Article in The Times – Daredevil navy lark took my breath away 9/9/15
Fate found me in strange places. Thursday evening I was drinking rum aboard a three-masted schooner moored at Canary Wharf, listening to a samba band. On Monday I was in an enormous hole, and digging.
The Colombian navy’s flagship is a massive barque, the Gloria. With her crew of 163 she’s on a world tour, and on her arrival in London the Colombian ambassador held a big party aboard. Things went with a swing, and in my enthusiasm (and dazzled by the braid) I congratulated two uniformed officers on their magnificent ship. “We’re Royal Navy,” replied one, rather drily. “We don’t have sailing ships. We have functional ships.” Oh dear; but I’m afraid one epaulette looks much like another to me: thank heaven they weren’t BA pilots.
I doubt these officers would have been overly impressed on Sunday when the departing Gloria did a quick turn up the Thames past a raised Tower Bridge and back, with all her 81 cadets clad in their national colours and up in the rigging singing the Colombian national anthem. The tall ship’s main mast seemed only to clear the bridge’s top walkway by inches. I feel the Royal Navy should take care about dismissing razzmatazz. Strip out the panto and you might have nothing left.