Friday, 8 April 2011

"We are Sailing!" - not.

I hope you can enlarge this page from The Purbeck Gazette big enough to read by clicking on it.

Only last week, me and a few friends were wondering what they were going to do with Britain's iconic aircraft-carrier, HMS Ark Royal now that it has been taken out of service by the MOD. We envisaged it being sailed down to India, run aground on a large beach, then painstakingly dismantled by a lot of locals climbing over bamboo scaffold whilst they wielded cutting-torches, wearing nothing but loin-cloths, t-shirts and sandals.

But no - it seems as though it is, as I write, being re-fitted as a prison ship which will be moored just off the coast of Portland and within site of the mainland prison which can also be seen in the previous post.

The Ark Royal is so famous, that it had it's own long-running TV documentary some years ago, the theme tune of which (a bloody awful ditty by that tight-arsed crooner, Rod Stewart) made it to the British top ten. I suppose that since we cannot afford our own fighter jets these days and the Harrier has also been de-commissioned, we don't need naval carriers anymore either. The ongoing strikes on Libya started from a Norfolk air-base - a round trip of about 2500 miles per strike - but now we are saving on fuel costs by using Crete as a base.

'Prison Hulks' were first used during the Napoleonic wars, I believe, but now seem to be making a come-back. At least the inmates will be able to say on their C.V. - once they get ashore - that they served on the Ark Royal without lying!

Here is some of the stone I bought the day before yesterday. It is known as 'Portland Roach' - 'roach' being another word for 'brash' or any other sort of unusable stone. When Sir Christopher Wren sold thousands of tons of Portland stone to the City of London in the 17th century, he used only the finest quality, almost shell-free, creamy stuff like that used to build St. Paul's Cathedral, and this holey variety was used only for sea-defences, etc, so could be bought for peanuts up until about 10 years ago. It is now widely used for cladding etc. so I now pay something of a premium for it, which is a little irritating for me - especially since I recognised it's unique decorative qualities long before any of those bloody architects.

It is the British equivalent of Italian Travatino, and believe it or not - it is very difficult to buy Travatine 'marble' here in the UK which has not had all the holes filled in with beige resin by the same people who quarry it in Italy. The whole point of this stuff is the openness of the material, so filling it in before export is stupid beyond belief.

I once made a large, circular table in extremely good quality Portland Roach, and put it into a friend's shop for sale to the public. A potential customer asked if it could be filled with resin, and I answered that it could - but not by me. They then asked me what they should do with all the bread crumbs etc. that were bound to fall into the holes made by the sea-creatures bodies 195 million years ago. I suggested that, if they did not own one already, they should go out and buy a modern device called a vacuum-cleaner. They are very useful things, and can also be quite effective when getting rid of household dust and dirt.


  1. I never realised that the holes in Travatine were filled in with resin. I learn something new everyday! What are you going to make from your lump of stone?

  2. I'll show you when it's done Sue - it's a pedestal for a Georgian marble bust of Caesar.

  3. I wonder if they'll re-introduce rum rations for the prisoners. Youman rights innit!

  4. Beautiful stone. I want to reach out and touch it.

  5. Prison hulks! What fresh hell is this?

    Throw in a war or two (with the resultant problematic returning soldiers), serious shortfalls in real estate set aside for incarceration, an over-imaginative, over-politicised police force, and prison hulks groaning with the weight of class-ignorant underachievers and what do you get?
    Once upon a time it was a free trip for a term of 7 or 14 to the antipodes.

    I like the vacume cleaner line, and I love the idea that stone is imbued with the stories of its landscape home. Stone is like honey perhaps - a tangible essay on the quirks of its origin. Gorgeous.

  6. I cant get too excited about stone but your enthusiasm for it is infectous...

    as for the ark royal.......use it for a hotel and move ALL the prisoners to ANGELSEY....wall every fu*ker on that island a bit like that jurt Russell move ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK....

  7. I really like the pattern in the stone. It's amazing to think you take all that and turn it into such lovely pieces.

  8. Well I can't get too excited about your chickens either, John - especially as I know how infectious they can be. You are the living (for the moment) proof.

  9. P.S. These days, if you have done something wrong, it is impossible to get into Australia, Sarah. All the Ozzies in London a few years ago found themselves behind bars too - 70% of all pub workers came from down under.

  10. I made (assembled) a round poolside table for my neighbours, in a very similar stone. We picked it up from Provence; ready turned, complete with separate pillar. The stone is beige in colour, but has exactly the same look. But probably a lot softer.

  11. Sounds like Travatino to me, Cro.