Wednesday, 26 November 2008

A community to let

It’s that time of the year again, when the ‘to let’ signs go up all around Lenton, as the private landlords and their agents compete for new student tenants, who will not move in until the end of summer 2009 — which is still some nine months away.

Given that about 80% of the people who live in Lenton are students (the official classification is ‘in full-time education’), it feels as if the whole of Lenton is to let. A few of us stay put because we want to, others regard themselves as having no choice. A couple of years ago quite a few landlord houses were still empty at the beginning of the new university year in September and some locals thought the number of students wanting to live in Lenton had peaked. The reason for this was the development in and around the area of new-build apartment blocks, with modern, hi-tech, facilities.

This year I could count the number of empty landlord houses on one hand. It seems, if a recent housing survey of Nottingham students is to be believed, they prefer living in houses to apartments — which is good news of sorts. It shows that are no different to most of us and that we share one thing in common at least.

I have no problem with students making up a large chunk of Lenton’s population and, properly managed, the positives far outweigh the negatives. However, I would limit the number of registered ‘shared’ houses to 25% of any street. This would still mean students making up 50–60% of Lenton’s residents.

Some of us have been arguing and campaigning for tighter housing regulations and controls for over twenty years and, yes, whilst there are signs that Nottingham City Council and Nottingham University are beginning to address the challenge (I don’t like the word ‘problem’ in this particular case), it is still happening too slowly.

For my part, I believe we have to take as much power as we can into our own hands if we want to tackle the situation we face in a positive way, which benefits both students and long-term residents — which is where my campaign for a Lenton (and Dunkirk) urban parish council comes in.

The City Council continues to collude with developers (eg. Dunkirk Fire Station site) and to show nothing but disdain for Dunkirk and Lenton — or is it contempt? Either way, on a cold, wet, miserable day like today, it really does seem that Lenton is ‘a community to let’.

Furniture and kitchens specialist MFI has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators, it was confirmed this afternoon. A notification of the company's intention to file for administration was lodged at the high court last night and staff were told at meetings this morning that the store chain was about to fold, putting thousands of jobs at risk. The group was today offering 70% discounts on its website, with free delivery.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Blind Alleys

This is my first blog in a fortnight. I have been distracted by my new website and all the possibilities it is opening up for me in terms of self-expression — not that I need give myself any encouragement, as I have been expressing myself vocally and in writing since I was a teenager.
In the midst of doing work on my website, I found myself providing Nottingham City Council with information about a historic footpath and, probably, a road at sometime in the past, which runs between Lenton and Nottingham city centre. It led me on to creating a web-page about ‘Lenton short-cuts’. And now, this has led me onto pondering blind alleys.

Talking to a friend yesterday evening, she told me that she and her sister started to walk into Nottingham and took what they believed to be a short-cut. Half way along, they decided to turn back for fear that the gate at the other end would be locked. So, rather than take a chance, they turned around and headed home.

The story could be an allegory for so many things. Our own lives, politics, work, you name it. If you think about it, all our major decisions in life are like blind alleys. Acts of faith. Even believing we can see the other end of a path does not mean we can be sure of what we will see, or find, when we get to the other end.

In my last blog I referred to the need for me to do some pruning in my old age. To say this is often greeted with the cry ‘You are not old’. As a rising-65, within a few months of my Old Age Pension, I know different! I am aware of my mortality, even though I have no intention of sitting around waiting for the end to come. There is still much I want to do and enjoy.

And how does this relate to ‘blind alleys?’. Simply, at my age I want to avoid them if I can
Eco-inventors in Canada they have found the solution to the world's worsening water shortages by drawing the liquid of life from an unlimited and untapped source - the air. The company, Element Four, has developed a machine that it hopes will become the first mainstream household appliance to have been invented since the microwave. Their creation, the WaterMill, uses the electricity of about three light bulbs to condense moisture from the air and purify it into clean drinking water.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Living like a tree


I have always felt a great affinity to trees. They have always seemed possessed of magical properties. We live our lives like trees. We begin as a seed, we grow, then burst forth upon the world and some of us are lucky enough not to be trampled under foot. Just how many other saplings didn’t make it at the same time as I was growing because of lack of water and nutrition, or proper care, will have run into tens of millions. It still does.

I can’t remember when I first made the connection between a winter tree without leaves and our own lungs. Turn a tree bear of leaves upside down and you get an image which could be taken as a reflection of the tree’s root system. I think I was a child, perhaps nine or ten years old, and I was going through one of those medical books which had big page diagrams of bodies, which folded open layer by layer to reveal all our internal organs. And there, in front of me was a lung! It looked like an upside down tree. The connection made in that moment between me and a tree has never left me.

If you are still with me, then thank you. You must be thinking by now ‘What’s the silly old fart on about this time?’. Well, as the sapling inside us grows it develops branches and by the time you get to 64 you have a myriad of them. In our case a branch equates to family, friends, an activity or an interest, but like the tree to keep them alive you have to feed and water them. The trouble is that you can’t feed every branch or twig, so some whither and die. They fall off. As I suspect you already realise, the analogies between us and trees could fill a book, so I will stop here.


It is suffice to say that here I am in a state of retirement and fully aware of the fact that I do not have the energy or time to feed and care for all the branches I have grown over the years, so the time has come for some drastic pruning of my own. At the moment it feels like I am contemplating self-mutilation, rather than something which will help me be healthier and more able to enjoy the future which awaits me.
With this new style blog and website I am doing what even old trees do — attempting to grow a few new branches here and there, better suited for the new environment I find myself in.

I plan to use the tree image on the first page of parkviews.org. when I can make the time to add it. The tree is in Lenton Recreation Ground, across from our living room front window. I see it every day and have decided to take its picture every day for the next year or so and to use it as my symbol of life in Lenton. I may well improve the image, but this is my first attempt at such a thing. Look upon the tree and reflect upon what you see. It is nothing less than an image of you.


Haiti begun a period of national mourning yesterday for the victims of a school that collapsed in the capital, Port-au-Prince. The church-run school collapsed on Friday, killing at least 84 staff and children and injuring more than 150. Officials subsequently revealed that the building had suffered a partial collapse eight years ago and had been rebuilt. An inquiry has been demanded into the appalling state of the building's construction.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

America's joy



This morning Susan and I sat in bed at 7am watching news of Barack Obama’s historic win in the United States Presidential election with tears in our eyes as he attributed his victory to those who believed when other doubted, who began his campaign for office, not in Washington but as he said himself, with such elegance, on porches in Virginia, doorsteps in Iowa and in the homes of thousands across America.

Here I am in Lenton pre-occupied most of the time with all things local who, at the end of every blog, gives a nod in the direction of the wider world. What makes Obama so exciting and different to any other politician I can think of, is that he recognises the importance of ordinary people and communities, who live their lives a world away from Washington or global affairs. That it is not to say that they are uninterested. I believe the reverse to be true.

I follow a blog posted by a Democrat living in a small town called Dryden in upper New York State, close to a large university town. In the last year or so he’s gone domestic. He and his wife now have a baby and chickens, but he continues to provide an insight into American life away from the big cities. I know from emails I exchange with a friend, who lives in nearby Ithaca that Obama won the support of local Democrats in the primaries, right here in Hiliary Clinton’s backyard.

In the early days of the primaries I could not choose between Clinton or Obama. Either, assuming they won, would represent momentous change for America, but what my friend told me about Obama made me appreciate just how different he was and I thought she should know, as she has a son, who has been part of Obama’s backroom team as an energy adviser.

As avid fans of West Wing, Susan and I have been watching the re-run on More-4 TV and Senator Santos has just made his first appearance. We know what to expect. We have seen it all before, but we can’t remember the detail. When we first watched West Wing we thought ‘if only…’ and this morning the fairy tail has become a reality.

Millions around the world will be blogging today about Obama’s victory and what it means for America and, yes, us here in Lenton, in inner-city Nottingham. Of one thing I am sure, from today we are much closer than we have ever been before in so many ways.

Americans placed their faith in Barack Obama today, overcoming a past of slavery and segregation, and electing the first African-American to the US presidency.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Meet Joe

This is a double post to both my new blog and to my old blog. I have decided to keep the two overlapped for a month or so whilst I slowly, but surely, move links across from my old blog to my new website. I have already decided that I was being over ambitious to include a Lenton ‘news’ page, so I have got rid of it. The new website will concentrate on my blog, Lenton (and Nottingham) walks and parks. At first I will concentrate on parks I already know about and add others as I visit them.

In the meantime, meet Joe. He’s a community support police officer and his ‘superbeat’ includes Lenton Recreation Ground, where I saw him on Sunday morning. During the winter, there is no staff permanent staff in the park at weekends, but there are plans to have regular visits from members of the new Nottingham Parks Ranger Service. Until this gets under way, Joe will continue to visit.

Finally, Susan has cracked the problems with uploading my website to the Internet, so you can now reach me direct at www.parkviews.org. It has even been arranged so that I can update the website myself, without bothering Susan.

The police officers who shot Jean Charles de Menezes appeared panicky and "out of control". Anna Dunwoodie, who was two or three seats to the left of the 27-year-old, when he boarded the train at Stockwell underground station in south London, told the inquest that she was certain the officers did not shout any warning before they opened fire.


Sunday, 2 November 2008

Up and running sort of!

Just a quick post to tell you that my new website is up and running sort of! I have been able to make a link via an Apple site, but not direct from the connection Susan uses to post Local History Online. So, to see my new Parkviews website and to get a taste of the what you can expect over the coming months,you have to visit http://web.me.com/kphoward/Parkviews/Welcome.html