Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Time and Tide

This morning started well, with a call from a friend to go and watch the ferry cross the river. Now, that might not sound promising, but let me explain.

There have been exceptional high and low tides just recently and the town ferry - a tiny little craft that carries people between east and west Lynn - carries on regardless. On the Town side, there is a jetty that goes down into the water, and at most stages of the tide, the ferry goes up to this jetty for the people to get on and off. As the water level goes down, more of the jetty is seen, until at the lowest tide - like today - you actually get to the end of the jetty, and start seeing the riverbed. At times like this the ferry has to take a different approach.

First the ferry approaches the land as near as it can get, and then one of the crew jumps out of the boat into the water, and pulls it ashore. Now, since the boat is not up to the jetty, having pulled the boat as close as possible, he gets out a set of steps and puts these against the end of the boat for the passengers to use. At certain times, he also puts out duck boards for the passengers to get across the riverbed to the jetty, but he did not do that this time - maybe the sand there was dry enough.

The passengers got off and a few others got aboard for the return trip, and the crew man in the water proceeded to push the ferry back out into the stream. I have nothing but respect for this crew, out in all weathers and in all tidal conditions - the current here is so strong that just to go safely from one side to the other takes enormous skill, and yet these men make it look so simple and so routine.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Hanse Festival 2009- Sunday

On my early morning bike ride, I see that the stallholders along the Quay are already up and about before 7am - it is a bright day already and the rain from last night is only evident by the occasional puddle as I cycle along. Arriving back about an hour and a half later, I’m amused to be stopped at the entrance to the Quay by an event security guy who tells me I can’t come in as this is a restricted area!! “Restricted”?? I take it he means that they have closed the road to traffic, and I so tell him I live here, and he lets me through.

In the afternoon I set out again - on foot this time - and see that a lot of the same stalls are there, with a few extra ones. Today we also have a Falconry display - very cool to see these birds of prey up close. Walking along I see that they are starting to dismantle the marquee that housed the blacksmiths - and then I see that their project for the weekend is finished and on display. They have created a piece of public art if the form of a fish drying rack, with various fish on it - this looks really interesting, and I look forward to it being put on display.

Walking further and passing the aroma from the Sausage wagon, I queue to get on board the boat that is causing all this excitement. I don’t have to wait too long, and, as the tide is low right now, I walk down to the floating dock, and get my first close up site of the Lisa von Lubeck from the water line. Walking up the gangway, I’m immediately impressed by the bright shiny wooden planks. I also see that it’s curving away from me to the bow and stern, increasing the impression of height to the two ends of the boat.

First I go into the cabin in the back, and look at the explanatory notes - all in German, so they don’t mean a lot to me. From here we can go down some steep steps into the hold of the boat. I do this and am surprised to see it’s furnished with benches and tables, and has a bar selling German beer! Climbing up from this I then go up more steps to the stern deck, with its wheel that everyone just loves to turn. Standing here looking down the river it’s hard to imagine that this is real, but this would have been how the craft of that generation navigated across the seas.

Climbing back down, I go across the deck and up to the Bow section of the boat, complete with brass bell - which people love to ring - and anchors. Standing right at the bow gives one an unusual view of the Great Ouse as it disappears into the horizon.

The mid section also houses a bar selling German beer - they obviously know how to please the people of Norfolk - and is arranged with chairs. I sit there for a while enjoying the feel of the boat and the slight swell that we have - really only apparent when I look at the quayside and see it moving up and down.

And then it’s off the boat, and I take another walk the length of the Quay - down at the Square they are dismantling the stage. I’m about to return home when I see a friend also out walking, so we walk together for a while, both saying how great it is that the Quay is being used. Most of the time I’ve lived here in Lynn, it’s just been a car park - this shows that people will come to enjoy themselves if there is something of interest for them. I hope to see more use of this area, even if it does mean my quiet corner gets busy from time to time!

I see that the boat is due to sale out on the high tide on Monday at 2pm - unfortunately I’ll be at work then, or I’d have been sure to be seeing her off and wishing her well on her voyages.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Hanse Festival 2009- Saturday

As I get back home on Saturday afternoon, I see out my window that the Quay is buzzing with people, and whilst I’m getting changed and drinking coffee I hear the sound of drums from out there.

By the time I get out the drums have stopped, but there are certainly a lot of people around. I’m “amused” to see that one of the charity stalls have set up a table and chairs right outside our front gate! As I walk up the road, I see some women in bright costumes walking in the opposite direction, followed by people carrying drums - this must be the band I heard and I hope I didn’t miss the performance. I look round the stalls - more than there were on Friday, and some interesting items on sale. Right outside there is a clown and his “dancing bear” on a lead - this lead is given to one of the young watchers, and he’s asked to “look after my bear”, who promptly starts to walk off pulling the child behind! (I would point out that this was a person in a bear costume - no animals were hurt in the production of this blog.) Further along there is a Punch and Judy show just finishing the performance to cheers and applause. I turn back at the end of the quay to come back, and the Punch and Judy man is wheeling his booth along and amusing the children as he goes by pretending to charge them and generally adding to the frivolity of the event.

As I’m walking towards the Square, the performers with the drums are just starting another set - I find out that this is the King's Lynn Community Samba Band - a lively group of instrumentalists and dancers. This seems to be their last piece, as they pack up and move off after this dance, and I’m glad I got a chance to see them.

Then I go on down to the square, where they are setting the bandstand for the group playing tonight, and there are a few people just sitting around on the chairs drinking coffee and listening to the piped music. I take advantage of the market being here to get French cheese and olives - I try some “Mexican style” olives which sound different - they are indeed different and HOT!.

Later it begins to rain - a heavy consistent rain that makes the air smell sweet and fresh. I take my umbrella and walk along to the square - the flashing lights are on in the bandstand, and it looks like the band are sitting in their bus and drinking coffee from the one food stall that is still remaining open. A shame for them, but that will always be a hazard for open air events I guess.

Hanse Festival 2009- Friday

By Thursday evening, the area along the Quayside which is normally full of parked cars had started to have some wooden structures put up - more like beach huts than anything else - and Friday morning as I went out to work early I saw that all along the Quay there were signs of things about to happen.

Coming home in the early afternoon I walk down to Boal Quay and see that the Lisa Von Lubeck has its sail unfurled, with an emblem of a black eagle looking majestic in the stiff breeze we have today. Coming back towards South Quay there is a long marquee with a blacksmith working on forging iron designs, and they also have a smaller area where children can beat out their own ironwork and take it home as a souvenir. This is with real hot coals and red hot metal - if it wasn't only for kids I might have a go myself!

Then along the Quay there are various stalls and amusements, and also some charity stalls. There is the expected olive, nuts and cheese stalls and fast food stands and also a fresh cake stall, which seems to be a magnet for every bee and wasp in the county - there are certainly a lot of them! Further along and into King Staithe Square and the stage is being set up for music tonight, and there are still more food stalls.

The weather recently has been changeable - but Friday evening is calm and mild - nice for walking along the Quay in a tee-shirt. It’s getting dark now, and I understand there will be fireworks at 10pm, so I set off sown the Quay about 9.30. Most of the stalls are closed, or moved, but there are still plenty of people around walking up and down. I walk down to the Square, and there is a band performing - a group of guys in dark suites and bow ties, playing a wide variety of music. The food stalls are doing a good trade, and I assume that the novelty light people are too, judging by the number of light sabres and - hmmmm - what would they be called? A kind of rope made out of lights that kids wave energetically about.

I find out that the fireworks will not be on till 10.30, so listen to the music for a while, and then move back down the quay to wait for them to start. The clouds are moving across the moon, but still it shines off the river - it is now almost fully dark, and the closed up stalls make it darker than normal on the water side. I just stand and watch the lights on the water for a while, and then there is the first bang as the fireworks start. This is an exciting display lasting for maybe 5 minutes, and then I head back to bed - unfortunately I need to be up at 5am to go to work in the morning!