Southampton is a Cool Cat

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Southampton is a ferrel catp1170655

stretched out on a grand, green lawn

of broad summer sunshine

Fatted on battered haddock

grappled for against gulls

conquests behind nightclubs

kicked-over street bins

reeking of curry and booze

She cleans her face but not Her furp1100615

Who does She need to impress?

 

Southampton is a cool cat

catch the rat between two rivers

acrobatics at gas works

parkour-flipping around the old town walls

From hooks of port cranes

She sees it all.


Southampton is a wise old catp1090073

hoisted up quick and sailed close-to-wind

Her kittens roam world-wide

thirst knowledge – take notes

stalk students on side-streets

hide beneath Ford Transits

 

Southampton is flatteredp1100968

by the kindness of strangers

You’re fun – She likes to play

Curl up with Her by the coal fire

Stroke, purr, snooze,

Come dawn She’ll yowl you out of bed

Howl and holler ‘til She’s fed

p1120095Southampton is the eternal cat

you will never own

She’ll still be here

when you’ve sneaked out

by the back stairs

never to be forgotten

so longed for on your return

 

p1110933You will find Her asleep on tombs of sea captains

who dutifully sank with their vessels

You will find Her at the dock-gates

preening Her paws for sailors

from mighty merchant boats

who came bearing gifts

in big metal containers

For this ship’s cat

that can stare at Queens

 

p1140027Call Her names across the pitch… Scummer!

But don’t come looking for a fight – Mush!

Or She’ll give you War

Southampton. The great Defender

She sees you in the dark

She will hook out your eyes

with Her steel claws

One Spitfire pounce can kill

Wounds licked  –  She’ll be on her feet again

This Cat has nine lives

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Poem and Photos © Southampton Old Lady

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Titanic Southampton Remembers

Things are busier than ever with our attempt to move and live on a boat at the moment. I haven’t time to devote to well-researched thought-out posts. Instead I have found a lot of what I want to write about already out there.

Four years ago Southampton had a big commemoration – 100 years since the sinking of The Titanic.

Why is it so important to us? Well, out of over 900 crew members 750 were from Southampton. Unless you were in charge of a lifeboat – most of them drowned.

Repercussions of that event over a Century ago are still felt in Southampton today.

If you are interested here is a BBC Documentary presented by Bernard Hill, the British actor who played Captain Smith in the Cameron film. It’s about 25 minutes long, so unless you are interested in Southampton or The Titanic, you are forgiven if you don’t click:

http://wp.me/p6jveM-zH

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

Amazing People 4: The Weed Fighter

Edwina clearing weeds away from grave stones at Southampton Old Cemetery on the Common.
Edwina clearing weeds away from grave stones at Southampton Old Cemetery on the Common

Edwina lives in a small flat not far from The Old Cemetery on Southampton Common. She loves gardening but has no garden of her own. Every week she comes here with her gardening gloves and secateurs to spend the day clearing weeds away from these ancient grave stones. The Cemetery is over-run with weeds, the worst of which to tackle is ivy. Edwina does not belong to the official team of “Friends” (www.fosoc.org), who tidy up the paths etc. nor organisations that clear up the stones of Titanic victims and the famous. She clears up the lost ones that she thinks would benefit from her help. She gets neither pay nor thanks from anyone as no-one even knows she does this task.  So on this ‘Day of the Dead’, I would like to say thank you Edwina – you are amazing!

Portsmouth

P1090275

Good Morrow Old Pompey! 

How the Dickens thee be?

Southampton stops by this fine Summer’s day.

After cash-jab and face-lift, looks young and healthy

I calls on thee ‘Neighbour’,

but ‘Scummer!’ ye names me 

Thee Royal Navy and I Merchant Sea

Yet ye stole my ferry passengers

And should-be-mine bananas fatten your docks

I sings out: “Daylight Come and I Want go home”.

“What Shall We do with a Drunken Sailor?” is your repost

P1090225

Come jolly Jack Tar

slap my back if I slaps thine

Chants we more o’them shanties

and buy me a bevvy

at Spice Island Tavern

we’ll sup to “fair ladies”

my Queens and Princesses

your grand Ark Royals

and here’s to Lord Admiral Nelson

and his flagged Victory.

Your rum and brandy, my wine and beer

We feast on mackerel – all sprightly silver,

 like 30 pieces, or was that of eight?

Lament our great losses:

My tragic Titanic

Your dear Mary Rose. 

Evoke Dunkirk spirit –

How we did save them

by the thousand

How we did fight them

shoulder to shoulder

against the French, and on D-Day, the Blitz …

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Let’s parade to bagpipes along your old battlements

Lungs refresh’d

with Southsea salt-air,

We skiff English pebbles

aim for Spitbank

and against that greasy-grey grave of great sea.

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Thee, and thy gulls, have welcomed me 

And now I must bid fare-thee-well and Adieu..

Let’s stay always Mateys

And repay my Southampton a visit

real soon.

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Note: I wrote this after visiting friends in Portsmouth, about half an hour’s ride away. Historically Southampton and Portsmouth have always been rival ports. It is only heard in football match chants nowadays. But the two cities have always pulled together hard against common enemies.

Amazing People 2: Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II Screen print by Andy Warhol, 1985
Queen Elizabeth II
Screen print by Andy Warhol, 1985

Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest serving monarch today, overtaking Queen Victoria’s reign of 63 years, seven months and two days. So I am placing her in my series of Amazing People.

Queen Elizabeth II at Southampton Docks 2014.
Queen Elizabeth II at Southampton Docks 2014.

When Elizabeth became Queen of United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in 1952, Stalin was still leader of the USSR and Truman President of the USA. She has reigned over 12 British Prime Ministers, starting with Churchill. Most of my life, I didn’t really support having a monarch; I could not understand why my father did and felt very sorry for the British Commonwealth. It was not until I moved abroad in the 1980s that I realised how important she was to the nation’s identity and stability. She has not put a foot wrong ever, and is such a wonderful role model to represent us. She did not opt for her role; like a queen bee, she inherited it and was bred for the part. She is a workaholic, carries out her Duty impeccably and would heroically give up her life to save ours if necessary. I just love her.

I have met Her Majesty twice: once at the 100th Royal Variety show at the Royal Albert Hall, in London, during her diamond jubilee year, and again last year when she came to Southampton, to name P&O’s ship Britannia at her home port.

Psychologists philosophise that, most people will dream about a meeting with their country’s leader at least once during their sleeping lives. I had a vivid dream once, long ago that I was having afternoon tea with the Queen while she sought some confidential female advice from me. Yet I have never dreamt about any of our Prime Ministers. It proves to me who I really looked up to subconsciously.

Princess Elizabeth was car engineer in 1945. She could strip down army vehicles and reassemble them – single handed.
Princess Elizabeth was an engineer and car mechanic in 1945. She could strip down army vehicles and reassemble them – single handed.

Decaying Old Grandeur 4 – The Royal Pier Southampton

The Mecca Ballroom at the end of Southampton's Royal Pier  burnt down in the 1970s
The Mecca Ballroom at the end of Southampton’s Royal Pier
burnt down in the 1970s

Royal Pier postcard

The Royal Pier at its best with the Pavilion leading to the Mecca Dancing ballroom at the pier's end
The Royal Pier at its best in the Victorian/Edwardian eras (top) and 1960s (above), with the Pavilion leading to the  ballroom at the pier’s head

I stare out at the gangrenous remnants of a burnt-out and buckled boardwalk.

I once walked along here in my long white gown to my wedding reception at the pier’s head.

A teenage discotecque, held every Saturday afternoon, paraded the latest fashions.

Mecca Ballroom danced the night away, and in the early hours there were women

Weeping over fights among bouncers and drunks.

Southampton's burnt pier, still an eye-saw in 2015
Southampton’s burnt pier, still an eye-sore in 2015

New wooden jetties, hoping to entice wealthy yachts and bearing ‘No Swimming’ signs, have become diving platforms today for sunburnt disobedient boys in trunks.

Diving boys

Diving through oily green waves of frothy seaweed, they wiggle down with the pipe fish and grey mullet to boat wrecks, over-stewed and stuck in the bed of blue-grey clay, razored with cracked cockleshells and broken bottles.
Here is the underworld city to hermit crabs, sea slugs or the occasional murder victim anchored by heavy slabs of concrete.

by Southampton Old Lady – August 2013

The Royal Pier, Southampton. Pavilion decorated in time for 1953 Queen's Coronation.
The Pavilion at Southampton’s Royal Pier, decorated in time for The Queen’s Coronation in 1953.
Privatised, the Pavilion opens as a restaurant:  'Kuti's Royal Thai Pier' in 2010
The Pavilion opens as a restaurant:
‘Kuti’s Royal Thai Pier’ in 2010

The Bells of St Marys…

St.MarysChurchBells1

How many people realise that “The Bells of St Mary’s” that favourite song that American’s sing at Christmas, was really about the bells in Autumn at St Mary’s Church in Southampton?

Or that The Saints (Southampton footballers) got their name as the first team were bell ringers and choristers at St Mary’s Church?

It is a wonderful gothic church. The centuries-old grave stones are retained as walls and pathways. Most walk through the church yard as a short cut between Kingsland Square Market or Hoglands park to the Southampton City College or St Mary’s Football Stadium.

The Deanery School, where I went, and the vicarage used to be opposite and school fights took place in the church yard. Our school’s end of term services took place here. I read at the eagle pulpit. The school is now flats and halls of residences. Most seem only to use the church yard just as a car park these days.

The Bells of St Mary’s refers to the beautiful peal of bells from the Church that used to heard from the Docks, and her spire could be seen from the Port. Merchant seamen would then head up St Mary’s Street (once known as Love Lane) and meet up with their loved ones in the church yard.

Douglas Furber (13 May 1885 – 20 February 1961) was a British lyricist and playwright. Following a visit to St Mary’s with composer A. Emmett for the installation of the 8 bells (donated by a widow in memory of her husband) the men wrote the song, which was published in 1917. In 1945, Bing Crosby had a hit with “The Bells of St. Mary’s” after it was used as the title song to the film of the same name and has since been recorded by many other artistes (Chet Atkins – Perry Como – Bing Crosby – Sheryl Crow – The Drifters – Clyde McPhatter – Aaron Neville – Leo Sayer – Andy Williams – my favourite versions by Sam Cooke, Vera Lynne, Gordon MacRae).

The bells of St. Mary’s

Ah, hear they are calling

The young loves, the true loves

Who come from the sea

And so my beloved
When red leaves are falling
The love bells shall ring out, ring out

For you and me

The bells of St. Mary’s

Ah, hear they are calling

The young loves, the true loves

Who come from the sea

And so my beloved
When red leaves are falling
The love bells shall ring out, ring out

For you and me

Songwriters:
ADAMS, A. EMMETT/FURBER, DOUGLAS

Published by  Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

To hear the song visit this YouTube site https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaoqV9OaTfo

To hear the peal of bells visit this YouTube site:

To watch the famous film with Bing Cosby and Ingrid Bergman go to this site:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APRNe_3tzdg

(see Wikipedia for more info on this and the church)

Bells St MarysThe bells were brought by train to the station at Southampton Docks, then transported to St Mary’s Church by horse and cart. A big procession lined the streets to see this. It was famous.

St Mary's Church Yard PC

St Marys Church corner

 

P1100904  P1100906

P1100910  P1100908  St Marys Church 7  St Marys Church4   St Marys Church 6

St Mary’s Church is mentioned towards the end of this crowd funder project for an educational game about The Titanic which you can see on You Tube: 

TITANIC GAME http://www.IGG:ME?AT/TITANIC GAME

 

Titanic Graves in old cemetery at Southampton Common

Deanery Titanic Map2

This floor map at Southampton’s SeaCity Museum locates where I went to school (The Deanery School) and Southampton Technical College (now City College) in the St Mary’s area. In the early 1900s it was a Deanery for St Mary’s Church (still is), The Chancery, alms houses and a workhouse.  The red dots depict just some of over 700 addresses in Southampton, of crew members of The Titanic fell victim and died.

When the Titanic sank in April 1912, it was devastating for Southampton. It was our 9/11 as it were.

Most of the crew were from Southampton – Most of the crew, along with its Captain, went down with the ship. Which meant that more than half of those that died listed their address in Southampton. One Street near the then Docks (named Briton or Brintons Street) was demolished as every house in it had a family member that drowned in the disaster – families found living there too painful. If you visit Southampton’s SeaCity museum, one of the floors has a map of the inner city and every red dot is an address of a victim.
Some of the bodies brought back were buried in the cemetery on Southampton Common. Their stones are marked with a blue peg. This is a very old cemetery, which is attended to mainly by volunteers. There is a group of volunteers who give guided walks around the cemetery. The organisation also volunteer a number of other guided walks around Southampton such as a Titanic Trail or one about Jane Austin. It is worth going on a walk with them, if you are fit enough.

Their website is http://seesouthampton.co.uk

Southampton Common Cemetary grave 1b

Southampton Common Cemetary grave 1

Southampton Common Cemetary grave 3

 

Southampton Common Cemetary grave 2

Southampton Common Cemetary grave4