I have been out and about for work this week, heading south from Norwich once by train and once by car. I have been to London and the South Coast on business (and also Ipswich twice but that doesn’t count) and by the end of the week I wasn’t quite sure where I was. In London I transitted through Liverpool Street for so long the first view of the capital for generations of East Anglians and also migrants coming from the continent through the Port of Harwich. I have been through the station dozens of times but never really stopped to look before. Now, if you excuse the digression, I lived for a number of years in the East Midlands and the rail terminus in London from there is St Pancras, a station that grabs your attention from the moment you get out of the train with probably the most spectacular roof of any of the London mainline stations. It is a true marvel of Victorian engineering and you really can’t fail to notice it. Liverpool Street on the other hand is normally very forgettable particularly if you go straight on to the tube or out the back door in a taxi. On arriving in London I was running late as is so often the case with trains on this line – I hate to think how this already crowded and near capacity line will manage during the Olympics – so I did my usual blinkered exit but on the way back I had arranged to meet my sister for coffee briefly which gave me time to explore a little.
I saw three things I had never seen before, leastways not knowingly. The first was a 24 hour McDonalds – I’m sorry – WHY? The second was much more useful, ranks of bikes for hire here and then leave them at your destination elsewhere in the city centre and I’m told that the locals refer to them as Boris Bikes. There’s a legacy if ever there was and I’m sure if he achieves nothing else the Mayor of London can rest satisfied that his name will (hopefully) forever be remembered in connection with what is undoubtedly a very good idea. The third was outside what was originally the main entrance on to Liverpool Street itself and is now there but seemingly ignored. It is a memorial to the Kinder Transport – a refugee movement that rescued approximately 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi controlled parts of Europe in the 9 months before the start of World War 2. They came through Harwich to London by way of Liverpool Street and many will still be alive today who would otherwise have met the same grim fate of their famillies. This memorial stood there proud but, I suspect, largely un-noticed. I certainly allowed myself a few minutes silent reflection before it. London life went on around me and I wanted to scream out STOP, LOOK and LEARN. Every year my wife and I do a couple of train trips for the sake of it – since I was 12 I have slowly been collecting rail miles and there are now only a few branch lines left to do. One of these is the line from Manningtree to Harwich and I have resolved to pay this line a visit in the coming summer so I can pay my own private tribute to those who risked so much to organise the Kinder Transport.
Of course in the summer there will be another grand day out to our celebratory event in Coltishall on August 26th. In that event we will celebrate 100 years since the flood that destroyed the Aylsham Navigation and we will have entertainment, games, exhibitions, food and lots of fun. The Wherry Albion will be in attendance and more details will be published nearer the time. The event will be on Coltishall Common from 14:00 just where the Edwardian Yachts below are moored. There will be a chance to buy the DVD produced by John Parker (see previous blogs) and the book on the definitive history of the Navigation. A really grand day is guaranteed for all and we particularly hope that families will make an effort to come along.
Now I have had a request to talk a little about wherries and Norfolk Keels but that will have to wait until next time. In the meantime I hope you enjoy this lovely spring weather.