The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

At Night

Returning home, late in the evening to my nice Nottingham suburb.

Dad brought us here. So many years ago.

Midnight approaches…

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A dark night as the heart of summer approaches. Comfortably warm temperatures and the night time air has that familiar sweet scent that is reassuring. A sense of knowing and of continuity.

Through the darkness, the pavement walk alongside the daytime busy main road, yellow tee roses peer out, smelling sweetly. There is a Weeping Willow.

Home and The Smiths’ clarion call…

‘Take me out tonight
Because I want to see people
And I want to see light’

This is how it feels.

May 25, 2017 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | | 2 Comments

Football on St. Mary’s Rec

I love this picture of my old school’s football team appearing on St. Mary’s ‘Rec’ at Redhill. Memories of wearing that red shirt a good few times, Denis Law-style with the cuffs pulled down over my hands and giving the ‘Lawman’s’ single fist salute after scoring and dreaming that I was playing for Scotland. In the background is St. Mary’s Church which has stood on that spot for a mind-boggling thousand years. The church around which the town was built.

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I recall one particular sports session at school where we were due to play football and a few of us turned up without kit as there was a foot of snow on the field. The games master who was very much a 1970s stereotype with his nylon track suit and bullying nature threw a pair of gym shorts each at us and made us go out and play bare-chested with no shoes or socks in deep snow and sub-zero temperatures. We survived – thought it was a bit of a laugh actually (except when you caught the rock hard size 3 football on your bare flesh). I’m just imagining what the authorities would make of that now.

The rec was the scene of many. a multiple-hour game of football between me, my pals and basically anybody who passed by. We played in all weathers in much worse conditions even than pictured I remember being engrossed in many-a-side games on the evenings in the late sixties that both Celtic and Manchester won their European Cups, running home hell-for-leather for a place in front of the black and white TV at kick-off time to watch the games with dad. Probably with a bowl of mum’s Scotch broth in front of me. Those were the days.

January 27, 2015 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , | 2 Comments

Arnold Local History Group

Looking to the future with one eye on the past.

For those interested in history, I’ve taken charge of an overhaul of my local history group’s website. The Arnold Local History Group is an established and growing organisation that offers education courses, events and exhibitions based on the town of Ernehale ‘The place of Eagles’, as it was formerly known.

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The Old North Road of ‘immemorial antiquity’. Mansfield Road, Redhill, Nottingham pictured in 1925

Mansfield Road (above) which travels through our borough and close to my home fulfilled the role of joining the North and the South of England together and is arguably one of the oldest roads, if not the most ancient, in the United Kingdom. Almost certainly, a Stone Age animal path wending its way through Sherwood Forest originally it rose to prominence and importance as the main road from London to York. There are records of a 9th Century Danish Viking invasion marching from York to the city of Nottingham four miles to the south along the predecessor of the byway and accounts of William the Conqueror travelling what later became known as ‘The Turnpike Road’.

The site has some unique and high quality content for anyone with an interest in or link to the town and thereabouts or for those with a liking for history in general. The Arnold Local History Group site is available at:

ARNOLD LOCAL HISTORY GROUP

Regular updates can also be found on the ALHG Twitter feed:

https://twitter.com/ArnoldHistory

January 22, 2015 Posted by | Times Gone By | , , , | Leave a comment

The Ram Inn, Redhill, Nottingham

The area of Nottinghamshire in which I live, Redhill, has seen quite a few changes over the years. Like many other places it has lost a few small businesses along the way, including a grocery store, a newsagent, the original post office and an excellent fish and chip shop. Two constants over the years though have been it’s two very old and neighbouring pubs, The Ram Inn and The Wagon and Horses which both stand prominently on the main Mansfield Road .

Just recently I have noticed that ‘The Ram’ has been closed up tight, boarded off and with workers cabins in the car park. It’s not clear whether this was to be a much-needed refurbishment as I’ve  been assured the old public house has closed it’s doors for good and that it’s future is apparently as an eighty-bedroom residential care home. Contradicting this there are signs outside which indicate that is to reopen as part of a chain of pub restaurants. Who knows the truth but it raises the thorny situation of the future of so many British pubs.

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Both of Redhill’s pubs are of a considerable vintage. The Wagon and Horses was reputedly built in 1827 as a coach house for the main arterial road north it stands upon while the The Ram is a few years it’s senior being built in 1789. I am informed that both pubs these days have a shared owner who has decided to close one of them. I dare hazard a guess that The Wagon has been kept because of it’s historic coaching inn past but that’s just conjecture on my part.

Over the years I had been a customer of both pubs. Before their lamented disappearance, the two main local breweries had been represented in the two pubs, The Wagon carrying Home Ales beer from it’s Daybrook premises just a mile down the road whilst The Ram sold the less popular Shipstones ales made at The Star Brewery at Basford perhaps just three miles away. Customers tended to go the pub whose beer they preferred. Well into the 1970s, The Wagon still retained its stables that had been originally used to replenish stage coaches with new horses in order to climb up the ‘interminable rise of Redhill’ northwards. Latterly the stables housed the pub’s toilets and in another area had swings for children as I recall.

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Local landmarks: The Wagon and Horses and The Ram Inn

Latterly, The Ram had slipped so far backwards it was difficult to know what could be done to improve the place. It was a very good example of the typical ruination of a decent pub after the separate bars were gutted to make one large area.  Together with a considerable extension to the rear, largely to woo potential diners, the atmosphere was barn-like and it also looked worn, tired and dated with it eighties-style former renovation.

Although only minutes walk from my home I have rarely used either pub in many years so I can understand how it has been difficult to retain the profitability of both establishments. I would have loved to support my local community’s public houses if either had been more to my taste. Typically, about once a year I’ll take an annual strollup the road to see if anything has changed. With both pubs being in such close proximity it was always easy to pop round next door if one was a little quiet. My usual experience has been to enter The Ram through it’s side door, find it almost completely deserted and walk straight out of the front door and on to The Wagon. In truth though, neither pub seem like the nice old local pubs that I used to visit years ago. Times have changed and I’d sooner go the trouble and expense of taking a return bus ride into the city where I can have a quiet drink in somewhere with a little ‘life’ in it and enjoy a good range of more interesting drinks such as some of the continental lagers and quality ciders. I don’t feel particularly pleased to say that and I’d love to have seen the old Redhill pubs back in their former guise and enjoy a walk up the road to enjoy a drink with a neighbour or two in a proper ‘local’ pub. It’s all a bit of shame.

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‘The Ram’

The news about The Ram Inn is hardly isolated. So many of our old pubs are disappearing forever and things will never be the same again. Another local pub, The White Hart which was an incredibly popular and busy pub years ago, now lies forlorn and graffiti-laden, doubtless awaiting demolishment and redevelopment for retail purposes. It’s last apparition as part of a mediocre restaurant chain now a predictable memory. I never would have in the past foreseen the day when the likes of that place was no longer.

The Ram Inn at the moment lies in sullen darkness after over two-hundred years of quenching locals’ and passing travellers’ thirsts. I hope it’s not all over for this well-known local landmark. What a dire state of affairs our local community pubs find themselves in in 2010. The biggest shame is that should the likes of The Ram Inn close down it would do so largely unloved and unlamented. It was not always thus.

October 23, 2010 Posted by | On The Road | , , , , | 22 Comments

Over the Hills and Far Away

An emailed conversation with a good friend recently focused my thoughts on the origins of how I began this addiction called ‘running’ many years ago as a twelve-year old with an attitude and an inclination. My friend Margaret and I have shared a few miles on the county’s footpaths and country lanes, we also at one time were part of the Redhill Road Runners club but that’s probably a story for another day. Safe to say, we have both had our share of pleasure, friendship, heartache, frustration and achievement over the years taking part in the sport. did I say sport? Perhaps more a way of life because I find one begins to define oneself as a runner in many ways.

When I think back to when I began running it brings a smile. Not quite into my teens and obviously knowing everything* I was probably kitted out in a pair of Tesco jeans, ‘Tesco Bombers’ as us Levi’s-deprived lads termed them. Completing my running clobber would be an orange Mickey Mouse t-shirt and pair of very flat-soled trainers which had starred in many a school playground twenty-a-side, tennis ball, football match.

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June 10, 2008 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , , , , | 1 Comment

When 20th Century Fox came to Redhill, Nottingham

A little piece of local history today from a story related to me by an elderly neighbour and family friend in Redhill many years ago who is sadly, no longer with us. It concerns a Mr. George Brough, the owner of the Brough motorcycle company of Nottingham, manufacturers of the legendary ‘Brough Superior’ motorcycle. George significantly at one juncture also held the world speed record for the motorcycle of around 130mph. Bikes ran in George’s blood as his father, George senior had developed the Brough name into two-wheeled legend and passed the business on to George junior.

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T. E Lawrence ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and Brough Superior

Just around the corner from my home in Redhill, Nottingham is situated a small cul-de-sac enshrouded in trees called Pendine Close which is accessible directly from the main A60, Mansfield Road. The close contains a small handful of good-sized homes which were built, on memory, in the 1960s. An attractive address and situation certainly but seemingly otherwise unremarkable, However, it’s the very large original home at the end of the close, ‘Pendine House’ in what was originally its own land, that is of interest being the former home of George Brough.

I’m reliably told that Pendine House was named after Pendine Sands, the seven-mile long beach on the shores of Carmarthen Bay on the south coast of Wales. This was the area famously chosen by Brough for his motorcycle record attempts.

Interestingly, it was said that George had some extremely well-known friends due to his fame in the motorcycle industry of the day. My old friend and neighbour related to me that none other than Irish playwright and critic, George Bernard Shaw was a friend of Brough’s and a regular visitor to Pendine House. He also told tale, quite casually, that George was a friend of the then boss of 20th Century Fox and thus counted several top Hollywood movie stars as friends and visitors to his attractive home in Redhill. One quoted to me was the huge star and master actor, Orson Welles, who was apparently a good friend.

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Visitors: Welles and Shaw

Another famous name, and a well-known association, was T. E. Lawrence, the famed ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, who would visit Redhill and take Brough Superiors for a high-speed spin around the local country lanes. It is recorded that Lawrence died on a Superior. It is fascinating to me to conceive of these world figures as visitors to a home a minute or two from my own front door.

According to Wikipedia (no written evidence available) George Brough attained the world record in 1928 in Arpajon, France. The same source offers the following about Lawrence’s demise:

“A few weeks after leaving the service, aged 46, he was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident in Dorset, close to his cottage, Clouds Hill, near Wareham (now run by the National Trust and open to the public). The accident occurred because of a dip in the road that obstructed his view of two boys on their bicycles; he swerved to avoid them, lost control and was thrown over the handlebars of his motorcycle. He died six days later.”

The image on the left shows George Brough with his hand on the shoulder of racer and Austrian sales rep, Eddie Mayer, sat on a Brough motorcycle outside his factory on Haydn Road, Sherwood, Nottingham. On the right, in a similar setting, Brough (standing) converses with T. E. Lawrence ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.

From available sources, it appears that George Brough led an exciting and colourful life before dying at seventy-nine years old. Fame, fortune and furiously fast motorcycles were his life. He certainly brought a little colour into the local community in Redhill too.

June 7, 2008 Posted by | Times Gone By | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Les Skinner

It’s a running anniversary of sorts for me tomorrow (more of later). For that reason it seems like a very opportune time to remember an old friend and fellow runner who is sadly missed by all that knew him. This was my humble tribute to him at the time. Two and a half years on, this gentleman still remains an inspiration to me… 

Les Skinner ,who passed away on the 6th September 2005

A celebration of my friend Les.

It was with great sadness I heard the news of the passing of Les Skinner recently, an old friend of mine and a great friend to many at Redhill Road Runners and of the club itself. I felt it important to write a few words about him at this time and although this is a sad occasion, I shall attempt to relate some of the lighter times with Les – just as I believe he would have wanted.

Many of you will know that Les was a founding member of Redhill Road Runners, having begun running with a group of colleagues from his then place of work, Jessops, in the city of Nottingham. The rest is history as they say with the group evolving into a genuine and successful running club over the years and into the present day.

I was first ensnared by Les’s powers of persuasion in the early nineties. I would notice him when out running through our favourite woods at Bestwood, we’d shout a cheery hello when passing each other and on one particular day I saw him in the distance and actually managed to catch up with him, (no mean feat in those days!) We chatted a little, running alongside, and he duly invited me along to the Redhill Road Runners club. So numerous were the occasions when out running afterwards with Les I would observe him doing this with other runners. It was at this time I first realised his great pride in the club that he had been a founding member of.

One of the many reasons I enjoyed running and training with Les was simply because he was great company. Out there on the country lanes and through the fields and woods, a tough fifteen-mile run would seem to pass in the blink of an eye with him chatting away and laughing together with you. All that knew Les will recount his mischievous but good-natured humour. One of the attributes I always loved about him was his bright-eyed enthusiasm he brought to everything, it was impossible not to be motivated by him when he spoke, he was one of those rare people who make all things seem possible.

Les, back row, 2nd left, with his beloved Redhill Road Runners

Although Les lived away from his native Cornwall for many years his love for his home county never diminished. He remained very much a Cornishman and proud of it. One of the many yarns he would relate would be the story of him being born in a castle down there in that loveliest of counties – it was true too!

There were so many humourous times with Les, to recount them all would take up pages and pages, from the Nike ‘Shoe Mountain’ which was his pride and joy at home to the story of when he broke ranks, leading at the very vanguard of the London Marathon at the mass start. Perhaps he would be inclined to inform you about the latest of his many and varied ‘injuries’ which would thwart his latest plan for world veteran running domination! Les told me once he ran part of a marathon with Australian champion Steve Monaghetti and I believe him. Make no mistake though and casting jokes aside for a moment, Les was a special and gifted runner. Those who ran with him like I did knew that.

It seems almost churlish to mention facts and figures in the context of a light-hearted man like Les but I would just like to add that his best time for a marathon was no less than 2.49 – almost international class. Without being dramatic many of us will remember him as being a tough and determined character, well suited to the rigours and hardships of long-distance running. He also had a great, natural inbuilt talent for the sport too, of that there can be no doubt.

Latterly after Les contracted his illness I would still see him out on the roads and trails, not running but power walking (probably faster than many could run actually). This to me was the mark of Les Skinner – a true warrior athlete who NEVER gave in.

I’d like at this point to acknowledge all the considerable work and dedication that Les and his wife Sheila, who I am proud to also call a friend, have offered to the Redhill club over the years. I’m sure that you will all share this moment with me to offer our condolences to Sheila and his two daughters Tina and Kerry who Les leaves behind.

No more shall I see that familiar running style of Les with that distinctive left arm curling outwards as he raced along – was this man one of the most easily recognised runners from a distance you have ever seen?

What’s more I’m going to miss it.

Thanks for being a friend Les, you will be very sadly missed.

Stuart

For anyone interested in joining the club that Les helped found, please go to:

Redhill Road Runners

January 30, 2008 Posted by | Sporting Tales | , , , | Leave a comment

Can Arnold do it? Yes it Can!

Now it has to be said, I live in a quite respectable area. It’ s possibly one of the oldest areas of Nottinghamshire being situated adjacent what was once called ‘The Great North Road’ from many hundreds of years ago. Redhill is a neat and tidy and well-established suburb a few miles north of Nottingham and is close to open countryside and cheek by jowl with the larger suburb of Arnold with it’s shopping area, facilities, and a population of approximately 38,000 people.

I’ve lived here in Redhill a long, long time and I like it. It suits me.

Opening the curtains the other day though I noticed a sight that is becoming more common these days – that of a collection of used beer cans stood outside my neighbour’s garage. It’s a trivial thing, maybe just a couple of young guys having a drink on the way home from the pub or youngsters messing around. It’s not the dawning of Armageddon or the end of civilisation in Redhill as we know it. In fact in nearby Arnold there are reports that the huge proliferation of litter, and particularly beer cans, gathered up on the main shopping thoroughfare, Front Street, is now being used in some very ingenious ways. Hurrah for Arnold! Well done to the neighbouring conurbation. It’s very much a case of waste not, want not in Arnold these days. Read on to view some great examples:

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January 23, 2008 Posted by | Ripping Yarns | , , , , | Leave a comment