Going to the Isle of Man

14 August 2009

At the moment I am sat on a ferry. I’m not a fan of boats. And this one is swaying far more than I would like. I can feel the bottom of my stomach swing right as my body swings left (thank goodness my chair’s tied to the floor), It’s the Great British Summer and this is the Irish Sea: the ferry is en-route from Heysham, on the Lancashire coast, to Douglas, on the Isle of Man. We’re going to the Isle of Man for a wedding.

A couple of months ago we were looking how to get to the IOM. Flights were pretty fast, but not necessarily cheap. And flying certainly ain’t the most environmentally friendly way to travel. Conscious of our carbon footprint, we looked up alternative routes. For a summer fare of £103 each (it’s cheaper off summer-peak) we were able to get on any train from London Euston with a through-ticket to the Isle of Man. The IOM Steam Packet Company’s ferries go from two ports that more or less connect with the trains: our outward journey was a 09:30 am train from Euston, and a change at Lancaster which took us directly to Heysham port (directly to the ferry terminal). The (relatively slow, unfortunately) ferry to Douglas is where I am writing from now. The route back (with a ferry that takes half the time) is via Liverpool.

I’m looking forward to my first trip to the Isle of Man, although I must say I know very little around it. Looking around me as I type I can see a combination of bored staycationers, bored homegoers and northern families taking a weekend trip. It might be that boredom (well, it’s a long trip and a heavily swaying boat – you may not want to look at the horizon) which means that people are looking at me, or it might be the fact that I’m wearing clothes of a far more joyful hue than most of the people on the ferry. It may also be that – at least as I understand it – homosexuality has not long been accepted on the IOM (maybe it still isn’t). That provincial nervousness has been nagging me since our arrival in Lancaster – that nervousness of looking out of place, odd, strange, overtly gay… who knows. But regardless, and despite of this, the trip to the IOM, marking the start of my holiday season, is an exciting one. Seeing friends getting married is always an exciting thing (and would be even more exciting if summer actually came to the Irish Sea in mid-August).

I am sure I will tweet and blog my thoughts soon enough…

Recovering Doric

19 May 2009

Living fairly close to Euston station, and having known it for the last few decades as my gateway to London from my home in the midlands, it’s history fascinates me. The unlovely functionalist 1960s station is practical and large, it serves its function well, but it’s not got the romance, history or stories of other London stations. The Times art columnist said

“It gives the impression of having been scribbled on the back of a soiled paper bag by a thuggish android with a grudge against humanity and a vampiric loathing of sunlight. And the fact that it replaced a much-loved old station, wiping out the Classical portico of the Euston Arch, only compounds its offensiveness.”

Which is why I was fascinated to read that the Doric arch, or what remains of it (or most of it that didn’t end up forming a rockery in the back garden of the guy that demolished it), is being recovered from it’s subsequent resting place, thanks to the London Olympics.

Developing Prescott Lock to enable construction materials to be transported to and from the Olympic site in a more sustainable way than dirty road lorries has meant that the remains of the arch, which since 1962 have been basically blocking a hole in the tidal riverbed, are finally being recovered. More on the story here, here and here.

Although I am a town planner, I don’t have a strong conservationist streak. But the story of Euston, and the threatened near-by St Pancras, make you realise what a sense of pride and sense of place architectural history can give you. After one of the most shocking pieces of architectural vandalism it’s now hoped that the arch can be reconstructed, not in it’s original place (somewhere near Platform 8, apparently) but perhaps in the redevelopment of Euston station (possibly looking like the image below), or elsewhere. Even if you cannot stop progress, meeting the needs of future generations, and the ability to integrate architectural history into developing places, is an important challenge we need to grasp.

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