It’s funny how time flies when you’re having fun. This is the twenty-fourth time I have sat down to write something for our weekly email. It feels like I’ve written double that amount, but that’s how it feels when you do something new you enjoy, make a new friend or move somewhere that brings you joy. It’s a pre-love phase. You think you could love it, but you’ve gotta stick it out for a while to find out. If I can get past another twenty-four episodes, it will become a ritual and I’ll love it and do this eternally.
In the articles since the last newsletter, I reflected on the transformation from non-places and avoidance to embracing connections in Southsea. Mocking sensationalised news, I shared experiences with Storm Ciaran, the release of a new Beatles song, and a spontaneous night drive to Tintagel in Cornwall. These posts highlighted my multifaceted journey of personal and geographic exploration. That’s what ChatGPT said when I pasted the last three articles into it. It’s interesting what it can do, but there is a dullness to its output that leaves me feeling hollow. The antithesis of the work of Alessandra Olanow, whose work I have used for this week’s image. Although, she could be an AI Bot.
Next time, it’ll be a festive edition, complete with mulled wine, but for November, it’s over to Lisa with her interest in tiles and wine. She must have spent the last month luxuriating in her bathroom.
Feel free to let us know if you have any comments or suggestions. You can get Lisa at email@example.com, and as always, you will find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best
In this month’s newsletter we’re all about the tiles. Blame it on a trip to Marrakesh back in October and a stay in a beautiful riad with striking tiles in every room.
Since my return I’ve been in conversation with two experts on tiles – one who sells them and one who lays them. So if you’re planning a new kitchen, bathroom or flooring, or are hoping to build your own Moroccan riad, we’ve got all your tiling needs covered.
We’ve also got our second wine recommendation from Lucy at Wines by the Sea, including a bargain Bulgarian number that I tried for the first time earlier this week and would highly recommend.
Helen Pyper of Tiled
Taking a stroll through Southsea this week, I popped into one of its more recent additions and had a warm welcome from Helen of Tiled, a boutique tile shop on Marmion Road.
Why boutique? Because this charming shop is no tile warehouse where you wander around dazed, confused and overwhelmed (I speak from experience). Helen offers a very personal service and a range of beautiful and unique tiles that stand out for their colour and quality.
She says: “I’m a huge advocate for decorative tiles. They can really make a statement in any room. Many of my customers choose ornate tiles to make a feature in one area, then use plainer ones for the rest of the room. It draws the eye and, if you choose a distinctive colour or pattern, it adds character to what can often be a functional room. Kitchens and bathrooms deserve to be beautiful spaces.”
Tiled opened in Southsea in April, but Helen had already been trading on Hayling Island for over two years. She was mulling on a move when a customer told her that she offered something really different, which spurred her on to take the risk. Helen declares that the move to Southsea was the best decision she could have made.
“Since we moved the business has flourished. The abundance of period homes in Southsea means there’s more demand, and people here seem more adventurous and creative. Plus we have a great location opposite Waitrose and everyone who comes in has been so friendly.”
The growing success of the business is no doubt also down to Helen’s own warm, friendly manner, attention to detail and her creative flair. She’s happy to offer advice and to make suggestions – or even whole mood boards – and tells me that customers often arrive with no idea what they want, or perplexed by the choices available, and leave feeling excited.
While I’m in the shop one delighted customer pops into show her photos of her recently tiled bathroom, while a customer from her Hayling Island days places another order.
“I love it when people come back in to show me the finished results,” she says.
For a relatively small shop, there’s an impressive range on display and nothing beats seeing the product there in front of you. While I’m especially taken with some pretty pink patterned tiles, I know that in a few months I’ll need some plainer ‘indoor-outdoor’ floor tiles to blur the boundary between my kitchen and garden. And of course, Tiled stocks these too. Noted.
Those pink tiles though…
Tiled is the local stockist for Ca’Pietra and stocks a wide range of other tiles to suit all budgets and tastes.
You can find the shop at 45 Marmion Road, Southsea PO5 2AT
Damien Gartside, master tiler
“I was always really good at art. I got an A* in school. Hopefully my customers give me the same rating.”
Meet Damien Gartside, expert-tiler; Yorkshireman; dad.
His expertise may in part be due to the fact he started tiling when he was just 14, when his mum’s partner started teaching him. He took to it like a duck to water and he can now tile just about everything.
You want brick tiles? You got it. You want hexagons? No problem. You want tiny, fiddly slate tiles on a 20-foot wall? He’d probably take a bit longer to do that one, but when he’d finished it would be first-class, as the photo ably demonstrates.
It wasn’t always the case. When he was younger, his many jobs included a stint as a labourer and he has even been a butcher. But you need to go back a few more years to understand that Damien has always been a grafter. And an entrepreneur too it seems.
“I was 10 years old when I started running my first business,” he laughs. “I wanted to make some money to buy a football game, so I started washing cars and soon had a nice little earner going with all the neighbours. I remember feeling fantastic when I had enough money to go to the shop.
“Then when I was 11, I got a paper round, and I don’t think I’ve stopped working since.”
These days the work involves rather more dexterity. When I ask him what makes a good tiler, he says: “A good eye and attention to detail. I’m finicky with my jobs; I use a spirit level all the time, although I can tell by eye when something is a couple of millimetres out. Symmetry plays a big part as it’s got to be pleasing to the eye.
“You also need a bit of common sense. I’ve seen plenty of jobs done by some gormless twit.”
If you’re not familiar with gormless, you’d better brush up on your northern jargon. He may have left his Oldham birthplace over 20 years ago, but Damien’s accent is firmly rooted in Yorkshire. It’s a joy to hear someone whose accent is so ingrained that not even 25 years of southcoast living can put a dent in it.
His kids might be a different matter. Damien’s three children, aged 10, 13 and 16, are Portsmouth born and bred and unsurprisingly, he says that none of them have his northern tone. They may have inherited his artistic flair, because it’s definitely in the blood. Damien’s two brothers also have ‘a good eye’ and one of them is also a tiler so they help each other out now and then.
Damien works all over the Hampshire and has been known to stray into West Sussex and Dorset, and he can be reached on the number below.
What’s in a name?
Did you know that Shiraz is the same as a Syrah, Monastrell is another name for Mourvèdre and Primitivo and Zinfandel are the same grape? It simply depends on the country producing the wine.
These red grape varieties are common in many renowned wine-making countries, but I’m finding the more I explore wines from lesser-known countries, I discover varieties that appear similar but have some interesting distinctions.
I’ve recently started stocking red wines from Bulgaria and Macedonia, which use grapes that are closely related to Primitivo, yet each one has a unique quality. Kratosija is native to Macedonia, yet its structure and fullness is very reminiscent of a glass of Primitivo. The distinctive character about this particular wine though, is the lack of oak, which means instead of the cocoa and vanilla notes associated with Primitivo, there is just an abundance of red-fruits and full-bodied flavour.
Melnik, a Bulgarian grape, also shares some of these qualities, but this wine has been oak-aged, giving it a spicy quality suggestive of a cross between a Primitivo and a Shiraz.
Back on more familiar ground, I’m recommending a delicious Pinotage from South Africa. Did you know that this grape is a crossbreed of Pinot Noir and Cinsault? Pinot Noir is usually light- to medium-bodied, with lower tannins, but the Cinsault adds a deeper colour, fuller body with more tannin and a smoky character.
All three of this week’s recommendations are great food wines and pair perfectly with hearty winter meat dishes.
Southsea locals can pop into Wines by the Sea to pick up a bottle and also pick up a card to play Southea Indie Bingo – simply collect stamps by spending over £5 at one of eight independent shops with a chance to win a £250 hamper of goodies just in time for Christmas.
That’s almost it other than to sign off with another selection of links we think might interest you.
Email me your newsletter suggestions at email@example.com.
This week’s links
A beautiful riad and my home for five days in Marrakech.
Are all those tiles making you feel rather Moorish? (sorry!)
Tile-lovers and aesthetes will love this hidden gem in London.
For a night on the tiles we recommend one of Southsea’s own hidden gems.
Sticking with the Moroccan theme, this lamb tagine would be a perfect pairing with any one of those wines.
Some beautiful illustrations by Alessandra Olanow.