Monday, 28 October 2013

Beeston pubs and cafés revisited (again!)

I have added Beeston pubs and bus route information to my map, which is now A4 landscape size. The map is aimed at visitors to Beeston and easily be downloaded and printed off  Comments welcome.

This version is named after the Beeston WEA Branch Writers' Group/Class which meets every Thursday and frequent various haunts in Beeston. Our new favourite for the whole group is the White Lion (see last week's blog), but the Local not global deli and Relish are also favourite haunts, where we gather as well.

To see the map full size, simply click on the map.

The map can also be used as a template for a range of maps relating to central Beeston and has been designed so that it can also be printed off on a mono printer. In other words, there is no loss of detail if not printed in colour because the Pubs and Café Line is 12 point, the bus routes line is 6 point and other roads are 2 point — which is why I have copyrighted the map — and I hope may help me raise funds to publish Foodie Heavens by Beeston Writers.  We shall see.

Now a stripped down version, free of bus information. Someone made the point that the bus information could go on another map. The orange lines (which print out a lighter grey are other Beeston shopping streets. In other words my map now includes all the central Beeston shopping area).

On Tuesday 5 November I am planning to re-walk the map (see my blog post dated 31 August about the first time I walked the route) just to confirm to myself that everything is where I say it is, and in the process, I plan to 'map' 'seasonal' shops and charity shops and to compile a second map later next week. My aim remains the production of a small A4 folding pocket map. We shall see.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Autumn leaves in unexpected streets

After thirty-four years in Lenton I tend to think that I know my way around. I can give directions to strangers when asked, know where the pubs are and a good few shops too, but some things change without me noticing. Others have always gone unnoticed — much to my shame — which is how I came to be see trees in streets where I thought there were none.

Lenton Sands is a wedge of inner-city streets running, almost exclusively north—south, bordered by Lenton Boulevard in the west; Ilkeston Road in the north and Derby Road in the south, with both meeting at Canning Circus. The roads climb from east to west, Derby Road more steeply than Ilkeston and the further away you are from Lenton Boulevard, the more steeply they fall from Derby Road to Ilkeston Road.

If you had asked me on Tuesday morning I would have confidently told you the streets between Derby and Ilkeston were devoid of trees, except for the odd one or two at the bottom end. Walking to the vets for one last time I caught sight of what I thought was flickering gold and turning my head I saw this:

Douglas Road from the Derby Road end running down towards Ilkeston Road bathed in sunlight sparking golden brown autumnal colours. It was late-morning and every tree was lit up by the sun. Unfortunately when I went back with my camera yesterday morning it was only 9.30am and the sun was lower in the sky, but the trees were still there, in a street where I had never noticed them before, not once in thirty-four years!

There were also trees along Albert and Derby Groves (which is where I took this photograph).

Balfour Road in the same block of streets is how I have always thought of Lenton Sands — treeless. The contrast could not be more stark.

And as I walked up Derby Road I did so on a carpet of leaves, which rustled about my feet. Little moments like this occur every autumn and, as the years past, they become ever more enjoyable and precious to me. I feel a trip to Oxmoor Woods coming on.

My walk up Derby Road yesterday was a bit like the day after I met Susan for the first time. Would she there, was she real or had she just been a figment of my imagination? So it was with the Lenton Sands trees. Like Susan, I'm glad to say, they were very real.

There are those, mostly car owners, who hate trees in streets. Me, on the other hand, would plant trees in every street of the land and make a forest of every village, town and city. I love them. It is as simple as that.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Cake too good to leave

Today I had the best coffee and cake I have ever had in Beeston. Some claim I know, but my black Americano was like no other and in some ways quite unexpected. It came with a cinnamon stick as well as a spoon and had a hint of espresso about it — which I really liked. I didn't take a photograph, but next time I will.

I did, however get the man with the cake…

…Sergio, at the White Lion pub 'and kitchen' at the junction of Station Road and Middle Street in Beeston. Shortly after this photograph was taken, his Victoria sponge cake, with its jam and icing filling, had all gone. Someone in the group sighed 'scrummy' and that seemed to sum up nicely how all nine of us felt about the cake.

Members of the WEA Beeston Branch Writing Class have got into the habit of meeting during holiday periods and half-term week and were looking for somewhere to meet, where there was a bit more room, and one of Beeston's Labour councillors, Lynda Lally, told me about Sergio and the White Lion; of how he and his wife had really worked wonders with the pub, even catering for mums and toddlers. After just one visit I agree, and will be going back again before too long and I am sure that Writing Class members will be using it after classes from now on.

Now, if great coffee and wonderful cake and fish n' chip deals on Fridays are not enough to persuade you to visit to the White Lion, then Mermaid (above) should be enough to make you change your mind. She is absolutely adorable and friendly to boot. I tried to get a photograph of her holding her bushy tail aloft, but all she wanted to do for me was roll over and give me her impersonation of Marilyn Monroe.

Another thing some of my colleagues liked was that the White Lion has plenty of car parking spaces, whilst others, like myself, like the fact that it is within sight of Beeston Bus Station and The Tram will run right past its main entrance. If you are still in doubt as to its location, then here is an updated version of my Beeston Café Line map with the White Lion highlighted in yellow.

If I had the money, and lived in Beeston, I would be eating out most days. For now, I will have to be content with spreading my favours about as best I can. Until now it has been the Local not Global Deli run by Jo on Chilwell High Road if there is just the two of us, or Relish, nearly opposite Jo, if there are more of us. Or, if at the other end of town, Mason & Mason. Now we have Sergio and the White Lion too.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Markiza: in memoriam

This afternoon we said goodbye to Markiza, who came to live us just before Christmas 2007. We inherited her from a dear friend, who became ill and had to go into care.  In some ways, her passing was sudden. 

For months now Markza had been on a iodine free diet because of a thyroid problem and was last checked over in July 2013, but in recent weeks we noticed that she was losing weight. Otherwise she was lively enough, but coming back from London after five days I was suddenly aware of how much weight she had lost, so I took her to the vets on Tuesday morning. Later the same day the vet telephoned to say that the blood samples she had taken showed that Markiza had total kidney failure and had a few weeks, maybe less, to live and that, by all rights, she should not be alive.

In the event she lasted until today (Friday), but after speaking with the vet it became clear that because she was no longer eating, together with internal organ failure, she was close to the end, so after some soul-searching, we asked the vet to come and see us. The end was peaceful and stress free, she made no fuss and purred as she was sedated and some minutes later, she was put to sleep, with Susan and me stroking her. The vet and the nurse who came as well were truly wonderful. At the end of it all I cried. I will miss Markiza and remember her for the rest of my life — as I will the other cats I have known and loved.

Sometime in the near future, I will add a cat page by Susan to the blog. For now, some photographs of a lovely friend.

The last photograph I took of Markiza, when we were in the garden together this summer.

Always the office cat, on hand to offer a helping paw.

Markiza had a serious side too.

This was her favourite position. 

Markiza's one weakness was her urge to explore any opening she could find. On this occasion, she was nearly squashed as I started to close the filing cabinet drawer. Luckily, up popped her head just in time.

Rest in peace Markiza.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

A day beside the Thames (see Added Pages section)

The blog I posted here has received quite a few hits, so I have created a separate page for the Thames Path walk I did last week whilst staying with friends in Greenwich. On Tuesday we walked from Greenwich to the Hays Galleria by London Bridge railway station, about eight miles in total (because of all the twists and turns in the Thames).  Originally, I posted the text here, but it now has its own page (see opposite).

So all I have left here are four photographs from the walk and the two maps together.

I rather like this futuristic apartment block overlooking Deptford Creek on one side and across the Thames to the Isle of Dogs in the other direction. The cityscape in the distance is one which is probably now instantly recognised the world as London Docklands.

I loved this narrow passage called 'Randalls Rents', which links the Thames with Odessa Street. This photograph is looking back towards the Thames. As I walked down it, I heard a woman's voice say 'I did the shopping last week' and I could smell bacon. 

Once you are back besides the Thames, it is not long before you come to the entrance to the Surrey Docks City Farm (when the Farm is closed, you have to walk along Rotherhithe Street instead). I like the juxtaposition, albeit separated by the width of the Thames, of a rustic 'city farm' with a 21st century global business centre. They sit together rather well.

Outside the City Farm and on the Thames Path was a gate and steps leading down to a small foreshore, where I took this photograph. It felt so different to anywhere else on the walk.

This is my favourite photograph from the day. Not a person in sight, but it still seems busy to me. Notice all the bicycles on the barge to the right.  Tower Bridge was like a picture frame and caught many different vistas, a few of which I photographed, but we all know what Tower Bridge looks like, so this is the view of the Bridge I have included.

To see more photographs and descriptions of the Thames Path Walk, please visit the page I have created and listed in the column to the right of this posting.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Buses and stations the fish and chips of transport

 A bus at a bus stop on Station Street earlier today, by the temporary Nottingham Station ticket office. For six weeks during the summer the station was closed and buses operated instead of trains. Weeks after the trains started again, the bus stops remain in situ. I guess it was there to pick up a private party arriving by train. 

Growing up in Wembley on the edge of London I came to associate railway stations with buses in the sense that you rarely got one without the other. Most of the bus routes I knew and used as a child and as a grown-up terminated at a railway station. The 18 at Edgware Station every day and London Bridge on Sundays; the 46 at Alperton, Victoria and Waterloo stations; the 79 at Alperton and Colindale stations; the 79A at Alperton and Edgware stations, and the 83 at Ealing Broadway and Golders Green stations. Even when they didn't, their destinations displays mentioned them, like short-workings of the 79 in the evenings or 92Bs on Sunday, which bore the legend 'North Wembley near Preston Road Station'.

Look at any contemporary London bus map and you will see that railways stations are still where many bus routes begin or end, yet once outside London, stations lose their importance as a bus destination. Why is this? The answer is far too complex for me to address in a few paragraphs, so instead let me concentrate on Nottingham, where I have lived for thirty-three years. It has just two railway stations: Bulwell and Nottingham, with only another two, Carlton and Netherfield (in the neighbouring Borough of Gedling) served by Nottingham City Transport. All of them are passed by buses or they run close by, but no importance is attached to them.

Two bright red Nottingham trams wait at the Station Street terminus earlier today. I travelled on one to Market Square, where I changed to a bus home to Lenton. It was full of folk going to Goose Fair. Personally, I love the bright red colour of these two trams, but that's the London Transport boy in me I'm sure.

Hidden by hoardings, but I put my arm around the edge and snapped and this is what I got. A view of the new tram bridge across Nottingham Station from the existing Station Street tram terminus. Not a worker in sight. Even like this, it looks impressive. 

Why this failure to harmonise bus and railway links? The short answer is that public transport matters far less outside London and, even in a city like Nottingham, where the City Council is committed to improving public transport, trains and buses are still treated as separate entities. The Tram runs on a track, so there is synergy of sorts and the city's first modern tram line out to Hucknall could not have been developed without the railway (the same is true for the new tram line to Clifton now under construction). They all run beside existing railway lines or follow the course of an old railway line along part of their route.

Living in Lenton, less than a mile from Nottingham City Centre, I cannot get a bus direct to the railway station. I could get one to Beeston Station, on the south-west side of the city, direct (a Trent-Barton 18), but they do not run frequently and very few trains actually stop at Beeston anyway. My neighbours either go in their car or by taxi. I don't own a car and can't afford taxi fares, so I have to use a bus and walk the last half-kilometre. If I was on the existing Tram route or one of the bus routes coming into Nottingham from the south side, then I could get to Nottingham Station direct.

The taxis are always here on Station Street, as they have been for decades. Once they queued here to gain access to the station forecourt, now they are waiting for fares. The Trent-Barton bus, on the other hand, is an non-stopping interloper because of road closures elsewhere. The bus stop, no longer in use, is just one of many (complete with shelters) put up for train passengers to use whilst waiting for one of the replacement bus services which operated whilst Nottingham Station was closed for six weeks during the summer.

I tell you this because great play is made of how important public transport is, but look beyond the spin and most of us are poorly served in some way. Assuming it is published, my next personal comment column in the Nottingham Post will look at one claim in particular and a simple and relatively cheap solution I have to the problem of how we can reach the point where everyone living in the city can get to Nottingham Station by public transport.

Buses and stations are like fish and chips. They belong together.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Down days uplifted

Since Friday I have been nursing, first, a raging sore throat, then a barking cough and today it has arrived on my chest. I have a nasty suspicion that I picked up the bug on Thursday morning in a room crowded with would-be writers like myself. On top of this I have a gammy left knee which is stopping me exercise, even if I felt well enough. I also missed seeing the new Tram bridge slid into place over the Nottingham Ring Road in Lenton (see Nottingham Daily Photograph by Christopher Frost for really good views dated 29 September 2013).

But on the bright side of things, I have prepared lunch for the first time in days, so I must be feeling a bit better and as I did, I had this view to look at...

... our little back garden. This photograph will almost certainly be given to the estate agent trying to sell our house in a few weeks time. Suddenly, this view, like life itself has become more precious. I can hear the clock ticking. Tick tock, tick tock. 

To the side and out of view are the runner bean tubs, five in all containing four bean plants each and it's been a bumper year — two to three meals a week since mid-July and just about finished. We've even had enough to share with our neighbours on a few occasions. The plants cost me all of £3 in Nottingham Market at the beginning of May, plus a bag of potting compost. Growing runner beans is something I have lived with since I was a child and as proof of this fact I include this photograph of me aged about two from the back garden of 36 Swinderby Road, Wembley, where I grew up.

There, behind me, are my Grandfather's runner beans. 1946. I associate growing runner beans with so many good things.

And finally, I found this little person in our basement a couple of weeks ago. How he got there we can only guess. The best theory we have is that the newt got caught up in the long fur of our very short-legged cat, Markiza, when she was drinking water from the pond in our back garden.

When we made the pond in 1999, Chris, our next door neighbour brought a large container of wild pond life from his parent's then home in New Malden, Surrey (officially, part of Greater London since 1965), which included a few newts. It is good to know they are still with us, as we rarely glimpse one.

I came to the conclusion a good few years ago that you don't fight being unwell. You stop, curl up, sleep and get better by accepting that it may take longer than you would like. In 1977 I was diagnosed with whooping cough after months of coughing and going to work. When I finally succumbed, I was off work for months. Even so, five days into this little bout and I feel it still pulling me down. I got up this morning hoping I would be doing things tomorrow. It's now mid-afternoon and doing this blog has exhausted me. Now my hope is Thursday. I have things to do, I have a writing class to attend and a stay in London to finalise. 

I have also a photograph of a Y5 to take for my next blog, which I hope to post at the weekend. Right now though I'm going to make a cup of tea for Susan and me.