When my twenty something son & daughter set off to go to the Isle of Wight music festival each summer, this is the jetty they depart from in a friends inflatable rib. 

It's by far and above the coolest way to arrive at the huge, festival grounds, which themselves are a good few miles up the river Medina on the edge of Newport, in the center of the Island. There is a corresponding jetty at the festival park itself, which allows small craft to drop off local festival goers and thus tramp directly into the camping areas, while the rest of the masses have to laboriously trapes their way across to the Island, via all the main car ferries to Cowes and Ryde, before bussing their equally laborious ways inland to Newport, thence having to hike it with all their kit, for a good couple of miles to the festivals main entrances. Not a lot of fun when your'e carrying all your camping dross, and a five days supply of essential life enhancing beer and alcohol, I can tell you (!!!)

It always becomes a very special moment for me once I've helped offload them both and all their rucksack kit into the rib, along with their immediate friends, as I cast them off with a big wave of the hand, cupping my hands to my mouth and yelling after them.. "Drink plenty of water! Keep putting the suncream on! Try and eat something solid every day! Send me a text when you land in Newport!! Have fun!!! as their rib pilot guns the engines to leave a broiling, foaming squirrels tail of heaving white water in his wake, and I'm left staring impotently after my two special raison d'etres grinning mightily back at me, each with a mocking hand cupped up to an ear mouthing a perfectly translatable "Whattt? I can't hear you anymore Daaaddd..." - their fast inflatable sea taxi becoming quickly smaller and quieter as it romps, judders and dances its eager way across the mornings gentle swells, fading softly from clear sight, into post dawns hazy glare.

The buggers!!   

My special moment - which always lasts until I've watched them through my binoculars enter Cowes harbour a couple of miles due south of here - is a mixture of pride and warm envy for them and their oncoming music festival adventure, a powerful rush of personal reflection and past images of all the mischief and adventures I've enjoyed myself from this very jetty since I was a mere mid teens boy, and an enormous sense of gratitude that we've all been so bloody privileged to live so close to this place at all. We lucky few.

Sochi-Russia-A-man-dives - courtesy Daily Telegraph.
I came across this incredible photo image the other day on the Telegraph's website. Boy would I have been a happy bunny to have nailed this one. It entirely captures the essence of exactly what we used to do as boys off Calshot jetty here during hot and balmy southern evenings in times gone past. A good picture paints a thousand words, and non better than this momentous shot. Salut to you then Mr Ruskie photographer, whoever and wherever you are!

Here you go then, a bit of aerial perspective. This is a great shot of the whole of Calshot Spit as it juts out from the south east corner of the New Forest along Hampshire's central southern shoreline. Figure 'A' denotes precisely where I was stood at dawn when I took my shadow shots above and the green toned image just after sunrise. You can clearly see the water filled circular moat that rings the Castle itself. 

Figure 'B' merely points to the jetty which features in the various images above. The huge big hangar, was originally constructed to house the massive Sunderland Flying boats which were based here before and after WW2. Nowadays, the hangar is host to a truly outstanding indoor and outdoor activity centre owned by Hampshire County Council, and housing a dry ski run, world class climbing faces, national indoor banked cycledrome circuit, shooting galleries, archery course and a great, long integral pub at the back, with an outdoor terrace looking directly out across the Solent towards Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.

The long dark blob of a building up on the right of picture near the beginning of The Spit, is the dormitory block that I used to stay in as a boy, and became the de facto international battledrome to this planets most epic of all pillow fight wars, which we would stage every single night without fail, ranging up and down along both floors of the building until no boy was left standing. Thee, most, indescribable fun...ever! I can still hear the ghosts of us all, every time I drive past this place, howling and cackling ourselves to total exhaustion, and all the dull whumps and thuds as we pelted and belted each other, every which way, all the way to Mars. The stuff of boyhood legend.

These two smaller maps are just something I did off Google Earth to give those of you who live in a more distant corner of the Bloggasphere, a bit of perspective as to where Calshot actually is in the greater scheme of the UK's coastline and such things.

I've just finished putting together my first YouTube slideshow video of a selection of images taken of the area, mostly captured along the coastline between Hythe on Southampton Water and Beaulieu River, further on round to the west, where it flows quietly into The Solent. Here then is the direct link to the YouTube page itself:

That's it then, for now. Joo know? ... this is not the originally intended post I spent all day Saturday trying to write, and after a couple of thousand words I just exasperatedly, tossed it back into my PC's drafts dungeon and went on out to Calshot here to get some necessary fresh air. That makes about fourteen assorted blog posts sitting in my 'future blog post' folder that have yet to see the light of day, for one reason or another. I'm absolutely hopeless aren't I. Absolutely hopeless.

The Fireworks Display at Cowes on the Island a couple of miles away due south of Calshot, which signifies the end of the annual International Sailing Regatta. This years display will take place next Friday...the 13th! Kaboom time then. Not a particularly good image I'm afraid. I only had a baby lens with me, and I couldn't see my camera on the beach in front of me. Duhh!
Right...next time round, I'm going to finish my 'G&T' postette. Guaranteed and promise!

Talking of which...I've just noticed, I've run out.



Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Phil:
Entrancing, beguiling, breathaking, absolutely fabulous images which you have used to illustrate this heroic post. No, beyond heroic!

First, we were transported back in time since we once lived in Southampton with friends at Fawley [they, in turn, were friends of the Rothschilds at Exbury but that is by the by]and so are familiar with the area of which you write.

Then, the cruise ships. Up to now we have avoided them like the plague believing them to be full of Dorises and Teds whom we spent years trying to avoid when they visited our garden. However, with a fear of flying and a real urge to see New York, we feel that we may yet see life on the high seas, courtesy of Cunard. Should this dream ever materialise into reality, we shall, however, make sure that whatever extra needs to be paid we shall have a table for two in order not to be pinned down with mindless chatter at breakfast, lunch, dinner and, quite possibly, afternoon tea.

Then, there are the Sunderland Flying Boats. We remember them as being moored just off the Hythe Pier, and always visible from the Hythe ferry. Does that, or the little train down Hythe Pier,still run, we wonder?

And so, sadly, we must tear ourselves away lest our comment overstays its welcome. But, we cannot leave without saying how much we have enjoyed ourselves, playing amongst the shadows of time, with sea shells singing on the sea shore!

John Going Gently said...

I am going to sit down later to digest this one!
over a nice glass of red

the fly in the web said...

Those photographs are astounding...I've gone back to look at them again three times now.

Cautiously hoisting two black balls (not, unfortunately, those of The Neighbour) might I venture to remark that there is something of Olivier's Richard III in the stance of the figure on your blog banner...rather menacing in a dashing sort of way...

Steve said...

Bloke, fab photos. Totally moody and mood enhancing. Made me pine for clean sea air and that cool movement of morning air just after the sun has risen and the currents heat up. You have an artist's way with a lens, my friend. And it was great to be given such an in-depth tour of this place that is special to you. Re: your shadow. Is it me or were you naked except for a flasher mac of some kind? I mean, that's fine. I've got no beef with that. I'm just wondering is all.


The bike shed said...

Greet photos. I used to ride the velodrome at Calshot quite often, and visited even more when my son comp tee there. the spit has a sort of ' end of the world' feel about it. Quite hard to put into words.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Jó reggelt Jane & Lance.

This is: Response number 1 of 2, to your original comment up there!

Thanks for your lovely comments here. You’re a very kind and generous couple of people. I sincerely hope you ‘Pestis’ are enjoying some warm and sunny weather out there along the Danube.

Amazing to learn of your friends in Fawley and their ‘Rothschild’s family’ connections. Fawley village is just across the common from where I live. What a small place this Bloggasphere can turn out to be. When you have some time, try clicking on this coloured link here, which should time warp you off to another post I made much earlier, which makes mention of the Beaulieu River and the Rothschild’s, as well as numerous other nearby facts and anecdotes surrounding all the secretive goings on, in their neck of the woods, during times past. I drive past their estate at Exbury, virtually every day.

Your summing up of the ‘Ted’s & Doris’s’ cruise fraternity is just perfect. I entirely echo all your sentiments and observations. Eloquently put! The longest non stop sea journey I have ever undertaken, was when I returned from Santander in Spain a couple of years ago, on what was their last sailing passage in November, before they broke off for the winter. I was fortunate to be able to enjoy one of the biggest storms the Bay of Biscay had boiled up for a couple of decades, for most of the 26 hour voyage. I loved all the excitement, noise and dramatic motion of it all (I don’t suffer from sea sickness, thank goodness).

Although my cabin was 8 decks up from the waterline, the wave spray was crashing away at my porthole window, all night long. It took me twenty minutes to drag myself along the corridors and stairways to get to the best restaurant, during which I didn’t see a living soul, from where just me and about ten other passengers spent the evening completely gorging ourselves stupid on all the trays of wonderful food the chefs had prepared for the three hundred reservations they’d taken, while still in port earlier.

The fun part was loading up your plate with piles of yummy food, then, in full view of all your new found little band of intrepid cohorts - who were desperately waiting to see how on earth you were going to navigate your way back to the table without loosing the lot – carefully lowering yourself and your loaded plate to the floor, while still holding on to a handrail with your spare hand, then judging the right moment to ‘cast off’ so to speak, and begin the journey of nudging your food plate back to the table, on your hands and knees. Much to the amusement of the battery of redundant line chefs, who were clinging on to their own handrails along the servery.

Our equally intrepid French wine waiter, had to make three separate attempts, at delivering our wine order without lunging at the carpet to try and catch the bottles that had flown out of his hand. In the end I suggested he just roll the wine bottles over to me from the bar area. You should have seen the look of shock and pain he gave me! Funny – the first guy to clamber his way over to my table and thus join me for dinner and drinks, was, of all people, a professional photographer! With me being such a hobbyist, you can imagine my total delight, as well as ‘the only’ topic of chat for the rest of the night. The stuff I learnt from him was amazingly helpful to me. Even if some of it was gleaned while hanging on dearly to the bar carpet many hours later, determinedly hanging on to our respective glasses of Jack Daniels. Hmmm.

(Now you can glance on down to the next response..or take a brief tea break and pop back later!)

Bish Bosh Bash said...

To – Jane & Lance again:

Response number 2 of 2…’The Final Chapter’.

Re: Hythe and the Sunderland Flying boats – My mother in law used to be a stewardess on them from her office base in Hythe. I’ve researched some stuff about T.E.Lawrence, who was based in Hythe for a couple of years in the early 30’s, while helping to develop a fast motor launch craft, ostensibly to be able to carry out fast rescue responses to the frequent landing accidents that used to occur off Hythe Pier and Calshot, with the Flying Boats. These fast and powerful powerboats, became the templates for the motor torpedo boats of WW2, and were built by the very same powerboat company in Hythe. My father in law, apprenticed as a boat builder for the same company, and helped build many of these craft during the war.

Concerning Hythe Pier and its train – Yes! It is still going strong, and is very much in evidence in the village. We all use it regularly to catch the ferry from the piers end, across to Southampton, over the water. It’s pretty much a National Monument now, and Hythe Pier is still the longest surviving pier structure in the UK.

Please try and take a look at another post here, which although it’s a bit of a short and zany tale, it’s entirely centred around the Hythe Pier train. One of the first blog posts I ever did last august I’m afraid!

Then you can go!

Bish Bosh Bash said...

John Boyo: Hope the red stuff was to your liking. When your heads cleared a bit, I'll be glad to see you back here again. Assuming you can still remember your merry way, that is!

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Thanks Fly, you're very kind as always. I'm mostly a dawn and dusk light hobbyist photographer, so having quick and easy access to this water encircled promontory here, is a real bonus for me.

Loved your 'black balls' remark! Laugh. You'll have your day with that dog, I'm certain of it.

I'll happily go with the Richard III likeness, although Larry Olivier might have frowned at you for saying so! Thank you.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Hi Steve. Thanks mate. Appreciate your comments, and yes you're bang on there, in that this is indeed a special place for me. Much of my character, for what it is, was originally formed here. Hence my great affection for it all.

And 'yes', you get today's 'pervy eye' award for spotting the thinly concealed truth, that I was in fact completely devoid of clothing. Well dun you sir! Shame, cos I spent bluddy hours in Photoshop, trying to make it look like I was wearing a black fleece and shorts. Damn. You can see right through me as ever can't you bloke. Fair play to you then!

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Thanks again Mark. I remember you telling me about your own connections with this place earlier on in my bloggings. I've not peddled around the more recent velodrome circuit, as you and your son have. But I was once a regular peddler of the original banked track that was dismantled after the 1948 Olympics, and subsequently re-constructed at Calshot soon after. My time tramping around the banking's, feeling all those crushing 'G' forces, was between 1972 and 75.

Your 'end of the world feel about it' is very true. Especially when it's either foggy, or best of all, enveloped in an early morning misty heat haze, with the sunshine trying hard to glare its way through for the day. Quite magical to witness sometimes.

When the Canberra returned home after the Falklands War in 82, carrying all the troops, there were a good few thousand of us stood out on the beach in front of the castle, waving huge union jacks, as the ship majestically spirited its way into our view for the first time, through the most glorious blanket of misty heat haze, with the sunshine glaring brightly behind her, and the fire tugs throwing great arcs of water up over her sides.

It was a momentous sight to behold, and a hugely patriotic as well as emotionally charged occasion for us all to bare witness to that morning. I must dig out my slides of it all sometime, and get them converted to digital images for a future blog post. Thanks!

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello again Phil:
First, thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to reply at such length. We LOVED the little film of Hythe, its pier and the train. We are so pleased to know that it is still going strong. It seems like an eternity ago since we were last there, but it is good to know that some things at least seem to have such a fond spot in peoples' hearts that they do not fade away.

Yes, we recall the flying boats being tethered there, but seem to remember them always shrouded with tarpaulins. This just served to remind us of the Cold War and the work of spies, which we assumed to be going on everywhere.

Thank you for your comment on our own post to which we have made reply, specifically with respect to Montague Dawson.

John Going Gently said...

I remembered...
you have a talent philip
and a talent for illustration as well as one for words....
reading your blog is like dipping into a kind of weird hello magazine
( and I mean that in a positive way)
how about a blog about your fav movies
I would love to analyse that one!

Elizabeth Rose Stanton said...

Since what i do best is look at pictures, I can tell you they look fabulous. I am, at the moment, the "gal" on the galloping horse--riding by fast...Am slammed busy. I promise to return and READ and inwardly digest all as soon as am able! PS Gin post? ;)

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Hello again Jane & Lance. So glad you were able to stop back by and take a look at the ‘Hythe Pier’ post. That little video is quite the charmer isn’t it. I think it’s the only historical video of Hythe in existence. The general layout of the center of the village is much the same today, including most of the old buildings. Except for all the modern shop facades, a Costa Coffee and a Waitrose supermarket on the village square now. The small main high street has been closed off to traffic for many years now, so it has long since become a safe and attractive precinct.

Hope you managed to read the other post about the Spooks & Spies, and their time spent in WW2 on the Rothschild & Beaulieu Estates. Such a small world with your friends knowing them at Fawley.

Thanks again for your words concerning Montague Dawson. That was most helpful. I’m due to meet up with a local historian some time soon, who claims to have an original painting of the big villa on the Hythe shoreline, where he and his family once lived. Sadly it was sold to a ship repair company some decades ago, and was demolished to make room for a huge boat shed.

I climbed over the fence that surrounds it now, at dawn a few weeks back, and took a load of pics of its specific views across to Southampton and the docks, for the relatives I’m doing some research for down in Australia. The ‘grey & misty’ photo image of Hythe Pier itself, that sits on my Hythe Pier post is one of those pictures.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Hi again John Boyo! Thanks for your kindly comments my friend. Much appreciated. Accept your - “like dipping into a kind of weird hello magazine” - comment with all the positive waves you intended. Even if I am still completely puzzled! Maybe I need to burgle a copy of ‘Hello’ mag a bit pronto then.

Interesting – I’ve often thought about doing a ‘film’ post, because as you already know, I have a keen interest in film and film making in general, like you. I’ll put it on the list then, and try to think of an angle. I have always found those – overly word smithy, intellectually up themselves, smarty arse film critic, reviews you read everywhere – a total bore. On TV, Mark Kermode & Danny Leigh are quality acts to listen to about all things ‘film’. On the other hand though - Claudia Winkleman – in my view, has completely and utterly botched the current ‘Film 2011’ series. Sooner they dump her all the way back to the ‘Trash TV’ circuits, and team Mark & Danny there together, the better!

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Hello Elizabeth – spelt with an ‘E’ for short! Thanks for your comments ‘E’, because in all frankness, coming from such a wonderfully gifted professional illustrator and artist as you, I am truly flattered. I have to add though that in my case, those photo’s are as much a shared product of – good local locations, getting up early, a decent camera & lens and some very clever photo manipulation software. Whereas all your illustrations and artistry are a raw and singular product of ‘just you’ transmitting your astonishing imagination and original ideas that exist in the ‘right side’ of that mind of yours, directly through pen to paper. And that’s a truly special set of artisan skills for the rest of us to behold.

Totally and utterly understand the ‘slammed busy’ part. No need to explain at all ‘E’. No ‘sleeping in Seattle’ over there right now then! We’ll all be delighted to see you again in here, whenever the galloping horse grinds to a halt for a moment in future! I’ll make sure to leave a big trough of water and a pile of oats out, at the bottom of this blog from now on.

Anonymous said...

G'day mate - Although I now live in Australia, I was lucky enough to have grown up in Calshot and appreciate the charm of your descriptions. I shall be back there shortly for a flying visit to my old school friends who now live in the same house I lived in. I have such vivid memories of summer sun layiong on the pebble beach listening to the rush and retreat of the waves, ice creams from The Bluebird cafe, mushrooms in the fields and carol singing in the chill sea mist of winter. There is no place like 'the forest' for me and although my wife hates the chimney, it was always the thing that took us kids home from anywhere in the woods or on the heath.
Good on ya mate.
Wayne Smith

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