Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Manchester Ship Canal

Manchester probably seems an unlikely place for a cruise, but one of its many hidden delights is a cruise along the now almost forgotten Manchester Ship Canal.

Completed in 1894, and officially opened by Queen Victoria, it was designed by the merchants of Manchester to halt the decline of the city, and to avoid the payment of harbour dues to Liverpool.

What an amazing piece of engineering it was: 36 miles long, dropping 60 feet to the sea through 5 locks.

It was created from the river Irwell which flows through the centre of Manchester. Along the way it intersects the Mersey and the Weaver.

The Millenium Bridge

Among its great engineering feats is the Barton aqueduct which swings a section of the Bridgewater Canal away to allow ships to pass underneath.

Barton Swing Aqueduct

Although no longer a major waterway it still handles around 6 million tons of freight a year.

It joins the Mersey estuary at Eastham Locks, on the Birkenhead side, opposite the port of Liverpool.

Eastham Lock

Arriving at Eastham Lock on the Mersey Estuary, in the distance you can see the city of Liverpool. You can just make out the shape of the imposing Anglican cathedral.

The whole trip from Salford Qays, opposite Old Trafford, Manchester United's "Theatre of Dreams", to the Liver Building in Liverpool takes some 6 hours. What a fascinating experience it is. It runs only in the summer, and you have to pre-book. We would love to do it again.

Information about these cruises can be found on the Mersey Ferries web pages.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Letter Z: Thoughts on the Wrong End of the Alphabet

As a boy at Public School I soon became aware that those whose surnames began with the later letters of the alphabet were inferior to those whose names began with 'A' 'B' 'C' and so on.

I had almost forgotten this important lesson until I was forced to wait a couple of hours or so on board the R.M.S. St Helena in Cape Town, whilst the A's B's and C's were allowed to disembark!

On reading Winston Churchill's My Early Life I was surprised to find that he had had the same problem. His full surname was unfortunately Spencer Churchill, and so as a new boy at Harrow he had the indignity of being the last to parade before the school steps when the register was called. To compound this humiliation, visitors apparently used to comment aloud on the fact that the son of the famous or maybe infamous politician was the last to be called!

In my particular case it meant an extra term waiting on more senior boys at table. I was at the time very upset at the arbitrariness and injustice of it all. Now I am inclined to think that the ability to carry two heavily laden plates in each hand is one of the most useful things I learned. The acquisition of this skill was undoubtedly aided by very real threats of a beating if you spilt any food down the necks of the older boys!

Anyway because of this I have chosen to select a word beginning with Z ("zed" as we say, or "zee" as the Americans will have it) as the title of this blog.