Friday, 26 December 2008

A Christmas Eve walk

Trust me, there is a story in this picture.

This posting is a cheat of sorts, as it takes you to the Walks section on my website, where I have put my Christmas Eve walk. So, just click this text and you will be taken there. Enjoy the festive break and here’s to a 2009 when the world begins to come to it senses and really commits itself to change for better and justice, equality, fairness and liberty for all.

Harold Pinter, playwright and socialist, died on 24 December 2008, aged 78, from cancer.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

What we choose to see

I took this photograph yesterday. It is a collection of round, concrete, water towers on the QMC side of Abbey Street in Old Lenton. Just beyond is where the road crosses the River Leen as it follows the line of old Nottingham Canal. The towers have been here since the late-1970s — all the time that Susan and I have lived in Lenton.

I pass them regularly, but I rarely notice them. I simply choose not to see them. I screen them out — not because I think them ugly. Quite the opposite in fact. I like them. I would be sad to see them go, so I have decided to contact English Heritage to see if they can be listed. I think they deserve to be protected.

It set me thinking about what else I choose not to see. Instead of presenting you with a list, I would like you to consider how you change the look of your own physical environment by choosing not to see a building or, perhaps, some neglected corner of your community. OK. One example of what I mean. I have just lodged my fourth complaint with Nottingham City Council about some commercial rubbish bins which stay in Church Street all the time. Other people notice them too, but most people don’t actually ignore them — what they choose to do is not to see them. This way they save themselves the hassle of feeling cross about the fact that they have to walk past rubbish every day because the person responsible for is too damn lazy to take them off Church Street.

It’s akin to the ‘elephant in the room’ syndrome. The good news is that I was prompted to remember the water towers because I was having a meeting with Alex and Steph at the Forum to talk about ‘local identity’ and related issues. Since that meeting this morning my thoughts have moved on, because Fiona, also a Forum worker, came in and started talking about a shared interest — the future of the Lenton high-rise flats. Mulling over the conversation that followed, I am quite excited about what we could do to raise Lenton’s profile among local students and the wider Nottingham community. More about this after Christmas. In the meantime enjoy a view of Lenton I have never seen on a postcard or on Flickr.

The Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush has, according to his family, suffered a broken arm and other severe injuries after he was dragged away struggling and screaming by Iraqi security officers and US secret service agents. They say he is in hospital in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad. Zaidi and was brought before a judge on Tuesday and admitted "aggression against a president," a crime that could carry a 15-year sentence. More than 1,000 lawyers have offered to defend him and students in Fallujah showed their support for Zaidi by raising their shoes and throwing rocks at American soldiers, who reportedly opened fire above the crowd and, according to eyewitnesses, wounded one student.



Saturday, 13 December 2008

The grandeur that is Lenton

Today is another wet and wintery day in Lenton. The trees are bare, the dark clouds look as if they are clinging to the rooftops and underfoot every step you take ends in a puddle, yet, for me, there is still a grandeur to it all. If I had a better camera, I might be able to capture a sense of what I want to convey. For now, words will have to suffice.

Last week in Lenton was very different, the days were cold, still and crisp, with azure skies. My walks around or through the recreation ground laid before me a grandeur I was able to capture with my camera. The grass looks lush and is recovering from overuse by football players in studded boots, thanks to the football ban. The trees have become wintery silhouettes and from a distance look like lines someone has drawn on the sky. The sun remains low in the sky and shadows remain long throughout the day. The houses on Devonshire Promenade, where I live, look to me as if they have turned themselves towards the sun and are soaking up what warmth there is to be found in its rays. And behind stand the flats, high, like mountains, marking Lenton out as special — for that it what it is.

At times I have an urge to wander further afield, but Lenton has seduced me. With it, as a place, I am content. In its recreation ground and other nearby parks and nature reserves I have everything I need within walking distance or a bus ride. The same goes for what shopping I need to do. Lenton is a splendid and impressive place, where the past does indeed speak to those who care to listen and the future is never more than a few steps away. Above all, I love the coming and going of people, its transience is a strength, not a flaw. All this is also true for Nottingham at large.

Pride in where one lives does not mean you have to be parochial. In no way do I believe that I have a narrow outlook on life or the world at large. What I do argue is that to be truly global in outlook you have to be a localist first, but that’s something for another day.

The jury at the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes has rejected Scotland Yard's claim that he was lawfully killed as part of an anti-terrorism operation. In a series of answers to a list of crucial questions, they dismissed the testimony of the senior firearms officer who shot De Menezes – suggesting they did not believe the officer was acting in self-defence.

Monday, 1 December 2008

There is no escape

Like a great many other people I live most of my life in one place. A couple of times a week I make a foray into nearby Beeston to do my twice-weekly shops. My visits to Nottingham city centre are less frequent, perhaps once a fortnight. And, all too occasionally, I travel further afield to visits places, family and friends. This is something I would like to do more of. I speak on the telephone with friends all too little, with some I exchange emails and with a few I exchange hand-written letters. Then, of course, I blog, and now I have a website as well.

I stay in touch with the wider world in a variety of ways: The Guardian is delivered, I listened to Radio 5 (and Radio 4)and I watch the BBC-TV evening news, East Midlands Today and Newsnight. I look at several websites most days.

I consider my life to be full. I do a few things I don’t really want to do any more. I see local friends and neighbours most days and, generally, feel content and happy with my personal and family life. As a pensioner, I consider myself to be lucky compared to others, given the things I have been able to do during my life.

Whilst I could escape from the wider world by not reading, listening or watching anything, it is not something I want to do. The things I, selfishly, want to escape from, but I cannot, are those which impinge of the quality of my daily life in Lenton and Nottingham: the inconsiderations and lack of aforethought which make it difficult to cross a busy road, the closing of my local post office, the loss of local services, the way local community groups and individuals are treated, the sullenness of some bus drivers and shop assistants, who never look at you. Yesterday, it was receiving a ‘phone call about a house of Derby Road which stands one corner of a major road junction and has been allowed by Nottingham City Council to steadily decay, even though people appear to be living in the house, despite boarded up windows on the ground floor. Just one more example of the city council’s indifference towards Lenton.

In the face of these things two things lift me above them: other people who also care and my own determination to try and make things better in my little part of the world for myself and others. If you want to make the world better, you have to be involved. There is no other way. In short, there is no escape!

Britain's first ID cards, issued last week with fingerprint and facial details, cannot be read by any official body because the government has not issued a single scanner.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

A community to let

It’s that time of the year again, when the ‘to let’ signs go up all around Lenton, as the private landlords and their agents compete for new student tenants, who will not move in until the end of summer 2009 — which is still some nine months away.

Given that about 80% of the people who live in Lenton are students (the official classification is ‘in full-time education’), it feels as if the whole of Lenton is to let. A few of us stay put because we want to, others regard themselves as having no choice. A couple of years ago quite a few landlord houses were still empty at the beginning of the new university year in September and some locals thought the number of students wanting to live in Lenton had peaked. The reason for this was the development in and around the area of new-build apartment blocks, with modern, hi-tech, facilities.

This year I could count the number of empty landlord houses on one hand. It seems, if a recent housing survey of Nottingham students is to be believed, they prefer living in houses to apartments — which is good news of sorts. It shows that are no different to most of us and that we share one thing in common at least.

I have no problem with students making up a large chunk of Lenton’s population and, properly managed, the positives far outweigh the negatives. However, I would limit the number of registered ‘shared’ houses to 25% of any street. This would still mean students making up 50–60% of Lenton’s residents.

Some of us have been arguing and campaigning for tighter housing regulations and controls for over twenty years and, yes, whilst there are signs that Nottingham City Council and Nottingham University are beginning to address the challenge (I don’t like the word ‘problem’ in this particular case), it is still happening too slowly.

For my part, I believe we have to take as much power as we can into our own hands if we want to tackle the situation we face in a positive way, which benefits both students and long-term residents — which is where my campaign for a Lenton (and Dunkirk) urban parish council comes in.

The City Council continues to collude with developers (eg. Dunkirk Fire Station site) and to show nothing but disdain for Dunkirk and Lenton — or is it contempt? Either way, on a cold, wet, miserable day like today, it really does seem that Lenton is ‘a community to let’.

Furniture and kitchens specialist MFI has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators, it was confirmed this afternoon. A notification of the company's intention to file for administration was lodged at the high court last night and staff were told at meetings this morning that the store chain was about to fold, putting thousands of jobs at risk. The group was today offering 70% discounts on its website, with free delivery.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Blind Alleys

This is my first blog in a fortnight. I have been distracted by my new website and all the possibilities it is opening up for me in terms of self-expression — not that I need give myself any encouragement, as I have been expressing myself vocally and in writing since I was a teenager.
In the midst of doing work on my website, I found myself providing Nottingham City Council with information about a historic footpath and, probably, a road at sometime in the past, which runs between Lenton and Nottingham city centre. It led me on to creating a web-page about ‘Lenton short-cuts’. And now, this has led me onto pondering blind alleys.

Talking to a friend yesterday evening, she told me that she and her sister started to walk into Nottingham and took what they believed to be a short-cut. Half way along, they decided to turn back for fear that the gate at the other end would be locked. So, rather than take a chance, they turned around and headed home.

The story could be an allegory for so many things. Our own lives, politics, work, you name it. If you think about it, all our major decisions in life are like blind alleys. Acts of faith. Even believing we can see the other end of a path does not mean we can be sure of what we will see, or find, when we get to the other end.

In my last blog I referred to the need for me to do some pruning in my old age. To say this is often greeted with the cry ‘You are not old’. As a rising-65, within a few months of my Old Age Pension, I know different! I am aware of my mortality, even though I have no intention of sitting around waiting for the end to come. There is still much I want to do and enjoy.

And how does this relate to ‘blind alleys?’. Simply, at my age I want to avoid them if I can
Eco-inventors in Canada they have found the solution to the world's worsening water shortages by drawing the liquid of life from an unlimited and untapped source - the air. The company, Element Four, has developed a machine that it hopes will become the first mainstream household appliance to have been invented since the microwave. Their creation, the WaterMill, uses the electricity of about three light bulbs to condense moisture from the air and purify it into clean drinking water.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Living like a tree


I have always felt a great affinity to trees. They have always seemed possessed of magical properties. We live our lives like trees. We begin as a seed, we grow, then burst forth upon the world and some of us are lucky enough not to be trampled under foot. Just how many other saplings didn’t make it at the same time as I was growing because of lack of water and nutrition, or proper care, will have run into tens of millions. It still does.

I can’t remember when I first made the connection between a winter tree without leaves and our own lungs. Turn a tree bear of leaves upside down and you get an image which could be taken as a reflection of the tree’s root system. I think I was a child, perhaps nine or ten years old, and I was going through one of those medical books which had big page diagrams of bodies, which folded open layer by layer to reveal all our internal organs. And there, in front of me was a lung! It looked like an upside down tree. The connection made in that moment between me and a tree has never left me.

If you are still with me, then thank you. You must be thinking by now ‘What’s the silly old fart on about this time?’. Well, as the sapling inside us grows it develops branches and by the time you get to 64 you have a myriad of them. In our case a branch equates to family, friends, an activity or an interest, but like the tree to keep them alive you have to feed and water them. The trouble is that you can’t feed every branch or twig, so some whither and die. They fall off. As I suspect you already realise, the analogies between us and trees could fill a book, so I will stop here.


It is suffice to say that here I am in a state of retirement and fully aware of the fact that I do not have the energy or time to feed and care for all the branches I have grown over the years, so the time has come for some drastic pruning of my own. At the moment it feels like I am contemplating self-mutilation, rather than something which will help me be healthier and more able to enjoy the future which awaits me.
With this new style blog and website I am doing what even old trees do — attempting to grow a few new branches here and there, better suited for the new environment I find myself in.

I plan to use the tree image on the first page of parkviews.org. when I can make the time to add it. The tree is in Lenton Recreation Ground, across from our living room front window. I see it every day and have decided to take its picture every day for the next year or so and to use it as my symbol of life in Lenton. I may well improve the image, but this is my first attempt at such a thing. Look upon the tree and reflect upon what you see. It is nothing less than an image of you.


Haiti begun a period of national mourning yesterday for the victims of a school that collapsed in the capital, Port-au-Prince. The church-run school collapsed on Friday, killing at least 84 staff and children and injuring more than 150. Officials subsequently revealed that the building had suffered a partial collapse eight years ago and had been rebuilt. An inquiry has been demanded into the appalling state of the building's construction.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

America's joy



This morning Susan and I sat in bed at 7am watching news of Barack Obama’s historic win in the United States Presidential election with tears in our eyes as he attributed his victory to those who believed when other doubted, who began his campaign for office, not in Washington but as he said himself, with such elegance, on porches in Virginia, doorsteps in Iowa and in the homes of thousands across America.

Here I am in Lenton pre-occupied most of the time with all things local who, at the end of every blog, gives a nod in the direction of the wider world. What makes Obama so exciting and different to any other politician I can think of, is that he recognises the importance of ordinary people and communities, who live their lives a world away from Washington or global affairs. That it is not to say that they are uninterested. I believe the reverse to be true.

I follow a blog posted by a Democrat living in a small town called Dryden in upper New York State, close to a large university town. In the last year or so he’s gone domestic. He and his wife now have a baby and chickens, but he continues to provide an insight into American life away from the big cities. I know from emails I exchange with a friend, who lives in nearby Ithaca that Obama won the support of local Democrats in the primaries, right here in Hiliary Clinton’s backyard.

In the early days of the primaries I could not choose between Clinton or Obama. Either, assuming they won, would represent momentous change for America, but what my friend told me about Obama made me appreciate just how different he was and I thought she should know, as she has a son, who has been part of Obama’s backroom team as an energy adviser.

As avid fans of West Wing, Susan and I have been watching the re-run on More-4 TV and Senator Santos has just made his first appearance. We know what to expect. We have seen it all before, but we can’t remember the detail. When we first watched West Wing we thought ‘if only…’ and this morning the fairy tail has become a reality.

Millions around the world will be blogging today about Obama’s victory and what it means for America and, yes, us here in Lenton, in inner-city Nottingham. Of one thing I am sure, from today we are much closer than we have ever been before in so many ways.

Americans placed their faith in Barack Obama today, overcoming a past of slavery and segregation, and electing the first African-American to the US presidency.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Meet Joe

This is a double post to both my new blog and to my old blog. I have decided to keep the two overlapped for a month or so whilst I slowly, but surely, move links across from my old blog to my new website. I have already decided that I was being over ambitious to include a Lenton ‘news’ page, so I have got rid of it. The new website will concentrate on my blog, Lenton (and Nottingham) walks and parks. At first I will concentrate on parks I already know about and add others as I visit them.

In the meantime, meet Joe. He’s a community support police officer and his ‘superbeat’ includes Lenton Recreation Ground, where I saw him on Sunday morning. During the winter, there is no staff permanent staff in the park at weekends, but there are plans to have regular visits from members of the new Nottingham Parks Ranger Service. Until this gets under way, Joe will continue to visit.

Finally, Susan has cracked the problems with uploading my website to the Internet, so you can now reach me direct at www.parkviews.org. It has even been arranged so that I can update the website myself, without bothering Susan.

The police officers who shot Jean Charles de Menezes appeared panicky and "out of control". Anna Dunwoodie, who was two or three seats to the left of the 27-year-old, when he boarded the train at Stockwell underground station in south London, told the inquest that she was certain the officers did not shout any warning before they opened fire.


Sunday, 2 November 2008

Up and running sort of!

Just a quick post to tell you that my new website is up and running sort of! I have been able to make a link via an Apple site, but not direct from the connection Susan uses to post Local History Online. So, to see my new Parkviews website and to get a taste of the what you can expect over the coming months,you have to visit http://web.me.com/kphoward/Parkviews/Welcome.html

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

A quick word

It's just over three weeks since I last posted a blog and a few of my regulars have been checking up on me. So, first of all a 'thank you' to you all. On the same day as my last post I took to my bed for thirty-six hours, suffering from what I thought to be a mild reaction to my 'flu jab a couple of days before. In fact, it was the beginnings of a bout of sciatica, which stayed with me until a couple of days ago and made concentration very difficult, as I found it uncomfortable to sit down for any length of time.

As a result I have got behind on local history and my blog. My routine activities of food shopping and cooking have been easier to keep up, as you do these things moving about. Towards the end of last week I started work on my planned replacement for this a blog – a website of the same name, which I hope to announce to the world shortly. The blog will still be there, plus a bit more about some of my other passions, so watch this space!

In the meantime, love to you all.

More than half a century after it was first produced, Russia is stopping production of the legendary Volga saloon. Once a symbol of stylish living and the preferred car of mid-level apparatchiki, the Volga has struggled to compete with the foreign cars which have flooded the automobile market since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Production will end within two months.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Park Regulars say goodbye to Kevin

On Sunday, the park regulars had a special 'Tea in the Park' for Kevin. It was his last day after nine summers as our weekend park-keeper. I took this picture of him sitting on the bench outside the park pavilion with Eric, who visits the park most days. The morning was wet, windy and cold, but in the afternoon, the wind dropped and the sun came out, so by the time we gathered to have some farewell cake and tea with Kevin, there was eight of us park regulars. For the next ninety minutes or so we put the world to rights and re-ordered Nottingham City Council into a workers and pensioners' republic. There was talk of Boots and schools and how we had seen it all before.

Thinking about it, should I ever get around to my campaign for a Lenton parish council, I will call those who rally to the cause the 'Lenton Regulars' — people who stand up and fight for our community in a myriad of ways. It will be a kind of popular front, pulling otherwise disparate elements together in a common cause.

From next weekend and the rest of the winter period there will be visits to the park during the day by the new Park Ranger Service then, during the 2009 summer season (April–September), a park ranger will be based at Lenton Recreation Ground all day every Saturday and Sunday. No one locally seems to know what the park rangers will actually do, but I have asked the Parks Dept to tell us more at the next meeting of the Nottingham Open Spaces Forum (which should be the end of this month), so watch this space.

One thing is for sure. To match Kevin the park ranger who comes to join us will have to go some. What Kevin has provided, like Dave (our groundsperson) is continuity. In its absence, the only 'continuity' we can be sure of is re-invention, as new faces arrive, ignorant of the past they inherit, and set about dismantling what works well. I came to the conclusion long ago that it is what humans do to mark their territory. Once upon the time we would have behaved liked other animals and left doo-doos everywhere, but now we re-organise instead. OK I'm being a little harsh. One of the many topics touched upon during our tea-time chat with Kevin on Sunday, was how school caretakers became site managers and the nature of the job changes, for the better in many ways. And so it is with the coming of park rangers. It is change and we all hope it is for for the better. For my part I look forward to catching my first park ranger in Lenton Recreation Ground and will bring you his or her head to prove my success.

An early attempt at a rally on the London stockmarket swiftly evaporated this morning as investors were again gripped with fear following yesterday's slump - the worst day's trading in over 20 years.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

'Radio Lenton'

John Holmes from Radio Nottingham kindly gave my last walk of the year, which starts from the Crocus Café at 2pm tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon, a plug this afternoon and has posted a link to the Radio Nottingham website about my walk. Yesterday (Tuesday) morning, he came and did some of the walk me and made a short radio feature, as well as taking some pictures as well.

Thanks John for keeping so much in. I managed to mention next year's community festival, the new developments in Old Lenton, Priory Park and churchyard, Lenton Recreation Ground, the Crocus Café, The Lenton Centre and our city councillors. They also included bits from Dave in the park and Sue in the Crocus. Bring on 'Radio Lenton'!

The European Union Commission has taken special powers to approve bank rescues in view of the scale of the financial crisis, saying the state aid involved is "proportionate". The competition rules do not have to apply to banks in the same way as to other parts of a member state's economy. Rescuing banks is OK, but protecting industries and jobs remains against EU rules.

Clifton delight

Clifton Park is not one of the city's better known parks, but it deserves to be. Susan and I went and had a wander last Saturday afternoon. The sky was full of what I call 'autumn light', as if the changing colours of the leaves are reflected back to Earth. I first noticed the trees when I went on a No.2 bus to South Notts College to sign up for a course I will be doing in the new year and made up my mind to return — hence the visit on Saturday. What I immediately loved about the park was the trees and how it flowed out and along a neighbouring road, creating a green way across the middle of Clifton.

The trees provide the park with a wonderful canopy of green. The trees also result in gentle breezes which rustle the leaves in a soothing, singsong, fashion. I think the size and distribution of the trees play a part in the sense of harmony which exists. The trees do not tower over you in a menacing kind of a way. Instead they embrace you.
During our walk we met these two ladies soaking up the sun with Molly the dog. They visit the park most weekends and said how lovely it is. They seemed genuinely pleased that we had come the couple of miles from Lenton to visit the park. It turned out they were originally from Rise Park and come to the park because one of them now lives in Clifton.

The park's paths cross every now and again and to the right of this picture there is a stream in a grass banked ditch, all overgrown, and, in truth, not much to look at. Remembering what has been done at Daybrook Recreation Ground, the thought did cross my mind if more could be made of the stream?

This is a picture of the eastern end of the 'greenway', which runs parallel to the Swanscombe Drive (the road to the north of Clifton Park), and links Farnborough Road to the Park's north-east entrance. The park and this greenway was conceived and planned during World War Two and construction began not long afterwards. In fact, Clifton only became part of Nottingham in 1948. In my view, the planning and layout of new estates and towns peaked around this time and it has been downhill ever since. I know all the arguments about cars and the cost of housing, but I still think that all new developments should have to include open space and greenways.

Susan spotted this Silver Birch tree and said it was the largest one she can remember ever seeing. It looks magnificent. I think it is one of my favourite trees.

Finally, I could not resist this park gate! Whatever was inside the metal frame has gone, perhaps stolen and sold to a dealer as scrap for the price of a fix or a drink. Wherever you go in Nottingham, it appears to be a feature of its parks that they have gates which do not close, are missing or are pointless. If there was a review of gates and fencing in the city's parks, the Parks Dept might be able to sell what isn't needed and the money raised spent on our parks instead of going to drug dealers and those who sell alcohol.



View Larger Map

This link with Google Earth shows Clifton Park in Nottingham.

Sarah Palin and her officials in the Alaskan state government drew on the work of at least six scientists known to be sceptical about the dangers and causes of global warming, to back efforts to stop polar bears being protected as an endangered species. Some of the scientists were funded by the oil industry.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

At the end of the day

Late on the last Saturday afternoon in September, the shadows have lengthened and it will be dark in about thirty minutes. The warmth of the sun is fading and a slight breeze brings with it a freshness which reminds one that this really is the end of summer. Still, people sit in the park, reluctant to leave. Even I don't quite believe what the shadows tell me — that the park is coming towards the end of the day and soon the gates will be shut and everyone will be heading home for tea.

The bowling season is also coming to a close, with just one more weekend to go, then that will be it until April next year. Even for the bowlers there is just one more end to go. The woods are slowly pushed away, as the players take their time. Reluctant to finish. The last Saturday in September is that kind of a day.

Only the lads playing football will stay until Kevin calls time and brings their game to an end. Afterwards they might just come back via the hole in the railings off Devonshire Promenade, which I saw for the first time yesterday.

The hole in the railings is a clever one. The 'missing' railing can easily be put back into place, so that no one knows that this a 'secret' way in and out of Lenton Recreation Ground. In truth, I have a suspicion that it has nothing to do with students. In the past ten months or so there have been several break-ins during the night at the park pavilion, almost certainly by children and/or young teenagers. Perhaps this hole in the railings is their work?

Earlier on Saturday afternoon, Susan and I went across to Clifton to explore some 'greenways' and a park I had noticed a few weeks ago during a hurried visit. I will share the pictures I took in the next day or two. The visit made me think even more about just where could we create a 'Lenton Wood'?

On average, every minute of every day a woman somewhere dies in childbirth or pregnancy, the overwhelming majority in developing countries. It is one of the world's greatest hidden epidemics, but the search for a solution is hopelessly underfunded.


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Where worlds meet

Today, I took a neighbour to hospital, where she will be for a few days. Another neighbour later took some old wood to the local tip for me. I wonder how it would be if there were more of us? In fact, there are just three houses on my street which are occupied all year round. Students live in the other nineteen. This is not a complaint. I like the quiet summer interlude and the extended seasonal break at the end of the year. At Easter, more students tend to stay in Lenton, but there is still a noticable change.

These rambling thoughts have, as you may have guessed, been prompted by the fact that last weekend saw the return of thousands of students and the beginning of a new academic year on Monday just gone. For some, this will be a calamity, a time when worlds collide. For me, it is a time when worlds can meet or, at least, come close enough to exchange a nod or even an 'excuse me'.

The buses are full again and the roads are much busier. Life has gone up a notch and there are queues in the supermarket. On a couple of occasions, I have been roused, albeit momentarily, from my sleep in the early hours by boisterous voices along the Promenade. This is an observation of fact and not a complaint. In truth I like the change, perhaps a feeling fueled by the knowledge that in twelve weeks time it will all become quiet again. One of the students I spoke to is American and speaks with the same accent as a Black American friend of mine. I was even able to name the town both came from. I hope to write more about this after I have introduced them to one another.

Of course some students can be a pain in the arse, but can't we all? Overall though, it's welcome back time and a change of world for us permanent Lenton folk as well as those who come among us for thirty weeks of the year.

St Monica's Roman Catholic high school in Prestwich, Greater Manchester, has banned its girls from being given the cervical cancer vaccination on its premises, health chiefs confirmed this afternoon.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

A work in progress

This afternoon I got diverted from what I originally intended to blog about when I decided to look at Google's facility which allows you to create your own maps. Last week we posted an entry to our Local History Online website about an exhibition at the Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum tracing how the town had been depicted by local artists and others over the past 250 years. The exhibition's organisers have created an online Google map with then and now images.

Two hours later and I have created a 'work in progress'. My 'Parks and community map of the Lenton and Nottingham Area' is my first attempt at creating a map which places Lenton at the centre and will eventually, I hope, include all the places mentioned in my blog, including parks as far away as Derby, Greenwich and Shrewsbury.

I have also got to create some map icons of my own, because the Google map icons, as good as they are, do not cover everything I would like to include. I will, at some point, put my 'Discovering Lenton Healthy Heritage Walk. onto a Google map, but not before I have learnt how to download pictures as well — you can see now why this is very much 'a work in progress'.

I would be interested in receiving feedback on this occasion. Is it over-egging the pudding or is an idea worth developing, even if a little differently?

The official death toll from the suicide bomb blast that ripped through a luxury hotel in Islamabad yesterday has risen to 53, the Pakistani prime minister, Yousuf Gilani, said today. The blast, one of the biggest attacks in Pakistan for over a decade, happened at the Marriott hotel at around 8pm. The hotel was left burning fiercely all along its façade, while other buildings in the vicinity were also left damaged.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Nottingham Park Links

On Tuesday afternoon I walked through Highfields Park on my way to Beeston and it was kind of eerie. The air was so still I could feel myself walking through it and, as the picture shows, there was hardly a ripple on the lake. I also saw just five other people in the park. I have never seen it as quiet!

However, the main point of this quick posting is to tell you about three open space related Nottingham websites I have come across:

The Friends of Sharphill Wood is a campaign to save a wood between West Bridgford and Edwalton from development. They have made the BBC regional news a couple of times, but their website is only a couple of months old and shows little sign of activity. Perhaps this plug will help them along.

The Forest Recreation Ground has a blog which has been set up by The Partnership Council, which covers Radford and Hyson Green. Again, not a lot going on, but since it probably relies on PC staff, they have to have the time to keep it topical and worth visiting. However, go and have a look for yourself. It is better than nothing.

And last, but not least, a blog campaigning for a
Skateboarding Park in Nottingham. Again, it's not very active and 19 people have voted on the best location for a skateboarding park. 12 say the City Centre and 7 say the outskirts of town, but no specific place identified. I'm sure there's a lot of skateboarders out there who don't know about this campaign, which is a pity.

Finally, I want to end with a picture from a distance, showing teachers and school children on a visit to Lenton Recreation Ground this morning collecting pine cones and leaves for a nature table. These things do go on in the park, but they are no longer meant to be seen. I may have said before that in this digital age of instant photography, the irony is that children are becoming the great unseen. A hundred years from now, local historians and others looking at photographs of streets and parks from, say, 1908, 1958 and 2008, will wonder where the children have gone? Once, they stood there for the photographer. Now, they are ushered away or avoided. Worse still, they are not even there to be seen. Dare I appear odd and say how sad this paranoia makes me. I hope it will pass.

Lloyds-TSB Bank is paying £12.2bn to take over HBOS on a 'landmark day in financial services history' that is intended to create one of the strongest banks in the UK, but will result in thousands of job losses and branch closures.


Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Let Telford be a warning!

Last Friday, Emma who lives in Birmingham and reads my blog, told me about a story on the front page of the free Metro newspaper last Thursday (10 Sep 2008). The headline read 'On your own in the park… are you a pervert? and the story began 'People taking a stroll in the park on their own are being stopped and questioned by council officials on the look out for paedophiles. Anyone spotted walking in Telford Town Park without at least one child is likely to be asked to explain what they are doing (and) if their answer does not prove satisfactory, they may be thrown out of the park and reported to the police'. The story goes on to say that all this came to light because two (women) environmental campaigners dressed as penguins were ordered out of the park for handing out leaflets about climate change.

Emma and the Metro led me to search the web for more about the story and Telford Town Park. They got the story from the Shropshire Star, who made the following video:


Telford and its Town Park may have made the national news and attracted the attention of the local press over its 1984 Police State policy towards lone visitors to its parks, but this led me to another story, which is equally deserving of our attention in Nottingham. There is a 'Friends of Telford Town Park' group and there is a
The 'Hands On Our Park' (HOOP) group. The latter was set up by local people when it became clear that the 'Friends' was no more than 'a group specifically set up by the Borough of Telford and Wrekin in order to help draw down funding' to help develop Telford Town Park.

Obviously, things in Telford have got out of hand, but we should not be complacent here in Nottingham. The truth is all these things could happen here! We must be on our guard at all times against those who want to exclude 'undesirables' from our parks and to use the goodwill of local residents towards their local parks to save the council money, rather than to actually increase expenditure.

In fact, we already have parks in Nottingham without seating or litter bins in order to deter unwelcome visitors. The danger of 'Friends' groups for parks is that they actually compete against one another for limited funds and the parks in the better off areas will almost certainly come off best — because they are more likely to have the skills to raise funds.

Read this blog and decide for yourself. I do not exaggerate.

See also the Wikipedia entry for Telford Town Park.

Wheelchair racer Shelly Woods capped an eventful Paralympics to win Great Britain's 100th medal of the Games with silver in the women's T54 1500 metres in Beijing today.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Announcing a personal sabbatical

Pop (my grandfather), me, Mother and Uncle Sid, Wembley, 1945.

Next May I will be 65 and I will have been active in the community, some way or another, for fifty years. First, in Wembley where I grew up, then in Harrow until work took me to Birmingham. Later, I followed the path of true love, which took me to Mansfield, and in 1979 Susan and I bought our present home in Lenton. We have both lived in Nottingham longer than anywhere else in our lives.

On Friday I found myself at the QMC wanting bad news in the hope that I would have an excuse to re-order my life for a while and take a break (I hasten to add that I got an all clear). I enjoy what I do and the company of those I mix with, but I do feel committed and, sometimes, find myself doing more than I want to. I have, in recent years, cut back, but I realised on Friday that I need to cut back some more and to take stock. I have signed up for a media course next year and I have some personal things I want to do, people I want to see. All too often something gets in the way, so I will be limiting myself to the park and the Promenade.

Otherwise, I've decided that 2009 is going to be my year off. I'll finish my stint as Secretary of Dunkirk and Lenton Branch Labour Party in February and that will be it. I might go along to meetings from time to time and I will still blog, but otherwise I'm giving myself a well earned sabbatical.

Wanderers held by plucky Bees. Wycombe Wanderers saw their run of four straight wins come to an end as they failed to break down a solid Brentford side in a 0-0 draw at Adams Park yesterday. For me.

Dunkirk's 'Spider Park'.

Dunkirk residents discuss the proposed layout of their new 'Spider Park'.

Until now I have been writing, from time to time, about Dunkirk Park. As of now it's has a name change. Residents and staff from the nearby Dunkirk School and Children's Centre made the point that local kids have called it 'The Spider Park' for quite a while on account of a piece of play equipment, made up of elasticated ropes around a central pole, which resemble a spider's web — hence the name.
The Spider in Highfields Park

This came out at a public meeting last Wednesday evening in Dunkirk and Old Lenton Community Centre to look at plans showing the proposed layout of the new Spider Park. The makeover has been a long time coming and I am sure that Dave Trimble, Dunkirk and Lenton's Labour Party city councillor and Nottingham City Council's portfolio holder for parks among other things, was determined to get something done about the park whilst he had the opportunity.

Everyone at the meeting was enthusiastic and positive about the plans, so apart from last minute follow-up consultations with local kids and teenagers, it will soon be all systems go to ensure the work is all completed by the end of the current financial year (31 March 2009). Dunkirk is one of the city's forgotten corners, hemmed in on four sides by the Ring Road, the railway, the Science Park and Nottingham University, so it's nice to see it getting some much deserved attention.

I will be returning to Dunkirk (and Old Lenton) next week to report on the Labour Party meeting we held in the
Dunkirk and Old Lenton Community Centre last Tuesday about all the developments which are planned for the area. In the meantime, I'm planning a mid-week blog about Telford Town Park in Shropshire and related issues (Thanks to Emma for the pointing out this story to me).

West Brom 3, West Ham 2. Up the Baggies. A football result from yesterday which meant a great deal to Susan!

Thursday, 11 September 2008

To all those Lenton Priory site doubters

St Nicholas Churchyard in Brighton
(I took this from Flickr. It was taken by 'Kitty')

Purely by chance whilst doing a local history search on Google I came across a news story about the disused St Nicholas Churchyard in Brighton. It was only posted two days ago and describes how 'a neglected former graveyard in Brighton city centre has been transformed from a no-go area to a tranquil community space and treasure trove of local history'. It sounds just like what we want to happen on the Lenton Priory site, where one, unified, approach to the site, perhaps led by the Church if they are fearful about what might happen if it is left to Nottingham City Council or other folk in the community, including me, is what we need. To keep them separate would be madness. You can read the story at:
www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/index.cfm?request=c1192176.

Clearly, the situation in St Nicholas Churchyard, Brighton, was far worse than anything we have seen in Old Lenton, but the remedy is same, especially if some of the interested parties in the local community here are fearful of drug users and drinkers in Priory Park 'taking over' the churchyard as well. I have to say that during the numerous visits I have made to the park I have never seen any druggies or suspicious characters, if you discount the occasional discreet drinker with a bottle or a can in a paper or plastic bag. I see no difference between them and young people with their cans or bottles of wine in Lenton Recreation Ground. I suspect that some are 'offended' by the appearance of people down on their luck and would rather they were forced to stay out of view.

One good thing which has come from the local discussions about Priory Park and the churchyard is that Dave Trimble found out this week that the City Council has 13 former Church of England cemeteries in its care, including St Anthony's (the churchyard on the Lenton priory site).

Margaret Thatcher is to visit Chequers on Saturday at the invitation of Gordon Brown. The prime minister is expected to discuss the global downturn with the woman who dealt with some of Britain's toughest postwar economic conditions.

Monday, 8 September 2008

What is happening in Dunkirk and Old Lenton?

The slideshow below tries to address the question 'What is happening in Dunkirk and Old Lenton?' There are new and proposed developments going on everywhere. Watch the slideshow and find out for yourself and, if you live locally, get involved in deciding what happens next!

Tuesday 9 September 2008, from 8 to 9pm.
Dunkirk and Old Lenton Community Centre by Dunkirk Flyover.
An Open Meeting of Dunkirk and Lenton Branch Labour Party to discuss
'What is happening in Dunkirk and Old Lenton?'

video

Tens of thousands of jobseekers face being written off and "parked" on benefits as an unintended consequence of the government's £2bn plans to use private contractors to tackle long-term unemployment. People needing greater levels of support to find work will be sidelined under changes taking effect next year.

Welcome to the Slideshow

Today I have worked out how to turn my slideshows into videos for the web, so expect to see a few more postings over the next few weeks. My first is a short slideshow I have made asking the question 'What is local pride?'. My slides are intended to act as a series of prompts, so that, you, the viewer, can think about the question and come up with your own answers.

video

It would be nice to receive some feedback as to what makes you proud to live where you do.

The United States government last night announced the biggest financial bailout in the country's history, when it took the troubled American mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae into public ownership to save them from collapse.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Lenton's Event of the Year

I was late for the re-opening of Lenton Swimming Pool on Friday, so I missed the speeches and the ribbon cutting, but I did manage to get a few pics. Susan went ahead without me and got no further than the entrance, such was the throng of people who packed The Lenton Centre's reception area. By the time I arrived it had thinned out a bit, as many had gone down to the pool to see the first swimmers take the plunge.

I hope to have a picture of the opening from either Alex at the Forum or Parbinder from Area 8 which I can add later. In the meantime here are the few I managed to snaffle in the midst of talking to lots of people, a good few of whom I had not seen for an age, so it was nice to see that they were all still in the land of the living.

Someone made this marvellous cake to mark the occasion. As a great cake lover, who was late because I had a chocolate cake in the oven at home, this is one cake that really does look too good to eat! I wish I had stayed around to enjoy a slice, but Friday was not one of my best days and, in truth, I wanted to at home with my feet up, despite the fact that there were a few people there who I could happily talk to forever.

As we left, TLC staff were already busy making use of their brand new counter, which was only fitted on Thursday. I love the rubber duck logo of 'Quackers', TLC's club for people who want to learn to swim. As a fully signed up member of the Friends of Lenton Swimming Pool, I am sure it will be a success. The challenge now is to make the sure that TLC has the revenue income it needs to keep the pool and the rest of the building properly maintained. So long as we are about, Susan and I will do our bit. I hope it's a very long way off, but when we wrote our wills deep in history, we willed some money to Lenton Community Centre. We must amend our wills.

Dear me, I hope this thought does not come across as gloomy. I don't intend it to be. Legacy funding is a good way to help good causes and there must be plenty of old Lentonians who would love to help in this way if they had the procedure explained to them.

According to The Observer newspaper, David Cameron has lured a team of Tony Blair's key advisers into the Tory 'big tent' as part of a sudden realignment of power and influence at Westminster. Among those ready to help the Tories are Matthew Taylor, head of the Number 10 Policy Unit under Blair. Taylor, now chief executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, confirmed that he had had some dealings with the Tories and would be happy to assist if they won power.

Friday, 5 September 2008

A Lenton Pride Day Today

The Lenton Centre, Willoughby Street.

Some members of TLC Board (Mairi 2nd from left, Jenny 4th from left).

TLC staff, with Andy.

Young swimmers featured on the cover of the
1994 Annual Report of Lenton Community Association.

Today is a very proud and special day for Lenton as a community.

At 4pm today the swimming pool in The Lenton Centre will be officially re-opened, four years to the day after it was closed by Nottingham City Council in 2004. The story of the last four years has yet to written, but a lot has happened since. Lenton Community Association had the foresight to begin planning for the closure of Lenton Leisure Centre and its swimming pool at the end of 2003 and made up its mind early that it would lead a campaign to take over the management of the leisure centre. This finally happened in 2006 when the city council sold the building housing the leisure centre and the community centre to LCA for just £10. LCA transformed itself into a social enterprise and became The Lenton Centre.

Carl.

One of the events planned as part of the re-opening celebrations is a relay race in which people who learnt to swim in Lenton Swimming Pool, from the oldest to the youngest, will pass on a baton in the form of a rubber duck. It struck me on Wednesday, when I took the picture of Carl, that the relay race is also symbolic of what has happened over the years since Lenton Community Association was formed in 1979 and local residents first succeeded in getting their very own community centre. Over the years, the baton of responsibility and vision has passed from one group of individuals to another. One person, Mairi Yuill, has been there throughout. It was Mairi who first got me involved in 1980, since when I have been involved on and off. Jenny Hills is another long time activist and it was under her leadership that we made the change from being a community centre to a social enterprise. Andy worked at the Leisure Centre forever and helped keep the pool mothballed and secure at a time when the City Council wanted it to reach a point where it could not be saved. He then came and joined TLC as its first member of staff and is a real Lenton hero, as is Carl, who became involved in 2004. He provided the campaign with added drive and did much to make today a reality. As I write this, my head is full of names of other people who have played an important part in bringing about today. I just hope that any history remembers them all.

By this evening I hope to have a few pictures of today's celebrations to share with you, but in the end I couldn't wait to blog about the occasion because I am proud of Lenton and the people associated with making today happen. I'm proud for Lenton, I'm proud for Carl, Andy, Jenny, Mairi and others, as well as the part played Susan and me.

It is pouring with rain outside as I write this, but today is a great day for Lenton and in my heart the sun is shining big and bright.

The equivalent of a fortnight's average rainfall is expected to deluge parts of the UK today as a miserable summer is followed by the first big storm of the autumn. Heavy rain and gusty winds are expected to sweep in from the Atlantic, with forecasters warning that some areas will suffer localised flooding.


Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Park delight and a Church Street niggle

I saw this fungi in the park at lunchtime beside a tree stump. It looks unworldy doesn't it? I was bowled over by how beautiful it and the remains of the tree looked together. Once upon a time, when I was at junior school, I would have known the name of this fungi, but not now. I left all that behind when I moved onto secondary school, where there was never anything like a nature club, or a young teacher, Miss Jean Conrad, who befriended me and a couple of other lads, one of whom was Keith Moon, later of The Who.

This picture shows the whole cluster of the fungi around the tree stump. I wonder how many people will walk along the path from the Derby Road to Church Street and not notice this truly beautiful and magical sight within inches of where they are walking. How I love Lenton Recreation Ground when it gives me a high as good as this!

I have lost count of how many times I have contacted Nottingham City Council about the commercial waste bins which permenantly block the pavement or are left in Chruch Street, beside the Bag O'Nails bar. Where the white door on the right of the picture is, there used to be a backyard, but someone in Planning allowed the owner to build an extension (how such decisions are made is making me increasingly suspicious of the planning process, to the point where I cannot believe that such decisions are made unknowingly). In the absence of any action by the City Council, I have reported it to the Fix My Street website at: www.fixmystreet.com/?id=1299#update_26927. I first reported the problem via them in March 2007. I await developments with interest.

Today, Susan and I saw a lady with a child and a pushchair have to cross the road because she couldn't get through, but, hey, if a car had swung in from Lenton Boulevard and hit them, the City Council would not have cared. I would love them to prove me wrong by taking action and getting the commercial waste bins removed, but I am sure I will be writing about this specific problem one year from now!

The City Council talk about 'ensuring that every neighbourhood in the city is a great place to live'. It's welcome talk, but worthless in the absence of action. All they are doing in feeding the cynicism which so many people have about local government. What we need are our own Dunkirk and Lenton ward enforcement officers, who will work under the direction of local residents and not chief officers in thrall to business interests.

Pupils starting secondary school in England this week are expected to be the first cohort legally obliged to stay on in education or training until 17. Legislation is going through parliament to raise the school leaving age to 17 by 2013 and to 18 by 2015.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Returning to nature

A couple of weeks ago we visited the three nature reserves just to the north of Wollaton Park: Martin's Pond, Harrison's Plantation and Raleigh Pond, with friends from Stoke. Paul is a nature buff and takes his camera everywhere. As a result he has amassed a fine collection of photographs, many of which find there way onto his blog at: http://pursglove.blogspot.com. His entry for 28 August 2008 is headed 'Harrison's Plantation' and is a collection of great pictures, together with a commentary about our walk around the reserves.

This was my fourth visit since New Year's Eve and on each occasion it has looked a little wilder. A picture which Paul was too polite to use shows collapsed fencing beside the path through the Plantation. It seems as if nature is winning. Perhaps, by the time of my next visit, much of this fallen fence will have disappeared beneath a growing carpet of green. I hope so.

This picture, also by Paul, gives the Plantation an almost primeval look. The day in question was also hot and humid with showers. To be here after a summer thunderstorm must be something, but the highlight of our visit was the little squirrel below, lurking high in the branches and screeching like crazy. It took a little while to spot him (or her), with all four of us staring as hard as we could, before Paul caught him on film. It was the first time I have ever heard a squirrel make a noise of any kind and it seemed to me as if the poor creature was being torn limb from limb. Happily, this was not the case, for when the squirrel realised he had an audience he stopped, as if to allow Paul to take his picture. Then he started up again. The picture of him is deliberately small. Because this is how he appeared to me high up there in the trees.


An autumn offensive by Gordon Brown to revive his premiership with a package of economic measures risks being overshadowed by the leak of a Home Office document, which spells out how the downturn will lead to an increase in crime and greater support for extremist political parties.