Saturday, 29 July 2017

Stapleford's 'Hemlock Room' — is it bad taste, funny or a point of view?

Yesterday morning I went to my dentist, who is based in Stapleford Care Centre. On the first floor there is this door...

...with a sign saying 'Hemlock Room'.  The other sign on the door says 'Sheila Gibson Unit'.

The Sheila Gibson Unit is what? Well, follow the above link and see for yourself.

My take on the name immediately was that someone was pissed off with the services offered by the Sheila Gibson Unit and was making a statement about them — hemlock is a poison, famously taken by Socrates.

At the other extreme it could be someone making a reference to the town's famous 'Hemlock Stone', but when you realise that the weblink says this is the 'Broxtowe Day Unit (which) offers a range of group and individual therapies for older adults diagnosed with a mental health condition' you may, like me, read the room name and wonder as to how it was chosen?

If the decision to call the it the 'Hemlock Room' is official then it is in bad taste and shows a lack of sensitivity towards older folk with mental health needs or am I just an over-sensitive oldie?

Oh I know posting this will flush out a few nasties keen to say all us oldies are past our sell by dates, so poisoning us all to death is a good idea and if the NHS wants to do it, yippee!

'Uneasy' probably best sums up how I feel about seeing a door in a 'Care Centre' labelled the 'Hemlock Room'.

Friday, 28 July 2017

From a 'beach' in Beeston to Dunkirk in four hours ten minutes

This post has minimal text, just captions as brief as I can make them. Anyone who knows me well will know that brevity does not come easy to me. This post is all about the pictures. At the end you will find a map of the route my walk followed.

'Beeston-on-Sands' has taken over the abandoned town bus station for the duration of the school holidays.  

Excluding Smith's, which sells new books, there is only Oxfam which sells second-hand books...

... 'Book Land' which sells remaindered books, now, as the sign says, either for £1 or £2. Most of the charity shops have small book sections, even the supermarkets now provide racking where customers can leave or pick up a book.

I bought Nottingham Transformed for £2. When published in 2006 the book cost £24.95. Its full of great photographs of Nottingham past and present as well as drawings of proposed future developments at the time of publication. Most of these aspirational visions of the city lost out to the financial crash.

The Sewing Box which is housed on Willoughby Street behind Barnsdales the Butchers, is now selling fabric. Mike Barnes, the owner, was just setting up his outside stall when he got his first customer...

...quickly followed by another. You can find The Sewing Box on my Beeston Vertical map.

Gourmet Delights closed on 2nd December last year. I did a blog at the time. It still stands empty.

You have a measure of how hard it is to let retail units on Beeston High Road when an estate agent as good as C P Walker & Son is forced to do this!

Odin's Table came and went in what seems a matter of months. Now it's another empty Beeston shop.

One person who is making a go of it is Lucy at 2 Little Magpies. Whilst have a wander around her lovely little craft and gift shop I came across these toddle 'London Bus' waistcoats. I have asked her to get me a price for a grown-up version.

I wonder how many folk have noticed the new housing going up behind Home Made Bakery?

It is a development by the long established local builder Hofton & Son on their old Roberts Yard site, comprising of a terrace of ten house. Visit their website to learn more. At £195,000 they are not cheap. Whilst I was taking this photograph Susan and I were invited to have a look around one of the houses. We wanted them to impress but they didn't.

What we did see from the Roberts Yard was the back of a development at the Broadgate end of Marlborough Road, where an old retail unit looks like it's being transformed into housing. The bamboo and fatsia look like they have been there forever.

Susan and I stopped at The Coffee House for a light lunch. It was until recently Mason & Mason, but has been 're-branded' by the owners. It is a cafe we have been visiting since it first opened in 2011. They do lovely salads and have a brunch menu that goes on into the afternoon. It was about 1pm when we sat down to Eggs Benedict and Egg Royale. They really do do a perfect poached egg.

After lunch Susan left me and I began my wander along Broadgate towards Dunkirk. This road sign at the junction of Broadgate and Broadgate Avenue remains in view thanks to the houseowner who trims his hedge to ensure passers by can still see the sign.

And its ditto for Peveril Road.

Along this stretch of Broadgate is a boundary marker dated 1933. To the left it is Beeston (now Broxtowe) and to the right the City of Nottingham (Lenton).
A part of me is loath to share the picture for fear of someone stealing it, but it's worth looking for

The Salthouse Lane road sign has no diligent householder to attend it, so in the absence of City Council care it has been lost from view (well almost)!

I like all my walks to have a bus nearby just in case I get tired or it begins to rain. In this case a Trent-Barton Indigo bus. Its driver has just let off a lady carrying two shopping bags and about to turn into Salthouse Lane. Perhaps she has been to Chilwell Retail Park (M&S Food) or Long Eaton Market rather than Beeston town centre? Someone said once that 'A bus is a community on wheels where people get to know one another and lives get exchanged'

Just beyond the bus is this row of lovely houses with pollarded trees.

At the University end of Broadgate another hidden road sign.

This entrance to part of Nottingham University has to be the best. To see it walk straight across from Broadgate and past the University's controlled west entrance and it's just don on the right.

A very different view of the University from Jubilee Avenue. Behind you is Florence Boot Hall. A few yards to the right and you are walking into Highfields Park.

The waterfall in Highfields Park is not always turned on, but it was last Tuesday. Back in the 1980s and into the 1990s all this was clean enough for me, my children and grandchildren to paddle in. Lack of care and maintenance as the City Council had to deal with budget cuts imposed by central government have seen it silt up...

...Now it's dogs who have all the fun. Off camera a little girl is crying because she can't join the dog!

I have included this picture as large as I can so that in the distance you can see a tram gliding by on a section of reserved track. Between the tram and the park is University Boulevard.

This is part of the footpath which hugs the north side of Highfields lake.

I wait to cross East Drive on the University Campus and into the Lakeside Arts Centre as a City Transport 34 bus goes by. The students have gone and it's coming up to 3.30pm but the bus has quite a few passengers. NCT have worked hard over many years to establish this route, so it is disappointing to see in County Council's August 2017 list of bus service changes that from September the 34 will run during term times only. 

Inside the Arts Centre a dinosaur grabs my attention. It's a free spinoff off the dinosaur exhibitiion currently on in Wollaton Hall.

To read the signage telling you more about the dinosaur, click on the image to enlarge.

In the Art Centre's cafe I sit for awhile sipping my Dandelion & Burdock (no ice) and catch a tram passing by. There can't be many better places to sit if you want to watch trams go by.

Outside I catch this pic of a tram as it glides past the Arts Centre on its way to Nottingham City Centre, Bulwell and Hucknall.

Then I crossed University Boulevard (or is it Beeston Road at this point?) and caught sight of the footpath beside Tottlebrook, which takes me to Dunkirk and my destination, a car repair bodyshop beside Beeston Cut, where I am having a dent and some scratches (of my own making) removed from our car.

Along sections I have to brush the blackberries away which dangle in front of me. I eat a good few as I go.

The footpath and Tottlebrook bend just before I reach Dunkirk. Not a sound apart from the brook and the birds which seem to occupy every tree and bush. 

Then I burst out onto Montpelier Road at its junction with Claude Street. Not quite a war zone, but look to the right (see pic below) as well and you can be forgiven for thinking that parts of Dunkirk are in need of attention and restoration.

As far as I'm concerned landlords, the University and the City Council are responsible, but a good few of what remaining locals there are blame 'students'.
Dunkirk housing stock is c.80% student housing and it forms part of historic Lenton — hence the City Council ward name, Dunkirk and Lenton (which I can say Susan and I are truly responsible for).

The arguments which rage around Brexit mirror the arguments which have raged around university expansion and accommodation since the 1980s. The incomers are blamed — not those who encouraged them to come in the first place, then failed to provide accommodation and the extra services and facilities needed to manage more people.

There are some lovely Victorian semis and terraces in Dunkirk, a good few of which are adorned with ceramic tiles like these. All different, put together by workman as it took their fancy on the day. I'm sure there is a dissertation on them waiting to researched and published.

My very last picture, and bleak as it appears, is my favourite. The end of Montplelier Road. To the left of this pic is a low railway bridge, as grubby as this broken window and broken panes of glass. Dunkirk gets more depressing every visit I make. Those who hang on, working to keep what community that's left alive are local heroes. Once I was one of them. Not any more. I imagine an independent Dunkirk, in charge of its own destiny (as I do every neighbourhood).

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Rosie Lea's Tea Room comes to Beeston with homemade cake and tea, plus lunchtime treats

I only found it today, so some of you may have been there already. A lovely lady called Rosemary opened for business two weeks ago on 17 July in the little cafe on Wilkinson Street at the Council Offices end.

It used to be home to Time for Tea until Laura moved to Wollaton Road.

It's early days yet, but the fruit cake is good and I love Rosie Lea's bright and airy feel — a trick which is difficult to pull off in such a small space as this.

I have already updated the online version of my unique Beeston 'Vertical Map'. Below is the section showing Wilkinson Street, with Rosemary's Rosie Lea's Tea Room bang in the middle!

So why not go and meet Rosemary for yourself and enjoy some her cake. She's an 'Essex Girl' — something she told me after I picked up on her lovely voice. Me being a 'Middlesex Boy' gave me a head start. My maternal Nanna was from Essex and I have close family there still, so I have a soft spot for the county

I wish Rosemary every success and will be going back soon for some of that fruit cake!

My good intentions go splat!

Doing a weekend Beeston Week post has very quickly become a challenge, so I would be less than honest if I did not say future postings are likely to be, at best, occasional. 

Why? Well, I am drawing more maps and have just completed a map for Nottingham University Students' Union which they intend to use in their 2017 Kegworth Student Guide. Like other maps I do it is stylised so that more locations and facilities can be shown than would be the case if the map was geographical. Already I have thoughts as to how I can improve it, but this happens after every map I create.  So, here's a sneak preview (click on map to enlarge):

I also want to make time to type up some of the stories I have written, so I can post them to my writing blog ( I also need to work on my stories in the same way as I do my maps, then there is my blog about growing up in Wembley ( and where a lot has been happening recently, not least discovering at 73 that I have a half-brother nine years older than me and three dead half-sisters, plus the name of my father. Four months ago all these things were beyond my expectations. It was enough to know, thanks to a DNA test in early-2016, that I was 55% Irish. The 28% Scandinavian and only 6% British came as total surprise!

My 35 History Bus activities have been on the increase with Nottingham City Transport giving St Martin's Church in Bilborough a bus a few Saturdays ago so that we could take passengers on a ride through Nottingham history. The day was a great success and, yes, this activity comes with a blog! ( The next 35 day will be in October 2017 and there is just an outside possibility that NCT will, next year, brand the 35 as Nottingham's first history bus and for this I want to update my blog and all the associated maps and information I have. So plenty to do.

Then there are my 'Beeston Bus Boxes' which I parked over a year ago as I began to slow down and prepare for open heart surgery. Now I am better, I want to work on re-launching the bus boxes with the support of a couple of Beeston businesses, so watch this space. Below is one of the Nottingham Bus Boxes, but even in Beeston the London Routemaster boxes are more popular (I do routes to order for a small premium).

I am also planning to gather all my maps together in one blog: I have posted a holding entry and only got the blog a couple of days ago, so it will be a few weeks before it will be worth looking at.

Oh, all this and I have yet to mention the garden and my runner beans. The garden is a great source of pleasure and I want to devote more time to it, so yet another thing to do. I also have a couple iof ailments which ensure the NHS want to see me every now and again. Only one of which is life threatening, even though at present I am symptom free. I still consider myself 'one lucky bunny'.

Over the next couple of days I have two more posts I want to do. One is short and will follow this one. The other is my walk on Tuesday from Beeston to Dunkirk, with lunch along the way, and close, in my book, to a perfect day, so on Sunday if you want some weekend reading with plenty of pics pay Beeston week a visit. These are a two of the pics I will be sharing with you:

Hundreds walk pass this boundary marker every day. Do you know where it is?

...and these blackberries were hanging in front of my face, together with thousands around me. They will probably all be ready for picking come the weekend, so I will tell where they are, well sort of. They are on either side of the public footpath which runs beside Tottlebrook between Highfields Park and Dunkirk
(I ate a good few as I went along).

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Two history Saturdays and seeing what one never ever expected to see

To begin with next Saturday, 8 July 2017. I am reprising my 35 bus history day out from Bulwell to Angel Row Central Library thanks to St Martin's Church, Bilborough, and Nottingham City Transport.

I only received the poster yesterday evening, so apologies for the short notice. Somehow I have been morphed into a 'tour guide' — not a claim I would make for myself, but I am not going to argue about. I'm not even sure of the 'historian' bit, given that I have been so busy consuming history that I have done little original research from primary sources.

I have posted another take on the 35 bus route using a 1959 Nottingham street map on my History By Bus blog.

Last Saturday I spent the best part of the day at the newly opened Canalside Heritage Centre by Beeston Lock helping on the Beeston & District Civic Society stall. It was an interesting day and saw the launch of my latest Beeston map. It seemed to be well received and got me into a good few discussions, as did the Civic Society display. There is undoubtedly a lot of interest in what is going to happen to the old Beeston Bus Station and Fire Station site. Most of those I spoke to were of the view that Beeston will end up getting less than it hopes for because developers promise one thing and deliver another. Experience suggests this is a reasonable view. Wanting a cinema came up time and again. Judy Sleath, the Civic Society's Chair worked her socks off last Saturday and, at times, those speaking with her seem to think she was Broxtowe Borough Council. With luck, she made have persuaded a couple of folk to join and think about becoming actively involved.

There was plenty going on all day and long queues for food. The view across to Clifton Hall is something special. A good day by any measure and from a conversation I overheard between two people wearing 'Trustee' badges they were pretty pleased too.

I left at 4-15pm, when the Canalside Heritage Centre's first day open to the public was fifteen minutes away from ending by which time there had been just over 2,200 visitors. Not a bad start by any measure.

I was too busy to take photographs, but I did manage a few. No captions, except to say that the last photograph is of my next door neighbours. I hope you enjoy them.

For me the big event of the week and, in some ways, one of the big events of my life (which is quite a claim to make at 73) was seeing a photograph of my father, someone I never knew, nor did I know the name of for sure until Wednesday. Before mid-April 2017 I had no idea of who my father might be. 

At my mother's funeral in 2006, my one remaining uncle confirmed my father was Irish, something I suspected after my one and only row with my maternal grandfather back in the early-1960s. He had said, at the time, 'It's the bloody Irish in you'. It wasn't something the family spoke about and I did not trust my mother to tell me the truth, so I never asked her about my father.

When I was growing up in the centre of Wembley in a three bedroom semi-detached house we always had lodgers in the front upstairs bedroom. For a long time it was two Irish ladies, who I called 'Auntie Lily' and 'Auntie Mary'. Both their names appear on electoral roll entries for the house between 1946 and 1952. It was house into which people came from what like seemed the world to me — Ireland, India, Belgium, Poland, Australia. Scotland didn't count as I had two Scottish aunties from Grantown-on-Spey, somewhere I regarded as a second home whilst I was growing up, then my mother married my step-father, who was from Glasgow. Back then, racism was directed at the Irish and Jews. There were not enough coloured faces about to take any notice of then and, anyway, what few there were, went to the same church as me. When I found out that I might be half-Irish I was proud of the fact.

In early-2015 a DNA test via the Ancestry website, which Susan organised, told me I was 55% Irish, 28% Scandinavian, 8% British, 3% Iberian, 3% West European and 3% Russian-Finnish. So, for the first time in my life, I knew the Irish story about my unknown father was true.  Then in April this year whilst recovering from my open heart surgery, a ping on the Ancestry website alerted us to the fact that a DNA match for a '2nd cousin' had been found. At this point we knew no more. After Susan exchanged a couple of emails with the person we knew we had found the Irish connection and at this point, just possibly, a half-brother. In May the person in question had a DNA test and last week it was established for sure that we are half-brothers. I also found out about three half-sisters to add to the two I already have. Sad to say all three of the half-sisters who share my Irish father died young, so I wll never get to meet them, but at some point before too long I hope to meet my half-brother for the first time.

You will have noticed I mention no names. This is because this is not my story to tell in any detail and I will almost certainly write about it with the person who established the link back in mid-April. We have come a long way in less than three months and there is still a way to go.

On Wednesday I did next to nothing, seeing a photograph of my father, knowing the DNA result confirmed this, was an overwhelming experience. Finding out I was Irish for sure was something I never expected, then when DNA testing came along and it got cheaper, it became a possibility (Susan paid £134 for our DNA tests with Ancestry at the end of 2015, now they can cost as little as £50). That this would lead me to people who already see me as part of their family is also overwhelming. We speak on the telephone like family and will have our first meeting in the next few weeks.

It is a story full of amazing coincidences, as one so often hears, especially if you watch 'Long Lost Families' on ITV or 'Who Do You Think You Are?' on BBC-TV. My half-brother and I share a name, as do our wives and grand-daughters. Our maternal grandparents brought us up.

Do I see me in my father? The answer is 'no', but I do catch a glimpse of my son, and in my half-brother, who is nine years older than me I catch a shared smile. Once we meet, other mannerisms will come into view. The take of close friends and family who have seen the photographs is mixed. Some see similarities whilst others see none.

Growing up in 1940s and 50s there were plenty of other children around you without fathers, most killed in the Second World War. Not having a father was not a problem for me. I had my maternal grandfather who I called 'Pop'. I did know other kids who began to develop problems when they got into their mid and late-teens. Even I was nervous about telling the girl who was to become my first wife, but it made no difference. No one ever reproached for not knowing who my father was so it has simply never mattered to me as anything other than as something I was curious about and, occasionally, my children would ask me about.

Of course I wanted to know, but I have lived my life never expecting to know, so when I did find out for sure this week I say I was 'overwhelmed'. I may have actually been in shock. All I know is that, as I have done throughout my life, I went to bed early, slept soundly and woke up on Thursday as if I had always known my half-brother and my father.

DNA tests are enabling others like me to make familial connections they never knew they had. Thinking about it, what has happened to me in the last three months could happened to you!