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It's nearly all gone now, though.
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Nineteen days after being formally "launched" behind closed doors, Barrow's newest sub, HMS Ambush, finally showed a face to the public yesterday, being quietly rolled out of the shed and onto the platform which will lower it into the water. It's been a good many years since a traditional launch in Barrow with a sub going sideways down the old slipway into the Walney Channel.

Ambush's sister ship, HMS Woodcock Astute, which has lately been blundering around the Hebrides, was launched in June 2007 to much more public notice with crowds gathered on the High Bridge to watch. I covered that here.

Ambush is now in the water and tied up at the dockside. There will now be six months of water play including diving trials before retiring to the shed for fitting out and installation of the nuclear reactor.

Note that as I now have a new dinky digital camera to replace the one that died over a year ago, I'll be back with more pics in 2011
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This morning I was due to meet my business adviser in my favourite Barrow hangout, the Last Resort Coffee Shop. Regular readers of this blog will be aware that the Last Resort doesn't only serve up a very acceptable mocha in congenial surroundings, it is also home to the Barrow OBCZ. Mike Stephenson, the owner, won himself a place on Barrow Borough Council at the expense of the Tory leader, fighting on an anti-Academy platform.

Just as I was sprucing myself up this morning, ready to go out, I nearly choked on my toothbrush as I heard "Barrow's Last Resort Coffee Shop" being mentioned on Today. And blow me, there's Mike leading on a feature on the campaign against academies!

He did pretty well, too.

I mentioned this when I arrived. They were surprised - apparently this was recorded two weeks ago and they had no idea whehn it was to be broadcast.

You can listen again if you follow the link.
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War Memorial

It was a lovely day and since I'd been up Greengate Street finding out what I couldn't from the Park Leisure Centre website, I walked back home through the park proper. As I passed the cenotaph on top of its hill it occurred to me to have a look at the names on the plaque. And there he is, look! Fourth from the bottom, C Spry, lance-corporal in the Lancashire Fusiliers and my dad's elder brither, who was killed while serving in the Burma campaign in 1943. Obviously this was well before I was born. The only image I have is a photograph of him looking rakish in a bush hat, and a medal. Both are in the possession of my mother. My Grandma Spry had the same photograph on the mantlepiece.

It's not that my dad was a draft dodger. Far from it; he was eager to serve in the RAF (and in one of those hidden family surprises my mum has leaked out over the last few years, it turns out that dad was actually a qualified pilot. But he was needed as a key worker in the shipyard, as a skilled ship draughtsman, and had to stay at home and make do with the Home Guard. Not that this did anything to assuage bad family feeling. I have a suspicion that this is at leat one of the reasons why he needed to get away.
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Thanks to Bob from Taxi Tales for drawing my attention to this seasonal image from Barrow's answer to teh Wild West. (Could easily be Whitley Wood in Reading too, Bob!)

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I didn't need to be patient after all. In the murk of Wednesday afternoon as I walked down to Morrisons across the High Bridge, HMS Astute was in the middle of the dock doing her diving trials.

Down she goes

And today, four months after launch, she's high, dry and on her way back into her shed. Ever so slowly...

HMS Astute

I wonder if she leaked?
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HMS Astute

HMS Astute has left her berth at last. She's attracted a fair crowd on the High Bridge and if I were patient, which I'm not, I could have hung around to see her dive. Apparently the Devonshire Dock has a 25-metre hole in it, designed specifically for diving trials.


Jun. 30th, 2007 06:49 pm
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Barrow Carnival 2007

Ah, the throbbing of the steel drums to the rhythm of the samba! The ripple of waves on sun-kissed white beaches! The heady scent of tropical air!

Er, well, not quite. This is Barrow, and it was pissing down! But in these parts we don't let a bit of rain get in the way of our fun, do we!
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The most exciting things that happen in Barrow tend to be launches, and there hadn't been one for years, not until a couple of weeks ago while I was offline when HMS Astute, first in a new class of hunter-killer subs, was unveiled to be named by Camilla Parker-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-Hohenzollern-Battenburg-Bowles (or whatever).

Actually they don't do these things the way they used to. Subs used to go down the slipway sideways, to land in the Walney Channel with a satisfactory splash. Now they just open the doors of the shed, do the ceremony, and then shift it forward on rails very slowly, over several hours, before lowering it into the Devonshire Dock on a lift.


That's the theory, anyway. Something went wrong, so the Astute was left high and dry for all to see (I expect subs to be long and slender, don't you? This one is short and fat,)


It was a week before Astute finally made it into the water. Ah well, such is life...


The shipyard is run from Bristol these days. I did a double-take seeing a brace of Turner's Ambassadeur buses, liberated from their usual role of running a cheap commuter service up the M4 to bringing up minor BAE functionaries in their Sunday Best. Real BAE luminaries, of course, fly directly from Filton to Walney International Airport.
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Fag Break

Let's have a closer look at that Spirit of Barrow statue...

Look closely at the Electrician (that would be my Uncle Frank, then). As I did as I passed by today, and did a double take. Some Barrovian wag has put a dog-end between his bronze lips. It just looks so right, at first glance I thought it was part of the statue!
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Spirit of Barrow

This is just Barrow in a nutshell.

The Spirit of Barrow statue in Dalton Road (the main shopping drag) is quite recent. Like the Red Men on Channelside that I've commented on before, it celebrates a proud working-class without over-glamourising it. (alas, the group doesn't include a crane-driver (like my granddad) let alone a draughtsman like my dad!) Along with the figure of local Rugby League hero Willie Horne in Hindpool, this is a new and refreshing kind of public statuary. The old school is represented by Ramsden the Railway Baron and Schneider the Iron Master at either end of Duke Street, backs to each other of course (though between them they built up the town they were bitter rivals.)

Anyway, the Barrow-ness of the scene isn't the statue, it's the crane (the last one left from a magnificent cranescape) in the background, and the fact that it's raining.
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I'm sorry, I've not posted on here much lately. This is because things have been generally pretty heavy around here, and to cap it all I have a rotten coldy-fluey bug that just won't go away. My sinuses feel as though somebody has squirted superglue into them.

This morning I had to go early to the doctors, which meant getting up before dark (brrrr!) and catching a bus even as the sun was rising. As the bus crossed the Michaelson Road bridge I saw a sight that made me get off two stops early and walk back to capture it:

Morning, Buccleuch Dock

This is just so typically Barrow! (Except, of course, that it's not raining.)

Afterwards it was still so glorious that I took the bus home all the Way to West Shore. The Isle of Man was visible for the first time in ages, and there was snow on the Lakeland Fells:

Snow on the Fells

Meanwhile, I have been prescribed heavy-duty Doxycycline for sinusitis, with a recommendation for hot toddies!
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Barrow Town Hall

It's strange how your perspective of a place changes the more time you spend there. Barrow - the town rather than Walney - always seemed a rather shabby dump that I didn't want to boast about being born in. Now I've been back for six months I'm seeing it more and more as a remarkably well-preserved Victorian town centre - notwithstanding the ravages of the Luftwaffe and 1960s developers. The splendidly gothic Town Hall looks well-set to outlast the incomers.

Taxi Tales

Oct. 5th, 2006 08:19 am
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Thank you Bob the Barrow cabbie for telling the true story behind the blooper on his firm's minibus.

For those of you who are still baffled by yours truly's flit from the fun-loving fleshpots of Royal Berkshire to a post-industrial community at the end of a remote and windswept peninsula, you could do a lot worse than to follow Bob's blog. Few people are able to observe a community as closely as its cabbies, especially in a town with a comparatively low level of car-ownership. Bob does it with some panache. Go on, have a look!
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This is the Barrow I remember from childhood; the Barrow we know and love!

Even if the bus no longer goes to Rainey Park.

Chuffing rain - hasn't stopped all day...
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This picture is one of my entries for the Cumbria Calendar photography competition.

Barrow is the Cinderella of the county, and admittedly it has to compete with some absolutely stunning scenery that has no equal in the whole country, but that's no reason, to my mind, why, when the county chooses scenes to represent it, it should confine itself to more conventional landscapes.

The statue commemorates the 'red men' - the iron ore (hæmatite) miners of Furness stained by the iron - and stands on the site of the old ironworks whioch was Barrow's primary reason for existence. The site is now a landscaped linear park and channel-side promenade.


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