Monday, 31 December 2007

Introspection in the park

Stilt lady, Park Life event, 21 August 2007

First bowls game of the year, 7 April 2007

Wollaton visitors, Tea in the Park event, 17 June 2007

I said to Susan yesterday that it was getting to the point with The Guardian where it wasn't worth buying it for last two weeks of the year because it was nothing more than a collection of lists and quizzes about the past year and even the year ahead. The amount of news is minimal. The last-half of December has become a kind of black hole everyone climbs into — or out of if you are a student with digs in Lenton. On the 15th the local population fell from about 7,000 to under 2,000 and almost everyone I saw in Lenton was someone I could nod a 'hello' to or recognise as a local resident.

I am one of those people who gives animals and places human like qualities and Lenton Recreation Ground is no exception. For the last couple of weeks I believe the park has been in a state of introspection, probably thinking about its real purpose in life and why has it been abandoned by visitors at a time when it is as interesting and captivating as ever albeit in different ways to spring and summer. Writing this and I suddenly think of older women. The older women I know are, without exception, as lovely and attractive as friends and companions as they ever were. I feel comfortable and happy with them. I hope they feel the same about me. Now, where was I? Yes, the park and introspection. In the absence of people and colour the park does look bleak and forlorn, but look beyond the obvious and you can see wide open spaces as large as any you will find anywhere, even the sky looks bigger. As lovely as leaves and flowers are, they enclose open space and crowd out the sky. Maybe this wouldn't happen if the playing field in the park for four times as big? But like life itself, I can only reflect on what I know or imagine.

I had intended today's blog to be a look back at my blog during 2007. This my 88th posting since I started in February this year. It is the longest I have ever done anything like this, as I have never kept a diary. I have written on a regular basis since I was a teenager for various socialist, trade union and community periodicals and newsletters. I even did a weekly radio spot for eighteen months, but working with Susan on Local History Magazine since 1984 is the nearest I have come to continuous writing. I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it and I like to think that this blog will be with me now, in some form or another, for a long time to come. What makes this blog different is that it reflects my age and a growing sense of introspection within myself. It is in no way consuming, but I am aware of it and the park at this time of the year heightens my awareness of it.

During 2007 the park has had its moments: the county bowling matches, the Park Life and Community Festivals events, an Easter church procession and five 'Tea in the Park' afternoons to name a few. I should also mention the park's third consecutive Green Flag Award — something we can all take pride in. Most of all, it has gone about its business of being a local park without fuss or notice, as thousands of people have come in and out of the park on a regular basis or as one-off visitors from afar who found the park by chance and I have spoken to a few such people myself during the course of the year. All have found Lenton Recreation Ground to be a delight. One cannot think about the park without thinking about Dave, the groundsman. He embodies the soul and spirit of our little park and in my view every park in the land should have a Dave.

It wasn't all 'highs'. There were a few low moments too. A few weeks when studded boots made a comeback and were in danger of turning the grass into a sea of mud. Thankfully the problem has lessened but the situation still needs to be watched. Then a couple of weeks ago the park house and and pavilion were broken into and vandalised for the first time in years, almost certainly by youngsters. But in the order of things these were hiccups, not disasters.

Introspection if carried to extremes can become morbid, but as a means of self-reflection it can be a good thing and that it is how I feel about it. Life, like the park, doesn't stand still. People come and go, events happens, but the good times remain and strengthen one's belief in the future despite all its uncertainties as you get older. The park, like Susan and my friends, has been an important part of my life for such a long time that you can be guilty of taking them for granted. As I get older I want them to know how important they are to me and I know Susan feels the same. To all who have got this far I say Happy New Year and may all your dreams come true.

As my final act of introspection, I have chosen three photographs from the countless photographs I have taken in the park during 2007 and taken as long choosing them as it has taken me to write this sentence!

Gordon Brown should use the new year to reconnect Labour to the older voters who will decide the next election, the former cabinet minister Stephen Byers urged last night.

Friday, 28 December 2007

A Wollaton wander

Two years ago to the day Lenton Recreation Ground was covered in snow. This is the photograph we used on this year's Christmas card. I hope we see some snow before too long. Today could not have been more different. The sky was heavy with dark clouds and it was raining in the wind, which was strong enough to blow your hat off. Susan was stuck at home working on the next issue of the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum newsletter, News From The Forum, which she is doing whilst Philippa, who normally does it, is on maternity leave.

I went on a walk with our friend Judith which I had been planning for some time because I was determined to walk to Martin's Pond and Harrison Plantation in Wollaton before the end of 2007. It was today or never. I have tried to capture our walk in the following photographs, most of which I took today, and to describe our route. It was very enjoyable and yet another reminder of how central Lenton Recreation Ground is when it comes to walks.

From the park we walked west along the Derby Road for about 400 yards until we reached Lenton Lodge at Hillside. The lodge was originally built in the 1820s as a gatehouse for the Wollaton Hall estate, but was 'detached' in the 20th century when the estate was bought by Nottingham City Council and some of the land developed to help recover the purchase money.

If you are travelling by bus this is a great starting point as lots of buses to and from the city centre stop right by the gatehouse (Trent-Barton routes 4, 5, 18, 20 and 21 from Broadmarsh and Friar Lane; City Transport routes 34*, 35, 36, 37, 93, and 195 from Victoria Centre and Angel Row. *Collin Street and Parliament Street, then Angel Row).

Once past Lenton Lodge we turned right onto Wollaton Hall Drive, which is lined with detached houses. 300 yards on and you see the entrance to Wollaton Park directly in front of you…
… but first you have to cross the city's ring road. Luckily there is a panda crossing, so you can safely get to the other side and into Wollaton Park via this very fine entrance, which it shares at this point with a golf club. So watch out for the cars! Three City Transport bus routes stop right outside. The 93 and 195 I have already mentioned. Route 53 is a suburban link bus between Arnold to the north of the city and Clifton to the south. One thing I have never understood about Nottingham buses is their failure to publicise the attractions they serve. If I had my way buses would carry brightly coloured notices in their nearside front windows saying 'To & From Wollaton Hall and Park' or 'To and From Highfields Park' etc. This way people would realise that all these great places can be reached by buses and they can leave their cars at home.

About 200 yards down the drive and there is yet another set of impressive gates, with a pedestrian entrance to the left. Through this gate and you are in Wollaton Park proper. Today we saw three overseas visitors taking a photograph of themselves — evidence of the fact that Wollaton Park can even pull in tourists in the middle of winter. Judith and I then strolled along Lime Tree Avenue towards the hall, with the wind trying as hard as it could to blow our hats off.
This picture does not show the wind or rain and makes it all look much better than it was. It also gives you a good idea of how long and straight Lime Tree Avenue is. It is easy to imagine being a 19th century visitor arriving at Lenton Station on the Derby Road and being met by a carriage to take you without a turn through the gates at Lenton Lodge and on up to Wollaton Hall, especially in summer when the trees create a corridor of green. In truth I can also imagine being told by my mother to watch for carriages and to have my bucket and shovel handy to collect any horse droppings which might chance my way. No, let's stick with the 21st century and an estate owned by the people of Nottingham.

You can't visit Wollaton Park without looking at the Hall, so here is a picture I took on another wet and windy day during this year's summer. Judith and I chickened out of climbing the rise to see the hall and took the right fork at the end of Lime Tree Avenue and made for the park entrance on Wollaton Road. There were plenty of family groups about, even one group in the distance who appeared to be having a picnic! By this time it was so wet and windy that Judith had to tie my hat on to stop it blowing away. She could do more than hold onto hers.

Once outside Wollaton Park and onto Wollaton Road, we crossed over, went to our right and took a short cut down St Leonard's Drive which brought us onto Russell Drive, which we also crossed before turning into Russell Avenue. Staying on the left-hand side of the road we could see the destination of our walk coming up on our left, then…
… we arrived at Martin's Pond and all the ducks came out of the lake and straight towards us. Clearly they expected to be fed. We then strolled around Martin's Pond completely alone. It all looks pretty bleak at this time of the year and it does look in need of some attention. There are fences down everywhere and the paths are muddy, but this didn't bother us in our sturdy walking shoes, so if you go make sure you're wearing the right kind of footwear. Just as we completed our circuit of the pond cum lake we saw a path leading to we weren't sure where. A quick check showed that it was the entrance to the adjoining Harrison Plantation, so we followed it…
… into a wooded area with lots of boggy streams criss-crossing the paths and over numerous little wooden bridges before crossing the 'Old Coach Road' and into another wooded area, where we took the path to the left before we came to…
… Raleigh's Pond, which has an island in the middle and lots of staging for anglers to use. It was here that we saw our first people. An older gentleman fishing alone and a young father with a 3–4 year old child, who may have been either a boy or a girl and who had a small fishing rod and was being shown how to cast. It was a fitting end to our Wollaton wander, as we were then on the far side of these two nature reserves (which are managed under license by the Notts Wildlife Trust for Nottingham City Council) and by Lambourne Drive, which we then walked down to return to Wollaton Road and a bus back to Lenton Boulevard and a short walk home. Wollaton Drive also has regular buses to and from the city centre. Both the Trent-Barton route 2 and City Transport route 30 terminate by the Victoria Centre (the 2 in the bus station and the 30 outside John Lewis on Milton Street by the Centre).

The bus when it came was standing room only, even at 1.30pm. No doubt most of the passengers were going to do some post-Christmas afternoon shopping. What we wanted was food and a nice cup of tea, which we soon had after arriving back on Devonshire Promenade beside Lenton Recreation Ground. All together, a great round trip which on a better day we could have walked in full.

I've promised Susan a spring or summer visit beginning with a pub lunch in Wollaton village at the Admiral Rodney, followed by high-tea when we get home. If anything what Martin's Pond and Harrison Plantation need is a tea shop (just kidding). Well, I hope you have enjoyed following us on our Wollaton wander and may be inspired to leg it as well come the better weather. You won't be disappointed.

Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's former prime minister, was assassinated yesterday in a gun and bomb attack which also killed sixteen other people.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Christmas Day

Sun setting, 3.40pm.

Looking across towards Devonshire Promenade and Lenton flats, 3.35pm.

Devonshire Promenade, 3.25pm. Not a car to be seen.

Mid-day sun, Lenton Recreation Ground, Christmas Day.

Playground visitors from Forest Fields, 3.30pm, Christmas day.

Susan is watching Dr Who, so I have sneaked out and posted these pictures which I took earlier today. All of them, bar one, were taken just as the sun was setting. At mid-day, the sun was trying to break through the clouds and it actually looked darker than it did just before the sun set.

This Christmas the park was open for the first time in a good few years. I noticed a few people walking through, even one person sitting at a picnic table. The lady and the young boy had come to park from Forest Fields "because it's a lovely park, nice and clean and tidy". I wished them Merry Christmas but she told me that they celebrated the Solstice instead and that they didn't believe in Christmas. I can understand that. Perhaps the park should have special events to mark the summer and winter solstices. If taking photographs in the park most days shows anything it is the changing seasons and I like that.

Just before the sun sinks below the houses on the Lenton Manor estate, it throws its rays across the promenade and the flats as if it is making one last determined attempt to remind the world of just how bright it can make the world we see. In the time it took me to walk the few yards from the park to my front door it was virtually dark. If I have learnt anything this year it is how fast the light fades once the sun has set. That it appears to linger is an illusion and I suspect that the older you get the more aware you are of the fact — why else do the days and years seem to fly by more quickly the older you get? I have never met an older person who does not acknowledge this.

Government plans to allow civil servants to confiscate the passports of absent parents who fail to pay child maintenance are "thoroughly unjust" and may well be unconstitutional, a former attorney general warned today.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Misty park days

This is how the park has been for the last few days. I took this picture at 9am this morning and it's the same now, at 3pm in the afternoon. In fact, the camera lies. In truth you cannot see the pavilion with the naked eye. These are the mistiest few days I can remember this year. When I took this picture I felt what seemed like raindrops in the air, so I thought the mist was about to disappear. I was wrong. I quite like it and it sums up the kind of day it's been so far.

We both sat in bed reading for an hour this morning, then I got up and whilst listening to Victoria Wood on Desert Island Disks I got all the ingredients ready for Susan to come down and make our pine nut roast for Christmas Day. Around lunchtime six young children knocked on the door and sung a couple of verses from a carol before going off with a jar of coppers I had been collecting for I don't know what. They looked like a group of lovable scamps. I just hope they stay that way. I wanted to get my camera and take a picture of them on our doorstep, but we live in an age when such a thing would be frowned upon, so I didn't.

With all the students gone home for Christmas, Devonshire Promenade and all the other roads in Lenton are virtually empty. It is eerily quiet and the mist which has been hanging over the park for the last few days echoes the quiet which has descended on Lenton. Even Christmas seems to have come early in the sense that the holiday rush has come and gone. Now, we are all waiting for Christmas Day. Even though tomorrow is officially Christmas Eve, everywhere seems to have started winding down already. Some shops won't be open and others are closing at lunchtime, even the buses are finishing at teatime.

In the absence of snow I will settle for the mist and the damp which accompanies it. There will be plenty of time for those cold crisp dry days with bright blue skies after Christmas. Snow as well would be a wonderful bonus. It does happen as my post-Christmas blog will reveal! In the meantime I would like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May all your dreams come true in 2008 and let us all work for a world of peace, justice and fairness. Oh why are the simplest things made to seem like the hardest?

A record 3.5 million people plan to fly abroad, many heading for sunny destinations such as the Canary Islands, Egypt, Goa and Dubai.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Downhill days in the park

One of four holes to pavilion ceilings caused by vandals on Monday.

The end of the pavilion where the vandals tore off tiles to gain access (the roof was repaired on Tuesday. I took this picture on Wednesday).

For me it all began Wednesday evening last week at about 4.15pm when two young girls somehow got into the park after I had locked the gates. I asked them to leave and the older girl, about 12 or 13, said "no, it's not dark, I don't see why I have to leave". I pointed out to her that the street lights were on and all the traffic along Derby Road had headlights on and that it would be completely dark in less than five minutes. She still refused and said she had just finished school and she didn't see why the park had to be locked. I tried to explain that it was for security reasons and that she should not be in the park after the dark because no one would be able to see if anything happened to her. The younger girl with her just stood by. I then said the gates were locked so they would have to leave the same way they came in. She then said "I going to phone my mum and the police and tell them what you're trying to do to me". The words had a venomous edge to them and were very unsettling. I left immediately and when I got home I telephoned our local beat police officer and told him what had just happened. I then went back and unlocked the park and there was no sign of the girls.

I haven't locked the park since as I don't want to run the risk of being the victim of vindictive allegations which then have to be investigated. I know from the twenty-one years I worked with vulnerable people just how traumatic foundless allegations can be on the individuals concerned, their families and colleagues. I don't want it to happen to me. I was locking the park because Nottingham City Council's Parks Department had decided not to, even though an unlocked park posed a security risk for a number of reasons. The local beat police officer and others agreed.

On Saturday morning there was a break-in in the park and the police were called and the property had to be boarded up. On Tuesday morning Dave Thompson, the park groundsman, arrived to find the pavilion had been broken into through the roof and the inside trashed. Little had been taken, except for a small amount of petty cash, tea, coffee and an old TV in Dave's rest room. They also broke into the barn. Dave 'phoned and told us, but I couldn't get as we were just leaving home to visit family in the Black Country for the day, so it was yesterday (Wednesday) before I saw the damage for myself.

The holes in the ceilings are quite small, which suggests that it was kids that broke in. They wore gloves and they left greasy marks everywhere as Dave had painted parts of the pavilion with anti-vandal paint. The damage will cost thousands of pounds to repair. After years of having a vandal free park for this to happen it is all very depressing. As far as I am concerned all the events are linked. I piss off a young girl who knows how to threaten adults and leave the park unlocked, then there is a series of break-ins within days. It's all too much to be a coincidence as far as I am concerned.

In the three months or so that I locked the park I only had two problems. The young girl last Wednesday and a group of young teenage boys who crowded me in a threatening manner, but they still left the park. The threat of physical violence is actually easier to deal with than vindictive threats. My neighbours are now locking the park. They are made of tougher stuff than me. The Council has not replied to my email about locking the park at night, as it is something they should be doing. It's about par for the course. Their blinkered indifference to the consequences of their attitude is, on past experience, predictable.

At this moment my wish is to see the culprits caught and punished, although this is unlikely to happen. Even if they are caught they know nothing will really happen to them, so I can well understand why the events of the past week will be a low priority for the authorities. One day they will be eighteen and their uncontrolled past will catch up with them. Then the system will happily lock them up. If only we had the courage to do something when we had the chance, then they might grow up to be better, more responsible, people.

Winston Churchill's great-grandson has been sentenced to three years in an Australian jail for his role in a multimillion-dollar ecstasy racket.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

The power of a friendly face.

Kevin and Nicola.

9.30am and the sun still casts a long shadow.

On Thursday Lenton Recreation Ground was covered in a heavy frost and by the time I left the house to catch a bus at just before 9.30am the frost was still lingering. More noticeable though were the long shadows across the park. At this time of the year the sun stays low in the sky so there are always shadows. A week from now will see the shortest day. It never ceases to amaze me at how quickly the seasons change. It really does seem to be true that the older you get the quicker life seems to move.

I did think the park was empty until I saw Nicola with Kevin coming towards me on one of their regular walks around the park. Nicola is another of Lenton's local heroes. She has been running a project for young people since we first got Lottery funding in the days of the old Lenton Community Association, long before it became The Lenton Centre. The first project has since been reborn in a number of guises so that Nicola and her colleagues could continue to access Lottery money. It is currently known as 'Activ8' and provides out of school activities for local children. Nicola and her colleagues have figured in a couple of previous blog entries. One shows Activ8 having a games day in the park during the summer holidays and the other shows them face painting at the 'Parklife' day in August.

Hopefully, the Government's 'Children's Plan' announced this week will ensure continued funding for The Lenton Centre and Nicola's invaluable work with local children.

As Nicola, Kevin and I parted in the park and went our separate ways I thought about Nicola's achievements and our passing conversation about digital cameras, but above all I thought about the power of a friendly face and a welcoming personality. I can see why Nicola's magic works so well with children because it works on a big kid like me.

Ministers from around 180 countries were united in accepting an agenda for a global emissions cuts agreement to launch negotiations for a post-2012 agreement to tackle climate change. Consensus for the road map followed a dramatic U-turn by the US, which had threatened to block the deal at the 11th hour and been booed by other countries.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Lenton farewells

Jeannie Clough, left, with colleagues from Lenton's Gurdwara, at this year's Community Festival in Lenton Recreation Ground.

New Lenton Post Office, Lenton Boulevard.

There have been two farewells in Lenton. One offers hope and the other clearly demonstrates that any words the government may speak about its commitment to neighbourhoods and local communities are meaningless in the absence of comparable actions.

On Monday just gone Jeannie Clough, the Project Officer at the Lenton Gurdwara Temple Centre on Church Street, handed over a £1million funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and with that act her job came to an end. For the past year she has worked with the Centre to put together a development package which would see the old church school building housing the Gurdwara fully restored. The building dates from 1841 and is listed. If the bid is successful it will see the Centre becoming home not only to Lenton's Sikh Temple, but an exhibition space and Lenton Local History Society plus its archives, together with a high-tech meeting room. Altogether, it is a very exciting project. When the Gurdwara's elders first began talking about improvements to the building the estimated cost was £400,000. By the time Jeannie was employed with the help of a grant from the Lottery and first spoke to Susan and me, the cost had gone up to £800,000. By September 2007 it was £1million and by this week the total had reached £1.81million, of which the HLF is being asked to fund just under £1million.

Having seen the bid and knowing all the work that Jeannie has put in and shared some of the her tears and joys I hope the HLF bid is successful. It deserves to be. I have Jeannie to thank for getting to know the Gurdwara and some of its members a little better. If it all goes ahead, then come 2010 I will be seeing Jeannie at the grand opening of Lenton's new Temple Centre. In the meantime it is farewell to someone I have come to like and admire for her commitment and enthusiasm.

This week the Post Office announced the closure of New Lenton Post Office after a period of meaningless 'consultation'. It will almost certainly close within the next few weeks and three people will be looking for new jobs. Our nearest post offices will all be bus rides away in the absence of owning a car. By any measure, our post office was an invaluable community facility. I, along with lots of other individuals, wrote a personal letter arguing against its closure and another on behalf of the Dunkirk and Lenton Branch Labour Party. Our local city councillors and the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum helped with a petition, but all to no avail. The decision to close our post office had been made and that was that.

In truth, the Post Office are not to blame. They have been squeezed financially by this so-called Labour Government for the last ten years as their profit making services like pensions and TV licenses have been creamed off and given to the banks and private sector. Ministers like to pretend that all this is nothing do with them and want the Post Office to take the blame. Not that the PO help themselves with their current advertising campaign about being 'The Peoples' Post Office'. The whole process stinks of right-wing 'market' politics. The evidence is there for all to see in the PO's decision to delay its consultation on closing London POs until after the mayoral elections in 2008. The Government knows that PO closures close to elections will lose Labour votes so they stop the process taking place.

As a Labour Party member I am ashamed of what the Labour Government is doing to post offices across the country. The political party which promises to protect local POs will have a vote winning policy. A governemt which can afford to spend billions on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and on saving Northern Rock, can afford to keep local POs open. It is as simple as that.

Confusion over the chocolate-covered teacake - a dome of marshmallow on a biscuit swathed in milk chocolate - could cost the British government £3.5m after an EU court adviser said the retailer Marks & Spencer should get a refund of the tax it paid during the decades that tax authorities insisted they were biscuits.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Withington visitors

Yesterday afternoon I attended a gathering in the Park pavilion with other local people to meet with a group of visitors from Manchester which had been arranged by Melanie Futer, Manager of off Campus Student Affairs at Nottingham University. It came about after Melanie had a conversation with a resident from Manchester who had come across the University's 'Students and the Community' leaflet. There were six people in the group, a couple of Manchester City Council officers involved in neighbourhood services and regeneration, a Manchester University director and student rep, plus the Chair of Withington Civic Society and a Withington ward Manchester city councillor. Altogether, quite an impressive group of people.

With quite a few Nottingham folk present from local City Council services, the Police, the Forum and other local groups, I was quite pleased that I had the chance to chat with three of Melanie's guests. In many ways what seems to be happening to Withington is what happened to Lenton 10–15 years ago. They are at a stage when positive intervention by all the interested parties in partnership can probably make a difference. Despite the lack of any real local powers to control the inevitable, they can mitigate its worst excesses. Students and the buy-to-let private landlords who exploit their need for accommodation will gravitate to where the housing is cheapest to buy or rent, relative to the campus and other facilities that students like to enjoy.

Withington is on the south side of Manchester, sandwiched between the city centre, universities and better off Didsbury to its south. Lenton, on the other hand, is sandwiched between Nottingham University and the city centre. In the end, this might be a telling difference. It would be interesting to know what is happening on either side of the university 'corridor' which runs between Manchester city centre and Withington. If they are lucky, these will also expand as student areas and relieve some of the pressure.

I hope they went away with a better idea about the importance of local community involvement in tackling the challenges associated with large increases in student populations. The Chair of Withington Civic Society made the telling comment to me that local voluntary organisations and churches are already finding that people now travel in from outside Withington to use their services and to attend the churches. That suggested to me that the impact of private landlords was already considerable. The Liberal city councillor I spoke to seemed like someone who would be perfectly at home in Lenton and had a good grasp of the problems. If he articulated his concerns to voters in much the same way, it is easy to appreciate why he was elected.

They all said how impressed they had been with our local city councillor David Trimble and Melanie Futer. What none of them seemed to know was that Melanie was already working in our part of Nottingham as a police community liaison officer and was well known to many of us before she took up her post with the University. I am sure this made a big difference at the time of her appointment and since. She is a good ambassador for the University whilst being mindful of local community concerns and issues.

One comment which amused me (and it is one I have heard other visitors make) was that they didn't expect to find a park like Lenton Recreation Ground in 'an area like this'. This view just confirms what I have long suspected about the importance of good parks and open space. They not only lift their communities, they lift expectations as well — which is why Nottingham needs to make all its local parks as good as ours.

At least 10 government ministers have been to see the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, in a growing party revolt over police pay,

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Forlorn and decomposing

Holy Trinity Churchyard

Decomposing vegetation in Church Street Pocket Park

It's getting grim. It's been a wet, miserable, few days when my thoughts have turned to snow. Thoughts almost certainly brought on not by the weather but by a book I am reading at the moment. It's Northern Lights by Nora Roberts and it is set in a small town called Lunacy, Alaska, and our hero, Nate, has just been told about a frozen body in a cave in the mountains and its been blowing a blizzard for days. Reading it, with the curtains drawn, I almost came to believe there was lots of snow outside our house and the park was under three foot of the stuff. If only.

Back in reality and closer to home, I think the word I'm looking for is 'forlorn' — which the dictionary says means 'pitifully sad and abandoned'. Yes, that's the word I need to describe Lenton Recreation Ground right now. Once this blanket of gloom would have been lifted, yes, by snow.
What the park needs at this time of the year is some kind of event which will pull the visitors in. Another thing to think about for 2008.

Even the poor old pocket park is suffering. It has become a dumping ground for decomposing leaves and other green waste from the park and Holy Trinity cemetery. Partly, I suspect, because of a new Parks Department policy which says that all the leaves and waste have to go to a central place (in Basford I think) to be turned into mulch and compost by a mechanical process which does in weeks what used to take months. It's a very laudable aim, but it's a pity that the pocket park has to be used as a dumping ground until the leaves and waste can be collected. What my picture doesn't capture is the steam rising from the pile and I have to admit that I quite liked the smell. It was all wintery and reminded me of mulled wine with herbs and cinnamon.

Perhaps the pocket park is need of a rethink? There has been talk of the Gurdwara taking it over to turn it into an Indian style garden. It's an idea I quite like.

This week Gordon Brown's government proposed 42 day retention without trial, announced 3 'super-prisons' to hold 10,500 more prisoners and tougher immigration rules.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Dunkirk Park meeting success

My camera got the wobbles at the Dunkirk Park consultation meeting on Wednesday (5 December) so Steph from the Forum has again come to my rescue. The evening was well supported by local residents who were able to enjoy refreshments and biscuits whilst visiting a series of tables all devoted to different themes, where participants could write down their ideas about the changes they would like to see, as well as what they thought of the park at present.

From what I was able to see as I toured the tables, I would say that park security was high up the list of concerns. There was more than one request for night-time lighting, with one suggestion that it could be solar powered. At least two mentioned locking up the park at night, including one that 'local residents (be) responsible for locking up the park'. I rather liked the idea of 'secure bike racks' where, I assume, visitors could padlock their bikes. Thinking about it, I'm amazed the idea never came up when Lenton Recreation Ground was having its makeover.

Other ideas included higher fencing and a 'soft play area'. Even a 'picnic area' was mentioned, which could prove popular among workers from the near-by industrial estate as well kids and parents. 'No dogs' was another suggestion. Other suggestions included having 'good equipment' in the park and keeping drug users out of the park.

The Forum should be feeling very satisfied with a good night's work on what was a pretty miserable evening. With about £50,000 to spend on Dunkirk Park, they, the Parks Department and Area 8 should be able to come back to local residents and other park users with some good proposals. I'll stay in touch with what happens next, so watch this space.

Britain's supermarkets and dairy groups have been fined £116m by the Office of Fair Trading, after admitting fixing the prices of milk, butter and cheese.

Bluebells follow-up

Bluebell planters at work in Lenton Recreation Ground.

Enjoying a well earned cup of tea and a biscuit.

Thanks to Steph from the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum I have the above photographs of some of the folks who came along on Monday morning to help with Bluebell planting in the park. Everyone seems to have enjoyed themselves and that was as much an objective as the planting of the bulbs. I am only sorry that I missed the fun.

The wife of John Darwin was flying back to the UK from Panama last night to face her two sons, who said they were angry that their mother had let them believe their father had died in a canoe accident when she knew that he was alive.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Diggers Day

Lenton Recreation Ground Bluebells, 26 April 2007.

The first Bluebell diggers of the day.

This morning there was a Bluebell bulb planting session in Lenton Recreation Ground. Unfortunately, because I had a massage appointment for my back, I was only able to spend a few minutes in the park at the official start time of 10am. Luckily, I stumbled upon the first small group of diggers, who had just started cutting sods so that the Bluebell bulbs (or are they called something else?) could be planted. It all seemed fine to me, but the group looked in need of a fourth opinion before they could continue. As I had a bus to catch I left them to it, grateful that I had got at least one usable photograph from my flying visit. I don't know how many more turned up but as I stood at the bus stop a fourth person did arrive and was immediately drawn into the discussion.

Altogether, some 5,000 Bluebell bulbs will be planted, many in the border which is adjacent to the Derby Road fence. With luck a good few will come up next year with ever increasing numbers over the next few years. It will all be very different to this year, when there was just one clump by the Old Barn, which I snapped for the blog on 26 April earlier this year. I'm sorry I couldn't stay around and help, but I'm glad I got one picture of the diggers.

Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher jailed for allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad, has been freed today after receiving a presidential pardon.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Slow days

Derby Road toilet block.

Park path beside Devonshire Promenade.

The last couple of weeks have been the quietest I can remember since I started this blog in early-February of this year. The fact that winter has arrived is the most likely reason for the change. I have gone into the park some evenings to lock up and it has been empty — not a soul in sight. Even the birds have gone to bed. Yes, these are slow days in the park, with not a lot happening from the visitor's point of view. Not the same can be said for Dave, our groundsman. He seems to be permanently on the go, taking his barrow everywhere.

I have photographed the park path a good few times, but this is the bleakest picture I have taken. I imagine it set with yellow cobble sets and dancing towards me is Dorothy and her mates from the Wizard of Oz. It's a long way from Kansas, but the bends in the path give it the feel of a path which is always going somewhere greater than the park gates and that those who use it are more than passing through or doing a circuit of the park. It's a kind of 'dream path' where you enter a different world for time that you are there.

The Derby Road toilet block is a first. I haven't taken a picture of it before. I actually asked a couple of people to name the buildings in the park and both missed out these toilets, so I am not alone in blanking them from my line of sight or mind. They are never used and are always locked. With the toilets attached to the Park Pavilion being easier for staff to monitor and manage, the Derby Road toilets aren't needed, even on the busiest of park days. Occasionally they have been mentioned at a Park Consultative Group meeting, but I can't remember the last time or what was said. The fact that I haven't even noticed them is indicative of just how quiet the park has become in recent days.

Talking of buildings in the park, I usually call the building which overlooks the Bowling Green the 'Park Pavilion'. So do most other people, but park signage says 'Club House'. Another fact that has passed me until now. It's not the end of the world, but it is perhaps an indication that we should look at the world around us at different times of the year and different times of the day if we want to fully appreciate what is happening.

I do have weightier matters to do with Nottingham parks that I want to write about, but not today or tomorrow. I have sent an article to the Nottingham Civic Society about the city's parks in general and Lenton Recreation Ground in particular. I will wait and see if they publish it before writing more here. I was glad to see that yesterday's Nottingham Evening Post devoted nearly a page to the City Council's Breathing Space report. It's another sign that parks are being taken seriously at last and this can only be a good thing.

Belgium's chances of surviving as a single country suffered a significant blow last night when the man tipped to be the next Prime Minister abandoned almost six months of bad-tempered wrangling over a new government and threw in the towel.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Hotch Potch days

The Christmas ice rink in Nottingham's Market Square.

Birthday flowers for Susan from Alicia and Steve.

When I was at work this would have been a holiday week because it was Susan's birthday week. I had six weeks holiday for much of my working life and four were always reserved for important weeks in our lives: our birthdays, the week we met and the week we married. Christmas usually accounted for another, so there was always a floating week which we sometimes bolted onto one of the other weeks. It was a system which worked well.

This week has been a little different. An elderly friend who lives alone has been in hospital with a broken shoulder and I have been visiting him daily, then 'phoning around his family and other friends with news. With luck he will go home next week and others will play a more active role in his care and support as we live too far away and don't have a car.

I also broke a filling and had to dash off to the dentist. I now have two appointments before Christmas so that I can have a crown made and fitted. I also had to go for a pre-op interview, as I am having a 'juvenile' bunion operated on in early-January and will be out of action for some time. Both these things happened on Susan's birthday, but we did manage to have a nice long lunch at the Loch Fyne seafood restaurant in town and saw the temporary ice rink in the Market Square. Our arrival home coincided with our friend Judith coming round with a very scrummy chocolate cake which just keeps on going (thank you Judith).

Yesterday I had my picture taken by the Evening Post for a news story they hope to run about my planned Lenton walking map for next spring. We will see if they do. By far the most depressing news this week has been about Labour's 'Donorgate' with high-ranking Party officials and government ministers claiming ignorance of the law or that they have done nothing wrong in accepting donations from one person via another. Coming so soon after the cash for honours scandal it makes one feel ashamed to be a member of the Labour Party, even though I know these idiots who bring the Party into disrepute are a very small minority. The trouble is they have top jobs.

So, what is to be done? I am in no doubt. They should be reprimanded by the Labour Party and barred from holding public or Party office for a suitable period of time. The public has to see that we do not treat this kind of behaviour lightly. There cannot be one law for ordinary mortals and another for the great and the good. These people have become detached from reality.

For years, Susan was the Financial Supervisor of our local credit union. Susan spent a good day every month going though the records and accounts, sometimes asking questions, sometimes highlighting concerns. She was expected to know the rules and regulations governing credit unions and had to take part in training days. If something had gone wrong, Susan would have been called to account and would not have been able to hide behind excuses. And so it should be with the Labour Party. I hope there is no cover up. I hope there are prosecutions and I hope people are forced to resign if they don't have the decency to do it voluntarily.

I voted for Harriet Harman in the Deputy Labour Party Leadership contest earlier this year and feel betrayed. Her excuses are feeble mumblings and her behaviour is that of someone without any sense of honour or responsibility. She cannot hide behind her 'campaign team'. If she has any sense of obligation to the Labour Party then she should resign. It is all so, so sad and she only has herself to blame. She is an experienced politician who has done a lot of good things over the years, but this only makes what she allowed to happen worse. She should have known better.

I decribe my blog as being about 'life in and around a small inner-city park' and so it is. This week my life has been touched by a national scandal, as well as more personal events which remind me of the importance of goodness and friends and family. These are the things which matter most, but we cannot escape from the fact that how we are able to live our lives as individuals and a community is shaped and influenced, to some degree, by events in other places — which is why we have to take an interest in them, even if we would rather being thinking about things closer to home.

Happy Birthday Susan and thank you Alicia and Steve for the lovely flowers and Judith for the chocolate cake. I love you all.

Harriet Harman, the Labour deputy leader, was forced to implicate Gordon Brown deeper into the donor scandal last night as Scotland Yard was called in to investigate the affair.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Caught in the act

A late autumn corner

The photographer photographed

To the best of my knowledge this only the second time I have been caught in the act. This picture was taken by my friend Rosie from Stoke when she and her husband, Paul, came to Nottingham for the day on Friday and we took them for lunch in our community cafe, the Crocus Cafe, followed by a perambulation around parts of New and Old Lenton, including Priory Park and Lenton Recreation Ground.

Rosie is a great blogger and was the person who suggested I did a blog about Lenton Recreation Ground in February. It seems as if I have been doing my blog a lot longer. Rosie was doing her blog for well over a year before she told me about it. She and Paul are great walkers and go out and about almost every weekend. They also have cats, so her blog is a wonderful mix of wonderful places in and around the English Midlands and life on the home front. Her latest blog is about their visit to Nottingham on Friday and includes some great photographs, as well as reminiscences of her early working life in the city centre. It makes you appreciate what a great place Nottingham is. You can reach her blog, Corners of my Mind, via my links section in the column opposite.

As December draws closer by the day, I know that autumn is about to give way to winter, so any late flurries of leaves need to be enjoyed to the full. On Wednesday last, I stood and watched the tree above shredding its leaves before me as I toured the park with Dave, our groundsman, and other members of the Park Consultative Group, so I went back and took this picture. Soon, all the leaves will be off the trees and even the carpets of leaves will be gone. It's a wonderful time of the year. This morning when I opened the park, the rising sun was catching the trunks of two silver birches by the playground area and created a wonderful image. I did not have my camera with me, so I simply stood for a view minutes watching the colours change as the sun's rays caught the trees and moved across their bark creating different shadows and hues of pale whites and creams speckled with black and brown from the natural slashes in the bark. A truly memorable few moments, all for free, in a little inner-city park right outside my front door. How lucky I am.

As Labor party leader Kevin Rudd swept to victory in Australia's elections yesterday, he told jubilant supporters he would 'write a new page in our nation's history'.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Priory Park re-opens

Visitors from Stoke-on-Trent spot an Old Lenton 'tree rat'.

Priory Park dressed for autumn.

The Boat Inn public house on Priory Street.

At long last Priory Park has re-opened and looks much better than it has for ages. The clearing away and cutting back of much of the shrubbery has given this little park a more open appearance and makes it easier for would-be visitors to view the park from Abbey Street and Gregory Street before they enter. Given that it had become a daytime hide-away for druggies and alcoholics these improvements are a good thing.

The area of the old pigeon loft has finally been cleared, but still needs some remedial work. Instead of rubble we now have a mix of dirt and the remains of a concrete floor, but no one is likely to break an ankle any longer. With a little planning and for a small amount of money, this area could make an attractive 'gateway' into the adjoining Priory 'churchyard park'. I'm also glad that the large pieces of dressed stone dotted around the park have been left in situ.

Hopefully, the next issue of News From The Forum (the quarterly newsletter published by the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum) can contain a news story about this modest makeover for Priory Park and appeal for local residents, who live nearby, to take an interest in its future wellbeing by forming a Priory Park Supporters Group. It would be great if a medium to long-term plan for its future could be put in place which takes advantage of the coming of the Tram (assuming it gets eventual planning permission) and links it in with the churchyard park so that Old Lenton has a new focal point across from the White Hart public house. Otherwise this corner of Old Lenton is in danger of becoming a urban wilderness devoid of reference points other than tram tracks and a much enlarged road junction.

I still think the problems with Priory Park have been badly managed and could have been sorted out much sooner. I don't know if Nottingham City Council used its own staff to do the work or whether it brought in contract labour. I intend to find out. Council officials say that contract labour is cheaper and often better, but are the costs of preparing briefs and tenders, together with management and admin time factored into these costs? I know from my work as head of a housing management team before I retired that internal overheads when added to outside maintenance contracts made them far less attractive. As they say, there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

Finally, the bottom picture captures some of the detail on the front of the Boat Inn public house on Priory Street. I must go there for a lunchtime sandwich soon to see if it is as pleasing on the inside as it is from the outside.

Twenty-four Britons among 154 passengers rescued after cruise ship is holed in waters off South Shetland.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Lenton Recreation Ground Ltd

My picture shows Dave, our Park groundsman, with members of the Park Consultative Group after yesterday's Group meeting in the Pavilion when he led a tour of the Park. At this point on the tour of the park they were looking at the site of the planned Nottingham Peace Garden and whether this was the best location. This is the garden's third location within the park since the idea was first mooted. Any of the locations would have been OK by me. This site is by the Park's Derby Road entrance and whilst it will be a little noisier because of its proximity to the main road, it may well mean more visitors. Hopefully, by this time next year it will all be in place.

The Park Consultative Group meeting was well attended and most of time we were in agreement about things. The most worrying thing for me is the political culture which seems to exist within the Parks Department that says Nottingham's parks have to be run like a business and see nothing wrong with using low-paid contract workers instead of employing more grounds staff directly. They see it as a way of saving money. The permanent staff are more likely to be managers or admin, who have job security and a decent pension to look forward to.

The city council makes great play of its logo and slogan 'Nottingham Pride' or something like that. I like the logo and the idea behind it, but what disappoints is the lack of commitment to those who carry out what they perceive to be the more lowly tasks like street cleaning and looking after our parks. They can be on low pay and short-term contracts, probably paid by private contractors or agencies the city council pays to do what it couldn't get away with — ie. paying those who keep our city looking good less than they deserve!

The individuals from the council who come along to meetings and talk up the contract culture are misguided and probably don't even realise just how political they are. As I say, they have job security and pensions, but appear to have no concern for the lack of security or pensions for the contract workers they so enthusiastically claim are doing a better job than many of the grounds staff employed directly by the city council. The implication being that all grounds staff should be contract workers.

If you accept their arguments, then we will soon have Lenton Recreation Ground Ltd and turnstiles at the gates. Of course parks and bowling greens don't make money, so let's sell the Park and build houses on it. That way Lenton Recreation Ground will finally make a profit and provide those who advocate running local government like a business will have something to be happy about.

It's good practice in the transport business, so they say, to overbook what capacity you have because you will always have customers who don't turn up. If they all turn up, then you give a discounted ticket to a few gullible customers to wait for next flight or train. It was this kind of sharp business practice that saw 'customers' at Norwich Hospital being treated outside in ambulances by paramedics because all the hospital beds were full a couple of nights ago! When the NHS cocks its up like this it still tries to huff and puff its way out of trouble, although I suspect it won't be too long before they start offering the families of those who die in such circumstances discounted funerals! If you protest then you are portrayed as someone who doesn't understand what good management is!

This week also saw two large water companies get into trouble for falsifying their statistics. There are are plenty of other examples. Remember Yorkshire Water? Privatisation of public assets leads to fat profits for the managers and shareholders and a decline in services for the poor old customer. But, hey, our parks would be better if we got in more private contractors. These people have to be challenged if we are to improve the quality and standing of our parks in Nottingham. At some point soon I will write a few words about Nottingham City Council's Breathing Space policy statement about the city's parks and open spaces until 2017.

What people without any real knowledge of history seem to understand is that municipal socialism was invented by Tories and Liberals before the Labour Party even existed. How they must hate those of us who still believe in good old fashioned public service and I'm not just talking about old lefties and Socialists like me.

Benefits Agency told National Audit Office it was too expensive to remove personal details of 25m people from files that were later lost.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Did winter begin today?

It's 3.15pm on the wettest and most miserable looking Sunday I can remember this year. Has winter arrived? The park has been empty most of the day. I took this picture through the wind and rain when I opened the park at 7.45am. The street lamp on Devonshire Promenade is still on and all the trees are shredding leaves at different rates. Despite all this I feel all snug and warm and I'm off to make a pizza and an apple pie for tea, plus some lemon cordial for Christmas with Susan, so I'm going to be a busy bee.

PS. When I went to lock the park at 4.30pm it was still raining heavily and I thought the park was empty, then I saw four young lads with an older boy in the pagoda, huddled in a group and talking intently. They didn't see me approach so I startled them. I was too surprised to ask them if they had nowhere else to go. As I walked back from locking the Church Street gate I saw them running along Devonshire Promenade. They seemed a happy bunch, but it would be better if there was somewhere for them to go on a wet Sunday afternoon than the pagoda in Lenton Recreation Ground!

David Cameron will put his party on a collision course with the teaching profession this week when he announces that virtually every child in the country will be expected to read by the age of six under a Conservative government.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

A 'barn' and a Panda

The 'barn' / park store in Lenton Recreation Ground

The 'barn' / park store railway end side view

The Panda has been on the loose in the park for over a week and I didn't notice him/her until yesterday. Dave, our groundsman, and my friend Judith had both seen the panda but not me — I seem to walk around with my eyes closed most of the time!

I can understand why an escaped furry animal would like to live in our park and it's given me an idea for a fundraising event which would involve local kids and students and could be done this time next year to coincide with the BBC's annual 'Children in Need' appeal. Groups of students would build 'homes' in the park and the kids could bring along their furry animals and place their animal in the home of their choice. The student built home with the most animals would be the winner and all the animals would go off to new homes to be loved by new young friends. Any one interested in taking on a good cause?

The other two pictures are of the 'barn' in the park. The building, allegedly, predates the coming of the park in 1888 and , if this is the case, it clearly wasn't built as a store or a place for park workers to use. So, what was it?

For a bog standard agricultural building it seems well made and quite ornate. Dave wonders if it was a 'smokey' where meat was cured by hanging it inside the building. This idea comes from the fact that inside their are some holes in the walls where bricks are missing, suggesting that something was placed in the holes. On closer inspection, the holes don't line up across the inside of the building.

I am going to try and find an architectural historian who can either look at the photoghraphs or come along and have a look. It would be interesting to know more about the building, so watch this space for further news. I'm also going to go and look at old Ordnance Survey maps in the Local Studies Library the next time I go to town.

'All sources of carbon pollution — from flights to inefficient light bulbs — must become more expensive if the world is to tackle global warning' say scientists at world conference in Valencia.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Never ending days

I haven't counted, but Dave our groundsman almost certainly crops up in more pictures than anyone else. He's always there or so it seems, doing something to keep the park looking tidy and clean. He's also the park's best ambassador. People respect him because they see him working and because he always has time to spend a few minutes chatting.

Yesterday Dave was leaf clearing. As I write this I can hear his blowing machine somewhere in the park. He blows the leaves into large piles, then he gathers them all into his barrow and takes them off to the area where he used to mulch them to make compost. Now, for health and safety reasons, they are collected and go off to a central depot which turns them into compost far quicker.

Life in the park for a groundsman must be like a series of never ending days, albeit enjoyable. It's November, so it's leaf clearing. I'm sure December is pretty predictable as well. One thing is certain. There is always something to do.

On Tuesday, Dave Trimble, our local Labour councillor and the City Council's Portfolio Holder for Culture and Tourism, which includes parks, told me that nearby Wollaton Park, which covers some 500 acres, has 2½ grounds staff to look after it. Lenton Recreation Ground is 7
½ acres. Even allowing for the fact that much of Wollaton Park is a deer park, it clearly needs more staff. It also tells you what happens when a community gets behind its local park and starts campaigning. Until now I have not fully appreciated what local residents and the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum have achieved with the help of our local councillors and our old Parks Development Officer, Stefan. Thanks to you all.

I'll be coming back to the future of Nottingham's parks after reading the latest strategy report. The Forum is also planning a meeting about the future of Dunkirk Park in next few weeks. I'll get the date for my next blog.

Finally, my top picture was taken at 7.30am yesterday morning when I went into the park to photograph the heavy frost, then saw the whispy vapour trails over our Gurdwara against the bright blue sky. The plane(s) had long gone. As I looked I imagined the passengers had arrived at their destination, perhaps somewhere in North America, and disembarked. Then, maybe, greeted by loved ones or were simply having coffee before continuing their journey, unaware that hundreds of miles away someone in Lenton had looked into the sky and wondered what stories were captured in their vapour trail?

Winds of up to 150mph have battered the south-west coast of Bangladesh, forcing 650,000 villagers to be evacuated and leaving at least 240 people dead.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Dunkirk and the Tram – who hoodwinked who?

Even though this corner shop made history, it could be needlessly demolished with the coming of the Tram. In 1863 it was Nottingham's first co-op shop opened by the then Lenton Co-operative Society (called the Lenton Industrial & Provident Society Ltd), which went onto become the Nottingham Co-operative Society.

All these buildings on Abbey Street will will be demolished if the Tram goes ahead, even though it is the more expensive option. The line of Tram could go on the other side of the road and would mean demolishing only one house and taking a small part of Priory Park. As in Dunkirk, a more expensive option has been chosen.

This wall and much of the gardens behind it will go even though there is a cheaper route for the tram only metres away! I took this photograph on 3 November 2007. Seven days before there had been grass here, but the University has grubbed it all up during the week before the Public Inquiry into the Tram commenced.

Over the last couple of weeks my blog has suffered because, with Susan's help, I was preparing evidence for the Public Inquiry into the proposed two new tram lines from Nottingham Station to Clifton and Chilwell. It is the latter which has taken up all my time, as I sifted through Nottingham City Council's evidence to the Inquiry and, with Susan's help, made some last-minute discoveries which were sufficient to persuade our local MP, Alan Simpson, to do battle on behalf of the Greenfield Street residents in Dunkirk, who will lose large parts of their back gardens if the new Tram line to Chilwell follows the proposed route.

In fact, the evidence we found has so concerned Alan that he has sent it to the Ombudsman. Now, just in case you think I'm against the new Tram lines, I want to make it quite clear that I support the Tram 100% insomuch as I want the route around the Nottingham University Arts Centre changed and its route at the Gregory Street / Abbey Street junction in Old Lenton modified, but if the City Council and NET do not make any changes at the end of the day, I will still support the Tram. I just think that if the Council and NET had an ounce of decency and honour they would be announcing changes to the routes in Old Lenton and Dunkirk tomorrow.

When the Council and NET organised public consultations on the line of the Chilwell route around the University Arts Centre there were two options: One between the Arts Centre and Highfields Park; the other between the Arts Centre and the rear of the houses on Greenfield Street. The Council did not suggest that one route was preferable to the other and, given that a tram stop was proposed between the Arts Centre and Highfields Park, everyone I know and have spoken to expected the Tram to follow this route.

Then, earlier this year I found out that the other route had been chosen and people I know were to lose large chunks of their gardens and would have to live with the noise and vibration of the Tram for 363 days of the year. I couldn't understand at first how this had come about. Then one of the residents told me. The University had been allowed to build an extension to the Arts Centre which affected the line of the Tram route if it was to go between the Centre and Highfields Park.

How had this come about, especially since the new route was more expensive and meant the loss of over 60 parking spaces as well as buying parts of the back gardens of seventeen houses on Greenfield Street? Whatever way you looked at it, the chosen route did not make sense.

Ah, said the Council and NET, there is 'a tight curve' and we will have to take some of the Listed Highfields Park if we go between the Arts Centre and the park. These reasons did not exist during the 2003/4 consultation period. They only become public after the University has been allowed to build its extension to the Arts centre in 2006 with planning permission it received at the end of 2005.

How were the University given planning permission we asked at a Labour Party meeting in July 2007 which was attended by a senior person involved with planning the new Tram routes. He shrugged his shoulders and said it was 'an oversight'. In mid-October I was sent some technical drawings showing the Tram's route around the Arts Centre which contained a lot of other information too. It showed quite clearly that the 'tight curve' need be no tighter than the curves on the proposed route shown on the drawing and that a track could be put in which did not infringe on the park once constructed.

But the big discovery was made by Susan. She found the planning permission for the Arts Centre extension and it did have conditions attached to it, including one that said the new building had to built to a standard which mitigated the noise and vibration caused by the tram. Another document showed that there were no parking implications because all the parking was between the Arts Centre and the gardens on Greenfield Street. In other words, the Tram was going between the Arts Centre and the park!

So what changed between late-2005 and February 2007 when the Council's Executive Board made its decision about the route of the Tram? One can only conclude that someone, somewhere, applied pressure to get the route changed or wanted to cover up an oversight. Were the councillors making the decision told about the new building and that there were planning conditions before they chose the more expensive route? If they were told, then why were they willing to cause distress and upset to local residents and choose the more expensive route? These are questions which need answering.

When Alan Simpson saw the evidence, he was so concerned that he raised the matter in his submission to the Tram Public Inquiry last Thursday and has since written to the Ombudsman asking for a full investigation into the planning permission and to establish if the conditions were met. We will have to wait and see what the outcome is.

The Inspector at the Public Inquiry referred to my own written submission and Alan's much more damning submission, saying that the Council would almost certainly want to challenge our submissions in detail. I look forward to their reply and just how they are going to justify changing what they said during the public consultation a few years ago and what they are now telling the Inspector.

Just who hoodwinked who remains an unanswered question. Perhaps the Ombudsman will find the answers we can't get.

The Church of England ordained more women than men during 2006 (244 women, 234 men).