It is a great time to relax when you go home for Christmas. I love spoiling my daughter. However some people have no homes to go to…
It has been very frosty in the UK and weather forecasters are predicting a white Christmas this year, which is no fun for those who have nowhere to go and are sleeping rough. Why not make a gift of a night in a homeless shelter or buy a Christmas dinner for someone homeless this year?
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
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”.
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
Much as I love Southampton, which has some wonderful positive things to offer cruise ship tourists (which I shall get around to writing about more – I am usually a positive person) these are some snaps from my home city in support of Banksy’s Dismaland.
If you have not heard of Dismaland then please do an image search online. This is a ‘bemusement’ park that has been opened up in South-West England, for six weeks, by a group of 59 British artists including: Damien Hirst, Jenny Holzer, Jimmy Cauty, Bill Barminski, Caitlin Cherry, Polly Morgan, Josh Keyes, Mike Ross, David Shrigley, Bäst, and Espo… headed by Banksy. Actors (as disgruntled security guards and staff) and writers have also been employed (Julie Birchill re-wrote a macabre Punch & Judy script).
The Tropicana swimming resort in Weston-super-Mare, a one-time holiday-haven, has been turned into an anarchistic statement about Western capitalism – A Disneyland gone wrong.
Banksy hails from near-by Bristol. He possibly recalls as a child, summer days on the sands and pier at Weston-Super-Mare, which have deteriorated now. The type of British family that used to spend their holiday here, no longer have money for resorts. Pictures like this can be found at tourist areas throughout Europe. In London, visitors are sad not to meet people like characters from Downton Abbey.
But don’t book £3 tickets on the Dismaland website, or you will just be trolled. The project highlights the down-side of Britain emulating USA-style boom and bust financial strategies. Our boom from the 1990s sub-prime-type/hedge-funding and such, burst its bubble in 2008. Although the Government has announced that the Country is now “doing well” – giving themselves generous pay-rises; people argue that these strategies have little way of ‘trickling down’ any benefit to the common people. There is also a sense of childhood loss, a feeling of being cheated by the false promises of a fairytale with a happy ending.
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
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.
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.
The famous graffiti artist, Banksy, is believed to have added a mural of a child holding a balloon to the slogan, ‘No Future’ on a wall in the Bevois Valley area about five years ago. Southampton used to have many good graffiti artists in the late 70s, early 80s in the Punk era. But some of the can-sprayers had some bad handwriting. “No Future” was a common slogan then. Though the Council’s zero tolerance towards graffiti (except that commissioned in the skateboard area of Hoglands Park) means that any illegal spraying or fly-posting is immediately ‘whitewashed’. Alas this piece of art disappeared almost as soon as it appeared.