Town quay

23 April 2010

Once, Spanish holidays all finished in Southampton. This week, a new cruise liner put aside its maiden sailing to collect two thousand package holiday customers from southern Spain, and now forty coaches are waiting at the docks to take the passengers back up the spine of England.

According to the BBC, that is. I wouldn’t know. Unless the coaches all rumble down the main A road in convoy while I’m trying to go to sleep, which is always possible in this little quadrant of the city.

I wouldn’t know because Southampton makes nothing of the docks. No shipbuilding, no ancillary light industries, no work, just lots of flat land inviting shopping centres, multiplexes, luxury flats. The image of urban regeneration through the docks had to go through several reflections before it could finish bouncing from Olympic Barcelona over here. Cut corners, sheared-off floor plans, walls like the sides of the containers we don’t stack any more. Out we spread to east and west and north, encroaching into the New Forest and tangling our outer limits up with Portsmouth.

There’s a full-size railway station, ironwork roof, the lot, where the early tourists would have disembarked, last stop for the pier. A single railway track leads seaward through a padlocked gate. I don’t even know how it connects with the real rail network into town. Crowds don’t go to wave their relatives ashore. There isn’t anywhere to stand. Some weekends, when the banks are off their game, there isn’t even anywhere to pick up euros on a Saturday. ‘This is one of the biggest port cities in the UK,’ I grumbled to the woman in the bank. She told me to come back during the working week.

Shouldn’t we be remembering how to do this port stuff, in case we really have to do it again, some day?


7 Responses to “Town quay”

  1. AlexJ Says:

    Maybe you should!

  2. I think you’d have to dig up half the West Quay centre to get it running the way it used to. Although digging that up might not be such a bad idea anyway…

  3. Old Kitty Says:


    I think after this ash from Iceland – they ought to really!!

    All this self-righteous bleating about how the closure of air space was an “over-reaction” – I say – good for the skies to be free of pollution for a change and maybe we all need to rethink our reliance on such things as air travel and apples from chile.


    Ok, rant over!

    take care

  4. So, this is the ship you commented about.

    It’s the same around Boston, so many docks are gone, with just fragments of wood sticking out of the river. There are other places with active docks, but not near me. I’ve wondered the same thing.

  5. No, that’s not the ship. It might sometimes be the ship, but it can never be The Ship, not while we have a Titanic to go all misty-eyed about…

  6. Talli Roland Says:

    Agreed! You know, Liverpool is regenerating the Albert Docks and it’s amazing what they’ve done. I think it’s amn important part of British heritage and should be preserved!

  7. I tend not to let myself talk too much about “the way things used to be”, but in this case… you’re so right.

    The shipyards in Glasgow are a sad sight these days too.

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