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.