Colour My World: Salmon

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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.

Photos by Southampton Old Lady
Colour photos by Southampton Old Lady

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.

southampton blitz 6

 

 

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.

To see more photos in the challenge or to submit your own, visit: http://jennifernicholewells.com/2016/03/29/color-your-world-salmon/

Amazing People Nº4: Julia Hilling (1925-ish – 2015)

Julia Hilling, one of my most charming friends died last August.

Her stage name was Julia Bretton. She began her career at the age of 17 as a Windmill Girl at London’s Windmill Theatre.

The Windmill was known worldwide as the theatre that “never closed” or should that be “never clothed”?  Scantily-clad beauties performed in this basement theatre throughout WWII to keep up the morale of allies and locals alike. It was seen as an important beacon to keep spirits alight during a frightening time and always remained open while bombs dropped.

It was the subject of the award winning film “Mrs Henderson Presents” starring Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins, and is currently being staged as a musical at the Nöel Coward Theatre in London’s West End.

Promotional photo for "Mrs Henderson Presents" at the Noel Coward Theatre, London
Promotional photo for “Mrs Henderson Presents” at the Noel Coward Theatre, London

julia windmill

Julia explained to me how, with the other ‘girls’ she slept at the theatre in their dressing room while performing in revues alongside people like Sir Bruce Forsyth. “We were well looked after and any men backstage behaved very gentlemanly”.

As well as starring in other staged musicals as Julia Bretton, she had minor roles in films (talkies) in the1940s.

She outlived five husbands – all of whom were, “absolutely wonderful! – “I loved them all!”  One of whom is buried in a cemetery in the New Forest, Hampshire, but she could never remember whether it was in Lymington or Lyndhurst.

Julia 4I first met her when I called auditions in the mid-90s. She had retired to live in Spain and I was directing The Sleeping Beauty, a pantomime I had drafted for the Salon Variétes theatre in Fuengirola. Julia was having problems remembering lines and moving around the stage by that time, but she had such audience charisma and was so regal that I gave her the part as the Queen, sat her on a throne and taped her lines to props. She was marvellous and even brought her own little Spanish hairdresser to tidy up her locks while she was off-stage.

Although much older than me, we remained friends as we both had a love of opera and Cole Porter. She did a wonderful rendition of “Mad About the Boy” and she belly-danced at my 50th birthday party. When theatre crowds are renowned to be bitchy, no-one I know has ever heard Julia utter a bad word about anyone.

Julia 3

In 2005 she, along with other colleagues on the Costa del Sol, was sold a dodgy, equity-release investment package by fraudulent financial advisors. After handing over the deeds to her home in return for living expenses until death, she was only given living expenses by the Rothschild bank for the first two years, then was expected to hand over her apartment. She took all this in her stride and refused to move.

This enigmatic woman deserves to be on the amazing-people-I-have-known list. She had charm, class and even well into her 80s, had sex-appeal.

 

Julia talking to Sid at the Manilla Bar, Costa del Sol 2014
Julia talking to Sid at the Manilla Bar, Costa del Sol 2014

Before I left to return to England she started dating another ‘amazing’ friend of mine called Sid – a famous Talk of the Town pianist who accompanied 1960s divas from Shirley Bassey to Julie Andrews.

Julia had a big sexual appetite apparently, and despite both being in their 80s then, Sid complained about the amount of viagra he was having to take to keep up. Sadly he also died. So she outlived him too.

My biggest memory is bumping into her in a Lidl supermarket one morning. She was wafting around with a trolley, just after opening time, wearing a cocktail dress and full make-up including false eyelashes. “Julia! Look at you –  always so glamorous”  I remarked.

“Oh! I haven’t been home yet, Darling!” She explained: “I’ve been to a party. It lasted all night!”

RIP Julia. Life is a cabaret old chum!

The Battle

 

Where am I?

Faced down,

It’s hot.

I’m parched.

Dusty ditch?

Roadside gutter?

Whose territory?

What war?

What uniform?

What happened?

Missile, land mine?

Shock

confusion

exhaustion

eyes closed

attached at wrist?

Gun?

Can’t feel my body

Voices nearing

don’t flinch

play dead.

 

English words

sigh with relief…

women hurry

to my aid

turn me over

place mask over mouth

I breath

They leave

I pass out

Waking later

gagging, coughing

alone

in hospital room

attached to breathing apparatus

hooked to a drip-stand

get up and fight

never give up

It’s a battle with Cancer

© Southampton Old Lady 2013

I often wondered why people referred to it as a “battle” with Cancer.  It is very much fight or flee combat. While staying in hospital and undergoing chemotherapy for Hodgkins Lymphoma,  I hallucinated that I was at war. Two nurses arrived and put a breathing apparatus on me while I was semi-conscious then left.  I heard muffled instructions but awoke hours later with the mask still on.

As you realise, I survived and lived to tell this tale.

Valentine’s Day

This is a dedication to all those who grieve over loved ones on the 14th of February.

I am fortunate that the love-of-my-life and I will be together to celebrate this day which will hopefully be a happy occasion, but I am so aware of those who find it difficult to cope on St Valentine’s Day. You might be widowed, have a a family member snatched away by Cancer or grieving for someone who is still alive but gone from you. My heart goes out to the parents of those massacred by bullets that commemorate this day.  Whatever your grief this is for you…

YouTube link to David Bowie singing Valentine’s Day: https://youtu.be/S4R8HTIgHUU

Netflix – The Crown

the-crown-netflixStreets are being blown up in Winchester today – not far from my city in Hampshire, as part of Netlflix/Sony filming a big-budget historical drama series called The Crown.

College Street and Kingsgate Street have all been cordoned off  except for actors costumed in 40s attire, and rubble has been placed outside The Wykeham Arms pub for the re-enactment of World War II scenes.

The Wykeham Arms

The Wykeham Pub and Cornflowers on College Street, Winchester
The Wykeham Pub and Cornflowers on College Street, Winchester

www.dailyecho.co.uk/photographs/news_galleries/2016/january/the_crown_in_winchester

I expect that Hampshire Council will well-paid for this inconvenience – at £100 million, the filming budget is said to be the most expensive television show ever produced in Britain.

My family and friends have travelled to various parts of Britain to work as extras since filming commenced last October. Despite having signed secrecy contracts, the scenes at weddings, funerals and stately homes are all over the internet. Netflix have also released a trailor on YouTube: https://youtu.be/n8Q0bJ_zO7w  More stills appear on https://youtu.be/P8fodkCDKLQ

The first two of an eventual series of six, concentrate on the Queen’s early years, her marriage to Prince Phillip, the death of King George IV, her Coronation and the Blitz. These are expected to be released all in one go this Autumn, after the last series of Downton Abbey has been aired in USA and Canada.

If the Netflix binge-watch is financially successful (and these sort of dramas have world-wide appeal) the next two series will be filmed.

The Crown’s creator is Peter Morgan (of award-winning films The Queen and Frost/Nixon). It stars Claire Foy (Anne Boleyn in the Wolf Hall series) as Princess Elizabeth, Matt Smith (Dr Who) as Prince Phillip and American actor John Lithgow as a very convincing Churchill.

UPDATE 4th NOVEMBER 2016 – The first 10 of the series is being released on Netflix tonight.

Holyrood

There is a plaque on a large anchor outside a derelict church in Southampton’s High Street (QE2 Mile) which reads: The Church of Holyrood erected on this site in 1320 was damaged by enemy action on 30 Nov 1940. Known for centuries as the church of the sailors, the ruins have been preserved by the people of Southampton as a memorial and garden of rest, dedicated to those who served in the Merchant Navy and lost their lives at sea.

There are many memorials in this peaceful place to those lost at sea. From mediaeval captains that went down with their ship to those bombed while bringing supplies during WWII.

There is a special corner dedicated to the crew who drowned when the Titanic sank. Of her 1,517 victims, Southampton was home to 538 of the 685 crew members who died on this White Star liner’s fateful crossing to New York on the 15th of April 1912. It was like our 9/11 – our city lost a generation.

gospel choir singing in the Merchant Seamen's Memorial (this was once Holy Rood Church) during Music in the City festival, Southampton. © Southampton Old Lady
Gospel choir singing in the Merchant Seamen’s Memorial (this was once Holyrood Church) during Music in the City festival, Southampton. © Southampton Old Lady
Holyrood bells, Southampton. © Southampton Old Lady
Holyrood bells, Southampton. © Southampton Old Lady

I have been meaning to write about the Holyrood neighbourhood of Southampton for some time.  In the 1960s a new area of council flats were developed on that which was raized to the ground by the Blitz. In the last decade Southampton council has employed mural artists and sculptors to reveal the history of the area. However, Marie Keats, another Southampton blogger I follow, has been able to do this so much better than I on her ‘I Walk Alone” wordpress site – so if you are interested in her lovely mural walk around the area please do visit her blog: http://www.iwalkalone.co.uk/?p=22590

Victorian Festival of Christmas 2015

Oliver characters: Mrs Bedwin, Bill Sykes with his dog Bullseye and Nancy.
Oliver characters: Mrs Bedwin, Bill Sykes with his dog Bullseye and Nancy.

I took part in The Victorian Festival of Christmas at Portsmouth’s Historical Dockyard this year. If you have ever wandered why so many British actors get the best parts in Hollywood movies, then perhaps take a look at this year’s festival slide show on YouTube (by photographer Steve Spurgin)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mPDpbDtbO8

Most chimney sweeps were children.
Most chimney sweeps were children.
The prostitutes
The prostitutes
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Mr Darcy, Florence Nightingale, Prince George, Lady Pennywhistle.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Mr Darcy, Florence Nightingale, Prince George, Lady Pennywhistle.
Queen Victoria with John Brown
Queen Victoria with John Brown

With very little rehearsal, over 400 volunteers dressed in Victorian costume to bring this attraction to life, for thousands of tourists from all over the globe.

In the UK, we live and breath theatre from an early age, starting with making costumes to take part in the school’s nativity play. History is now taught by people dressing up and re-enacting the period they are learning about, be it Romans or WWII. To learn Shakespeare for exams we do not just read the play, we act it. More people belong to amateur drama groups in Britain than sports societies.

Portsmouth is the birthplace of Charles Dickens. The Historical Dockyard is where centuries-old ships, such as Nelson’s Flagship The Victory, HMS Warrior and The Mary Rose etc are moored.

charles_dickens_plaque_portsmouth

 

The dry dock is also where parts of Les Miserables was filmed. So all these scenes were brought to life by costumed actors, singers, school groups, historical and Victorian interest societies such as steam-punks or the Victorian Strollers.People from 5 to 80 years-of-age played famous Victorian or Dickensian characters for three full days and with very little breaks. It was in the open air while the tale-end of Hurricane Desmond was blowing a gale and in addition there were a few down-pours.

Suffragettes
Suffragettes

First visitors are greeted by carollers, then those in Victorian Uniforms, dockyard workers, stilt-walking-police, postal clerks, servicemen, sailors. Then by beggars, prostitutes and suffragettes – undertakers, a ruthless judge in a courtroom setting, prisoners, gliding angels, pearly kings & queens singing cockney musical hall ditties, workhouse children being enticed to steal by Fagin and the Artful Dodger, chimney sweeps, a green-gowned Father Christmas. There were snow machines, carousels, a Downton-Abbey type dinner table set with turkey and trimmings, various stage sets. There were three a pubs – one mock, one real with bands singing sea shanties and even an inflatable one. There was a market selling Christmas crafts and fayre from mulled cider to hog roasts.

Victorian Dinner Party
Victorian Dinner Party

I was part of Groundlings Theatre that organised around 200 of us. I played an aristocratic snob preaching Victorian manners. “It is the height of rudeness to have one’s elbows on the table.”  At the end of each sketch, Charles the Butler pushes a custard pie in my face. I endured around 40 of those!

Police with penny farthing bicycles.
Police with penny farthing bicycles.
Children learn about Victorian history by dressing up
Children learn about Victorian history by dressing up

The finale each year is a parade lead by a full pipe band in kilts and bear-skins and headed by Queen Victoria. We were not allowed to carry phones and cameras, so I could only took a few snap-shots in the Green Room. Most of these photos are from Portsmouth News.

Father Christmas at the helm.
Father Christmas at the helm.

For more info about Portsmouth Historical Dockyard visit: www.historicdockyard.co.uk

Weekly Photo Challenge: Victory

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Victory.”

Canon on board HMS Victory, Nelsons 104-gun flagship which won the Battle of Trafalgar
Canon on board HMS Victory, Nelsons 104-gun flagship of a fleet which won the Battle of Trafalgar

HMS Victory was Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Built in 1758, she is the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission and is one of the most visited museum ships moored at Portsmouth, England, where I took these photos.

Sleeping quarter onboard HMS Victory
Able seaman bunks onboard HMS Victory
Officer's Uniform displayed onboard HMS Victory
Officer’s Uniform displayed onboard HMS Victory
Nelson's Column guarded by Lions in Trafalgar Square, London
Nelson’s Column guarded by Lions in Trafalgar Square, London

27 British ships led by Nelson onboard The Victory, defeated 33 French and Spanish ships under French Admiral Villeneuve just west of Cape Trafalgar, Atlantic.

The Franco-Spanish fleet lost 22 ships, without a single British vessel being lost. The British victory spectacularly confirmed the naval supremacy that Britain had established during the 18th Century and was mainly achieved because of Nelson’s new style of naval tactics.

HMS Victory is one of the most visited museum ships moored at Portsmouth Historical Dockyard www.historicdockyard.co.uk
HMS Victory is one of the most visited museum ships moored at Portsmouth Historical Dockyard
Plaque on the part of the Deck where Nelson Fell at Trafalgar despite winning the battle.
Plaque on the exact part of the deck where Nelson Fell despite winning the Battle of Trafalgar.

Nelson was shot by a French musketeer during this battle and died shortly after.

To this day Nelson is regarded as one of Britain’s greatest war heroes and his statue on tall pilar stands in London’s Trafalgar Square.

To visit Portsmouth’s Historical Dockyard visit http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk

Further photos I took accompany my poem ‘Portsmouth’:  https://southamptonoldlady.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/portsmouth/

Two Minutes Silence

eleventh hour, eleventh day, eleventh month …

Belgian Soldiers War Graves, some of the many nationalities of soldiers buried at Southampton Common Old Cemetery.
Belgian Soldiers WW1 Graves, some of the many nationalities of soldiers buried at Southampton Common Old Cemetery if they did not get lost on the field.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them …

From For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon