We’re off !

Our driver arrived five minute early, I do love efficiency, and at 3.00 am we had the fastest drive ever to the airport, which was just over twenty minutes instead of the normal 45 minutes.
Check-in went smoothly and our bags checked through to Rome. We were given vouchers for a hotel near Dubai airport, Le Meridian.
We had been told that Sydney airport didn’t open until 4.00 am, but it actually opens at 3.00 am, but emigration & security didn’t open until 4.00 am so we had to hang around for about fifteen minutes.

DSC08365r

DSC08366r.jpg

I’ve never seen Sydney airport so quiet.

Once in the emigration line we inserted our passports to a scanner and stood while our photograph was taken, and I suppose compared to the passport. The whole process took about thirty seconds, and we had existed Australia.
Next stop was security – due to my pacemaker I couldn’t pass through the normal X-ray machine, but was asked to stand in a see-through box with my arms up and I was checked out. I was told that this security system did not allow any forms of ‘waves’ to pass through the body so was safe for pacemakers.

A five minute walk had us at the entrance to Emirates Business Class Lounge – a beautiful spotless waiting area with a large choice of food and drink. I had some very nice coffee, fruit and juice, which was all that I wanted, and of course a glass of Moet Champaign. After all, one doesn’t want to waste the opportunity of a glass of Moet even at 4.00 am!

DSC08374r
DSC08369r

DSC08373r
The call to board was made around 40 minutes before take-off, not a problem as the aircraft was not full, and we had to use the lift to go down to the boarding level.
Maureen had a window seat and my seat was behind. The layout is such that the business class seats are not behind each other, but staggered. My seat was behind Maureen’s stowage areas, which was also where my TV screen was located and my footrest area. This allows each seat to be converted in to a flatbed if the passenger wishes to sleep. Before we had taken off the cabin crew were offering mattresses for those who wished to sleep once we had reached cruising altitude.

DSC08376r

The area to the left of my screen was the rear of Maureen’s seat, which was next to her window.

DSC08382r
The above picture was taken from my seat, showing that I was not next to the window. The unit to the right of the picture is the rear of Maureen’s seat.
Once at cruising altitude the crew came around to take our breakfast orders.

DSC08391cr

DSC08390r

 I chose the granola with vanilla yoghurt & pomegranate seeds.

As I write this on my laptop (universal power sockets located at each seat) we have been flying for 4.5 hours and we are still over Australia.

DSC08398c

The sun is chasing us as we fly north west over Australia.

Breakfast went well, after which we all settled down to watch films, read or sleep.

DSC08389r
I couldn’t help but watch The Magnificent Seven, just one more time.

Maureen & I had our window blinds ‘open’ to watch the passing scenery as we flew over Australia. I found it strange that all through the fourteen-hour flight many passengers, a little further back from where we were sitting, never opened their window blinds throughout the flight, and just sat in the dark.

DSC08395rQuite often Maureen prefers to watch the pasting view rather than watch TV.

The toilets were in the rear of the upper business class section, so when visiting the facilities and walking through the darkened area, I found it slightly depressing that so many were sitting in the dark when it was full daylight.

DSC08406r

The one happy area after the darkened section was the bar. It was never crowded, with just six to ten people sitting or standing around chatting. I had a lengthy conversation with the Chinese barman (he took this photograph), who had worked for Emirates for over three years. He was interesting and in my opinion an asset to the airline.

DSC08407rLater back at our seats it was lunchtime.

DSC08392rc

DSC08408r

DSC08409r

I forgot to photograph the first course and decided to have cheese instead of something sweet.

DSC08413r

After floating in the air for just over fourteen hours we approached Dubai.

Although I enjoyed the overall experience of flying business class in an AB 380, I think I prefer business class in a B787, which is much smaller, and for me, a more personal experience. Flying in a B787 allows the cabin staff to be attentive to each individual passenger that one can be addressed by name, without interrogating a iPad before speaking.
On our flight, there were seventy-six business class seats in our section, so is it any wonder we hardly saw a cabin crew member other than rushing back and forth with trays of food.
The B 787 has twenty-two business class seats and even with far less staff they managed to build a small personal relationship with each passenger. If you would like something in between the AB 380 and the smaller B787 try the B777/ER business class with forty-two seats. Having experienced both the B787 and the B777/ER I enjoyed both, and the largest toilet I’d ever seen, after flying with over fifty different airlines, the B777 wins hands down.

On arrival in Dubai I could not fault Emirates Airlines for the efficiency of their operation. We had been given fast track cards that saw us through immigration very quickly.

Our main suitcases had been tagged all the way to Rome, so we didn’t have to worry about baggage on arrival. Once through the normal procedure we were shown where to go for our chauffeured car to the Le Meridian Hotel for our overnight stay. The driver was waiting, and we were quickly on our way to the hotel. At the hotel, where we were guided through a dedicated Emirates check-in area.
As one staff member checked us in another offered us vouchers for lunch, dinner and breakfast. We didn’t require lunch having eaten during our flight.
We followed a porter to our room in a special section of the hotel for transit Emirates passengers.

DSC08415r

DSC08416rThe two above pictures show our room.

Our onward flight was scheduled to depart the following day at 9.10 am.

DSC08418rInside the Dubliner – Guinness :-o)

Later we had a look around the hotel and a complete area was set aside for assorted styles of restaurants from an Irish pub (called the Dubliner), to Thai, Middle Eastern and other types of food. Clutching our dinner voucher, we wondered through each area and were shown special menus that listed various dishes for transit passengers.
The only thing that we paid for was my beer, Guinness of course, in the Dubliner, chilled, thick and tasty and Italian beer in the outside restaurant that we picked for our evening meal. Soft drinks for Maureen were included in the voucher. The burning heat of the day had passed by the time we sat down and the warm breeze added to the enjoyment as evening turned in to night. With such a wide choice of food it was funny that we both chose a New Zealand steak and salad.

DSC08419rFor breakfast, before being taken to the departure area for the next leg of our journey, we had a large choice of food.

Flying North for the Winter – part two

d1540cf57f524af9a3e6ba08d6184e45_18

Once the decision had been made to join the Majestic Princess in Rome, and to sail back to Singapore, the next thought was how to get to Rome and home from Singapore.

I checked various airlines that we have used in the past, and considered the cost via each one, but as one gets older one wants that little bit of ease and comfort.

The cost to fly in to Asia, and then over night, and fly daylight to Rome was higher than I expected, so I looked at flying direct from Sydney to the Middle East and then on to Europe.

Taking in to account the passenger comments on Skytrax I fancied Emirates Airline, AB 380, even though we haven’t flown with this airline before. The price was ‘right’ for a multi-stop ticket, and we would be able to break the journey.

From Sydney to Dubai, to connect with the Dubai to Rome flight, is a fourteen hours and fifteen minutes flight from Sydney. We had the choice of two take off times, 6.00 am or 9.10 pm. We do enjoy day time flying, which allows us to enjoy the whole experience rather than sleeping through much of the transit over Australia.

DSC02464r

We picked the 6.00 am flight, which would require us to leave home at 3.00 am  . . .

The advantage of flying business class with Emirates is that they offered us a chauffeured car that would pick us up at 3.00 am and have us checking in around 4.00 am, this sounded fine with us.

carChauffeur_Drive_03_400x300_tcm276-3557774

Once we have checked-in we will be escorted to the Emirates business class lounge at Sydney airport. Although they code share on many flights with Qantas they do have their own Business / First class lounge, which is in addition to Qantas’ own lounges.

EKsyd07-1024x768

EKsyd11-1024x768

EKsyd15-1024x768Champaign breakfast and scrabbled eggs?

Emirates-Business-Class-A380-6

AB 380 business class seats on Emirates Airlines – plenty of stowage space and leg room, and it folds flat to make a bed if this is required.

bar

If we get tired of sitting (14 hours . . )
we can visit the bar at the rear of the business class section.

Menu for breakfast & lunch  on our outbound flight from Sydney to Dubai.

lunch

Inflight dining.

2500 TV and radio channels to help pass the time. I have hopes of trying to write, but being a film buff I’ll check the films first  . . . .then maybe update the novel.

On arrival in Dubai we will be picked up and taken to a hotel (I believe it is Le Meridien) for an overnight stay. Our connection is 9.10 am the following day to Rome. A much shorter flight at 6 hours 15 minutes.

Superior-Deluxe-Room

The cost of the hotel and transport is included in the airline ticket.

Pool

I might get the chance of a swim.

On arrival in Rome we will be met by another chauffeured car to take us to our hotel in Civitavecchia, which is the port for Rome. The drive is about 45 minutes.

We are looking forward to the whole experience.

The homeward leg starts in Singapore, after a two night stop over.

Emirates Airlines do not fly Singapore to Sydney, but they do have a code share arrangement with Qantas, so we will fly overnight from Singapore to Sydney with an Emirates flight number on the QF 82, which is an AB 300-300.

QF

Qantas do not fly day time flights from Singapore to Sydney, so we didn’t have any choice but to accept the night flight.

Qantas don’t offer a chauffeured car for their business class passengers flying to / from Asia, which will mean that we will make our own way to Singapore airport, and from Sydney airport to home. This will not be a problem, but the difference in service was noticeable. Emirates Airline fly Singapore to Melbourne with their own aircraft, and if we lived in Melbourne, Emirates would have offered the chauffeured car, even though we are ‘short-haul’ from Asia.

The Emirates business class lounge in Singapore has recently be refurbished (it took six months) and reopened in April of this year. I assume that we can use this lounge with an Emirates ticket flying on a Qantas aircraft – we’ll see.

0K2cdnrRZjHyrIRaEegEXsJvF2ZkFGmtVzCDpQt6F_A

256550_nuw-4ow4XLnFzDlS-FfwhcNZ7qONOIPq2kKQt8xN3hY   Emirates lounge – two pics above.

1374560768497

singapore-lounge-4 (1)

Qantas Singapore lounge – two pics above – we’ll be spoilt for choice.

1426742535005

Qantas business class seats on the Singapore to Sydney sector.

862,572-54a66f4e1ba441a288d57e92767f2254-qantas-business-suite-a330-1500cg

Business class seating area on Qantas AB 300/300

All of the above photographs have been downloaded from the net from both Emirates and Qantas web sites.

I will be commenting on how close reality the advertised services are, and how each airline matches, exceeds or fails, to reach my expectations.

 

 

 

 

 

Flying north for winter

Majestic

Majestic Princess
Reg. London, 144,216 gt, 3,560 passengers maximum. (will it feel crowded?)

There comes a time when winter is all too much as one grows older . . . and older. A few months ago I started to check where to go or what to do, for part of our Sydney winter. Being a wimp, I consider late May is the start of the colder period, so any time after mid May would be fine, after all summer is December, January & February and Autumn is March, April and May, but late May is winter!

I wanted something ‘different’ without too much work i.e changing hotels, bus trips,  or too many plane changes, so once again it came down to cruising.

Maureen & I like cruising, and having sailed in –

IslandPrincess-CruiseShip1

Island Princess – Reg. London, 92,000 gt, 2200 passengers (never felt crowded)

DSC04736r

Diamond Princess – Reg. London, 115,875 gt, 2670 passengers (never felt crowded)

dp-dawn-princess-1600-1

Dawn Princess – Reg. Bermuda, 77,441 gt, 1998 passengers (never felt crowded)

azamara quest

Azamara Quest – Reg. Valetta, Malta, 30,277 gt, 686 passengers (never felt crowded)

Jewel_Ship08

Pacific Jewel – Reg. London, 69,845 gt, 2014 passengers (did feel crowded at times)

so could I find something different?

I clicked on various global travel & cruise sites and in the end I went back to Princess Cruises’ web site and found a positioning cruise from Rome (the port is Civitavecchia, about 80 to 90 kms from the city of Rome) to Shanghai in China.

Majestic Princess is the latest vessel of Princess Cruises and is the newest of the ‘Royal’ class of vessels, the others being Regal & Royal Princess.

A new vessel, positioning cruise, sailing through the Suez Canal (which Maureen has not yet experienced), and then sailing down the Red Sea and in to the Persian Gulf, followed by India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and finally, for us, Singapore where we leave the ship to fly home.

The ship carries on to China, via various Asian ports, to be based in Shanghai so as to focus on the Chinese market. She carries two names one in English and the other in Chinese script 盛世公主号, which means Grand World or Grand Spirit.

The price was right for the twenty-eight day cruise, and she would do about six weeks cruising around the Mediterranean as ‘shake-down’ cruises, before the positioning cruise.
All being well, by the time we join the Majestic Princess the ‘crinkles’ of a new ship, and a ‘new’ crew would have been worked through, so that the little problems after leaving dry dock (there are nearly always problems) had been fixed. The comments / complaints from the first group of passengers would point to any major problems.

royal-class-deluxe-balcony-1600I paid a little extra for a larger balcony, because we spend our quiet afternoons at sea reading, or in my case trying to write. I do enjoy watching the sun come up, or set, over the sea, and the balcony is a big plus for us.

the-seawalk-1-1600It is the first cruise ship to have a glass walk over the ocean, so I’ll be interested in this experience.

piazza-1-1600The Atrium, as well as a meeting place is also used as a village square (Piazza) for acts, music & dancing etc.

princess-theater-1-1600No idea how many people the theater seats.

The above four pictures are from various Princess Cruises’ online brochures.

I have since found out that they do not have a Crooners Bar, which was a favourite of ours on all of the other Princess vessels. Crooners was just right for a 5.00 pm quiet drink with a piano player doing requests.

DSC04087rCrooners Bar Requests ??

DSC03896Crooners Bar Island Princess

The Majestic Princess doesn’t have a Wheelhouse Bar or Explorers Bar – each bar on other Princess ships has a different ambiance, but I have been told that they do have karaoke bars, so I’ll have to find a quiet spot elsewhere :-o)
With such a large Atrium I doubt that it will be a problem – Crooners under another name?

Apparently all signage on the ship is in two language English & Chinese and all announcements are made in both languages.

The ship sails from Barcelona to Shanghai for the fifty six night cruise, departing Barcelona 14th May 2017. We join her in Rome (17th May) and leave in Singapore, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of pictures to post when blogging.

Swan of the East

While researching Prince of Wales Island (now called Penang) for the sequel to Ice King (aka Triangle Trade) I came across details of the German cruiser SMS Emden, which had links to Penang.

9413638

Triangle Trade

Maureen often says that I am more interested in the research than the act of writing, which to an extent is correct. Little things started to come together so I thought – how about a blog.

Karl_von_Müller

Karl Friedrich Max von Müller was the son of a German colonel in the Prussian army.

In 1913, at the age of forty, he became a captain in the Imperial German Navy and took command of the light cruiser SMS Emden.

images-1He was posted to the China station and using his initiative he shelled Nanking, because it was in rebellion. For this action he was awarded the Order of the Royal Crown. (Third class).

200px-Prussian_Order_of_Crown_3rd_Class_with_Cross_of_GenevaOn the brink of WW1 the Emden was anchored at Tsingtao, which was a German naval base in China. I sailed in to Tsingtao in 1963, and it was still a naval base then, but this time for the Chinese.

Von Muller took the Emden to sea on the evening of the 31st July, 1914.

On the 4th August Emden captured the Russian mail ship Rjasan, which was the first vessel to be captured by the German Imperial Navy in WW1.

The Emden met up with the German East Asia Squadron commanded by Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee who had decided to take his squadron across the Pacific and around Cape Horn in to the Atlantic.

Von Muller persuaded the Admiral to allow a loan raider to attack merchant ships in the Indian Ocean – the Admiral agreed.

As an aside Maximilian Reichsgraf von Spee defeated the British 4th cruiser squadron at the Battle of Coronel in November 1914. A month later he decided to attack the Royal Navy at the Falkland Islands, but the British surprised him and his squadron was destroyed. He was killed as were his two sons (serving in other ships of the squadron.)

In Germany he was considered a hero and several ships were named after him, including the ‘pocket battleship’ Admiral Graf Spee, which was scuttled after the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939.

300px-Bundesarchiv_DVM_10_Bild-23-63-06,_Panzerschiff_-Admiral_Graf_Spee-Admiral Graf Spee 

Back to SMS Emden – in the next three month Von Muller captured fourteen merchant ships, and became known as an honorable enemy of the allies. He was daring and did his best not to cause injury to civilians. His attacks required the British to stop merchant ships sailing between Singapore and India.

The British tactics reduced the targets for the Emden, so in September 1914 Von Muller sailed in to Madras harbor at night (now called Chennai) and attacked the oil tanks.

Bombardment_of_Madras_by_S.S._Emden_1914Within thirty minutes the oil tanks were ablaze and causing explosion that damaged vessels in the harbor. SMS Emden sailed before the harbour defense guns could train on  the raider.

The following days she added six more vessel to her score.

On the 16th September 1914 the Royal Navy in Singapore advised the Admiralty, London, that they were sending HMS Yarmouth and HMS Hampshire to hunt down the Emden.

HMS_Yarmouth_(1911)   HMS Yarmouth – note the number of funnels.

   In the mean time SMS Emden added a false funnel to disguise herself as HMS Yarmouth.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_137-001329,_Tsingtau,_SMS_-Emden-_I_im_HafenSMS Emden photo taken in 1911 in Tsingtao.

SMS Emden approached Penang harbour at 4.30 am on the night of the 28th October 1914.

Its silhouette, with the fourth false funnel, gave the impression that HMS Yarmouth, was coming in to port, but once in the harbor, and before he opened fire, Von Muller ran up the Imperial German Navy battle flag.

War_Ensign_of_Germany_(1903-1918).svg

He spotted the Russian cruiser Zhemchug at anchor. She was in Penang for repairs to her boilers.
SMS Emden opened fire at three hundred yards (270 mtrs) by firing a torpedo, and followed this with gun fire. The torpedo and the gun fire struck the Russian, and she was soon on fire. Von Muller ordered a second torpedo, which hit the Russian’s ammunition causing a huge explosion as she sank.

300px-Zhemchug-after1909

Russian cruiser Zhemchug.

German_postcard_of_the_Battle_of_Penang_1914A German postcard  of the battle.

A French cruiser and destroyer opened fire on the Emden, but they were inaccurate. The firing was enough for Von Muller to order the Emden to retreat.

2008-06-10 369r

A newspaper reporter from the New York Times wrote that she watched the battle of Penang from near the hotel, which would have been the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, where Maureen & I have stayed. I took the above photograph when at the hotel, which shows the entrance to Penang harbour. The anchorage is to the right of the picture, where the battle would have taken place.
The map below is from the report of the New York Times correspondent who witnessed the battle.
At this time, 1914, the USA was still neutral, they didn’t become involved until 7 th December, 1917, which is ironic considering the 7th December in 1941.

When_the_Emden_Raided_Penang,_Map,_fromThe_New_York_Times,_Dec

On leaving the harbor the Emden spotted the French destroyer Mousquet, which was coming off patrol and unaware of the Emden’s attack on Penang.

300px-Mousquet-Bougault

Postcard of the French destroyer Mousquet.

Von Muller opened fire and sank the Frenchman, after which he rescued thirty five sailors and one officer from the water. He later stopped a British cargo vessel SS Newburn and instead of sinking her he handed over the French survivors on the understanding that the Newburn would take them to a neutral port in Dutch Indonesia and that they would no longer be involved in the war.

2008-06-10 366r

I took the above picture from the Eastern & Oriental Hotel. I think the area to the left of ship in the photograph would have been close to where the Mousquet and the Emden  fought their battle.

SMS Emden sailed south to re-coal from her captured British ship Buresk after which she  headed for the Cocos Islands. Von Muller wanted to destroy the radio station, in the hope that this would cause the British and Australian navies to leave the Indian Ocean to protect their line of communications.

On the night of the 8/9 th November Von Muller arrived at the Cocos Islands and sent a shore party to disable the wireless and the undersea cables. Fortunately the station staff had seen the Emden and managed to get off a message that they had seen a strange ship, before the Emden jammed their transmissions.

A convoy of Australian troops ships was not too far away, and the allied commander ordered HMAS Sydney to investigate.

StateLibQld_1_120860_Sydney_(ship)HMAS Sydney

As the Sydney approached the Cocos Island the Emden opened fire and scored hits on the Sydney with her fourth salvo.

 The Australian ship replied with her heavier guns and soon the SMS Emden was so damaged that Von Muller decided to beach her on North Keeling Island to save the lives of his men.

SMS Emden Image 3The Imperial ensign still flew over the beached ship, she had not formally surrendered. Captain Glossop  of the Sydney signaled a number different ways, including plain language because he knew that the Emden’s code books had been thrown overboard, to try and see if the Emden was ready to surrender. The Sydney fired again and hit the stricken ship before the ensign was pulled down and white sheets hung over the side. The Germans burnt their ensign rather than allowing it to fall in to the hands of the enemy.

Captain Von Muller had captured twenty seven ships for the loss of one civilian life.

Karl Friedrich Max von Müller was captured and ended up in a PoW camp in England. Earlier in his career he had been attached to the East Africa Squadron where he suffered from malaria. The climate in England didn’t agree with the malaria, so he was sent to Holland, under compassionate grounds, as an exchange prisoner, for treatment. In October 1918 he was repatriated to Germany – the war ended in November.

Von Muller was awarded Pour le Mérite (For Merit) (also known as The Blue Max)

200px-Blue_MaxThis was awarded to particular people for excellent service in the military. The military version of the award was stopped in 1918, but the civilian award is still in use – similar to the British OBE

Karl Friedrich Max von Muller died suddenly in 1923 at the age of fifty – weakened by malaria.

Swan of the East was a nick name given to the ship in Tsingtao, because of her sleek lines.

220px-Emden-gun-3One of the Emden’s guns can be seen in Hyde Park in Sydney

HMAS_Sydney_I_Memorial_Mast-23080-94736

HMAS Sydney’s mast can be seen when taking the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly – it is on the north shore of Sydney harbour.

All of the photographs, except for the two that I took, have been taken from the internet to illustrate a paragraph etc.

Rafts that just about float . . .

We were advised that we would not get wet when rafting, because we would be sitting on small seats that would keep our clothes from being wet. That was a joke!

raft 01
We watched as the rafts were being created from poles of bamboo. The rafts are floated down river carrying the ‘dry’ tourists and dismantled at the end of the experience, only to be brought back up to the top and reassembled.

Raft 2

Didn’t matter how hard I looked I could not see a seat. Our mini-bus guide advised us to leave our cameras and anything else that we did not wish to get wet in the bus and he would look after everything. I left everything except the shorts & shirt that I was wearing, for once I could see in to the future . . . . .

Raft 3

Each raft could take four people and we had to sit down and balance the ‘raft’ so as not to be tipped in to the water. Of course as soon as we sat down, and all four of us were on board, the water came through the cracks between the poles. A local ‘boatman’ poled the raft in to the middle and guided it down the river.
Other rafts followed and a competition began between the ‘boatmen’ to see who could cause the largest splash by using their punting pole, to make sure that all the passengers were soaking wet.
It was all in good fun, and the passengers on each of the rafts joined in to create bigger and bigger splashes.
On the way down we realised that we were passing the same place where we’d crossed the river on the back of Jennifer the elephant. Fortunately she was not around.

th6RY72XVQ
Further down the river we could hear rushing water and realised that we were approaching rapids.

raft 4

The water becomes choppier and any thought of keeping dry was forgotten. The experience was great and we all enjoyed ‘going over the top’.

raft 5
At the end of the ‘run’ we climbed the riverbank to be met by our guide and driver. The hot sun was very pleasant as we attempted to dry our clothing and ourselves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter seeing a number of elephant ‘eggs’ at Jennifer’s crossing point a cleansing ale or two was needed to make sure that we didn’t catch anything  from the splashes etc . . . .

We managed to dry our shirts somewhat, but only until they were just damp, and we squeezed as much water as we could from our shorts, but the drive back to the hotel was uncomfortable because the mini-bus air-conditioning, which was very efficient.

Next time I’ll take a hotel towel, or two, and a change of clothes, or just raft in swimming trunks, regardless it was great fun.

Because my camera was not waterproof I didn’t take any photographs, so all of the above pictures, except for the last one, were downloaded from the internet, and the last one is thanks to a friend who was with us at the time.

 

 

 

Elephant walk

IMGP1997r

During our holiday in Chiang Mai in Thailand we decided to have a ride on an elephant –  to be honest the tour that we paid for was a for water rafting, which included a ride on an elephant.
Having ridden on an elephant at Chester zoo, when I was a child, I expected something similar – a slow walk around a large circle, or something similar. Wrong!

IMGP1999r

Each elephant carried two people, plus the handler who sat across the animal’s neck. For the record ours was called Jennifer, and whenever Jennifer felt hungry she would stop and help herself to a bunch of leaves or large twigs to chew on, during her walk around the area.

The elephant handlers had four animals, the above photograph is of one of them ahead of us as we approached the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jennifer caught up with the lead animal and wanted it to get a move on – there must have been something on TV that she wanted to see. Maureen and I are the couple at the back – Jennifer’s handler is the guy with the orange shirt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJennifer was quite happy now that she was out of the river.

IMGP2006r

We crashed through the undergrowth – and we went where ever Jennifer wanted to go . .

  IMGP2001r

Follow the leader . . .

IMGP2007r

She wanted a snack . .

IMGP2008r

Bon appétit, Jennifer.

We had to dodge the larger branches as she ripped them from bushes, waved them around her head, as we ducked, and she chewed on the best bits.

When we returned to our starting point we were encouraged to feed Jennifer with bananas. The trip on the elephant was about 40 minutes  – we realised later that we’d crossed this river on Jennifer as we rafted our way down stream.

IMGP2011rdon’t bother peeling them I like green bananas . . .

IMGP2014rMaureen talking to Jennifer, while offering bananas, the problem was Jennifer didn’t understand English – she was tongue Thai’d . . . (they get worse as I get older).

Baby elephant walk

Birkenhead and all that . .

500px-BirkenheWhere there is faith there is light and strength

The translation of the moto is above.

My father’s family have lived in Birkenhead since around 1870, after moving from St Albans in Hertford via Derby. My mother’s family were relatively new comers having moved from Caernarvon in North Wales in 1921. I was born in the same terrace house in Lower Tranmere, Birkenhead in which my father was born. The house was built around 1870.

Birkenhead was an amalgamation of four boroughs in 1877 – Birkenhead, Tranmere, Oxten and Claughton-cum-Grange and the seal of Birkenhead was created from the four seals of the original towns.

The single lion and the crosier is from the Massey family of Birkenhead who founded a monastery in 1150. The oak tree is from Tranmere, and the dual lions from Oxten, and I think the blue ‘star’ symbol is from Claughton-cum- Grange.
On the top you will see a blue lion with his front paw on an anchor, which symbolises how Birkenhead depends on the sea and shipping.

Odd facts about Birkenhead – particularly with connections to the United States of America.

In 1847 Birkenhead opened the first public funded civic park in the world. It was designed by Joseph Paxton. The idea of a public park came about in 1841 when the town bought 226 acres of land, which was marshy and grazing land on the edge of the town.

1280px-Birkenhead_Park_-_The_Grand_EntranceMain entrance to the park.

Birkenhead_Park

Lakes

Bp_boathouse

Lake house

Hidden_Pond_&_Pier,_Birkenhead_Park_(geograph_2864014)

Quiet spots

The above park pictures have been taken from the internet – all of mine are black & white!

Frederick Law Olmsted, an American landscape architect,  arrived in Liverpool in 1850 to stay in the north west of England. During his time in England he visited a number of parks, including Birkenhead Park.
In 1858 he and Calvert Vaux won a competition to design a new park for New York, which was to be called Central Park. He was very impressed with Joseph Paxton’s design of Birkenhead Park, and this influenced his over all design of Central Park.
Birkenhead Park was also the template in 1872, for the design of Sefton Park in Liverpool

Central-Park-New-York-CityCentral Park NY

conservatory-waterBoat lake Central Park

Central park is nearly four times the size of Birkenhead Park.

In 1860 an American, George Francis Train, visited Liverpool to try and persuade them to build a tram network – Liverpool did not respond to his idea, so Mr Train crossed the river to Birkenhead and they listened, and opened the first tramway in Europe, which was from Woodside (which is on the river bank) to Birkenhead Park. It was horse drawn.

DSC03734r

DSC03744r

The above two pictures are to illustrate the horse drawn tram – both were taken by me in Victor Harbor, South Australia, this Australian service began in 1894.

Mr Train told Birkenhead council that if the service was not a success he would return the streets to their original state, at his own cost. He didn’t have to spend any money.

In 1828 William Laird and his son John started a ship building company on the banks of the River Mersey at Birkenhead.

In 1839 he built the first screw propelled steamer, the Robert F Stockton, which was a tug for use on the North American Waterways.

They were very successful at building iron ships and one of the best customers was the East India Company. Relations with China began to deteriorate so the Company wanted war ships to protect their China trade.  Laird built the Nemesis, which was 184 foot long, 29 foot beam, 6 foot draft and 660 tons. She was armed with two pivoted mounted 32 pounders, four six pounders and rocket launchers. She had 120 hp steam engine as was the first iron ship to round the Cape of Good Hope. She was a paddle steamer.

The 'Nemesis'   Nemesis, (Goddess of retribution).

HEICo_steamer_Nemesis Nemesis wreaked havoc amongst the wooden junks of the Chinese navy during the First Opium War. The first rocket that she fired hit a large junk and caused it to blow up with a huge explosion. The Chinese didn’t stand a chance against such modern weapons.

In 1848 they built the 1400 ton paddle frigate HMS Birkenhead for the navy. She became famous when she was being used as a troop ship and was wrecked off South Africa in 1852.

The_Birkenhead-TroopshipHMS Birkenhead

She didn’t have enough lifeboats for all of the passengers so the troops stood in their regimental lines so as to allow the women and children to get away in the lifeboats.

Only 193 of the 643 people on board survived and the soldier’s bravery gave birth to the call ‘ women and children first’ when abandoning any ship. This became known as the Birkenhead Drill. All the women and children survived.

Wreck_of_the_Birkenhead

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem in their honour and part of it is below

‘To stand and be still
to the Birken’ead Drill
is a damn tough bullet to chew’.

Some years later the Confederate States of America ordered an iron clad ship from the same ship yard in Birkenhead –

CSSAlabamaCSS Alabama

1050 tons, 222 foot long, 31 foot 8 inch beam, 17 foot 8 inch draft, single screw, with 6 x 32 pounders, 1 x 100 lb cannon and 1 x 68 lb cannon, BUT none of her armaments were on the vessel when she was handed over to the Confederates because of the British neutrality Act. Lairds were legally able to build, and sell the ship without arms. She sailed to the Azores where she was handed over and then rigged with her armaments. Her decks had been built with reinforcements to take the cannon.

QaYtGJwHer moto was – ‘God helps those who help themselves.’

She burned 65 union ships (mainly merchant ships) but didn’t harm the crews, but put them on neutral ships.   Eventually she was sunk by a Union vessel off the coast of France. In 1984 the French navy found the resting place of the Alabama in 200 feet of water off  Cherbourg, France.

Birkenhead was not always building ships because sometimes ships were run aground to be broken up.

SSGEiln

SS Great Eastern

Brunel’s Great Eastern, launched in 1858 and was the largest ship ever built. 18,915 grt, 692 feet long, 82 feet wide with four decks bult to carry 4000 passengers non-stop to Australia from the UK. The world had to wait until 1899 before a longer ship, RMS Oceanic was built, and 1901 before a heavier ship was built RMS Celtic, 21,035 grt.

 The Great Eastern never carried passengers to Australia, but did carry them to America, before becoming a cable laying ship.

later she was used as an advertising ‘hoarding’ and sailed up and down the River Mersey advertising Lewis’ Department store. I suppose it was ‘fortunate’ that Brunel died in 1959 and never saw what happened to his world class ship.

Lewis's-GE-Handkerchief_d

The Great Eastern was beached between Rock Ferry and New Ferry not far from the Laird’s ship yard.

Great_Eastern_SLV_AllanGreen  Her stern is towards Rock Ferry and her bow points to New Ferry, although many comments state that she was broken up at New Ferry.

Behind the Great Eastern’s stern (which is not shown in this photograph) is HMS Conway.

the-cadet-front

It took eighteen month to break up the Great Eastern, it was far larger and stronger than the breakers had imagined and it is thought that they made a big loss on the job.

Finally to end on the park again –

War_memorial_BirkenheadThe Birkenhead war memorial in Hamilton Square has my uncle’s name inscribed up on it – he is buried a short distance outside Ypres in Belgium, having been killed in action in 1917 – he was nineteen.

DSC00214r  Albert Edward01He signed up at seventeen, and just before he left he and his parents visited a show for the troops. It was held at a theater across the road from the main entrance to Birkenhead Park. I believe my father would have been with them – he would have been six years old at the time.

aaki_wmOpening day for the park in 1847.

Program 01.jpg

Program02.jpg

I found the program the other day amongst some old papers of my father’s. As you see the theater is reopening on Good Friday, 2nd April 1915, only a hundred and two years ago tomorrow (Good Friday).

The theater was later renamed as the Park Cinema, before being pulled down in 1938 and replaced with a more modern building called the Gaumont Cinema.