Welcome to my world!

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

Friday, 26 June 2015

Leading folk band to explore uncharted waters in Portsmouth

Award-winning English indie folk group Moulettes have confirmed some of their most unusual gigs ever, in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This is no ordinary stop on their huge national tour to promote latest album Constellations. Instead, they are providing a live soundtrack for The Seafarers, an original dance show inspired by the true story of ship building in Portsmouth.

Commissioned by Portsmouth Festivities, a 10-day celebration of arts, culture and heritage, The Seafarers is supported by Arts Council England and Portsmouth Grammar School. It is being developed by internationally acclaimed Stopgap Dance Company. Professional dancers will perform on 27th and 28th June alongside men, women and children from local communities.

According to Samantha Worsey, Associate Producer for Portsmouth Festivities, “Moulettes’ unique brand of alt-folk will bring a real sense of joy and wonder to The Seafarers.” She adds, “From the visual poetry on stage to the dreamy, folky vibes of the band, this will be a unique live experience.”

The band’s music has won critical acclaim for their “divine harmonies” (Time Out), “acoustic virtuosity” (Mojo), and “rare depth and inventiveness” (Songlines). The Guardian’s Robin Denselow calls them “Frontrunners of the new British acoustic scene thanks to their sophisticated, unpredictable approach.”

Moulette member, Ollie Austin is excited to be returning to the city for The Seafarers. He says,

“Moulettes are colossally excited to be invited to play our music as part of this community based project. Many of us have been anchored, as it were, along the south coast at different times of our lives; so Portsmouth feels like home for many of us”. The band have also relished the chance to work with a professional dance company: “Cross pollination of art is a joyful thing; so it’s great to see such collective vision encouraged and supported in such a historically important place”.  

Tickets for The Seafarers at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, 8pm on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 June are £5, Under-18s and Concessions £3. To find out more or to book, call 023 9282 8282 or visit

Monday, 22 June 2015

Meringue Magic

My friend George is the Queen of Meringue and so I asked him to share his recipe, which I tried today.

4 egg whites
250g caster sugar
1.5 tsp cornflour
1.5 tsp white wine vinegar

Preheat the oven at 160C and whisk the egg whites until stiff. Then add the sugar, 1 tsp at a time while whisking constantly. Mix the cornflour and vinegar together in a bowl and whisk into the mix. Cut greaseproof paper into a round of about 40 cm across and place on a baking sheet. Spoon the mixture shaped into a round, build the side higher than the centre. Put it into the oven and reduce the heat to 150C
bake for an hour until firm, then turn off the oven. Leave the Pavlova in there until the oven is cool.
Best to make this in the morning and leave it in the oven until needed.

Whisk some cream to pile on top and scatter some of your favourite fruits like raspberry or strawberry.

Today I'm experimenting with some stewed apricot. Delicious!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Portsmouth Festivities Top 5 Events

FRIDAY, 19 JUNE 2015 19:30

The UK’s longest-established chamber orchestra is joined for a very special evening by Laura van der Heijden (BBC Young Musician of the Year 2012) Tim Posner and the Festivities Youth Choir. This promises to be a perfect opening night event of Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Handel and Brahms.

SATURDAY, 20 JUNE 2015 19:00

With powerful and versatile voices, The Swingle Singers work classic music into wonderful and surprising new shapes. Be captivated by their dazzling and moving versions of timeless pieces. Whether it’s a Bach aria reimagined as a chilling murder ballad, or a meltingly beautiful interpretation of a favourite Beatles tune, The Swingle Singers bring their tireless invention and vocal mastery to an eclectic repertoire spanning five centuries. “The Swingle Singers pitched those mysteriously lovely chords with Concert Ticket £16, Concessions £14, Under-18s £5 laser-like precision... a triumph” The Daily Telegraph “Talented, talented people” Jamie Cullum

MONDAY, 22 JUNE 2015 18:00

From Stephen Daldry, director of Billy Elliot, Trash is the story of three Brazilian kids who make a discovery in a garbage dump - and soon find themselves running from the police, trying to right a terrible wrong. Trash was adapted by Richard Curtis from Andy Mulligan’s novel. Join Andy for an insightful pre-screening talk.

MONDAY, 22 JUNE 2015 19:30

A truly unique gig on the deck of HMS Warrior - the historic pride of Queen Victoria’s naval fleet. Multi-instrumentalist duo Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar won the 2013 BBC Radio 2 ‘Young Folk’ Award and 2014 Horizon Award for ‘Best Breakthrough Act’. They are now one of the most sought after young acts on the folk scene. The Peatbog Faeries fuse folk, electronica, rock and jazz with traditional Celtic music. ‘Live Band of the Year’ at both the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and Scottish Traditional Music Awards, they mix programmed effects with bagpipes, fiddles and whistles.

SATURDAY, 27 JUNE 2015 20:00 & SUNDAY, 28 JUNE 2015 20:00

Portsmouth Festivities with Stopgap Dance Company, Curious Space and live music from The Moulettes.

Join Stopgap Dance Company for a unique work of dance theatre inspired by Portsmouth's incredible boatbuilding heritage. For centuries, the people of Portsmouth have empowered mankind to venture above the darkest depths, to reach the furthest shores. Presented in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, The Seafarers promises to be a joyful and moving celebration of a city's legacy - and the people who shape it.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Are you feeling low?

I have been feeling low and don't like the feeling at all. So I decided to find out more.

According to the NHS website a general low mood can include sadness, an anxious feeling, worry, tiredness, low self-esteem, frustration and anger.

However, a low mood will tend to improve after a short time. You can make some small changes in your life, such as resolving a difficult situation or talking about your problems and getting more sleep to improve your mood.

A low mood that doesn't go away can be a sign of depression. Symptoms of depression can include feeling hopeless and helpless, having low self-esteem, feeling tearful, feeling guilt-ridden, feeling irritable and intolerant of others, having no motivation or interest in things, finding it difficult to make decisions, having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself , feeling anxious or worried.

You can also become depressed at certain times, such as during the winter months or when you are pregnant.

Treatment for depression usually involves a combination of medicines, talking therapies and self-help.

You can read more about it on the NHS website

As for me, I try to get out and see friends if I see signs that I'm feeling low. Even stepping out of the house, away from the situation that makes you depressed is quite helpful. Go to a cafe, window shop, or visit the library. Do things that would distract you.

Often talking to a friend helps immensely.

If you are depressed, seek help.

Friday, 5 June 2015

How do you cook an eel? Try the French way!

Today I bought some eel from Johnson's in Old Portsmouth. The fishmonger had a couple of eels he would like to sell off and I felt like having an experiment. Here's a recipe I found online.

This recipe from Lorraine is a deliciously versatile freshwater fish stew. Seasoned with herbs and brought together in a rich, red wine base, it is more like a fisherman's coq au vin. 

What's truly lovely about this matelote recipe is that the hearty, comforting stew can be made quickly, yet tastes like it simmered for hours.

Classic matelote can be made with any firm freshwater fish. However, for it to be a truly traditional preparation, it must include freshwater eel.

2 thick strips bacon, coarsely chopped
250g pearl onions, peeled
250g white mushrooms
400ml fish stock
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs parsley
1 sprig thyme
1 clove
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
300ml dry red win
500g freshwater fish or eel, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon beurre manie (1 tbsp each of butter and flour, mixed)
8 large croutons
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, fry the bacon until it turns crisp and slightly browned around the edges. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
Pour all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease out of the saucepan. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms to the pan and cook them just until they caramelize, about 15 minutes. Transfer the onions to a plate and cover them.

Tie the bay leaf, parsley, thyme, and clove into a bouquet garni.

Add the fish stock, bouquet garni, onion, shallots, salt, and pepper to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer the broth for 10 minutes.

Add the red wine and fish to the mixture and continue simmering it for 10 minutes. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms to the pan and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes.

Stir the beurre manie into the stew and remove the bouquet garni. Allow the matelote to simmer just until slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. (The stew will continue to thicken a bit as it cools.) 

Serve the matelote hot, with large croutons or sliced baguette.

This matelote recipe makes 6 to 8 servings.