Thursday, 13 November 2014

Blog on hold until 1 December...

... whilst Susan and I move house.


PS. In the meantime an event not to be missed if you are free. Susan and I will have to miss Pauline Lucas I am sorry to say because we are moving.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Small Pinboard #3

As I prepare to leave Lenton I am aware that since starting this blog in February 2007 I have taken a lot of photographs of 'Lenton Faces' and a good few before. The next one will be of Lenton Recreation Ground pics, but these are a few which always come to mind when I think of the photographs I have taken. I like them all for different reasons.

No.1 is of Matthew Butcher, taken on the day of the 2010 General Election outside The Lenton Centre, where Matthew, the Green Party candidate, spent most of the day from 7am until 10pm with either Susan or me, who were there taking polling numbers for the Labour Party. I liked Matthew a lot. Always good company and a model student in every sense, active in the local community — which is how I got to know him. As I mentioned in a recent posting about the Green Party, poor Matthew lost heavily. Susan and I both voted for Lilian Greenwood, the Labour Party candidate and I have taken numbers at polling stations in election days for the Labour Party since I was a teenager and will volunteer to do so in Beeston, even though I let my Party membership lapse last year. Susan still has her card, so I am sure we will get to know local activists. In the photograph Matthew is minding a voter's dog.

No.2 is from 1994 and our first campaign to save Lenton's swimming pool. We were successful, but there were two more attempts to close the pool before Nottingham City Council finally sold Lenton Community Association the building for £10 in 2005. The pool re-opened in 2008 and I am very proud to have played an active part in all the campaigns to save the building, along with many others in Lenton, including our ward Labour Party councillors.

No.3 is a cropped version of a larger photograph I entitled 'Three ladies with large brassicas'. What you cannot see are the large cauliflowers they are holding. I took the photographs at The Lenton Centre back in the days when the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum ran a veggie box scheme. The lady in the middle is Lesley Fyffe, a community stalwart of the first order and very active at the Dunkirk & Old Lenton Community Centre by Dunkirk Flyover and a founder member of the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum. A good friend who will be one of our first guests to lunch when we have moved to Beeston.

No.4 is of Mr and Mrs Ferdi, who were close neighbours until last winter, when they went to live with their daughter. They were both originally from the Ukraine and made their way to England after the Second World War. They were a gentle couple, always ready for a chat. I will always remember them.

No.5 dates from 2007 and was taken at one on my 'Tea in the park' Sundays, something I did for a good few years once a month during the summer. These three teenagers were from Wollaton and they so reminded me of my own late-teenage days. I had similar moments myself in the company of lovely young ladies and it remains a photograph full of happy memories of my 'Tea in the park' afternoons. 'The park' by the way was Lenton Recreation Ground and held in the park pavilion, which the City Council allowed me to use free-of-charge.

No.6 is a photograph I took of local resident Shirley at the front door to her council flat above the Church Square shops in Lenton. Another community activist who was always good company.

No.7 shows Mairi Yuill at her desk in The Lenton Centre, where she still sits every week, now in her nineties, doing the Centre's day-to-day accounts. Before that she was a founder member of Lenton Community Association and always an officer until in 2006 it became The Lenton Centre, when she became a board member. When Susan and I arrived in Lenton and started going to Labour Party meetings she quickly recruited us as volunteers to help in the then Lenton Community Centre and from 1981–85 we were Labour Party county councillors together, both of us having previously been city councillors (Mairi in Nottingham, me in Birmingham). She helped found the Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum and, over the years, we worked on many projects together. By any measure, Mairi is a community hero and I am so lucky to know her.

Leaving Lenton is a bagful of mixed emotions, but I am now looking forward to Beeston. I have never been a person to look back. I believe you have to be active where you are.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Nottingham Uni migrates to Beeston just as I complete my extended map

On the Noticeboard page of today's Nottingham Post, under 'What's On' there is an entry for Beeston which reads 'The University of Nottingham is hosting a Christmas cake and craft sale… on C Floor of the Portland Building next to the juice bar'.

On Saturday I posted a section of a City of Nottingham map dated 1914 showing the present-day area covered by the main campus of the University and making the point that seven of the large houses marked on the map include the place name 'Lenton' in their title. In 1914 this was very much the up-market end of Lenton.

To this day, the main campus remains in the City of Nottingham and is still part of historic Lenton, but this migration of the University's location by the Post to Beeston comes not far behind another claim by a Beestonian to make the campus part of Beeston.

I lift the following from the 3 October 2014 post to the Beestonia blog headed 'Oxjam – Two Week Klaxon':

We have also partnered this year with the University, who will be running an event called ‘THIS IS BEESTON!’ at Bartons throughout the day. This is an attempt to further bonds between town and gown, by showing students what we can offer them on the other side of the West Entrance. What better day to do this than at Oxjam? We’re dead lucky having a campus next door, it’s existence does a great deal to keep Beeston special, and not just a forgotten bit of urban sprawl outside the city. I even got a wife out of it. Let’s make this relationship even stronger.

Reading these words by Matt Goold at the time prompted me to start work on creating a 'eastward' extension of my Beeston Tram Map, which is not far from completion. My plan is to have it ready for not long after Susan and I have moved to Beeston in less than two weeks time (yes, that close after nearly a year!), so here is a sneak preview.

The next time you see this it will be part of a Beeston Tram Map running from Cator Lane in the west to the QMC in the east, or, as I intend to bill it, from Chilwell's Barton Gallery to the Lakeside Arts Centre and onto Nottingham Contemporary and the New Art Exchange in Hyson Green and all with The Tram passing by.

Having spent the last thirty-five years in Lenton (half my life) and thirty of them watching the University grow unchecked I do not share all of Matt's enthusiasm for the benefits the University brings. I will be leaving a street where just three out of twenty-three houses are not  owned by private landlords and occupied by students, nor do any of these properties pay council tax.

The University has blighted Lenton with the blessing of Nottingham City Council, Very belatedly the City Council is attempting to do something to protect other parts of the city, but it made selling our house very difficult and a traumatic experience. I do not wish on a single Beeston street the fate which has befallen every street in Lenton, so Matt, be careful of what you wish for!

Once in Beeston, this is a debate I intend to take part in and I will actively support those who want percentage limits on the number of HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) in any one street. My first question to Broxtowe Borough Council will be 'How many properties in the borough, and the number per street, are exempt from Council Tax because they are occupied by students from 2010–2011 to 2014–2015?' Hopefully, this is a question they will already know the answer to, as others will have already asked it.

I am not anti-student or University. Far from it, but if Beeston is to remain special, then it has to avoid becoming a young mono-culture. We shall see, but as my Tram map extension shows I do agree that Beeston can benefit from a relationship with Nottingham University, providing it does not allow itself to be seduced by them.

With restrictions now in place within the city, private landlords, the University and students will be licking their lips at the prospect of devouring an unsuspecting Beeston. You have been warned by one who knows!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Nottingham 1914 map

I recently purchased a booklet, The City of Nottingham — Past, Present and Future: Its special advantages as a commercial centre and as a place of residence, 'Officially issued by the Corporation', which included several maps, one of which I reproduce here, albeit much reduced in size, together with three enlarged sections. I have had the map scanned at 600dpi (creating a 717MB tiff file, as I could not get a svg file version made) and have since created a 72dpi copy for the web, which you can see below:

I have also copied the title and sections showing part of Bulwell and that part of Lenton which is now better known as the main campus of Nottingham University:

At some point I may will do more with the map. In the meantime I have had a copy made which I will take along the next Angel History Forum in Nottingham Central Library on Thursday 11 December 2014.

For the record, the map shows seven houses on what is the present-day university campus including 'Lenton' in their name: Lenton Abbey; Lenton Fields; Lenton Firs; Lenton Grove; Lenton Hall; Lenton House and Lenton Hurst.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Wollaton Park bus & stroll with cake and a chorus of ducks in the Five Leaves Bookshop

The past weeks has been consumed with house moving delays and sorting out the final problems. When it's all over and we have finally moved I will blog about the experience. For now, it's enough to say that I am glad my sister in Hastings telephoned for a long chat and that Susan got me out on Saturday afternoon to Wollaton Park for a stroll and cake, then today a visit to the solicitor ended up in Five Leaves Bookshop and spending money. Both lifted me from the doldrums for a while a least, so before I sink back down again, a quick post.

Wollaton Park and its many attractions are so accessible by bus that I have never understood why the bus companies do not have 'To & from Wollaton Hall/Park' signs on all the buses which go along this section of the Derby Road.

This is a pic of the south entrance to Wollaton Park from August 2008 when I blogged about Wollaton Park entrances. Just click on the highlighted text to see what I said then. Nothing has changed. This must be one of the least attractive park entrances in England!

However, once through the entrance, everything changes. I didn't go out with the intention of blogging, so I did not have my camera with me. At first Susan took the pics for me, but over tea and cake she showed me what to do, so the rest are mine. I'm quite impressed with the quality. This is the footpath on the west side of the lake, which is just a few feet to the right of the photograph. It was a busy Saturday afternoon and this was one of the few moments when we had the path to ourselves. 

Looking east across the lake through a gap in the trees to Wollaton Hall in the distance with a Moorhen. 

OK, this is what got me out — the prospect of cake. My sister Roz told me to have a slice for her, so we bought two slices and a Belgian Bun (which we took home to have with tea on Sunday afternoon). So, here you are Roz, your cake. Enjoy.

Occasionally, my writing buddy Cindy and I meet here on a weekday. It offers good value. Three generous portions and tea enough for three cost just £9. The café in the old stable block was very busy and what few staff there were were rushed off their feet. Any walk which has a café and toilets scores highly on our scale and probably explains why I describe myself as a 'urban and canal walker'.

I believe that Wollaton Hall appears in Batman films, which explains this logo on the Wollaton Hall gift shop wall. I think it's a rather clever logo and that for many youngsters in 2014 Batman probably has more appeal than Robin Hood. In many ways they are one and the same — good against evil. Nottingham and Gotham (just a No.1 bus ride away from Nottingham's Old Market Square) and, yes, I do know Gotham is in the USA. I was a kid once when there were 6d (sixpence in old money) Batman comics. 

Being lazy, we came out of the stable block at the north end and cut across the park to avoid the climb up to Wollaton Hall and down the other side. In the hands of the National Trust the Hall and Park would be making a mint of money, but Nottingham City Council have always resisted the temptation to turn it into a cash cow. As we walked around the park we heard many different languages and I am sure the fact that access is free helps to promote Nottingham as a visitor attraction. Nottingham Castle, with its disappointing museum and art gallery, is not in the same league.

I have blogged about Wollaton Park on a good few occasions in the past, but it is the avenues of trees beside Lime Tree Avenue, which runs from the park's eastern entrance to the Hall which I love most. I will come back in mid-November when the ground will be a thick carpet of multi-coloured leaves.

This is part of Lime Tree Avenue looking east, It seems to go on and on and it does! Once it would have run all the way down to Lenton Lodge in Lenton, but when Nottingham City Council bought the Wollaton Hall Estate in the 1920s it sold some of the estate to recover the cost and this included part of Lime Tree Avenue.

Today, at the end of the Avenue is Middleton Boulevard, better known to many as Nottingham Ring Road, turn right heading south and you are a few minutes from the Nottingham University North Entrance bus stops (on both sides of the road).

We could have walked from our home in Lenton, it's less than a mile, but we caught the bus to and from Wollaton Park instead. An altogether lovely afternoon.

 Finally, a photograph I took with my phone this morning in the Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham city centre. A chorus of ducks. Need I say more, other than that I spent money as I always do, as much on cards as I did a book. Ross, the owner, has the best card selection in Nottingham, so you know were to go the next time you need a card.

Well, time for tea and to climb back in my self-made hole until we have exchanged contracts and I know we have a new home to move to. Otherwise I will be digging a little deeper...

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Beeston Tram map - free master copy

I created my Beeston 'Underground' style Tram map a year ago, partly to use as part of a writing project called Foodie Heavens by Beeston Writers, but I couldn't find a sponsor, so the project got put on hold because we made the decision to move from Lenton to Beeston after our aged cat Markiza died. My intention now is to self-publish once our move is completed, so watch this space.

In the meantime, I have updated my Beeston Pubs & Cafés map a few times and I posted my latest update yesterday. My original Beeston 'Underground' map began life as a blank master and I did offer it free then to anyone who would like to use it in return for using my content box in the left-hand corner (which contains the map legend and acknowledgements).

The master map can be adapted to individual needs and I am happy to help in this respect. For voluntary groups and 'good causes' I will do this free-of-charge. For others there will be a nominal charge to cover my costs and time.

If I had the time and no other interests I would create versions showing health facilities, youth clubs and community centres etc, even carpet shops and small independent 'handy' shops, but I will happily help others.

I am currently working on a extended version which will extend to the Nottingham Ring Road and QMC to be printed A3 landscape (the present map is designed to be printed A4 landscape, but does work A4 portrait as well. I have lost count of the number of times over the years I have heard people at the QMC bus stop going towards Nottingham ask bus drivers about 'where the shops are' and, as, two Welsh ladies asked yesterday 'Can we get food there?' A seemingly stupid question with an an obvious answer, but if you are at the QMC visiting there is every chance your thoughts will be muddled.

I wanted to say, 'Take my advice, catch a bus to Beeston town centre instead. The food is as good and cheaper'. The QMC, like the University, are as much in the orbit of Beeston as Nottingham city centre. My extended version is being created with QMC and Lakeside visitors in mind.

So, here is the master copy of my existing Beeston Underground style map. If you would like to use it please contact me by using the comment facility.

Friday, 10 October 2014

A Beeston deli with more than a name

Before another word, please follow this link and vote for Beeston's very own  Local not Global Deli in the national Farm Shop & Deli Awards 2015.

Yesterday morning (Thursday) I took myself off early to Beeston and walked down to Chilwell Road, which has been in the news almost daily since work began on The Tram. 'Nearly complete' the Nottingham Post says today. I don't think so.

My destination was the Local not Global Deli, which I have blogged about before and is my favourite coffee shop and eatery. It's seven weeks since I was last there, but with no writing class John White and I decided to meet up, as old men do, and talk about our work over cake and coffee for a couple of hours before Susan came to join me for lunch. In the end it turned out to be a most perfect three-and-a-half hours. I will let my photographs tell the story.

10.30am when I arrived and Jo Thomson, the owner, had been hard at work since 6.30am. She does all her own baking and cooking. Cakes to die for, and more about the best small lunch ever in a bit (well it does have one rival, but since the competition is in Derby, I won't mention it). I should have photographed the large slice of poppy seed cake I had with the first of three cups of coffee (believe me it was goood, really gooood!). 

Local not Global was empty when I arrived, so I took this pic. Within minutes, with John first, a steady stream of customers came in and out. Once it emptied right down to John and me again. Chairs were moved about and folk squeezed around tables, elbows touching, eating cake and lunches. It really is that kind of place. I love its atmosphere and everyone loves Jo. When Susan and I left at 2pm, it was empty again. Not for long I'm sure.

From my table I had these view straight down Imperial Road, one of Beeston's finest roads, and once upon time Nottingham City Transport buses terminated here, then waited for passengers to carry back to town. In the late-sixties, Susan would have been one of them. Her first two years at Nottingham University were spent sharing a room in the Chilwell vicarage just a few minutes walk away. This was where Bartonland began and, as if to mark their claim, Barton Transport had their HQ and a large garage just yards to the left. Today the Barton family no longer own the bus company, but they have created the popular Barton Gallery close by.

 John, like me, is someone who chose to make his home nearby. Family ties pull many of us to places and I am sure the fact that Beeston and Chilwell are parts of the large Greater Nottingham metropolitan conurbation make this easier than it would be in some small inward looking town or village.

I have been visiting Beeston and Chilwell Road regularly since the mid-1990s when our shopping habits changed and we began using the Caritas Clinic over Manor Pharmacy, plus the exodus of friends began from Lenton into Beeston and Chilwell. We hope to follow, after nearly six months of prolonged waiting, by the end of October (there, I have said it, but friends have heard all this before, as other moving dates have come and gone. This time though, I really hope it's true).

I enjoy John's company and he is a great poet, who can get verses to rhyme, and I am helping him to compile a collection of his work for friends and family, but he does deserve a wider audience, so here are a couple of his short poems to whet your appetite:

From Toton down to Chilwell
Through Beeston on to city
They're digging holes and laying pipes
Without remorse or pity
Drivers and their passengers
In buses, cars and vans
Sit fuming in their vehicles
Stuck in traffic jams
Two more years of chaos
And when the workers win their battle
We'll enjoy the doubtful privilege
Of travelling like cattle
Herded on at park and ride
With seating for the few
Standing for the many
Who pay the trams their due
It will never make a profit
And is bound to end in tears
When ratepayers have to cough up
To cover the arrears.

As we grow older, our parents grow wiser

Grandparents turn positive sages

It's been ever thus since Adam and Eve

And carried on down through the ages

It really is amazing, without any fuss
How much the old folk learn from us.


When John left, he took with him one of Jo's apple pies. Never leaves without one if he gets the chance. Next time I will have apple pie too.

Now for the lunch I was telling you about (vegetarians look away now). Just look and lick your lips. There is no better Pork Goulash in the land.

This is me, almost a year to the day, eating Jo's goulash. I weighed 14 stone then and with Markiza, our cat having died a few days before, we had just decided to put our house up for sale. It took six weeks cleaning top to bottom before we put it was first advertised, and it was Easter before we got a buyer. It's been a long slow process and very stressful, with the result that I have put 20lbs on since Susan took this photograph. I want to be 14 stone again by the time I'm 71, so I have 34 weeks to do it in!

This final photograph of Jo is bit of a cheat. I took it in 2013 when I posted a blog about Beeston cafés and teashops, but nothing has changed. Whilst not intended as a boast, I do think this blog shows that I am generous soul, true to my belief that we should have the chance to enjoy the best of life, so how could I not share the Local not global Deli and Jo on Chilwell Road with you?

Finally, if you ignored me the first time, Please don't do it twice. Before another word. Just follow this link and vote for Jo's Local not Global Deli in the national Farm Shop & Deli Awards 2015.


A link to a story in The Guardian by David Graeber about what is happening to the Kurds in Syria and Rojava especially. The Turkish Kurdish Workers' Party and the Rojavan Revolutionary Party are both regarded by Britain and America as terrorist organisations. I do not agree. The PKK no longer wants to create a separate Kurdish state. Instead it has adopted the teaching and vision of libertarian socialist and anarchist Murray Bookchin (1921–2006) who advocates a world of self-governing communities with co-operative economies in which state borders become meaningless. I am a longtime supporter of municipal libertarianism, so you might just see why a Beeston deli named 'local not global' means more to me than just food.

Monday, 6 October 2014

The missing election link in 2015 – The Greens – and a truth we cannot acknowledge

When you read about the 2015 general election something is always missing - the Green Party. Recent opinion polls ( give them 6% of the vote.

I have never voted Green in any election* despite my politics being closer to them than Labour for the last few general elections and one of the reasons I let my membership of the Labour Party lapse after fifty-three years was so that come the 2015 election I have the option to vote Green.

I also admit to being tempted by the National Health Action Party, but they have remained resolutely a single issue party and I am, at the end of the day, more concerned about housing, low-pay, local government and Trident than I am the NHS, as important as the latter is to me. As an issue the NHS has plenty of champions and seems to blind us to being angry about no less important issues.

The independence referendum in Scotland revealed just how detached Labour has become from working class voters and a 'Westminster' party first, committed to peddling Tory and Liberal lies about austerity and dressing up a minimum wage freeze as a promised 'increase' come 2020. They cannot even commit themselves to taking railways back into public ownership as private franchises come to an end, despite overwhelming public support for such a policy.

On all these issues the Green Party offer clear choices and, somehow, their policies need to be more publicised. The right-wing media has no intention of drawing attention to them, even when writing 'news' stories about voting intention opinion polls. Most of the time they ignore the Scottish National Party as well, who may well take a significant number of seats off Labour in Scotland.

In the 1970s I was having articles published about 'stable state' economics and re-distributing wealth both nationally and internationally. I naively thought Labour was up to challenge and had the vision. How wrong I have been! At 70 I no longer have the time to wait for Labour to catch up. I will try and look to the future and support those much younger than me, angry enough, to change how politics in our part of Englands works. We cannot go on with same old politics (and UKIP is very very much part of the Westminster model, cleverly being promoted as something different).

As a political activist of sorts for the last fifty-five years I believe the adage that 'Scratch a Tory and a Fascist bleeds'. The way they demonise immigrants, and penalise the poor and disadvantaged, proves my belief. UKIP are not clever or funny. They are evil and the way they court and seduce working class voters should frighten the socks off us.

Fascism is not just about racism or religion, it is how the ruling class incite society to demonise some specific groups (ie. immigrants, the unemployed, those on benefits etc) as being responsible for the poverty they, the ruling class, have inflicted on the working class to further their own, narrow, agenda. This has been Tory and Liberal policy  since May 2010 and Labour is in grave danger of behaving like a fascist party as well. The Tory leadership attack our liberties and support militarism with enthusiasm. The fact that they wear suits and not uniforms should not blind us to what they are — fascists. It is a truth we refuse to talk about or acknowledge. I write this with a heavy heart, but it has to be said.

I have known Liberal Party activists since I was fifteen and they have always been political opportunists with big egos, middle-class and so much better than the rest of us. With a few notable exceptions, I have never liked them.

Other political parties have 'outsiders' like me, unlike the company they keep. Delusion is a common affliction among political activists, as I can personally attest to. My parting company with the Labour Party nationally (locally it is a different matter) has long been foretold.

Perhaps socialists like me need to help the Greens, who already have a toehold, instead of fielding Left-Unity candidates. Over the next couple of months I will think long and hard about where I will put my energy and support in the run-up to the general election.

FOOTNOTE: * I blogged about voting Green in the 2009 Euro election (see link), but voted for Respect instead. In other Euro elections I have spoilt my ballot paper because I believe the 'list' system (which means I cannot vote for a named individual) is undemocratic.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Small pinboard #2

My second collection of images, all with a story to tell.

No.1 is a mystery location. I found the photograph in Nottingham Local Studies Library labelled as 'Kyte Street, Lenton'. It was too good not to use in a temporary exhibition I was organising in 2006, but more than one former Kyte Street resident told me 'That is not Kyte Street' — hence the mystery.

No.2 is a London Transport 662 trolleybus, which ran from Paddington Green, just off the Edgware Road in Central London, all along the Harrow Road via Harlesden, Craven Park, Stonebridge Park and Wembley to Sudbury. The 662 was very much part of my life until I was eighteen and inspired a poem of sorts (Memories of trollies and Joy).

No.3 is a London Transport 83 bus. Another route I used a lot whilst growing up in Wembley. It still operates much the same route: From Golders Green Station via West Hendon, Kingsbury and Wembley to Ealing Broadway. I remember the chugging purr of its engine, especially on Sundays when it dawdled from stop to stop because it still operated a weekday rush-hour timetable.

No.4 my beloved, sainted Uncle Dave. A photograph I took of him c1959 on top of block of flats in the centre of Harlow New Town he was working on at the time. He was a plumber and active in then Plumbers' Trade Union. He went onto become a Labour Party councillor in Harlow for many years, as did my Auntie Nannie.

No.5 shows the photograph I took of an 'escaped' panda in Lenton Recreation Ground in November 2007 and subsequently blogged about it. Click here to see link. Always makes me smile. I hope it does the same for you.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Bilborough's hidden treasure, a 'Stargate' moment and a sad footnote

Last Friday (26 September) Susan and I took ourselves off to St Martins Church in Bilborough on a 35 bus (just a twenty-five minute bus ride) to learn more about the ongoing Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) 'Hidden Treasure' project to restore this medieval parish church and its Evelyn Gibbs mural from 1946.

It was ninety-minutes well spent, during which time we learnt a great deal and were greatly impressed by the friendliness and enthusiasm of those closely involved with the project. At the end of this post you will find dates of future events. It is really worth attending. You will not be disappointed.

We were originally going on the afternoon visit with TravelRight, but visitors later in the day from my Wembley South Young Socialist days in the early-1960s meant we went to the morning tour instead. By way of a taster and to encourage you to visit, I took some photographs, but first you need to know how to get there. By bus of course, so here is a simple map.

Opposite the Moor Road bus stops is St Martins Road, complete with a sign pointing you in the right direction.

As you walk down St Martins Road you will pass the City Council's Sheila Russell Community Centre which is, without doubt, the prettiest in Nottingham. 

The community centre comes with its own secret garden, which always wows folk who see it for the first time and as my TravelRight 35 Bus Days have proved, a good many local folk did not know the garden existed before I took them to it. I love it. A real, hidden, city gem.

South side view of St Martins Church, Bilborough Village, but not the modern extension you first see as you approach the Church from the north side.

Now for the visit to St Martins Church to see the restoration work. We were welcomed by the Hidden Treasure Project Manager (and Church Warden), Hilary Wheat. On the wall, a projected image of Evelyn Gibbs in her Nottingham Houndsgate studio, probably in the late-1940s. The pub across the way from  her window has gone, replaced by a modern building housing a MacDonalds takeaway, but you can still the windows of her studio on the south side of Houndsgate, across from St Peter's Church and Marks & Spencers. 

We were next treated to an enthusiastic and very informative presentation about the life and works of Evelyn Gibbs by her biographer, Beeston artist Pauline Lucas. This is a fine example of one Evelyn Gibbs's many wartime drawings.

Tobit Curteis, the lead conservator, gave a truly wonderful talk about the history of church murals and how Evelyn Gibbs is part of an ongoing tradition. Towards the end he said 'Conservation? I tell students it's all about drains. Think about it. Water penetration does the most damage'. 

After Tobit we went into the old church, which was being protected from the modern extension and the outside world by a curtain of thick polythene sheeting. As I saw Hilary holding back the curtain so I could pass through, I thought of 'Stargate' (the TV series), which Susan is a great fan of, and how you pass into other worlds and times. For me, and I suspect others, this was one of those moments.

Once inside, Tobit stood on the scaffolding where his two conservator colleagues, Claudia (left) and Bianca (right) were hard at work, whilst he explained all the challenges they face. The lower part of the Evelyn Gibbs mural was covered with emulsion paint back in the 1970s and the top-half hidden from view by a false ceiling put in place when the church extension was built in the 1970s. Because emulsion paint cannot be removed at the present time without stripping away the layers of paint beneath, they are going to re-create the original mural from photographs, then sometime in the future, with the help of techniques Tobit expects to be invented in the next 20–30 years, the emulsion paint can be removed to reveal the lower half too.

I then caught Pauline Lucas looking up at one of the conservators. As you can see she was transfixed. Pauline is author of Evelyn Gibbs: Artist and Traveller published by Five Leaves Publications in 2002. The website says the book is still available, but when I enquired about a copy today I was told it was out of print. At the time Pauline was writing her biography, everyone thought the mural had been lost during the 1970s modernisation. When it was re-discovered, Pauline was one of the first to appreciate its significance and has been closely involved ever since. I am really pleased with this photograph. Pauline is such an engaging speaker that to hear her talking about Evelyn Gibbs is an experience not to be missed. 

Conservator Bianca working on the Angel Gabriel. The ‘Annuciation’ painted at St Martin’s Church in Bilborough in 1946 (which) is thought to be the last surviving example of these works and features Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the Angel Gabriel painted in the local setting, with the church and the old farmhouse behind them (you can read more on the St Martins Hidden Treasure Blog.

Some of my regular readers will know that I have mentioned St Martins in an earlier blog this year and in relation to the 35 History Bus as well. This memorial to the Helwys family of nearby Broxtowe Hall is a tangible link to Thomas Helwys, one of the founders of the Baptist Church. You can argue that it all began here, in St Martins. Another remarkable reminder of why this wonderful little church, in all its otherwise simplicity, is of international significance, with the potential to attract visitors from around the world.

The modern false ceiling also hid from view this wonderful bossed ceailing, Looking at my photograph captures how looking up at it made me feel quite dizzy.

My final photograph of the day shows two other important members of the Hidden Treasure Team. Lesley Owen-Jones, HLF's East Midlands Development Manager, who, according to Hilary Wheat, chased St Martins until they got their funding bid in (which resulted in a £744,100 grant) and Matt Dolman, who is in charge of Volunteering — an important aspect of the Hidden Treasure Project. Behind them Claudia works on the image of Mary.

Lesley also asked me to make the point that HLF very much wants to encourage local funding bids and is clearly enthusiastic about the wider role they can play in increasng local heritage awareness and this, in turn, brings me to an important potential spin-off — the bringing together of a number of local heritage related initiatives coming with a view to creating a local history society for the area.

In a nutshell St Martins Church in Bilborough is at the centre of an area we should be promoting as Nottingham's 'Garden City' and the series of Walking and Cycling Guides by Chris Matthews which have been published by TravelRight. 

Again, these are all things I have blogged about. Through me and John Parker, Chair of Nottinghamshire Local History Association, its Angel Row History Forum (with the support of the Local Studies Library), has been promoting a wider interest in local heritage, especially in areas of the city without local history groups. The following map illustrates this last point and how we may be able to bring groups and individuals together in a common cause as a Nottingham Garden City Heritage Society. The map shows all the areas around and close to St Martin's without any local history group.

Finally, the dates I mentioned for future events at St Martin's Church:

Wednesday 19 November 2014, an evening lecture starts 7pm, The Gibbs Murals: If Walls Could Talk, by Pauline Lucas, £6 (£3 concessions) includes refreshments.

Saturday 29 November 2014, Hidden Treasures Community Party, 3–5pm. Come and celebrate the launch of the Project and find out how you can be involved. Free music and food.

A FOOTNOTE: TUESDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 2014. A report in the Nottingham Post that over the weekend just gone vandals broke into St Martin's Church and did £1,000 worth of mindless damage. Suddenly, it becomes a site 'at risk'. Those responsible have no understanding that it is their heritage, regardless of faith or politics, that they attack. It is, at the end of the day, all about education and community engagement — and the creation of a Garden City Heritage Society could become an important part of the process, getting to every school and community facility in the area. Local history is democratic and greater than the sum of its parts. It is something we all own.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

My stories get a home of their own

I started writing fiction at the beginning of 2011 when I first attended Beeston WEA's Creative Writing Class. I took a break after Christmas last year because I envisaged the whole process of moving would take 7–8 months, I did not expect it to take ten months, but here are, still unmoved. We should know our fate next week, but I decided to rejoin the WEA class this coming Thursday regardless. I have had enough of putting my life on hold.

Listening to Jenni Murray interview Chrissie Hynde on Women's Hour last week made up my mind. It also made up my mind about sharing some of my fiction. Several perevious attempts have come to nothing because I wanted to be inclusive first, Now I intend to be inclusive second. The result is another blog:

Without realising it, my decision coincided with the closing date for the Saturday Night – Sunday Morning (flash) Writing Competition organised by the Nottingham Festival of Words, 13–19 October 2014, to which I have entered two 'flash' stories, and the reading on Radio 4 this week of the five short-listed entries for BBC–Radio 4's 2014 Short Story Competition (the winner will be announced on 30 September 2014).

Just three (very) short stories to start the ball rolling. From now on I will add one a week. I hope you go and have a read and pass on the link if you think anyone else out there might just enjoy one of my stories. A modest hope.

You can connect direct to my new writing blog using this logo, which is at the top of the right-hand column opposite:

On the blog, each story has its own storybox, which links directly to the story in question.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Towns in Britain full of delights

I wrote this book review for The Nottinghamshire Historian, but due to lack of space. it is being held over to the January 2015 edition. In the meantime, I thought I would share it with readers of my blog.

Towns in Britain by Adrian Jones & Chris Matthews, 2014, Five Leaves Publications, B6, 324pp, illus, index, ISBN: 978 1907869822, £16.99, from Five Leaves Bookshop, 14A Long Row, Nottingham NG1 2DH,

This wonderful book, full of delights, is the work of two Nottingham residents (if you include West Bridgford in the city’s orbit), Adrian Jones, a former city planner (has a very good website called Jones the Planner), and Chris Matthews, a Nottingham local historian and graphic designer (see his excellent website, local history and art), offer readers their take on over twenty British towns and cities, from both contemporary and historical perspectives, including Nottingham (‘neither Northern nor Midland’) and much maligned Newport  (‘home of the Mole Wrench’) in Wales. I would have liked chapters on Basingstoke and Milton Keynes, if only to help with my own education, but I am pleased to say they write fondly about Coventry (‘an underrated masterpiece') and sing the praises of garden cities and some new towns.

Their chapter on Leicester (‘a totally uninteresting Midland city?') begins ‘Leicester has a bit of a problem with its image — it hasn’t really got one… it does its best to hide the fact that it is one of England’s most historic cities’. The authors then provide any would-be visitor with the most perfect of guides and all this before Richard III became the city’s crowning historical glory.

What I love about this critique cum guide is the fact that it is full of literary references. On the first page of the Nottingham chapter we get not only the obvious, D H Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe, but the blessed Ian Nairn and J B Priestley as well, all with something pertinent to say about the city in the 21st century. Somehow  Jones  and Matthews manage to throw in a good few references to housing, especially public, all too often forgotten. They do not shy away from the obvious: a truth that, in polite society, dare not speak its name. In Nottingham ‘like most cities, there is a lot of poverty alongside conspicuous wealth… (the) relentless alienation of the dispossessed is painfully captured in Shane Meadows’s films, so much so I can hardly bear to watch’.

Towns in Britain is up there with the best and will not disappoint. Ross Bradshaw hopes to eventually publish as an e-book. In the meantime buy the paperback and read at leisure. Once read you will want to keep it handy — it’s that kind of book.

By way of footnote. This year I have bought a couple of other history/planning/architecture books from Five Leaves Bookshop: Concretopia  by John Grindrod and Ian Nairn: Words in Place, a collection of essays relating to books and articles (which is also now available as an e-book). Be warned(!) Ross Bradshaw's bookshop is very difficult to leave without spending money. Also a book about mapping, which this has prompted me to write something about, so coming soon...