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.

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