Wednesday, 27 February 2008

An outdoor community centre

A tiger who visited Lenton Recreation Ground this afternoon to promote two Varsity football matches at Meadow Lane on 28 February 2008 between Nottingham and Nottingham Trent university students. The women kick-off @ 5.30pm and the men @ 7.30pm. Tickets cost £3.50.
Local residents and gig organisers, plus a representative from the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum, meeting in the park this morning to discuss plans for some proposed live music and community events in the park this summer. The meeting was arranged by Parbinder Singh, who works for Nottingham City Council's Area 8 Committee which covers the Dunkirk & Lenton and Bridge wards.

Wednesday afternoon is the most popular time of the week for students to play football in the park. After a gap of only a few months (see my blog dated 19 October 2007) some players are using studded boots again and the grassed playing area is being damaged. The signs explaining why studded boots can't be used are being ignored. Perhaps it is no coincidence that our groundsperson, Dave, has been on holiday for the last few weeks plus the evenings are getting longer, so there is more time and more organised games as a result.

Much of the park's grassed playing area is now looking like this, pitted with stud marks. In places the damage is already much worse, but this is how it starts and it rapidly becomes a sea of mud during wet periods. The grass has to be protected at all times and controls enforced. It's unfortunate but it's a fact of life.

Talking this morning with Andy and Jol, two young men who organise gigs and events mainly for students, about a weekend of events that they want to organise in the park in June it dawned on me that what Lenton Recreation Ground has become is an outdoor community centre and that it has to be managed as such.

No one was against having live pop music in the park providing all the obvious issues around such an event can be overcome, like noise levels, finishing times, facilities, parking and admission to the play area and the bowling greens, plus a few more we didn't think of! In fact the Forum's representative at the meeting asked if local caterers could be used and whether a planned 'family event' could be for all the community. This seems like the way forward to me. Instead of a promoter who pays just to hire the park, we look for partners like Andy and Jol who are willing to work with the local community. I hope something comes of the proposal. I'll keep you posted.

Today we have had a meeting in the park, people passing through with briefcases and others with shopping trolleys. We've had joggers and dog walkers. Then there's been the kids and, of course, the Varsity Tiger and his/her keepers handing out flyers for the fundraising football matches tomorrow. All this on the last Wednesday in February. You see what I mean about Lenton Recreation Ground being an outdoor community centre?

Britain's largest earthquake in nearly a quarter of a century left one person injured and a trail of damage. The magnitude 5.2 quake hit just before 1am today and was centred on Market Rasen in Lincolshire. Its effects were felt as far away as Wales, Scotland and London. In Lenton beside the park we heard a loud rumbling and grinding sound before our house actually shuddered and swayed for what seemed an age but was, in fact, only a few seconds. It was an experience we won't forget in a hurry.



Monday, 25 February 2008

A daffy protest day

Lenton Recreation Ground's first open daffodil of 2008, four days earlier than in 2007.

The first 2008 cluster of open daffodils in Lenton Recreation Ground close to the Church Street entrance.

Protesters signing the latest petition at the demonstration on Lenton Boulevard against the closure of the New Lenton Post Office which, barring a miracle, will happen on 18 March 2007.

Alan Simpson, our local MP, addresses the demonstration against the closure of New Lenton Post Office.
Daffodils in the front garden of a house on Devonshire Promenade, which overlooks Lenton Recreation Ground.

Confronted with deciding what was more important — the first daffodils in Lenton Recreation Ground in 2008 or a demonstration against the closure of New Lenton Post Office — I decided to go with the flow. When we left the house to attend the demo we walked through the park to see if any of the daffodils were out whilst the sun was shining, as the weather forecasters said it was going to cloud over later in the morning (and so it has turned out). Today we were not to be disappointed, as the first daffodils were open and I have the pictures above to prove it. Last year we saw them on 1 March, so they are just four days earlier than in 2007. The winter has been milder and I had thought the first daffodils would be open sooner than this, but it's still great to see them and in a few weeks parts of Lenton Recreation Ground will be a carpet of yellow flowers. What a wonderful thought!

From the park we walked to the nearby New Lenton Post Office to take part in a demonstration against its closure which was organised by the Nottingham University Students' Union and supported by the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum as well as lots of local residents. All the usual suspects were there, some with placards. Our local Member of Parliament Alan Simpson also came along and gave one of his spirit rousing speeches to the crowd standing around the entrance to the post office. There were probably about fifty of us, which wasn't bad for 10am on a Monday morning. Some of the students present were dashing up and down Lenton Boulevard collecting signatures for the latest petition against closing the post office, whilst us oldies stood about chatting about everything except the reason for the demonstration.

I first mentioned the post office closure in my blog dated 14 December 2007 and explained how I thought that our post offices were victims of the so-called 'free market' approach to public services. This allows the profitable parts to be creamed off by big business and large corporations whilst leaving the taxpayer to subsidise the non-profit making services. Alan Simpson said much the same thing today and also pointed out that Post Office directors had paid themselves fat bonuses for actually closing lots of post offices! That this has happened under a Labour government is shameful. I do not know a single member of the Labour Party who supports the closure of local post offices. Alan has been a great MP and it was great to see him in Lenton today supporting local residents, including students, who are determined to fight the closure of New Lenton Post Office until the very last minute of the very last day. Perhaps there will be a miracle?

As I walked home from the demo and turned onto Devonshire Promenade I saw the daffodils in the last picture above. They were larger and there were more of them than you can see just a few yards away in the park. No doubt the fact they are a good week ahead of the park dafs can be explained by their location in a small front garden between tarmac and the front of a large brick house. Colour is returning to Lenton and as much as I like the winter I have to admit I love this time of the year as well. I can't wait to see those bluebells we planted in the park last year — 5,000 of them!

Supporters waving red flags and Che Guevara banners poured onto the streets of (Greek) Cyprus yesterday after Demetris Christofias clinched 53.4% of the vote in the election to become the country's sixth president. His victory paves the wave for the island's reunification under 'the umbrella of a bizonal, bicommunal federation' (the island is presently divided into two parts: Greek Cypriots in the south and Turkish Cypriots in the north).

Sunday, 24 February 2008

A good infection

I took this picture from the Lenton Flats a year ago (21 February 2007) and I haven't taken any more. This year I must remember to take one every few months at least.

Parks are infectious. In a good way of course. We take them for granted. More often than not parks only make the news when there is a problem. The good goes unreported. I like to think that this blog strikes a balance insomuch as I will complain and criticise when I see a park getting a bad deal, but I actually spend far more time saying good things about parks. I prefer to cajole and badger than to batter or remonstrate, although I admit to doing the latter if I have my patience tested.

Today is a good day and I want to draw your attention to a relatively new section on Nottingham City Council's website which is devoted to 'Open and Green Space' in the city. I have posted a direct link in the column to the right of this text. I haven't noticed the site before and I suspect it is still under construction as quite a few, if not most, of the city's parks and open spaces have yet to be listed. Lenton Recreation Ground is there and has been given a generous plug. It's a lovely looking site with plenty of space. It would be nice if the text was a little larger, but that's a small gripe. So go and have a look for yourself and see what you think. I haven't found anything comparable for any of other of England's other core cities, so I say 'well done' to our Parks Department. I look forward to watching the Open and Green Space site develop.

There is also an online city council questionnaire about parks and open spaces to which I have also posted a link at the top of the column to the right of this text. You have until 18 March to complete it.

During the last two weeks I have visited Lenton Recreation Ground just once (last Tuesday) because of my foot. I naively thought that the dressing coming off on Thursday would see me getting back to old ways and having a daily wander. Silly me. The first couple of days without a bandage were quite uncomfortable and for the next ten weeks I have to do set exercises five times a day if I don't want the joints to fuse as the cartilage and bone grow and heal. My biggest disappointment in all this is that I cannot yet do things for Susan, especially breakfast. Without her I would be up a nameless creek without a paddle.

I'm planning to go for a circuit after lunch today if it isn't raining. It's 12.30pm now and the park is empty. The sun is trying to break through and I'm hoping to find the first daffodils open. Last year I posted my first picture of daffodils on 1 March, so we're actually not that far ahead, assuming I am lucky later today. I will add a PS to this post and let you know what I see.

PS. It's 4.30pm and I haven't made it into the park. It's been raining on and off, so my visit will have to wait until tomorrow morning (Monday) after the New Lenton Post Office closure demo at 10am which has been organised by the Students' Union. Given that it's due to close on 18 March it seems a little late to be doing this, but at least someone is doing something, so they deserve our support. Perhaps they have a secret plan and all will be revealed tomorrow?

Controversial plans that would see the police given sweeping new powers to take DNA samples from people arrested for the most minor offences, such as dropping litter, have been rejected by the Home Office.




Wednesday, 20 February 2008

That kind of day until...


I had hoped for the heavy hoarfrost this morning that covered parts of Nottingham for much of yesterday. Along parts of the ring road towards the City Hospital and University Boulevard between Dunkirk and Lenton the trees and hedges sparkled with hoarfrost and were simply beautiful. Lenton Recreation Ground missed out and looked its usual winter grey self, so I went to bed last night hoping that today would be different. Sad to say I have been disappointed, but the good news is that I took myself for a walk around the park on my own and without crutches after lunch — the first time in thirteen days, so I was ready for a fix!

Apart from the lads from next door playing footie and some people passing through I had the park to myself. The big change from my last visit was the sheer number of daffodil clusters breaking through with plenty of yellow heads already visible. I'll have to check when I saw the first daffs last year, but it wasn't this early. The picture of the park pavilion says it all: shuttered and closed with no one soaking up the sun on the benches. It was that kind of day, too cold and too gloomy to linger for long. I had never expected to walk around the park with my foot in bandages, but I did. I just hope the dressing comes off tomorrow and it is healing as well as it feels.

I got home and was quickly embroiled in a drama of sorts as a young man tried to break into our living room whilst I was in it! He had a companion, who I assume was the lookout. I saw his face at the window as he tried to lift it and was quite startled by it. I was on the 'phone to a friend at the time, so I said goodbye and
dialled 999. The police arrived within a few minutes and were brilliant. It was quite a scary experience and my tummy had butterflies for ages afterwards. The police got me to drive by a suspect in the back of a patrol car, but it wasn't the face I saw at the window. It just shows how opportunistic would-be thieves are. In fact the description, on reflection, somehow lessens what it is these people do! They are calculating and always have an advantage over those they seek to steal from insomuch as they have an escape plan already. This gives them a clear advantage over those they rob and the police. I'm not sure how such people should be punished. I think I would rather they had to pay compensation to their victims and work than be locked up in prison except in extreme cases.

Research has found mounting evidence that air pollution in towns and cities can both increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in the long-term and induce heart attacks within hours of exposure to traffic.



Sunday, 17 February 2008

Caged in the park


The picture of the cuddly toys in the park was taken by my friend Paul last Tuesday. It pretty much sums up how I have been feeling for the past week — caged by my foot, albeit in a million dollar bedroom with a view of the park to match. On Friday, after eight days, I made it downstairs for a few hours and again yesterday for a bit longer. As I type this I'm in our living room looking across the park as the morning's heavy frost melts away on what is another beautiful day. I can see someone reading his newspaper sitting at a picnic table. As much as I love our home there have been times during the past week when I wanted to be with those cuddly toys and caged in the park. My planned walk around Lenton Recreation Ground next Thursday afternoon will be my first in a fortnight and it can't come soon enough. I am a park addict who wants others to get the park habit. As I finish this posting I see the sisters walking along the park path on their way to church. I've seen them pass by on countless occasions during the past twenty-eight years. It is something local people have been doing since the park opened and I love the thought as much as seeing the sisters pass by.

This weekend the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is marking the 50th anniversary of its founding with a 'Global Summit for a Nuclear-Free World'. Speakers include Sergio Duarte, the United Nations' High Representative for Disarmament Affairs. CND has 30,000 members.

Friday, 15 February 2008

A park visit with a friend

Quarry Park, Shrewsbury, view 1.

Quarry Park, Shrewsbury, view 2.

Quarry Park, Shrewsbury, view 3.

Quarry Park, Shrewsbury, view 4.

During the two weeks or so when I couldn't visit Lenton Recreation Ground, I thought it would be nice to wander to some parks I didn't know well, if at all, in the company of friends. Today my friend Rosie takes us to Quarry Park in Shrewsbury. I've already promised myself a day out visiting the park this coming summer. I might invite some friends and family to join me for a cake and pork pie picnic (with the choice of veggie pie as well). Now, it's over to Rosie:

When Robert asked if I would write a little something on one of my favourite parks I had to think about it quite a lot before coming to a decision about where to choose. I did think about producing something on the parks in Stoke-on-Trent as each of the towns, except Stoke, has their own and each has an interesting history. I’ve never photographed them though and this is not a good time of year for interesting photographs - maybe something for the future, perhaps? I then considered country parks as there are many around us within easy travelling distance and we often walk in them. In the end, I decided to stick with the idea what the word park means to me which is a council owned, green area of recreation in the middle of a town or city. I have photos of me as a very small child in the Abbey Park in Leicester but I don’t really have the memories to go with them. In the end, I chose a park that has impressed me on the half a dozen or so times I have visited it – so here is my choice - Quarry Park in Shrewsbury.


Quarry Park is delightful at any time of year but the photos I’ve included were taken in July 2006 at the start of the very hot weather we had that summer. The park is easily reached from the path along the River Severn from the English Bridge or the Welsh Bridge as well as from the town centre. There are plenty of open areas of grass where you can sit with a picnic, play ball games with the children, gaze at the lovely Georgian church just across the road and generally laze away the day. It is here that the very popular Shrewsbury Flower Show is held each year and at its centre are the sunken gardens known as The Dingle which were designed and built in 1946 by the new Parks Superintendent for Shrewsbury, Percy Thrower. I think I like this park because of its proximity to the river, its wide sweeping views and the wonderful buildings that surround it. In the summer sun The Dingle is warm and welcoming with its colourful flowers, tinkling streams, hidden statues and chirruping, buzzing wildlife. I can feel the sun on my back and smell the warm, rich scent of the roses as I write this. Quarry Park is near perfection — something I hope I have captured in my photographs.

The Government gave into Saudi Arabia's rulers when they threatened to make it easier for terrorists to attack London unless corruption investigations into their arms deals were halted according to court documents published yesterday. With 'allies' like this who needs enemies!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Say it with flowers






All the above pictures taken yesterday (Tuesday) by my friend Paul. Thank you.

The last six days have been absolutely glorious and I have been stuck in our bedroom with my foot up! What I see of Lenton Recreation Ground from the bedroom window is a joy to behold. I have the outlook of a lord when it comes to the park. I see life, trees, grass, kids playing, dog walkers, shoppers and, today, a group of young women having a lunchtime picnic. The trouble is I can't get out there to take any pictures which capture these moments of delight and pleasure. For me, the above pictures say it all. Lenton Recreation Ground is looking great and will get better by the day, so come on down and have a walk in the park.

Today is the 1st anniversary of my starting this blog and this is my 101st posting, so I managed exactly 100 postings in my first year. There are those in the media who are sniffy about blogs and bloggers and see us as sad people who are so self absorbed that we don't notice that the world doesn't care about what we do or say.
Having been encouraged by my friend Rosie to start my blog after she told me she had been blogging for a couple of years, I have to say I have enjoyed it. I take pleasure in knowing that I have a few regular readers and that I am part of a small community of bloggers who promote local parks and open spaces as part of a wider, more radical, social and political agenda. After one year see myself as a park blogger for life.

Last night I missed a very important meeting of the Dunkirk and Lenton Branch Labour Party (BLP) because of my foot. It was a meeting to nominate a potential prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) to replace Alan Simpson, our sitting Labour MP for Nottingham South. When Alan announced that he was going to stand down, the Constituency Labour Party's (CLP) General Committee (GC) decided it would like an all-female shortlist to select its new PPC. This was also the view of the national Labour Party. The nomination and shortlisting procedures adopted by the Party mean that if a BLP nominates a white woman for possible shortlisting it has to nominate a woman from an ethnic minority group as well. The same rule will apply at the GC meeting next week to decide who goes forward to the actual PPC selection meeting next month.

Last night saw my own BLP and Bridge Ward BLP, with whom we normally hold joint meetings, having separate meetings to nominate potential PPCs. Much to my pleasure and relief both BLPs nominated Christine Shawcroft as one of their choices. Christine is the only openly socialist would-be PPC who is described as 'left-wing' by her critics. In truth she occupies the same political turf as me and others. She is against renewing Trident and nuclear power stations. She is for public service and ownership when it comes to health, education, transport and utilities. She is against our involvement in the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. She would continue Alan's work as a green MP and a champion of the poor and the elderly and much more besides. What is so unreasonable or threatening about her political stance that makes others fear and oppose her?

There are eight BLPs in the Nottingham South CLP and three have so far nominated Christine (Wollaton West BLP has also nominated her). She is also ahead in the 'popular' vote. Tonight (Wednesday) sees the final BLP nomination meeting in the adjoining Radford and Park ward. Whatever happens, Christine should have done more than enough to secure her shortlisting by the CLP-GC next week, so that she can go through to the selection meeting in March which will be open to all members. Given that six women has so far secured nominations I take the view that they should all be shortlisted and I know that others share this view. Anything less will smack of manipulation and can only be divisive. I won't be at the shortlisting meeting because of my foot, so I can only hope that good grace and commonsense will see all those would-be candidates with nominations through to the final stage.

What we have all known for ever is now official: The cost of living rises faster the poorer you are — the very people the government taxes the most (as a proportion of their income) and then gives below inflation wage and benefit increases to. This news comes on the same day as the government scraps plans for charging super-rich foreigners a flat £30,000 tax to stay in Britain. Now the super-rich will continue to live in Britain tax free.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

In my absence cricket returns

Shafiq's sons playing cricket in the park yesterday (Saturday).

Beeston Town Park last Thursday.

Beeston Town Park last Thursday from the High Road.

My bunion op went very well and the NHS staff were brilliant. I arrived at the clinic for my op on Friday just after 8am and I was home by 10.30pm. It's now Sunday afternoon and it is only really painful when I put my foot down to walk to the loo on my crutches. Last night I slept right through. The on-call Podiatrist called yesterday evening to see how I was getting on. I really appreciated that. This morning my friend Shafiq came round to see how I was getting on and told me he had emailed a couple of pictures of his sons playing cricket in the park yesterday, which I have since downloaded and used one as my top picture above.

The last three days have seen lovely clear blue skies with the sun streaming into our bedroom. When I sit up I can see across the park and watch what is happening. Otherwise I am limited to seeing the trees and hearing the voices of children playing. No doubt some of the voices I heard yesterday belonged to Shafiq's sons as they played cricket. Cricket in the park is becoming an all year thing, just like football, rugger and dunking. As soon as I am able I'm going to have a game with Shafiq and his sons.

The other two pictures I took on Thursday afternoon when I went into Beeston town centre to do some last minute shopping. I've called it 'Beeston Town Park' because it's at the eastern end of Beeston High Road. Last year the part of the park closest to the High Road was given a makeover and two modern metal sculptures were added. The one in the middle picture is to mark the contribution of Boots the chemist to Beeston, as its main factory straddles the border between Beeston and Lenton.

There is a large stone statue of someone in the middle of park, but I don't know who it is. There is a playground as well, but in the absence of shrubs and trees the park looks quite bleak — which may explain why I have never paid much attention to it despite passing by on the bus or on foot for nearly thirty years on my shopping trips to Beeston. I know it's overlooked by quite a few low-rise flats for the elderly, for whom the park must be a real joy. Perhaps there is something about the park I have yet to appreciate. I will have to find out more and report back.

57% of people receiving income support are in low-wage, permanent, employment. The minimum wage is not enough to lift workers out of poverty.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Park views appeal

Woodthorpe Park artists, May 2006.

On Friday I am having the knife taken to the juvenile bunion on my left foot, so I will be out of action for a few weeks at least. This means I won't be taking pictures of the park, although I hope Susan will take a few so that I have something to post. I also hope to persuade some of my friends and the few of you who look at my blog to send me a photograph of a park you like, together with a few words about the park in question — you will be my 'guest contributors' whilst I am out of action. I look forward to seeing what you send me. Please use my personal email address: robert.howard@local-history.co.uk.

To start my appeal off I have dug into my archives and come up with the picture I took in Woodthorpe Park in Sherwood, which is to the north of city centre and on the right-hand side of the Mansfield Road as you leave Nottingham. It is also where the headquarters of Nottingham's Parks Department is located.

I hadn't realised that it was so long ago, nearly two years. We went by bus and if my memory serves me correctly it was a lovely day. Close to the Parks HQ is this slightly sunken garden with a path on two sides which enables you to look down into the garden. Whilst we were there we saw eight artists painting and drawing the garden and my picture captures four of them at work. The blossom was falling from the cherry trees and creating a carpet of pink. A kind of timeless moment and whenever I think of Woodthorpe Park I think of this particular moment first. We enjoyed much more of course, the walk up to the house from the Mansfield Road along an avenue of trees and around the sunken garden to the hot houses full of tropical plants and lush green vegetation from where you could look into long greenhouses full of plants waiting to be taken out and planted in parks across Nottingham. From here we wandered across a car park and along bending paths where the bushes had not been cut back and you emerged into a kind of dell where we saw an elderly courting couple in a passionate embrace. I remember them looking and smiling. We then climbed from the dell and made our way back towards the Mansfield Road and a bus back into town along narrow paths which twisted and turned like a downhill slalom among the trees. As a park it provided a series of quite different experiences, all of which were enjoyable. Once my foot is mended and out of plaster we will pay Woodthorpe Park a return visit to see how much remains the same and what has changed. It was a good afternoon out. I can't remember a café. Perhaps there will be one when we go again, as to have a nice cup of tea and a scone or a teacake makes any trip to a park a little further from home well worth the effort. I will check before we go and take our own if there is no
café.

So, come on now, don't be shy, share a picture and a memory or two of a park that you like.

Britons are increasingly switching from sweet carbonated drinks to juices and bottle water, with the fizzy drinks share of the market set to fall from 60% to 50% by 2011 say independent trade experts.