CHOIR OUTING - PORTSMOUTH
By Charles A. Binyon
One drawback to living in the Midland Counties is the great distance of the sea, but once you make up your mind to get to the coast you have a wonderful choice of seaside places to visit. And so we found, and the rival claims of Llandudno, Blackpool, Weymouth, Weston, and Cardiff required careful consideration before Portsmouth was finally decided on. A convenient trip was billed for Saturday, August 20, and the Stationmaster at Littleton and Badsey kindly stopped the train for us and reserved three compartments. My first impressions on the eventful morning were far from pleasant. "Bang! Bang! It's half-past three!" What had I done to be thus disturbed from my innocent slumbers at such an unearthly hour? There was no grass to cut - nor was any comet due. Suddenly I remembered it was "the Trip." So lighting a candle, and hastily donning my clothes, I hurried out. Feet were scurrying up and down the lane in the dark, voices were hailing one another, and one could detect the suppressed excitement in the familiar tones, even of such hardened travellers as the Twins. By a quarter past four the party to which I was attached was paraded, numbered and started off to the station, marching down to the dulcet strains of the tin whistle. Behind us at a safe distance came the ladies, escorted by Mr G. E. Jones and Mr. W. Sparrow. The train was rather late, so we beguiled the time by counting our pocket money and comparing notes thereon. The train when it did come was evidently anxious to get to its destination, for the part reserved for the Badsey Choir went whizzing past the end of the platform, and had to back reluctantly. We all made a rush for our carriage, and in a few seconds were safely stowed in and on our way. The journey proved a time of hopes and fears, for at Moreton it began to rain hard. Later on it cleared, and near Reading the sun shone brilliantly, but in the run through Hampshire it clouded over again and scuds of rain fell In our compartment we found interest in tracing the course of the Evenlode, from its first appearance as a tiny brook until we lost it as a good sized river, just before it joined the Thames. We passed two Cathedral cities - Oxford and Winchester - but could see little of either. Portsmouth was reached about half-past nine. Roll call on the platform, and then quick march to an eating house, where we had a most reviving cup of tea. We had already lost all traces of the others, and saw nothing more of them until night. There was a great crowd at the Dockyard gate, for was not the great battleship Orion to be launched that morning ? We thought it best not to go in, but hired a boat instead, in which half of the party ventured, leaving the rest on shore amusing themselves by watching the, busy scene. The party in the boat proceeded up the harbour, and after leaving the friendly shelter of the jetty some of us had a new experience. The sea was choppy, and the boat became lively, decidedly lively. "Just like a switchback," one boy said. But we all enjoyed it greatly, The green waves, the stately blue warships, and the dancing small craft, with the fresh bracing wind - to us from the Midlands it all seemed to give new life, and was better than any tonic. Our boatman pointed out the position of the Orion, and almost immediately shouted "Here she comes," and we saw the great hull speeding down, amid the hooting of the steamers. She took the water "like a swan." It was marvellous to see how quickly the tugs brought her round. On our way back we came close by a big first-class battleship, The Prince of Wales. We could see her 12 in. guns, her 6 in. quick-firers, her torpedo nets and booms, and we felt like naval experts, capable of deciding the question of "mixed calibre" ships on the spot. Next her was a fine cruiser raking funnels and masts, and we met a wicked-looking torpedo-boat destroyer with its low black hull and funnels.
Having found the rest of the party, we trudged on to Southsea through narrow streets and past innocent-looking fortifications, with the guns almost invisible. Now and again we found ourselves on the water's edge, and at one halting place some of us were so interested in the success which was crowning the efforts of two little crab-catchers that soon there were several more lines baited. But, alas, we didn't know the right word to say, for the best efforts of even the Parish Clerk were absolutely without result, and we went on without our crabs to Southsea beach. Here we were surrounded by vendors of bananas, sweets, shell boxes, etc., and repelled their advances with but poor success. A scamper across the common brought us, to Smith's Restaurant, where a meal was laid out for us in a long room. We all did justice to the ample fare provided. After dinner, we went back to the beach, and walked on until we came to a more sandy spot, where most of us indulged in a delightful paddle for about half-an-hour. Then we were forced to find shelter from the driving rain. Fortunately, we were close to the South Parade Pier, where roller skating was in full swing. Here, too, were most wonderful penny-in-the-slot machines, which, with the skating, engaged our attention until 5.30. As it was still raining, we boarded a tram which took us back to the Restaurant for tea. Here we kept the staff busy for some time, and afterwards indulged in a few songs, accompanied by "Lopop" on the mouth-organ. Mr. Moisey, in the course of a speech, thanked those who had so kindly subscribed towards the expenses of the outing, and went on to express the great regret the choir felt at the absence of the Vicar this year, it being the first time they had gone without him. By this time it had cleared up, and we next had a trip on the floating bridge to Gosport and back. From the upper deck we had a splendid, view of the warships in the harbour, and of four submarines nestling by the side of their parent ship. The remaining hour and a half we devoted to shopping and walking the streets, and at length succeeded in getting to the station without loss, as the roll-call showed. It was fine to see the way one of our party bundled the folks out of one of our reserved compartments. It was in vain they expostulated - out they had to come. The journey home was accomplished without adventure. Many of us were indeed more or less asleep, but we all turned out safely at Littleton and Badsey, after having had a thoroughly enjoyable day.