Thursday, 19 May 2016

pompeii or hornblower and hotspur

Whilst rambling through Devon and Hampshire, we stopped at the ancient city of Portsmouth, the oldest continually used docklands in the world awash with the trawling dragnets of historical connections. The harbour town is far too well regaled with references to pursue every footnote and link (though the local historical societies must have very fulfilling hobbies), but just to trace the city to its semi-legendary foundation by a Norman nobleman called Jean de Gisors whom famously harrowed Henry II into kingship and was allegedly the founder of the Priory of Sion I think gives one an idea. And merrily, we roll along.
One lawless exclave established on a tip of Southsea, called Spice Island, just outside of the city gates and thus beyond the crown’s jurisdiction was a regular Island of the Donkey Boys from Pinocchio for its bustling and brisk business attentive to visiting sailors, but rather gentrified and respectable since the invention of the steam-engine began to depreciate the importance of the trade routes that clung so near the continent.  The strategic significance of Portsmouth (nicknamed Pompeii) and attraction, however, has not waned. The naval presence has receded into its present boundaries but the defensive walls and garrison chapel with the statue of Lord Nelson are very much still the typifying landmarks, but a relatively recent addition in the Spinnaker Tower (named after the distinctive steering sail and which is probably the closest we’ll get to the Burj Dubai—at least for the present) adds an impressive element to the skyline, being the highest viewing platform outside of London.
Afterwards, we stopped to wonder at the massive, medieval Arundel Castle, seat to the oldest surviving earldom, and line of Anne of Arundel, Baroness Baltimore, wife to the first governor of Maryland and the province of present day Newfoundland called Avalon, named after the old lands in Somersetshire where Glastonbury lay—as the perfect transition to our next little tour.