Beautiful Britain – Southwick

It’s been over 7 years since we last visited the UK as a family and I thought our recent visit would be a great opportunity to write something about good old Blighty for a few posts. It will motivate me to process my photographs and also is relevant to promoting the art group I run at Quintessentially British, which now contains over 11,000 images of “Britishness” by more than 700 artists. Ironically, I haven’t posted that many images of my own to the group since I set it up 5 years ago, so this trip was an opportunity to get some more images to post!

So, I’ll start with our first port of call – literally – Southwick, in West Sussex.

Southwick is a small coastal town situated on the River Adur on the south coast of England. There have been settlements here from at least the Roman times and the town is first recorded in the Domesday Book (1085 AD). Like many nearby towns, it was the extension of the railway lines in the 19th century which really caused the town to expand becoming a popular place for tourists to visit and take the sea air.

Although largely eclipsed by Shoreham-by-Sea to the west and Brighton & Hove to the east, Southwick still has a thriving commercial port (called Shoreham Port, even though it’s really in Southwick and Fishersgate), serving both commercial and navy vessels in docks on the River Adur.

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There is a nice village green with traditional pub on the edge, railway station and a couple of new windmills placed adjacent to the pebble beach, almost as an advance guard to the huge wind farm that is being developed off the coast in the distance.

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A bit of something for everyone, perhaps? Certainly a nice place to sit in the sun and enjoy a “99” (soft ice-cream cone with a chocolate flake).

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How Quintessentially British!

~Richard

Ducking and Weaving – a bit of WWII history made modern

After the end of World War II the allied forces were left with a significant number of pieces of equipment that were, thankfully, no longer needed. This “army surplus” established a system which still exists today, as far as I know, at least in the United Kingdom.

One of the more interesting items available was the DUKW amphibious vehicle (aka “Ducks”) that had been used so successfully in the beach landings in Europe. Several of these were purchased by locals in Hunstanton, Norfolk, where they were perfect for fishing and crabbing activities since this area of East Anglia has an extremely shallow shoreline (and correspondingly dangerous fast incoming tide) which extends for about a mile or so before the water gets deep at low tide.

My understanding is that by the early 1960s some locals were offering trips to tourists to go out on the sands and into the sea in a genuine WWII amphibious truck. These original Ducks were certainly running at least until the 1990s when I went on such a trip, although by then they really were starting to show signs of wear and tear due to their age and the corrosive nature of sea water on their hulls.

Now, fast forward a couple of decades to when we were living in San Francisco and I was quite surprised to see them operating as commercial tours. Over the last several years these vehicles seem to be popping up everywhere that has a coastline or riverfront, and indeed, I have been on them not only in California but also Philadelphia.

We were in Boston recently, and alongside refurbished original DUKWs, there now seem to be newer, and probably safer, custom-designed amphibious vehicles available. The “superduck” is an example, and makes an interesting, if ungainly, sight when seen in the harbor.

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Although the links to WWII landing craft will obviously be lost in due time the various Ducks seem to be doing a roaring trade as we move on from this chapter in our history.

~Richard

Rules of the Road and the Culture of Driving

OK I admit it, I’m a bit of a driving snob. This is largely due to having spent the first four decades of my life in the UK, with one of the most difficult driving tests, strictly enforced rules and, consequently, very low road death and accident rate. Then we moved to California and I had to take my California Driver’s “test” which involved driving about 2 miles, making a few stops and turns before I was handed a license. I thought it was a joke until we moved to Pennsylvania where the same test consists of reverse parking a vehicle into a space large enough for an airplane to park and then driving through a parking lot and approximately 100 yds of road.

I still find it astonishing that that a 16-year old can take this “test” of their driving competency and then hop into a Hummer and drive it across country. And not only drive it, but do so in such an aggressive manner. It’s as if every US driver thinks the road is theirs and theirs alone, with little concept of braking distance and the dangers of tailgating.

So, that being said, I have been amazed this week by the driving in and around Chennai, India. The roads are chock full of mopeds, motorcycles, auto-rickshaws (tuk-tuks), cars, buses, trucks and of course people and the odd cow wandering through. It is fascinating to watch how this all works. And work it does. Many vehicles have a “sound horn” sign on the rear and it is quite expected to drive along and, when obstructed, simply press the horn to warn the other rider/driver/pedestrian that you are there. Amazingly, the other road users all heed the warning and move over, which is useful as road markings seem to serve little purpose here leading to 3 or 4 vehicles occupying 2 lanes.

I am unsure how it works, but it is truly a demonstration of collective teamwork on a huge scale. Unlike in the US or Europe the car horn here does not seem to be used aggressively and other road users seem to just “get on with it.” As I sit in my car I am somewhat awestruck by how my driver navigates his route (no, there’s no way I am going to drive myself here!) with relative ease. Yesterday we came face to face with several trucks in the middle of the road (and more cows) as we heading from one town to another and yet it all seemed to work smoothly.

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I cannot imagine this sort of holistic driving approach working elsewhere and conversely, I wonder how Indian drivers find the driving in the US or Europe?

~Richard

52-week Challenge: week 12

WEEK 12: Artistic: Transportation – Our world is one defined by how we get around. Literal or interpretative, find inspiration in transportation.

I had too many ideas for this one; cars, trains, bicycles, buses, perhaps even an Amish carriage, if I were to travel west a few dozen miles.  I mean, how can so much choice be a problem, right?

Well, it can because the issue then becomes one of creative overload, at least in my case. Yes, I need to focus (pun intended) on what I actually want to achieve with this assignment.

So, a day or two to think and then here we go:

Idea 1: Panning cars traveling on the highway to give a blurred background. It didn’t happen.

Idea 2: An arty shot of an AMTRAK train or the SEPTA regional railway, maybe in black and white. It didn’t happen.  

Idea 3: A bustling street scene in the center of town, or a commuter ride showing traffic congestion. It didn’t happen.

Idea 4: Cyclists – there’s always several of these guys on the back roads at the weekend. That one didn’t even start!

Grr, what’s going on?

Then, on the Monday morning drive to work, an epiphany: the American school bus – it’s so obvious!

As an immigrant from England the yellow school bus is as much an internationally known icon of US society as the red double-decker bus is quintessentially British. It instantly identifies any scene as being American. I would venture more so even than a slice of mom’s apple pie cooling on the window sill…

… and I know where they park a lot of them 🙂

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Oh, and there’s a backstory to this as well – I will share that on tomorrow’s post

~Richard

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