Friday, November 29, 2013

Victorian Festival of Christmas & Portsmouth Harbour

Today my family went to the Victorian Festival of Christmas in the dockyard. My favourite part is riding the carousel, though it always leaves me a little disappointed as my horse never breaks away like in Mary Poppins. I'll put it on the feedback form...

My son managed to get himself a job...

We met a mysterious and beautiful woman with a cheeky sparkle in her eye and hair to die for...

Here's a few photo's of boats etc that I took afterwards (enjoying playing with the new phone!).  

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Sudden 'Smile' at Portsmouth Harbour

To be honest, a family shopping expedition for a new pair of shoes for my son at Gunwharf Quays (or anywhere) is not one of my lovely things to do, especially on a baking hot sunny afternoon!

I'm restricted by family privacy protocols from fully divulging the details and depths of the stress which such an activity brings into the Universe, but I'm sure that the tremors from earlier this afternoon have spun off down the Gunwharf wormhole and are still being measured somewhere out on Alpha Centauri...

However, as we were trudging back to The Hard train station, physically tired and mentally aching, I glanced up and saw a sign on a tall post. There against the backdrop of a cloudless, deep blue sky was a sign which I'd never noticed, despite the fact I must have walked past it hundreds of times before. My partner said it's been there for years. It doesn't seem attached to any particular business and most importantly, it's NOT  TRYING TO SELL ME ANYTHING! It appears to just be standing there, an eccentric and benevolent survivor of some past time, a still and silent appeal to anyone who chances to look skywards, that it's now safe for the positivity and joyfulness mercilessly crushed by shopping trips, to come back out to play.

Unfortunately, because I stopped to look, we missed our train by about 10 seconds which didn't help to get the rest of the family smiling!

I'm sure someone will tell me that actually this sign is a remnant of an old fish and chip shop that was once below it, or an old night club, or it's a subliminal type advert by the Isle of Wight car ferry to get you to wander trancelike into their office asking for tickets to the 'land of smiles' which I've occasionally heard the Isle of Wight described as. But until there's evidence exposing it as a cynical capitalist mind game, I will continue to view it as a lovely symbol of hope that there's life after shopping at Gunwharf :)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Southsea Greenhouse

I recently visited Southsea Greenhouse for the first time and became a member straight away! Although the Southsea Greenhouse Co-Operative have been creating art and selling fruit and veg for a long time, it's only this year that they actually acquired their own permanent site. This is certainly a special gem of a place, which really contributes to Portsmouth's loveliness, hidden next to Cumberland House, the Natural History Museum. From the moment I saw the brightly painted welcoming banner at the front announcing this community garden, I knew it was going to be a project that I'd be hugely interested in.

We were greeted by an enthusiastic volunteer who offered to give us a guided tour and a potted history of the garden. Less than a year ago this was a derelict piece of land, overgrown and neglected. Volunteers worked incredibly hard through the cold months and Spring to create an incredible haven of fertile horticultural cultivation and arty creativity. Volunteers were busy potting more plants while we were looking round.

People are invited to come and help out on 'Dig Tuesdays' between 10-12, but the garden is open most days between 10-4 including weekends and anyone is welcome to come and have a look round, ask questions and get stuck in to tending the beds, and they suggest you bring gardening gloves and boots.

 However it's certainly not all about digging!

Not only is the place a lovely thriving garden now, but it is offering a lot more than that. As the group's mission statement says:
We want to change the way people shop, and help the local community benefit from fresh, locally-grown produce.

We want to reconnect the people of Southsea with where their food and flowers come from; and encourage them to try growing their own produce, or be inspired to create their own craft-works.

We were introduced to the two 'Guardians' of the garden who overlook the activities and offer their vibrant, knitted protection to this little sanctuary:

My favourite sign was an old worn piece of wood informing us that we were "now entering a seedy part of town"!

There was a good illustration of how an old pallet could be upcycled into an effective vertical planting frame, with narrow little beds for herbs.

 The pond was full of life, still some big fat tadpoles and little frogs. Dragonflies and nymphs were pointed out to us and it was fascinating to take a close up look at the cast-off 'skins' from the newly emerged dragonflies.

Amongst the plants and living creatures are also plenty of other characters to keep an eye out for...

Although I haven't participated yet with the weeding, watering or other useful activities to justify taking a break, I was very enticed by the lovely sight of seat, book and mug of tea calling to me...

 There's also a shop where you can buy a wide variety of local and organic fruit and vegetables. Also inside the hut are locally handmade crafts and cards for sale.

 At weekends there are sometimes local craft people who come to exhibit their wares or provide some entertainment. This weekend, my son, the creator of the comic 'The Red Crow' enjoyed having a stall outside!

The Southsea Greenhouse is a huge asset to the city and as a community co-operative is really eager to encourage the active involvement of local people.

To find out more, please visit their great website:
Or like their page on Facebook:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Hilsea Lines (Foxes Forest)

I've spent most of the last month being away from Portsmouth or being unwell, so I haven't been out discovering the loveliness of Portsmouth much at all. However, a couple of days ago, I went with my son and my dog for a walk along the woodland path at Hilsea Lines, which was lovely enough to help my healing process and generate a bit more energy. I recently found out that this place is also called 'Foxes Forest' which I'd never heard of before and I like this name a lot!

We haven't been here for a while and I actually forgot how country-like it can feel, although I do find myself trying to imagine that the roar of the M/A27 is actually the crashing of waves on an amazing beach just the other side of the trees! We park up at the end of Peronne Rd and turn along the path Eastwards. My son likes climbing up the bank which formed the old ramparts and following the top path while I walk along the bottom.

This week I went up the top for the first time and this narrow path feels even more like we could be somewhere out in the country and caught the views through the trees across to the top of Portsdown Hill. For being right on the edge of the city it's not bad for a touch of the wild.

The path at the top of the ramparts

We discovered loads of new little paths which we hadn't seen before so we can come back another day to explore. Some we know will wind down to a road, or a bit of the old fort or to a secret rope swing (I found this but had lost my son down another path at that moment, so he didn't get to play on it this time!). Living in the middle of the city, it's so necessary for me to find places surrounded by tall trees and bursting hedgerows and a view of the sky through a canopy of green leaves. Breathe!

I even took a couple of wild garlic leaves home for my salad. It's growing thickly in places here like a thick garlic carpet and the white garlic flowers growing alongside the clumps of bluebells just encourages good healthy things like breathing and smiling and feeling there is goodness right under our noses if we choose to see and sniff and taste it!

 This wildlife corridor of Hilsea Lines covers over 80 hectares in all, with a diverse variety of habitat from woodland and hedgerows to meadows, marshland and the moat/coastal path. It's encouraging to think that there's lots of it we have yet to explore. I haven't located the whereabouts yet of the National Grid Ref SU 66464 04208. This is apparently the place where radioactive waste was buried in 1978. That is something I want to do before I get too eager with my wild food foraging.

Hilsea Lines even has it's own sacred wood circle! How sacred it's origins are I have no idea and I don't remember it being there a couple of years ago. Does anyone know anything about it or who created it? Time for the imagination to create some fabulous urban mythology...

We'll be next there for a walk with the Portsmouth Little Dogs Meet-Up. If you've got a small dog, do come and join us!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Portsmouth Sure Start Centres

Heavy rain didn't stop a large, vibrant crowd of people turning out for the demo in Portsmouth this weekend to protest against the Government cuts of Sure Start Centres and the plans specifically in Portsmouth to merge centres, cut staff, resources and services. Four hundred Sure Start centres have been closed already over the last couple of years across the country. It was great to see so many kids and parents and heartfelt speeches from the people who know how much Sure Start Centres can mean to families and children.


 The Portsmouth News was there to cover the rally and march:

Leaflets were being handed out to publicise a public meeting at the end of the month:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hares on Portsdown Hill!

I bet I get someone claiming they're rabbits, but they're HARES I tell you, HARES! They were sat upright then raced very fast down the hill as if intent on preventing me from taking a decent photo ;)

It's not far out of the city, but it can provide some far-reaching space and views across open countryside. It's the best place we've found locally for kite-flying and watching meteor showers at night if the time is right. It's a shame what an agricultural monoculture much of our countryside has become. I always look at the vast expanses of bare earth or single crops and imagine it transformed into a huge diversity of forest gardens, permaculture style, growing food for the city and involving many more of us in its production. At least it's not all been covered in houses and roads yet.

There were loads of new nettles coming up which reminded me it's that beautiful time of year when we can start making fresh nettle soup...yummy! Also, we saw lots of blackthorn trees in the hedgerows which we know from previous years produce an abundance of sloes for making sloe gin in the Autumn. The blossoms are edible too and have a slight almond taste. Some people crystallise them to make cake decorations. Most species of the blackthorn contain the toxin, hydrogen cyanide, as is found in apple pips, (this produces the almond flavour) which can be harmful in large amounts, so do your research and make an informed choice. Eating a few blossoms and using the berries in drinks is unlikely to cause a problem. Consuming hydrogen cyanide via cigarettes or industrial pesticides is much more cause for concern.

The lovely walk did however evoke a pet hate of mine... some people seem to have the strange idea that if you wrap your dog's poo up in a PLASTIC bag and put it in the hedge, that the hedge fairies will magically take it away and make it disappear. Seriously, I'd rather risk stepping in it than see all the plastic waste all over the place! If you can't take it to the dog bin, it doesn't take much to just move it with a couple of sticks off the path into the undergrowth where it at least has a chance of composting naturally.

It was a really misty day on our walk up Portsdown Hill this week but despite that and the wintry chill still stubbornly clinging to the air, there were people spreading their picnic blankets out and sitting down together to enjoy their feast and the views over Portsmouth. Which is quite encouraging really!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Portsmouth Food Bank Gig

This week me and my son went along to The Birdcage room above The Festing pub in Southsea, for a benefit gig which was raising money for the Portsmouth Food Bank. It was lovely to find such a fine amount of anarchists and other friendly people there, so we got our drinks, found a comfy sofa and bounced along to the acoustic mix of folk-punk songs that followed. It was good to see the pile of donated food for the Food Bank getting bigger .
Olive Anne
Ash Victim

Food donations for the Portsmouth Food Bank
Some Sort Of Threat
We were waiting for the guitar with the 'non sleeping side' label to wake up but its owner Dangle Manatee must have played after we had to leave. As well as enjoying the music for a good cause, I got to hang out for the evening with the excellent Donna and Daisy who along with my son, seemed to be practicing some interesting folk-punk photography. This is a pic my son took which clearly illustrates the sort of crazy fun that can be had when you make the effort to go out and enjoy yourself in Portsmouth!
The whole night was in aid of The Portsmouth Food Bank an organisation which is sure to become more of a necessity given the Government's enthusiastic commitment to attacking the poor. 
The Food Bank is run by volunteers based at Kings Church on Elm Grove. They provide food for up to a family of four for 3 days in a crisis situation - local people in need of food and who can't afford it. Visit their website to find out more about how it works or call in and meet them and drop off donations (check their site for opening times).

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Portsmouth Zine Fair

Today I visited the Gold Room for the first time. This is an art gallery inside Room 237, the graphic novels, books & comics shop at 76 Elm Grove in Southsea. This is a great subterranean space run entirely by volunteers with a wonderfully creative diy feel and was today hosting the Portsmouth Zine Fair.

We were extra excited to go along because my son was on a stall there selling his comic 'The Red Crow'. It was so awesome that he chose to stay all day instead of going to a party and eating cake!

There were stalls of interesting zines (many of them free), small books, badges, postcards and handmade crafts, music and more. I particularly enjoyed a talk from the guest speaker Syra Trek about zine culture and it's subversion of the corporately controlled media and the boringly repetitive and conforming images of how we are portrayed, with particular reference to gender. Her comment about how this culture really needs to get over its aversion to seeing body hair on women made me smile and almost get my unashamed hairy legs out!

The need to create our own media and challenge the mainstream abusiveness of the tabloids was emphasised by the slideshow talk being dedicated to the memory of Lucy Meadows, whose suspected suicide was attributed in large part to the bullying she received by the Daily Mail.

Many people including quite a few children were coming and going and participating in the live drawing and zine making taking place at one of the tables. In fact I found it all very inspiring and may even have a go at doodling my own zine ready for the next fair!

 After we left, walking back up Elm Grove we passed the recycling bin which had been handsomely decorated with a poster by someone expressing positive suggestions for moving away from the current economic mess.

All in all a great day in Portsmouth (the only regret being that we didn't find the opportunity to also attend the demonstration against the bedroom tax) and made even better in the evening by the first episode of the new Doctor Who series, but I suppose Portsmouth can't really claim credit for that!