Meeting up with gal pals in Southsea was like stepping back in time | Elise Brewerton

I was kicked out of a park on Sunday night, as if I was 13 all over again. It was just after 9pm and a park ranger came over to our gang and said: ‘Come on girls, I’m locking up. Out ya go!’

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 7:07 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 7:31 pm
The Rose Garden in Southsea is the perfect place to meet up with friends... Picture: Ian Hargreaves (131979-10)

Okay, it wasn’t actually a park, it was the Japanese Gardens, a secret hideaway in Southsea Rose Gardens that I didn’t even know existed until this weekend.

But it was close enough to my teenage years spent hanging around College Park, in Copnor, after school with my friends, dreaming about being old enough to go clubbing.

More than 25 years on, none of us were wearing hair scrunchies or anything tie-dyed though, and we weren’t gathered around listening to All Saints on headphones from a Sony Walkman cassette player.

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None of us had to cadge 10 pence to ring our mums from the phone box to beg to stay out 10 minutes later.

I actually remember doing reverse charge phone calls to my mum pleading to be allowed out until 9pm like my friends. It was expensive (I think about 50 pence) and she was always furious when I did it, but how could she refuse the call? I could be in danger!

Her answer was almost always ‘no’ to the curfew extension, and I’d be in even more trouble when I eventually did get home.

Back to Sunday, and it was the first time we’d all been able to meet since lockdown began in March. The rain forced us to move from the beach and find shelter in the Rose Gardens.

So, spread out on a bench and on the floor – a careful two metres apart – we gossiped for two hours solid.

I can’t tell you what a pleasure it was to just to talk, face-to-face, with the girls.

Zoom chats, phone calls, and group Whatsapp messages don’t come close to seeing the faces of the friends you have grown up with and loved for so long.

Watching them break into easy laughter without the internet freezing, losing connection, and then having to reboot your laptop, was pure joy.

There was a self-imposed curfew in order to get home in time before the kids went to sleep – how times have changed – but no longing to go clubbing. At almost 40, I can’t think of anything worse.

Please consider donating to a domestic abuse charity

The website Counting Dead Women was created by Karen Ingala Smith – the CEO of nia, a domestic and sexual violence charity working to end violence against women and girls.

It lists the names and commemorates UK women and girls killed by men, or where a man is the principal suspect.

So far this year there are already 50 names on the list. Mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, ex-wives and ex-girlfriends.

In the first three weeks of lockdown the number of women killed by men was the highest it’s been for 11 years.

Domestic violence charities across the country are desperate for funding. Please consider donating to one.

The Colston statue should have been removed long ago

There has been much anger about the pulling down of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol by Black Lives Matter protesters.

There is an argument that his philanthropy was so great – he donated the equivalent of about £25m to set up schools and poorhouses across the country – that his statue deserved to be there.

Colston was a leading member of the Royal African Company (RAC) which made its money in gold, silver, ivory and slaves. He traded in humans. Of the hundreds of thousands of Africans that were trafficked by the RAC, more than 40,000 died on the journey across the Atlantic.

No amount of philanthropy can make up for that. It is staggering that his statue was allowed to stand for so long.