Sunday, 30 March 2008

"It feels like summer today"

Two rows of Hyacinths and a pink flower I don't know the name of greeted me as I entered Lenton Recreation Ground this morning at the Derby Road entrance. The hyacinths were giving off a heavy scent which came and went with the breeze.

It's 10.45am and I have the park to myself as I walk towards the railway and the bowling green. Looking back I stop to take in the grass, Devonshire Promenade and the Lenton high-rise flats. It's a view I never tire of seeing.

On the side of the path between the railway and the bowling green I catch sight of a lone tulip. This is what I came looking for today. Last year I saw only one tulip in the entire park at about this spot. This year there's a few more dotted along this stretch of path. All are on their own. I love tulips, but they always seem like a fragile flower to me and I have learned not to buy them as they quickly wilt. Better to enjoy them for the few brief days they appear in the park and in gardens.

One of the joys of an early morning visit to the park on a bright sunlit day is the shadows cast across the path and onto the grass on the Church Street side of the park. To capture the true impact of the scene this picture really needs to be three times wider, but I think it captures the magic of the moment. The still leafless branches with the help of the sun behind them provide a view of the park which will soon be lost until the end of the year.

As I came almost to the end of my walk around the park I saw this lone cluster of three tulips by the site of the planned Nottingham Peace Garden next to the small copse between the path and Devonshire Promenade. Their bright red colour shimmered like silk in the breeze and I stood looking at them for an age. I was actually glad that the park was not awash with tulips because the beauty of this scene would have been swamped and gone unnoticed by me at least. Perhaps others would have noticed.


Whilst I was, as my Nanna used to say, 'Away with the fairies' I heard voice say "It feels like summer today and they're the reason why. I love them, don't you? The clock's have gone forward so you know that summer's here". I turned and saw Tony, who lives in the Lenton flats on the 16th floor of a block overlooking the park. On nice days he parks himself on a bench or at a picnic table and soaks up the sun whilst having a read and some refreshment. I took a picture of him last year reading a book about ferrets. Standing there with his neck tie and 'shades' you could be forgiven for thing summer has, in fact, arrived already. A little early, but none the less welcome. A few more days like today and my disappointment at there being no snow over Easter will soon be a thing of the past and a hope for the future.

I went out today without a coat or a hat. The first time this year. It is a truly beautiful day and as I finish this blog at 4pm the park playground is full of parents and children. I would love to take a picture and post it to the blog, but parents are very reluctant to have their children photographed. As I said before this is a great shame as it means that children are disappearing from our recorded history. Old pictures of parks and streets almost invariably include them looking at the camera and the photographer. Today, such a scene will almost certainly be devoid of children. The irony is that the very people who seek to protect children are, almost certainly, the biggest threat to their wellbeing — not the strangers they are so fearful of!

Despite government promises made over the past decade that playing fields would be carefully protected, at least 187 fields have disappeared. Hundreds of other pieces of school land have also been sold after being classed as too small to be playing fields.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Greenwich Park fun

My friend Keith has sent me this picture of a carousel and says 'My local park is Greenwich Park. Frequently we get special visits and events. This is a roundabout from last year. Perhaps I should call it a carousel or a galloper!' Here, in Nottingham, the roundabouts tend to go to the nearby Highfields Park in Dunkirk or to Wollaton Park. Both are within easy walking distance of Lenton so we don't have anything to get grumpy about, but it would be nice to have a 'Roundabout Weekend' in Lenton Recreation Ground. It's a secure park with good public transport. Perhaps one day? In the meantime enjoy Keith's picture.

Detectives were yesterday investigating the deaths of three teenagers killed in separate knife attacks in a single day. Two died in London, one in a fight with a friend, and another after an attack in the street on Thursday. In Birmingham a 16-year-old was killed in what locals said was a row over a £10 note.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

A singing bush

The Pyracantha bush in flower in May 2007. A treat to look forward to in the next six weeks or so.

Listening to the birds singing in the Pyracantha bush in Lenton Recreation Ground. They had seen a Robin and a Blackbird by the time I spoke to them, so there must have been a lot more birds in the bush as well if the bird chorus coming from the Pyrocantha bush was anything to go by!

The Marie Curie Daffodil patch is still a sea of yellow, but not as bright as it was in 2007. Do daffodils get tired after so many seasons?

A new sign just placed on the Derby Road railings.

As I entered the park this morning I saw an elderly gentleman and a young girl peering into the Pyrocantha bush which stands alone in the grassed playing area and I wondered what had caught their attention, so I decided if they were still there after I made my slow perambulation around the park I would go and see. Well, they were still there. Whatever it was had them circling the bush, peering in and looking up. As I got closer I knew what it was: the bush was singing. It was a wonderful chorus of birdsong.

Whilst growing up I remember hearing birds singing in country hedges, but it was not until sometime in the mid-1980s that I heard my first singing hedge in a town. I was in Louth, Lincolnshire, at the time and had walked into a carpark to collect my car. It was late-afternoon and I was met with a wall of birdsong coming from a very long hawthorn and holly hedge. As I got closer the birds stopped singing all at the same time and it was suddenly eerily quiet. I stopped and stood still and the birds began their chorus again. I listened for what seemed like an age until someone else came into the carpark and the chorus stopped. It was one of life's memorable moments.

Since then I have listened for, and heard, singing hedges in lots of other places in towns. Our own back garden is one such place. I have heard birds in the Pyrocantha bush before, but this morning they were singing their hearts out. Perhaps they were using song to fight for nesting sites in this thorniest of bushes? From time to time, there is talk of removing the bush and everytime I have objected. As I have said in at least one previous blog post, it is my favourite bush in the park, as much for what it reminds me of as for it has become. In May it will be in full blossom and a sight to behold. Something to look forward to over the coming weeks.

Bob Diamond, the US banker who runs Barclays' investment banking arm, has cemented his position as one of the highest paid bosses in a FTSE 100 company after receiving almost £36m last year. The figure comprises £21m in cash, bonuses and shares in addition to £14.8m from a three-year performance plan.



Monday, 24 March 2008

Trading spaces

Long closed petrol station on Lenton Boulevard.
A possible site for a trade to create more open spaces?

Ilkeston Road entrance to Radford Recreation Ground.
Could new houses overlooking the park be built here?

Radford Recreation Ground path between Ilkeston Road and Sandfield Centre.
With new houses overlooking the park more people would use this path.

Government advisors have recently published a report recommending that no one should live more than 300 metres from communal open space. This is much in line with what park and open space supporters having been saying for ever. As far as I am concerned it's an issue which deserves to make the news every week and during the past few days a local email and blog and set me thinking about how Nottingham might tackle the issue of creating more open spaces whilst getting people to use what open space already exists.

Fiona from the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum sent me an email about a proposed meeting between Nottingham University, the Partnership Council (which covers Radford and Hyson Green) and the Forum to look at creating 'community gardens' and where there might be some spaces to do this. Then, Lillian Greenwood, in her blog about being the Labour Party's Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Nottingham South, mentioned how she went out delivering leaflets in Radford as part of a campaign to use a disused petrol station for housing instead of a Tesco Express store.

Fiona had already got me digging out my copy of the Forum's Community Manifesto from 2001 which talks about creating 'pocket parks' in parts of Dunkirk and Lenton. Fiona also asked me about 'the land next to the church (on) Church Streeet opposite the rec'. The land in question was actually turned into a community managed pocket park in the late-1980s, but over time the volunteers drifted away and its care was taken over by staff at Lenton Recreation Ground. For the past few years it has had the minimal of care and maintenance and has been locked for most of the time. Any ideas which might revive it are to be welcomed. One idea mentioned last year was that it could be taken over by Gurdwara members and turned into an 'Indian Garden'.

Lillian'sa blog set me thinking about the empty petrol station on Lenton Boulevard between the Lenton Business Centre and the Catholic church. It has been empty for years and may well be the one Tesco's want to turn into a mini-supermarket. However, this is just one of a number of empty garage sites in the area and it set me thinking about Radford Recreation Ground, which is only yards away, but hidden from view by houses on three sides. The park is poorly used and despite a lot of money being spent on it still looks a mess. Local residents don't use it because they don't feel safe in such an enclosed park.

One solution to this problem might be to take parts of little used parks like Radford and trade some of the park land for empty petrol station sites (and other empty land) in Radford. In this way more accessible open space could be created in the area and housing which overlooks the park (just like Devonshire Promenade does in the case of Lenton Recreation Ground) could be built which will make Radford Recreation Ground safer and bring it back to life. Most of the houses which back onto the Radford Recreation Ground do not appear to have proper views of the park anyway.

Housing overlooking the park will be much more in demand than housing on Lenton Boulevard. This is a scenario which could be repeated all over Nottingham and would benefit everyone if managed sensitively and with vision. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of this idea is getting different city council departments and managers working together.

It's early days, but the idea of the University, the Partnership Council and the Forum working together on a mapping exercise to look at all the empty land in the two wards of Radford and Park and Dunkirk and Lenton plus the existing open spaces and parks might reveal opportunities for 'trading spaces' to the advantage of local residents, newcomers and, dare I say, developers.

A significant overhaul of electoral legislation to give voters a second vote, open polling stations at weekends and make it compulsory to participate is being proposed by the government to increase turnout and improve the legitimacy of the Commons.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Park fun

Susan and her mum, Rufford Country Park, late-1980s.

It's my daughter Alicia's 40th birthday tomorrow (Thursday) and I was looking for a picture of her in the park but without success. So 'Happy Birthday' Alicia. I never imagined even after you were born that, one day, I would have a 40 year old daughter. If you feel weird, how do you think I feel? I think I can tell the world I love you to bits.

However, what I did find was the above picture of Susan and her mum sitting on a then newish sculpture in Rufford Country Park (on the A614 near Ollerton, North Nottinghamshire). From 1981–1985 I was a Labour Party county councillor and Chair of East Midlands Airport, which was a great job to have. I also served on the county council's Leisure Services Committee and the Chair at the time was a lovely man called George Dobson, who effectively left me to oversee the council's parks and arts activities whilst he got on with what interested him.

During the four years I was involved, an arts centre was created at Rufford Country Park and one of the ideas which came out of a brainstorming session was a 'Sculpture Park', so for three years I was involved in buying 'fun' sculpture for the park including the above bench with its concrete ram and man at either end. Whenever we go to the park we see people having their picture taken and it gives me a real buzz and I want to go across and say 'I bought that when I was a county councillor'.

It would be great if we could get a few pieces of 'interactive' fun sculpture in Lenton Recreation Ground and other Nottingham parks. It would be a great investment.

This morning the latest issue of the Nottingham Arrow came through the letterbox and has two full pages devoted to promoting city parks including a full-page picture of Lenton Recreation Ground and a mention in the text. It's all good stuff and there can never be too much publicity about parks and open spaces as far as I am concerned!

Government and George Brown defend their discrimination against Ghurkas who served in the British Army before 1997 on the grounds that they were not based in the United Kingdom. They also have lower pensions than other ex-soldiers (since 1997 Ghurkas have had the same rights and pensions as other soldiers).

Sunday, 16 March 2008

A mellow park weekend

Jehovah's Witnesses call with a message and to say 'hello'.

A game of cricket on a grey early-spring Saturday.

An empty park drenched in drizzle, late-morning on Sunday.

'Mellow' is one of my favourite words. One dictionary definition says (of a person) 'softened and matured by age and experience'. I think it can also be said of Lenton Recreation Ground. This weekend is also mellow in the sense that it has been relaxed and feels all soft and warm. It's been a weekend of not doing much for both us and the park.

Saturday began as it always does with breakfast in bed and The Guardian, so it's usually midday before we make a move, but yesterday our local
Jehovah's Witnesses called to say 'hello' and invite us to their Easter service at 6.30pm on 22 March in the Kingdom Hall on Bath Street in Nottingham city centre. We never go, but I do welcome their visits for a number of reasons: they are lovely people, with ready smiles and an optimism about life which one has to admire. I always tell them that I respect their views and beliefs and that I am in good company when I talk to them.

I spent most of yesterday with my feet up and having a TV-fest. Last week I went shopping twice and to three evening meetings as well as trying to care for Susan who has been poorly for the past fortnight. All this has taken its toll on my 'bunion' foot — hence the mellow weekend.

Yesterday was gray and overcast until the late-afternoon when the rain came and has been with us ever since. Yesterday it was heavier and lashed against the windows, but today (Sunday) it has been a steady drizzle . With the students leaving for Easter, the park has been quieter but still busy. When I took the picture of the young cricketers at about 4pm all the picnic tables were occupied, there were three families in the playground and someone learning to ride a bike. This is what our park was made for and it is wonderful that so many people want to come and use the park even on a gray early-Spring day.

Well, I came to post this blog entry whilst my bread dough was rising, which should now be ready to go into the bread tin and to be baked in the oven alongside Beeston made Lincolnshire Poacher sausages for lunch. For tea we'll be having watercress sandwiches. In between we have more TV programmes to catch up on, so just like I said at the beginning this is a mellow weekend and I'm loving it!

Police faced growing questions last night over why it took 24 days to find missing schoolgirl Shannon Matthews when her alleged kidnapper, Mick Donovan, was a relative who had been reported by neighbours as suspicious.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Why parks need politicians

A winter without snow is always a little depressing, so I have decided to raid my archive and show you a scene from December 2005, the last time we had a few inches of snow covering Lenton Recreation Ground. This picture is a diversion of sorts because I don't have a picture of Lillian. To find out more you need to read on…

Last night saw Nottingham South Constituency Labour Party (CLP) holding a selection meeting to choose a new prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) to replace our sitting MP, Alan Simpson, who is standing down at the next general election. He will be missed and I will be sorry to see him go.

So, I hear you ask, what has this to do with a blog about 'life in and around a small inner-city park in Nottingham'? Well, my answer has to be 'Quite a lot really'. Parks and the communities they serve do not exist or thrive in isolation. They are part of the wider world in so many ways. They need public money to help pay for development, maintenance and staffing, plus admin back-up. The money comes from elected councils and councillors from political parties make those decisions. Higher up the political chain it is governments and MPs who make the laws and allocate the money to run our councils and, yes, our parks. So it is important that our parks and their supporters cultivate and persuade councillors and MPs as to why parks should matter to them if they want our votes. Parks, like museums, swimming pools and leisure centres, can always get their local communities to be vocal whenever there is a threat to them in some way, yet they are still seen as 'soft targets' when councils want to save money.

In Lenton our city councillors are enthusiastic supporters of our park as is our MP. I want Alan's successor to be a park supporter as well. As it happens I know that the person chosen last night by Nottingham South CLP members, Lillian Greenwood, has visited Lenton Recreation Ground and reads this blog from time to time (Hello Lillian). Next time she comes I want her to meet Dave, our groundsperson, and local park supporters and to visit other parks in Dunkirk and Lenton ward as well. We will, of course, have tea and cake in the park pavilion. I will take her picture in the park and place it in a future blog. From today I am an active Lillian supporter and will work for her election to parliament as our next MP.

When the conservatives, greens and liberals select their PPCs for Lenton I will happily show them around the park as well and give them tea and cake. Just imagine a general election where one of the main campaign issues was the state of the nation's parks and open spaces! With this wacky thought I will leave you.

Within a decade millions of workers will be at home juggling their careers with caring for children and older relatives, Britain's leading management institute forecast yesterday.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Dave and others honoured

Alex from Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum presenting Dave Thompson, Lenton Recreation Ground's groundsperson, with a 'Certificate of Contribution' for all he does for Lenton. Congratulations from your many fans and admirers.

Dave was just one of a number of local residents and workers who were recognised by the Forum for their contribution to Dunkirk and Lenton. There have been awards in previous years as well and the number of awardees continues to grow despite the fact that the area's permanent population continues to decline. All the names were displayed at last night's Forum meeting (see yesterday's blog) and Alex has kindly provided me the names so that I could post them below. It is another indication of what makes Lenton such a special place:

Maureen Birkin (Nottingham City Homes)
In recognition of duties above and beyond her NCH role to support and help residents at Lenton high rise flats. Nominated by Dunkirk & Lenton Partnership Forum.
Tony Wealthall (resident, Lenton flats)
Supporting and helping neighbours and other residents in the high rise flats. Nominated by Dunkirk & Lenton Partnership Forum.
Andrew Cartwright (Dunkirk Angling & Conservation Group)
In recognition of his conservation work and raising the profile of Dunkirk pond. Nominated by Dunkirk & Lenton Partnership Forum.
Dunkirk Fire Station
For their involvement with many Forum activities, most recently bulb planting at Dunkirk park. Nominated by Dunkirk & Lenton Partnership Forum.
Amelia Atkin (friend of Forum via Exec Committee)
In recognition of voluntary work at the 2007 Community Festival and recent involvement with youth issues in the area. Nominated by Dunkirk & Lenton Partnership Forum.
Darren Tattersall (Nottingham City Council, Street Scene)
For ensuring the emergency repairs were carried out quickly at Dunkirk park.
Nominated by Dunkirk & Lenton Partnership Forum.
West Area Project
Helping with bulb planting at Lenton Rec. Nominated by Dunkirk & Lenton Partnership Forum.
The Lenton Centre - staff & volunteers
Their efforts in getting the centre re-opened after the City Council closed it and for lots of hard work and dedication. Nominated by Sue Conduit (Crocus Café).
Tommy’s (Thomas Helwys Church)
Very good value food & drink on Mondays and Tuesdays, always welcoming & friendly, hard working volunteers. Nominated by Lorna Jones.
Deloris Barnes
Mrs Barnes has worked in the voluntary sector for the past 25 years supporting people with sickle cell anaemia. Nominated by Angela Dias, OSCAR.
Melanie Futer (University of Nottingham)
Tireless efforts to improve the relationships between students and the permanent residents in the area. A great deal has been achieved. Nominated by Lesley Fyffe, DOLCA.
David Thompson (Groundsman, Lenton Rec)
Dave has been looking after our park for a few years now and has made a great difference. He’s the No. 1 ambassador for the park. Nominated by Robert Howard (local resident).
John Howarth (resident at Lenton flats)
John is a cheerful, kind, caring and very helpful young man. I have only known John for a short time but he has made a difference to my life. Nominated by Freda Hawkins (resident at Lenton flats).
Steve Shipman (caretaker at Lenton Court)
Very good caretaker, keeps our flats clean/tidy and also helps the community. Nominated by Anthony Wealthall (resident at Lenton flats).
Maurice Smith-Guest (caretaker at Lenton flats)
Great caretaker, very caring and works above and beyond the call of duty. Excellent customer service, very pleasant and friendly. Nominated by Philip Bignell (resident). Also Because he is more than a caretaker, he is a great help to our community. Nominated by Anne Gallagher (resident).
Liz Magraw & staff (Merrivale Nursery School)
Even when faced with the closure of the nursery (July ’08) Liz and her staff continue to provide the most excellent care, support and level of teaching to all the children (and parents!). I haven’t met another group of people I think deserve this award more. They are selfless, enthusiastic and empower the children – just perfect! Nominated by Jamie Wadsworth (local resident).
Mark Woodings (Dunkirk Primary School)
Mr Woods runs a successful school eco club to educate children about plants and seeds for food, recycling etc. He also organises visits, e.g. to Sainsbury’s to look at excess packaging on goods. Nominated by Pat and Glenys Randle (local residents).
Jane & Wes Haydon (62nd Nottingham Scouts, Cubs & Beavers)
Jane and Wes after 30 years are still running the 62nd Nottingham group and started beavers 25 years ago. Wes and Jane are kind, helpful and make scouting and creative learning fun. This pack is as fresh now as when it started. Nominated by Pat & Glenys Randle (local residents).
Sue Conduit (Crocus Café)
For always being at Crocus and always cheerful and efficient – even when volunteers fail to turn up! Nominated by Marion Spencer (Church Square Working Group & resident).
June Kirk (DOLCA)
June has been the booking secretary for DOLCA for many years. She works untiringly to ensure the Dunkirk Community Centre is kept open and benefits many different groups. Nominated by Sheila Porterfield (resident). Also June is the hub around which much of the activity at DOLCA runs. Her constant energy and dedication to making the Community Centre such a vital part of the local area for all of us. Nominated by DOLCA. Also An undying loyal and hard working person for Dunkirk Community Centre. Nominated by Betty Cooper (resident). Also June is a very caring and committed volunteer and can and will turn her hand to anything for anybody. Nominated by Aisha Morrell (Care Link).
Andy Anderton (The Lenton Centre)
For always being cheerful and showing so much patience – the outcome must be brilliant. Nominated by Marion Spencer.
Michael & Donna Clarke (Care Link)
Michael and Donna provide an amazing service, 52 weeks of the year, to the area’s most vulnerable people, providing medication, care and attention. Nominated by Aisha Morrell (Care Link).
Care Link Day Centres
This place is great for older people and the people really care about us. Harry Cross. Also Friendly, helpful people who help me a lot. Noreen Adcock. Also I like everything about this place. It’s really alright. They help me so much every week, it’s great. Edna Fairclough. Also I get a lot of general help from the group and they help me to stay happy and well. Grace Wolfe. Also Because, they get me out the house, they are caring and kind and helpful. Dolly Searcey. Also Because they are very helpful and full of nice people. Laura Ellis. Also Because they do a good job! Marjorie Thorne.

A report on 'Citizenship' by Lord Goldsmith for the government suggests a council tax reduction for volunteers and cheaper grants to students who volunteer. It also suggests an oath of allegiance to the Queen and a new national holiday to celebrate 'Britishness'.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Lenton buzz

Mr Dar of Lenton.

Hope2008 helpers breakfast in the park pavilion.

Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum feedback buzz.

Parbinder, Melanie and Zahoor, key community supporters.

The meeting's over and someone has to play Cinderella. Lynda and Fiona from the Forum actually seem to be enjoying it or is just the way I take pictures?

On Tuesday I had just come back from shopping in Beeston when I saw Mr Dar turn into the park. At that moment I didn't know his name although we have been nodding acquaintances for years. He walks slowly and with a stick and is always ready to smile. I took a couple of pictures and have chosen to use the one which shows Mr Dar's face. It speaks of honesty, kindness and serenity to me. I intend to print the pictures off and take them to him.

There is, of course, an elephant in the room most of us dare not admit to, but I think we should confront the false truths that would deny Mr Dar his Englishness or Britishness. Mr Dar is as English as me with my unknown Irish father. For about 150 years from the 18th century until near the end of the 20th century, our country occupied large chunks of the world and subjugated much of Africa, Asia and the Americas to imperial rule. A bit like the Romans the ruling class gave those in these far away lands who served our alien rule rights to come and live in Britain. Slowly and for a myriad of reasons many found their way here. They came almost exclusively to work and to do jobs that needed doing — foundry workers, bus drivers and conductors, shopkeepers, nurses to name a few. These people before too long became part of the community. They joined churches, trade unions and the Labour Party. They became leaders and got elected or appointed to public office.

All this without any oath of allegiance to the Queen or test of 'Britishness'! I am beginning to despair of Gordon Brown and this so called 'Labour' government. Little do they understand the people they govern or their history (which is distinct from the history of the ruling classes). We know who we are and no amount of 'citizenship' training is going to make us think otherwise. We are a mixed bunch who, for the most part, are scornful of those who attempt to rule us and believe, unthinkingly, in what I call 'selfish mutalism'. We stand together when it is in our personal interest, otherwise we want to be left alone.

If 200 years from now these islands end up with English as a second language to Arabic would it be a disaster? Of course not. History teaches us otherwise. The Saxons who brought Early English to our shores did not drive the Celts out as old history would have us believe (it is an enduring myth) and I am sure it will be the same 500 years from now. English is a living language and is made up of words drawn from around the globe. I am sure that Arabic is much the same. I truly hope our languages and cultures will meld in time. The disaster will be it doesn't happen.

I love the fact that wherever you look in Lenton you will find people active in the community with names that would have sounded strange 50–60 years ago. Not that names on their own tell us much. Mr Dar is Lenton to me in so many ways and I am proud to know his name. Neither he nor me need any alien test of 'citizenship' or 'oath of allegiance' to a monarchy I reject to know who we are and to live side by side as neighbours and acquaintances. Better still as friends.

Goodness me, all that from one picture!

My picture of the Hope2008 breakfast helpers tells a similar story. This week is 'The Great Big Student Gardening Week' and local churches nationally are working with Hope2008 (www.hope08ng9.com for local information) to get students and others involved in helping to tidy up streets and gardens in and around Lenton. To encourage students to take part they provided breakfast in the park pavilion. I hope the week is a great success and as if to prove my point about Mr Dar. a leaflet publicising the Lenton clean-up says 'if arriving late contact Tom Vajzovic'. He is the man behind the counter and is as English as Mr Dar and me.

My last three pictures were taken earlier this evening at a Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum meeting in The Lenton Centre to show what the Forum has been doing during the past year and to obtain feedback from local residents. The evening was a great success and had a real buzz about it. I took along my 'Lenton Faces' slideshow and ran it on a loop. People seemed to enjoy it.

The first picture shows about half the room and about a third of the people present. Why is it that people like to crowd around dooways or the backs of meeting rooms? Is it so they can make a quick escape or is it because someone already in the room nobbles them the moment they enter?

The second picture shows Parbinder Singh (left) who works for Nottingham City Council and has special resdponsibility for Dunkirk and Lenton ward. I have known Parbinder since the early-1980s when I was a Nottinghamshire county councillor and we worked together as part of a team setting up the then pioneering Nottingham Arts Centre in nearby Hyson Green. Melanie Futer in the middle has been mentioned by me in recent blogs and has done much to help improve relations between local residents and Nottingham University, who in recent years have given money and other support to The Lenton Centre and other projects and will soon be announcing their sponsorship of Lenton Recreation Ground for a year at least. Then there is Zahoor Mir, who has been one of Dunkirk and Lenton's two Labour Party city councillors for more years than I can remember. He is currently Chair of the City Council's Area 8 Committee which covers our ward and the adjoining Bridge Ward. Together they lead me back to Mr Dar and the fact that these are friends and neighbours who I see as the good and committed people that they are.

My last picture shows Lynda and Fiona doing the washing up at the end of a very busy and successful evening for them and others, including Steph and Alex. The volunteers on the Forum management committee were there along with our two city councillors and others who work with the Forum and the local community. On the walls there was a long list of names of individuals and groups nominated for commendations for their work supporting Dunkirk and Lenton. I had nominated Dave Thompson, our groundsperson, so I was happy to see his name on the list.

Taken together I think the pictures in this blog say as much by themselves as all the words I have written. Perhaps you can understand a little why tonight I have a 'Lenton buzz'.

'Alistair Darling delivered a budget (today) because he had to, not because he had anything significant to say. Neither elegant nor adventurous, it bored MPs and will bore voters' – The Guardian editorial.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Thoughts of Lenton inspired by Paris



Stefan Kruczkowski, who used to be a Nottingham City Council Parks Development Officer and was at the heart of Lenton Recreation Ground's renaissance, has sent me these pictures and the following words as his contribution to my request for contributions about 'favourite parks':

' A small pocket park I stumbled across when walking down the Champs Elysees in Paris last year (Espace Pierre Cardin). Apart from the birds feeding from your hand, I was really taken with the image of the park keeper with his cap - I think he knew the people he was talking to. I think it captures the role of the park keeper - a custodian but also a friend in the community. Much like Dave at Lenton Rec.

The third image is another pocket park beside Notre Dame. It was a simple place, with trees and benches, but the shade afforded a place of relaxation within the bustle of the city where many were taking a break or catching up with friends. These small simple spaces can be easily overlooked in terms of their value, but it's clear what they add to the vitality of a city, town or a village. Perhaps a source of inspiration for Lenton's Pocket Park?'

Stef also said 'I'm still checking out the blog and enjoy reading it, keeps me in touch with the Rec (I drove past the Rec the other day and did see what I suspected to be studded booters playing...............but then realised I have no authority on behalf of the council to remove them). Some things stay the same eh? But some things improve, such as the fantastic sponsorship of the Rec by Universty of Nottingham. Who'd have thought it a few years ago. I will drop into the Rec over summer. Tell Dave that I say hi and tell him that I think the new uniform brings out the colour in his eyes!!!!'.

Thanks Stef. As always you give us plenty to think about. Just as I was about to post this blog entry I heard a news item on Radio 4 that a Government official has said that no one should be more than 300m from open space of some kind. This made me think of Lenton's blocked off drives where unsightly concrete has been used. With a little imagination and for not much cost the concrete could be replaced with small gardens. I know the arguments about access by emergency vehicles but there are other means of access so this issue is not a critical one.

Spain's socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, won a convincing general election victory last night. After a bitter and divisive campaign dominated by fears over a stumbling economy and rising immigration, Zapatero fell short of the absolute majority that he had been hoping for. Socialists will now have to negotiate with smaller regional parties in order to form a government.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Veggies and the man

Ladies with large brassicas at the Forum's first Vegetable Day in The Lenton Centre (Every Wednesday 12–2pm, £3 buys you the best in local produce).

Dave the man is back in Lenton Recreation Ground. He returned on Wednesday after six weeks holiday in New Zealand and Australia and was down to work within minutes clearing the paths.


Whilst at The Lenton Centre on Wednesday I took this picture of Andy, one of Lenton's heroes. He worked in the old Lenton Leisure Centre, which is now part of TLC, for nearly thirty years. Such is Andy's love of the building and Lenton that he came back when TLC advertised for a manager.

Chris is holding reflexology sessions at TLC on a regular basis and offers other alternative therapies as well. I should have taken a picture of her hands because they do all the work!


I was lucky to get this picture of Mairi in The Lenton Centre on Wednesday because she's not too keen on having her picture taken. Mairi is TLC Treasurer and is in the Centre most days doing the accounts and regularly comes round to our house as Susan is a TLC signatory still. Mairi is now 86 (I hope she won't object to me saying this) and has been actively involved in Lenton for ever. I first met Mairi in 1979 when we bought our house and attended our first Labour Party meeting. She soon got me involved in the then Lenton Community Centre and we were on Nottinghamshire County Council together (1981–1985). Mairi is good friend and an inspiration. Yesterday afternoon we were both at a meeting in the city centre with our Alan Simpson, our local MP, and got on a No.5 together to come home. The bus was full and passengers were standing, but two of the 'priority seats' for the elderly and disabled were still empty so I directed Mairi to one and she immediately said 'Someone else might need this seat'. I nudged her into the seat and said 'Mairi, you're probably the oldest person on this bus and I've got the stitches to prove that I have a poorly foot and a bus pass to show that I'm a pensioner, so I think we can sit in these seats'. In truth I love her and always have and I know lots of others who would say the same. Alan our MP for one. You can see it in his eyes when he looks at her and the way he listens when she speaks.

Finally, you may have noticed my little 'park sponsorship' box in the right-hand column on a previous visit to my blog. Well, it's gone for the next year at least because Lenton Recreation Ground has a new sponsor — Nottingham University. A condition of their sponsorship is that Dave gets to decide on how some of the money is spent. There will be more details after the official launch. In the meantime thanks to Melanie I have been able to bring you this 'exclusive' news.

The most wide-ranging sell-off of British nuclear assets was under way last night, with the private sector being offered everything from stockpiled uranium to atomic fuel manufacturing plants and land at 18 sites. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which is nursing a £300m budget overrun for 2006-07 alone, is attempting to raise cash to help pay for a £72bn clean-up bill.



Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Harry and the Quadtriplets

Harry, Lenton's roadsweeper and unsung hero.

The 'Quadtriplets'. Geography student film makers.

Lenton Recreation Ground park house.

Annual crocus show in Holy Trinity Churchyard.

Today I took another slow amble around the park and was well rewarded as the above pictures all show, but I would like to begin by returning to the main issue of the last few weeks again — the use of studded boots on the grass playing area. On Sunday I followed up my blog with an email about the problem to a number of people including Eddie Curry, the Head of Parks, and Melanie Futer, Nottingham University's Manager (of) off Campus Student Affairs. I haven't heard from Eddie yet but Malanie emailed me to say 'I have been visiting the park, and did so again this morning. I agree that the absence of Dave has a dramatic effect on the Park, shows how indispensable he is!! However on one of my visits last week, there were some young men playing football in studded footwear, ascertaining that they were students from our University, I explained the rule about studded footwear and asked them to leave the park, which they did. I will be keeping my eye on this, we certainly don't want to go back to the situation we were in a few years ago! Regards Melanie'. The renaissance of Lenton Recreation Ground could not have happened without the support of Nottingham University and Melanie has been a key player. Thanks Melanie.

The picture of the park house is the first I have deliberately posted to my blog. Until a few weeks ago it was someone's home, so I had put it off limits in order to protect their privacy. Now its future is up for grabs and there are at least two ideas in the wind: it could become the new offices of the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum who are currently based in a large room at Lenton School or it could become a base for one or some of the City Council's new park rangers, especially if the park becomes a base for educational activities. Whatever happens a decision needs to be made quickly otherwise it will end up being boarded up and an eyesore. Any changes will need planning permission for change of use, but I can't see this being a problem.

As I ambled around I saw four young ladies with a camera and a tripod on the dunking area. It turns out they are geography students at Nottingham University and were trying to make a short film. They were lovely and bubbly and a joy to talk with, so I decided to call them the 'Quadtriplets'. They then asked me if they could film me talking to them. Given that I was taking their photograph I agreed and was told I might appear as an 'out-take at the end'. If I hear any more I will let you know.

A little further on I met Harry, Lenton's very own roadsweeper, coming back for his lunch after a morning of doing the rounds. He's been here since September and this is the first time I've photographed him. Whilst I was laid up I saw Harry in his yellow rain gear going arround the park emptying all the bins and wanted to take his picture then, but with my foot out of action there was no way I could. Harry is a hero as far as I am concerned and should be far better paid than he is for what he does — a job that very few other people are willing to do. He goes about Lenton in all weather emptying litter bins and clearing litter from our pavements and roads. He almost certainly knows more about where Lenton's litter 'hotspots' are, but I wonder if the city council has ever asked him? In any discussion about litter bins in Lenton it quickly emerges that we all think what bins there are are often too small and in the wrong place. Who better to talk to than Harry. Perhaps the Forum can have a chat with him and get his ideas. I'm sure we could all learn more from Harry than anyone else when it comes to the subject of Lenton and litter!

Finally, a picture I took on Sunday of the crocuses in Holy Trinty Churchyard just across from the Church Street entrance to the park. Last year I took a similar picture on 5 March. I think they look beautiful and will probably be there for a few more days yet, so you will have to be quick if you want to see them in all their glory. These days the churchyard is usually padlocked except on a Sunday, which is a sad state of affairs and says much about the times we live in.

Government ministers are looking at the idea of 'community kitties' by giving local areas, potentially the size of three wards, access to £1m annual budgets to spend in priorities selected by local bodies.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Boots and Alleys

Evidence which cannot be ignored!

Some of those responsible playing football in studded boots today (Sunday).

Church Street cut-through.

Swenson Avenue cut-through from Gregory Street.

Forsythia Gardens cut-through from Gregory Street.

Lois Avenue cut-through from Lenton Boulevard.

The damage being done to the grass on Lenton Recreation Ground by young men playing in studded boots was mentioned in my last blog last Wednesday and I make no apologies for returning to the matter today. This afternon there was an organised game going on and most of the players were wearing studded boots. I managed to catch a few of them in the above picture, together with more pictures typical of the damage to the much of the grass in the areas used by the football and rugby players. If this goes on at the present rate the park can say goodbye to its Green Flag. We have a problem and needs addressing fast. I'm sure that Dave's return from holiday will see some action. I'll keep you posted.

The February 2008 issue of the Nottingham Arrow, which is delivered free by Nottingham City Council to all homes in the city, has a piece about how the city council is 'working on a major project to put all pathways in the city on our maps, including everything from major public rights of way to small alleyways'. I think this project is part of a national project called 'Discovering Lost Ways' which aims to systematically identify as many footpaths and bridleways as possible by 1 January 2026 so that they can be registered under The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2006.

Lenton has its fair share of cut-throughs and alleys. In a short walk around Lenton this afternoon along Church Street, Gregory Street, Sherwin Road and Lenton Boulevard I photographed four cut-throughs. On the surface the city council's aim seem laudable enough, but there could be a darker side to the exercise if other councils in England are anything to go by. The Open Spaces Society has been publicising examples of cut-throughs being closed off by councils in the interests of 'community safety'. Cut-throughs, some councils claim, provide escape routes for criminals and are good places for street robberies and attacks.

This may not be on city council's agenda today, but some bright spark may think it's a good idea tomorrow, so we need to be alert to the possibility if we want to protect Lenton's (and Nottingham's) rights of way, registered or unregistered. I intend to photograph as many as I know over the next few weeks and include them in future blogs and I will share the information with the city council's GIS Team (Exchange Buildings North, Smithy Row, Nottingham NG1 2BS, email: gis@nottinghamcity.gov.uk). We take our rights of way for granted at our peril and efforts to block them off in Lenton have happened before. Just look at the iron gate and railings erected by the Park Estate at the point where Park Road and Lenton Road meet! I will return to this issue in a future blog. For now, let's enjoy our cut-throughs. As my photographs show they are even used on Sunday afternoons!

Israel's military killed at least 60 Palestinians yesterday - almost half of them civilians, including four children - in its most violent assault on the Gaza Strip since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power last June.