Monday, 8 November 2010

Photoblog Hong Kong: Museum of Coastal Defence

Hold my hand; we'll walk around this very interesting museum. Located on the sticky-out-bit at the east-top-end of Hong Kong.

Trust me. I have this geography sorted. And shut up about holding hands. No one else holds hands with me unless I've knocked them out first. Let's arrive by the scenic route.

It's a very fine museum building isn't it? Now on the site of which previously there was a pile of bricks, some concrete and some jungle.

That's probably a more imaginative building than I could muster given the starting point. It was once a training ground for the British Army, maybe until they had to give up Hong Kong gracefully. Or have it wrestled off them with a diplomatic incident and the world staring at them. Wise decision, I'd say. Are you listening, kids, regarding the pack of crayons?

Anyway, outside on the heritage trail we can stare at some lumps of concrete scattered about with metal bits stuck in them. This is practical weaponry. Like, Here are the remains of the Central Battery Depression Range Finder. I pretend it is fascinating history. I don't know why. I feel obliged, in case it is educational. We all look mournful.

Here's a tree growing out of a chimney.

It's either that, or the 6-inch Disappearing Gun No 1 and the North Caponier Concealed Defence Structure.

Give me credit, I tried. I think, if I work harder, I might see the excitement of guns and warfare.

Because I like to try and please everyone, I could run a reenactment of the Battle of Bosworth on the front room carpet with puffins. Truthfully, I have failed to show any interest in any military career whatsoever. I am one of those feeble pointless types that would burst into tears and cry But why can't you be nice to each other?

I console myself with the knowledge that concrete and metal memorabilia of how we can blow each other up is ultimately less fascinating for my children than a set of worthy information panels about seventeenth century naval fleets from Portugal. Maybe I am bringing them up OK. Shark seems quite taken with the academic history on the inside of the building.

I'm cheering up now, because once we're in this building, Tiger says she likes the uniforms because they give her ideas for hats the dollies might like to wear.

She also finds some shipwrecked items which require taking home in note form. (I'll just include this photo for the local authority, to prove home educated kids can hold pencils.)

Anyway, I become enthused by this bit of history and politics.

It's a story we encounter quite a bit over here. I bet the National Curriculum in England doesn't include it. The Opium Wars came about because the Brits sold several million ordinary Chinese citizens heavy quantities of a highly addictive drug. Needing to protect that trade they then sent battle ships up the coastline to threaten Beijing, and in time grabbed Hong Kong, a stash of cash, the New Territories and the lucrative drug dealing profits of Asia.

So, a mixed bag of a museum for the gritty world view, with some parts that were bright and shiny and interesting, and other parts that made the best of an old torpedo. If you are interested in armaments, that is the Brennan Torpedo invented in 1877 which was steered by cables.

By the way, do not throw yourself off the lookout walk.

Just enjoy the views.

Which are stunning. There. All the info you need. Do not come in the rain. The inside is better than the outside if you are a feeble non-military type. The history is comprehensive and the panels genuinely work hard to communicate. The building is spacious with a great kid and computer area.

Now, time to avoid the predictable tat in the gift shop and go home.

And thank you for holding my hand all the way round.


sharon said...

Thank you Grit for the lovely excursion, I won't insist on going to the shop;-)

penny dreadful said...

interesting...I read today that the 'history czar' Simon Schama has suggested that the Poppy Wars *should* actually appear on the National Curriculum...what are the chances, do you think?

Grit said...

it has a few books in it sharon, but we have to be careful. how can we get the damn things home at a reasonable price? i have restricted myself to the sad cat charity shop where i can recycle the books, and the public lending library.

hi penny d! the opium wars are not forgotten round here, as you can tell - the chinese recently took the opportunity to be offended by cameron et al wearing their poppies. in red! how could they!

but i think it should be on the national curriculum if schools are seriously to encourage critical thinking and not simply be places to learn the chanting of a national storyline.