Faith over Adversity

Inspirational is a word that is frequently bandied around and misused by the media. But for local woman, Sarita Jarrett (43), this is a true definition. For nearly thirty years Sarita has had Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a condition that has made life a challenge for her but has never stopped her making the most of life. This is mostly due to her Christian faith which she feels has given the strength to carry on even through very dark days of pain and depression.

But the progression of her condition has left her housebound, and at times bed bound, and now needs the help of carers three times a day. In constant pain she has to rely on medication, including morphine and steroids, to ease her symptoms but despite this adversity, Sarita has managed to enjoy her life. She learned to drive, did voluntary work with local radio and studied with Open University. In 2012 Sarita was chosen as one of the Olympic torch bearers, being nominated as some-one who brings happiness to others through her passion for Biblical Counselling which is about finding a verse for every problem. She first heard about Biblical Counselling whilst visiting her parents and through mentoring from the North Hills Community Church in South Carolina, Sarita was able to train over five years. At the time she was the first British woman to complete the process in the UK.

Before Christmas Sarita was invited to talk about Biblical Counselling to an audience of Christians in a church in the Algarve, Portugal . This was a great challenge for Sarita but she immediately began planning the logistics of the trip and finding ways of raising funds and had several craft sales to help raise money. But what was astonishing is that Sarita, who cannot walk and relies on a wheelchair, did all the driving to Portugal in her adapted car, accompanied by her mother. This was the first time she has driven abroad and it was a long journey which took 2 days each way. But Sarita is a very positive, determined person and in her own words, “a control freak” so coped well with the trip. She stayed in an apartment above her parent’s apartment and was cared for by her mother.

Her talk went well and as a result has been in touch by Skype and email with people interested in training in Biblical Counselling. The notes she used for her presentation in Portugal will be translated into Portuguese and used there. Sarita said, “The chance to talk to people about Biblical Counselling was well received and I am humbled that God chose me for the job”. “My history with the medical profession has been challenging as it is a condition often regarded as psychological, but it is a neurological condition”. “The trip to Portugal was so much more than I expected and I was so grateful to have the chance to do things that I’ve not done in a long time, including painting, boules and sight seeing”.

Her visit coincided with a special event in Portugal, the ‘Bethlehem Village’, organised by All Saints Anglican Church where members recreated the hustle and bustle of the Bethlehem marketplace in order to tell the story of the birth of Jesus. Spectators were transported back to Bethlehem mingling with Roman soldiers, King Herod, shepherds, wise men, shopkeepers, angels and livestock as they wandered around the town. They were guided town by guides and eavesdropped on conversations with the main characters at each station. In the market square the Salvation Army played carols and stall holders sold gifts and crafts for charity. People travel from far and wide to take part in the event which Sarita captured on video.

Sarita said,”Despite my condition, I am now content and don’t give up easily as I am not a victim”. “I wouldn’t have been able to survive without my faith of which I am truly thankful”.

“I have been invited to be part of a care team with North Hills as a prayer/email supporter of some in crisis even though I am not there in person”. “God is extremely good to me”.

Pompey Pals

The onset on the First World War brought a rush of patriotism when young men eagerly enlisted to fight for their country. At this time enlistment was voluntary but it soon became evident that the number of troops needed was to be greater than first thought. An idea was introduced to encourage volunteers from work, clubs, sporting teams and villages to join up together with the promise that they would be able to serve alongside their friends. The Pals battalions became popular and Portsmouth was one of the first to raise two battalions, the 14th and 15th Battalion Hampshire Regiment in 1914 and 1915, locally known as the Pompey Pals. A third reserve battalion was later raised. Football grounds were the centre of the war effort where they were encouraged to raise funds and used the facilities for drill and training. Fratton Park was used to enlist many of the Pompey Pals as they passed through its gates and in 2015 a memorial was erected to remember these young men.

Chris Pennycook, Mike Hill and J JMarsahallsay from the Pompey Pals Project gave an interesting talk to Cowplain WI, bringing along paintings of local heroes and military artefacts. Mike began the talk with a general insight of events at the time and he said,”Two horrendous events happened in 1916 that affected Portsmouth as it was a military and naval centre area”. “Firstly the Battle of Jutland when 6,095 sailors and 14 ships were lost”. “The second was the Somme where the Pompey Pals fought and on 3rd September, 587 of the 14th Battalion went over the top and at the end of the day there were only 140 left”. Altogether 6,500 enlisted from the Portsmouth area, including Havant, Emsworth, Gosport, Fareham and Alton and 1,425 men died. A limited commemorative Portsmouth Football Club shirt was produced in 2014 containing all 1,425 names.

Chris Pennycook then talked about Ypres and described the area the battalions were fighting in and likened it to a bowl with the British at the bottom and the Germans along the rim. He spoke of local men and women who were awarded for their bravery such as 24 year old Frank Goldsmith from Blendworth who was awarded a VC at the Somme when he bravely captured a pill box and some Germans. He recalled those who contributed in different ways such as Daisy Dobbs, a Portsmouth nurse who received the Military medal after being injured at Salonika and Marion Wylie, who went to and fro across the Channel with vital medical supplies and Mrs L C Paxton who ran a hospital from Langstone Towers and treated 1,430 patients until its closure in 1919.

It was estimated that by the end of 1914, a million Pals had enlisted and proved to be vital to the war effort as Britain at that time had only 80,000 professional soldiers. They came from all walks of life from stock brokers, public schoolboys, sportsmen, artists as well as the ordinary working man. The Pals battalions across the country suffered heavy casualties which made a huge impact on towns, villages and communities until in 1916 conscription was introduced and no further Pals battalions were set up. They were friends and neighbours who went to war supporting each other, making life a bit more tolerable knowing they would watch out for each other. A poem written anonymously sums up the pride of Portsmouth for these brave young men.

“God bless the lads of Pompey The boys in red and blue
Who, one and all rose to the call To see old England through We’re proud of every Briton From near and far away

But we’re extra proud of the little crowd Of Pompey boys today.

A memorial ceremony for the Pompey Pals is planned at Guildhall Square on 9th September 2017.

The return of Sherlock Holmes

The return of Sherlock Holmes to our screens has been welcomed by many across the country but it interesting to recall the author of the original stories and his links with the local area. Arthur Conan Doyle gained his medical qualifications at Edinburgh University but began life as a GP in Southsea where he also began writing on a small scale. His early professional life was spent as a surgeon on a whaler in the Arctic Ocean and as a medical officer off the coast of West Africa.

In 1882 he set up his practice at No. 1 Bush Villas, Elm Grove, Southsea and it was here his best novels were conceived. It was a difficult start as a GP and he spent his time collecting oddments of furniture to furnish his surgery, obtained drugs on credit and sitting back waiting for his first patients to arrive. To supplement his meagre income he began to write but his first effort, a short story, was rejected by many magazines. Eventually publishers Ward Lock published, “A Study in Scarlet” in the 1887 Beeton’s Christmas Annual and paid the doctor £25 (about £2,500 in today’s money) for his contribution. After a slow start, Doyle got himself an agent and soon his stories were being accepted and his income increased dramatically. Whilst in Southsea he wrote “Micah Clarke” and the early part of the story was set in Havant and there are many references to local places.

In the story, Micah Clarke told his grandchildren that he was born in Havant in 1664 – “it was a pleasant healthy spot with a hundred or more houses”. Micah’s father, was described as a leather merchant and tanner and Doyle obviously used local knowledge as Havant was an important centre for tanning. Micah had a gloomy childhood in Havant interrupted only by the occasional travelling show in the village or by a visit to the fair on Portsdown Hill. In the novel he recalls seeing a strong man, a dwarf who could fit himself into a pickle jar and a man who turned himself round a tightrope while playing on the virginal! The fair on the Hill was very popular and thousands travelled on special trains to enjoy the event until it was abolished in 1861 when the construction of the Portsdown forts was commissioned.

Doyle’s books were fine examples of story telling and his detective stories were full of imagination and entertainment. His fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, who was originally going to be called Sherringford Holmes, was based on his medical tutor, Dr Joseph Bell who had remarkable powers of observation. Watson was created from his friend, Dr James Watson, who lived in Portsmouth. Although Sherlock Holmes brought him financial success and fame, Doyle never liked the character he had created. He preferred his historical novels and decided to kill off Holmes in his next novel but due to great public demand he was obliged to resurrect him.

Doyle became well known locally as he took an active interest in the life of Portsmouth. He joined the Portsmouth Cricket Club, the Liberal Unionists and the Literary and Scientific Society and lived in Southsea for eight years and left in 1890 after building up a thriving practice. Before he left he was entertained at a banquet by many of his friends in Portsmouth. His fame was spreading and as writing was more financially beneficial than being a GP, he gave up medicine to concentrate on his writing. He was knighted in 1902 and in 1916 became a spiritualist and devoted the rest of his life to travelling, abroad, and writing books before he settled down in the New Forest and died in 1930.

He was a prolific writer which included 22 novels, 16 short stories, books on spiritualism and other factual books. At the time of his departure from Southsea, the Hampshire Telegraph reported that “He is a fine example of the healthy mind in a healthy body, entering with equal zeal into manly sports and into those exercises of the brain which seem destined to bring him fame and fortune”. After a varied life as a doctor, writer, sportsman and spiritualist, Sir Conan Doyle had proved he was as exciting as many of the characters he had created.