Brilliant Weekend

Blimey – what a weekend. Normally I have at least something to moan about but this weekend Greenwich was just a brilliant place to be, especially if you’re a local. After years of scaffolding, hoardings, railings and no-go areas, at last stuff is being cleared away and we’re entering a small golden window of lovely stuff (before the market goes pear-shaped, of course.)

As one wonder disappears (thanks to Stephen for this fabulously stormy pic of Les Miserables film set being cleared away)

another wonder opens.

At last we were able to get inside the Cutty Sark and hoorah for them giving local people the opportunity to see it first (I did tweet about it, btw). Hundreds of us went – the queues were round the corner, and that was just ticket-holders – and the atmosphere was ‘excited.’

Of course it’s not finished yet, and everywhere there were empty cabinets, plinths with nothing on and vacant display boards, but hey, they’ve got three days… (frankly I think they’ve got a bit of a steep task to get it done by the time Her Maj arrives on Wednesday, but then I suspect that she has never actually ever seen a totally complete project…)

In fact I found it rather charming that wherever you looked there was something being done –  it was often hard to tell which bits were artistically arranged artefacts and which bits were the real thing

And I know we worried about the big old cradle-thing that raises up the ship, but I have to say it’s blimmin cool to walk underneath that hull. I guess only time will tell whether it continues to hold the ship without too much damage, but it certainly seems to at the moment and there’s something truly awe-inspiring about seeing it from underneath:

I even like the way they’ve displayed the figureheads. They always used to be in regimented rows, but grouping them together like a football crowd really gives them  dynamism. I just hope they can sort out the touch-screen display, which was very hyper-sentisive when I tried it and jumped about all over the place before you could read what was on it.

On the deck itself you get a better view than ever because it’s so much higher. I had several enthusiastic new members of staff, including the ship’s captain, coming up to talk, but far beit for me to suggest they tone it down a bit – I enjoyed it really, I just like to be able to stop and look at things without being jumped on. I suspect when the novelty’s worn off (it probably already has) they’ll be perfect.

I had an utterly monster time, and everyone who I’ve spoken to enjoyed it too. It went down especially well that after all that disruption, they did actually invite us locals first.

Oh – I forgot to mention the tea – served in giant enamel mugs. The cupcakes are, like most modern cupcakes, lovely to look at but tooth-rottingly sweet; I don’t think I’ll be having another one, but I’ll be back for tea now I can.

Which brings me to membership. Thanks to everyone who told me to join the NMM Friends – I’m not generally a ‘joiner’ but I’ve done it and recommend it for every local – as well as the existing entry to paid-for exhibitions and as many standing-the-meridian-line-as-much-as-you-like benefits, you also get in free to the Cutty Sark. Believe me, with the amount of friends and relations who have suddenly expressed a desire to come and visit ‘me’. I’ll need that.

It seems almost churlish, then to smile at the photo Meirion sent, but hey, everyone’s allowed to forget the ‘i before e’ rule occasionally:

If it had just been the Cutty Sark preview I’d have been a happy enough Phantom but this was the weekend that kept on giving. After my mug of ship’s tea, I wandered over to see the Vikings invading Greenwich for the first time in 1000 years.

The whole thing looked huge fun; I have sneaking feeling that in previous life I must have been a reenactor. I love watching but could never do it – I could never decide which period I’d want to play. I learned much from this splendid fellow, though, who told me that some of the Vikings actually stayed in their tents over the weekend and that no one ever wants to play Normans.

He also told me that the best bits are the fighting, the fires and the beer.

I loved the way they parked the longboat so that you could get the church spire in the background

but what I really wanted to see was St Alfege himself. The chap in the chainmail told me that in the afternoon he’d be martyred, with the added benefit of, just at the end, a bunch of Anglo Saxons bowling up to tough up the Vikings for the spoils (not convinced that actually happened, but hey, we need to remember the best bits about being a Viking).

Just as I was about to leave though, I heard rumour that he was dying specially for the BBC in St Alfege Park, so I scooted over quick

and there he was under a cherry tree. Sadly I’d missed the actual boning, but I did see him lying very martyr-like under a cherry tree being scattered with petals by sad Anglo Saxons so I can hardly complain.

I have a horrid feeling I might have to watch Songs of Praise for once.

Was it me or were there just sights a-gogo this weekend?

I mean – what was this Gypsy caravan convoy doing along Traf Road?

They’re on their way to Kent from Durham, apparently but I know nothing more.

All in all it was certainly a memorable day to have a wedding:

I confess that after Saturday’s craziness, I was a bit wondered-out for our own local London Marathon the next day and I didn’t bother with my camera. But I went along, cheered and shouted, particularly enjoyed the Kodo drummers and renewed my annual vow never to be even tempted to take part.

So – what’s next, then? Well, the podules are being tested on the cable car, the Queen’s coming on Wednesday, the Cutty Sark properly opens on Thursday, there’s a new exhibition opening at the NMM and the sun’s out. 


the attachments to this post:

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low a wedding carriage 2 april 2012

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28 Comments to “Brilliant Weekend”

  1. Stephen says:

    Excellent report and photos.

    I saw the caravans at the lights coming up from the Cutty Sark. My camera was in my bag. If I had been quick I could have grabbed a couple of photos, but I didn’t.

  2. Si says:

    Fighting, fires with beer (of an evening) and talking to lovely people such as yourself. :)

    Glad you had a great time, we did too.

    Sigrik Sigridson, Viking
    (Si, the IT technician)

  3. Mr M says:

    Very good. Could you please confirm if this is the NMM friends membership you are referring to or is it something else?


  4. It is indeed. If you plan to go a few times it’s definitely worth it

  5. Mr M says:

    Many thanks. I think I’ll give it a go now that it includes visits to the Cutty Sark, and after your last post about the Planetarium, that requires a lengthy visit too.

  6. Dave says:

    Phantom can you tell us how much it costs please

  7. Here’s the link, Dave – if you click on Buy Membership online you;ll get the price list.

    It’s suddenly become a much, much better deal than it was, now the Cutty Sark’s included, though you do need to work out how many times you’ll actually visit everything.

    The other no-brainer, of course, is Greenwich Picturehouse. If you don’t belong to it join NOW – if you go to the cinema more than three times a year you cannot lose.

  8. Mike says:

    Dave, if you’re in front of a computer….

  9. Simon says:

    Does anybody know what time the Queen is (re)opening the Cutty Sark on Wednesday?

  10. Badger says:

    Anyone see Gilligans article in the Telegraph about it all ? He was not impressed and I think he refers to it as “Disneyfied History”. Also shocked to learn that normal adult entry will be £12.00

  11. Jim says:

    Andrew Gilligan seemed mostly exercised about the lift, as if having some modern concession to universal access built into the structure represented some heinous piece of cultural vandalism. I don’t love it, I must admit, but then I’m not disabled and neither is Andrew Gilligan and nor, I’ll wager, is the vast majority of bilious reactionaries, snobs and bath-tub admirals whose buttons that column of his aims to press. I had many reservations about the restoration, but having visited on Saturday, I think that, all things considered, the new Cutty Sark is wonderful. Well done to everyone involved.

  12. parkkeeper says:

    Hello Greenwich Parasomniac
    Very kindly suggest you read this and give yourself a reality check!!.

  13. Jim says:

    So what would you and Andrew Gilligan have preferred, parkkeper? Gradual disintegration into non-dumbed-down, common-sense rust and splinters? And please explain to me exactly how access for the diasabled or elderly wasn’t worth a hole in a hull that no longer needs to be seaworthy? Sure, you can’t see the lines without paying now, but you couldn’t walk under and around the keel before. And, most importantly, the Cutty Sark was dying; you might not like everything about how it’s been saved, but the fact that it is now more able than ever to educate and inspire those who might not otherwise have had much interest in maritime history (as opposed to old buffers who think they know a bit about boats and can’t bear the thought of the ignorant hoi-polloi being spoonfed) is a triumph.

  14. Kate says:

    poo that I didn’t know the Cutty Sark was going to open to us Greenwichites, but I’ll be going anyhow and thanks for the heads up on the membership thing. I had a peek in through the door on Sunday and the glass roof is stunning

    The lift is ugly but necessary. Pity about the fast food chains on the river as those mustard-slime shiny buildings really are butt ugly, which was unnecessary. They will rake it in though. They don’t do Greenwich card concessions I suppose? (ha ha).

  15. Kate says:

    PS chainmailed exhausted bearded person told us that his outfit weighed 4 stone. Draw your own conclusions on what that did to a fighting man’s mood…

  16. Stephen tells me:

    I asked at the visitor information desk on Saturday and they said people have been asked to congregate at 10.30.

    He also knows someone who works at the NMM and he said the Queen is due to be at the new wing at 12.30, so she will probably be cutting the Cutty sark tape before that.

  17. … also, just going on from what Jim says, you couldn’t see all the lines before because much of it was down below ground level… you had to go right up to the railings and peer down… now, you can see the whole of the keel just by pressing your face to the glass. Also, during the final weeks of work, the hull/keel looked pretty good at night with the lights turned on – not sure how regular that’s going to be, but hopefully it’s something they’ll think about!

  18. Dave says:

    Thanks Phantom, much appreciated

  19. parkkeeper says:

    Keep plugging away Jim lad but you won’t convince me that there wasn’t a better scheme with better designers for a spend of £50,000,000.
    The result that we all have to live with is shockingly dreadful and will very soon look tacky and cheap.
    What we’ve allowed to happen to the once proud and magnificent Cutty Sark is depressing. Now lost and nothing more than a themed commercial hospitality venue – just how many of these fucking places do we need?
    Anyway Jim lad what are you griping about? You love it, you’ve got it so please go back often to enjoy it and be inspired.

  20. PiratesPatch says:


    you are as boring as that particular article written by the ‘grumpy old man’ Andrew who didnt even bother to turn up to the press day!

    Frankly, just pathetic from the Nimby’s, but nothing unexpected!

    Ignorance and arrogance alive and well in the capital once again.

    Thank god lm leaving

  21. scared of chives says:

    Perhaps some people simply don’t like it?

  22. Franklin says:


    Why present it as a tradeoff between what we’ve gotten and the disintegration of the Sark? Surely there’s a middle ground – the Sark”s preservation and glass enclosure in a way that is more sensitive to the boat herself as well as her setting?

    I’ve been all for the ship’s restoration and preservation and donated to the original appeals, both before and after the fire, when I expected that we’d get the undulating waterline glass roof, and the steel frame access tower wasn’t even a spark in some second-rate engineer’s mind.

    The greenhouse canopy and particularly the access tower are hideous, and didn’t have to be like that. For what’s been spent, we could have had a restored and preserved ship and an appropriate canopy and access tower.


    You COULD see her lines before, particularly her bow and stern, which have now been swallowed up by grey/black glass. While she might look great at night, only the tip of her bow and stern are visible in daylight now, and it needn’t have been thus.

  23. @Franklin – yes, that’s certainly true… I’ve been staring at old photos trying to compare and contrast and see how much was below pavement level! And obviously an undulating roof at the waterline would have been vastly superior. Oddly, artists’ impressions of the design we’ve got seem to imply clear glass, with the lines of the ship still reasonably visible from afar… in using grey-blue glass to mimic the sea (a nice idea in theory), they’ve actually obscured the boat! I’m not sure if the coloured glass was another change, or whether the original pictures were, er, optimistic, as is often the way with glass (City Hall in the mock-ups looked like a crystal ball… in real-life, it’s an opaque grey blob.) But, on the plus side, I still think the curves of the keel are now beautifully displayed… you just need to press your face to the glass to see them. Unless they do light it up… when the cladding really would come into its own…

    Now – what chance of putting the sails back on?

  24. Franklin says:

    The second, final design – which was rushed through planning AFTER the greenhouse was already under construction – did indeed have clear glass. My understanding (although I stand to be corrected) was that this was replaced with the grey/blue glass to afford the corporate diners below with more privacy, rather than to mimic the sea (which, if it was that far up the Sark’s sides, would mean she was sinking).

    While it’s great that you can see the keel with face pressed up against the glass, you would normally see only up to the waterline of a ship afloat. That was what was great about the Sark’s previous positioning: you saw her pretty much up to her waterline, as you would have done if pulling (rowing) away from her. And it is that view that we have lost, possibly forever.

  25. Wolfe says:

    Love, love, love the idea that the best way to see Cutty Sark would be as a sailor ‘pulling’ away (thanks for the nautical terminology there – I would have been flummoxed without the explanation) The sailors, without doubt, would have been looking at the land and thinking about beer, not the ‘lines’which nobody has yet defined. Nautical terminology is tricky… If that means the shape of the ship, you can see them a lot better now, even without paying, than you could before, when you needed to stand in a stagnant puddle next to a dead dog and fifteen pizza boxes whilst bits of the fabric fell off in front of you. It took too long and it cost too much, but it was rubbish before and it’s really good now…

  26. Franklin says:

    You’re very welcome Wolfe! ;-)

    Sailors pulling away would no doubt have been thinking of land and something much warmer than beer – but would have been looking at the ship, as you row facing backward.

    My general point is that the best view of a boat is of the boat afloat, not mired in a giant black bubble.

    And the visitor experience could have been just as great without unnecessarily obscuring her lines (which I won’t patronise you again by defining).

  27. Chris says:

    You can guarantee the Royal Navy wouldnt commit such a crime on HMS Victory – she’s not going to be lifted up for corporate guests, nor would anyone dare slice her open to stick a lift through inards. She’s a *ship* and should be treated like a *ship* not a museum full of interactive displays and colourful lighting instead of an historic interior, and im afraid if disabled access damages the historic fabric of the ship then it should be restricted to area’s where it doesnt cause damage. Punching holes in her is inexcusable.

  28. RobertNumber16 says:

    I did so enjoy my visit to Cutty Sark.I was thrilled that the film footage of the Cutty Sark I found in an attic in Cornwall last year,has been included in the exhibition .(the film shows Cutty Sark afloat off Falmouth in the 1930s) If as some people have said they don’t like the entrance fee and would rather see the ship afloat, you can for free by watching my interview with Richard Doughty on #rfebs .There is also footage of Trevisom House where Captain Dowman of saved the ship in the 1920s lived.