Sunday, 25 October 2015

Unworldy folk you can see in Beeston this week

Sitting at a window seat in the Metro Café on Beeston High Road, either a person who has had to wait a little too long for his or her coffee, or an early arrival waiting to celebrate Halloween. I suspect it's the latter.

There was a dog too, looking a little grumpy if you ask me. All he wanted was a walk and a biscuit and, instead, he ends up dead and in a café window. Full marks to Metro. I wonder how many have walked passed and not noticed this enterprising nod.

Beeston Nursery near the railway station also caught my attention with these figures against their front fence. Very PC in more ways than one. Only one woman in red, everyone else is in blue. Is this a hidden message of some sort?

Finally, a poster from a enjoyable temporary exhibition, Alan Kitching and Monotype, in the Bonington Gallery at Nottingham-Trent University's city centre campus which, unfortunately ended yesterday. Two walls of the Gallery were full of posters, including this one, 'Carfree, Carefree' by Abram Games, dated 1967. I asked permission to take this photograph of the poster.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A Beeston (housing) elephant in the room

Earlier this year I drew attention to a growing problem in Beeston (click here to read post from February 2015). See also page about student accommodation in right-hand column. The increasing number of rented houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). Then it was a Labour led Broxtowe Borough Council showing no interest. Now it's a Conservative led Broxtowe Borough Council showing no interest.

The BBC's online magazine has just run a story about HMOs in Blackpool (click here to read). It makes grim reading whilst making the point that Blackpool is one of the better councils when it comes to enforcement, which suggests that where councils, like Broxtowe, are lax when it comes to regulating private rented housing, the lives and wellbeing of tenants is at risk. This is happening, right now, in Beeston. Of course I cannot prove this claim on my part, but it is an educated guess I would like to see put to the test by the systematic inspection and registration of every privately rented property in the borough.

All I want is that every private landlord is subject to the same regulations and control as housing associations and local authorities. I suspect that many private landlords would close up at the first opportunity.

It is an issue I know something about. I was a supported housing manager from 1985 until I retired in 2006. For a good few years I was on the board of Nottingham Hostels Liaison Group (HLG). Housing really is the elephant in the room politicians are happy to ignore (nearby Nottingham City Council is a notable exception).

As a owner occupier, I have to pay for all my own maintenance and have to pay VAT in the process, whereas private landlords can reclaim the VAT if they are VAT registered and set the cost of all the work they do on their property against profits, so that they pay less tax (perhaps no tax) — something else I cannot do as a owner occupier.

I have long been of the view that housing and homelessness is the biggest issue facing our country. It is a issue I will return to, but for now all I ask is that you take a few minutes to read / watch the BBC news report.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A Beeston Companion tweaked — now with pics

I have tweaked my Beeston Companion map so that copies can be taken to Italy (I will post a link when I have one). I have added a few photographs. Usual thing, click on the map and it should enlarge.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Little Beeston things

Seen on a side entrance in the centre of Beeston. How can it not bring a smile to your face. 

For the past couple of weeks I have been peeling windfalls from our three apple trees. If I don't collect them up daily, they soon go over and the freezer compartment on our fridge is close to bursting with frozen cooked apples (and plums from a month ago). Walking around Beeston, I have lost count of the number of apple trees I have seen laden with unpicked fruit. In the end, because of maggots, I end up throwing away half the apples I peel, but the delicious taste of home-cooked apples makes the effort all worth while.

Last Saturday (10 October) marked a big change in my life. From the age of sixteen in 1960, I have always been doing something; holding down a voluntary post of some kind and organising events or campaigns of some kind. Last year I gave up committees and in the past couple of months I have attended two committees as an observer of sorts. Both occasions further convinced me that I made the right decision last year when I reached seventy.

Now, back to last Saturday, when I took the lead in organising a 'historyfest' at Nottingham Central Library on Angel Row in Nottingham City Centre. Click here to see a report on the Our Nottinghamshire website. I had already made up mind that it was going to be the last thing I will ever organise. From now on I will just be a helper, supporting friends and groups I like as and when I please. After fifty-six years of continuous voluntary activity I have had enough.

I began the summer being told I had 'established fibrosis of the lungs', which cannot be treated. After lots of tests and hospital visits it got a name: Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) and I also learnt that, at some point, I will need open heart surgery because I have a dicky heart, but just to complicate things, the symptoms for both conditions are as good as identical.

Yet, despite, all this, I have had a great summer and feel, physically and mentally, better now than I have for a long time. I am doing what I have been told, avoiding crowds and I am about to abandon buses for the winter, since I am told my immune system is weak and just catching a cold or the flu can be life threatening. This kind of diagnosis is hard to take in, even less believe, but I have to believe it — I owe it to my family and those who love me.

Throughout my life I have been blessed in so many ways, even though to an outside observer, this may seem strange. Perhaps this winter I will finally begin writing a memoir of sorts for my grandchildren, if the maps and stories I want to write to do not get in the way.

Last Sunday morning I was out delivering for the Labour Party, walking up and down Beeston front paths, looking at the everyday, like those apple trees I mentioned earlier. It really was a pleasure and over the next two weeks I can look forward to a string of friends and family visiting, some staying, for a number of reasons. Life in my 'little Beeston' is never dull. The world really does come to me.

A PS...

Two of the local history groups which took part in the Historyfest  on 10 October were from Beeston and Toton:

Gill Morral and Carole White were wearing two hats - Friends of Toton Fields and Beeston & District LHS. Their display was very impressive and Gill has offered to take me on a personal guided tour of Toton. I hope to take her offer up before too long and, when I do, I will share my visit on this blog.

In 2012, Carrina Harrison and Graham Hopscroft came along on the day and were squeezed into corner. Then the Canalside Heritage Trust based at Beeston Lock was weeks old. Now they are a Lottery funded heritage project which may well be open this time next year and they had a very different story to tell at this year's fair. Before I got my diagnosis, they are a group I would have liked to help, but now I will cheer them on from the sidelines instead.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Nottingham council housing gets its own history with the publication of Homes and Places

I bought Homes and Places from the Five Leaves Bookshop stall at the Angel Row Historyfest on Saturday. It is a history of Nottingham council housing.

By chance I have a photograph of Matt on the Five Leaves Bookshop stall selling me Homes and Places, along with Ten Poems about Nottingham, which has also just been published.

Now, where was I? Ah yes. I have just finished reading Homes and Places and happen to know Chris Matthews and Dan Lucas, who were closely involved in writing and publishing the book. It is such a work of reference, that I will have to create myself an index and chronology. 

The book contains a full-colour map from 1932 showing the extent of Nottingham's council housing at the time and next Tuesday, by chance, I am hoping to see the map when I visit the Special Collections Library at Kings Meadow with the WEA Beeston mapping class I am a member of. I did not expect to have Homes and Places with me.

I look forward to reading extracts on the Municipal Dreams blog/website (which posted a contribution in May 2014 by City Councillor Alex Ball about the city's first council housing and is my favourite website). 

Also congratulations to Chris on the book's layout. I love the white space and a gutter which didn't break whilst I read the book (a real failing with many books today!).

Homes and Places has seven chapters which chart the history of council housing in Nottingham, beginning with 'The Old Problem' and ending with 'To Build Again 2005–2015'. From what knowledge I have of council housing (I was a regional and national supported housing officer with a housing association for twenty years) and from my twenty-two years working as Reviews Editor for Local History Magazine, I know a good local history when I read one and, I promise you, this is good!

I have led a few walks around Lenton looking at public and charitable housing and on my old Parkviews blog, I document several of Chris Matthews's TravelRight walks around Aspley, Bilborough, the Broxtowe and Strelley estates (both in the city — not the Borough of Broxtowe). No person in Nottingham is better qualified than Chris to have written this history, and with Dan backing him, the result is an exceptional local history, for that is what it is — local history.

Homes and Places offers a great focus for further research and, perhaps, the creation of a local history group devoted to promoting the Nottingham's great garden city heritage (which I hope will cover the conurbation, as Beeston Fields, where I live, is very much in the Nottingham style in terms of layout and architecture).

Council housing needs its champions and in Chris and Dan Nottingham has two champions it can be proud of. You have to believe to write local history like Homes and Places.

In a couple of weeks I will read it again and see what sticks in my head when read a second time.

Truly wonderful stuff which swells the heart and puffs out the chest.

I plan to write a longer post about the book and council housing sometime in the next few weeks. Right now I simply want to draw attention to Homes and Places. At £9.99 from Five leaves Bookshop in the city centre, it is a bargain, worth its weight in gold. 

Five Leaves is the best bookshop we have in the conurbation and it deserves our support. To access the bookshop at 14A Long Row, opposite the City Centre Tourist Information Office, you need to walk down the narrow passage leading to the Coral betting shop (there is a sign pointing the way to Five Leaves, but smokers can block it from view). I will also do a post about Five Leave, so watch this space...


From the back of our Lenton home on Devonshire Promenade, where we lived for thirty-five years, until we moved to Beeston last November, you could see the New Lenton high-rise flats. The photograph below is from 2008 and I have never used it before. It does not do Lenton's five high-rise tower blocks justice, for they were coloured pink by the setting sun, but you can glimpse every tower and I have to admit to being sad that four have been demolished, with the final tower (Newgate Court) about to go. I understand why. I believe they were a great achievement and were loved by many until their very end. Other high-rise flats were not so lucky and with good reason.

Susan grew up in a council house in Tipton, in the heart of the Black Country, and my parents lived in a council flat in Eastbourne until they died a few years ago. My aunt and uncle in Harlow, both Labour Party councillors, never bought their council house because they opposed the sale of council houses, so I am sure you can understand why I welcome Homes and Places with a passion, added to which we now lived in a former Beeston Fields council house.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

A Beeston miscellany of sorts

 Seen on the boot of a VW in Beeston. Very timely.

A view of the trees in Broadgate Recreation Ground which line its border along Humber Road. You have to be in the park to really appreciate this wonderful line of trees. 

I took these two pics of duvets outside Beeston's Linen Box shop on 15 September, about the time the students were due back. I thought the shop was very enterprising and I just hope enough students arrived without duvets for them to sell out. 

Hallam's garden centre on Beeston High Road is very different out back. I would love there to be a large botanical garden in the town or close by. Birmingham and Kew have them and there is, of course. the Eden Project. I would settle for something simple. Perhaps we could turn the High Road into a long atrium and use the heat from the shops to grow exotic plants along its length?

A very rare beast which I intend to write about in a future blog quite soon. A YourBus X36 — a missed opportunity by YourBus to get ahead of the game. Come back next week and I will tell you more. Enough to know that Susan and I came back from the QMC on it, with just the driver and one of his colleagues for company, non-stop all the way to Wollaton Road.

The City Council's subsidised L10 LocalLink bus did a lot better, as everyone waiting at the stop when we got off the X36 boarded the L10.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Beeston Oxfam venues map and a ride into the past

It's been two weeks since my last post because we went away for a week to Lowestoft in Suffolk. I was claiming a 70th birthday present from last year, which my daughter organised — a visit to the East Anglia Museum of Transport, so that I could ride on one of these...

... a old London trolleybus, aI almost certainly travelled on this actual trolleybus as a child and a teenager. I was seventeen when trolleybuses disappeared from Wembley, by which time I was travelling to work on a 662 six days a week in Harlesden. In fact, inside, beside the bench seat, the route information panel was for a 662. 

Every year, on the last Saturday in September, the Museum stays open until 10pm, so that visitors can ride on trolleybuses in the dark. Our grown-up grand-daughters (aged 27 and 24) clearly enjoyed riding on trolleybuses and the occasional tram for hours and we had several trips on this particular trolleybus during the day.

I am a great fan of trolleybuses and feel blessed to have grown up using them every week. The ride in 2015 was as smooth and quiet as in the 1940s, 50s and early-60s, before they disappeared from London's streets for ever. We rode on trolleybuses from Derby, Newcastle and Bournemouth as well. 

Our afternoon and evening at the Museum was the highlight of a very enjoyable holiday staying in Lowestoft — a place we will go to again, so that we can explore the town and its nearby neighbour, Great Yarmouth, more closely. Both are 'working' seaside towns and I enjoyed both far more than our visits to Cromer and, even, Southwold, where we holidayed for a few years until it was 'discovered' and it became too expensive.

Back home I have been putting the final touches to plans for the last Angel Row HistoryFest I am organising with Nottingham Local Studies Library, which takes place this coming Saturday (10 October) in the exhibition area on the 1st floor of Nottingham Central Library from 11am until 3pm.

Today I quickly produced a map for The Beestonian to help publicise the Beeston (music) Oxfam on Saturday 17 October. It shows all fifteen Oxfam venues:

Usual rule applies. Click on the map to enlarge.

There is plenty to write about once I get back into the swing of things and this coming Saturday marks a big milestone for me. I gave up on committees when I reached 70 last year and now just help, even if means I attend the occasional meeting. At 71 I have stopped organising things. I can do my maps, write and blog at my pace and help folks in ways I enjoy. No longer do I feel driven to do something because I believe I should.