Thursday 26 October 2006. Mary Payson gave me a ride to Manchester airport with a stop at the Bedford Inn on the way for a leisurely lunch. Flight to Philadelphia. Then left at 9:05 for Dublin on a US Airways flight. Uneventful. Also uneventful food and no free drinks. In fact the drinks trolley came after the food was passed out. Back to British Airways!
Friday 27 October 2006. Landed in Dublin in the rain. Jonathan Shackleton picked me up and soon after we were headed to his farm in Co. Cavan. Had a stop at the Heritage Center in Kells on the way. A few new 'MacMansions' along the road as we approached Lakeview House, home and farm of Jonathan and Daphne Shackleton. A lovely house in a lovely setting. Here's what the garden looks like with the house and hills of Mullagh beyond. And on the right is the view from the front drive over the lake. The weathervane sits atop one of the outbuildings.
We played around with Jonathan's computer, getting my slide show on it and testing out his projector.
Later in the afternoon we headed off for Athy along mostly back roads. Very green Irish countryside. Through the occasional town, and invariably the congestion starts. Eventually found ourselves at Arthur and Carol's house near Abbeyleix. (Arthur is Jonathan's brother, a noted garden designer; Carol, a gilder, spends most of the week in Dublin.) After a short visit and a drink, we (that is, myself, Jonathan, Arthur and Carol) drove to Athy, perhaps three-quarters of an hour away, for the opening of the 6th Annual Shackleton Autumn School. We arrived just as the wine supply was diminishing. A good crowd including the usual Antarcticans: Zaz Shackleton, Margot Morrell, Joe O'Farrell, Bob Headland, Bob and Jackie Burton, Paul Davies, et al. The three-day event was opened by a talk by David Norris, a name not known to me but apparently very well known in Ireland (member of the Irish Senate, Joycean scholar, writer).
After the opening, Carol, Arthur, Jonathan and I went to La Scala (see below) for an Italian dinner.
I was put up at the Carlton Abbey Hotel, a brand new, very nice hotel in what not long ago was a convent for the adjoining church (which is still very much in business). My room was large and comfortable; the bathroom, better and bigger than mine. The former chapel is now the bar and restaurant. One glitch: They misspelled 'Shackleton' on the directory.
Saturday 28 October 2006. After a 'full Irish breakfast' with Zaz, Margot and Bob Headland, went off to the Athy Heritage Centre, less than a ten minute stroll away, for the start of the day's program. Out front of the Centre was the "camp" of the Antarctic Adventurers, Mick Parker and John Reid, enthusiastic heroic age Antarctic reenactors. They would be there for the entire weekend.
First up was Seamus McCann who gave an excellent talk on his seal research in South Georgia. Next was Joe O'Farrell on the Ross Sea Party; again, an excellent presentation.
After lunch–the presenters repaired to the Castle Hotel–
Margot Morrell spoke on 'the making of a bestseller,' based on her experience researching and writing her book 'Shackleton's Way.'
The last talk of the day was by Jarlath Cunnane recounting his voyage through both the Northwest and Northeast Passages in a not-very-large aluminum sailboat.
That evening we repaired to the Clanard Court Hotel on the outskirts of Athy, another brand new hotel of a design I would not have expected to see in Ireland (Las Vegas perhaps). We had a good meal and a bit of entertainment including Bob Headland with his always amusing recount of "silly questions asked by Antarctic tourists." Cliff Wedgbury sang a few songs and even got the audience involved.
And here I am with Joe O 'Farrell.
With the Banquet behind us we realized that the night was still young so once back in Athy some of us headed to O'Briens where we settled into the back room. Irish pubs like O'Briens–a shop or service in the front (in this case, a grocery) and a bar in back–are apparently disappearing fast. Too bad, there's a lot of charm here and no pretense. I gather that Frank O'Brien is an institution in Athy and very supportive of all things Shackleton. Over the windows (hard to make out here) the lettering reads "Sweet Athy forever." Here's Frank with Zaz Shackleton; also Seamus McCann in conversation with Bob Burton.
Well, we closed up O'Briens but still weren't ready to call it a night, so off to the Carlton Abbey Hotel for a nightcap. Here Joe O'Farrell is making a point and Zaz seems particularly animated much to my pleasure.
Monday 30 October 2006. Before setting off back to Lakeview House, Arthur and Carol gave us a tour of the garden and the barn conversion project. It's a super place with lots of charm.
By mid-afternoon Jonathan and I were back at Lakeview House and I settled in for a few days of relaxation. One day Jonathan and I headed up to the north to go to the museum in Enniskillen (only to find it closed for Halloween!) and another day into Dublin, fighting traffic all the way. Our first stop there was at 35 Marlborough Road where the Shackleton family lived from 1880 to 1884, when they left for London. We had been to the dedication of the plaque on the house back in 2000.
We had lunch with Jonathan's daughter, Jane, and a visit to her rooms at Trinity College and a quick peek at the Book of Kells. (Now it's a big production with a special visitors center, gift shop, admission charge, etc. When I first saw it years ago it was in a glass case in the Long Room. No fuss about it.)
At other times, arranged things by e-mail for our stay in London and later for myself in Buxton and Cambridge. Also gave Jonathan a "tutorial" in PowerPoint. Jonathan and his farmworker, Joe, worked all week off and on rebuilding a wall that had tumbled.
On Thursday night, Daphne was back from several days of garden consulting and we went out for a enjoyable dinner in Kells at the Cross Street Bistro.
Friday 3 November 2006. Jonathan and I were up early and headed off for the Dublin Airport, arriving in plenty of time for our flight to London. Arrived at Gatwick and asked at the informaton booth about ways to get to the Gatwick Aviation Museum. They had never heard of it! (Earlier in the week we had e-mailed the Museum about visiting and according to a map on the internet it was located on the edge of the airport.) We next went to the taxi booth and they knew nothing about it either! But we did have a street address and soon we were in a cab and in the end found it. The Museum is the product of one man's interest and avocation. Peter Vallance, a fence contractor, has built it from scratch along with the help of some enthusiastic volunteers. Aircraft in various states of preservation are scattered about and in some outbuildings is a extraordinarily large and interesting collection of aviation equipment, parts, ephemera, and such. What brought us there? There are two Shackleton aircraft there (have a look at http://www.gatwick-aviation-museum.co.uk/ for all the details) and as neither of us had ever seen one, we thought: here's our opportunity. So with Peter Vallance as a guide we scurried about inside and had a grand time. So much so that we missed out on our second objective that afternoon, a visit to the Sir Ernest Shackleton public house not far from Dulwich College, our dinner destination. Below is Peter Vallance with Jonathan in front of one of the Shackletons. Perhaps the 'J' on the fuselage stands for Jonathan. And Jonathan at the contriols.
Peter was kind enough to give us a lift back to the airport and soon we were on the train to Victoria. We had arranged a hotel (Georgian House Hotel) behind Victoria (not far from Clements Markham's house in Eccleston Square). Satisfactory enough, £75 for the two of us. We left our bags and headed back to Victoria and just as we're nearly there, whom do I bump into at the height of the evening rush hour? Martha Brummer, from Rindge, the next town to mine. She's been living in London for several years now.
Soon we're on the train to West Dulwich, sitting, quite by chance, with John and Sue Bonham. The four of us walk from the station to Dulwich College for the autumn gathering of the James Caird Society. The AGM was held first, thankfully wine being available ahead of time, then a talk by Margot Morrell (the same title as her talk at Athy but substantially different and equally excellent), and then the usual pleasant and extensive buffet dinner. Among the others present: Alexandra Shackleton, Jan Piggott, Pippa Hare, Patrick Fagan, Bob Headland, Charles Swithinbank, Joe O'Farrell, David Wilson, Ann Shirley and Philippa Foster Back.
Jonathan and I headed back to the station and soon were arriving at Victoria and then at our hotel.
Saturday 4 November 2006. After breakfast, Jonathan and I got a cab and went off to Kensington and to the Abbey House Hotel at 11 Vicarage Gate. The only reason we chose this hotel was the Shackleton connection. Ernest and Emily moved here from Putney in 1913. At £74 a night for two and the bathroom down the hall, it was only memorable as a Shackleton abode.
After leaving our bags, Jonathan and I sped forth to the Union Jack Club just across the street from Waterloo Station. We were there to meet Bernice and Roland Harby who we had met at both Athy and the night before at the James Caird Society meeting. They had mentioned that there was a painting of Scott in the Library and invited us to drop by. We did so and indeed there is a very nice painting and one I've never seen reproduced.
From the Union Jack Club we walked north to the Thames and had a leisurely stroll pass the Tate Modern, through the intensely active Borough Market to the High Street and finally to the George Inn,
the last of London's galleried inns. My first visit was in 1966, forty years ago! After lunch and a pint we continued on and soon found ourselves at Hay's Galleria. This had once been a wharf and has since been glassed over to create and small but very nice shopping mall. Our interest in this? Shackleton left on his fourth and last expedition aboard the Quest from here. We noticed that one of the buildings in the complex is named 'Shackleton House.'
We crossed over the Thames and wandered west, detouring to St Paul's Cathedral where there is a bronze memorial to Scott's polar party. When I first saw it some years ago you could just walk in and have a look and take a photo. It now costs £9 to enter and no photography allowed. Well, we talked with someone and they said they'd escort us to the memorial and let us photograph it just this once. So we did. (But we still had to pay the £9.)
By bus to Trafalgar Square, worked our way through a anti-war rally, on to Piccadilly, then tube to Sloane Square and by foot along the King's Road to the Chelsea Town Hall where we enjoyed the last hour of the ABA bookfair. Eventually by tube and foot back to the hotel with a relaxing stop at the Elephant & Castle, a favorite pub in Holland Street on the way.
That night be walked up to Notting Hill Gate and had dinner at Geales, another old favorite.
Sunday 5 November 2006. Another perfect day weatherwise. We set off by tube to Bank and took the DLR to Greenwich. Visited the National Maritime Museum and found that they now have a permanent Antarctic display that includes a replica of the James Caird made for the Channel 4 Shackleton movie. Here's one of the display cases.
We then hiked up the hill to the Greenwich Observatory. And later, down the hill to the Cutty Sark, a Thames-side pub, for lunch. Back into central London and to Jonathan's uncle's flat near Gloucester Road tube station.
That night we had good dinner down the road from our hotel at Randa, a Lebanese restaurant in Kensington Church Street. Managed to get through two bottles of wine effortlessly.
Monday 6 November 2006. Off after breakast. First stop was Albert Court, a block of flats where Teddie Evans once lived (Scott's second expedition). This was just behind the Albert Hall. We continued on to the nearby Royal Geographical Society and took some photos of the great Shackleton sculpture on the Exhibition Road facade. By bus to Piccadilly. First stop was Hatchards for books, then to Sackville Street and Sotherans where we popped in to see Stuart Leggatt. We both ended up spending money. Walked by two of Shackleton's expedition offices: 4 New Burlington Street (Endurance) and 9 Lower Regent Street (Nimrod). Then to the British Travel Centre, the Mall Galleries, Scottish Travel Centre (planning for next year), and then the National Portrait Gallery. Found the painting of Shackleton. Lunch at the Salisbury and a look at the bookshops in Cecil Court.
Took the tube to Tower Hill and walked to the nearby All Hallows Barking to see the crow's nest from the Quest. We disobeyed the sign and went down into the crypt and there it was.
Next door is Tower Place, the new European headquarters of Marsh & McLennan. On my last trip I had visited here to see the models of the Aurora and the Terra Nova which MarshMc inherited when they bought up Bowring Brothers which had owned the ships when they played key roles in the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration. So we thought we'd see if a return visit for Jonathan's benefit might be possible. We asked at reception and out came Ian Fatt, the same man who showed me around in 2003. He kindly took us up to have a look. We also enjoyed the view over the Tower and across to Tower Bridge.
That night we gathered at the Royal Geographical Society, along with Wendy Driver and Cathy Cooper, to hear Benedict Allen speak on his recent solo dog sledding adventure in Siberia. Very amusing speaker. The four of us then enjoyed a nice dinner afterwards at the RGS.
Tuesday 7 November 2006. Jonathan got up early and headed for Waterloo to catch a train to the West Country for a family funeral. And after breakfast I went off to Earl's Court to find The Troubadour, a coffee house that has a room named after Shackleton. I found it, had a coffee, took a photo or two and continued walking to Kensington.
Wendy had said that one of the famous Emperor Penguin Eggs (which Wilson, Bowers and Cherry-Garrard had gone to Cape Crozier to fetch in The Worst Journey in the World) was on display in the Darwin Centre at the Museum of Natural History. Alas, it was only on view for a special event and I failed to talk my way in.
After some errands I went off to the City and met Martin Henderson for lunch. I first met Martin sometime in the late 70s and we've been renewing our acquaintance periodically ever since. Another lovely lunch at Chez Gérard.
On to Euston Station. Got a return ticket to Buxton in Derbyshire (£57) but had to wait until after 6:30pm, so had time to kill. Walked down to the British Museum and spent some time in the old Reading Room. The train was very crowded but I managed to find a seat. Arrived in Stockport, south of Manchester, and changed to a little local railcar that took me to Buxton in about an hour. Walked to my hotel which I had arranged while in Ireland. The Old Hall Hotel dates to 1573 and is purportedly the oldest hotel in England. Mary Queen of Scots stayed there under 'house arrest,' though it was a pretty comfortable arrest.
Daniel Defoe was a guest in 1727. And I stayed there in 2006. It's a very nice hotel, lots of charm and seems to be a center of community activity and not just a tourist place. Both mornings I had a delicious smoked haddock poached in milk.
Wednesday 8 November 2006. A rainy day weatherwise but bright and sunny once I heard the results of the US mid-term elections: the Democrats sweep into both the House and Senate! After breakfast had a walk around the town which is nestled in a valley. Some very nice architecture, the Crescent, Opera House and the new (in an old domed former stables, then a hospital) University of Derby. Visited the museum; a quirky collection. Arranged for a cab to get me to Wincle, about 10 miles south. Was picked up at 1pm. The woman cabdriver had never heard of Wincle much less been there. Once outside Buxton the landscape is all hilly and open, the occasional sheep or two.
Arrived in Wincle–a church, a school and a handful of houses all along a very minor road–and looked for The Ship Inn, which has Antarctic connections. (Sir Philip Brocklehurst was on Shackleton's Nimrod expedition and the pub was built for the workers on the Brocklehurst estate.) The namesake ship is the Nimrod which appears on the pub sign. The cabbie waited as I went in to have lunch and a pint. It's a lovely pub. A fire was burning in the fireplace, there were several people lunching and I had a warm welcome from the man behind the bar. Enjoyed a steaming leek and potato soup and a delicious fishcake. Took some photos inside and out and headed back to Buxton.
That evening, dinner (fish pie) at the hotel.
Thursday 9 November 2006. After breakfast, packed and checked out of the hotel. Walked to the railroad station and repeated in reverse my journey of Tuesday. Arrived at Euston, back to the Abbey House Hotel to pick up a bag which I then left at Victoria Station; then to King's Cross and the train to Cambridge. Walked to Warkworth House, where I stayed a year ago.
Later stopped by the nearby Clarendon Arms for a pint, then into central Cambridge where I wandered around a bit. Had dinner at the Mai Thai restaurant, then back to Warkworth House.
Friday 10 November 2006. Spent most of the day at Scott Polar Research Institute in the library and later in the archives.
A drink at the end of the day up on the top floor to wish Bob Headland a good trip south. We were joined by Charles Swithinbank, Peter Clarkson, Lucy Martin, David Wilson and Marzena Kaczmarska.
That night I went to see two one-act plays by Tom Stoppard at the Corpus Playroom. Amusing, but not as much as the production a year ago. Afterwards, had dinner at Lochfyne, the fish restaurant. Had bream, not the best choice because of the bones.
Saturday 11 November 2006. Spent a good part of the morning walking to an area of north Cambridge where Bob Headland told me the night before that there was a pub called the Sno-Cat with lots of Antarctic memorabilia inside. Finally found it, but now it's The Grove and hasn't been the Sno-Cat for seven years (and no Antarctic decor anymore). Bus back into central Cambridge. Had lunch at The Elm near Warkworth House. In the afternoon spent some time at the Fitzwilliam Museum, always a pleasure.
Around 4:30 I arrived at SPRI for the AGM of the Friends of SPRI and Ran Fiennes talk. Antony and Jill Bowring (below with Wendy Driver) arrived whom I had invited to join me.
The talk was very well attended, over 400 people. The AGM followed, then a buffet.
Later, Wendy, Cathy Cooper, David Wilson, Duncan Lawrie and I repaired to the Lensfield Hotel for a nightcap.
Sunday 12 November 2006. Up at 5am to attempt a logistical challenge: Walked to the station, replacement bus service to King's Cross, tube to Victoria, fetch my luggage, train to Gatwick, all in time for a 11:50 flight. Actually made it with plenty of time to spare. Flight left and arrived in Philadelphia on time. But here the problems began. Weather problems. My flight to Manchester kept getting delayed. Didn't arrive there until 1:30am the next day. No reasonable alternative but to take a cab home for $84. Further complication: my bag never arrived! Was home in bed by 3:30am and the bag arrived the next day.
Another good trip completed.