Southampton is not usually forthcoming on Christmas lights as much as other cities – What with the Christmas market and so many lights from shops, ships and offices – But, to open up a leisure area for Christmas at West Quay malls this year, a stunning loop of 7-minute, light and sound illuminations ran on our Old Town Wall at the weekend.
Depicted, was the history of Southampton’s port, which focused on departures of: Henry V troops leaving for Agincourt, The Mayflower with Pilgrims preparing for America, The Titanic leaving for New York, boats and planes in WW2 manoeuvres, J-Class yachts, powerboats, hovercraft, container-ships and so on.
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
Southampton Docks is packed with Mass Transit scenes. Every type of vehicle from Rolls Royces and Land Rovers to JCBs and camper-vans, are exported around the world. Southampton was once “Home of the Ford Transit”. This was a Ford factory that produced white (though sometimes other colours) commercial vans, which employed thousands of people in my home town.
Camden Lock’s ‘Global Kitchen’ in London is a great place to go for dinner* or lunch. The market stalls have a plethora or fresh dishes cooked by various nationalities that go to make up London (observed by strict food health regulations). Choose your fare and eat at communal tables under the canopy or by the river. Open 7 days from 10am to 6pm. www.camdenlockmarket.com
*When is dinnertime in Britain? This it depends on which Class you are from.
The upper-classes, including those at private boarding schools have dinner around 8pm and dress up (you’ve seen Downton Abbey?) The day’s feasting order is: breakfast – morning coffee – lunch – afternoon tea (or tiffin for those returned from the Continent) – dinner.
But for the working classes: including state school children, dinnertime falls somewhere between 12 noon and 2pm. These hours were settled during the Industrial Revolution in the Victorian era. Factory workers would go home for an hour’s dinnertime when the bell rang and be re-fuelled on a big meal for manual labour, served up by a mother or daughter who remained at home slaving over a hot stove. Order: Breakfast – tea break (at work) – dinner – tea (high tea which includes food) – (+ supper for those in heavy manual trades). There were usually stalls selling beer at the end of a shift at the factory gates.
Theatre performers and crew traditionally have their dinnertime in the middle of the day also, so that they fully charged for rushing about the stage in the evening.
For the last few decades however, industries and schools have tried to standardise the hour’s break as ‘lunchtime’. However this is still confusing when for many children of working parents, this may still be their main meal of the day.
Everyone seems to be writing obituaries to David Bowie who, sadly, died yesterday, so I will try not to repeat anything from those. I just want to give thanks for the profound influence he had on my life. He gave me belief in myself.
I first heard of him around 1965 when David Bowie and the Buzz performed in Southampton. Everyone thought that this androgynous bloke who dressed a bit different was enigmatic. He had one of those distinctive voices too whereby you could still hear his London accent even though he was singing a range of things. In 1969 Bowie wrote Space Oddity in time for the first man on the moon – it had got on Top of the Pops by 1970 and at this time he was wearing ‘really weird clothes’.
I had been brought up in second-hand clothes and had always felt an outsider because of it, so I created my own style. Bowie not only made me feel okay, he made me feel cool. Suddenly I was an ‘it girl’. In the early 70s he was due to back Lou Reed on his Transformer tour at Southampton Guildhall. Everyone rushed for tickets – mainly to see David Bowie, but I couldn’t get hold of one. I waited outside the Civic Centre and just begged others to sell me their ticket. As one woman had only really wanted to see Lou Reed, she agreed to come out for five minutes and lend me her ticket for one song if I bought her a pack of cigarettes, around 5/- or there-abouts (25p in the new decimal currency).
Bowie was dressed so theatrically – I vowed then to always do the same. The song I listened to? Life on Mars – which I adopted as if it had been written for me.
life on Mars
It’s a God awful small affair To the girl with the mousey hair, But her mummy is yelling, “No!” And her daddy has told her to go, But her friend is no where to be seen. Now she walks through her sunken dream To the seats with the clearest view And she’s hooked to the silver screen, But the film is saddenin’ bore For she’s lived it ten times or more. She could spit in the eyes of fools As they ask her to focus on
Sailors Fighting in the dance hall. Oh man! Look at those cavemen go. It’s the freakiest show. Take a look at the lawman Beating up the wrong guy. Oh man! Wonder if he’ll ever know He’s in the best-selling show. Is there Life On Mars?
Later in the early 80s a band consisting of four blokes from Winchester, named 4 People I Have Known, asked me to write them a song. Heavily influenced by Life on Mars, I wrote a songalong the lines of:
Just finished with my girl
and I’m feelin’ pretty mean
Went down into town
to watch the silver screen
but its dogs eating children
(can’t remember this bit)
so I pick up someone new and leave
Permissive society, such variety
Man! Is this the only way to live?
Embarrassing now when I look back, but DJ John Peel liked it and played it his radio show.
David Bowie played at Southampton Guildhall on two or three more tours, but as an art student I couldn’t afford the rocketing prices. I did get all of his albums though and happily moved along all the trends from Glam Rock to Punk to New Romantics with all the glamour and creativity that dressing up and escaping poverty could bring.