Saturday, 25 July 2009

Proud to be there

I have spent much of today in the company of my next door neighbour, Chris, as he played being Mrs T for the first time in twenty years. I was there as 'a heavy' to make sure no one messed with Mrs T (as if they would!). It was a fun day, with about 600–700 on the march and thousands at the festival which followed in Nottingham's Arboretum park, just north of the city centre.

Mrs T leaves her overnight residence in Lenton.

Mrs T went by bus from Lenton to The Forest, where the parade started.

Mrs T is closely guarded by two heavies — Jenni and Jackie, who have the distinction being the first two people to take part in a civil partnership ceremony in Nottingham in 2005 (only such a short time ago, yet now we take it as part of life without ever thinking that once it would not have been possible).

Mrs T with yours truly.

I loved the stilts man. What I saw him do with a lamp post has to be triple XXX rated. Pole dancin' girls, huh…

The parade leave The Forest and turns onto Mansfield Road and there to greet them is a pink bus, which then followed the parade into the city centre.

At The Arboretum there were lots of stalls, including our very own Area 8 Committee, which covers The Meadows, part of the city centre, Dunkirk and Lenton, and is a Nottingham City Council committee made up of local councillors and community representatives. From left, Lezley, Julie from West Area and Dorothy. It was good to see them there.

When we got to The Arboretum I left Mrs T, who was in the company of many adoring friends by now, and went to help out for a couple of hours on the Crocus Café stall, who were short of volunteers. Not that they really need much help as Tim, a co-chair of the Crocus Committee, was a great pull when it came to attracting young women to the stall.

All in all it was a lovely day. I was glad Chris asked me.

A city council is considering using 19th century catacombs to store the bodies of swine flu victims if the outbreak worsens, it was confirmed today.

Exeter city council has identified the empty underground burial chambers, currently used as a tourist attraction, as a potential mortuary.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Medicinal parks

A squirrel gathering nest material.

The clock tower, given by a late-19th century town mayor.

A flotilla of Canada Geese on one of the park's two lakes.

This is just one quarter of what is a wonderful park vista.

I could not resist this sign by the entrance to the park.

Last week Susan and I spent the day with friends who live in Longton, Staffordshire. I should really say Stoke-on-Trent, for the six towns which make up the city have been together since 1910 (the other four are Burslem, Fenton, Hanley and Tunstall). Normally I would, but our friends took us to Longton Park, which is a grand 19th century municipal park in every sense of the word, where we spent an enjoyable hour before the rain came and we left in search of a tea shop.

All the pictures in today's blog were taken in Longton Park. In his book, English Journey, published in 1934, J B Priestley devotes an entire chapter to The Potteries, despite saying at one point that 'This is no region to idle in… for nothing that you see or hear or smell in these six towns will raise your spirits'. However, he goes on to say that, to him, 'the Potteries seem unique (and) look like no other industrial region' and ends by wishing its 'ovens never grow cold'. I like Longton and what I know of the rest of the city, but then I like work-a-day landscapes and the communities they continue to support, albeit a shadow of what they once were.

In the midst of all the smoke that once poured from nearby kilns and factories, Longton Park truly was the a medicinal place, where children could run, parents promenade and older folk recline on generous park benches and remember when they, once, did those things too. And so it was for Lenton Recreation Ground, once surrounded by factories and smoking chimneys. A place where workers from Raleighs and other nearby factories migh dash for a quick lunch-time kick around, or just to lay on the grass and watch the girls go by. Whether it was quite like this I do not know, but it is how I image it. Of one thing I am sure, like all parks it was health giving, medicine by whatever name you choose to call it. They still are.

There in Longton, my thoughts were in Lenton and with parks. My friend Allan Brigham knows only too well about the life enhancing qualities of parks, as a recent posting to my website about a park in Cambridge illustrates far better this ramble of mine.

'The localist political dividing line is no longer between public and private or between taxing and spending. It is between faceless bureaucrates, public or private, and the small institutions who have kept their spirit of face-to-face relationships. Which still feel accountable for their mistakes. Which are small enough to make things happen locally. Which can confront the fake efficiency being peddled by the establishment'. From Localism: Unravellling the Supplicant State, New Economics Foundation, 2009.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Changing habits

Dennis, Barry, Maurice and Bill begin the outdoor bowling season for the West End Bowls and Social Club with the first of what will be many 'roll ups' this summer.

Part of a wonderful, albeit small, meadow of wild flowers and long grass in Victoria Recreation Ground, The Meadows, which I visited when I went on the Nottingham 'Great Inclosure Walk' on Sunday just gone. The walk is an annual event and very long, taking you from Wilford Bridge on the River Trent across the city centre via historic open spaces and green ways to The Forest. It began at 2pm and ended at 6pm.

It is well over a month since I last blogged, but have updated my Parkviews website more frequently, as there has been plenty to write about. The trouble is that new habits and other things I need to do all take time away from other things which I still enjoy doing.

In the mornings I do local history work for our website and Local History Magazine. Sometimes I go for a massage instead and, about once a month, I have to go to a meeting in my role as a trustee of a historic Nottingham alms houses charity, which dates back to 1709. In the afternoon, there are routine things to do like shopping, cooking and my share of cleaning. Since April, I have been playing bowls 2–3 afternoons a week, for a couple of hours, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I like the company and the fact that the 'West Enders' are not that competitive. They don't play in a league — just 'roll ups', some friendlies and a few in-club competitions. As for the latter, I have played in two 'trophy' games and lost happily, given that as the 'new boy' and baby of the bunch I am learning all the time. Dennis, who is in the top picture, is the 'Club Captain' and very encouraging. I lost to him in my first ever game with four woods on Monday, having lost to Bill a couple of weeks ago in the two wood trophy competition. I have also played in one club friendly against the Vernon Park Ladies (we lost that one as well).

Lenton Recreation Ground is a wonderful place to play bowls. The setting is idyllic. You look across the green to the parish church and you could be in deepest England, yet, here we are, in inner-city Nottingham. Out there in the afternoon playing bowls, life could not be better. I love it and I can't wait for Susan to join me and the others, as I hope she will next year.

As you perhaps realised, having new pleasures (and habits) means less time for other things I still want to do. I have already decided that when the bowling season ends at the beginning of October, I will use the afternoons for my local history research projects into bus passes and the history of Lenton Community Centre and the old wash-house and laundry building. I have also taken on a footpaths project and have my ambition of a Lenton Parish Council to realise during the coming year, plus what crops up along the way.

As I have said before, I can feel myself slowing down, but my mind has yet to catch up with my body. At the moment, the only time it seems to is in the evening when I now regularly nod off in front of the television or with a book in my hands. One moment I'm there, then I feel myself drifting, then I've gone, the next thing I know Susan prodding me with her big toe and for a minute or two I'm back, then I go again… I think it's the way I would like to go when the time comes.

The government is to nationalise Britain's largest rail franchise after National Express confirmed that it can no longer afford the £1.4bn east coast contract. Once again this sham 'Labour' government rides to the rescue of big business at the taxpayers' expense, whilst letting them keep all the profits.