Welcome to my world!

The reflections and comments of a resident in Southsea, Portsmouth, England.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Autumn is here!

Article as seen in Portsmouth View, October 2014, with some modification

Autumn is here with the temperature dropping and days getting darker earlier. The rhythm of the academic year is back in place.

At the university where I work, the public lecture series went off to a good start with the first two lectures being sold out. We do have a good lineup in the next couple of months.

The Portsmouth Chamber Music series sponsored by the university also had a very good start in its new home in the Guildhall. The use of the stage as a concert venue with seats 'in the round' proved popular. Big names such as pianist Melvyn Tan and clarinetist Emma Johnson will grace this year’s series. Check out the Music in the Round website http://www.musicintheround.co.uk/events.php?location=Portsmouth

The Big Screen was relaunched with a new branding and already it saw the successful screening of a couple of films and an opera. You can expect more activities in the Guildhall Square like the recent Funky Town Fest.

I attended the evening the Portsmouth Cathedral launched its five year plan with much talk of outreach and engagement. This brought to mind the role of venues around the city in encouraging concerts and other cultural activities to flourish in the community.

I would like to introduce you to the Holy Spirit Church of Fawcett Road which has undergone refurbishment and now has a concert series. On November 13th there will be a piano recital by Anthony Groves, who also accompanies our University Choir.

St Mary’s Portsea has a music foundation and holds many concerts, especially by the Royal Marines School of Music. Their next concert is on 20th November.

Take a look at the notice board in your local church, chances are there is a concert series, or a group you can join either for music or craft activities.

Speaking of crafts, I am organizing a gifts and crafts festival at work in the run up to Christmas. It was very popular last year. It provides an opportunity for our talented colleagues to show off their handiwork.

We are home to many excellent crafts and gifts market, the prominent one being the Love Southsea Market on the first Saturday of the month. There's many more information on their website http://www.lovesouthsea.co.uk/

The Crafts in the Tower series at the Square Tower features some really talented designers and makers. Check out their website http://www.craftsinthetower.co.uk/

So there is no excuse for anyone to stay at home this autumn!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Memory Walk to raise awareness

This has been a beautiful weekend in Southsea. On Saturday I joined the gentle 3K Memory Walk organised by the Alzheimer Society. A couple of hundreds of people walked together to raise awareness of Dementia. Some came with a group of friends, some with their family and then there were people like me, who were there singly, but each has a story to tell of life touched by Dementia.

We started the morning with some warm up Zumba and the Hokey Kokey!

Many generations took part, celebrating the life of various members of family touched by Dementia.

It was a quite contemplative morning and a humbling experience to learn how many people are affected by this condition and how much is still needed to be done to raise awareness.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

I've vowed to walk and go to the theatre more often...want to join me?

Article as seen in Portsmouth View, August 2014

As I drove around the Hampshire countryside the past week, I came across a stunning view of lush green hills and fields of ripe wheat waiting to be harvested. I longed to walk the hills and the fields.

I read that walking is good for you. Besides the exercise, walking also allows you time to think. So I made a resolution to do more walking for the rest of the summer to improve my health and well-being.

We are fortunate that we have such lovely countryside around us for walks. For those who cannot travel far, there is always the walk along the seafront that will invigorate. There is the incentive to stop at the new Southsea Beach café for a cuppa in the middle of the walk, if you need any excuse!

On one of my recent Southsea walks (from Camber Docks to Palmerston Road) I had time to think about this column and about attending live events. People, in general, love enjoying shared experience and the opportunity to commune with others, whether at walks or at cultural events.

Last month I discovered opera at West Green House Gardens, near Hook. The tickets were expensive, but it was no more than going to a West End show, but the experience was amazing. Nothing could gladden your heart more than sitting in a beautiful garden on a summer’s evening, enjoying a picnic with friends and some beautiful music.

Every time you step out of the house you learn. You learn from other people and the things that you see in your walk. That is why it is important to get out and about and attend live events.

There is something raw and exciting about experiencing something live such as the recent Southsea Show.

Coming up for your diary is the Victorious Festival. Portsmouth is lucky to have the setting for various outdoor events and places to walk, cycle or run.

If you haven’t, try the Park Run on Saturdays as it is fun and, who knows, by October you might be fit for the Great South Run. Then you will really feel good about yourself.

I also went to a most stunning production of Amadeus at the newly refurbished Chichester Festival Theatre. There was such energy and feeling, that you don’t quite get from the film version.

Apart from walking, I’m also resolved to attend more theatre shows. Join me!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Lamb marinated in orange and honey sauce

My favourite dish if you can find some juicy lamb rump steak.


2 lamb rump steaks about 150g each
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp clear honey/maple syrup

Marinate for about an hour and then grill for 5-7 minutes on each sides.

Best eaten with couscous:
75g couscous 'fluffed' in boiling water for 5 minutes (in a covered dish)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
1 medium red pepper, sliced

Fry the onion in the oil for about 15 minutes until the onion is caramelised and then add the pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add the remainder of the marinade juice to the pan, cook for 3 minutes and then add the couscous.

This is one of the quickest dishes you can cook and it's the most delicious!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Purity of Voice

The Tallis Scholars performed at Portsmouth Cathedral last Friday night. I changed my mind several times over the course of the concert. Each piece proceeded with one more beautiful than the last.

The opening piece, Monody's L'Homme Arme, impressed with the unity of the starting and ending and purity of the voices.

The Tallis Scholars sang each piece with such great voices, resounding in the beautiful setting of the  Cathedral.

The programme selection, some played at royal funerals past, made me think of what I might like played in my own funeral. Some of the pieces were so beautiful and fast paced that it sounded as though death is something joyful.

Overall, I thought both the Victoria's pieces were the best and certainly the Tallis Scholar ended the concert stunningly with the Libera me from Missa pro Defunctis.

Review: The Tallis Scholars, Friday 20 June, 7.30pm at Portsmouth Cathedral

PS: I looked up Victoria, whose full name is Tomás Luis de Victoria and I lift this brief paragraph from Wikipedia about him

Tomás Luis de Victoria, sometimes Italianised as da Vittoria (c.1548 – 20 August 1611), was the most famous composer of the 16th century in Spain, and one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation, along with Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso. Victoria was not only a composer, but also an accomplished organist and singer as well as a Catholic priest. However, he preferred the life of a composer to that of a performer. He is sometimes known as the "Spanish Palestrina" because he may have been taught by Palestrina.

Portsmouth Festivities opened with a fanfare

Portsmouth Festivities opened with a great fanfare, literally, courtesy of John Sampson. He was part of a duet with poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. Carol said The Queen gave him to her, which was greeted with laughter and that very much set the tone for the next hour.

First, Portsmouth Poet Laureate, Sam Cox, read her newly penned poem Pages of Possibilities. I love her sing song delivery and phrasing.  In this poem I love the line 'tapestry of people colliding' and I thought this is the poem that would inspire people to want to write their own.

Carol Ann Duffy read from her book The World's Wife, which was published in 1999. This was a collection inspired by stories she heard in her childhood. She gave a voice to the women involved in the stories.

The first she read was from Midas' wife, who recoiled from his great gift, afraid to be immortalised into a gold statue and finally assigning him to a motor home.

I was delighted by the twist in the ending of her poem about Faust. She put mythical stories into modern day setting and imagined what the various wives would say to their husbands' folly, with humorous outcomes.

Carol Ann Duffy has a dry sense of humour. She hardly smiled, but she added a few comical entries, while John Sampson played various wind instruments, as intervals to her reading.

Carol Ann Duffy also tackled various current topics in her reading. She read her poem about the Christmas Truce and also gave a nod to the World Cup, apparently her favourite topic of conversation.

Tickets to the event sold out almost as soon as the box office opened and I was privileged to be among the audience to witness her talent and to take part in some enjoyable audience participation.

Review: Carol Ann Duffy, Friday 20 June 2014, 2pm at the Portsmouth Grammar School

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Look after your well-being

The university where I work has just launched its new series of customer service training with a session on ‘The Art of Being Brilliant’ which was run by a man from Derby called Andy Cope.

He suggested that by changing your way of thinking, even one little bit, you will feel differently about your life.

Andy suggested we wake up each morning and be thankful that we don't have a toothache. I know it seems a small step, but by being grateful that my health is good, it makes me feel positive about the rest of my day. It worked!

After that session on being brilliant, I went to a conference about science communication and in one of the discussion sessions, the topic was ‘wellbeing’.

So why did we talk about wellbeing in a science communication conference? Apparently wellbeing is very important in science. Our government takes it very seriously because if the population is well, there will be less cost to healthcare. Healthy people are also happier.

So, if you are interested, the five ways to achieve wellbeing are connecting, being active, taking notice, continuing to learn and giving.

Now, this seems unrelated to what I do, but maybe this is why I love organizing events and attending cultural activities. I guess now I know, it is good for my wellbeing.

I have just finished organising the university’s series of public events and I would encourage people to come along to these events, especially the free ones. People will enjoy getting there, meeting other people and learning new things.

People will also get the chance to give back by giving the speakers comments and feedback on their work. Our scientists and researchers would love to hear how relevant their studies or research projects are to the community and you can tell them at these public events.

So I hope you will go and get involved in cultural activities like singing, visiting a museum, going to a concert or learning a new hobby to make you happy in the coming months and have a healthier life.

This post is as it appears on Portsmouth View, May 2014 edition.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Spring in the City

In Portsmouth we mark the beginning of Spring with a series of cultural events across the city. 

As we lost an hour to our day, we add a new festival to our calendar. The Lost Hour has proved to be a popular event in the city and long may it continues.

At the moment, students are enjoying their Easter Break and probably thinking about how many chocolate eggs they can eat in one sitting. While there are Easter egg hunts organised in woods and gardens, churches spring into wonderful concert venues.

Florilegium who played at the last Music in the Round concert has their diaries full of concerts, the biggest being the St Matthew's Passion at the Royal Festival Hall. Historically, the church used to be a big patron of music and that is why some of the greatest compositions are of church music.

For me, I'm still hunting for the Golden Egg; the how do we tell the world about the treasure trove of culture we have in Portsmouth?

My hunt, so far has led to a meeting with our Creative Technologies Department at the end of March when they told me about their wonderful project. This might be the Golden Egg.

Students studying Television and Broadcasting have been busy producing a TV programme to promote Portsmouth to the world. Eye on Portsmouth has been created as part of their course, and they are keen to get the local community involved and watching. Take a look the programmes made so far on http://vimeo.com/album/2809004

By joining forces with the local community, the university staff and students can make this project a success. There is so much for everybody to learn; students about the city, and the community about what university life is all about.

If anyone would like to get involved, or has a story to tell, please get in touch. My number is 023 8284 3757 or through Twitter @maricarjagger

In the meantime, Shakespeare's birthday is on 23 April and Christine Berberich from The Centre for Studies in Literature has put together a programme of events to showcase the expertise we have at the university. So look out for the Shakespeare Festival events happening near you.

I’ve also been busy producing the programme of events for the next few months and the list will be made public at the end of April. Look out for it.

This article is as it appeared in the Portsmouth View, April 2014 edition.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Tournedos Rossini

Have we all had enough chocolates? I have not had a single chocolate Easter Egg. But that's fine, because I ate other chocolates in other shapes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Easter break after what seems such a long three months since the Christmas break. Life seems busier than ever and I have not had much chance in indulging in my passion for cooking.

But since a couple of weekends ago, the cooking fairy has returned and I've tried a couple of recipes I really like. Tournedos Rossini was a great success, especially if you live near a good butcher. The cooking is simple, but the taste mile is long.

120-170g of beef fillet per person
a slice of bread about the same width as the meat each
50g of duck liver pate per person
25g of butter

250g of fresh spinach
1 clove of garlic
25 g butter

1 medium onion sliced
250 ml beef stock
300 ml Madeira
25g butter
a sprig of thyme

Slice the onion and fry in pan with 25g butter until translucent (about 5 minutes) then add a sprig of thyme, the Madeira and the beef stock. Reduce to half, strain the onion and keep the liquid warm.

Heat a frying pan and add 25g of butter, saute and brown the fillet all around (about 3 minutes). Set aside to rest. Add the pieces of bread and let it soak up the fat and juice and brown a little. Take them out. Then add the rest of the butter and garlic and throw in the spinach. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt. Fry until the spinach just wilted.

Arrange first the bread, then a slice of pate and the fillet on top. Then pour the reduced wine liquid over the whole stack, letting some of the juice to be soaked up by the bread.

Serve with the spinach on the side, plus some boiled new potatoes.

Try it!

Monday, 10 March 2014

National Science and Engineering Week 2014

Celebrates National Science & Engineering Week with an array of events for all ages to amaze, engage and inspire people with science. Come and join in the fun!

The National Science & Engineering Week is organised nationwide by the British Science Association.

Bohunt School S.T.E.M. Festival
Saturday 15 March 2013, 10:30am – 4:00pm
Bohunt School in Liphook, Hampshire GU30 7NY

Meet our engineering students who will be at this  fantastic, interactive day featuring shows, workshops and hands-on displays for Primary pupils, Secondary students, parents and the local community is coming true thanks to all of the wonderful companies that are joining us on the day - it is going to be a really amazing event!

A free event for the whole community, just turn up on the day

Seeing inside the Body with Ultrasound
Tuesday 18 March 2014, 5.15pm to 7.30pm
James Watson (West), University of Portsmouth, 2 King Richard 1 Road, Portsmouth PO1 2FR

The School of Health Sciences and Social Work at the University of Portsmouth would like to invite you to an exciting session exploring the use of ultrasound to see inside the human body. In addition there will be a short tour of the facilities that are on offer within our Centre for Simulation in Health Care and careers available in this field.

This free event is open to all ages. Please register yourself into one of the timed slots available from https://ultrasoundportsmouth.eventbrite.co.uk
or by contacting events@port.ac.uk or 023 9284 3757

Exploring Dogs’ Minds
Wednesday 19 March 2014, 6.00-7.00 pm, followed by a drinks reception
University of Portsmouth, Richmond Building, Portland Street, Portsmouth PO1 3DE

Selection pressures during domestication not only shape animals’ morphology but also animals’ behaviour and cognitive skills. A highly interesting case is the domestic dog. Being the first animal species domesticated, dogs live in close contact with humans for quite a long time. One interesting question is to which extent, if at all, dogs have especially adapted to their new niche, namely the human environment. The so-called domestication hypothesis claims that dogs have especially adapted to the human environment and evolved skills in some cognitive domains, which are functionally equivalent to those of humans.

This free event is open to all ages. Please register yourself for a place from https://dogsmind.eventbrite.co.uk  or by contacting events@port.ac.uk or 023 9284 3757

Women in Construction
Thursday 20 March 2014, 6pm
University of Portsmouth, Richmond Building, Portland Street, Portsmouth PO1 3DE

A networking event for budding female architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, project managers or those already working in the construction industry keen to inspire the next generation with guest speakers Clare Wildfire, Technical Director at Mott MacDonald, and Lorraine Farrelly, Professor of Architecture and Design at the University. The event is the first of its kind on the South coast and is open to students, alumni, staff and industry professionals. It’s not just for women; it is for anyone who would like to network with likeminded people and attend an event that encourages more women to join, stay and progress within the industry.

This free event is open to all ages. Please register yourself for a place from

http://wibse.eventbrite.co.uk or by contacting events@port.ac.uk or 023 9284 3757

Crime and forensics open day
Saturday 22nd March, 10 am to 4 pm
University of Portsmouth, Dennis Sciama Building, Burnaby Rd, Portsmouth PO1 3FX

Wander through a 'real' murder scene, look for evidence and talk to scene of crime officers to find out how crime scene investigators work with forensic biologists to piece together clues. View stands and exhibits on DNA and how insects can help solve crimes.  There will be a Cluedo Treasure Hunt for children throughout the day. Find out more about eyewitness testimony and wildlife crime. Don’t miss the mock court room sessions.

This free event is open to all ages. So bring along the entire family!

Café Scientifique – From sketch to fabrication: Challenges in Computational Design 
Tuesday 25 March 2014, 8.00-10.00 pm
Le Café Parisien, Portsmouth PO1 2AH

Designing a product requires expertise in conceptualising an idea, conveying the idea via sketching, lifting the sketch to a 3D model, and finally fabricating the model. No wonder the process is difficult and remains restricted to a handful of experts. In this talk I will give some examples of computational tools that we have developed to make designing accessible for the masses. Join Associate Professor from University College London, Niloy Mitra, for this fascinating discussion.

Suitable for all ages, free event, no booking required.

From Here to Eternity
Wednesday 26 March 2014, 6.00-7.00pm, followed by a drinks reception
Richmond Building, Portland Street, Portsmouth PO1 3DE

Astronomers peer back into the past with the world's largest telescopes. They see billions of galaxies, and they find indications of evolution and youth.  Before the first galaxies, there were the Dark Ages. And before then, the Big Bang. But there is much of the universe that astronomers cannot probe.  He will describe the universe that we see, and speculate about the universe we cannot see. He will describe the past, with some confidence, and will speculate about the future, as perceived by cosmologists, under the assumption that humanity survives to reap the potentially infinite rewards of what to all intents and purposes is an infinite, or at least an inconceivably large universe. 

This free event is open to all ages. Please register yourself for a place from https://joesilk.eventbrite.co.uk or by contacting events@port.ac.uk or 023 9284 3757

Thursday 27 March 2014, 6.00-7.00pm, followed by a drinks reception
Park Building, Room 1.23, King Henry I Street, Portsmouth PO1 2DZ

In 1999, Anna Bågenholm, who was 29 at the time, was skiing with her friends Marie Falkenberg and Torvind Næsheim when an accident left her trapped under a layer of ice for 80 minutes in freezing water. Her deep body temperature decreased by 24°C to a record low of 13.7 °C. Bågenholm suffered circulatory arrest after 40 minutes in the water. She was “dead” for 3 hours. This is the remarkable story of one of the world’s greatest survivors. This event is organised by the Department of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Portsmouth.

This free event is open to all ages. Please register yourself for a place from https://annabagenholm.eventbrite.co.uk or by contacting events@port.ac.uk or 023 9284 3757

Take part, collaborate!  The University of Portsmouth is interested in collaborating with local groups in organising events in the community. If you would like to be involved in next year’s National Science and Engineering Week’s events, please contact Maricar Jagger on 023 9284 3757 or email events@port.ac.uk

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Learn something new

Last Friday I learnt something new. Nonets by Spohr and Martinu. They were really enjoyable. The pieces are not often programmed and so it was a real treat to hear Ensemble 360 playing both at their Portsmouth Chamber Music concert in the Third Floor Arts Centre.

Six times a year, Portsmouth is visited by world class chamber musicians who play in the series, which started off as the Music in the Round series. It changed its name two years ago with the inclusion of a couple of concerts by musicians from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra playing in chamber groups.

The concerts are enjoyable as they are more relaxed and the musicians more approachable. They talk about the music and sometimes share jokes with the audience. At the end of the evening there is also an audience question time and we go deeper into the musician's life, playing or the music they have chosen.

Last Friday we heard how young composer Charlie Piper approached his commission to write With Stolen Fire to mark the centenary of steel making in Sheffield.

So learn something new this week and go to a concert you wouldn't otherwise go, visit a museum you walked past unnoticed or visit the theatre near you!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Let music be the food of love

I think it is apt to have the next Portsmouth Chamber Music concert on Valentine's Day.

On Friday 14 February, Music in the Round resident group Ensemble 360 will come in full force, with a rather exciting programme of music.

JANACEK Mladi for wind sextet
CHARLIE PIPER With Stolen Fire for string quintet and wind quintet

Spohr's high-spirited Nonet and Janacek's energetic Mladi are the perfect frame for Martinu's more nostalgic work.

Charlie Piper's With Stolen Fire was originally conceived for Music in the Round’s 2013 May Festival with accompanying film from the BFI archives. Premiered in Sheffield's Showroom Cinema the piece celebrates Britain’s industrial heritage marking the centenary since the discovery of the process of making stainless steel.

There will be a post-concert Q&A with members of Ensemble 360 & composer Charlie Piper, which would be the best part as people can quiz them about their playing, their choice of music and for Charlie, how the arrived at his composition.

The Third Floor Arts Centre is a small venue which has its own charm, if not badly neglected by those charged with its upkeep. Like any venue, it should be used more and I'm so glad we go there for the Portsmouth Chamber Music series for it has the best piano in Portsmouth!

So come along and spend your evening with lovely music and musicians. Let the music feed your heart with love!