Marking time in December 2011
Christmas papers for the lighthouse
My Christmas ‘card’ this year includes this old image from the Illustrated London News. On the left is the bulk of a side-wheel paddle steamer with a man on deck shown in the act of throwing parcels towards three men in a rowing boat close by. Alas, one of the parcels has fallen short of the boat, and one of the men is reaching over the bow to pull it out of the water. From the title, and from the silhouette of a pile lighthouse in the background, we understand the three men are light keepers who have rowed out to meet the steamer to collect the Christmas mail and papers.
I have found several pictures like this, in popular Victorian magazines, that depict light keepers—strong, stoic men doing important but lonely work—in poignant scenes around Christmas time. I can imagine parents showing these pictures to their children, and reminding them how fortunate they were to be in a snug parlour with their family around them, and a dry copy of a Christmas magazine to read.
I put ‘card’ in quotes, because I sent it out by email rather than by post. One of the recipients, a friend who works in the lighthouse business, forwarded it to a friend at Trinity House (the English lighthouse agency), asking which lighthouse was represented in the engraving. So shortly after I sent out the card, I received the news that the lighthouse in the picture was probably a pile light in the Thames estuary—either Chapman Sands Lighthouse (built 1849) or Maplin Sands Lighthouse (built 1838). The expert also had a probable identification for the steamer—the Trinity House yacht Galatea (launched 1868).
Begging for tea cosies
The Queensland Maritime Museum Association emailed its members today, with this charming request:
We are requesting donations of spare Tea Cosies you have at home that are no longer wanted, for use in the member’s mess room at the museum. One of our last remaining Tea Cosies has recently disappeared. Sunday desk volunteer Cassandra Madden has, so far, kindly knitted two replacement ones. We are seeking donations to increase the number available for members to use, to allow for the apparent inevitable attrition over time. There is no need to dispose of stained cosies, if that is what is happening, they can simply be cleaned or washed. If you can help us out, then please let us know, or just bring along a spare Tea Cosy that you no longer use at home.
This evokes the scene in the mess, where people break from their volunteer work of swabbing decks, chipping rust, and brushing paint on the fleet of old boats and other maritime artefacts. A couple of old brown china teapots, each in a hand-me-down knitted tea cosy sit comfortably on the table among the volunteers, who are mostly oldish blokes.
I prefer to drink tea freshly made in a white porcelain pot. No tea cosy for me, thank you. The household standby is Madura Premium Blend which I drink, with milk, from a bone china mug.