Viewpark Glen, North Lanarkshire, Scotland

‘Oor Glen’.

The lovely Viewpark Glen and former Douglas Support Estate in Lanarkshire was certainly a memorable part of my childhood. Memorable because my father took me there as a boy when visiting my grandmother who lived on Alexander Avenue in the solidly working class Viewpark housing scheme nearby. A place I came to step on a train in Nottingham and head up for summer holidays with my father’s family.

It was very much inhabited by mining communities back in the day, where the people of Viewpark, Uddingston, Bellshill and other local communities would earn a living the hard way, in long, hard shifts down the many former coal mines in the area.

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(Viewpark Glen. Images source: unknown)
I owe a debt of gratitude to those who captured the stunning views shown throughout.
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Bellshill and environs historically had many a famous son and daughter, especially in the field of football players. Back in the day, those all-time greats, the legendary Alex James of Arsenal and Preston North End and Hughie Gallagher of Newcastle United, Chelsea and others learned their trade in junior football in the town. Another legend, Sir Matt Busby from the village of Orbiston also trod the same path. Viewpark itself boasted two bona fidelatter day greats in wingers, Jimmy Johnstone of Celtic and John Robertson of Nottingham Forest. There have been literally dozens of others too.

However, I digress. As a stark counterpoint to the gritty and hard living presented in this area of North Lanarkshire was ‘Oor Glen’. Viewpark Glen felt quite a mystical and mysterious place to me as a child – especially leaving the rows of houses and little roads behind and descending into what felt almost like another world – one of considerable beauty. It was a place to play, to explore and for me, a place I could be together with my dad, amongst the quite unexpected flora and fauna. The peace, the quiet.

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It owns a history too. Beaker Folk roamed and hunted in this glen with bows and arrows in 2000 BC, paving the way to an eventful later history with its Roman remnants, the Red Douglas family and all. This is not meant as an exaustive review of the area by any means but truly, this is a place that is well worth researching.

A place that holds a piece of my heart and family memories.

To my late father, John Frew of Musselburgh, East Lothian, Scotland.

The Work-Life Balance

Many are these days considering how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected them regarding that fine balance between earning a living and living an enjoyable life outside of working hours. I’m not necessarily sure how to answer this for msyelf as there have definitely been pros and cons for me. In general, I enjoy working from home, it’s something I’ve done regularly in the past offering telecounselling, working in forensic psychology research, proofreading and copywriting so I’m really no stranger to it.

Survey: Flexible and Remote Jobs Improve Work-Life Balance, Relationships |  FlexJobs
(Image: Flex,Jobs)

Through the various lockdowns and restrictions I felt fine with things, no hot and stuffy, crowded public transport or indeed queueing for that, being two hours a day to the good due to the lack of a commute, general flexibility of work and breaks and so on. I have lots of space and peace and quiet to work in and a garden to relax or occasionally work in. Most of all, I felt settled into a much less stressful routine. There were no decisions about whether to do much in the evening or not as there was little choice so I’d just settle into relaxed evenings of reading, writing, TV, radio and web browsing. My Bengal cat loved it too! All good so far.

What was more difficult for me was the inner clamour to get out and socialise again once that became possible with venues opening. Only now do I feel I’m exerting some control over that. It was how I imagine being released from prison feels.

Professionally I’m fine with it. I miss seeing clients face to face sometimes though, they numbered around 50% of my caseload previously. I did embrace telecounselling though and feel it’s strongly how therapy is going to end up being offered more often than not. This has happened to a greater extent in North America where it can often make sense to carry out the work this way when over greater distances and this is where it is being lead from in my view.

A problem can be not being able to process the thoughts about some of the tough stories during the day, the attempted suicides, calling emergency services, generally distraught people and so on. At the office it wouldn’t be migrated home but chatted about with my colleague over a coffee, followed by locking the office doors and a relaxed walk through the city, letting go of that swirl of thoughts. Working from home though could potentially see those feelings only shiften to another room.

My job was ‘safe’ but I did in fact get TUPEd to a larger charity last month. I knew my previous colleagues well and considered them friends, having met them for training and meetings in Birmingham many, many times. Some of my new colleagues I may never meet so it’s naturally more difficult to have that ‘closeness’ and kindredness.

I’ve recently been informed that it may be a little time before returning to a hybrid working system. The lease on my office in the city has not been renewed by the new company though there is a probable intent to do that. In the meantime good old Nottingham City Council insisted all the furniture was removed so sadly, it’s probably ended in a skip somewhere which is a total waste. I’ve handed the keys back and feel a long way from working in an office again at this time.

In conclusion, I’ve benefitted from the change in working practices, financially, time-wise and in generally less stress. The main challenges have been in adjusting back to whatever normality is now and in living the days as a more lonely existence.

See Three Sporting Heroes In The Flesh?

I responded to an interesting internet forum question recently which really set me thinking, ‘If you could witness any sportsman/woman in history in the flesh…’ (who would you choose?) There have been countless sporting individuals over the years who I could consider for that – from my own particular passions of ice hockey, football, distance running and beyond. After five minutes of thought I came eup with these these brilliant performers in their chosen disciplines of hockey, running and cricket. Well that’s the choice for today at least. An honourable mention should go to those of my heroes who I’ve actually seen perform live. Coming to mind are football’s Denis Law, George Best and Joe Baker and cricket’s Sir Garry Sobers.

Guy Lafleur Image: NHL.com

Guy LaFleur ‘Le Demon Blonde’ right-wing for the Montreal Canadiens 1960s/70s. A French Canadian with huge charisma, smooth skating, lightening fast reflexes who was a predator in front of the net. All with a staggering career points tally. Guy had a playboy lifestyle and was idolised in Quebec. He had great style and for many was the ultimate Montreal skater.

Lasse Viren Image: unknown

Lasse Viren ‘The Flying Finn’ a middle-distance runner who won Gold in both 5,000m and 10,000 events at the Munich Olympics in 1972 and at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. One of his gold medals was won after falling on the track, recovering and running past the field to hit the tape first. A devasting front-runner who destroyed the opposition, when it really mattered, in an era of great middle-distance runners.

Harold Larwood Image: bbc.co.uk

Harold ‘Lol’ Larwood the Nottinghamshire and England fast bowler who destroyed Australia on the ‘Bodyline’ Ashes tour of 1932/3. The tour – where he bowled his ‘leg-theory’ to captain Jardine’s order overshadowed his career. Extreme pace – many would argue the fastest (and most accurate) of all time Harold was but 5ft 8ins tall but tellingly a former Notts pitman who was bred tough. His teammates at Notts named him ‘The Silent Killer’. They said that when Lol was on fire his run in to the wicket was completely silent. It was then that they feared for the opposition batsman’s safety.

Friends Beside You

I loved this Facebook posting below and at the same time was staggered to read that around half a million brave little cats served as mascots, giving comfort to the troops on the Western Front during the Great War. Maybe it’s not so surprising, that Gigi, my little Bengal cat pal ‘found’ me and as soon as he felt trust and confidence showered me with love and affection every single day. Through long lockdown days alone and all. I have felt humbled by that and the connection we have, truly soul to soul. A relationship that has a ‘knowing’ quality to it.

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Gigi

It brought to mind the unlikely relationship with a roaming cat that my father struck up in his latter working years at the local Home Brewery. Never really much of a pet-owning family were we but I recall walking into the brewery later one evening to take his forgotten packed sandwiches to him which would sustain him during his nightshift. Walking into the toasty warm, winter boiler house which was his workplace, I saw him sat with his own cat pal who had crept in and found his favourite resting place between those big biceps of my dad – ones that softly cradled him like a baby. A touching tenderness that was a somewhat rarely observed outwardly in John. They became firm and faithful friends for many a year.

Unusually, the actual owner of the brewery would often wander down to the boiler house in the early hours and keep John and his little friend company over hot tea and toast and good craic. A tender and warm scene, one replete with friendship and kindredness.

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Image: Imperial War Museums. Image file number IWM Q 8463.

Peter Barnes 22nd July on Facebook – Posted this before but liked it so much I am posting it again.An endearing photograph of a Lewis gunner of the 6th Battalion, the York and Lancaster Regiment with the Regiment’s cat mascot, in a trench near Cambrin, 6th of February, 1918.Interestingly, there were around 500,000 cats who served as mascots on the Western Front in WW1. Soldiers would share their rations with the cats.As well as being a comfort for soldiers in a very horrible and dangerous environment, the cats helped keep the rat population down in the trenches.

Lest We Forget.’

Henry Newton and ‘King’ Joe Baker

It’s 1967, I’m nine-years-old and have recently been in an accident with a large Ford Consul hitting me and smashing both legs in several places. I’d been taken to the Children’s Hospital in Nottingham and was now enduring a long recovery, laid up at home with plaster casts from toe to top of thigh. Spending those never-ending days in my single bed, brought into the living room of my parents’ home in Redhill, Nottingham. Football was nevertheless a passion. Nottingham Forest’s terrific and tenacious midfield dynamo, Henry Newton, who went on to play for Evertonwas a particular favourite. It just so happened that he was seeing my older sister’s friend who lived nearby. Henry, hearing about this, offered to come to the house to visit this youngster who in a bit of a state. Kind man.

Henry took my autograph book away and passed it around the Forest dressing room to the array of stars in there and brought it back to our family home. He also brought the gift of a beautiful Christmas tree for our family. I was dumfounded and pretty well speechless at this star sitting talking to me and encouraging me in my recovery.

Who was who the star number nine was in that side too? ‘King’ Joe Baker of the Trent End, ‘Zigger Zagger’, world-class centre-forward, formerly of Hibernian, Torino and Arsenal.

I was completely overwhelmed by those visits and have never forgotten the kindness and inspiration of Henry Newton. Those autographs are still treasured andin my possession of course. Bonus points for any of the older fans that can recognise the other signatures there from the superb team that finished runners-up to the great Manchester United team of Best, Law and Charlton…

‘Freedom Day’ June 21st 2021

Currently, featuring significantly in media reports each day is the phrase ‘Freedom Day’ when referring to June 21st and planned banishing of restrictions which will again see us in ‘normal’ times pre-Covid-19. Apart from being a tad silly and immature, I believe its use is politically driven. an example of posturing as in ‘look how we’ve delivered you through this’. It doesn’t help the moral of the people but rather, slowly crushes it. Does anyone remember the ‘Fine by Christmas’ phrase last year? To be fair, the government didn’t state which Christmas.

Young people wait to receive a Covid-19 vaccination jab at Twickenham rugby stadium in London
(Image: The Guardian)

For me, it has never seemed likely that these forecasts and half-promises would come to fruition, although I know some will feel very let down. There can be no single day when ‘normality’ will click into place, enticing though that may seem it’s a process and so shall it evolve.

Through some fifteen months of the pandemic, a consistent lesson has been to expect the unexpected, that’s what precedents will provide us, with one positive development after another seemingly being confounded. Better to be in acceptance of this, it’s an easier way to live than constantly being lifted with somewhat flimsy hope, before being almost inevitably disappointed.

We can think of the pandemic as a virtual tug-of-war with the virus the opponent on the other end of the rope. As a layperson, it’s exhausting to keep up that mental battle with it constantly when there is only so much control we can have over it. A better and more sustainable approach is to ‘lay the rope down’. Take a reasoned approach in observing precautions and live our lives that way, without timelines or deadlines. For there lies anger, frustration, depression, disappointment and a whole host of other negative reactions.

Redhill Nottingham: The Redhill Windmill

Who knew that there was once a windmill in Redhill? I once saw it described as being located at the ‘bottom of The Mount’.I felt this a bit unlikely as The Mount began simply as a long driveway from Mansfield Road to the two large homes still situated at the top of the road, overlooking Redhill Cemetery. Mansfield Road is neither particuarly high up as in somewhere you might expect to find a windmill situated.

An acquaintance located the actual windmill site for me on an old OS map and it appears to have stood roughly around the area of the extension of Redhill Cemetery came to be. This would make sense being a little higher up and more exposed to the elements.

There are no pictures of the Redhill windmill that I am aware of though a little detail of the individuals who ran it still exist.

There was also a second windmill not too far away on Mill Lane which leads from Cross Street near the top of Galway Road. The building still remains as a private home I believe and is also marked on the map.

The map, dated from around the late 1890s I believe, contains some other interesting detail of our locality. The heavier dark hatched line running right to left near the top right of the map is what became the ‘twichell’ which still runs alongside Redhill Academy between Stanhope Road and Stanhope Crescent. In those days it carried on in a straight line from Arnold to Mansfield Road, Redhill and emerged opposite The Mount. Above it are orchards containing cherries and pears I believe. A modern-day link to them remains in the naming of Cherry Close adjacent the school and the line of around twenty pear trees which remained in the school grounds as ‘Pear Tree Avenue’. The area in general was well known for cherry growing in particular.

Mansfield Road and Arnold Lane/Oxclose Lane are both clearly visible on the map, as is Cross Street, probably called ‘Cross Lane’ around that time. Some locals also termed it ‘White Hart Lane’ as it indeed did represent a lane from Arnold to the original White Hart coaching inn demolished in the 1960s to be replaced by its predecessor built on the land behind it. At one point both buildings were extant.

Mansfield Road itself had previous names also in the form of ‘Sandy Lane’ as it was previously called by virtue of the sandy soil present in some parts of Redhill. Much further back in years it was termed the ‘rubeam rodam’, (red road). And so we see some of the origins of the naming of Red Hill/Redhill.

Canon Edward Joseph Hannan

An image of the plaque commemorating Cannon Hannen which resides inside the front doors of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in the Cowgate In Edinburgh. Snapped on one of many visits. Canon Edward Joseph Hannan was born Ballingarry, County Limerick, Ireland on 21 June 1836.

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The founding father of Hibernian Fooball Club, Leith, Edinburgh. Formed from St Patrick’s in the Old Town and the Catholic Young Men’s Society, where a seminal and historic planning meeting took place..

The Cowgate in those days was widely known as ‘Little Ireland’ due to the many impoverished refugees from the Irish famine living there. Reports of more than thirty souls living ito a room with no sanitation give a sobering glimpse into the hard-bitten and impoverished history of the area.

St Patrick’s Church, Cowgate, Edinburgh, (Image: Runciman APSE Trust)

The Hibernians were conceived of by the kindly Canon and his co-founder, Michael Whelehan as a benevolent and charitable organisation in 1875, giving support to the poor and disadvantaged of the community. Tyically, the Hibs would play benefit games for those of the parish who were struggling such as widows with children to feed. A central reason for the formation of the football club was to help keep young Irish, Roman Catholic men of Little Ireland on the straight and narrow. Attendance at Mass was a prerequisite for membership and sobriety another, to play for the Hibernians. This gave rise to claims of Hibs being the first sectarian club in Scotland, which arguably might be said to be wilfully ignoring the sound and humanitarian principles on which the club was formed.

The club name, Hibernian, was derived from the ancient Roman word for Ireland, ‘Hibernia’. The club jerseys still commemorate Hibernian’s Irish origins with an Irish harp as part of the club crest, once again returning to the club’s humble beginnings.

Leapool, Redhill, Nottingham

The Leapool area of Redhill, Nottingham, showing Mansfield Road, in two images from the 1960s. Credit to Rachel Hawker, a member of the Hawker family who owned . W. Hawker & Son garage at Leapool. One picture shows Rachel’s aunt waving from the forecourt of the garage with a backdrop of Mansfield Road leading south up to Arch Bridge. The other has a host of interest as it shows the area before what some call the ‘Redhill roundabout’, actually Leapool, was built.

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Leapool, Redhill, (Image: Rachel Hawker)

At that time it was basically a T junction with the same route to the left towards Mansfield and what was the original A614 Ollerton road before the present road, built in the 1960s. The road still stands there off the roundabout, enshrouded in trees, gated off and with some road markings still visible, lending a slightly eery feel. It remains walkable.

The far end of the road meets the present Lime Lane which I believe was once known as Lambley Road. The road currently bends to the right, then left down to the A614. Prior to this it was possible to drive directly on in a straight line to the A614 and over the farmland in a straight line to the A60, quite near Lamins Lane. The road, known as Little Lime Lane, was closed many years ago due to a prevalence of accidents.

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Hawker’s Garage, Redhill, Nottingham, (Image: Rachel Hawker)

One of the other notable points in the picture was the old AA box which can be seen at the junction. There was also a transport cafe behind and to the side of Hawkers garage. Standing there now is the Banyan Tree restaurant, which was formerly a Little Chef.

Some may wonder why Leapool roundabout was built so large for it’s quite some size for the amount of exits it possesses? The reason is that it had orginally been intended as a park and ride scheme. One which would have a loop road over the fields in the direction of Bestwood Estate to link up with Edwards Lane, the ring road and the city. The notion of a park and ride in the area, as we see, is by no means a new one!

Rachel dated the picture of her aunt as 1966. I’m not exactly sure of dates for the various changes in the road layout but if asked, would say the early 1960s at some point

Redhill, Nottingham

Iiving in Redhill, Nottingham for a great deal of my life has provided a keen local historical interest in the area. It struck me that whilst writing about it variously, those words have never been collated in one place. This new Tears of a Clown category is to serve that purpose and to document Redhill whist hopefully adding new items for those with an interest. It has long felt to me that Redhill’s history deserves its stories being told. I post here from my own recollections and those of others anecdotally. In addition from readings over the years. Contributions and comments from others are very much welcomed and appreciated.

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Mansfield Road, Red Hill, Nottingham (Image; unknown)

My Maternal Grandfather: Edgar Orbit Houldsworth

A GENTLEMAN who I’ve never known but who has appeared in my thoughts often throughout my life is that of my mother’s father, Edgar Orbit Houldsworth. An unusual name that is for sure and a great help for an accomplished geneologist I’d easily imagine.

Edgar was born in Hucknall Torkard in Nottinghamshire to Thomas and Charlotte Houldsworth and later lived on Annesley Road in Hucknall, as the town name became shortened to. There, he fathered ten children , my mother, Marian, being one of five girls along with five boys.

Edgar Orbit Houldsworth

An online ancestry link informs that he was a ‘dairyman’. I can only conclude that this was his occupation as a very young man as other occupations were to follow. That may be a very young man indeed as it was noted that Edgar unfortunately received little schooling. Not that this held back his later to be discovered talent.

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Edgar Orbit Houldsworth

Edgar died prematurely of illness aged 51 in 1937 when my mother was a young girl. She latterly talked fondly of him as an ostler looking after the beautiful and loyal ponies at one of the Hucknall coal mines (pits), an honourable job indeed.

However, it was his musical ability that intrigued for Edgar Orbit was an accomplished professional pianist who played at the Hucknall Empire, which was but a minute’s stroll along Annesley Road for him from home. His task was described as playing the accompanying music to the silent movies that were shown at the Empire at the time. 

His and the family’s former home which included a music shop on Annesley Road in Hucknall remains extant as a different type of business. It’s not clear where he practiced, giving his piano students the benefit of his talent but the family home was a large one consisting of three storeys. As a youngster, visiting there in the 1960s, musical instruments including a harmonium, an upright piano and so on still sat intriguingly in various parts of the home. 

Edgar was a most kindly, likeable and agreeable man, loved by many. Betrothed to Ada Mary Woollatt, my grandmother who passed in 1967, their union produced ten offspring. Poor Ada in addition suffered several stillborn children and miscarriages as was not uncommon in those harder times. They both bestowed their large family with fond memories. I now convey some of them to the reader

Edgar Orbit Houldsworth: Born Hucknall Torkard, Nottinghamshire, 1885 – 1937

Coronavirus and Suicide

It’s interesting to see how many experts there are in mental health these days as well as epidemiologists and virologists…

A message of hope to the Muslims feeling depressed with the current  oppressed state of the Ummah – Muslim Council of Hong Kong
(Image: MC of Hong Kong)

I really don’t enjoy when people use the likes of suicide rates to support their arguments and agendas. It’s not all about dry data but rather about real lives lost and real families suffering that devastation. NO suicide rate, whether it be increasing, decreasing, high or low is in any way acceptable. Prior to Covid-19 appearing in our lives, the UK experienced around 6,000 deaths by suicide with a figure of around 800,000 deaths worldwide.

As is often the case, figures do not tell the whole story though, suicide figures are complex for many reasons, for example the UK coroner system is inadequate for the close monitoring required for suicide statistics. Even though there hasn’t been a recent rise in completed suicides there remains a need for caution in adopting a stance that suicide figures won’t be affected by the pandemic.

A common public narrative is that suicides and self-harm have increased to epidemic proportions since Covid. These claims are not just misleading but also potentially harmful to those who are already struggling. Please think twice before spreading this type of misinformation. A claim last year was that suicide had increased by ‘200%’ and was posted some 31,000 times before being debunked and taken down.

So why are organisations such as the charity I am employed by and various surveys informing us that our mental health is deteriorating? How do we explain this contradiction? Well it’s true to say that as well as the risks there have been protective factors too. During earlier lockdowns there may well have been greater attempts from people in keeping in touch with and supporting each other. We have certainly been more alert to any possible crisese. Certainly I remember a greater community response to those in need. There may also have been a belief that Covid would ‘soon be over’ in some, leadig away from despairing thoughts.

Much of this has sadly, now disappeared with the needs of business and people’s livelihoods increasingly pitched up against the health of the public. The social help in communities has eroded since last year but yet, in this second year there are still significant risks. People are exhausted and pessimistic at every new lockdown or the prospect of one. Members of the public are reporting each other to the police and there is a more general lack of cohesion in the community. We need to continue to look after each other, especially regarding suicide ideation.

Most clinicians will tell you that recovery can be a dangerous time. In terms of restrictions being lifted we need to be careful. More than anything, we need to bring the compassion back into society in understanding and taking heed of people’s needs for support, especially where suicide and self-harm are concerned, not using lost lives to back arguments about the speed of restrictions being lifted.

Just my two-penneth on the situation though nobody asked me. I logged off work earlier and was on the point of ordering a cab to go to the hospital for my second jab when an individual texted me, in a bad way, so delaying my visit for the vaccination. He was in a bad way but is now being cared for, thankfully. That is the reality of this situation – not arguing about when you can get your gym open, if you can go inside a pub and get leathered for four hours or go on that Mediterranean holiday.

Have the gratitude that you’re healthy and actually want to live. it’s a great start.

A Return To Normality: The Golden Fleece, Nottingham

The day came – 12th April 2021 and a return to hospitality opening – albeit al fresco. It was eagerly awaited. After two nights out I’m now in need of another lockdown!

A few observations about getting out again for those with the interest and patience to read.

Monday evening was on a large outdoor covered and heated terrace. There were around 100-120 drinkers (no food) on tables of six. Waiter service, pay electronically. There was music from a DJ and deck which rang through the surrounding streets.

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Image: The Golden Fleece, Nottingham, Facebook. (Pic taken October 2020)

Customers were probably about 95%+ students from the nearby university which made it something of an outlier where considering general behaviours are concerned. One young lad on the next table who was having a famous time on his coincidental birthday, we considered was the spitting image of 1970s Notts County stalwart right-back, Bill Brindley. (Bill knew his way around a pint too). At one point Billy 2021 version threw up twice into a bucket and amost tipped most of the drinks off the table while doing it.

It was loud, raucous with several celebrations going on, characterised by hugging, handshaking kissing, whilst moving between tables. Non of this bothered my crew who like me, were grateful to get out and see each other and socialise again. I’m commenting here, not criticising. We were all young once and i’m pretty sure I’d have been acting similarly at that age.

To summarise, well, I’m somewhat relieved that I had the relative protection of a Pfizer jag. I can’t make a case for any of this stuff being ‘safe’. This wasn’t the business’s fault who had done a sterling job of laying on a good, safe situation if it was used as such. The problem is alcohol and the effects of it isn’t it, and that was starkly shown all through the protracted time I was there. To say that it promotes some risk-taking behaviour is not a revolutionary statement.

Probably more interesting (to me at least) was the really nice chat I had with a group of lovely, friendlyfourth year design students during the latter part of the evening. Excusing themselves, they said they had wondered what kind of job I do and I guess were betting between themselves on the outcome. The reply ‘I’m a Psychologist’ brought about a stunned silence (believe me, some people incorrectly imagine you’re immediately about to carry out a psychoanalysis on them when you say that). When their mouths eventually closed we had a great chat and a main theme, sadly, was how they felt shunned by the local community, that nobody wanted anything to do with them since adverse reports about some students over the past year. They were actually really grateful to be acknowledged and engaged and thanked me over and over for this. What on earth have we come to?

The group said they all loved living in Nottingham and mentioned the true minority percentage of people misbehaving in the local parks, that press photographers were following people around, taking shots from various angles to enhance what appeared to be a complete lack of social distancing and prevalence of drinking alcohol which is forbidden in Nottingham’s open spaces.

I’m left a little sad about all this. I have worked in both Nottingham universities,studied at one of them and my ex remains a lecturer at one of them. I’ve friends in them and even work adjacent one of them. It’s easy and natural for me to feel connected to them, unlike some others, who fill the local ****-stirring rag with hateful, anti-student comments. I wonder where we are all going with this.

As for the two nights in general, there was generally a much more celebratory and gung-ho attitude noticable among people on both nights out including a second one which was much more staid by comparison. I can only think it is the psychological effect of being partly immunised for many. I have no idea if all this described will rebound on us and I’ve just decided to have gratitude for it while I can.

A genuine ‘thank you’, The Golden Fleece, Nottingham.

That First Night Out

Cat, waiting in the hallway after me returning home late after a first evening out for several months:

Cat: Where you think YOU’VE been young man?

Me: Aw, did you miss me?

Cat: Got any grub?

(Gives cat large bowl of Whiskas)

Cat: chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp…

Me: Was that nice then?

Cat: Meow…got anything else?

Me: How about some tuna? (serves fishy treat)

Cat: chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp…

Me: How was that?

:Cat: Bye

Back To Freedom

Well, the first day of ‘freedom’ tomorrow at last and I can say that despite the cool weather forecast (a low of 3C) I’m so looking forward to seeing friends again after six very long months.

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(Image: Ixigo)

For me, life has been pretty much about being in the house day and night, working, sleeping, eating, the usual stuff. For that reason, it will feel novel just to do the simple things, catch a bus into the city, have a pint or two, catch up with friends. I feel a lot of gratitude for it. It’s probably the most inspiring time in over a year, along with a first dose of Pfizer some weeks back.

t’s been a very lonely existence, in spite of counselling clients on the phone each working day and calls with friends, not really me at all as I’m the sociable type end very much enjoy being amongst people.

Some sanity has been preserved due to my little pal, the beautiful stray tabby cat, Gigi, who adopted me two years ago. Every evening he sits close to me, listening to music and the radio, watching the TV (he loves watching Hibs!) Each night he comes and sleeps on the bed next to me, keeping me company. Every day he makes me laugh. How can you possibly be lonely with such a great pal and companion?

It’s a booking for six on a rooftop terrace at a Nottingham city centre pub from 7pm tomorrow.

Hoping you all get the same opportunity to do something you enjoy too, the very first moment it’s possible.

May We Have A Little Freedom Now?

‘Warned’ not to go into my own local city centre by the police? I’ve done things by the book for thirteen months now and I’ll now do what the heck I like regarding entering the city thanks.

As it happens, I have an outdoor table booked with friends for the coming Monday evening and will be complying fully by sitting outside in predicted 3C temperatures (my choice) in order to have the pleasure of seeing friends I haven’t seen in six months. After staying home day after day, as has been requested for most of a year of my life, I resent being told to stay away from the city if I cannot book a table, basically in case the police have to do a little policing, other than chasing a few students out of their house parties. I’m being facetious but you get the point

What this command fails to recognise is that numerous pubs and bars are accepting walk-in customers alongside booked tables in order to maximise often meagre outside capacity from Monday 12th. Some are ONLY accepting walk-ins and no bookings. One or the other was the case at practically every venue I personally checked. How would the police propose that these (mostly struggling) businesses manage to trade with no people allowed into the city without bookings?

The police are overstepping the mark here. Perhaps they overestimate their powers too with the new authoritarian society opportunistically ushered in by this idealogically woeful and anti-working class government. The public are tired, exhausted indeed, damaged both mentally and physically.

People are depressed and anxious, needing some relief from iincessant bad new over the past year. I hear this message loud and clear in my own work, sometimes feel it too. Many are now impovererished also due to the very necessary lockdowns. Please now give us a small break and allow us to walk around our own streets in peace.

The Work-Life Balance

Many are these days considering how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected them regarding that fine balance between earning a living and living an enjoyable life outside of working hours. I’m not necessarily sure how to answer this for msyelf as there have definitely been pros and cons for me. In general, I enjoy working from … Continue reading “The Work-Life Balance”

Friends Beside You

I loved this Facebook posting below and at the same time was staggered to read that around half a million brave little cats served as mascots, giving comfort to the troops on the Western Front during the Great War. Maybe it’s not so surprising, that Gigi, my little Bengal cat pal ‘found’ me and as … Continue reading “Friends Beside You”

‘Freedom Day’ June 21st 2021

Currently, featuring significantly in media reports each day is the phrase ‘Freedom Day’ when referring to June 21st and planned banishing of restrictions which will again see us in ‘normal’ times pre-Covid-19. Apart from being a tad silly and immature, I believe its use is politically driven. an example of posturing as in ‘look how … Continue reading “‘Freedom Day’ June 21st 2021”

As it happens, I have an outdoor table booked with friends for the coming Monday evening re-opening of hospitality in England and will be complying fully by sitting outside in predicted 3C temperatures (my choice) in order to have the pleasure of seeing friends I haven’t seen in six months. After staying home day after day, as has been requested for most of a year of my life, I resent being told to stay away from the city if I cannot book a table, basically in case the police have to do a little policing, other than chasing a few students out of their house parties. I’m being facetious but you get the point.

What this command fails to recognise is that numerous pubs and bars are accepting walk-in customers alongside booked tables in order to maximise often meagre outside capacity from Monday 12th. Some are ONLY accepting walk-ins and no bookings. One or the other was the case at practically every venue I personally checked. How would the police propose that these (mostly struggling) businesses manage to trade with no people allowed into the city without bookings?

The police are overstepping the mark here. Perhaps they overestimate their powers too with the new authoritarian society opportunistically ushered in by this idealogically woeful and anti-working class government.

The public are tired, exhausted indeed, damaged both mentally and physically. People are depressed and anxious, needing some relief from iincessant bad new over the past year. I hear this message loud and clear in my own work every single day, sometimes I feel it too. Many are now impovererished also due to the very necessary lockdowns. Please now give us a small break, allow us to walk around our own streets and have something to eat or drink with our friends in peace.

A Generation of Racists? I Don’t Think So

I’m sorry, but this current trend of maligning a whole generation by suggesting ‘everyone’ used racist terms and displayed racist behavour in order to excuse the late Prince Philip’s racism and generally abject behaviour throughout his life as a matter of course is not acceptable.

The word racism spelled out on cube blocks
(Image: Harvard Health Publishing)

My father was born in 1921, the very same year as the late consort and would NEVER use those offensive terms or act in that way. That was a general family condition too and for many, many others. We aneed not all be judged by our supposed ‘betters’ whose behaviour remains consistently questionable, to put it mildly.

The fact that my father, although also born in 1921, was lost to our family fully thirty-seven years prior to his hugely priviliged contemporary meeting his maker is not lost on me either.

Mind you, my father worked hard for a living from 14 years-old and didn’t rely on handouts from servile sycophants.

Suicide: Do Remain Vigilant

I read today of the loss of a young person’s life in Edinburgh to suicide. Whilst any life lost in this way is a sad event, when it’s a young life, it is particularly so. There seems so much living left to do doesn’t there.

Are You Feeling Suicidal? - HelpGuide.org
Image: HelpGuide

I think being close and ‘connected’ to it in any way, even if purely by proximity or geography as the person relating this story was, reveals just how many other lives a loss like this can touch or affect. That figure too is more than most might imagine.

Research on this subject of affected others is comparatively sparse (and not always necessarily considered helpful) but in the 1970s it was thought that a figure of six people on average were affected in some way by a completed suicide.

Come up to date in recent years and indications are that figure is much more like 135 people approximately, affected in some way by every loss of life to suicide.

The true expenditures of suicide are of course the human and also intangible costs. No price or value can ever remotely by placed on those things. Even in non-emotional financial terms though, the average cost to a country’s economy is somewhat staggering. A US study in 2015 maintained that the average suicide costs $1.33m. Yes you did read that correctly.

We must all stay vigilant, especially in these times of great hardship, illness and bereavement for so many. Keep loving and caring. I feel a small happiness when those struggling are able to summon their courage in coming forward to ask for support or even place themselves under the care of others. It most often begins with a few simple words of disclosure and a plea for help. From there, good things can happen and lives can be saved.

We do not need fashionable slogans to practice our caring. It is humane and much more about love.

On a practical note, there is much advice readily available about speaking to people with suicide ideation and about detecting those who are in danger. By reading a little of it you may indeed save a treasured life.

Good Friday

Love Hurts

Good Friday Prayer

O Jesus, Who by reason of Thy burning love for us
hast willed to be crucified
and to shed Thy Most Precious Blood
for the redemption and salvation of our souls,
look down upon us here gathered together
in remembrance of Thy most sorrowful Passion and Death,
fully trusting in Thy mercy;
cleanse us from sin by Thy grace,
sanctify our toil,
give unto us and unto all those who are dear to us our
daily bread,
sweeten our sufferings,
bless our families,
and to the nations so sorely afflicted,
grant Thy peace,
which is the only true peace,
so that by obeying Thy commandments
we may come at last to the glory of heaven.
Amen.

Waiting on a Plane

We hear of many people at this time considering investing in foreign travel. It’s understandable that people, many trapped largely in their homes over the past year would like to break out into the world again. I feel similar too and at the same time feel it quite unwise to get ahead of oneself and charge ahead with concrete plans. Something we’ve witnessed through the pandemic and in myriad ways is the unexpected happening. There has been a false dawn or two, that is for sure.

Spiaggia Rosa
Spiaggia Rosa, Sardinia, Italy (Image: Benvenuto Travel)

Now we are informed of the possibility of a third wave. I would be interested to hear more about how a new strain and other threats mooted might circumvent the excellent progression of our vaccination levels. History tells me there are always twists and turns in this story possible.

There are so many variables surrounding international travel in the near future including that country’s accessibility and changing restrictions. I myself will need to continue patiently waiting for my plan to visit Italy to unfold, indeed, there may be no option offered to visit that beautiful country and it may be out of my hands. I understand though how to be happy and content with the small pleasures that may be on the way such as seing friends, having a pint or two, maybe even getting to a football match, that type of thing. I find it hard to underestimate how enjoyable it will be to welcome these things back and to open our lives back into the world after what feels like such a long time.

In general, we need to learn from the lessons of being patient and measured that the pandemic has so harshly tought us and to think accordingly.

Arrivederci Piers Morgan

Thank god for that. If he hasn’t been, he really needed sacking after his tirade about Meghan Markle on GMB. This was a step too far. As far as I am concerned, the challenging and disbelief of any person’s suicide ideation is dangerous and totally out of order. I speak as a person with a late partner who after being discharged deemed as not requiring support by a mental health crisis team, went out and took her own life in a most violent way less than twenty-four hours later.

Piers Morgan leaves ITV’s Good Morning Britain after row over Meghan remarks

Morgan’s interviewing of politicians has won him points in various circles throughout the pandemic, let the point be remembered though that the Tory politicians he has been showing his faux disgrace are the same ones he actually supports and votes for. There remains for me a doubt over the sincerity and purpose of his numerous rants. The man long has form for being a despicable human being and has never essentially changed.

As for Good Morning Britain, I’m not particularly a fan of the programme but each snippet I’ve set eyes upon resembles a pantomime with Morgan’s shouty ‘performances’, talking over everybody, including his co-presenters being a complete embarrassment. If the TV company grew better judgement they could do a lot worse than promoting the excellent Alex Beresford to a more prominent role.

Gregory Isaacs – Extra Classic

Gregory Isaacs passed on over ten years ago and left us with a legacy of beautiful, timeless music. A fine example of this was the sweet and mellow ‘Extra Classic’, a track who no less than Rolling Stone, Keith Richards declared in his top ten of all time.

Gregory Isaacs – Extra Classic

Described once by a prominent New York journalist as ‘the most exquisite vocalist in reggae’ and being credited with the origination of ‘Lovers Rock’, the man who came to fondly be known as ‘The Cool Ruler’ began his career as Winston Sinclair and recorded under the production of legendary Jamaican musician, Byron Lee.

By the late 1970s, peaking in fame, possibly only Dennis Brown and Bob Marley could challenge his popularity as he regularly toured the US and the UK. Gregory opened his Cash and Carry shop and label at number 125 on the famous Orange Street, Jamaica, next door to another Jamaican music legend, Cecil Bustamante Campbell – better known as Prince Buster.

Charitable work was always close to Gregory Isaacs’ soul and his widow, June Wyndham, set up The Gregory Isaacs Foundation to carry on her husband’s charitable legacy. After living the last three years of his life in Harrow Weald, his remains were interred in Dovecot Cemetery, Jamaica.

A French Outbreak

There were some sobering reports emanating from France today of Covid-19 infection rates increasing significantly. Dunkirk I read, has 901 cases per week of new infections per 100,000 people and Nice similarly hit, occasioning a couple of weekend lockdowns for the Riviera.

(Nice, Image: The Telegraph)

This feels reminiscent to me of past events here in the UK, in particular the ‘second wave’ which with the most recent lockdown has felt and been experienced as so damaging.

The UK is further on down the road than France in terms of vaccination rates and that will arguably be it’s saviour. by comparison. It is a sobering thought though regarding the amount of people still likely to be milling around for a little time yet, unvaccinated, accompanied by cries for more rapid easing of restrictions, (I’m as tired as anyone of them) regarding what potential this can feasibly have.

I recall an extremely popular view +around the end of the first lockdown was that ‘the country couldn’t be locked down again’, it was too expensive, too damaging etc. Respectfully, I didn’t agree with that point of view. Two lockdowns (and months of tiers which in effect were essentially lockdowns) later here we are.

Fatigued, impoverished, out of work, de-socialised, young people missing their education and myriad mental health problems (believe me, I hear those every single day and the faint-hearted would be slightly terrifed to hear them). None of this, desperate though it is, and it is, overrides the fact that if we do this easing too quickly we can still be back in a maelstrom of anxiety and uncertainty at very short order. Recent history has shown us that and we would do well to learn from it.

Life Is Precious

It seems that almost every day in these times there are reports of somebody being hit by a train, taken from the depths of a river or being talked down from a desperate situation high on a bridge or ledge, considering their mortality. That they cannot go on in this world any longer. I hear many caring people comment about the subject of how people are suffering, I hear their feelings of futility, their inability to bring about change.

hands reaching for each other
(Image: American Psychological Association)

In reality, very little changes though, numbers of deaths rise, ‘mental health’ is brought up over and over and yet funds to assist people with these problems are in real terms, wholly inadequate and for me, will no doubt likely remain so.

I lost a partner to suicide (I am a ‘suicide survivor’ as it is termed). Let me tell you, it hurts like hell. It hurts in the most confusing, inconsolable and desperate ways that you could imagine. It makes you want to die too.

I had family and friends who rallied around me. I had kind and understanding people in my workplace at the time whose contribution to helping me keep going will never be forgotten. All of these people kept me alive, along with a determined cussedness that it just wasn’t my time yet.

Keep an eye on your loved ones, your friends and your work colleagues. Seek advice if you need it in order to help them. You can even talk to me if you need help.

My thoughts go to the gentleman in the story and his loved ones, to all in these endless similar reports I read too. Look after each other, show your love, show that you care.

College lecturer who died after being hit by a train is named

A Pfizer Vaccine

I had my first vaccination dose today at Nottingham’s Queens Medical Centre as a health and social care worker. Extremely well organised by cheery and excellent staff from beginning to end. It was the Pfizer version.

May be an image of text that says "I'VE HAD MY COVID VACCINA VACCINATIO"

Ushered in, given a surgical mask to replace my own face covering.

Joined a ten-minute socially-distanced queue obeying a marked out floor.

First desk took my NHS number and evidence of status.

Second desk, a health professional asked a few rudimentary health questions.

Directed straight in for the jag. Very quick and painless.

Next desk to make second appointment in 12 weeks.Asked to sit in a waiting area for five minutes and time myself before letting myself out.

Arrived home and no reaction at all (as yet) after six hours.

I’ve not been out of the house nor spoken to anyone much face to face in a good while due to working from home and I was beginning to feel slightly threadbare. Therefore, it felt inspiring and galvanising, stepping out in the world a little once more and seeing the faces and the positive, cheerful and indomitable attitude of the NHS staff in the vaccination unit.

I thanked each one profusely. You are all greatly appreciated. Thank you so much

Snowy Hucknall, Nottinghamshire

My mother’s home town, Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, pictured 24th January 2021, blessed and adorned with a delicate sprinkling of snow.

Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and nature
(Image: Paul Atherley)

A proudly down-to-earth former mining town which boasted two pits and Rolls-Royce as major employers. Hucknall lies approximately seven miles north north-west of Nottingham and was the kind of unsung town that kept the country’s lights burning through the hard graft of its people.

Hucknall Aerodrome, which used to host a memorable was an RAF base which featured in WW11 and hosted the legendary story of Luftwaffe pilot Franz von Werra ‘The One That Got Away’. In later years the aerodrome was a test establishment for the first vertical take-off aircraft, ‘The Flying Bedstead’.

The town has much expanded over more recent years due partly to it’s rail and tram links and near proximity to the M1 Motorway. The conurbation is surrounded by pretty countryside and cheek-by-jowell with the attractive small villages of Linby and Papplewick, both of which have an illustrious yet sometimes harsh history due to their former industrial histories which saw many children put to work there in the mills. History that lessons were learnt from.

The picture shows St Mary Magdalene Parish Church which was my mother’s family church, looking over the town’s market place. Inside, interred in the family vault, the great and world famous romantic poet, Lord George Gordon Byron’s body is laid to rest. The town was greatly loved by my mother and Lord Byron revered.

A humble yet special little town.

Banana Republic – Sceptic Isle

We live in a country where you can break your foot and be left to lie helpless and shivering, on a cold pavement for six hours then die there before an ambulance can attend you.

(Image: ITC.com)

One where 700 people have dialled 999 for emergency assistance and there are no ambulances available to help them.

There is a pandemic, we understand the pressures of that, we also understand it’s in a global form and yet similar reports from other countries are not prevalent.

Don’t be palmed off with this as an excuse for this serious risk placed on your lives. This government does not have the mental capacity nor the political ability to govern in such frightening and fearful times. They too, have a distinct lack of will or caring about the population’s welfare and well-being, as we are so starkly seeing.

I think ’21 is Going To Be A Good Year

IN 1921 our planet had just lived through World War One (1914-1918) with a resultant more than twenty million lives being lost. The worldwide Spanish Flu (1918-1920) had also had seen a further fifty million people perish.

The Who – ‘1921’

The great relief felt around the world led to what came to be called ‘The Roaring Twenties’ a decade of great economic growth and widespread prosperity, driven by recovery from the devastation of war, deferred spending and a construction industry boom. In addition, there was rapid growth of consumer goods in Europe, North America and other developed countries.

As people now turn their thoughts to 2021, we may indeed consider some of Townshend’s lyrics, written for his 1969 rock opus ‘Tommy’ as highly relevant today.

Happy New Year.

Shopping In Safety

I’ve been reading of a few peoples’ negative experiences of shopping in supermarkets and am genuinely curious to understand why some people who feel the need to persist with it, given the dangers from poor behaviour in those environments.

(Image: Aleš Čerin)

The current time, I feel, is very reminiscent of how things felt back in late March and April, quite threatening. At that time I decided to move online for my food shopping. This was prompted by a couple of necessary Sainsbury’s visits that felt distinctly uncomfortable. It wasn’t the queueing to get in, it was the ridiculous behaviour of people in the store – remember this too was pre-masking wearing for most people.

Even then, when it felt a little scary and unpredictable, people were pushing past and reaching over each other and hardly anyone was observing social distancing. it was like a group social at times with assemblies of people stopping for a chat and blocking aisles, people were visiting in family groups, handling goods and putting them back. Queues for the checkout were a joke, also with no soial distancing.

I felt very insecure and actually couldn’t wait to get home.

Since that time, I haven’t needed to go to any supermarket and it’s been online all the way for nine months now. At times it hasn’t been easy to find a delivery slot, especially in the early days and pre-Christmas but I set to understanding how best to do it.

Warehouses are being opened by supermarkets now which are not open to the public and specifically for pickers to prepare your order. That’s also potentially a few less pairs of mitts on your groceries.

For those who have concerns as i do, i would urge you to give it a shot. I will not be going back to going in supermarkets any time soon, or at all.

A few pointers from my own experiences:

Open accounts in all the supermarkets accessible to you

Log on each day and spend a few minutes locating a slot

Be prepared to have a delivery at an unsociable hour, these are cheaper or free and more readily available

Think ahead and have two or three deliveries on the go at a time, update the contents/delivery date as you get nearer the time

The last slot of the day (22.00-23.00) is sometimes free will often come much earlier if you’re home when they call.

It gets easier and quicker, Favourites folders will show all the regular things you tend to buy.

You can see exactly how much you’re spending

You can quickly see what the current offers are.

If you agree to sustitutions and they’re more expensive supermarkets will give you a refund. If you don’t want the replacements simply hand them back to the delivery person.

December 2020: Out Of Control

We’re now at unprecedented levels of infection in England and awaiting possibly similar results from Scotland and Northern Ireland. Increased hospital admissions leave healthcare in a very vulnerable position.

Compliance is arguably as poor as it’s been and worsening. Too many are shunning personal responsibility.

The government is consistently reactive and behind the curve, in spite of their protestations to the contrary. There appears no real plan. There is however constant confusion.

I feel that a complete lockdown in all four home countries is what is required. I believe that Sage are now recommending children don’t go back to school and agree with that. Nor should students going back on campus happen. In practice, a real lockdown where people can at least make plans on how to cope. Of course, this has to be supported financially to avoid the public and business suffering further.

Vaccinations are progressing now and when completed vaccinations are at a favourable level, lockdown restrictions should only then change. These are the first stages of an endgame. We have been chasing after this virus throughout, not doing enough, swiftly enough. There has been one false start after another which has especially, hugely impacted on businesses with wasted stock, and investment in safety procedures for little recompense.

People are absolutely sick and tired of regulations changing seemingly every few days. Many have given up even trying to understand them. Many more fail to take them seriously.

What was actually required at the beginning of this emergency was co-operation by way of a political coalition. Party politics have been an obstacle.

There is still time to pull this situation around, we have blue sky visible in the distance. We need a real plan and that should encapsulate restrictions to get us through to when vaccinations tip the balance. It is going to take courage and selflessness from politicians and the public. Firm discipline too, enforced if necessary.

Appreciate there might be few that agree with these ideas but that would be my current assessment.

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Riding Through The Glen

A little like Dennis ‘Terry McCann’ Waterman, I do love a good theme toon. So much in fact I’ve a whole playlist of them on Spotify with many favourites. This one I like as much as any other I guess is the theme of ‘The Adventures Of Robin Hood’, you know, the one with Richard Greene ably playing Nottingham’s infamous outlaw.

I’m pretty certain that Robin really looked quite a bit like Errol Flynn I reckon, however, Richard’s version was a nice, wholesome character who I’d run all the way home from school every Friday as soon as that bell rang to see him and his merry men foil the Sheriff yet again. It was like shelling peas.

Junior school pencils, pens and ruler all neatly stashed away, ‘marble machine’ inside the school desk duly disabled for the weekend, to be reconstructed on Monday morning.The next stage was seeing who could stand the most still in order to receive the welcome nod from the teacher to leave for two whole days’ freedom. In my case back to Redhill at warp speed as I didn’t want to miss a single second of what the heck was going on in Sherwood Forest that week.

I read somewhere that there were over 140 episodes of The Adventures of Robin Hood which surprised me a little, I’m not sure why. I’d been practising the sound of Robin’s ‘arrer sinking into that great oak tree boooiinnnggg! All week by trapping that 12” wooden ruler in the school desk lid. I particularly wanted the Sheriff to catch another ‘arrer straight through his ‘at.

Of course then there were the days at the City Ground, being swept over Trent Bridge by a family member, seemingly always in a keen, swirling permanently February wind. In the bustling crowd, the moment would arrive and then the clarion call to all Nottinghamians everywhere around the world sounded, the sounds thadduck, boooinngg, ‘Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen’ ringing out. My hero, Joe-Joe-Joe Baker would then sprint out with the lads and I’d almost faint with excitement at seeing ‘Zigger-Zagger’. He’s been gone a good while now but I still worship him.

They were happy and innocent days and this jaunty little theme tune brings back many a cherished memory to me. Play it, go on – you know you want to!

‘Oh To Be In England Now That April’s There’

A recent survey suggested that seventy-two per cent of respondents believed that ‘pubs are important places for lonely people over the festive period to come together with their community.’

Nottingham is now in Tier 3. My own Christmas will consist of being at home alone every single day. I don’t like this at all but I’m not worried for myself, I know I have the strength to cope. I really fear for those that don’t though and what’s more they are numerous and growing in number.

Image: National Trust

So much for looking after people’s mental health. So much for ‘It’s okay not to be okay’. There is a real lack of caring, despite fine words to the contrary.

Johnson has said he is confident the situation will have improved by the spring.

‘I am convinced that by April things will be much, much better,” he told a Downing Street news conference.

Ah, that’s alright then. Just the four months of isolation, not being able to see your elderly or sick relatives, people’s mental health rapidly deteriorating, sometimes to the point of suicide and the consequential suffering of their loved ones.

Four months of hundreds of thousands of ordinary working people losing their livelihoods, the political sacrifice of their jobs, their constant anxieties around this both before and after, bills not being paid, struggling to put food on the table, relationships breaking and fractured families.

Seeing no future.

It is all so incredibly sad, and unnecessary.

Don’t worry yourself though, it will all be ‘much, much better’ in April.

A Christmas Fair?

A Christmas Fair is a mass gathering is it not?

In Nottingham’s case it’s also a bunch of wooden sheds converted from their summer ‘beach hut’ guise with some spray-on snow from Wilkos.

It’s about ripping off people with ever more difficult financial situations because they are in sore need of a little Christmas (or any other) cheer. A fiver for a hot dog anyone? Seven pounds for a glass of mulled wine? It’s about selling junk food and goods at extortionate prices.

The Winter Wonderland in the Nottingham Old Market Square

Outdoor skating, cancelled at Nottingham’s Winter Wonderland for 2020. (Image Nottingham Post)

It’s also about James Mellors Entertainments being in bed with Nottingham City Council and lining that business’s own pockets with low-brow cheap-ass ‘entertainment’ every time you open your eyes in this city. Controlling the public’s Old Market Square and anywhere else they can get their clutches into.

Meanwhile, during this pandemic, decent business such local pubs and restaurants that the community like to gather in have the shutters up and are being sold down the river, possibly into oblivion.T

This fair has nothing to do with Christmas or its spirit and it should especially not be happening this December.

The Tiers Of A Clown

A reported further 1,024 cases in 24hrs in Nottingham yesterday. Numbers further afield into the suburbs and wider county have taken an alarming jump also.

(Image: Nottingham Post)

I made a (probably final) visit to my ‘local’ in the city last night under Tier 2 restrictions which include no mixing with other households. The manager expressed that he would now prefer to close up completely and that to continue staffing the pub, even with just a single person didn’t make sense. There had been very few customers in the two days since new restrictions.

The experience? Well I sat listening to the Down The Slope Hibs podcast featuring an interview with Super Joe Tortalano, on my bluetooth earbuds, sipping pints of Bitbuger. Pleasant enough, but I can do that at home. In fact the pub that I know which is invariably lively with an interesting mix of folk felt more like Seafield Crematorium.

Streets and businesses in the city and local towns have all but emptied it appears. A popular public opinion is to impose a ‘complete’ lockdown. It feels very much like March again here. That’s me done, I’ll be imposing a self-lockdown – for the winter if necessary. Grim maybe, but it might be as well to find acceptance of this now.

University Challenge

(Image: Jem UoN Blogs)

A few figures surrounding the city’s university population as we wait for our fate regarding lockdown today.

University of Nottingham
Students: 35,000
Staff: 10,000
Active confirmed cases (students): 1,510
Comprising:
Students in private accom: 677
Students in university halls: 523
Students in purpose-built accom: 310
Increase in infected students in last 7 days: 1,085
Active confirmed cases (staff) 20

Nottingham Trent University also has over 33,000 students but has declined to publish figures for infection rate among student/staff. (There are no prizes for guessing why.) The above figures can therefore most likely be doubled.

In addition:
City tops the UK for new infections
Median age of people with Covid-19 (city): 21
7-day rolling rate of new infections at Sept 4th (city): 71
7-day rolling rate of new infections at Oct 8th (city): 830

I’ve no wish to vilify students – quite the contrary and I feel they’ve been badly treated – but whilst local authorities and the government continue to ignore these types of stats, closing hospitality, shops and their attendant services is never going to make sense to the public. They’re clearly not the only reason for the dramatic increase in infections in this city but at the beginning of Sept the city’s figures were some of the lowest in the UK. It’s now at the paramount for infections since the large student population returned.

Lockdown Two?

SEPTEMBER 11TH 2020 and here we are, awaiting our cue from Westminster in the morning. Doubtless this will mean more severe restrictions to a wide range of the public. One wonders about compliance in these days.

The amount of people who don’t appear to be subscribing to social distancing, mask wearing and so on is widespread and rife. I stepepd off a bus in a quieter part of the city last night at 7pm and was immediately confronted by scene with 15-20 older teens huddled up together in a tight group. Not a single mask between them. This is not unusual in my experience. It’s like those people are completely oblivious to the situation or think it doesn’t affect them in any way and is not relevant to them. It’s by no mean exclusive to that particular age group either.

Three young females, students judging by their conversation, were walking around the pub with no masks on. All got up to visit the bathroom at the same time…and took their drinks with them, almost unbelievably.

I anvassed a group of friends in the pub about the idea of forming a support bubble between two of our households. Not one person was aware of how they worked. Nor were they interested.

My bus service is pretty decent regards people following safety procedures. It helps that it travels to a rarer route and so has few passengers on these shorter eenings for hispitality. However, a passing tram was rammed to the rafters with students without a mask between them again. The University tram stop was also packed with those waiting for another service.

Probably like many, I feel tired and disheartened with the situation. I personally went through 5-6 months of working from home, living alone whilst barely seeing a single person. Doing my bit like so many others and now here we are again, facing a potential full lockdown in essence. The days are becoming colder and the nights longer without even a few warm summer days to cheers us. The government simply have little idea what to do, they missed their big chance earlier in the year. I don’t even have the energy to be angry at the significant amount of people ignoring the rules. Those without a single care for the health and lives for others. I have no idea of the way out of this but I’m certain that their way isn’t the correct one.

Tipping Point

THE BELOW was written prior to the storm now blowing through about students being confined to their rooms in thir residences – a truly shocking development I consider. The Government’s Test And Trace system has also now staggered into life, albeit with attendant problems.

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I’ve maintained for some time that there will be a ‘full lockdown’. It will be dressed up as something other than that, something with a snazzy new name, say, a ‘circuit breaker’, combined with a spiffing new world-beating three-word slogan to accompany it. (It’s understood by the Government that the public cannot take on information without it written in three parts on a lecturn).

The two-week period variously mooted really doesn’t mean too much. When the two weeks are drawing in another two weeks will be announced – after first being leaked out to break it a little more gently of course – and so forth. They did this in one-month periods on the first lockdown with people becoming increasingly upset each time it occurred. A point about locking down in any form might be to provide breathing space to get the crucial track, trace and isolate sytem going. The problem is the government have had six months to come up with this majorly important tool but decided to give the job to mates and ignore those digitally illiterate Luddites, Apple and Google. Actually criminally negligent.

I know that there are great difficulties and I have much sympathy with parents but for me the children should not have returned to school just yet. Teaching should have been rolled out 100% digitally with various support given to parents to facilitate it, along with a suspension of school term(s) or even a full academic year if necessary.

Similar for the students in higher education. Teaching should be conducted 100% digitally for now. This would have been preferable for the students who now, as well illustrated by recent reports, face a potentially fairly miserable and restricted experience at university. It could also cost many of them a great deal of money being tied into accommodation for an academic year that has arguably only a thin chance of being actually delivered face-to-face. More money needs to be found (but won’t be) to support not only furloughed workers and parents but also the businesses that are nearly on the brink of extinction.

It’s a question of priorities, the UK government can find outlandish sums for Trident (£200b), for bailing out banks (£500b) and so on. Those issues have their own arguments but it illustrates that money is always found when deemed ‘necessary’. It will allow the country’s citizens to suffer though, to lose their jobs, to go without food and lose their homes. To see people experiencing great mental health difficulties to the point of suicide. To witness the significant growth in domestic abuse.

Yes me too, I’m glad I don’t have to now make the decisions on the way forward in this dire situation. One thing for sure though is that if the UK government hadn’t made consistent and continual mistakes – sometimes almost wilfully – throughout, those decisions wouldn’t now have been so difficult or acute. A problem is that apart from not appearing to care all that much they’re really not all that bright. They simply lack the ability, thinking and industry to deal with the huge problems facing the UK.