Thursday, 26 December 2013

Once buses were rarer than unicorns...

... in Lenton on Boxing Day, but what makes 2013 special is that Nottingham City Transport are running buses, albeit a reduced network, for the first time in thirty years. Flushed out by their rivals, Trent-Barton and Your Bus, who operated Boxing Day and New Year' Day services last year.  My pre-Christmas column in the Nottingham Post was about Christmas holiday bus services, or rather the lack of them on the day itself.

A Trent-Barton Indigo full of passengers about to pass Lenton Recreation Ground as it heads for Long Eaton.

A YourBus Y36 waits at the Junction of Derby Road and Lenton Boulevard on its way to the Victoria Centre in Nottingham City Centre.

Another Trent-Barton Indigo, this time making its way to Derby via Beeston and Long Eaton. Had I  waited a further few minutes I could have photographed a Trent-Barton i4 also going to Derby. For some reason, the Derby buses on each service run within a few minutes of one another, each takes about an hour. Lentonians who know about buses catch any bus to the QMC Hospital, three stops away, and change onto a Trent-Barton Red Arrow or YourBus City-Link and do the journey non-stop in thirty minutes or less. 

And, finally, what I wanted to capture in a photograph. A working Nottingham City Transport bus on Boxing Day. A sight rarer than unicorns for the past thirty years. It's a 36 crossing Lenton Boulevard, as it heads along Derby Road towards Beeston and Chilwell.

Maybe next year they will even run on Christmas Day, but unfortunately NCT get 2014 off to a bad start with no buses whatsoever on New Year's day, whilst Trent-Barton and YourBus are both operating routes in and around Nottingham. Just how NCT can win national awards is beyond me.

What saddens me most is that NCT is owned by a Labour controlled Nottingham City Council, who should be mindful of the fact that ordinary people still have to get to work, whatever the day, especially New Year's Day, when city centre shops are open.

All the buses I saw were carrying plenty of passengers. On a personal note, Boxing Day afternoon saw two longstanding friends come from Chllwell for tea. They came on a 36 and went home on an Indigo, so I know how important urban buses are to non-car owners every day of the year!

Enjoy the rest of the holiday.

A last Christmas Eve Lenton wander

I had intended to post this on Christmas Eve, but life overtook me, as it so often does. It's a last personal record of sorts because this is, assuming we sell our house, our last Christmas in Lenton after thirty-four of them.  Over the years one thing has never changed. We write and post most of our cards in early-December, but always I keep the Lenton ones back, saying I will deliver them by hand to save the postage and I do, but never until Christmas Eve.

It is always quiet and, unfortunately, this year was not a good one for taking photographs of my meander around Lenton. The sky was cloud free and the Sun was low in the sky, blindingly so.

From our house on Devonshire Promenade towards the Derby Road. The only car on the Prom over Christmas belongs to our next door neighbours. Every other house is empty. The students have all gone.

A little hidden corner of Lenton, which you might catch a glimpse of walking up the Derby Road towards Canning Circus. It is the side entrance to the home of one my bowling companions. A few weeks from now, there will be snowdrops, then crocuses and, later, a few bluebells. A perfect side entrance by any measure. It always gives me pleasure just to see it as I walk to and from Graham's letter box.

11am and a view of a very quiet Derby Road, from Harrington Drive towards the Savoy Cinema at the bottom of the hill. Two buses are just pulling away from the Savoy and, at times on my walk along Derby Road, there were more buses than cars. A photograph of this view in two years time will be minus a glimpse of Lenton Flats.

Any photograph of a Lenton road like Harrington Drive (towards Derby Road) without cars is a rarity. Parking got so bad a few years ago across the whole of Lenton that the City Council introduced a residents' parking scheme.

Abbey Court Flats from Rolleston. I like the fact that the bare trees look as tall as the flats.

Abbey Court from Welby Avenue, The Flats look in pristine condition, as clean and gleaming as when erected in the mid-1960s. Seen like this, it is difficult to believe that they will be gone this time next year. They will be missed by many.

At a first glance, the partially demolished Digby Court looks as it has vines growing up the side. In a few weeks it be gone.

My Christmas Eve walk lasted barely thirty minutes, then it was off to Beeston, but I was keenly aware that, with my short meander delivering cards, our leaving Lenton is close to becoming real. My walk ended with a look across an empty Lenton Recreation Ground from the front of our home.

Not a good day for taking photographs, but what I have all offer views of New Lenton few others will otherwise see. We are so often blind to the world around us.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Heritage bus routes in and around Nottingham

Today I have just written my next column for the Nottingham Post about public transport in and around Nottingham, which should be published mid-January and this has prompted me to create a new page, which is listed in the narrow column to the right of this one.

When I was growing up in Wembley, days out to places such as Kew Gardens, Hampton Court or Hampstead Heath were always by bus. It is a habit I have never lost and Nottingham is a great place to explore and discover the past by bus.

I plan to add published walks to my list as and when I find them. I have some of my own, but this is for another day. In the meantime, be amazed by just how much heritage you can reach by bus.

The Sherwood Arrow goes to Rufford Abbey and the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre at Edwinstowe, plus a few other places as well.

The Rainbow 1 goes to Eastwood and the D H Lawrence Birthplace Museum…

…and the 35 takes you to Wollaton Park with its historic Tudor house, Nottingham Industrial Museum and the Yard Gallery.

I am also working on a map to accompany the information on my new page, which I hope to complete for the New year, so watch this space.

Monday, 16 December 2013

A Nottingham Castle must see: Paul Waplington exhibition

On Saturday, Susan and I finally made it to Nottingham Castle Museum to see a temporary exhibition, Spotlight: Paul Waplington, which runs until 19 January 2014. It really is worth going to see. All his paintings in UK public collections are on display, plus a good few from private collections, together with a thirty minute ITV documentary about his work from the 1980s.

The painting below is entitled 'Footbridge' and in Sheffield City Museum, but it is actually of the footbridge beside the Old Basford level crossing in Nottingham. I first picked up on this painting and others at the end of 2012 when compiling a news story for The Nottingham Historian about the BBC Your Paintings website which, at the time, had just been launched.

His work is vibrant and graphic. It grabs your attention and draws you in. He appeals to me because his work was then set in Nottingham's inner city neighbourhoods and streets (Alfreton Road, Hyson Green, Sneinton). Some years ago he went to live in Portugal and he now paints people, landscapes and animals in the region where he now lives — a long way from work inspired by his days in the lace industry and as a left-wing activist in Nottingham.

If you live close enough, take this opportunity to see one of the best exhibitions I have seen in a while. You will not be disappointed. 

Click here to go to BBC Your Paintings Paul Waplington folder, where you can see images of all his paintings in UK collections.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

The tale of a gammy knee and preparing the house for sale

Since my last blog, life has hobbled by at an amazing speed. I have had a problem with my left knee for a few years now, but with regular visits to the osteopath I have used since 1999, I have managed to stay on top of things, but since falling over my shopping trolley in the snow outside Lenton Flats a couple of years ago, I have needed to see an NHS physio twice and every morning I do some exercises he gave me to keep my knees supple, but a couple of months ago, my left knee started to become very painful and prone to locking. After this happened to me in the middle of the Derby Road, I decided it was time to visit a doctor again.

I saw the doctor in a few days, had my knees x-rayed the following day and a letter from the Nottingham City Clinical Commissioning Group a few days later. Up to this point, it was pretty impressive. Then nothing. After four weeks I telephoned to enquire what was happening and was told that 'the Nottingham City Clinical Assessment Service… Specialist Team is assessing your referral' and that this would take 'up to six weeks'.

Since Susan and I were working our way through a long list of little jobs and giving our house a major clean in readiness to putting it up for sale, I waited… and waited… Nothing, so I telephoned again and was given a telephone number I could contact direct. They claimed to know nothing about me. The system had lost me. I was not a happy bunny and, in fairness, it took only one telephone call to the CCG to get a telephone call back offering me an appointment at the Mary Potter Health Centre in Hyson Green to see a senior physiotherapist a fortnight later. This happened on Friday and I got sixty minutes attention, including a lengthy examination plus explanations of my x-rays and what the options are. It was five star attention by any measure and I came away a lot happier.

So tomorrow I will be back at the community gym in The Lenton Centre, where I was going 2–3 times a week until my knee went a couple of months ago, with a couple of extra exercises to do. Going there has helped me lose nearly three stone, but in last two months I have put 10lb back on, so you can see why I am glad to be starting again. I report back to Mary Potter on 10 January 2014 to see how I am progressing.

I tell you all this because my knee problem (or should I say 'knee cap' problem) has become acute at a time when the media is full of stories about how the NHS is cutting back on knee operations as part of its efforts to save money.

The experience leaves me wondering how regularly patients are lost by the system? Then I wonder if everyone gets treated as promptly as I did? NHS employees are, I suspect, under a lot of pressure and they all cope with it differently.

I have recently taken part in a couple of Nottingham City CCG surveys and the questions have been badly framed, giving the option of only 'yes/no' answers, then if you answer 'no' asking if you thought this was to do with age/gender/sexual orientation/race/religion and little or no scope for other answers. I have made this point at the end of each survey, but since this is something I have complained about for a long time, I am of the view that NHS surveys are probably constructed to obscure, rather then enlighten.

I suspect that the NHS managers and number crunchers are so obsessed with outcomes that they fail to comprehend (or care) how seemingly trivial ailments and conditions impair the quality of lives, and that their failure to address them will ultimately add to the money the NHS has to find for that person in the long-term.

The NHS is a great organisation, but to work well it needs to be part of a social framework which includes decent housing and social services for all, as well as decent jobs and pay. Our society is fragmenting at an alarming pace and all this from one gammy knee!

They say house moving is one of the most stressful things you can do. How I agree!
At the top of the narrow column to the right is a link a blog I have put together about our house. Someone might find it. Our first estate agent, Frank Innes, lasted seven days. They were  truly awful. They could not spell 'Lenton' correctly, draw a house plan of our house correctly lor describe it correctly, despite having the errors pointed out to them on several occasions, verbally and by e-mail.

We have now gone to a local estate agent, who is already proving to be much more efficient, and I will add a link once we are on their website.

The plus side of all the housework we have done is that lots of little problems have been fixed and we have cleared out our basement after hiring a van for a day — it was that easy.

The only problem we have is that because of new Nottingham City Council planning controls our large Victorian house cannot be turned into student accommodation and this has knocked about £30,000 off its value. Of the 23 houses on Devonshire Promenade, 20 are student lets in multi-occupation owned by private landlords. These are controls we first argued for twenty-five years ago when houses in multiple occupation made up only 25% of the total in New Lenton. Now they make up over 80%. and 87% on Devonshire Promenade. No family will want to buy our house and no private landlord either.

The coming weeks and months will be interesting. In the meantime I have e-mailed the City Planners as follows:

My wife and I are putting our home at No.3 Devonshire Promenade up for sale after thirty-thee years because we want to downsize. We are aware of the new Article 4 Direction with regard to student housing, but we would like to know how it actually impacts on a road like ours, where there are only three owner-occupiers out of twenty-three houses?

Who can buy our house? If a landlord did, would he have to rent it out as a single tenancy, or can he sub-divide the house into flats, or rooms, up to a specific number? What about the relatives (ie. son/daughter, niece/nephew) of someone who buys the house. Can they live in the house with 'friends' as 'lodgers' and, of so, how many?

All the initial evidence suggests that no family is going to be interested, despite our prime location, because of the the fact that almost all the houses on Devonshire Promenade and surrounding streets are student houses. In the case of a street like ours, where 87% of the houses are student houses, is it City Council planning policy to impose the new Article 4 Direction strictly, or with the support of the other two resident owner-occupiers, can it be adjusted in some way? If and when they come to sell, they will face exactly the same problem as ourselves.

Three estate agents have told us that the value of house has been reduced considerably by the new Article 4 Direction and it will be 'hard to sell'. We have also been told by our councillors that there is a scheme where the City Council will buy hard to sell houses like our own, but we have seen no details of this policy or which City Council department manages it. Can you please provide a copy of the policy/procedure or tell us who to contact?

Please send us any information you have. Like so many pensioners and long-term residents, our house is our only asset, and we are sure it was not the intention of the City Council that we should suffer financially because of the new Article 4 Direction.

I will post their response when I receive it.

My next post will be back to lighter things I promise.