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.

New Term – Hopes, Dreams and Lifetimes

THE END OF SEPTEMBER 2015 is nigh and this means that the streets of Nottingham around the Nottingham Trent University city campus are once again thronging with ‘Freshers’. The areas including Shakespeare Street and Goldsmith Street adjacent to the Arkwright and Newton buildings being particularly awash with new students, locating their accommodation and general whereabouts for the coming academic year.

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Nottingham Trent University

With my own place of work being quite close, a saunter through the area on Thursday brought the sight of a teeming group of young intakes to the streets, identically dressed in a uniform of bright orange t-shirts proclaiming the legend ‘FRESHERS CREW across the chest and personalised names on the back, football jersey style. The faces were those of young people principally just having left home for the first time, expressions of excited expectancy, underlined in some cases with a slight etching of self-doubt and apprehension as they settle in to making new friends and locating their place in various groups and pecking orders.

Next week will probably see the beginning of the processions of large groups of students in fancy dress, heading along Mansfield Road and other main thoroughfares, congregating in the city centre and its clubs, pubs and inevitable ‘student nights’. It’s a familiar sight each year and brings a knowing smile to my face

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Nottingham, being a city that boosts the two places of learning, Nottingham Trent University and the older, illustrious University of Nottingham, is very much a university town these days. Sometimes, there have been reports of the city’s students bring problems to inner-city residential areas where they have tended to colonise and indulge in boisterous, noisy and non-neighbourly behaviour as young people often inevitably do. It should be said though that, for me at least, the city is breathed new life when they return each September. Apart from economic factors alone, I feel they bring something to the modern culture of Nottingham and of course, I have walked a mile in those shoes years ago and therefore don’t feel so far removed from them and what they are experiencing, although my own home was in Nottinghamshire.

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Nottingham Trent University, Arkwright Building, Shakespeare Street

A happy thought is that many of these young people will be making friends for many years or even a lifetime. They’ll form new allegiances with the city’s sports teams, visit places with friends that they’ll recall fondly as long as  they are able to remember.  Some will meet their life partners and some may even settle that well they never leave the city again and call it ‘home’.

Autumn term beckons, good luck to the returning and new students of the Queen of The Midlands.

Work hard and play hard.

Early Term

It’s mid-October and the golden leaves are now falling steadily, swirling around and sweeping the streets. It’s a time when energy levels can be depressed but often need to

be heightened, as in the case of the many people within my working environment at a local University. For October is a time of enormous activity in any such organisation.

The city centre campus is inevitably teeming with bodies and droves of hopeful and excitable young students, many on their first sojourn from home, pouring along Shakespeare Street and Goldsmith Street. Books and satchels in hand, hopes and fears for the future in heart.

Today as I write it is very sleepy in student land. An 8.15am stroll from the Victoria Centre bus depot sees surprisingly few people or traffic, an unusual scene for the middle of a sizeable city such as Nottingham. It’s a Thursday morning and every Wednesday night is a discount student night in some nightclubs in the city which might offer an explanation for the sluggish and rheumy eyed beginning to the day. By the time I emerge from a lecture mid-morning it will be a different academic world.

The University has seen many recent changes and as I walk around the lower levels of the city-dominating tower of the Newton building it strikes me that I’m standing on the very spot that I did more than thirty years ago. In those days it was in my first incarnation as a student studying Letter Assembly for my job as an apprentice compositor in the print trade. The plush surroundings I’m observing now where once a car park stood  which I would kick a ball through with my friends for morning coffee in the refectory.

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There really is little comparison with the environs of the Trent Polytechnic of the 1970s and the modern Nottingham Trent University of today with it’s freshly appointed ambiance borne of huge investmen and very few similarities apart from geography. The Newton building has been gutted and refurbished and so has the historic but slightly run down Arkwright building of my teens. Sadly, the building where I was based in the composing room is no longer and has been razed to the ground in aid of progress and a seemingly little-used courtyard.

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NTU’s Newton and Arkwright buildings

In those days Trent Polytechnic was largely inhabited by local students who were industrially-based in regular jobs, there appeared to be very few lofty academics in evidence and even people wearing white laboratory coats appeared to consider themselves a superior breed to us printing apprentices in those days. As I look around today there are many overseas students from China, Thailand, Korea and many other far-flung countries surrounding me. It is an interesting and vibrant panorama and this is perhaps just as things should be in the Autumn of 2010. It is however still an interesting comparison with those long days passed of enrolling in 1975 and stepping out of ‘Trent Poly’ in 1980 to face a new decade and the full-time world of work.

‘Goodbye’ seems to be the hardest word

‘Twas a strange day right enough. My working day began at home with some difficult transcribing, but no bother really. 2.30pm heralded a trip to pretty Brackenhurst College for a 3pm start. I drove into the car park and left my car under an avenue of gorgeous Spring time apple blossom. It’s difficult to explain but at that moment I felt very blessed to come along to work in this place – after travelling through all the attractive villages I know so well.

The lecturer, a particularly sweet and cheery young woman, handed around chocolates to her students (and I). Come the end of the class she began to well up a little – it was time to say goodbye to her students of the past three years and it showed. Continue reading “‘Goodbye’ seems to be the hardest word”