Tuesday, 23 March 2010

A Return, Weymouth to Stansted Please

The whole of today was taken up meeting Ille from Stansted, with a train to London Waterloo, Underground to Victoria and the Easy-Bus to the airport, so with just a little time to spare maybe I should address a query received from more than one of our overseas readers.

Remarkably, this Blog now reaches readers in at least 17 countries, making it increasingly difficult to write so that everyone will understand what I'm on about. In recent Posts there has been mentioned of both 'Twitching' & 'Twitcher' which has resulted in a number of requests to explain. While no lines or demarcations are draw, you can belong to either one of these groups or be part of both. The 2 are usually defined as 'Birders' and 'Twitchers', with most having been part of both during some part of their 'birding' life. In essence, a 'Birder' is one who, when time allows, will enjoy the general search for birds both common and rare, while on the other hand an 'ardent Twitcher' will simply stay in the comfort of their home, armed with a 'bird alert pager', telephone etc and simply await news of the arrival of a rare bird they need for their 'list'. On receipt of such information, they'll jump into their BMW, set the Tom-Tom with coordinates supplied by the 'alert company', zoom off at high speed hoping to gaining even the briefest glimpse of the target bird. This latter description is something of an exaggeration, as I doubt there is anyone who does this exclusively, but hope this gives the reader an idea of what it's all about? The word 'Twitch/er' was devised to describe the feeling of euphoria, anticipation and prospect of disappointment once information has been received and the chase begun. I for one have been on both sides of the track, and doubt there is a serious 'birder' who has never experienced this condition. These days I like to be known as a 'Birder' so you can imaging my reaction when, interviewed for our local newspaper, emphasising both this and spelling out my name as BAGSY to the reporter, to find next day the caption reading "BUGSY the TWITCHER said".

Probably an insignificant bit of local history, but something I found of great interest when I visited a mates house in the week which in part involved Royal Navy hero Jack Mantel.
23 year old Leading Seaman Jack Mantel was posthumously awarded a VC in Portland Harbour at the beginning of the serious Blitz on 4 July 1940. He was a member of a gun crew aboard the auxiliary anti-aircraft ship HMS Foylebank, a converted merchantman taken up from trade, when at 08-35 hours, radar spotted twenty enemy aircraft approaching from the south. Minutes later, the Stuka dive-bombers swept around the Verne Heights of Portland and attacked the dangerous anti-aircraft ship. The first bombs knocked out the ship's electrical system and the gun crews were forced to work their eight 4-inch guns and a pair of four barrel pom-poms manually. They continued to fight, despite twenty-two bomb hits on the ship.

Leading Seaman Jack Mantel was grievously wounded during the enemy attacks and several others members of his gun crew had been killed but he continued to operate his pom-pom 'until, as the last enemy plane departed, he fell from his post'. The ship was on fire and eventually sank the following day. This was the first Royal Navy VC of the war and the only award for valour in Home Waters, in addition to this Leading Seaman Mantel had already been awarded the 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star plus the 1939-45 War Medal.

While enjoying a cup of coffee I noticed this telephone on the wall and asked of its origin. Now the working household telephone, it was once affixed in one of the many tunnels under the Verne Citadel and opening up in the Naval Dockyard below. While L/S Jack was giving his life in defence of our country, 2 unknown Dockyard workers were just inside the tunnel door, when caught by one of the bomb blasts, also loosing their lives. The instrument lay in a box for many years but the story had been passed from father to son, allowing it to be past on to you today.

23-00 and we're home, with a large Macallan single malt, Pink Floyd's Pulse on the DVD and no need to get up early for work Paradise! - Good Night.