The priceless relics left in the nettles

By Keith Newbery

Published on Friday, June 08, 2012 - 11:15


The priceless relics left in the nettles

Keith soaks up the sun in Greece.

THIS ISLAND LIFETHE name of this column is This Island Life — and it just so happens the island featured this week is going to be Thassos rather than Wight.

Blimey, you’re probably thinking, not again, he’ll be inviting us round to see his holiday photos next. So I’ve included one on this page to save us all the trouble.

It shows your columnist basking in the scorching Greek sunshine, while revelling in the cooling zephyrs as they waft across the gorgeous Aegean Sea to provide welcome relief from the searing heat.

This is a rare memento, because Mrs N and I are not one for bulging albums; our memories tend to remain in the mind’s eye rather than being captured forever by Nikon and deposited in the loft.

This attitude was in marked contrast to that adopted by most of our fellow travellers, the majority of whom tended to photograph everything and see virtually nothing, which was their loss.

Consider the ancient ruins, for example. There are so many, the locals tend to take them for granted on Thassos, where even some of the olive trees are said to be more than 2,000 years old.

You stumble upon these markers to the passing of time where you least expect them and it’s rather like happening upon a bus shelter over here — they tend to look overgrown, unkempt and a little unappreciated.

If you’re lucky, some tatty sign might provide a few details about a particular piece of Grecian or Roman antiquity but most remain largely unmarked and unloved.

You cannot help but wonder how such remarkable relics would be treated should they suddenly be discovered in somewhere such as Shalfleet or Mottistone.

A fence would be quickly thrown up, Time Team would be summoned, Phil Harding would don his sweaty hat and scrape away with a trowel ('look at all they lovely sherrrds ’ere’), Wightlink would be approach-ed for sponsorship, Grumpy Greening would immediately start on his latest book and before you know it, the Island would have its newest tourist attraction (admission £10, children under 12 free if accompanied by an adult).

But the Greeks tend to take it all in their languorous stride.

"So it’s an ancient piece of carved stone. Don’t worry, there will be another one along in a minute."

Greece is said to be the birthplace of civilisation and, if Thassos is anything to go by, it is also a glorious example of the land health and safety forgot.

There was no sign of parking restrictions or parking meters (ergo no traffic wardens) and people fly around on motor scooters without bothering with crash helmets.

They even have special parking bays for motorcycles. Over here, we call them pavements.

The 4.30 boom now taking off

PEOPLE of my generation are usually referred to as the baby-boomers, because we are the physical manifestation of the hope and optimism our parents experienced after the end of the last war.However, perhaps the time has come for us to be renamed the sonic-boomers, if my postbag is anything to go by.

I asked a few weeks ago whether my memory of hearing sonic booms regularly as a kid in the 50s was genuine, or whether it was all a figment of my imagination.

The letters and e-mails came flying in (almost at supersonic speed) with David Shirley, of Totland, providing chapter and verse.

He recalled being a pupil at Chichester High School in 1953 and during that summer the world air speed record was broken three times on a set course, which passed over the school.

He wrote: "The first was by Neville Duke in a Hawker Hunter at about 800mph, the second was by Mike Lithgow in a Supermarine Swift at about 850mph and the third was by Peter Twiss in a Fairey Delta at more than 1,200mph.

"These booms occurred around midday, almost every day for several weeks.

"The course ran along the coast from east to west. At these speeds, Ryde would have been barely one minute away from Chichester, so the sonic booms were not the product of your imagination or bad memory.

"They were real enough to rattle every window on the South Coast."

Peter Wright wrote to say he also recalled the booms 'long before the days of Concorde’, and remembers his parents saying such exploits were eventually banned over land because

of the effect they had on cattle.

Penny Whitehead and Margaret Marsh e-mailed their memories and Dave Allnutt, who was brought up in Ryde, recalls hearing the sonic booms on many occasions.

He added: "I was told by 'bigger boys’ they were made by Hawker Hunters, De Havilland DH110s and Fairey Delta 2s, flying from Lee-on-the-Solent naval base or Hurn Airport, near Bournemouth."

Penny Weedon, of Godshill, and Hilton Taylor, of Chillerton, both wrote to say they remembered the explosions around 4.30pm every afternoon during the 70s, when Concorde gained speed over The Channel on its way to New York.

My thanks to everyone for taking the trouble to get in touch — and putting my mind at rest.

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