On awakening I hear trains rumbling into the harbour station, ship’s horns sounding and the pssst of coach doors opening. I enjoy Portsmouth’s cosmopolitan sense of purpose in contrast to the parochial air that can blight some coastal settlements.
At Spinnaker Tower abseilers are skilfully painting the exterior with gold and blue as part of an Emirates sponsorship deal.
Up the tower an elderly couple are awkwardly taking a photo of themselves. I offer to take the picture but they declined with a smile saying “It’s our first selfie”
What a formidable harbour this must have been before air power – protected by both the Isle of Wight and water on all sides.
In 1860 HMS Warrior was built in 19 months and restored beautifully over 9 years. Every millimetre imbued with a ruthless, engineered efficiency and the rigid class system to make the whole enterprise unassailable. The result is incredibly evocative and shows how the crew of 706 slept and ate cheek to jowl with the huge guns
When I asked the staff which enemy the ship was built to counter. He replied “There has only ever been one enemy sir – the French”
To see the Mary Rose was nostalgic as aged seven I vividly remember seeing the wreck being miraculously raised from the ocean with Prince Charles in attendance on John Cravens Newsround.
HMS victory wasn’t looking her finest today with her masts truncated and the gilded stern covered in scaffolding.
As I traced on foot the pubic edge of the huge naval base past different check points of armed men in fluorescent jackets and peaked caps and walked away from all this I pondered how, in a stroke, the computer and nuclear weapons have done away with the relevance of so much of what I’d just seen.
The creek dividing Portsea island from the mainland now contains jumps for water sports. Ahead angular Portsdown Hill radar station appears like the superstructure of a war ship on land. Outside an isolated Porsche show room, a runner gives me directions through the maze of motorways – some road bridges here don’t have a footpath, information not shown on my map.
IBM UK headquarters is private property – no pedestrians. It looks exactly as you would imagine – a large concrete and glass box surrounded by a vast car park with some white tenty structures so they can’t be accused of making absolutely no effort. Nobody walks on these roads and further along a Wedding Fayre is taking place at the Marriott hotel.