Advent 3: Home for Christmas

 

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Breakfast in bed © Southampton Old Lady

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…

Southampton homeless in doorway
It is estimated that 117,000 children will be homeless in the UK this Christmas. London, Manchester and other cities and especially warmer cities in the South also have high numbers of rough sleepers that are difficult to calculate.    Photo of homeless sleeping in the City of Southampton © Southampton Old Lady

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?

It is estimated that 117,000 children will be homeless in the UK this Christmas

For homeless young people who have run away to London there is Centre Point’s Home For Christmas appeal – click here

In my area the Society of St James organises such for the homeless click here

Or there is Crisis at Christmas click here

There must be many organisations in your area that you can help: A home is where the heart is.

Also in response to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge: Relax

 

Southampton Communities: Indian

The second in my series of the many different cultures that go to make up my city.

Derber room

Kuti's Royal Thai Restaurant

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.

Sikhs

Maharajah Dulip Singh
Maharaja Duleep Singh 1845

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 here also 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.

royal victoria Hosptial Netley

Netley-Sikh-troops
Sikh troops recuperating at Netley from injuries sustained in the first world war. Photo thanks: Marion Ivey/The Guardian

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.

SOL5.9.15 Juniper 14

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.

Further reading:

The Sikhs in Southampton by Ranjeet Singh Shahi

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.

 

 

Southampton – a paradise for students

One of many new blocks of student apartments in Southampton's Centre, with gym, Co-op supermarket. Near all amenities. 4 mins walk to Central train station.
One of many new blocks of student apartments in Southampton’s Centre, with gym, Co-op supermarket. Near all amenities. 4 mins walk to Central train station.

P1150976 P1150545_2 student sign 3student sign1

 

Shopping Centre will pulled down to make a large student accommodation complex of flats and maisonettes.
Shopping Centre will pulled down to make a large student accommodation complex of flats and maisonettes.

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.

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Listed building in town with plaque to birthplace of  John Everett Millais, is to become student flats
Listed building in town with plaque to birthplace of John Everett Millais, is to become student flats

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.student sign 2

P1150544_2We 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.P1150981

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.

Make yourselves at home
Make yourselves at home

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

Sol

Homeless and Hopeless in Southampton

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…

Homeless teenager feeling very depressed and trying to keep warm
Homeless teenager feeling very depressed and trying to keep warm in Southampton’s town centre

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.

Homeless couple who met on the streets. He is Eastern European, He lost his 0-hours contract job after an accident and was unaware of  sickness pay. She used to have an antiques business which failed.
Homeless couple who met on the streets. He is Eastern European, He lost his 0-hours contract job after an accident and was unaware of sickness pay. She had an antiques business which failed.
This couple live permanently here and have  made a tent-like structure to gain shelter and some privacy
This couple live permanently here and have made a tent-like structure to gain shelter and some privacy
This ex-serviceman is honoured with medals. He suffers  from Post Traumatic Distress Disorder since he came back from Afghanistan. His family were evicted for non-payment of rent after benefits were stopped after a discrepancy. His two children are staying with friends and he is hoping to raise enough money today so that he can spend an evening in a hostel so that he and his wife can be together.
This ex-serviceman claims he is honoured with medals. He suffers from Post Traumatic Distress Disorder since he came back from Afghanistan. His family were evicted for non-payment of rent after benefits were stopped after a discrepancy. His two children are staying with friends and he is hoping to raise enough money today so that he can spend an evening in a hostel so that he and his wife can be together.
These two women were both evicted onto the streets from a block of flats in Portsmouth. Everyone in the block who owed rent were evicted, some have come to Southampton to try and find work.
These two women were both evicted onto the streets from a block of flats in Portsmouth. Everyone in the block who owed rent were evicted, some have come to Southampton to try and find work.

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.

P1130006Before 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).

A New Help The Homeless in Southampton Crowdfunder: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-the-homeless-in-southampton
A New Help The Homeless in Southampton Crowdfunder: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/help-the-homeless-in-southampton

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”.

homeless man with his dogs in Salisbury
Homeless man with his dogs in Salisbury

So how is it where you are?

Refugee Crisis: What The Media Is Hiding

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

 

Dismaland – Reply to Banksy & Co

Sunbathing on the beach
Sunbathing on the beach
Bookshop/cafe closure notice
Bookshop/cafe closure notice

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.

All photos © Southampton old lady

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).

Homeless youth under The Bargate of Southampton's Medieval wall.
Homeless youth under The Bargate of Southampton’s Medieval wall.

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.

Health lottery advertisement shines bright in bad weather outside Waitrose (a middle class supermarket)
Health lottery advertisement shines bright in bad weather outside Waitrose (an up-market supermarket)
The Royal Pier, which burnt down in the 1970s.
The Royal Pier in Southampton has not been repaired since it burnt down in the 1970s.
Closer view of the pier.
Closer view of the pier.
Prickly Justice
Prickly Justice
Northam Bridge Graffiti
Northam Bridge Graffiti
River Itchen cycle path - west side
River Itchen cycle path – west side
Please return your shopping trolley
Please return your shopping trolley
Riverside apartments (or they could be)
Riverside apartments (or it could be)
Site of television studios - build here please.
Brown site that used to be television studios – build homes here please.
Itchen River from Roman East site
Itchen River from Roman East-side
Council allowed 'graffiti' to encourage cycling complete with chewing gum spots.
Council allowed ‘graffiti’ to encourage cycling. Complete with chewing gum spots.
The sky line
The sky line
Memorial bench at victoria Country Park looking out on Southampton Water
Memorial bench at Royal Victoria Country Park looking out on Southampton Water
Sunbathing II at the waterfront
Sunbathing II at the waterfront
Park restrictions: Do not pass go... Different signs for English and Polish speakers.
Park restrictions: Different signs for different languages
A traditional pub closes every day.
A traditional pub closes every day.
Shirley Park Hotel - closed
Shirley Park Hotel – closed
Tanning salon at what was once the Regent Cinema
Tanning salon at what was once the Regent Cinema
Beauty Parlours in the hope of a change to feel better.
Beauty Parlours offer hope of a change to feel better. Not something I could afford or want.
Jonas Nichols Square (he gave his name to Nicholstown) in the morning.
Jonas Nichols Square (he gave his name to Nicholstown) in the morning.
Where I used to buy vegetables when Kingsland Market was closed.
Where I used to buy vegetables when Kingsland Market was closed.
off-licence in residential area
Late off-licence in residential area
Fly-tipped computer desk in green area
Fly-tipped computer desk in green area
Keep out of here. (Ministry of Defence).
Keep out of here. (Ministry of Defence).
Loose paving slabs all over the City centre - watch your step.
Loose paving slabs all over the City centre – watch your step.
Unfortunate name but yes. Isis 'gentlemans' club - in Southampton's High Street (Above Bar).
Unfortunate name but yes. Isis ‘Gentleman’s’ club – in Southampton’s High Street (Above Bar).
For Your Eyes Only - mens lap dance club on the QE2 Mile
For Your Eyes Only – another club for men (table-dancing) on the QE2 Mile
English Heritage Listed II street with Police car.
Grade II Listed street with house cordoned off for drugs bust.
Empty commerce
Empty commerce
The Cricket Pavilion
The cricket pavilion in a park where cricket is not allowed
A reminder of the Banksy murial that was removed in Southampton
A reminder of the Banksy mural’ that was removed in Southampton

You may also want to look at this YouTube video of buskers Phat Bollard performing ‘Millionaires’ in Southampton High Street (contains swearing): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhQBAu0Yypk

Facebook link: https://www.facebook.com/phatbollard. Downloads can be found at Bandcamp: http://phatbollard.bandcamp.com.

 

 

 

 

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).

BANKSY ART ERASED IN SOUTHAMPTON

BanksyNoFuture

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.