From a hardworking teenager to a chef to an artist- The story of Andy Jones, a Solent Fine Art Student

I love meeting inspiring humans who love what they do. They talk about it with so much passion and eloquence. I instantly know when that happens. I can see the sparkle in their eyes. And I smile without realising.

What is even rarer is to meet well-rounded people who can talk not only about what they love, but everything and anything else. And Andy is one of them.

A couple of months I received a message on Twitter. Andy, a final year Fine Art Student at Solent came across my blog and wanted to meet and have a chat. He offered to show me around the Fine Art studios and his third year project he was working on.

I love meeting new people-oh if I could do that for a living- and any excuse to visit the beautiful, colourful, creative Below Bar Studios again, I didn’t have to think twice.

We met on a grey Thursday afternoon a couple of weeks ago. And I enjoyed every minute. Andy is honest and open about his life. I miss it, I often find that people here are too polite and don’t say what they think, afraid they may reveal too much. But not Andy.

We sit opposite his impressive piece of work.

IMG_5678 1

We talked about his life, what a life he had. He left Liverpool when he was 17 to get away from family troubles and had to work since. He became a chef, at some point working at the Marco Pierre White restaurant in London, living THE life.

We inevitably end up talking about food, Mediterranean cuisine, he lived in Spain for a while so he really knows the essence of delicious food.

He somehow lost everything later on, and some years and six children later, one day his wife said to him ‘I’ll go back to work, and it’s time for you to chase your dream’.

That’s when he applied to study Fine Art at Solent. He wanted to become an artist since he was a child, but as you’d imagine, there wasn’t much support for a young Liverpudlian lad in the ’80s to become an artist, you ‘can’t make a living out of it’.

We talk about the course. He loves it. He absolutely loves it but he feels there is not much support, recognition or promotion from the University. As a mature student, commuting for hours most days, he expected more for himself and his classmates.

We go through his work and his current project. Imposing, sad but incredibly powerful.

Andy Jones

The big hammer, the ‘corporate’, the ‘big powers’ ruining our planet, ruining humanity. All of that painted on plastic canvases. The contrast, the intentional irony.

On one of his paintings,  he added a crown on his hammer hitting the Grenfell tower, on which he added a little head. A prime, tragic example of how greediness has destroyed the lives of innocent, every day people. I can see it so very clearly (image below it’s not the one I’ve seen, but it depicts the same scene).

Grenfell tower

On the top right, I catch a familiar image with the corner of my eye. The traditional blue and white houses you often see on Greek Islands. I smile. It reminds me of the cute little holiday apartment I stayed with my sisters in Protaras, two years ago, the best summer I had in a long time.

He shows me around the studio, it somehow seems bigger than the last time I was there. He talks me through the rest of the students work, some finished, some still in progress. That’s why I love art. I love the creativity, the beauty of the surrealism mixed with cruel reality in more than one occasions and the subjectivity. You may not see what I see, and I may not see what you see. That’s the beauty of it.

I leave the Studio grateful I met Andy and I spent my lunchtime at a gorgeous, creative space, escaping reality even for a little bit.

I can’t wait for their degree show, 26° Below Bar, opening night on the 8th of June. Everyone is welcome. If you want to see Andy’s and the rest of our amazing Fine Art students’ work, come along. I’ll be there.




Hello November

Happy November!

Winter is almost here. Crispy cold in the morning, dark when I leave work. And Christmas is coming, I can feel it in the air.

New month, new beginnings again for me. And I could not be more grateful.

About this time last year I didn’t want to leave the house, I struggled to find any motivation to do anything, I didn’t feel like blogging or doing anything else for that matter.

A year later, it couldn’t be more different.

October was busy but exciting.

From trying Scandinavian food with one of my favourite friends, trying new cafes in town, dinner and drinks with my favourite work friends to meeting new people through social media and face to face such as the lovely Selina who is a freelance consultant for Arbonne, and the inspiring Beth and Mel, who just started their skincare company, Cherish.


I felt incredibly happy when, after my post about networking I received messages from people I didn’t expect and we are now arranging chats with coffee to get to know each other better. How great is that.

My post on how I survive work in a dead end job is now my most read post and the response I got caught me by surprise!

But it doesn’t end there.

I absolutely loved the Women Who Do Breakfast and Networking last week. And through this event I’ve met the incredible Bene, a hot power yoga teacher in Southampton and I’ll soon been trying her classes and tell you all about it.  I met with Benedita and Ian, her partner and also yoga teacher, yesterday and we chatted all about yoga and her story so far. You all know by now how much I love yoga and how it helped and helps me physically and mentally. It was one of the most interesting, inspiring conversations I had in a while.

Women Who Do
Women Who Do

I spent last Sunday at the University, volunteering for the Open Day, which I’d recommend it to any University staff, what a beautiful day that was.

The Pod
The Pod

I’ve also signed up for free six month Personal Training (thank you Solent Health!) with one of our BA Fitness and Personal Training students who I actually met today.

And I’m halfway through my Salsa Beginners classes which I really enjoy.

And I’m back at the workplace choir. I finally made it back. I missed everyone, especially Dan!

These are just some of the things I got up to. I’m exhausted but I loved every moment.

I can’t believe how much I learned over the last year and improved myself. There is still work to be done but I’m happy in my skin.

I’m now confident enough to apply for a job I’m really interested in but I have no extensive ‘relevant’ work experience because I’m not scared anymore. I believe in myself and even if I don’t get it, I’ll learn something from it.

I want to end this post with a big big thank you to everyone for all your comments and love for my blog. I really felt it this last couple of weeks. It melt my tiny, little heart. To receive so much love for something I do because I love and enjoy doing it is overwhelmingly beautiful.

I can’t wait to see what else November will bring!




My first Solent Open Day

Most of you spent the precious extra hour yesterday in bed.

I didn’t. But it was totally and utterly worth it.

A couple of weeks ago our External Relations department asked for any volunteers to work on Open Days the University runs for prospective students.

I love volunteering for events across the Uni, I learn so much and I enjoy doing something different as you know by now, so I signed up.

I didn’t realise I had to be at the University at 7:15am on a Sunday!

Early mornings is not my strongest point so I’m glad I had that extra hour. The morning walk was amazing. It was very quiet, I could only hear the birds and a car or two every now and then. There’s something special being awake, out and about when most people are still in bed.

I arrived at the Uni on time and the lovely Rebecca who plans and runs the Open Days at the University briefed us on what our duties would be on the day.

After a quick check of the teaching rooms and a warm, delicious coffee and a chocolate cookie we were ready to welcome our future students and their family and friends.

I was placed at the Atrium, where all the information stands were set, where all the action happens and I spent most of the day doing something I really love, chatting to people. I chatted to prospective students and their guests directing them where they wanted to go, answering any questions I could and of course talking to them about our impressive new building, the Spark.

Everyone was in awe of the Pod!

The Pod
The Pod

What I enjoyed the most was chatting to our Student Ambassadors. As most of support staff working at Universities, especially in my most recent position at Solent, I don’t get to talk to students as often (or work with them as I used to), the ones who we really work for, to make their experience the best it can get. I think all staff should spend time with students, it’s an eye opener.

I loved hearing them talk about their course, how much they enjoy and love it, what they want to do next, their dreams about the future, unspoiled and untouched by the harsh reality of being an adult. And I loved sharing what I learnt from my life so far and advising them to be bold and fearless, follow their dreams NOW and not wait for anything.

Nicola, who did an amazing job as a team leader on the day, studies Acoustic Engineering and she told me all about her amazing dissertation proposal. Unfortunately I can’t share it in case someone reads this and steals her idea.

Deana is studying Criminology, which she absolutely loves and she wants to move to London after her studies. I loved my time with Deana, we talked about food, TV shows and movies (Stranger Things was mentioned a lot!), her life as a student and her struggles. At that moment I realised how similar student life is to single adult life (or maybe how similar is my life to student life…) but also how much I learned and changed since I left Uni.

Maria is studying Fine Art and she is moving to Portsmouth to work at the Historic Dockyard after she finishes her studies!

I also got the chance to talk to Greek and Cypriot students. Oh I loved it so much. Talking in my mother language to young Greeks. I felt like their eldest sister, giving them advice and listening to their dreams and aspirations. It made me miss home but it also felt like home.

I thoroughly enjoyed talking to some of our academics and course leaders and learn about the amazing work they do. Baxter the robot impressed everyone who interacted with it!


I’d describe the whole experience as a big party, a celebration of our University. Academics, support staff, students, future students all together in our beautiful teaching space.

I’m still tired and my legs hurt but I’d do it every day if I could. I’d advise any University staff to volunteer to help with Open Days. You’ll learn more than you expect about the University, our staff and students. And you’ll spend a day with lovely colleagues.

Thank you to Rebecca who let me be part of this.


What a week. Congratulations SSU graduates!

Happy weekend!

I meant to write a post about the most recent book I’ve finished reading (Awakenings) and the incredible film inspired by it but I didn’t get the time. I started writing about it today but I couldn’t not mention how my week’s been and the post became ridiculously long.

So I decided to dedicate this post my Solent Graduation week experience.

I had an amazing week (although my feet and back still hurt but totally and utterly worth it)  and I’d love to share the highlights with you.

The week didn’t start that well, I felt very unproductive for the last 10 days, thinking of what to do now, what to do next and I had this stubborn cold that wouldn’t go away, which made me feel even worse. But the week got better, way better than I thought.

On Tuesday I handed our Snowdonia climb money to my lovely friend Dan who is part of Tempo Wellbeing and will be planning a festival very soon with the amount we raised. So happy we helped such a wonderful cause.  Thank you again to every single one of you who shared/donated. We wouldn’t have done it without you.

From Wednesday until yesterday I had the most amazing time helping out with the 2017 Southampton Solent Graduation.

I’ve worked at Solent for the last 6 years but this was the first time I’ve volunteered for this and I’m incredibly proud and honoured I got to play a tiny part in it.

I love being around people, having interesting conversations, learning from others and I seize every opportunity to get out of the office, so I’m very happy I was given the chance to be part of our Graduation.

My main responsibility (on top of selling water, crowd control and general advice and guidance) was getting our graduates on stage. I fixed their gowns and hats, comforted them when they felt nervous and reminding them to take a breath and smile. What a lovely feeling to see the smile and excitement on their face.

I, as many of my colleagues who are not academics, sit in front of a PC for 8 hours every day, doing our best to keep the system up to date and working, making sure their fees are correct and on the system on time, spending hours and days updating fee regulations and so on and although I’m aware how our work impacts on our students’ experience, we don’t get to interact with students or follow their journey until the end.

To watch them graduate after three years of swimming in the adult sea, learning how to live on their own, trying hard to find a balance between partying and studying was incredible.

Some of our students, as a lot of students do,  struggled with personal issues, disability, mental and physical health issues. And I felt immensely proud to watch them get on that stage.

Needless to say it got emotional a couple of times. One of my favourite moments was a sweet, young lady, who was on a wheelchair but didn’t want to use it on stage, walking up the stairs and the crowd clapping and cheering her on. It still gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

I cried when a brave mum who got up on stage to accept the degree on behalf of her son, who died recently. She was accompanied by her son’s classmates who some of them also worked at graduation, filming.

I was proud to watch one of the students I knew under my previous role at SSU, who worked for the University calling graduates asking them to complete the graduate survey, graduate himself a couple of years later. Congratulations Ben!

And although I did not know them personally, I was extremely proud for all Cypriot students who graduated this week. Out of everyone, I can understand best how tough it can get living alone in a foreign country, let alone when you are so young.

I loved the singer, who sang for all ten graduations and graduated herself on Wednesday. I later found she is Greek. I knew as soon as I heard her voice! Amazing voice (and hair!). She will definitely go far.

We also had lots of fun! As you’d expect. One of the reasons I love Solent is people. Most of them are the loveliest, sweetest, funniest people I’ve ever met.  I loved our chats when we got some time to sit down and rest, running up and down in our gowns, Steve Carter pretending to through his graduation book to me every time he saw me, free ice cream, lots of laughter on the MASSIVE deck chairs. Taking photo on the chairs with our boss was definitely one of the highlights!




Some of the funniest bits was watching our lovely Academics doing their best to pronounce difficult names. Martin Skivington pronouncing a name which unfortunately included the f word in the surname made everyone in the room burst into laughing.

I can’t finish this post without thanking the graduation team and especially Sarah Bishop, the organiser, the brain, the main lady behind this. Sarah has not only worked hard for a year, as she does every year, to organise the graduation ceremonies to perfection, but she was there to deal with everything thrown at her. Angry, rude guests who haven’t booked tickets and demanded to be let in although the ceremony was fully booked, students who haven’t finished their degree but showed up anyway, personally taking care of graduates who were feeling ill on the day and many many more other little and big things who happened during last week. Superwoman!

To all of our graduates, if any happens to read this post, if I could give you one piece of advice is to live your life to the full and chase your dreams NOW, whatever they might be. Even if you think they are too big or too ambitious. Go for it. Don’t wait. Never wait.

What an amazing experience. If I’m still at Solent next year, although I hope I’d moved on by then, I’d love to be a part of it again.

If not, it will always be one of the most tiring, exhausting but beautiful moments of my life.

Enjoy your weekend everyone! I’m spending mine resting my feet.

I’ll post again in the next couple of days. And it will be all about Awakenings.

Love you all

Eleni x