The bloke received reinforcements in the shape of a friend from overseas, so plans were made to make the most of their shared fascination for all things military and historical.
On a sunny Saturday morning we headed for the naval town of Portsmouth. First stop was Fort Nelson, a victorian fort built into the hills - one of a group of five - to protect the port from attack by the Napoleonic French ... not by sea, but by land! The military analysts of the time believed the Napoleon's troops would avoid a head-on attack on the British port and would land in a quiet neighbouring backwater, attacking the port from inland. Despite being sound thinking, this policy was dubbed Palmerston's Follies - after the Minister of War who put them into action. It certainly didn't help with its reputation that the French were roundly defeated before they completed building works! Fort Nelson now houses the Royal Armouries artillery collection - their big guns - up to and including the infamous gun ordered by Sadam Hussein prior to the first Gulf War.
From a girl's perspecive, the Fort's a pleasant place to ramble about in the sunshine and it commands a beautiful view of the surrounding area. As a lover of all things art and artisan, I found the decorative work on the canon collection to be nothing less than spectacular.
Then to the dockyard proper to visit the Submarine museum and take a tour of HMS Alliance, a submarine which had seen service during the Cold War. They've done a lovely job, setting up each area to demonstrate its use, with a couple of old ex-submariners to guide and share their experiences. The blokes were pleasantly surprised by its roominess, whereas I was surprised how tiny it was. The bloke is well over 6 foot and I couldn't see how his legs would fit in those bunks, yet the Alliance had a serving officer who was 6ft 7ins tall. There was one small area (of about one square foot) in the entire submarine where he could stand up straight! Sheer madness ... The museum is tucked away at the back of the port where the leisure boats are kept, so I happily snapped shots of a tall ship in harbour whilst remembering my time aboard the Winston Churchill as a fit young thing.
Sunday was an early start - but the bloke was driving, so I could snooze in the backseat. We headed up to Bruntingthorpe - an airfield where an amazing collection of jets is housed. The airfield is home to a variety of groups each restoring everything from a wide array of fighters, via a VC-10 up to a Guppy Airbus. Each aircraft is lovingly cared for by its own team of enthusiasts who will talk willingly and knowledgeably about their charge. Luckily the bloke's specialist subject is the cold war, so we had our own walking-talking guide as we wandered around the perimeter getting up close and personal with everything from those examples at the start of their restoration to those that have achieved airworthyness. The usual museum ropes and barriers are lacking - nothing other than genuine safety keeps you away from the big boys' toys.
Its an odd event though as none of the jets are permitted to take off, so they simply power up and belt down the runway. Having described the sound of a town full of Ferraris starting up as something rather visceral, this was an altogether more macho and gutsy experience. There's the smell of diesel and cordite, the waft of heat glare, the powerful blast of the backdraft, the absolute NEED for ear plugs, let alone the way your insides vibrate as the jets head down that runway. It's really quite something ...
As a girl whose idea of fun is not being in a field with shared conveniences, I must say that this a beautifully run event. The queues for the ladies were shorter than that for the gents, the facilities remained spotless to the end of the day and the catering was friendly, rapid and extraordinarily good value.
The rest of the weekend was spent in lots and lots of chat with a fair bit of beer, coffee, cognac and Irish whiskey being consumed. A damn fine weekend - despite it being one for the blokes!
Have you enjoyed outings unexpectedly? What made them so?
The Old Shelter
Iain Kelly Writing
Bit 2 Read
A Back of the Envelope Calculation
No Love for Fatties
What are They
Petrichor and Clouds