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.


Rosie said...

We had a lovely day with you and Susan, the boar does look rather manic but cheerful enough. I found a book on Amazon called 'Switchboard Operators' by a Carol Lake who won a Guardian Prize in 1989 - would this be her? I enjoyed Rosehill very much:)

Robert said...

Thanks Rosie and the answer is that it is the same Carol Lake. I thought I might get it. She's also written a novel recently, so she is still about, but she doesn't appear to have a website or a blog. I will keep you posted.

Love Robert