I have two entries concerning wasted public money for the weekly WordPress challenge: Chaos
Southampton City Council spent £4.6million revamping the civic centre’s main square and pavements which was completed in 2010. But just 18 months after a private contractor completed it (with no expert investigation) large parts of the road began to sink, leaving its surface uneven and cracked.
I don’t know how many times I have fallen over in the City myself – it’s no good just looking where I am going as the shadows create optical illusions, it would be easier to walk on gravel or loose earth. So many have been hospitalised and had their lives ruined. It is cheaper for the Council if pedestrians, cyclists and drivers to claim compensation for their injuries from the contractor than have the street repaired. I think coloured Tarmac would have been a better option for the street and was even better left as it was. Cutting corners always works out more expensive and money always seems to come before people.
The street where the Developer has run off with the cash
Southampton City Council granted £1.4 million of public money to Grays Developmentsin the early 2000s to refurbish Victorian properties in Old Northam Road. This was to regenerate what was once the antiques quarter of Southampton, England.
The man who owns Grays, bought up 30 commercial properties and 68 homes within Old Northam Road had promised to invest millions restoring them within 13 years.
So far there has only been ripping down and dilapidation. No work has actually started, leaving residents and businesses in chaos. Some who lived above shops have had walls to their property removed and just left.
The traders insist that he has spent the money on a house for his mother and ran off with the rest of the cash. Here is a YouTube video of promises from the project manager: Restoration of Old Northam Road
When I saw that the weekly WordPress Photo Challenge this week was Frame(click to take part or see others), I realised that framing a photo was a natural past-time for me taking my routine snaps. So here are 15 from my media library (click on to enlarge or see captions) …
The second in my series of the many different cultures that go to make up my city.
As a significant part of our Southampton population, I would need to write a book to explain all the different groups plus a history of India, which I don’t feel qualified to do.
Definition of Indian
There are many living in Southampton who define themselves as Indian. Indians immigrated here way before the Partition of 1947 that divided their land into India and Pakistan. Many Indians living here have never even lived in India nor been on holiday there. Indians might have settled here from Australia, Fiji or Africa. Many Ugandan Asians, that came as refugees in the 1970s, might define themselves as African Indian. Many Indians have been here for generations and although they might be British-born and fully integrated, define themselves as Indian by their strong culture and historic roots. They might call themselves British Asian, English Indian, British-born Indian, or define themselves by their language Hindu,Gujarati, their region – Punjabi or Keralan for instance or their religion Sikh, Indian Muslim, Jain, Brahman, Indian Buddhist etc. All foreigners who have come to settle in Southampton more recently are referred to as Freshies by the people who have lived here a long time. One usually tries to guess by the clothes worn, from the way trousers are pressed to sweater-styles as to what group they belong to – but this isn’t always a correct assumption. Many who have just arrived from India, are often more western in their dress than people who settled here in the sixties. More often than not it is by their accent.
I shall mention the Pakistani and other communities at a later time but the predominant group in Southampton are Sikhs which make up about 1.3% of our city’s population.
In the 2012 census 2799 Sikhs were listed as living in Southampton.
We have to go back to the time when the British colonised India and Prime Minister Disraeli bestowed on Queen Victoria the grandiose title:Empress of India.
The first Sikh to arrive in Southampton was the Maharaja Duleep Singh in 1854. He visited Queen Victoria frequently at her Osborne House residence on the Isle of Wight and she became Godmother to his children. Queen Victoria later commissioned talented Indian architects, particularly Ram Singh, to transform parts of her residence and gardens into a ‘flavour of India’. Today much of Britain has a flavour of India, from our seaside piers to rose gardens – not to mention adopted words in our language and our cuisine, which British call ‘curry’. Southampton is a prime example of this flavour with a beautiful Royal Pier which has been leased to Indian restaurateur Kuti, and spacious parks with tropical plants.
People raised herealso greet each other with the phrase ‘Acha Mush’ – Acha a slang word from hindi for ‘I’m good’ and Mush (of Romany origin, meaning mate) which is now an affectionate slang term for a fellow Sotonian.
Queen Victoria had a large military hospital built in Southampton in response to the Crimean War. This she visited frequently by sailing boat from her Isle of Wight palace. The hospital was later known as Spike Island (the remains of which can still be visited in the Queen Victoria Country Park). In 1894 one entire floor of the main building was given over to Indian troops, one million of whom served in the British Military.
In the hospital grounds, a concrete platform, or ghat, was built at the side of a stream for cremations, after which the ashes would be tipped into the stream and borne back, spiritually, to join the waters of the Ganges.
Gradually Sikhs settled in Southampton from this time in dribs and drabs. Their caste system fit in well with the Victorian class system. It was mainly middle class Indians that arrived in great numbers in the 1950s and sixties to take up work in Southampton law firms or as doctors in the National Health Service. The photos immediately above are of Sikh festivals and two temples (Gurdwaras) in the Bevois Town area of Southampton.
I have happy childhood memories growing up in a predominantly Indian community. My best friend’s brother married an Indian film star and our street threw out the red carpet, celebrating the wedding for three days and nights. This beautiful celebrity taught me and other children how to dance, Bollywood-style. It is my Indian neighbours I have to thank for opening my eyes to libraries, teaching me to swim, yoga, how to make a perfectly round chapati and the perfect cup of tea.
Spike Island – Memory of a Military Hospital by Southampton writer Philip Hoare (Harper Collins paperback)
Corrections: I do not profess to be an expert on the cultures that make up my City. I am happy to take any corrections or additions to my posts.
If you read General G Tony’s comment, you will realise that I have had to adjust my post. I assumed that British piers were influenced by Indian architecture. I have been informed now that they were more influenced by Versailles in a Rococo fashion. However the Prince Regent was a great fan in of Indian architecture and he himself influenced our seaside culture.
For any student thinking of taking a course at any of the universities or colleges here in Southampton, let me assure you, that this city is your oyster. It’s not just the friendliness or great night-life either.
At one time ‘digs’ were a choice of a few halls of residence or slum landlords. In an effort to improve the situation for students, council policy was implemented to register all student accommodation. Once a building block or house in multiple occupation (HMO) has been designated for students use, no-one else can live there unless declared otherwise. Tax-free building incentives were implemented and student houses are free of having to pay council tax. So now there is such a glut of apartments and shared housing for students that those from neighbouring colleges in towns such as Winchester, Bournemouth and Portsmouth, have come to live here and commute.
And yet more and more blocks of students apartments, even maisonettes, are being built on every available empty space in the centre and in desirable areas of my city.
The initial thinking was that the slum landlords, some of whom own over 100 houses with rooms for rent, will be forced to sell their empty properties and families will be able to buy them. Though, sadly, this is not proving to be the case. The high taxes second home owners would have to pay if they sold-up, has meant that they are now filling them up with young immigrant workers, who are earning as much as they can to send back home, whilst living in cheap, substandard conditions.
In Southampton this has increased, rather than eased off a shortage of rented accommodation for couples or families, and a shortage of housing generally for any working people who want to get on the housing ladder. Homelessness has increased steadily over the last 10 years and by 30 percent over the previous year, according to local reports. This is not party political – it is a sweet dose of reality.
We ourselves live in a part-rented house which the owner wants to sell and we need to move, again. It is a problem. HMOs are not an option for us oldies, that value our privacy, and no-one wants to lend us a mortgage at our ages.
It is assumed that most retired people have settled into their comfortably off houses and expect to downsize eventually to a retirement home. Unfortunately we fall outside this net, due in part to having lived abroad (at one time in a 6-bed villa with a pool and yacht in the harbour, before we moved back to England). We have gone through a series of unfortunate events. Briefly: Cancer, stolen identity theft and an announcement from the DWP that £12,000 in overpaid pensions to my husband (needs to be repaid as they had made a mistake in 2007). It looked as though we might have to leave our beloved Southampton and head elsewhere.
Then, we realised that there were lots of cheap old boats, rotting in marinas along the Solent coastline. The Southampton Boat Show last year proved that people are after large new luxury yachts and the bottom has fallen out of the second-hand boat market. Marina fees are a hell of a lot cheaper than rent. We could live on a boat and even go on holiday by taking our ‘home’ with us.
So that optimistic thought is now our aim. We are dejunking, giving away or selling all our accumulated belongings (proving slow) and going to live on a boat!
We will be very busy for a while – my husband will be 80 years of age this year and we are both slower than we used to be, so please excuse me if I don’t read and comment on as many of my regular bloggers’ posts, as I normally do for a few months. I will let every one how I get on and keep up some photo challenges. I will be back
I love Shakespeare. Throughout the year Britain is celebrating Shakespeare 400.
Shakespeare died on his birthday, 23rd April 400 years ago. This is also St George’s Day (patron Saint of England). So this weekend there are special celebrations throughout the regions. I am going to many and thought I would highlight Shakespeare and his Southampton connections:
The Earl of Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton was Shakespeare’s patron, especially during the era of The Globe theatre. Shakespeare made such a devoted dedication in his sonnet The Rape of Lucrece to Wriothesley, that many thought that there may have been a sexual relationship between the two, though I like others feel that is was just the language of the day.
The Earl’s country seat was outside of the town of Southampton, but still in Hampshire, in Titchfield. Although his wife lived there, Henry Wriothesley spent much of his time in London, as did Shakespeare.
The Earl is also believed to have frequented or owned a pub in Southampton’s City Centre where travelling actors lodged. Some say this was The Bull’s Head(now referred to as The Tudor Merchant’s House); others say it was The Red Lion Inn. It was a council chamber where the trial of traitors from The Southampton Plot took place before it became an inn. In Henry V Act II, scene II, Shakespeare has the king sentence the plotters in the Southampton council chamber, then immediately set sail from the port of Southampton for Agincourt. Shakespeare must have listened to the Earl mention the Red Lion or some believe that Shakespeare may have had a drink there himself.
Shakespearean actors have performed at the Bargate and in theatres around the town since Elizabethan times, including Shakespeare’s own touring actors. Every British monarch has passed through this Bargate on their way to Southampton’s Port. Hangings once took place at the Bargate and according to legend The Southampton Plot traitors, that were written about in Henry V Act II, scene II,were hanged here.
Southampton’s West Gate and Port
The soldiers who boarded ships at Southampton for the D-Day invasion, took inspiration from Shakespeare’s Henry V. Some of Henry V troops passed through Southampton’s West Gate to set sail from Southampton to the Battle of Agincourt.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
Daring Theatre in Southampton
Southampton has a long reputation for modern or innovative theatre, Ira Aldridge is recorded as the first black Shakespearean actor. He had a limited experience of acting when he arrived from New York by ship, on which he worked as crew, in 1824. But following drama lessons and a stint at a University in Scotland, he became one of the highest paid stage actors in the world.
Ira was especially loved here in the South. He performed on stage in Southampton in the title role of Shakespeare’s Othello in 1828.
Many actresses, such as Sarah Siddons(she frequently visited Southampton and there is a theatre group named after her here: http://www.sarahsiddonsfanclub.org ) and sisters Charlotte and Susan Cushman have said to have performed Shakespearean roles in Southampton in the late 1800s. Women were considered too titillating to be allowed to perform Shakespeare at London theatres at that time and certainly would not have been allowed male roles.
Quotes used are from Henry V Act III Scene 1 (Before Harfleur)
The Grande Old Post Office, 58-9 High Street, Southampton. Grade 2 listed building that has laid empty for some time. Now up for let.
The town’s former Hight Street post office was opened on 5th November 1892.
Built in the Flemish style of terracotta brick with dressings. It is three storeys high surmounted by three elaborate pediments. Below the pediments is a modillion cornice with a frieze. The building has five mullioned and transomed casement windows on the second and first floors. On the ground floor, there are four round-headed windows with a projecting pedimented porch supported on console brackets to the left. In the pediment, there is a moulded crown. Beneath the building is a 14th-century vault, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The upper floors have been converted into apartments.
Planning permission has been granted to convert the ground floor into a restaurant or possible retail enterprise.
The Post Office miraculously survived WWII bombing, including the 1940 Blitz.
In response to WordPress challenge: Color Your World. Where a calendar has a different Crayola Crayon colour as a photo promt.