A year ago this week, I moved to Portsmouth. I’d spent most of the previous 16 years working in Southampton and being told by the locals that Portsea Island was the Hampshire equivalent of the Outlands Simba was warned about in the Lion King. A grim place where Sotonians talked in hushed tones of concrete hellholes and the 6.57 Crew and where everyone dressed as if it was still 1977.
Whenever I told anyone I was off to Portsmouth, they would pull a face akin to receiving a cricket bat in the genitals.
In fairness, my Sotonian friends didn’t pull faces too often as I very rarely motored down the M275 – just some irregular shopping trips to Gunwharf and a multitude of visits (well, two) to the away end at Fratton Park to watch Exeter collect three points.
But guess what? They were wrong, every man Jack of them. For after 12 months of Pompey life, I can honestly say I prefer living and working here than I did in Southampton. If I preferred Southampton I’d say so (though not necessarily in this column!)
I love a list, so here’s 10 reasons why Portsmouth living is far better than I had imagined (or been told by Saints fans) this time 12 months ago. In no particular order ...
1) Bandstand. Free music, great setting, AND you can bring your own food and alcohol. Really, what’s not to like? Three hearty cheers to the city council for organising this wonderful event.
2) Wave Maiden cheese. I love cheese, cider and quirky pubs. That’s why I love this Osborne Road establishment. Quality chutney too.
3) Lawrence Arms, Southsea. Always around nine boxed ciders – the proper stuff, none of your Strongbow fizzy nonsense – and a jukebox with Motley Crue songs. Utopia on Portsea Island.
4) Rose in June summer beer and cider festival. Held over two boiling hot days in June, this was a cracking event featuring around 30 ‘proper’ ciders and great music.
5) Port Solent. I’d never been here before moving to Portsmouth, but I love it. A great live music event on the second May Bank Holiday weekend was one of the highs of my first Pompey summer.
6 Swimming in the sea off Southsea. Yep, one reason which doesn’t involve lots of cider (unlike the previous five).
This time last year I never imagined spending so many balmy summer days in the water ... after painfully going ‘aah, ooh, aah, aah,ooh’ stepping on the pebbles.
7) Range of music venues. I’ve seen brilliant concerts at the Wedgewood Rooms, the Guildhall, the Kings Theatre and the Pyramids. Thank you, Portsmouth, for giving me the chance - enthusiastically taken – to warble Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’ at the latter venue.
8) Golf. The two nine-hole adventure courses on South Parade Pier. Deep down, I’m still a big kid at heart. Aren’t we all, though?
9 Albert Road bookshops. Don’t get me started on kindles or e-books. I’ve always loved thumbing through a book (which I’ve always bought in a shop, NEVER online) and putting them in some kind of order on a bookcase afterwards.
I appreciate my own kids – two teenagers – might never share this near obsession of mine, and that kind of makes me sad. Thankfully (for me)Albert Road has a couple of second-hand bookshops where I’ve always found a few gems.
10) The view from Portsdown Hill. I’d never seen the sun set from this vantage point before September 2018. And I didn’t see any Outlands in front of me when I did. Instead, just somewhere this west country-born outsider has really grown to enjoy living in ...