Maritime madness

I noticed something odd in my garden:

Hi

I wonder if my felty friend Neeva has been in my garden while I was out and left me a message? I’ve found another felty creature too, look what I saw on one of my walks:

In the heather

Looks like it’s dozed off. It’s well camouflaged, so I’d be surprised if anyone else had noticed it.

Camoflaged

Last weekend I took a trip to Eyemouth, a little fishing village just North of the Scottish/English border. I’ve never been there before, and I was enjoying a walk along the harbour, when I saw this:

Eyemouth Maritime Centre stern

I was quite amused by this building cunningly concealed as a ship, and as I walked to the other end of the “ship”, I discovered it was a museum – Eyemouth Maritime Centre.

Eyemouth Maritime Centre starboard

Eyemouth Maritime Centre prow

It got me thinking about a special type of maritime kitsch favoured by coastal towns. Along with the models of jolly sailors, life buoys, ship’s wheels, lighthouses and fisherman’s floats found in the tourist shops; there are buildings made to look like ships, porthole windows, and crazy maritime decor; frequently they are pubs. I’m very familiar with this as I grew up in Worthing on the South coast of England, where there was a lovely pub, The Ship, which was stylised in the 1930’s (I think), inside and out;  now it’s a Cornish Pasty shop.

Ship Pub - Worthing

© Jimmy Hastell - http://www.worthingpubs.com

In Shoreham, just a few miles up the coast from Worthing, there is the Crown and Anchor pub, the sailor/pirate outside always fascinated me as a child.

There are probably many of them across the country. In Eyemouth I was struck by the juxtaposition of the maritime kitsch with the plastic crates, refrigerated containers, and grease of a real working fishing business. I have caught this contrast in this photo where the plastic fish crates are reflected in the shop window:

Shop window - Eyemouth

I guess the kitsch has always been another way of bringing money into the community by encouraging the tourists. Perhaps the jolliness of Jolly Jack Tar and his accompanying gaudy objects distracts visitors, and puts a glossy shine over the reality that fishing is a tough and dangerous way of life. Looking at the battered working boats alongside the museum I was affected by both aspects: I felt nostalgic about the buildings and maritime paraphanalia in the seaside towns I grew up in, it brought back memories of my Dad and his love of boats and harbours, I was attracted artistically to the the flaking paint and rust and boats reflected in water, and a healthy respect for the dedication and way of life of fishermen plying the seas to make their living.

I didn’t have time to stop at the Eyemouth Maritime Centre this time, but when I got home I looked at their website: the centre is part of a large project to use several buildings and the harbour in Eyemouth to house a collection of boats which are gradually being brought to Eyemouth from Exeter, Devon. The Chinese Junk and Brunel Steam boat above are part of the collection. It sounds like an admirable project, and I’m sure it will benefit the area. I will certainly return to see what boats have arrived and look around the museum properly. Have a look at their plans here.

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