The Broxtowe/Beestonia Land-Grab.

There has been a few readers of this blog who approach me via email, SMS and notes wrapped round bricks and delivered via my windows, desperate to know what I would do with the other bits of the Borough of Broxtowe once the Revolution takes place and I assume my rightful place as Benign Dictator. Will I cast them aside as excess  fat off the prime steak that is  Beestonia? Or acknowledge we have been linked together now for thirty years and take them with me as part of my Utopian state? I decided I better do as the Romans did, and send surveyors into the wilder reaches, and report back. Yes, I did that, and didn’t just garner all the facts for this article from Wikipedia and memories of getting lost on my bike on Trowell Moor.


No mention of Eastwood can get by without mentioning its stunning literary heritage, which delivered one of the greatest pieces of literature to the world. Yes, Eastwood was, as we all know, the inspiration for T.S.Eliot’s epic poem ‘The Waste Land’. Yep, despite its references to Greenwich and the Thames, its clear that the cruel Aprils, the discarded cigarette packets, the empty bottles are all references to the former pit-town. The anagrammed Mr Toilets just threw the London stuff in to avoid law-suits. I did English-lit, trust me. Want more proof? The first mention of Eastwood, or Estewick as it was then known, was in the Domesdays book where it recieved a one word description : ‘wasteland’. I think that is fairly conclusive, and nice to see its clung to its heritage with such aplomb.

Beestonia or Not-Beestonia: Sorry, no dice. Even the revenue to be garnered by the DH Lawrence links are not worth it. He was a sub-Hardy anyhow, and had a beard that made him look like a sex-offender.


Famous for its drive-thru McDonalds, TK Maxx and Matalan, Chilwell sits like a bulbous arse on the finely toned body of Beeston. Theres lots to do in this pretty appendage, however, as long as heroin and strong lager are your hobbies. I have lots of friends there, or did until I typed the previous two sentences, so do have a fondness for it. Inham Nook has the ability to be simultaneously seriously scary, and quite pretty, backing onto the rural beauty of the little bit of greenbelt that straddles Stapleford, Toton and Bramcote. Until the tram appears, and it can become properly, fittingly ugly.  

Beestonia or Not-Beestonia: Definately Beestonia. Even Benign Dictators need cheap designer track-suits and greasy burgers. It also has Chetwyn Barracks, which has TANKS and HARRIER JETS in it, so I can play war on a real scale.


Non-Beestonians in the UK will know Trowell as the place they go for a poo and an overpriced Ginsters Slice  should they miss the turning to Leicester Forest East while driving up the M1.  Its not all about the Services though, as it also has a degree of fame after being the selected ‘Festival Village’ in the 1951 Festival of Britain, as it was seen as ‘the most typical village in Britain’. This makes me so glad to have not been alive then. Has a garden centre, which I could try and make a joke of considering its name. Trowell, gardens, see? Feel free to find an aisle to roll down.

Beestonia or Not-Beestonia: Beestonia, just, on the grounds I have many happy memories of being 13 and walking to the services every weekend to spend my pocket money playing OutRun in the arcade. And it has a nice sprawling Moor. Unlike Medieval Spain, I can never have enough Moors.  


Oh Stabbo! How wonderful it was to grow up in your borders. How brilliant it was to work for years collecting trollies and stealing sweets in your Co-Op, how wonderful to be near beaten to death on a friday night outside the Manor Chippy, how I yearn for those Halycon days of having nothing to do but sit on Bobs Rock and throw chips at the passers-by on Derby Road. Agh, I’m not bitter. The Saxon Cross is a wonderful thing, over 1400 years old, and The Hemlockstone (despite looking like a dog-turd stood on end) and surrounding woodland are sublimely wonderful. And Hyper, Britain’s Cheapest Supermarket, that sells out-of-date food and only stopped using half-penny pricing around the Millennium.  Shame the Bingo Hall is gone though, that was a building I adored as a kid willingly dragged there every Saturday with my gran, and is possibly responsible for my holy trinity of   bad habits: booze, Superking cigs and Bingo. Amen.  

Beestonia or Not-Beestonia: Ah, how could I deny you, you shabby, stupid town? Come aboard, but please, please, behave.


What can one say about Nuthall? Errrr, nothing. Sorry.

Beestonia or Not Beestonia? As keen as I am on desolate traffic islands feeding traffic off the M1 into Nottingham, Im afraid I can’t allow it in.


Bramcote isn’t really a place as such, just what people who feel too posh to call themselves St.Aplefordians and too inferior to call themselves Beestonians call their streets. It has a fine leisure centre, a good pub (The Top House) a crap pub (The Sherwin Arms), lots of parks, some trees and two schools, one of which educated me in the loosest sense of the word. It has a fine village atmosphere, and the six-lanes of the A52 that cut right through its middle only add to this rural ambience.

Beestonia or Non-Beestonia: Nope. Sorry, I know it is possibly the prettiest place in Broxtowe , has most green-belt, and is necessary since it links Beeston to St.Apleford, but it loses out as I had my most embarrassing  moment ever in Bramcote Leisure Centre, when I attended a Tai Chi lesson after eating some bad eggs. The memories are too raw, so bye, Bramcote bye.

So thats my vision. I know I have forgotten Toton, Kimberley, Brinsley, Cossall, Strelley and Greasley. I have yet to complete my survey. And as I have just marked myself out as a Dead Man Walking should I even so much as step out of Beeston, don’t be expecting my findings anytime soon.

All complaints to be delivered to me, who is actually a 62 year old woman called Margaret living in the Rylands and not a 36 year old man called Matt living on Marlborough Road.

I invented Britpop.

Oh yes I did. Didn’t get paid a penny for it though.

Glastonbury 1992, I’m in the crowd waiting for Neds Atomic Dustbin and 808 State. Ask your dads. I have to sit through a succesion of crappy Indie bands..Eat, Family Cat, etc. And do so, to appease the demanding girlfriend who doesn’t want to lose her spot in the crowd.

Which is, after an afternoon jostling, right up front. Blur come on.

I was ambivalent to them, I was aware of there conceit and could smile at ‘Shes so High’ and ‘Theres No Other Wy’, but they were no Cud. So I watched, and thought ‘lead singers a twat’. So I threw a cup at him.

It was a hot day, and we were dehydrating, so they gave us cups of water. Rigid plasic cups, that flew really well. If aimed at the stage. Which they were. Cos I was bored.

A puddle develops, to my delight. Damon Albarn sees this, runs towards to the collection of cups, now lying like albino Liliputian warthogs round a waterhole, and kicks them asunder, slipping on the water in the process, slamming into the monitor stack as he flails drunkenly towards some control.

And doesn’t notice how how the monitor stack destabilises,  rocks and falls, topples and lands on the ankle of the lead singers heal and ankle, He  collapses, sings no more

American tours are canceled, Albarn broods and witnesses American movement dominate, and write the glorious counterblast that was   Modern Life Is Rubbish. Britpop was sparked. The rest is history. Britpop changed culture, Cool Brittania rode its heels, and only now, in the dying days of Nu Labour, are we looking back with puzzlement and baffled analytical process.

Britpop. Where better  to start, albeit via the second hand, than Beestonia?

The Bohemian Boozehound of Beestonian

Andrews on fire. Its lucky I came down for a drink after dehydration struck, because hes ablaze. I run into the kitchen, fill a pint glass with water, and throw it on his smouldering back in a splashy hiss. He wakes up, lifts his face to me, his glasses at a mad angle to his swollen, tired eyes ‘Wazzit?’ he says ‘You fell asleep in front of the fire, you drunk sod’. He rolls over, and goes back to sleep, oblivious to the peril he has avoided.

Welcome to Andrew, one of the strangest Beestonians ever.

I met him in the Vic,  when my girlfriend at the time took pity on him. He appeared to have been dumped, at one point in the night, his male friend storming off, leaving him in tears and ordering a bottle of red for himself. She went to chat with him, and eventually bought him over to our table. He was dressed in flamboyant attire, trousers just a tad tighter than Oxford Bags, a pinstripe shirt, and a long grey check overcoat with a thick patterned scarf. He was nervous, chatted politely, and then thanked us and took his nearly empty bottle home.

A few weeks later, Im househunting, and the first door I knock on is answered by Andrew. We laugh at the coincidence, and after a brief tour of the house, decide to move in with him. I signed the contract, not realising what insanity awaited.

Andrew was an frustrated actor with rather serious booze habit. He smoked intensely, and not just in front of gas fires. He was also the campest man in the world. A bundle of foppish blousiness,  a mincing, flouncing wonder. A intoxicating and intoxicated mix of Kenneth Williams, John Inman and Larry Grayson. I half expected him to speak fluent Polari. I asked him about boyfriends one day.

‘What do you mean?’ he replied, in rapt horror.

‘Just wondering how many you have had over the years, just being nosey’

‘Did you say BOYfriends?’

‘Erm, yes Andrew’

He let his jaw drop, exhaled, and with a exasperated pout, he flounced off, his scarf flapping behind him. Oops.

He forgave me my assumptions, and we went on to live in a sort of happy hedonistic harmony. We would throw huge house parties which would often end in food fights or a repaint of the walls. The young German girl I was with at the time adored him and his outrageous mannerisms, and I found myself getting fond. He taught me there was good white wine, and I still enjoy a glass of Viognier. We’d sit in front of the TV on a weeknight getting progressively drunker, or weekends in pubs and nightclubs dancing without shame, mounting podiums, stealing and swinging  glo-sticks and trying to antagonize the bouncers at the end of the night by pretending we were ‘doing bits and bobs for the DJ’ and seeing how long it took for them to realise.

He would tell me stories from his bizarre life, how he got arrested in Venice for stealing and joy-riding a Gondola down the canals, or the time he dropped acid and walked through his parents French Windows, mistaking the plate glass for air.

Heady, halycon days.

Things started to unravel after a few months. Andrew’s drinking was spiralling out of control, and he was getting banned from so many pubs for his antics it was becoming difficult to go out anywhere, and nervy when we did should he decide to add the surroundings to his list. Weekends would be spent in pubs, throwing up on the way home in the neighbours hedge, then collapsing in the front room, routinely near-immolating.

His drinking then seeped into the week. One very early Wednesday morning, he collapsed onto the sofa, but not before putting on his new favourite song ‘Poor Leno’ by Roysksopp and cranking the amp up to 11. I walk downstairs ,turn it down, say ‘not on a bloody schoolday, twat’ and back to bed.

Ten seconds into my resumed dream, Im thrown awake as it goes back up to maximum volume. I go down, unplug the hi-fi, and back to bed.

Back on it goes , the bass rattling the frame of my bed. I storm down, take the CD out, re-case it, turn the hi-fi off, unscrew the plug, remove the fuse, throw the fuse across the street into a neighbours privet hedge, and go to bed.

Half an hour later, after hearing the door go, I look out my window and see him outside, on hands and knees, desperately scrabbling in the undergrowth.

I decided soon after to move out, and this infuriated him. He acted like a betrayed wife, begging me he could change, we could make it work, things would be different. I stayed resolute, and left.

We stayed friends, closer than ever now I felt his antics could be observed from a safe distance. He decided after much chiding from  me to take up acting, and he duly took a part in Lady Windermere’s Fan, a bit of Oscar Wilde a perfect place to exhibit his mastery of the thespian arts. I helped him rehearse, often in pubs where our growing extravagance in  the witty pithiness of the lines were met with bemused stares from those who had come to have a quiet pint.

Eventually, the opening night came, and Andrew was decked out in Victorian finery, and stole the show with his natural feel of the part. I sat in the audience, proud that at last, he had his niche. I envisaged an eventual elevation to the RSC, then TV, BAFTAs, Oscars, gold stars lain in Beeston Square and a blue plaque on our once shared house on Trevor Road.

Then, on the last day, I get a phone call at 6pm, an hour before he was due in costume.

‘Matt, help’

‘Oh god. What?’

‘I’m in Wetherspoons. In a toilet cubicle. I appear to have been drugged by someone putting something in my drink. I just woke up, minus my wallet, and, well..’


‘I have pissed myself. Quite severely’

So I found myself in the bizarre situation of finding myself selecting my most generously waisted trousers- the booze had gave him a portly lower body-a pair of clean shorts and running to The Last Post. He changed, but was still entirely drunk.

At the theatre, they were just about to go on with a reader to replace Andrew, as he had no understudy,  when five minutes before curtain up, a shambling Andrew crashes through the door, fag in mouth, stinking of booze, after jumping a taxi. ‘The show, the show MUST go on’ he exclaimed, before pulling on his pantaloons.

His part in the play was secondary, a guest at the eponymous Windermere’s party, and as such it required a Wildean mildly drunk wit to carry off the role, hence his previous success. What it got that night however was a unsteady, ad-libbing madman, frequently stumbling over the scenery and at one point exclaiming that Lady Windermere ‘cheer the fuck up, love’, a line that Wilde seems to have omitted from the original script. The audiences reaction was, as I wasn’t part of it, unrecorded. But after the final curtain, he was told he’d ‘Never act on a Nottingham stage again’ to which news he reacted by trying to headbutt the director, missing, and falling over a chair.

I don’t see him anymore. He came out eventually, to no-ones surprise, made up for a decades worth of celibacy with a blitz on Gaydar, and we fell out after his drunken rants eventually led to me deciding he was a sociopath, and he hit me with a roast potato over sunday lunch.

I see him here and there, he lives in The Park now, and Beestonia is poorer for his move. We do occasionally bump into each other on occasion, and after  politely saying  hello, a smatter of smalltalk, and I see him wanting to ask me to the pub. Before he does, I make my excuses and leave, as I know I would be so tempted. Every Withnail has his I, and I couldn’t be that anymore.

He may read this, and if you are Andrew, I’m sorry for this indiscretion. You know I have left out the most terrible stuff, the most intense fringes of your personality. You also know, as our mutual hero Wilde did, that  their is one thing worse than being talked about, and thats not being talked about. Cheers, you shabby, shambling mess. I suppose I miss you.

The Bill Bryson of Beestonia.

I feel something is wrong, I spin, and sure enough he is standing there, looking sheepish, and I grab the contents of his hand, my wallet. I rail at him, fists aloft, he cringes, I’m just grateful he has yet to filch the contents. He cowers further, then runs off. I just stopped a subtle pickpocket.  Normally, that would be high on my chart of todays weirdness but no, its only about fifth  on the Horror Hit Parade. There was also a witnessed murder, a discovery overcoats and hot weather are a stupid mix, a woman breaking down in the seat next to me in an internet cafe and telling me her dad was a filho de puta with such venom she flobbed on me, and  more assorted madness.  Holidays. Fun.

I didn’t want  to write about Spain, so won’t. I will leave out all detail of the 60 cent per litre wine, the sunshine that accelerated my winter into June, the tapas that filled me with so much oil i’m officially a fire hazard…no.  I will not talk about it.

Thats for my next blog, ‘Malagia’.

I used to travel loads. I ran away  so frequently as a toddler my parents bought and attached reins, so if I did run, i’d out-tether myself, and hang by my neck to escape like an excited dog when the allure of another dogs bum overrides its need for breath. After, I’d abscond from school to my gran’s in Toton, and claim asylum, before she would gently repatriate myself to my homeland, unless my claim was good, whereby she’d nurture me with biscuits and shandy before extradition to a place that would not punish me.

Teenage years, and I was off like a rocket. Aged thirteen, my older brother coaxed me back with a Panini football album  after I decided to move to Ireland (never got it though, the sod. Though my sincerity also lacked, sans passport). I  ran to Leeds after meeting a girl from a holiday in Ingoldmells, I say ‘ran’, I got too dehydrated on my way to Trowell services where my hitching would begin to go any further and consoled myself that she smelt a bit too much of boiled potatoes anyhow.

Years past, and I got the bug, and run again. Though, exceeding the age of majority, its not running. Its hitchhiking, and its hitchhiking everywhere. First off, Abingdon in Oxfordshire, to see a long term penpal, accompanied by Dean, a St. Apleford Gerald Derpadieu lookalike who was as dangerously  spontaneous as I. We set off, ten pee between us (so we could call a girl I knew there), not  a care for meals, sleeping arrangements. Its summer, nectar is our food, hedges our duvets. Except we walk down a sliproad, get chased by trafffic police running up the embankment attempting escape, then both get caught when we get to the top and realise the field that guarantees our safety is enclosed with barbed wire, and full of potentially evil cattle.

We get ticked off, dropped off, and go home.

I then became an expert of hitching, with a girlfriend doing the whole country from Penzance to Aberdeen; to Newcastle and back dozens of times; and many, many routes. I couldn’t keep still. To do so would have been stagnation. Thank me I never learned to drive. Peak Oil would have been reached a long time ago.

I then spend a summer in Europe in a Holland-fuelled haze, followed by two years in Spain and Portugal. Then Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Egypt…anywhere. Travelling light: I once went to Asia with hand luggage, travelling without any real plan: I have slept rough in more countries than most people have visited, travelling, always traveling. Until a little miracle happened.

I only noticed the miracle a few days ago. Maybe earlier, I can’t be sure, maybe it seeped in rather than poured.

I discovered Zen Travel.

Woah. I know, I hear the hissing ‘H’ of ‘Hippy’ on your lips, and shame for your prejudice, let me at least argue.

We live in a culture where we are told that to look wider is to see wider, to travel therefore is to, here comes the cliche ‘broaden’s one horizons’. I cannot argue. When I see some of the opinions held by ‘friends’ on Facebook who I schooled with, those who have not moved away and have had their sojourns limited to excursions to English Bars abroad, I see only misplaced pride, clumsy and angry patriotism, and a hubris that leads to the idea that a shaved head, a beer-belly constrained George Cross t-shirt and a desire to upgrade the already weary concept of ‘bulldog spirit’ with ‘pit-bull spirit’. You too have been invited to their ’causes’ their ‘groups’ their ‘events’. Always a strangely angry and borderline take on contemporary events, paradoxically advocating far-right views whilst trying to evoke the Churchillian spirit.

But enough, that is a bugbear, yet one best dealt with by those more eloquent and focused. Back to Beeston.

What sweet words those last three were! On Friday night, I lay in a Pensao in   a grimy area of Southern Spain, a room where room service was a hose to clean out the cockroaches, the mini-bar was what the last tenant had left on the bed side table (I left a half-litre carton of Vinho de Mesa, and some stale Madelines). My bedside lamp, the only illumination  in the room, was controlled by a switch conveniently  outside the room. The toilets were down the corridor, and I shall not knock then for their cleanliness, but paper is nice. Malaga’s multitude of paper tour guides were invaluable here, though I can never see poor Pablo Picasso in the same light.

I lay there, after an impromptu departure from the flat I had been luxuriating in, (two bathrooms, exquisite views, all mod cons) , and all I wanted was to be home. I’d fast-forwarded the future, and this had screwed with my circadian rhythms….those anchors you cast down to understand the year, to feel our environment and climate…to be here was a perversion,  a cheat. I felt a Judas twice over: for a betrayal of my previous love of travel; and for traveling away from my rhythms in the first place.

Feel the beat, feel the rhythm. Life best lived recognizes tempo, melody,it recognizes beauty through orchestration.  So definitive, the twin bosses of post-Roman Britain have had to lie there claim onto it: no snuggling together to ward off the midwinter cold and lack of provision, no, a virgin birth is so much more interesting, so much more tabloid. No Spring Equinox,  no, heres a man coming back to life after his mates dob him in after a pissed-up Friday night out, and for the ladies, heres bunnies with chocolate.  This is gilding the rose to the extreme. The Pagans, bless them, had it right, celebrating Solstices and equinoxes with no whistles and bells, unsubtle and natural. They had a thing about goats too. I like things about goats.

I see you nodding sagely. And then turning to myself, Lord Beestonia, and enquiring politely ‘There are an estimated 7 trillion terabytes of information on the interweb, that would, reading backwards, take three Big Bangs to accommodate, and at least two point five of those would be porn….so why should I spend timing reading your incoherent ramblings and not go and do something more interesting instead, like dress as a cat and freak teenagers out on Chatroulette?’

Well, I’m going to save you a lot of money. You will never have to holiday with Ryanair again.

Embrace Zen Travel. Take time to go into your own town, village, hamlet, whatever, and have a closer look. If in Beeston, have a day trip that doesn’t involve tour guides and snowglobes, look deeper within where you are. Have a little mission, to find the most bizarre sign in a shop window (today, mine was one in CashConverters, where an ancient Olivetti wordprocessor is for sale, with the sign ‘GOOD FOR WORDS. NOT GOOD FOR FOOD. £19.99’.

Find little oddities, such as in the precinct by the bus-station where a fascia has fell off one of the derelict shops revealing its previous incarnation as a record shop, sometime in the eighties by the dizzyingly bad logo and graphics. Walk up Imperial Road and notice the weird drainage system of the pavements, punctuated with metal studs proclaining the long-defunct Diamond Cable . It pisses on the Valley of the Kings. Less sandflies.

There are rules. You must have travelled widely before you become a Zen-tourist, for you have to experience the Macro before you allow in the Micro. You must  not expect anything; instead of the usual method of going out to see something, seeing it, being photographed next to it, making ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ noises, and buying a snowglobe of it, one must travel without prejudice. Drift, absorb, be careful at traffic lights.

You will discover a world once hidden. Your senses will re-attune to a different frequency, your perception will be flung open. Drugs are not encouraged either, in case you think this is a stoned rant, avoid them, save for  a cheeky light ale at The Crown.

Get to know your place, get to know yourself. Rediscover rhythm, rediscover beat.  And discover true sightseeing. Wish you were here? You already are.

I will leave it at that. Except to mention, I have my passport to sell, one careless owner, lots of mileage, all sensible and insensible offers considered.

Send us a postcard!