SCUMMY SOTON: Man threatens to set himself ON FIRE

Bret Ware kicks off our new bizarre stories from Soton column with tales of domestic stabbings, jousting and self immolation. Lovely!

Hazmat suits at a school in Southampton. Nope, it’s not another story about swine flu.

We all love to lambaste Portswood from time to time. I haven’t met a student from the ‘hood who hasn’t indulged in a horror story about the stabbing outside Gordon Arms or a burglary on Tennyson Road; last week, my barber even told me a tale about night-time occultism in the neighbouring Southampton Common. I myself came back from work at two in the morning a few days ago to discover a semi-clothed drunkard being arrested in my own back garden. His arrest was merely an aside to the police vans and band of trained dogs standing vigilantly on my road. I barely batted an eyelid.

But there is a city outside the university bubble; a winding, concrete expanse that makes Jester’s home district appear more like sleepy Winchester, far from our usual portrayal of Portswood as a sizeable chunk of Hackney plonked carelessly at the bottom of Hampshire. Our city’s happenings are surreal, terrifying or worse, and I have this week’s finest round up in one tidy article for you to giggle and gasp at. Side effects may include a deep sense of discomfort and a reluctance to even venture off campus. Peruse at your own morbid leisure!

An Inflamed Protest

On the 6th of December, 11:40am, a man carrying a green petrol can with a cigarette dangling from his lips was seen pouring fuel over himself, threatening to set himself alight in Guildhall Square. Police quickly arrived at the scene after a concerned bystander alerted them that the Human Torch was about to take flight. Roads were closed off and cordons were erected; police managed to eventually calm the poor man down and take him home. Some suggest the episode was a fiery protest against Southampton’s dying and frankly abysmal music scene.

Behind the Panels

On the same day a turbulent and violent relationship in Eastleigh fell just short of murder. In a purported “moment of madness”, Sarah White, 40, admitted stabbing her long-term partner in the chest after he threw her off a stool. According to the Daily Echo, she “grabbed a kitchen and stabbed him”. In ordinary circumstances I’d take that to be a typo, but from the sounds of it this unrestrained couple were engaged in domestics closer to the Hulk and She-Hulk than anything else.

Taking Chemistry Class a Little Too Far

If that’s not enough for the authorities to deal with, then accidental chemical warfare may just about fit the bill. Wildern School in Hedge End yesterday morning recently played host to a large concentration of mustard gas, a chemical with the propensity to cause significant burns.The highly toxic gas leaked into the school as the swimming pool’s pipes burst and met with a yet unidentified chemical to produce the dangerous substance.

At 7:30am, as kids were redirected home, firefighters donned special suits to combat the gas which eventually safely dispersed. The emergency services even called in an expert, a chemical specialist with considerable experience dealing with pepper spray and mustard gas. He is considered a seasoned veteran.

A Return to our Violent Roots

Further afield, plans to stage mediaeval jousting tournaments in the New Forest continue to be rejected by the council. Last Wednesday, Councillor Maureen Holding clashed with Allan Hendry, a resident of the Brokenhurst area – where the tournaments may be held – over whether the scheme should go ahead, expressing concerns over entrepreneur Alan Girling’s plans to stage the jousting at Black Knoll Barn, citing considerable danger as his main worry. Suggestions to settle the dispute between Allen Hendry and the Councillor by engaging in the violent mediaeval sport fell on deaf ears.

That’s it for this weeks roundup; I hope you’ve been terrified and amused in equal measure. Southampton really is nuts, and it isn’t just Portswood that makes your eyes widen and your walks at night a little faster. Now get back to those December deadlines. You don’t want to be stuck here for the rest of your life, do you?