Anyone who comes to visit any country in Europe must notice at first hand the increase in the number of its own citizens sleeping rough on the streets. Depression like this – we haven’t seen since the 1930s. Let me tell you about my City…
When I was a child, the only homeless people one would see on the streets in my town were alcoholics. These were normally Merchant Seamen, who had spent their whole 6-months pay on booze and women in one go. Every December 25th, my father, usually a bit of Scrooge all year, would invite someone off the streets in to join us for Christmas Dinner. My brother and I would be quite put out about this and thought it diverted attention away from us. Not least of all because the invited guest would hit the free booze as soon as possible. They would swear and tell tales of sexual exploits that were not suitable for children’s ears. My mother would hide herself away in the kitchen – we kids would hide under the table. Once there was a Canadian novelist, who made money from selling his books all about the sea. He told some very interesting stories – but he still drank heavily.
Today however, many of the homeless are just normal people, who have hit bad times. Many cannot afford to drink or smoke. I have talked to a variety of homeless people in and around Southampton. I do not offer any analysis, but here is my general observations: The youngest I spoke to was 14 years-of-age, the oldest was 82. Other vulnerable people included those with mental illnesses. I have met five couples and two families. Most are single. All of them were white. About half were British (from every country except for Wales) and the other half were from a variety of Eastern European countries. About one-quarter were ex-servicemen. Two years ago, I noticed many with dogs, now however, I notice very few with dogs.
Before I go out, I try to make up bags of sandwiches using up any leftover ingredients that we would not get through ourselves. I include fruit and unwanted chocolates. If they are sleeping in nearby streets to where I live – I take cups of tea, coffee, soup or hot-chocolate. I have also recently discovered an organisation called Curb that re-distributes food waste via pop-up shops and cafes.
My own husband has debts to pay to the Department of Work and Pensions. Last Christmas he was informed that his Pension had been over-payed for the last eight years and sent a bill for £12,000 ! We are paying this back in instalments somehow. This Government is clawing back as much money as possible from the “welfare” budget (we had no idea that pension was welfare).
We are certainly not alone, we were told that thousands were in the same situation. The “trickle down theory’ is obviously not working here. When billionaires walk past the homeless to buy a new yacht at the marina, it is obvious to me that the rich are getting rich and the poor are getting poorer. It doesn’t seem too long ago that we thought of ourselves as comfortably off.
However, I am truly thankful that I am alive, with a roof over my head, I am not at war, I eat well and have a wonderful happy family.
So though I cannot hand out money, left-overs cost me next-to-nothing – and after all – “There but for the Grace of God go I”.
Place names are all over Southampton with characters from the Bevis legend: Bevis (a slave turned hero), Josian (the independant Princess) the Lions and the giant Ascupart.
Lynn Forest-Hill is launching her new book Bevis of Hampton as a ‘limited festival edition’ for Southampton’s first literary festival SO: To Speak, which takes place in October 2015.
I am so looking forward reading this translation of the story of Sir Bevis (Hero of Southampton) from Middle English into modern English. I had a sneak preview when I was shown a few of the pages for layout purposes. It has excellent explanatory notes under each page of text. Lynn Forest-Hill is a literary scholar specializing in Medievalism, she is a Fellow of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture at the University of Southampton and is the Education Officer for the Tolkien Society.
Lynn has written multiple papers regarding J.R.R. Tolkien’s works and her research has been used in articles featured in the Times Literary Supplement. For the last nine years, She has been leading three local reading groups; one studies Shakespeare’s work and the other two focus on the examination of poetry.
I have been following her research on this book on her blog, where she has wonderful links to this legend including a film and even one on how middle english sounds: https://bevisofhampton.wordpress.com For more about the SO: To Speak festival:
Southampton Old Lady’s Spicy Christmas Cake Recipe using chilli-powder
– My Tradition and My Recipe
I always start preparations for the Christmas cake at the end of Summer. I bake it on the first cold evening of Autumn so that it gives out wonderful smells and warms up the whole house while it bakes in a long slow oven.
I learned at school how to make Christmas cake at the age of 13. I have made one nearly every year since. I always kept the same basic recipe but often replaced some of the basics with the local ingredients according to the Country I was in. I have raised various types of poultry in my time and have used a variety of eggs.
In the past I have used Malaga raisins and almonds from the vineyard I once owned. (Those were the days). I get the whole family involved; cracking and chopping nuts and taking turns to stir the cake mixture. This helps makes it special. Other constituents that I have replaced traditional ingedients with at times were: dried pineapple, mango and ginger instead of candied peel and glace cherries, semolina in place of flour; pepper, Chinese 5-spice, Arab coffee spices or Indian Masala tea spices – all in place of mixed spice – and for the last 10 years I have gradually increased the amount of chilli powder (so warming). I also replace a spoonful or two of flour with sieved cocoa powder, which makes it very dark. I always use brandy. I have tried other liquors but have found none as good. If you do not want to use alcohol you can use undiluted orange squash or a syrup. My advice for fruit cake bakers is not to include anything that you or your household cannot abide, nor anything green (my daughter tried mint leaves once – it was like tough spinach) but whatever you use, always keep the weights and measures balanced perfectly.
British friends living abroad have asked me to email my Christmas cake recipe, so as I thought I would post it on my blog. It can be for any celebration, not just Christmas, but it takes a few months at least to mature. If you are an absolute beginner, I thoroughly recommend Delia Smith’s version (find her online). She is a queen of English food for beginners – explaining all the details so well that her recipes just always work! I have stopped icing my cakes and just make decorations with marzipan, sprinkle it with icing sugar, then pop it under a hot grill for a few minutes. But if you love icing – you go ahead…
We begin eating our cake on the 1st of December. There are so many festivities in England throughout that month, that a thick slice makes good all-round sustinance for all that rushing around and ensures vital vitimins to ward off winter colds before the big day. Besides there is too much to eat over Christmas itself and who doesn’t get tired of Christmas cake in January? I buy reduced-priced dried fruits after Christmas, as those that have been left around for ages often turn out better! The cake itself, without marzipan and icing, will mature and last at least a year if kept well-wrapped and in an air-tight tin.
THE RECIPE in 6 Stages
Stage 1 Ingredients For a deep 8” wide (20 cm) cake
1 lb 12oz (800g) mixed dried fruits (currants, sultanas and raisins are traditional but whatever you use, chop them all up to the size of a sultana.
2 oz (50g) homemade candied peel (or use shop-bought or marmalade)
2 oz (50g) candied ginger, chopped (traditionally glace cherries are used or you can use whole dried cranberries)
Grated rind of 1 x small orange and 1 x lemon
4 tbsp brandy + any extra for testing the quality!
Method: Mix all the ingredients above in a bowl, cover and leave for at least 12 hours – it is safe to leave them for about a week. Give them another stir if you happen to pass by and then again before the next stage.
Stage 2 Ingredients
8 oz (225g) butter
8 oz (225g) soft brown sugar
8 oz (225g) plain flour (add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the flour if butter is unsalted)
1 heaped teaspoonful of cocoa powder (optional).
1 level teaspoonful of ground mixed spices (traditionally grated nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger are used – here I include crushed cardomom and chilli powder in addition. 5 x medium sized hens’ eggs (or 3 duck eggs, 6 bantom eggs, or 12 quails eggs – yes I’ve used them all before). 2 oz (50g)chopped hazelnuts (or leave a handful whole for a lovely shape when cake is sliced – or other mixed unsalted nuts – traditionally ground and chopped almonds are used)
1 tablespoonful of Treacle or Molasses
Method: Pass the flour, spices, (+ cocoa powder and salt if using) into through a sieve into a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together using a the back of a large wooden spoon. This is the most important part of the cake making as it gets air into the cake and will stop any fruit sinking to the bottom. I do this while watching television and find it therapeutic (use an electric mixer if you find this bit boring). The final mixture should resemble coffee ice cream.
In a separate small bowl or jug, break in the eggs discarding the shells. Mix them together thoroughly, adding them, a drizzle at a time, to the sweet butter-cream mixture. If the mix curdles slightly, mix in a teaspoon or two of the flour.
With a palette knife or large metal spoon, fold in (cutting and folding, not mixing) the dried fruit mix, nuts and treacle or molasses to the flour mix.
Cover and leave for up to one week or continue immediately to the next stage, for which you will need around 5 hours.
Stage 3 Materials
8” (20 cms) deep springform/loose bottomed round cake tin
Roll of grease proof/baking paper
Scissors, cake scraper, egg cup
2 sheets of clean newspaper
A piece of string to tie around the tin (cotton gardeners-type, not of man-made fabric).
Preheat the oven to gas mark 1, 275ºF or 140ºC with the baking shelf in the lower half of oven.
Method: Take time to line the cake tin with a double layer of the baking paper as follows: Cut 4 rounds from the baking paper the size of the bottom of the tin when loose. In 2 of these four of discs, cut holes in the centre the size of an egg cup, these will go on top of the mixture to prevent a crust. Cut a few strips more of the baking paper to fit 1” below and 1-2” above the height of the cake tin and enough to go around twice. Place the strips inside the tin with overlaps. Place the bottom of the tin in place and cover with two complete rounds.
Then cover the bottom and sides outside of the tin with a double layer of newspaper and tie it with the string (make double sure the string has no natural fibres or it they will melt). The newspaper should stand up to 2” above the line of the cake tin, snip off any corners. The baked newspaper smells good and stops the cake from burning or leaking out. There is no need to grease and flour the lining.
This is where you could get your household to give the cake mixture a stir for good luck, then spoon the mixture carefully and evenly into the tin, using a cake scraper to get the last out of the bowl. Make an even dip in the mixture (this should level out once it has risen). Place the two discs of baking paper with holes on the top and place it on the baking shelf
Bake the cake for 4 1/2 hours, give or take 30 minutes. Do not open the over door for at least 4 hours! Write the time down and after 4 hours have gone, you can take the top discs off and test the cake with a skewer. If it comes away clean, it is ready, if not test again at 4 1/2 hours, then after 5 hours. Remove the cake from the heat and let it cool in its tin with all the papers on it until the morning.
Stage 4 – Feeding
Remove the cake from the tin, but still leave it in still in its baking paper, in foil or cling-film and leave in a cool place. Pierce the underside of the cake with a metal skewer several times, then spoon over a little brandy. It will soon disappear into the cake. Wrap it up and set it aside. Turn and feed it each week until you are ready to put marzipan on it. Go to the next stage nearer to the time it will be displayed or eaten.
Stage 5 – Marzipan
400g packet of Marzipan (2x if covering the sides)
1 x small jar of apricot jam(use any sharp clear jam – apricot is traditional)
Method: Scrape off the top of the cake to level it with a bread knife. Using a pallete knife or a pastry brush, spread the top (and sides if you are icing these too) with a thin layer of warm jam. Roll out the marzipan, scoop it up with the rolling pin to lay it over the cake. (I use a Christmas or a star-shaped cutter and remove 3 shapes from the rolled marzipan before hand). Press the marzipan down on the sides of the cake until you are satisfied that it is all covered. I place the cut shapes on other parts of the cake, sprinkle with icing sugar then place this under a hot grill for a few minutes. But go to the next stage and make the icing if you prefer.
Stage 6 – Icing (Double the quantity if you also wish to cover the sides).
2 egg whites 500g unrefined icing sugar a little lemon juice, rosewater or orange blossom water
Whisk or fork the egg whites lightly, just enough to break them up and give a faint head of bubbles. Sift in the icing sugar and mix to a smooth paste thick enough to spread. It will seem too thick at first, but keep going. Add a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice or flower water. Scoop the icing out over the almond paste, smooth it out and decorate as you wish.
I took this at Southampton Boat Show as part of the WordPress Photo Challenge on the theme: CONNECTED.
I don’t know if there is a similar word in your country but here in Britain, as well as being physically attached, ‘Connected’ can also refer to someone who has an unfair power or wealth because of who they know. Examples:part of the Aristocracy or Royalty, having the King’s ear, sleeping with the director or related to your boss.
The Southampton Boat Show attracts billionaires and yacht-racing enthusiasts from all over the globe. This on-water boat show is one of the largest in Europe and the biggest of its type in the UK. It started in September 1969 and is held annually in September in Mayflower Park on the Town Quay. At £22 a ticket it does not attract locals. However Super-Marine who sponsor the event allow any local senior citizen free entry…
I went to my school’s reunion. It was open to any pupil or teacher from any year and held at the Juniper Berry, an historical pub in the centre of Southampton. The Deanery School was the first multi-culltural school in the South outside London. There are no Sotonians that I know living in my neighbourhood. In fact, I rarely hear people even speak in English during the long summers until some 42,000 students arrive for their autumn term. So it was wonderful to meet up with so many diverse races of people not only speaking my language but with Southampton accents and local slang. Ages ranged from 40 to 80 years of age. We conversed all evening about our school traditions what people are doing now and those that have passed away.
Whole families came to the reunion. Each had attend the school throughout their generation. Because it was small and because we all joined in out-of-school activities we were familiar with each other. Many married their childhood sweet-hearts.
The Deanery concentrated on the Individual, it honed in on our abilities and seemed to bring out the best of each one us, regardless of intelligence or ability to pass exams. The invisible curriculum was just as important to us as the main one. Many ex-pupils run their own businesses or work for companies that take them all over the world, particularly at sea – with so many stories from other countries it must have given us an appetite to travel.
The Deanery School, 1930 -1989
Continue below for the history of the rise and fall of The Deanery School….
The Deanery was a mixed-sex secondary school for the central community; ages 11-16 taught over 5 years. Pupils could leave school at the age of 15 when I attended, but changed to the age of 16 with an option of going on to a Further Education College until the age of 18.
It was the first multi-cultural school in the South outside of London. Southampton, being a port city, has always had variety of diverse communities, all of which are valued and respected, as I have explained in previous posts.
When I attended, white English people were in a minority at the school. In my year, there were a great many Hindus Muslims, some Buddhists and a few Jewish, although the majority were Christian. The biggest cultural group of people were first to third generation Indian, not only from India but from what is now Pakistan, and other parts of Asia including places like Fiji and from Africa (North and South). In my year we also had first to third generations of Polish, Spanish, Italian, Irish, Chinese (from Vietnam and Hong Kong), West Indies: Jamaica, Barbados (white and black), Virgin Islands, Dutch, Cypriots (Turkish and Greek), Hungarians and Maltese. Nearly all could speak English before they started at the school.
Multi-cultural schools are quite normal in cities now, throughout Europe. But at that time they were rare and my school was a great fascination for others, especially for the media, politicians, sociologists and those with ‘melting pot’ theories. We filled out endless surveys and felt as though we were being watched. We had a strict school uniform that included options for turbans and loose leggings (to wear underneath a skirt). There were no hats or other items that covered the head or face as these were rarely seen in the community then and certainly not on children. In the Summer boys could wear shorts (but none did; they weren’t cool) and girls could wear any attire so long as it was red and white and modest.
As the number of educational subject increased, The Deanery expanded to many other sites spread out over central Southampton. The main site was Marsh Lane, next to St Mary’s Church, and was originally built to educate children from the workhouse. It is now a block of flats. As the community grew, the school expanded to the other half of the building that housed Southampton College of Art until 1970 when the art department moved to a new building in East Park (now part of Solent University). The school also took over The Central Boys School building in Argyle Road, Nicholstown, mainly for teaching the 4th and 5th years. Nissan huts were added to the playgrounds. I lived nearer to this site (which is now a Hindu temple). It had a separate dinner hall about a 10 minute walk away in Covelly Road, where, unlike the food at Marsh Lane, lunch time meals were cooked on the premises. Due to the many different religious beliefs regarding meat, there was a lovely choice on the menu. That was rare in England in my day. The meals were some of the best I had ever tried. In the evenings this hall operated as The Boys Club. Opened by famous crooner Frankie Vaughn, who had been an Italian immigrant. He supported boys clubs, which opened up all over England and Wales, to keep boys off the streets and away from gangs.
Another site was Latimer Street off Oxford Street (Now trendy apartments and restaurants). This is where all the domestic science and needlework took place. In my day this was only for girls, while boys did wood and metal work. Many subjects were segregated until the late 1970s. I had my first and only ever fight in the corridor here. My head was thrown against a row of coat pegs by the school bully. It was generally a peaceful school, so this caused an outrage. There was blood everywhere, I’ll never forget it.
There was also Site 4, which was an inner-city farm. Though I never went there and Cross House Hard where I learned not only sailing skills, but how to repair boats and sails.The school had its own launch on the river. We also used the Council swimming pool (now the Grand Harbour Hotel) at the Town Quay, the sports centre north of the town, the cricket pitches in Hoglands Park and The Common for all sorts of sports activities.
It was normal to walk through the city for 2-3 miles between lessons. As traffic increased it became more dangerous. Later the school could not match the range of subjects that the new comprehensive schools could. The Deanery School was forced to close in 1989.
Originally I only wanted to use my blog for “no comment” posts on political issues. But I am feeling more pressure now from other bloggers to speak out before WW3 starts. I am sure I am not the only one confused by the refugee crisis. And why the US is wanting to bomb Syria to help Syria? And wanting to topple Assad instead of supporting him against ISIS? Coming up with that old ‘weapons of mass destruction’ thing, yet again? We fell hook, line and sinker for it the first time – but surely we cannot be fooled again? I spent weeks trying to find out more and realised that there is a much higher agenda, which sadly, my country is also involved in. I am certainly no expert on the situation, but I thought the best way to find out more was to find someone from Syria to explain. So here she is – I found her on WordPress and hope she does not mind me re-blogging her site.
I do not have any political agenda here. The only link I have with Syria is that I won trip for two to go there in a raffle when I worked in Cyprus, near the Green Line in 1989. I was advised to give the tickets away to a Turkish couple as there were no diplomatic relations between Britain and Syria and was informed it might be dangerous for me.
I welcome any sensible comments on this subject, plus suggestions for other sites to visit, as long as they are not abusive, or party political. Please do not confuse this reblogged site with mine in any feedback. Thank you.
UPDATE: Not much of discussion here – however there is a discussion going on the this Sicilian Housewife’s blog – which makes for interesting reading: http://siciliangodmother.com/2015/09/24/the-italian-refugee-crisis-in-numbers/?c=10184