Monday, 12 August 2013

Light and shade in Portsmouth

After a weekend of entertaining visitors we are waiting for more durable crew, due this evening. We have to be in Cowes on Thursday for the start of the big gaffers' festival.

There is much of interest to see in Portsmouth apart from the major warships, and there are several small naval museums. There is a display of ships' figureheads and it seems that some battleships still carried figureheads at the time Bonita was launched. 

The picture is of the figurehead of HMS Blazer, a small paddle gunship from 1847. Paddle steamers did not make good warships as the paddles were too vulnerable to damage, and the Blazer might seem to be of little significance. However her captain wanted his crew to look smart, allegedly for a visit by Queen Victoria, so he had short blue jackets with collars, lapels and brass buttons made and issued to his sailors. His sartorial taste lives on and his ships name has entered the language even if his naval exploits might have been forgotten.

There is also a museum dedicated to Nelson with many portraits of him on display. This  bust is supposed to represent the best likeness of him at the time of his death. I was interested that none of the paintings or sculptures on display show his facial injuries for which there is ample medical evidence. 

He was blinded in his right eye in battle in 1794 leaving the pupil so widely dilated that the blue iris was barely visible (his own description). He had a wound to his forehead sustained at the Battle of the Nile which left a conspicuous scar and, due to a poor surgical repair resulted in a paralysis of the left forehead that must have been very obvious. Yet these injuries are not apparent in his later portraits, even those that show both eyes clearly. 

Maybe its more acceptable if our heros are thought to have face and brain intact, even if there might be other bits of them missing.

We have now probably been in Gosport long enough and hope to move on tomorrow.

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