Friday, 26 December 2008

A Christmas Eve walk

Trust me, there is a story in this picture.

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

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

Thursday, 18 December 2008

What we choose to see

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 13 December 2008

The grandeur that is Lenton

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 1 December 2008

There is no escape

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

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

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

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

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

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