SO: To Speak

SO: TO SPEAK

Southampton is to have its first festival of words. It takes place over a week this autumn from 23rd October to 1st November, 2015.  I have been volunteering for the project and today the website was launched: www.sotospeakfestival.org  It’s very exciting! The website lists many of the events that you can join in, ticketed or free – writers, workshops in haiku or crime-writing, exhibitions, readings, ghost stories, actors dressed as Kings reading Shakespeare in car-parks or poets and storytellers reciting in cafes or dockside containers, choirs, folk singers. Authors and performers from the unknowns to the famous.

Isaac Watts statue with collared dove, Watts Park, Southampton.
Isaac Watts statue with collared dove, Watts Park, Southampton.

Southampton has been written about by many famous people from J.B Priestly to John Lennon and Sotonian hymn writer Isaac Watts has his statue in the park named after him. The bells from the Civic Centre clock chime “Oh! God Our Help in Ages Past” at certain times of the day. To promote the event a clever young team went around Southampton getting characters to read bits of Jane Austen – it is so cute:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deYcCJWkyEA Jane Austen lived in Southampton between 1807-1809 when it was a spa town. It is believed to be one of her favourite places. Some buildings still remain that Jane Austen frequented and there are Jane Austen plaques all over the Old Town. There are even Jane Austen guided walks. Visit these two websites http://www.seekingjaneausten.com/southampton.html or https://aprilmunday.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/jane-austen-lived-here-part-five/ for more about Jane Austen in Southampton.

The Dolphin Hotel in Southampton was where Jane Austen used to go to dances - it had a beautiful ballroom. I worked here as a breakfast waitress when I was 14. The staff where all treated to a full English breakfast once the guests had left.
The Dolphin Hotel in Southampton was where Jane Austen used to go to dances – it had a beautiful ballroom upstairs. When I worked here as a breakfast waitress when I was 14, the staff where all treated to a full English breakfast once the guests had left.
The Juniper Berry Pub is identical to the house that Jane Austen lived in opposite and owned by the same Landlord.
The Juniper Berry Pub is identical to the house that Jane Austen lived in opposite and owned by the same Landlord.
The Juniper Berry up close
The Juniper Berry up close
Jane Austen plaque on The Juniper Berry
Jane Austen plaque on The Juniper Berry

Jane-Austin-baths Jane-Austen-Platform sign

Haiku in a Hampshire Garden

This is my first attempt at Haiku. I spent time taking photos in a beautiful English garden in Hampshire. These are my results:

The scent of roses draws insects to petals. I want your softness
The scent of roses
draws insects to petals.
I want your softness
Tender bleeding hearts pollenated by bees. Tread careful, my love
Tender bleeding hearts
pollenated by bees.
Tread careful, my love
Lavender and vine Stretched along the red brick wall. Sleep, drink and be mine
Lavender and vine
Stretched along the red brick wall.
Sleep, drink and be mine
Autumn comes early to some lives in the garden. My Summer is over
Autumn comes early
to some life in the garden.
My Summer is out
I rest by the wall. Mistletoe orbs on tree tops. Kiss me at Christmas
I rest by the wall.
Mistletoe orbs on tree tops.
Kiss me at Christmas

All photos and words © southampton old lady

(permission usually given to reproduce with credit, when requested)

Southampton Blitz

Photo I took of inside a Spitfire at Solent Sky Museum
Photo I took of inside a Spitfire at Solent Sky Museum
Image of proposed Spitfire memorial to be built in Southampton
Image of proposed Spitfire memorial for Southampton

One could be forgiven if you live outside of Britain for thinking that the WWII  Blitz (bombing of Britain during the second World War) only happened in London. Yes. They did suffer terribly as it had a big population, but bombings happened in cities all over Britain. Photos are few or non-existent of most places that were bombed outside of the capitol as not many owned cameras and most photo-journalists worked in London.

Coventry, an important centre since medieval times was flattened. Every port city was blitzed; Hull, Liverpool, Bristol, Swansea, Plymouth to name a mere handful. The South Coast in particular was a dangerous place to be and was where most of our sea defences were.

Southampton was bombed frequently, firstly because it was an important commercial port and secondly being the home of Supermarine that had two factories here, building Spitfire aircraft. When these were both bombed, killing 100 factory workers, mainly experienced engineers, Spitfire production was spread out all over the South. Garages, laundry rooms, hotels and anywhere that still had a roof was commandeered into the design, manufacture, or storing of Spitfire parts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermarine_Spitfire

southampton blitz six dials southamptonSouthampton Blitz 1

southampton blitz 9

southampton blitz 8

southampton blitz 6

southampton blitz 11

southampton blitz 7

Southern Echo Office - Echo photo
Southern Newspapers Office – Echo photo

southampton blitz Bernard stSouthampton was grateful for so many ancient vaults to act as air-raid shelters, which saved the lives of many of its citizens and allies staying here.  http://www.sotonight.net/southampton-local-info-history/southampton-medieval-vaults/

Guided tours of these amazing undercrofts can be booked and each autumn there is a “Music in the City” festival where by unusual places like these are opened up for a variety of bands to perform in.

undercroft b-w

After the war rationing continued but children found enormous pleasure from playing on bombed sites until the sixties. As a child I found gas masks, bits of junk; there were endless windows to throw stones at and hideouts were dugout from mounds of rubble. Unexploded bombs have been discovered frequently in Southampton since the war and have had to be deployed. The most recent  was discovered by a group of builders in a main street in 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/hampshire/8549256.stm

In retrospect these ‘playgrounds’ were extremely dangerous, but nothing compared to the dangers faced during the war.

Britain faced a tremendous rebuilding cost as temporary prefabricated homes were developed. Many houses were built in the 1950s, but as the population started to boom again, concrete became the main building material for quick, cheap imitations of Le Corbusier’s modernist architecture.

We looked towards the new…  (a future blog).

Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station

I am a Harry Potter fan. I was in the Kings Cross area earlier this year and decided to look in to visit Platform 9 3/4. There was such a huge queue and I couldn’t stand for long, so I decided to ask if I take pictures of a group of Spanish young people who were taking their turn. Here are the results.

The shop of the same name at the station is well worth a visit too – Happy Halloween.

Spanish group 9 3/4

platform 9 3/4    Platform 9/3 at Kings Cross

platform 9 3/4 shopShopping at Platform 9 3/4Hogwarts Uniform at Platform 9 3/4

Decaying Old Grandeur 5 – Boats on Southampton’s River Itchen

Grand boat 1

On Southampton’s Itchen River, the mudflats are a grave-yard for once-glamourous boats.

Photos © Southampton Old Lady
Photos © Southampton Old Lady

grand boat 5

grand boat 4Grand boat 8grand boat 6

Grand boat 10

Graffiti 2 – Control and Tipping Point

Graffiti at Hoglands Park
Further to my blog about Banksy art being whitewashed in Southampton (see under older posts) whereby I told of the Council’s zero tolerance to graffiti. I wanted to show examples of Southampton Council’s ‘controlled graffiti’ at the cricket pavilion and public toilets in Hoglands Park, which is located nearby a skateboarding area.

The Council must have realised that, by constantly painting this Victorian wooden structure white, they were merely providing a blank canvas for ugly slogans and therefore allowed some of the ‘better artists’ to cover the structures completely.

Graffiti Hogpark 3

To show how quickly Southampton City Council respond to graffiti, I have posted my before and after photos of a wall that was spray-painted with “Widzew nigdy nie zginie”, which is Polish for “Widzew (Polish football team) never dies”. This was sprayed on a Friday; the slogan removed by Monday, leaving clean brickwork.

Before – graffiti sprayed on a wall in a local Southampton community:

Polish Graffiti

After – the next working day the graffiti has been removed:Gone Grafitti

This idea of a zero tolerance towards graffiti comes from the book, ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell.

In this book the author describes how small actions at a certain time, in a certain place, and with a certain type of person, can create a ‘tipping point’ for anything from an action to a product to turn into a trend. (It’s an excellent book — do read it if you get the chance.) The ‘tipping point’ is that crucial moment when this trend, tips, spills and floods.

Gladwell goes on to show how graffiti and broken windows can have a dramatic effect on the behaviour of the residents in a city. Both can tip a community from being a good area into a crime-ridden no-go area.

In order to prevent this, it is necessary to actively repair broken windows and clean up graffiti straight away, because without showing care for the environment that people live in there will not be enough social impetus to allow the residents to control and discourage antisocial behaviour.

This ‘Tipping Point’ or ‘Broken Windows’ theory was taken up faultlessly in New York. The Council first tackled cleaning up graffiti on subways and trains after a man had reached his “tipping point” and shot a bully who tried to make him move seats. Next came the vigilant repair of all broken windows in the City. The crime rate dropped significantly, so the Council kept the rule even for celebrated artists Basquiat and Banksy.

This has now been adopted by cities all over the world.

Photos © Southampton Old Lady

RMS Titanic – Southampton Remembers

This is the blog I have been trying to do for years. I have words and similar photographs – but haven’t been able formulate it as well as this blogger. Until I do please read hers.

Come Step Back In Time

The Centenary of the sinking of RMS Titanic is fast approaching and the popular culture juggernaut is gathering pace. A plethora of new books have been published and television documentaries airing almost nightly. In my view, the best documentary so far has been BBC 1′s Titanic With Len Goodman, the second episode was shown Sunday night (8th April) at 6pm and there is one more to go. The only criticism that I have, is at 30 minutes per episode, it is just too short! The series looks at the lifelong impact of the liner’s sinking on the victims’ families as well as those who survived.  For every one of over 1,500 souls lost, the repercussions for those left behind to pick-up the pieces of shattered lives, was immense. Episode one begins by examining the deaths of eight men lost during the construction of Titanic at Harland & Wolff’s Belfast shipyard. One of these unfortunate gentleman, a worker called James Dobbins, lost his…

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