The Gypsy Moth


Sadly the real Gypsy Moth (The Gypsy Moth IV to be exact) was looked after so badly while it resided next door to the Cutty Sark that it had to be carted away to be restored before it fell to pieces completely. A great shame, since Queen Elizabeth II had knighted its skipper, Sir Francis Chichester, in Greenwich after his record-breaking sail around the world in 1966/7 with the same sword with which Queen Elizabeth I had knighted Sir Francis Drake some 400 years earlier. But hey. We obviously can’t be trusted to look after our toys and it has been taken away from us. Maybe that will be a lesson to us to keep supporting the Cutty Sark restoration before we lose that too.

By the way, I recently met the guy who bought the Gypsy Moth IV, and was relieved to hear that its days of decline are over. Paul Lister, heir to the MFI fortune, bought her for a pound and a gin and tonic in the way that eccentrics toffs do and restored her completely. He formed a charity to help kids learn to sail and now she is once again sailing the seven seas, this time with a somewhat younger crew. His new project is to reintroduce bears and wolves to the Scottish Highlands. Hurrah for eccentric toffs…

In Greenwich, meanwhile, The Gypsy Moth is remembered in the name of the pub nearest her old mooring. Because of its proximity to all the tourist sites this noisy pub gets very full indeed in the summer months despite – or perhaps because of – a boisterous beer garden at the back. Not the place to go for a cosy chat – but great fun if you’re with a bunch of mates out for a drink and a laugh in a good atmosphere. It serves food too – but to be honest I’ve never tried it. I hear it’s bog-standard pub fare.

I was sad to see the death of the coins, medals and memorabilia shop next door. This seemed to have been there for ever, its display of military helmets, old toy cars and dusty medal ribbons quietly sitting in this unassuming little store. To my shame I never went inside – it was just always there – something to go in and browse next time. Clearly I wasn’t alone in this – one day I walked past and realised it was gone. I felt an almost palpable sadness – and a slight pang of guilt. If we don’t visit these quaint little shops and patronise them with more than a nod and a smile, then we’ll lose them and our town centre will end up some kind of theme park – like Covent Garden and Carnaby Street have become – the little quirky stores which made them great forced out by chain stores wanting a piece of the action, leaving them mere caricatures of the places they once were.

The Art Deco shop Decomania, recently suffered the same fate. Frankly I never went in because I was intimidated by the swankiness of it all – I couldn’t have afforded a single item – but I mourn its passing all the same. I must make a mental note to visit these one-offs on a regular basis…

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