Monday, 30 August 2010

Catch up III

A month or so ago, we met our friends Paul and Rosie in Derby and spent the best part of the day together. They in live in Stoke and we don't have a car, so it seemed the logical place to meet up. I made just one request: that we walk out of the city centre for about a mile to visit Derby Arboretum, England's oldest public park. I have been there a couple of times, the last time being on 2006, when it looked tired and neglected. Since then it has had some money spent on it and I wanted to see how it had changed.
We approached the Arboretum via the Osmaston Road and what was its original main entrance. It was officially opened on 16 September 1840, when Joseph Strutt, a Derby millowner and the first Mayor of the Reformed Borough of Derby, presented the Council with the deeds to  the Arboretum. Just over two weeks from now will be its 170th anniversary. For more information, you should visit the Arboretum website, which is run by a local supporter.


Four years ago, all these houses were in a poor state of repair and most were boarded up. The good news that the square has been given a makeover and only one house remains boarded up (the large house nearest the Arboretum on the left-hand side of the picture). The building in the centre of the pic looks like this from the other side…
…it is, in fact, an orangery, albeit empty, but still impressive.
Follow the path round to the right of the Orangery and you will  come across this magnificant specimen. It is a replica of the Florentine Boar by Alex Paxton, was placed here in November 2005. The original can be seen in Florence. Both Susan and Rosie knew the Florence legend that if you rub its nose you will return to the city. I wonder if I had rubbed its nose, would I be sure of seeing it again?
I also took this 'in yer face' pic of the Florentine Boar. He looks kind of cheerful and manic at the same time.
Another pic of the Derby Arboretum.This time of one of its long straight paths. Others curl and there are a good few hummocks as well, which were added to give the Arboretum a sense of depth and a false perspective of sorts. It seems that the hummocks play tricks on the eyes, so you end up believing the park is bigger than it actually is. Well, it worked on me.


The Arboretum's is actually located in a Derby inner-city area known as Rosehill and I first visited the area some twenty years ago after reading Rosehill: Portraits from a Midland City by Carol Lake. I'm sure it won a Guardian literary prize — which how I came to read the book, which is a collection of linked stories about life in Rosehill in 1985/86. It remains one of my favourite books, which I dip into whenever I am feeling a little low. Rosehill is much the same as it was then and Carol Lake's description from 1989 does just as well in 2010:


'Rosehill (is) a twilight corner of a Midlands city — decaying, poor; known to outsiders by reputation, not acquaintance… the villas on Rosehill Street are still standing and the school building remains, though it's a community centre. Birds sing in the arboretum: even here, the seasons change'. That last sentence caught my breath at the time. It still does. Rosehill celebrates the inner-city in an understated way. It is full if warmth, reflection and passion. I sometimes wonder of what has happened to Carol Lake? I found her writing exceptional and memorable.

One final thought about Rosehill and Derby Arboretum. Look at the Google online map and you will find that neither are marked on the map. Is it because they are inner-city locations? It made me look at whether Lenton Recreation Ground is marked on the map. It isn't. Lenton Rec may be too small, but you can't say that about the Arboretum. I will see if it is possible to contact Google maps and ask them to give both parks (and Rosehill) the recognition they deserve!


The 33 Chilean miners trapped underground have spoken for the first time to family members waiting for them on the surface. The brief phone conversations late yesterday brought a measure of reassurance to families who have grown increasingly worried about the ability of the men to survive the estimated three months it will take to rescue them.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Catch up II

A couple of weeks ago, we went on travels of sorts and these are some of places we visited.
A few weeks back we saw a news item on regional TV which included an art gallery in a place called Draycott, which is on the road from Nottingham to Derby, if you go via Long Eaton and catch a Trent-Barton 'indigo' bus. The gallery was called the 'Beetroot Tree Gallery', where we arrived about noon and spent a good hour looking around and talking to a couple of ladies attending a silver jewellery workshop, then we had Homity Pie for lunch in the gallery's café.  I didn't take any pics, but as we made our way back to catch the bus home, we decided to walk along the main street and saw these two lovely shops, which look as if they belong to another age.
Across from the shops was this old bank, which has been converted into a home. It looks as if the archway on the left has been filled in, which suggests that the bank must have had an impressive front — ideal for sheltering from the rain.
As we arrived in Draycott, we passed this old factory building on the bus — which is why we decided to walk back down the main road. All the pic shows is the front one-third of the building. It seemed to stretch back for ever.
This was as near as I could get the front of factory in order to take this pic. Any closer and I would have chopped parts off. I found some more pics on flickr, together with a history of the building. Below the front facing clockface, the name 'Jardine' can be seen. The building was/is known as 'Victoria Mill' and was built between 1888 and 1907 and was, originally, a tenement lace factory. By any measure, an impressive sight. We are planning a return visit nearer Christmas, when I will take pics of some other Draycott buildings.
Another recent trip was to Donington-le-Heath Manor in Leicestershire. We had not visited this preserved medieval manor house for over twenty years and it has, how can I say this without sounding as if I was a little disappointed, changed — not on the outside, but…
…on the inside. When Susan and I first visited the building in the 1970s and then again in the 1980s, its interior was devoid of fitments and furnishings. It was if one occupant had left and the house was awaiting the arrival of someone new. I loved this emptiness. Now, though, someone has moved in and every room is furnished and 'interpreted'. There is also a free hand-held audio guide available, with an informative room-by-room commentary. Nothing is left to the imagination and this approach was obviously popular with other visitors and children as we walked around the house. Catching snatches of "Ooh, I wouldn't have like that. Would you?" and "Do you think the clothes were really this heavy?" and children delving into dressing-up boxes.
Twenty years ago the view from the window was also different. The frontage was less ordered, more open and, in a way, hinted at the fact that this was almost certainly a working manor — not much different to most farms today — and the view from the window would have reflected that. Now, it is tidy and ordered with a kitchen garden, lovingly attended by volunteers, including the Chair of the Manor Friends' Group, who was working in the garden throughout our visit. Again, it would be churlish to complain about this approach. It obviously works.
One thing though had not changed — the café in the barn next to the house (which you can just see through the window in the pic above this one). The food was excellent and it was just relaxing to sit there for an hour eating wholesome food and, in my case, drinking a pint of real ale. Susan and Judith had tea. This is a side view of Donington-le-Heath Manor House, which now has a small maze and, as we wandered around the building, I picked cherries from trees laden with fruit and thought that I would be here, picking cherries for pies and jam today — not in the kitchen garden.

We will go back again, of that I am sure. The day of our visit was during the summer school holidays and it was a 'Pirates' Day' for kids, so the manor house and its grounds were full of hyped-up youngsters careering all over the place, laughing and bellowing as loud as their lungs would let them. In truth, if I had to choose between the manor as I remembered it from a long tome ago and how I experienced it this August, the private me chooses the former, but the community me chooses it full of kids. A wonderful day out in good company.
Later the same week, we went across to the Black Country to spend the afternoon and evening with Susan's elderly aunt and uncle, who we had not seen for nine months. On this visit, Susan had a plan — to get them talking about their childhoods and other members of the family. She succeeded, but that's a story for Susan to tell.  We decided in advance to have lunch on the way and to find a Black Country fish n'chip shop, so I did a little searching on the web and found the 'Sub-station', which had been given some good reviews. Being between Walsall and Wednesbury, it was just a few miles from our final destination. We were not disappointed. The service and food were excellent and staff friendly.To cap it all they had actually had Worcester Sauce, which is what I like with fish n'chips (otherwise, a strong brown sauce). We will go back again nearer Christmas and arrange to meet there with other family members.
You may be wondering about the name "Sub-station'. The chippy is actually located in an old Midland Electricity Company building which was once a sub-station and in the side wall, there is this memorial to MEC sub-station workers who went off to fight in the First World War, never to return. The fact that it is still there makes the building special and is another reason for a return visit.


A volcano has erupted on the Indonesian island of Sumatra for the first time in four centuries, sending smoke 1,500 metres into the air and prompting the evacation of thousands of residents.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Playing catch up

It's an age since I lasted posted a Parkviews 'blog'. I have posted some entries to my Crocus Gallery and West End Bowlers blogs, but the past six weeks or so have just flown by. So I have decided to play  'catch up' and post a few pics from my travels, beginning with a view of where my Auntie Nannie and some cousins live in Harlow, Essex.
It may not look a lot, but my Uncle Dave, who died a few years ago, and Nannie went to Harlow in the early-1950s where he was involved, as a plumber and sanitary engineer, in helping to build what was then 'Harlow New Town'. One of the first areas to be built was Brays Grove and this is where they were given a house. I used to go and stay with them during school holidays from about the age of nine until I was fifteen and started work. Looking back, I realise it was to give my Nanna a break from me. She looked after me for nearly all my childhood, but she had badly ulcerated legs. Nanna died when I was fifteen, a few months after I had started work, but that's another story.

I first saw this small green with houses around three sides and a three-story block of flats on the fourth side nearly sixty years ago. The trees in this pic were merely sticks then. Nannie and Dave were a great influence on me, by example. They were both active in the Labour Party and both served as Labour councillors in Harlow. In addition, Dave was an active trade unionist all his life. And, as a matter of principle, they chose not to buy their council house. Not having easy access to car, we do not see Nannie and Co as often as would like, so it was a real pleasure to spend a day with them at the beginning of the month. We put the world to rights and reminiscenced about long gone relatives and others we had not seen for ages.

Altogether, a memorable day, but one topic came up which seems to be universal — wheelie bins! The houses in the pic were built with a large storage cupboard in the front elevation which could take a dustbin. Now, of course, there are three wheelie bins to each house (general household waste, garden waste and recycling material), so at least two bins have to be left outside the houses. Once our street scenes would have had children. Now they have wheelie bins.

Britain's leading independent tax experts today flatly rejected the coalition government's claims to have shielded poor families from five years of austerity when they described Georg Osborne's emergency budget as "clearly regressive".