Monday, 27 August 2007

The dog with no name

I know the man and I know the dog. We usually stop and exchange a few words wherever we meet in and around Lenton. He has been coming to the park for ever with a little dog like this. This is the second little dog, but his character is the same as his predecessor. In the park or on the street he is always pulling his 'top dog' along, sniffing everything as he goes. Walking around the park he clings to the edge of the path or the nearest bushes. When top dog and I stop and have a chat his tail wags and he comes to have his chin tickled, then he's off, back to his sniffing duties.

I also know another little dog. It's this dog, but he's at home and I'm out making one my periodic early Sunday morning deliveries of News from the Forum (the quarterly community newspaper published by the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum) or for the Labour Party. I cover about 200 houses in my part of New Lenton and little dog lives in one of them and behaves just like his predecessor. The first few times I pushed stuff through his letterbox I thought I was going to lose some fingers and that he would wake the whole street!

Now I know what to expect, so I enjoy the moment. Almost every house in New Lenton has a front door which either opens onto the pavement or is only a few feet away at most and little dog lives in the latter. As I approach his house I see his eyes and nose, just above the window sill, tracking me as I approach. The rest of him is hidden. I suspect he has a chair placed in the bay window so that he can watch the world pass by. He reminds me of a crocodile or an alligator in a swamp, waiting to pounce on some unsuspecting creature that walks too close to the water's edge or is foolish enough to venture into the water for a drink and before you know it the croc has got its vice-like jaws wrapped around the poor creature's snout and is dragging it into the water.

I can see little dog watching and when I turn onto the short path leading to the front door and the letterbox all hell breaks loose. One day I swear little dog is going to throw himself at the front door so hard that he is going to crash through and I will be dead meat. In an instant he moves from the bay window to the front door and its 'Yap, yap, yap', bang crash wallop, 'yap,
yap, yap', bang crash wallop, 'yap, yap, yap', bang crash wallop and so it goes on, long after I have pushed my delivery through the letterbox and moved on to my next front door. I'm sure he can be heard on the other side of Nottingham, let alone the end of the street. I'm also sure he has a loudhailer in one paw and is wearing hob-nailed boots on the other three!

I must ask top dog if he and his wife actually have something they can still read at the end of it all. Top dog says 'He's a wonderful guard dog day or night'. So he is not only my dog with no name, he is also the dog who never sleeps!

Every time I see little dog in the park I think of the other little dog I know.

John Prescott announces that he is stand down at the next general election.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Park aftermaths 1, 2, 3

They even came on their bikes to have Tea in the Park.

Tea in the Park customers enjoy their cake.

Dave and Simon the day after.

Aftermath 1. Yesterday was my last 'Tea in the Park' and it was, by my expectations, a great success. It was also the only day it didn't rain! I took £45, which when added to the £34 I have already raised means I have £79 to donate to The Lenton Centre towards the re-opening of Lenton Swimming Pool. I want to thank three wonderful women for their help and support.:
Susan for making some fantastic cakes, especially her to 'die for' carrot cake which sold out very quickly and her milk chocolate cake which only escaped being totally consumed by customers because Susan insisted on the last two slices being ring-fenced so that she could have a taste as well (me too).
Judith for coming along on each occasion and helping me. She's a good friend who, like Susan, helps to keep me focussed on what I should be doing rather than going where my mind wants to take me — especially when it comes to doing something like 'Tea in the Park'.
Finally Kathy, who, in the name of the Crocus Cafe, donated a cake to each Tea in the Park event — an act of friendship I only discovered by chance, so, thank you Kathy. She decided a little while ago that her 'committee days' are past and that whilst she will happily continue to help local groups she will avoid any more committee meetings. I want her follow her example, but I'm not there yet!

Aftermath 2. My last blog before this was about the Parklife event in the park last Tuesday. I took the picture of Dave and Simon at lunchtime on the day after by which time the park was spotless and you would not have known anything had happened in the park. Together with Kevin, who works at the weekends, the first thing they do every morning is go around the park clearing all the litter and the rubbish. This is something I have blogged about before and I make no apology for singing their praises again. If only the streets and boulevards around Lenton were kept a tenth as clean and tidy. If it can be done in the park, why not elsewhere in Lenton?

Aftermath 3.
My posting on Sunday, 19 August 2007, 'A parks issue comes around again' has provoked an understandable response which is printed in full at the end of the blog in question. It would be nice if life was all sunlight and roses with no one ever disagreeing, but 'liffe' isn't like that and this blog is not just a public relations 'feel good' exercise about a park I and lots of other Lenton residents love and care about (The title of my blog is 'ParkViews'). As well as being a gentle soul I can also be an opinionated old fart who wants to put the world to rights in his own image. However, I am sorry when I cause an upset, but sometimes it happens and on this occasion I stand by what I said and others can confirm my recording of events. I am glad that someone wants to set the record straight and I am more than happy to publish a response. Without my blog last Sunday the impression given may have gone uncorrected.

Finally, type 'Lenton Recreation Ground' into the Google search engine and this blog appears on the first page so I am fair chuffed.

Seven more teenagers held as Merseyside Police reveal they have CCTV image of the killer of 11 year old Rhys Jones in Liverpool.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Parklife pictures

Yesterday was a great success. The people turned up and seemed to enjoy themselves despite the day being being windy, cold and overcast, but it didn't rain. Susan and I spent the day on The Lenton Centre stand in the company of Nicci and co from the TLC's 'Activ8 Uth' Project, who were the stars of the day with a never ending queue of children wanting to have their faces painted. I hope the following pictures capture a flavour of the day. I have tried to arrange them in some order from 9am when I snapped the first arrivals from the front of our house to 4.20pm when Activ8 was painting its last face well after Parklife had officially finished. If you were there, why not share your thoughts by sending me a comment.

Which? criticises food industry for using cartoon characters to sell foods with high-sugar, high-fat to children, who use 'pester power' to get what they want.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

A parks issue comes around again

On Wednesday there was a meeting of the Lenton Recreation Ground Consultative Group which is managed by our local community forum and attended by parks staff from Nottingham City Council and representatives from Nottingham University as well as local park users, including individuals like me. We would have gone for a walk around the park with Dave, but it didn't stop raining, so we stayed in the park pavilion and discussed a number of matters, ranging from park benches and native spring bulbs to the bowling greens and neighbouring parks.

Until a couple of years ago, there were just a few local bowls clubs using the greens, but with the closure of the greens at the nearby Radford Park and the lack of parking at Highfields Park, other bowling clubs have been relocating to Lenton. In itself this is not problem, so long as the Lenton greens can take the increased level of usage. In the last few weeks or so bear patches have appeared on the greens and when you consider how much rain we have had in recent months, the problem is clearly nothing to do with too much dry weather. To a layman like me, this seems like a matter which needs attention sooner rather than later.

So I raised the issue of bowling green usage in Lenton and across the city over the last five years as the City Council should have statistics for bowling green usage for every financial year (1 April–31 March) up until the end of March 2007. The statistics should show us what is happening. We know Radford Park's bowling greens have gone and that Highfields greens are poorly used because there is no nearby parking — which is why Lenton has become so popular.

Not that Lenton has parking in the park, except on special occasions when parking is allowed on the grass. Some of the newly arrived bowling clubs have been after car parking in the park because they aren't too happy with the on-street parking on Church Street, which runs along the park's southern boundary. There is also some parking spaces in the little 'pocket park' immediately across from the park's southern entrance. Many of the bowls players now playing for clubs based in our park do not live locally — which is why they want additional parking.

All this was well and truly discussed two years ago when they first arrived. Some of us made the point (and still do) that Lenton Recreation Ground is a community park first and foremost. The nearby Highfields and Wollaton parks are city parks and the ones which should have the facilities to cope with more park visitors and users. In the end it was agreed that grids which the grass can grow through would be laid so that occasional parking by visiting bowls clubs and at other events, like community days, could take place.

So far the grids haven't been put in place and, with more bowls matches, there is a danger that parking in the park will increase. When the question was asked the staff present claimed to know nothing about the grass grids and that a former staff member had passed on no information. The meeting tut tutted and asked for the matter to be investigated and a report submitted to the next park meeting in November.

Since the meeting a birdy has tweeted in my ear that the bowls club making the most noise about the need for parking in the park also complained that the Parks Pavilion floor was a health and safety hazard and needed replacing. I have been told it was explained to them that if the pavilion was upgraded there wouldn't be any money for the grass grids and parking and they chose to spend the money on the pavilion. Now, all this may have been related to the Parks Consultative Group at a meeting I missed or in minutes I didn't read properly.

If this story is true then I will be be quite pleased, as I wasn't keen on the grass grids in the first place. If the story I have been told is true, then the bowlers made a choice and they have to live with it, as there are new priorities for any extra money the city council may have to spend on parks and they are elsewhere.

There are other issues I want to discuss, like Radford Park, the state of the pocket park, those city council staff who think Lenton is quite well off and in the same league as nearby Wollaton and why some sad folk only see our park in money terms and somehow think that because they spend money using the bowling green it makes them more important than those who just use the park. If people like this have their way we'll end up with turn-stiles instead of gates. These people deserve more than a riposte, they need to be challenged, so I will come back to each of them in turn over the next month or so.

Right now, I have had enough, given that preparing for the Parklife Day on Tuesday took a fair part of last week and will take all of Tuesday. If you see me in the park under The Lenton Centre tent with our display and in the company of children having their faces painted, then come and say 'hello'.

After all that, relax for a moment or two looking at flower beds and park bushes.

To help increase milk yields, cows in Northern Ireland are being given mattresses which look like 'closely knitted army blankets filled with rubber crumbs made from old car tyres'.

Via the Forum, I have received the following comment on this blog from
Stefan Kruczkowski, the former Parks Development Officer at Nottingham City Council, who worked closely with the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum and local residents to help turn the park around with the active support of our two city councillors, Zahoor Mir and David Trimble. Stefan and I have spoken about what I have written and he accepts that I wrote what was said. Stefan is understandably annoyed by the impression given, hence his detailed response which I am more than happy to include with my blog. Stefan served us well during the years he was with us and made a big difference to what happened at Lenton Recreation Ground after years of neglect and indifference by the city council.

Stefan writes in his letter to the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum:

I hope that at the next meeting you can, as Forum Coordinator, read and minute my response to what I understood took place in the last meeting of the Consultation Group. I have copied Eddie Curry, Head of Parks and Cllrs. Trimble and Mir into this response.

“I was Parks Development Officer at Nottingham City, responsible for Lenton Recreation Ground for three years. In that time, I worked hard with others, such as Grounds Staff, Ward Councillors, the Consultation Group and the Forum to secure the investment that has made it possible to make the improvements in the facilities and overall standard of the park.

In that time, I became very attached to the park and as a result often log into Robert Howard’s informative ‘blog spot’. However, I was surprised to read the following note relating to the last meeting. I feel that I need to clarify my view on this as I believe what took place in the meeting may discredit my reputation. The blog reads:

“So far the grids haven't been put in place and, with more bowls matches, there is a danger that parking in the park will increase. When the question was asked the staff present claimed to know nothing about the grass grids and that a former staff member had passed on no information. The meeting tut tutted and asked for the matter to be investigated and a report submitted to the next park meeting in November.”

Included within this were notes about the issue of parking at the Rec’. The blog spot suggests that the officer present claimed that a former staff member (me) had not passed on information. This is incorrect. On leaving Nottingham City, I prepared a detailed ‘hand over’ for management outlining the status of various projects. I prepared the ‘hand over’ and discussed its content directly with management to ensure that outstanding projects could be ‘picked up’.

I trust this sets the record straight and assures members of the group that on leaving Nottingham I did not simply ‘walk away’ from my work, but ensured that all necessary information was disseminated to management and officers within Parks and Open Spaces at the City Council. However I am sure that members of the group will be able to make their own informed opinion on this matter.

Finally, I would wish to congratulate the Grounds staff, Ward Councillors, the Consultation Group and the Forum on its third Green Flag – it is a testament to your dedication and passion in keeping the park to a high standard.”

Stefan Kruczkowski

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Walkers, adventurers and recoverers

Last Thursday I went on a day's training at The Lenton Centre about becoming a 'healthy' walks leader. It was an interesting day and I learnt a fair amount about what is expected of a walk leader and, of course, just how good walking is for our general health and wellbeing. Last year, I produced a Dunkirk and Lenton Community Map showing local facilities and places within easy walking distance. I am now working on a revised version for publication in early-2008 which will include some suggested 'Healthy Heritage Walks' which will begin and end at Lenton's very own Crocus Cafe. As part of the training to be a walk leader we were taken on a walk which included both Radford Park and Lenton Recreation Ground. The above picture shows the group of trainee walk leaders with their two trainers (you will have to guess who is what) entering Lenton Recreation Ground. The whole day was very enjoyable and informative in pleasant and interesting company. So, if I continue this blog next year it will probably includes the adventures of a walk leader as well.

Talking of adventures leads onto my next picture of the children in the playground boat. The parents of the children playing gave me permission to take and use a picture of the children who, in their own words, were 'on an adventure to the zoo'. I'm not sure of where their imaginary zoo was located or what animals they expected to see when they arrived, but it was lovely to see children who did not know one another happily going on an adventure in search of a zoo together. I hope the power of imagination never leads them.

The young men are all medical students, so they don't get to have a summer vacation in the same way as other students. This may explain why they were all sitting at a picnic table in the park on mid-Saturday morning, recovering from a fancy dress party or some themed 'event' the night before. If you don't get a break, then, hey, you can at least party. Forty years from now when they are successful brain surgeons, general practitioners or whatever, I hope they remember their days in Lenton and its recreation ground with affection. I hope all their morning afters are as pleasant and enjoyable as this seemed.

My promised mention of Radford Park will have to wait until later in the week, as a friend has just arrived, so cheerio for now.

The Government's proposed new Criminal and Justice Bill, if passed in its present form, will allow courts to imprison sex workers for the first time since 1982.

Life in the slow lane

During the bowling season a lot of bowling goes on in the park. Such is the level of use that bear patches of earth are appearing on the greens. Last year, a number of bowling clubs which used to play in the nearby Radford Park de-camped to Lenton (more about Radford Park in my next blog). In addition, this year has also seen some county matches on the Lenton bowling greens (see my blog dated 24 May 2007). Every time I go to Beeston on a Trent-Barton bus I pass the Highfields Park bowling greens and they seem little used in comparison to Lenton. I must ask at the next Park Consultation Group meeting this coming Wednesday for information about bowls activity across Nottingham. I assume figures are compiled for each financial year. It would be interesting to see how Lenton compares with other parts of the city.

The bowlers in above pictures are from the Westend Bowling Club, who play games among themselves or friendlies on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. When I walk past them I am sure that I start walking slower, not just in order to catch a glimpse of how well they are playing, but because bowls does seem to be designed for life in the slow lane. I love the gizmos they use to collect (or is it 'shephard') the bowls and the little stick which is used to place 'the jack' (a small white ball which individual players or teams try to get their bowls as close to as possible in order to win their 'end' or game). I have got to know one of the players and he has invited me to join them. I have said that I will next year and I am already looking forward to it.

Metropolitan Police use terrorist laws to arrest and imprison peaceful Heathrow Airport demonstrators.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Sisters, powwows and heroes

When I go to the post office or Lorna's, our only independent and long established florist and greengrocer (it's now owned by Angela, but her mum opened the shop over fifty years ago), on Lenton Boulevard I usually do one way via the park, then past the Sikh temple and parish church, and onto the Boulevard. Yesterday afternoon I walked back through the park and saw two sisters whose names when put together remind me of a once famous film star. They have been near neighbours forever. Like me, they probably pass through the park more than they use it, preferring the long way around past the bowling green, rather than beside the Promenade. That is how I met them on this occasion and realised I had yet to take a picture of the them for my project or this blog.

I also saw a group of young people having a powwow in the park who seemed deep in discussion about something, so I decided to take this picture from the path. The detail could be better, but I hope I have caught the spirit of the occasion when I suspect they were oblivious to the world around them. I wonder what they were talking about?

My last picture was taken on Devonshire Promenade where I live. It's a private road which overlooks the park. First I saw the truck and then I watched as the three men skillfully piled more and more furniture and mattresses onto the back of the truck. These guys were craftsmen. I should know, I'm pretty good at packing a shopping trolley, but this was awsome. Susan and I got into 'recycling' early in the 1970s not long after we got together, in the days when the man with a cart or a truck was known as a 'totter' and or a 'rag n' bone man'. The men in the picture are professional heroes and work for Two Hawks Recycling in Sherwood, Nottingham (tel: 0115 985 7024, email: I hope that recycling is way past the fashionable stage and is now mainstream, but I do find some advocates annoying. Men and firms like Two Hawks Recycling are the modern totters and part of a tradition which I grew up with. My own grandfather recycled anything and everything and one of his best pals was a guy called 'Biffa', they went to school together. It didn't have a name then. We just lived it.

Foot and Mouth outbreak in Surrey causing widespread alarm and an export ban on meat and livestock from England, Scotland and Wales.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Laughter from the park

This morning I could hear children laughing in the park. So when I made a cup of coffee I went out front and had a look. Across the park I could see a group of children playing a game of some sort. So I got my camera and wandered over and saw that it was being led by Nicola, who leads the Activ8 project which is based at The Lenton Centre. With her permission I took a couple of photographs.

Lenton Recreation Ground is used by lots of children, not that you would realise this fact from the photographs I take of the park. As I have explained in the text about this blog and project, we live in an age when taking photographs of children, even in public places, is a sensitive subject. I can understand why, but I regret it.

Watching children enjoy themselves is a pleasurable experience. It brings back memories of one's own childhood, especially the freedom we had to roam far and wide. During the school holidays when I wasn't away staying with relatives me and my friends would go off to one of the local parks in Wembley and have a great time. Doing it with my granddaughters over the years has been a real joy, paddling and climbing trees in Highfields Park or simply on the swings in Lenton Recreation Ground. Sometimes we walked further afield to the Victoria Embankment, Wollaton Park or The Arboretum. It is something I will not do with my younger grandchildren for I am older and they are less likely to come and stay on their own. So to see other children enjoying themselves is a real treat, which is why this morning has been kind of special and a reminder that parks are for fun and laughter as well as reflection and quiet.

Boys are going through their entire time at primary school without ever having a male teacher. Education Section, The Guardian (31 July 2007).