Banana Republic

Ten Years In A Portsmouth Slum – An Introductory Note

I am preparing an edition of Robert Dolling’s “Ten Years In A Portsmouth Slum” (1895), and thought the following introduction might be of interest to anyone with a fascination for the city of Portsmouth, its extremes and its privations.

Editor’s Introduction

The city of Portsmouth that stands on the island of Portsea at the beginning of the 21st Century is a very different entity to the collection of towns and settlements to which the Reverend Robert Dolling was appointed towards the end of the 19th.

The whole of Conway Street and its environs, where his crowning achievement, Saint Agatha’s church, was built was wrecked by a single bomb during World War II. Perhaps miraculously, the church of St Agatha’s still stands, surrounded by roads that lead elsewhere, a little island of the past not completely swept away by the brutality of German bombs or the modernity of traffic schemes.

Standing in the church today, it is fascinating to imagine the maze of narrow streets that surrounded the basilica, which was opened just a few short weeks before he departed after a stubborn dispute with his bishop. It is humbling to consider the thousands of lives Dolling’s particular energy touched, the battles to improve people’s lots that went on in this area. And it is peculiar today to think of the basilica now as devoid of a parish, with the crowding slums around it long departed.

The part of Landport that was Dolling’s area of influence was crammed under the high walls of Portsmouth dockyard and stretched out towards Commercial Road. It is the presence of the dockyard that perhaps accounts for the attitude to life of many of the people who lived on Portsea Island, and in Landport in particular.

In the dockyard, around 6,000 men, skilled and unskilled, made a living fitting out and repairing the ships that were the lifeblood of the British Empire. Their lives were hard and the skills the dockyard needed from them had little to do with being civilised or Christian.  They needed to be strong, to be able to strike a rivet accurately, to work hard and to turn up on time not too much the worse for wear after whatever excesses they had got up to in the pubs, alehouses, brothels, cockpits or other places of entertainment they had been in the night before.

Alongside the workers in the dockyard were the sailors. Men who had been often at sea for years on end, were battle-hardened, and were used to drinking to excess in the seedy backstreets of Imperial possessions the world over. Landport was one more such place.

Meanwhile, the town of Portsmouth itself lay off to the south and east.  Ostensibly genteel along its High Street, Portsmouth contained massive barracks buildings where soldiers were penned up, awaiting a mutiny, an insurrection or a war to be called on to do their duty.

With so many rootless men around, and with an extraordinarily high number of watering holes around the town, it is little surprise that thousands of prostitutes lived there, plying the streets for trade, or running their businesses from more discreet “bad houses” in the dark recesses and narrow lanes of Landport, Portsea and Portsmouth.

The back streets of Portsmouth were slums even in the 1880s. King’s Bench Alley, Portsea, was only 2 feet 7 inches wide at its narrowest point, and never broader than 4 feet. Squeeze Gut Alley, in Portsmouth had a name that told you all you needed to know about its size. The houses in Landport were similarly sardined together, huddled between the dockyard and Commercial Road. Often a toilet in a back yard was shared between several families, and running water was drawn from a communal pump. Families were stacked close by each other – and – as Dolling himself notes – were prone to a clannishness that meant people in one street wouldn’t speak with those from the next.

With little need for education, since the dockyard would supply the work for many Portsea Island families, existence had a harsh physical quality. There were honest workers of all sorts living in Landport, and (as Dolling notes) children everywhere playing on the streets. There were vagabonds and tramps and those seeking work but unable to get any – and all the mish-mash of the very bottom end of Victorian society. There were shopworkers too, glad to have gainful employment, but who were made to work exceptionally long hours by shop owners who thought nothing of imposing on them a fourteen or fifteen hour day. With this as the background to their lives, no surprise that what Dolling considered to be the elevating influence of religion, along with that of simple social interaction and more satisfying relationship-building were not easily discovered among the people of Landport.

It is into this setting that Dolling strode on his mission to spread The Word, and act as a beacon of light and civilisation.

His background, the son of a wealthy landowner in Northern Ireland, English educated, with a strong feeling for the presence of God-in-man made him a simplistic theologian and a natural champion of the common man.

He came to Portsmouth after running a mission in the East End of London, and eventually became the priest at Saint Agatha’s Church in Conway Street, Landport.

Dolling’s approach to the slums of Portsmouth suited his personality, and that of the town, too. He was extremely active, and realised that the children of these tough families would not want their religious lessons over-egged. It was more use to the people around him to give them the things that were missing from their lives – an opportunity for people from different streets to socialise under one roof, the chance for young men and women to dance together as an opportunity to bring some gentleness to their courtships, the closing of the brothels and the opening of a gymnasium, public baths, almshouses and a grand church.

The prejudice of the higher classes against a priest of the poor, the intransigence of those with vested interests and moneyed profiteers from “fallen” women were all hindrances he overcame. What’s more, the practicalities of teaching people to live a more social life were many, not least the complaints of mothers who noted that their children’s clothes were worn through by kneeling to pray.

All the while, Dolling was most definitely on their side, and actively so. His attitudes were against the intellectual, and in favour of the practical. His attitude to the poor and the uneducated is stated clearly in a few words, that reveal where his sympathies lay:

“For ten long years, day and night, there were lessons for me to learn, if I only had the grace and modesty to learn them. Even in that in which men might know more, knowledge, they are but as babes and sucklings in the presence of those whom they condescend to teach, that is, if knowledge means the knowing of things likely to be useful to the knower and to the community. In speech, too, how much we have to learn; how terse and in what few words do our dear people express themselves, while the man who wants to harangue them wraps round with innumerable words, which darken all counsels and prevent all understanding, the thought that the slum lad expresses in three or four words to the point. And as to manners, every single man in my home was a gentleman, that is, if thinking for others and treating them with forbearance and tenderness and love, and striving to make them feel at home and at ease, means being gentlemen. The roughest, rudest, most ignorant lad, after a month’s residence, has obtained these graces.”

This book is Dolling’s account of his time in Portsmouth. It is rich with the flavour of the Anglo-Catholic church in the 19th Century – and with something else besides. It gives an insight into the life of the town, into the characters who lived here and the different stratas of society. It reveals the prejudices of the classes, like the astonishment that Bishop Thorold pronounced when being told that the two charming chaps he had sat next to during a dinner in Landport were accomplished thieves, or the way in which Dolling took Landport people out for day visits to wealthy benefactors in the country in an effort to infuse them with the finer points of civilization. It shows the emotional satisfaction to be had from a society that isn’t only interested in getting the poor to work, but also to enjoy themselves in activities other than drinking and gambling – and how providing amenities to do that has a positive effect on people at last enabled to live fuller lives. It shows the benign effect of building a society with the ability to interact and rub along together and putting structures in place that bring out the better sides of people.

There are lessons here that we could learn again, at the start of the 21st Century.

It also reveals the humour of life as a priest in Portsmouth, the highs and the lows. The children who wrecked the gymnasium just because they could, the begging priest whom Dolling took by the nape of the neck and threw out of his house, the visiting Member of Parliament, the guardsman and clergymen staying with him over Christmas who he put on a ration of cheese and bread with the rest of the household as punishment for whoever wrecked Blind Willie’s hat.

In all, there is much to recommend the Reverend Robert Dolling’s book, and much to marvel at. Enjoy!

Matt Wingett, Southsea, Portsmouth, 2012.

“In The Mood” – The Experience

The Poster for In The Mood
The Poster for In The Mood

Well, the show “In The Mood” that was held on Friday 18th May has been and gone.  And the truth is, it was fantastic!

I look back on the achievement of The Three Belles and I think that what they did is extraordinary. To hire the Guildhall, fill it with around 500 people, organise a cast,  do the sound, a big band, dancing lessons, decorations, programmes and so much more was really something – but to be only a year out from their degree! The world is at their feet…

It was also fascinating to see them the night before the show. They were stressed. Boy. Each said they were afraid. But the fact is that they just faced this major pressure, and won through to the other side.

I confess I was stressed, too. Although I overcame my writer’s block years ago, I never addressed the fear I had of acting, which had been with me since my student days. I don’t know where that fear came from – it just happened one day, while I was doing rehearsals for a stage play.  I never acted again after that until this show.   27 years.

I had a feeling that being in the show would teach me so much and be good for me. So, while The Three Belles had every right to be stressed, so was I. I felt it in my body as the day got nearer, until I could hardly eat.  I used to lie awake at night staring at the ceiling, and my lovely girl, Jackie, noticed that I seemed quite cold and off.

How stupid I am!

Then, the morning of the day before the show, I couldn’t take it any more, and I did a series of NLP mental exercises. They worked, and the tension reduced from then on. Quite strange that I didn’t think to do it before!

At the show, there were cast members who were also stressing, and I helped them with a little NLP pep talk.

Then the show came.  I really can’t fault this.  I played my small part well enough and really enjoyed the acting. It was a change for me. A big change – and I came away from it ecstatic.

When I think back on it, it’s clear that part of the appeal is that the night provides a dream of glamour and heroism all at once. “In The Mood” doesn’t quite fit into anything I’ve experienced before. It’s not a gig, exactly. It’s not a dance.  It’s an experience. A 1940s experience.  I believe The Three Belles have really got something with this. Something that really captures the moment we are in and does something good with it, ironically, by sending us back in time.

I’d say to you now, you should experience “In The Mood” with The Three Belles, wherever you are, at least once in your life!

Find out more about The Three Belles, here:

How Southsea Made Me – By Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective

Holmes And WatsonWatson, there is no doubt that the elements for Conan Doyle’s greatest creation can be found in his account of his life in Southsea. A scientific character study performed on the great man from the moment he set foot in Portsmouth, reveals distinct elements in his personality – elements that combine with the accidents of everyday life in this town to lead Conan Doyle to create something extraordinary. And when I say “something extraordinary”, I mean, of course, me.

Consider the circumstances on that fine day in June 1882 in which he stepped off the Irish steamer from Plymouth on to Clarence Pier, and surveyed the busy scene around him. There is no doubt he was a young, bull-headed gentleman of most definite principle. He had thrown over his previous post as a physician in Plymouth because of differences of opinion with Dr Budd, his partner in the surgery. He considered Dr Budd to be a scoundrel who tricked his patients into paying for massive prescriptions. He would have nothing to do with him – and it was his independence of mind that brought him to our city, and to that bustling beach at the west end of  Southsea’s waterfront.

A Study In Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

When he arrived, he had only 10 pounds in his pocket but great resources in his mind and in his body.

Now Watson, what can we deduce from his first actions in the island city? Let me elucidate them for you. He left his luggage at the pier, caught a tram into Old Portsmouth and found himself temporary lodgings in the poorer part of the city – driving down the price for the week from 13 shillings to 10 and sixpence.  And what do we make of the fact that he then walked back to the pier and paid a porter to walk his luggage back to his new digs?

The answer is simple, Watson! He was not wealthy. Using a porter rather than a taxi saved him fourpence. What we see here is a young man willing to use his initiative, tight for money and keen to make the most out of the opportunities the city would afford.

Holmes And BaritsuOnce installed, Dr Conan Doyle notes in his “Stark Munro Letters” that he went out to hear a band playing in a park, and happened upon a man beating his wife in the streets. His sense of justice is revealed by the fact that he stepped in, to prevent the man attacking his wife further, and became embroiled in a street brawl with the gentleman. Notice, too, just like me, that Dr Conan Doyle was physically unafraid – and was also an accomplished boxer. Notice, however, that unlike me, he was not a bare knuckle fighter, nor an exponent of the Japanese art of Baritsu.

How well he might have fared against this fellow is a matter of conjecture, since a wild punch thrown by his opponent landed on a passing sailor, who stepped in and took over from the good Doctor. One could almost imagine, Watson, that in this department, my prowess with my fists is an amplification of his own abilities with boxing.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock HolmesSo, now we build a profile of the man. He has spirit. He has nerve. He has morals, scruples and initiative. These, I suggest to you, are excellent qualities to get on in life.

Next, we come to his practical cast of mind. The following day, Conan Doyle purchased a map of the city and began to bisect it with lines that would be the most efficient means of walking the entire length and breadth of the city.

Note, Watson, that there was a very particular reason for this. He was a doctor, Holmes In Silhouettejust as you are. But because doctors were not allowed to advertise, there was no way he could find out where his rivals were located without acquainting himself with the city personally.

He could also discover which parts of the city would be good for business, which roads to avoid and which properties were empty.

Note, too, how Conan Doyle found a residence at No 1 Bush Villas, on Elm Grove, Southsea. It served the wealthier clients of Castle Road, as well as the artisan properties to the north of Elm Grove. It provided a varied social milieu, and just as I do, it meant that the Doctor mixed with all classes.

Sherlock Holmes The SleuthThen there are the dramatic and the macabre elements in Conan Doyle’s arrival in Southsea. When he first became the tenant of Bush Villas, Conan Doyle was faced immediately with a bizarre scene in the cellar of his new dwelling. Piles of human jawbones – yes Watson! – human jawbones were stacked in the semi-darkness! It was a scene worthy of one of his own entertainments. But Conan Doyle soon solved the mystery. The previous incumbent was a dentist, and he had left his casts behind on absenting the property.

Dr Conan Doyle’s time in Southsea was similar to my own life in other ways. For example, he used a pseudonym at times, just as I have been known to do. When he played football, as the goalkeeper for Portsmouth Amateur Football Club, he went under the name of “A C Smith”, lest it became known that a gentleman was playing a game more commonly associated with the lower classes.

He was also one for turning fortune in his favour and for quick thinking. An accident in the road outside his struggling practice he quickly attended. He checked over the gentleman who had fallen from his horse and sent him on his way. After which he sent in a report of the accident and his heroic intervention to The Evening News, thus securing him free advertising, which he was otherwise prevented from doing, as an MD.

A Classy HolmesHe mixed with the higher stratas of society at the Cricket Club and  Bowling Club, and became friends with The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth. And it might well be that he read an article in the Evening News involving an investigation being run by a Chief Inspector Sherlock. How much, indeed, Portsmouth gave to the young Dr Conan Doyle!

So, Doctor Watson, do you see now how the elements of his life in Portsmouth combined together to make me who I am? And can you see how, if he had come to a different city, I might well have been quite a different fellow?

Or would I?

An interesting  conundrum, Dr Watson, and most definitely a three pipe problem!

Spitbank with The Three Belles

Today I took a RIB out to Spitbank Fort in the middle of The Solent with The Three Belles.  The talented trio are performing out there this Saturday, and I tagged along because I am considering writing a story starring our musical girl heroes set on the manmade island.

The place was a building site still, so no photos of the interior, but the potential is absolutely extraordinary. There’s an open-air jacuzzi, a plunge-pool, recreation room and numerous really lush bedrooms, along with little hidey-holes to chill out in.

The Three Belles - Boatalicious!The Fort will be the ultimate getaway for the wealthy and for those wanting privacy. No papparazzi will get near it. The secluded location also makes it a fantastic spot for a story… so watch this space, for The Three Belles And The Spitbank Mystery..!

Issie was also keen to get me to write a story with vampires in, or a werewolf. Which is something I have been considering. The skill will be finding something fresh to do with these strange supernatural creatures. But then, I also have a Bond movie style of story to think about too!

I’ve got to say it was a fantastic day to be going out on the water and Belles added their own Bond Girl glamour to proceedings. Sparkling water, big smiles and a certain chic – what more is there to life?

The low line of Portsmouth Point from Gunwharf Marina and the harbour mouth looked great with its old Georgian buildings as we headed out on the water. I imagined the raucous, crazy, wild times that happened there, when sailors came home, laden with prize money after capturing a ship. It’s different today, but the ghosts linger still!

The Belles were as the Belles always are – funny, smart and quickwitted. I really respect the way they’ve taken what was a university project and are, step by step, turning it into a career.

They were striking as ever today: Sally, elegant with flaming red hair, Issie, pale in the sunlight like a flower wilting in the heat, and Anneka with her cloche hat and her tweed jacket, like a picture from the 1930s.

The building was low in the water and looked impressive as we approached during a five minute skip across the Solent. The RIB was driven by Mark Watt, who’s organizing the rebuild of the Fort to luxury standards. It’s really going to be something special

 when it’s done, and it’s going to be a fantastic venue and hideaway. Wonderful to see these places being refurbished.

Well, Saturday night is going to be a hoot for The Belles – I do, as ever, wish them the best of luck. As if they need it!

Paul Daniels – A Little Bit of Magic

Matt Wingett reviews Paul Daniels at The King’s Theatre, Southsea, 22nd February 2012.

Paul Daniels was, when I was a lad, something of a hero of mine.

I liked his funny patter, I liked his smooth magic, and of course, when I was an adolescent I loved seeing his beautiful assistant “the lovely Debbie MacGee” getting tied up in scanty clothing, only to mysteriously emerge without explanation in another part of the room.

So when it came to seeing Paul at the King’s Theatre Southsea, I couldn’t resist.

The fact was though, that I went along with some doubts. Would he still have the magic? And what had happened to him in the intervening years? Somehow, he had crashed out of public life – suffering a humiliating series of vicious attacks from a British media intent on knocking down anyone who got too popular. Stories had circulated of his arrogance, and there was a continual dig at the fact that he wore a wig, which supposedly showed he was vain. It was petty, and it was stupid – but somehow after the Press did their worst, he sort of withered away.

The question was: could he still cut the mustard – and then make it disappear?

Making a definite virtue of his hairpiece in the name of his new show “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow” was cheeky and funny, but also strangely telling, considering how this ridiculous brouhaha about a wig seemed to have overshadowed this top performer’s reputation in the 80s.

With that “hang the journalists” attitude implied in the show’s name, I have to say that the first half of the show did look like Paul was on the back foot. The audience was disappointingly scanty for one of the top performers of the 1980s, with perhaps a 100 people in the massive King’s Theatre. This certainly didn’t help the ambience.

Paul himself seemed subdued, and started off reiterating the point that he never really cared about his wig in the way the papers had implied – he came on sporting one, in order to make fun of it. It was a strange opening. To me, he seemed to be fighting an old fight that was long gone, and his continued barbs at the Press throughout the show implied that he’d been “got at” more than his “It was never important to me” implied.

The first half sputtered along unevenly. He did a nice levitation routine, and disappeared some handkerchiefs – but really it was all rather pedestrian. The guest appearance by Kev Orkian, an Armenian illegal immigrant who was a genius on the piano was spirited – but he had to work hard to get this small audience to respond. Which, actually, he did.

There were moments where Paul’s personality shone through. His kindness to Jen and her little boy Cas in the audience was really endearing, and he managed to win the audience over. Nevertheless, by the end of the first half, I was approached by one guy who said that he was disappointed thus far.

The second half, though, was a very different matter. Paul’s magical effects increased and there was a definite reigniting of the old magic. His quips with the audience were on the money, and very funny, and the comedy added an extra twist all the way.

Then something extraordinary happened. Paul took it to a level in which – half way between supposedly messing up tricks, he appeared to hypnotise two volunteers from the audience, with no explanation and no induction.

It is possible that they were stooges, but I like to think they weren’t. They were very believable and one, being a street cleaner and the other an employee in Game in Pompey, it should be pretty easy to verify.

The effects built one on another, with signed playing cards appearing from nowhere, a lovely running gag about a £20 note, and a series of befuddling, funny tricks that really got everyone thinking.

Did he hypnotise, or didn’t he? How did he get that note hidden away?

If the measure of a magician is in the way that people continue to ask questions after the show, then I would say that Paul still has the old magic. I am scratching my head even as I write! It was good to see his kindly, funny show of the old school.

It wasn’t just nostalgia. Yes, this is a great show to see!

Simon Callow Shines At Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal, 7th Feb 2012

One of the leading actors of his generation, Simon Callow has had a long and fruitful relationship with Charles Dickens, as his audience at The New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth discovered, on 7th February 2012 – the 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birth, less than a mile from where the theatre stands.

From his first encounter with Dickens at the age of 7 via A Christmas Carol – a story which admittedly frightened him white – Dickens always impressed.

However, it was chickenpox that reintroduced the 13-year-old Callow to the diminutive giant of English Literature, when he was laid up in bed with the virus.  “That mediaeval torture was unbearable, with the need to scratch and scratch,” he told his audience. And scratch he did, until his grandmother intervened by placing a copy of The Pickwick Papers in his hands.  “After that,” Callow announced with a theatrical flourish worthy of Dickens himself, “I scratched no more.”

Simon Callow
Simon Callow, who delivered a fascinating talk about Charles Dickens, at Portsmouth's New Theatre Royal, on 7th February 2012

At the beginning of his talk, Callow announced that he had been invited to attend a service at Westminster Abbey, and a dinner at Mansion House – but there was nowhere he would rather be than here, on Dickens’s birthday. Which of course, got the Portsmouth audience cheering, no end.

Callow went on to describe his connection with Dickens in his early years as an actor. He recalled how, as a 27-year-old appearing in A Christmas Carol in Lincoln, he got to play both Fezziwig and Bob Crachitt. He described unexpectedly disappearing down an unsecured trapdoor dressed as Fezziwig, and after losing his wig in the 14 foot fall, re-emerging in front of a stunned and somewhat confused audience of children as Bob Cratchitt.  He talked of finding out about Dickens’s punishing reading tour, which eventually contributed to the writer’s early death, and brought his tale right up to date with his talk of his appearance as Dickens in an episode of Dr Who alongside David Tennant and Billy Piper.

Of Dickens’s theatrical obsession, his stage-struckness, his am-dram performances put on at his home, attended by Queen Victoria, the Lord Chancellor and half the Cabinet – Callow spoke eloquently. From his first flirtation with the theatre before he went on to become a clerk in a law firm through his performances of plays such as The Frozen Deep, co-written with his friend Wilkie Collins, his work as a director of plays and his invention of ingenious gas lighting effects to recreate the dawn, and of sound effects produced by ethereally playing a piano several rooms away – Dickens’s obsession with the stage was total.

In fact, Dickens’s whole life seemed to be dominated by his need for public performance, and it was his forcing himself to appear at his readings against his doctor’s advice that eventually led to his dying of, essentially, overwork.

It was perhaps surprising that Callow, whose life has been so intimately wrapped up with Dickens, had never before been to the city of his birth. But he made up for it, was fulsome in his praise of the City’s vibrant and spontaneous approach to the bicentenary -and at the end of his talk, the audience reciprocated – continuing to applaud until he took to the stage again, and bowed – not with the theatricality of Dickens, but with something that was very much more Simon Callow: a slight, humble bow.

Simon Callow’s new book “Dickens” is available from Waterstone’s, Commercial Road, Portsmouth, and other good booksellers, and online.

Charles Dickens: A Ball In Commemoration Of His Birth, Where It All Began, 6th February 2012

On a cold night on 6th February 1812, Mrs Elizabeth Dickens, heavy with child, attended a Naval ball, accompanied by her husband, John, at the Old Beneficial School building, Portsea.

The Old Beneficial School, Portsea.
The Old Beneficial School, Portsea.

Not far from the high walls of the thriving dockyard, the Old Beneficial School was a rare architectural gem in an area of squalid housing inhabited by artisan dockyard workers, alehouse keepers, tradesmen and prostitutes.

We cannot know what music was played and what little dramas and intrigues were entered into inside the Old Benny’s walls that night. But one thing of note happened, whose impact echoes around the world.

On that night, Mrs Elizabeth Dickens went into labour, and was rushed by carriage from The Old Benny along the streets of Portsea to nearby Number 1 Mile End Terrace, Landport, where she gave birth to her son, Charles, the following day.

The Hampshire Regency Dancers recreate the ball in which Charles Dickens decided it was time to come into the world!
The Hampshire Regency Dancers recreate the ball in which Charles Dickens decided it was time to come into the world!

Two centuries later, on the anniversary of that very night, another ball was held in the same building, including a gentleman dressed as a naval officer, another as a soldier – and plenty of women in bright cotton Empire Line dresses reviving the past for a few brief hours – and celebrating Portsmouth’s most famous son.

Charles Dickens, son of Portsmouth
Charles Dickens, son of Portsmouth

The staff of The Groundlings Theatre, along with the Hampshire Regency Dancers, who instructed the attendees in the art of period dancing, made a fabulous job of it.

Considering Dickens’s love of the theatre, how right that the Old Benny is now a theatre, dedicated to the performing arts.

Dickens would have loved it. He would have loved the brilliant acting of the kids who put on a short piece on the novels of Dickens – performing the books “both forwards and backwards at ten lines a novel!” He would have been delighted by the acting of the strict schoolmistress and her pupils in the “schoolroom” upstairs, and would have revelled in the spirit and comedy of the shows in the bar.

This was a great evening. It serves to remind the people of Portsmouth something we should be proud of. Over the coming weeks, the extraordinary imagination of Charles Dickens will be celebrated by nations the world over who have never seen his mother country, let alone the city of his birth. Films will be watched, books read, stories told to children, radio plays listened to and plays performed…

…But here, right here, in this street, in the seething, jostling, dirty, alive and vibrant alleys of the Portsea of two centuries ago – this is where all of it started. If we learn one thing from that birth, it’s this – it’s possible for anyone, no matter where they come from to feel that they, too, can have great expectations…

And The Next Version Of The Cover For The Tourist – by Matt Wingett

Well, now I am a little tired of all the re-designs I’ve made for this cover, so this is going to be the last one. Having had to replicate a series of effects I had done on an earlier image, I then saved the Photoshop doc as a thumbnail size, and can’t reverse it.  So, if I want to make further changes, I will have to go back to the original document and replicate the changes again… Enough!  This will do for now!

The Latest Design of the cover - which was far more trouble than I expected!
The Latest Design of the cover - which was far more trouble than I expected!

A Cover for The Tourist – A Portsmouth Horror Story

Below you’ll find the provisional front cover of my latest e-book – The Tourist. This is a freebie that I’m giving away, and is a ghost story set around Portchester Castle. I found the engraving in a pile of pictures I bought at auction, and thought a little bit of colouring would be absolutely perfect!

The Tourist Cover
Put together from an engraving of Portchester Castle, from 1772