Leila and Tess: Tarah.

This is one of those rare posts where I talk about something personal. Not about the tram, Continuum, local politics, events, oddities or whatever has so far propelled this blog to a rather worrying amount of reads.

I have done this before: when I recently got married the elation of the event, with the community love we received, made it impossible not to set it down. As anybody who knows me will attest, I have a condition that is a form of ADHD: I don’t concentrate on anything well, unless I find it fascinating: thus, my focus is a butterfly, flitting from subject to subject, everything a distraction I have to be excited about.

It’s great for running all things Beestonia, but crap when I have to do stuff structurally, such as invoice people on time or tell my long-suffering designer on the magazine what we are doing this month. My garden is testament to that. A riot of weird flowers that have sprang up since I mixed together several packets together and sewed them willy-nilly. Careful planting, potting, arranging in rows never happens with me. I get distracted by a passing ladybird, or some other fascination. Random sowing ensues.

My head swirls. Writing is the only way I can grab those thoughts and structure them. When something great happens, I can only work it out by grasping a butterfly net and pinning those dashing, chaotic thoughts to the page. When something awful happens, likewise, but with greater need.

Two weeks ago, one of my cats died, hit by a train. We didn’t find her body ourselves: the council did, microchipped, she was easily identified. My wife came home from work, floods of tears. Tess was the runt of the litter, with a tiny physique and a lazy eye. I didn’t intend her to be my pet, I had selected her larger, more confident sister, Leila. I only set out to get one cat. Yet as I lifted Leila into the carry case, Tess tried to climb in. I picked her up and moved her away, and was about to leave when she made another forlorn attempt to follow her sister, losing her fluffy footing and rolling away from the carry case with a pitiful pathetic ‘marrrrrmmm’.

‘Is that a she?’ I asked the kitten-seller

She picked up the tiny desperado, and checked ‘Yes, yes she is’

‘Is she available?’

‘Oh yes, very much so’.

I left with 100% more feline than I intended.

It was one of the best decisions of my life. Being together settled them into life with us more readily; they played together, ate together; and would curl up next too each other when they wore themselves out. It was quite blissful: my wife, our house, our little cats. They won over all that met them, both strutting up to visitors, checking them out, and consenting to ear rubs in return for a scent marking. They were much loved from the off.

Leila was lost when Tess died. She would check out all the places Tess would hide. She’d wait before eating for Tess to arrive, before giving a bemused look at me and tucking in alone. Although small, Tess had always been the hunter, the bruiser, the climber: Leila now ventured out with a bristly trepidation.

This morning, our neighbour, Rob, came round, upset. He’d found Leila in one of favourite places, a shelf in his greenhouse, in a very bad way. Ellie, my wife, ran upstairs where I was just waking up ‘Got to go to the vet. Leila has been in a fight, and has a serious gash on her leg’. I jumped out of bed, dressed and headed to Rob’s. Ellie phoned the vet. Rob was in tears. The kits had been his favourites too, and they’d stop off to say hello daily, sometimes even sleeping in his house. You never truly own cats, you just become an admire they consent to grace with their presence. Rob, along with my wife and I, and no doubt several others on the small crescent we live on, enjoyed that privilege.

Leila was a lot worse than I’d expected. Whatever had happened to her, this was no scratch, deep, wide or otherwise. Both back legs were effectively destroyed. Her eyes were terrified: Rob had carried her from the greenhouse to his car, and she was confused and meowing pleadingly, occasionally slipping into panic. I wrapped her favourite blanket round her, lay her in her carrier and we sped to the vets on Wollaton Road. I sat in the back. Leila had been my little familiar: since Tess had died she’d been increasingly clingy to me, sitting on my shoulders, following me, daily waking me up with an impatient head-bump and mew. I stroked her ears and chin, she stared at me, her eyes lacking the clarity cats have as a given.

The prognosis was bad. One leg damaged, a cat could have a reasonable, if massively compromised life. Two legs gone: and the vet confirmed they were most definitively gone, then there was only one humane thing to do.

Ellie and Rob left the room, I stayed. As the vet prepared the consent papers, I stroked my dying pet and comforted her. A paw was shaved, the syringe inserted and drew blood with the chemical that was then shot back into to stop her tiny heart. Her eyes closed and her head fell into my palm. I rested it on the blanket.

‘Only a cat’, I know. I shy from mawkishness, from overwrought emotion, of false grief that masks a deeper vanity. I have met people this year who have lost children, spouses, lifelong friends. In no way do I think this compares to that. My gran lost three kids, all young. Nothing compares to that loss.

Yet as humans we only live through definition of our relationships: all else is mere existence. Those two cats were little innocent, reckless spirits. My wife and I, like every pet-owner in the land, would never truly understand them, never truly feel that deep empathy one can have with other humans, but it was every bit real in breadth if not in depth. We fashion a working, amusing compromise with our animal companions, one that has real magic in those shaded areas of the animal mind/human mind Venn diagram.

I cannot thank the kind words people have sent to us over the last few hours: whenever I have offered condolence I feel a shade glib in it’s very inadequacy: but no, never feel that, they helped, my gratitude. Yellow roses arrived from my good friend and colleague Tamar. They stand in a vase right now, resplendently drinking in sun with an absurd butter glow.

I walk to the garden, the semi-tamed jungle my mini-panthers loved to prowl in. The accidental plants that I apparently sowed a few months back hum and buzz with life, tiny wasps, bees, damsel and dragon flies agog with the scented nectar bounty. Life teems, indifferent and endless.

Even more tram news…. a brief update.

Been quite a day since the news broke at 6am that the City Council believed the tram would not be up and running until somewhere in the first half of 2015. There statement also compared it to the Edinburgh tram fiasco in a ‘hey, at least we’re not that bad’. I imagine a fair few disgruntled Beestonians would add ‘..yet’ to the end of that sentence.

I’m now going to stick my head above the parapet and make a confession. I support the tram. I quite look forward to it’s arrival. I like having a big chunk of centralised money dumped into the town’s infrastructure. It’s a greener, faster, more modern mode of transport that could give a welcome boost to the town. 

Yet I find the whole construction a flawed, dishonest process. The decision to close Chilwell Road left a bad taste, so was sweetened with the promise that this would speed up the construction and reopen the road asap. That date has been put back several times, impacting on businesses immeasurably. Poor Mr Falafel: Fort Knox is easier to gain access to. 

The construction contractors are still resolute of a December 14th finish, though I’ve heard off the record they don’t expect it to be fully running until 2015. While it’s important to stress that any revised date doesn’t mean the same volume of works will be seen round Beeston: roads will be reopened and pavements rebuilt pretty soon, but the boost traders would have had, particularly on Chilwell Road, in the run up to Christmas is now missed. This is something unlikely to be compensated on: after all, the works will have finished by then. 

I’ve not been able to get through all the fall-out from this: Soubry has issued a statement demanding an emergency meeting with the City Council, but I’ve yet to examine that more, or any other political comment. It’s all broke at an awful time for me: I have the Beestonian deadline looming, the Oxjam Bake Off to help run, the Beestonian Movie at a critical stage and, well, I quite fancied watching a bit of tennis at some point. Rather bad timing. 

And not just for me. For the second time in a week I’m putting myself in the same boat as David Cameron (it’s a rather grubby dinghy). He has just announced that he would fully endorse a Nottingham-Kimberly tram route when he was on his recent trip to the Borough. The Eastwood and Kimberly Advertiser led on this story today. Soubry’s previous opposition to trams seems to have totally flip-flopped on this one, seen as a bit of a vote winner. I’ve been contacted by Kimberley councillors today who are delighted by the news, possibly the first thing Cameron has ever said that has the local Labour party endorsing. Could it be that NET’s reluctance to admit to significant delays be related to this? If they were to confirm the estimates of both Broxtowe and City councils about the Beeston line, would it damage the PM’s endorsement and the strong likelihood of trams running up to our northern neighbours?

Interesting times. Please leave your thoughts and any news you have, and keep me from closing my laptop and sticking the tennis on. 

 

 

 

EXCLUSIVE TRAM NEWS.

At last, some official notification that the tram project is delayed.

Check through my archives and you’ll see this has been predicted for a while, yet I’ve never been legally able to say it as fact. I know, you know, anyone with eyes knows that the tram is not going to be completed on time. Broxtowe Borough Council last week gave their opinion that the tramworks would never be open on-time: Beestonian’s were not exactly surprised as, despite some very immediate and positive completions of late Beeston still has huge areas of non-completion that will be ready for any significant period of snagging.

I was leaked this earlier, but haven’t had time to totally assess it’s impact. I imagine it will be significant. 

 

“Nottingham City Council is calling on Tramlink Nottingham, the concessionaire which is building and will operate the NET tram extensions, to open up parts of the new tram routes to Clifton and Chilwell, known as NET Phase Two, as soon as possible.

 This follows the announcement by Tramlink’s contractor, Taylor Woodrow Alstom, that although the most disruptive construction works will be substantially complete by the end of the summer, the new tramlines won’t fully open to the public until the first part of 2015.

 Councillor Jane Urquhart, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transportation, said: “I’m pleased that Taylor Woodrow Alstom has reaffirmed that the major construction works which have been disruptive to traffic and local communities, will be completed by the end of the summer. It is however disappointing that they have confirmed that they will not be able to fully open tram services to Clifton and Chilwell to the public in December 2014.”

 “We acknowledge that once construction works are substantially completed, the next stage of the project, which involves testing and establishing the operational arrangements along the new routes, is a complex process which the contractor was planning to complete during December, but they have now informed us that the testing programme is likely to go beyond this point. The most important thing is that the new lines, and the associated improvements to the public realm around the new lines, open only after they have been rigorously tested to ensure that they are safe, and that the works are completed to the highest possible standard.“

 Councillor Urquhart went on to add: “We will work hard with the contractor to help them to complete the remaining works as swiftly as possible and to open the new lines as soon as they can, and we are now keen that Tramlink Nottingham explores whether they are able to open up parts of the expanded routes to the public sooner, rather than waiting for testing and commissioning to be completed along the entire system before opening it up to the public.

 “All the financial risk in the NET contract is placed with the concessionaire and its contractors, so the council will not pay additional costs in relation to the completion of the tram project. Together with Nottinghamshire County Council, we will of course continue to provide discretionary financial support to businesses which goes beyond the national land compensation requirements. It is important to reflect that the construction of NET Phase Two has led to hundreds of jobs being created for local people and millions of pounds worth of contracts being let to Greater Nottingham firms, with around 50% of the 1,500 strong workforce coming from the area and £86m worth of contracts awarded to local businesses.

 “It is pleasing that Taylor Woodrow Alstom has expressed the view that the delay will only be slight. Given the scale and complexity of the project, and some of the typical delays experienced in the opening of other UK systems, such as in Edinburgh, this is a relatively short delay.

 “An expanded tram network will help to attract inward investment and jobs to the city and to the areas like Beeston and Chilwell where the tram will run, and will provide regeneration opportunities along its entire route. It’s particularly pleasing to see that the start of these opportunities is already beginning even before public services start, with Beeston Town Centre attracting new retailers, benefiting from its highest ever footfall figures in the town in May, and the news only this week that the Queen’s Medical Centre – which will be the UK’s first hospital to be directly served by tram services – is planning a £10m development on its site to incorporate a brand new public entrance into the hospital where the new QMC tram stop is located.”

 

Get those comments in!

Crown Inn Glory!

Hurrah! It’s rare for a blog here to have such an instant success, but then again, when the article was against something so absurd, it’s perhaps not so surprising.

Today, Broxtowe Borough Council u-turned and agreed that the Crown’s marquee can stay. I dropped in to see the manager, Alan, who was grinning so much his ears were threatening emergency evacuation. Apparently, the decision was seen in BBC’s eyes as ridiculous and thus reversed, with a proviso they formally submit an official application for the marquee, which, as long as it doesn’t involve knocking down all surrounding walls and include a lap-dancing club, will be nodded through. 

I had communications with some councillors yesterday after I posted the blog who agreed that the letter to remove the marquee was punative and misguided, and should have never been sent. While I acknowledge that these rules are in place for a reason – developers who put profit over heritage are far too ready to rip down the ancient fabric of a community – there has to be a grey area of discretion, a more nuanced approach to overseeing the urban environment that ironically calls for a greater deal of council action: some call it bureaucracy, others, oversight – whatever, we need to ensure the representatives and officers that rule over this town ensure a level of oversight that is fluent, rather than concrete. 

Well done Beestonians. I know a fair few of you would have emailed your representatives, at Borough, County and even Parliamentary level. Stuff like that does work, especially in the few months running up to an election (less than 11 before all Borough reps; as well as our MP are at our mercy). Now, go support your local pubs, we are blessed with the fact we are a pub town. I don’t need to tell you to go drink down them with much pleading: but perhaps, if you see a councillor at the bar, buy them a drink offer up a high-five. 

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Summer and otters. Two words that make everybody happy. I went to the Attenborough Nature Centre earlier to talk all things otter. Much joy. You can read my resultant spoutings, along with a wealth of other local wonder, in the next issue of The Beestonian, out next week.

Summer and Cake. Oh, how wonderful is that!? Wonderful indeed. If you don’t disagree, we have a treat for you. Saturday is the second Oxjam Beeston Bake Off, and you’re invited. Doesn’t matter if you don’t bake, merely like to nom nom nom down cakes, come along. It’s free. We really do need more entries: our fundraising is all to do with selling the cakes, so we need cake. Or bread, or cheese sticks, or any bit of baked glory you fancy. 

Get your fingers off the touchscreen and onto the keyboard, and fill in this form. I’ll see you over tea and cake, cake, cake and more cake on Saturday:http://www.oxjambeestontakeover.org/

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Once it’s all over, we’ll be heading down the (reprieved) Crown for a Chinese food, Crazy Heart playing live and a special surprise around nine pm for all fans of this blog…..

 

Last Orders for Crown Al Fresco Fun?

Summer is well upon us now, and the humidity leads to shorter temper than usual as one tries to traverse the tramworks. As the excavations move up towards town, Chilwell Road becomes easier to access but to the pedestrian, it’s like Shackleton seeking out the North West Passage.

Even the Crown is suffering. Despite being a major summer draw to thirsty Beestonians, they still feel the hit of lack of access. The White Lion and Star both have frustrating access issues, and are excluded from the greater part of financial assistance as both businesses are relatively new.

You’d think that the Council would throw their weight behind what is rapidly becoming one of the strongest elements of Beeston’s economy. I’ve been to many meetings at the Town Hall to discuss how to improve Beeston’s nighttime/leisure economy and posited suggestions, some taken up, others still lingering on the Broxtowe back-burner. As our town now has a fantastic reputation for pubs, surely these should be cherished, supported and, if needs must, used by the council.

I often find myself drinking with our local representatives. Cllr Kerry is a fan of The Hop Pole. The Lallys like The Last Post. Cllr Marshall rarely fails to rally a team for the Crown pub quiz. Cllr Carr is no stranger to the odd glass of red wine. Cllr Barber makes it his mission as a Beestonian politician to ensure regular attendance at every pub in town: true dedication.

So it seems that I can count on their support when I mention a bit of daftness I heard today. The Crown has, for the past few years of being a Good Pub, held a hugely popular summer festival, bringing in local bands and local food sellers each weekend, with great success. Swarms of drinkers, foodies and music lovers descend, and to accommodate them all a temporary marquee is put up to counter the pluvial vagaries of the British Summer: if it rains, you can still relish the al-fresco.

It’s an unassuming structure, detracting little from the building, and leaving no scars when packed away in autumn. But they’ve had a letter from the council this week that thinks differently. The structure, through Broxtowe’s eyes, contravenes certain planning laws applied to listed buildings, of which the Crown is one. They have been given a few days to take it down. Oh dear.

I’ll declare an interest. I do drink down the Crown on occasion, and they do stick an ad in the Beestonian each month. We also use it for the Oxjam Festival, it’s a key venue in the day for music, and we make a fair bit of money using the beer garden as a wristband exchange and loose-change beggar. As anyone who attended last year will remember, we were blessed with great weather until the last act, where the heavens opened and torrential rain bucketed down for five minutes. Luckily, they had shelter, and watched from the dry comforts of the marquee.

All the same, I implore the council to have a rethink and show a bit of discretion here. I know rules exist for a reason, but to so stridently enforce them in ways that will only prove counter-productive in the end is daft, and makes the Council look like a bunch of joyless pen-pushers, which they really aren’t.

If you aren’t happy with this situation, please write to your local councillor right now and ask them to stand up for The Crown, and all pubs that have a difficult job, but a vital role, in the town’s future.

Who is your councillor? Find out here: http://www.broxtowe.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=703.

Beestonia v BBC; New Beestonian; Fracking Good Times at Film Club/ Clifton: the pits? / Watts Going Down in Newark?/CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE.

HIGHAM

Strange days indeed. Sometime last week, I got a call from Nick Higham, BBC reporter, who was arranging a conference for BBC execs in Salford about hyperlocal media and thought *here* might be a good example. So if you turn on BBC news in a few weeks and notice everyone has been sacked and replaced by a sole, slightly drunk reporter cribbing stories from tip-offs in pub gardens, I’m to blame.

That other wing of my burgeoning media empire, The Beestonian, now has a new edition out, and one I didn’t edit as I was too busy gallivanting up aisles and Scottish hills. There are a few copies out in the usual stockists right now, otherwise have a gander at our super-futuristic e-reader thing here: http://issuu.com/thebeestonian/docs/the_beestonian_issue_27_2014

The Beestonian Film Club returns on Monday (16th) with an exclusive showing of Gasland 2, presented by Frack Free Notts. Tickets are £7.50, which includes a meal from veggie warrior queen Roya, doors 7.15pm. Tickets are shifting fast and we’ve sold out the last few events, so drop a line to mattgoold23@hotmail.com headed ‘FILM CLUB’ and I’ll reserve you a place.

‘What’s happened to The Beestonian Film?’ I hear you cry. Worry not, it’s nearing completion: after I finish this post I’m off to Toton to meet the editor to see what wizardry he’s done to our masterpiece…it’s likely to be out very, very soon..

Back to green issues: there’s been plans submitted to dig the South side of the Trent to extract gravel, and local opposition has already responded. The area mooted is home to a mini-nature reserve that is an informal extension to Attenborough, with a huge diversity of species, see this great website for more details. There’s also been otters spotted nearby. Now, obviously Attenborough was, and still is at it’s furthest reaches, a quarry. So should we be concerned at the prospect of more quarrying, if it’s eventually returned to nature? This group thinks so: http://bartonferry.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/plans-for-a-quarry-in-barton-in-fabis/ , let me know your thoughts.

On the subject of green issues, the Green Party PPC for Broxtowe 2015 David Kirwan beat the 2010 PPC David Watts into 6th place at the recent Newark by-election. I stayed up to watch the result, and it was odd to be tweeting the candidates as Michael Crick pounced on them. Watts, who has stated he won’t be running in 2015 (expect a paper candidate: I have a name but I’ll wait for official confirmation before divulging), took the result, the worst in any by-election, in good spirits: ‘I always wanted to set records in the Lib Dems’, he quipped. He also was memorably, and unfairly described by not-a-tenth-as-funny-as-he-thinks-he-is Mail nobcheese Quentin Letts as ‘Sweet fellow, grubby shirt’. Watts assures us that he had a clean shirt on, and for a man like Letts so oleaginous he leaves a slug-trail in his wake, to accuse others of sartorial lacking is a bit rich.

The Lib Dems have effectively ruled out any real hope of grabbing Broxtowe: it was a distant hope in 2010, and an utter non-starter in 2015. Retaining the deposit and expending resources on the Borough seats (2015 will be a dual election here, with Broxtowe Borough seats to fight for) look like the key aims. Meanwhile, Brontosaurus in a suit Nigel Farage has stated Broxtowe is in his top ten key battleground seats, which could stir things up as the Tories will be defending this key marginal. The UKIP vote here, as evidenced in the County elections (err, no seats won) is not strong enough to be a real threat, but it’s a real headache for Soubry.

Oh, Church of the Militant Elvis Buspass Party and their fantastic leader, Lord Biro, got 87 votes. Deposit lost, but I’m sure Dave, aka Lord B, enjoyed the day out in Newark’s pubs.

And finally…we have the return of The Great Beeston Bakeoff in aid of Oxjam at the end of the month (28th). Last year was a cracking cakey success, and this year promises to be bigger, better and even tougher on our poor judges. Get your entries in NOW, and if you don’t fancy baking a cake, then you will fancy eating one. Mark it in the diary and start fasting now. Entry form, and more details, here.

Froch vs Groves? Pah. Bring on Lord Biro V David Watts: a Newark by-election special.

Over in Newark, the only town in Britain to be a rather vulgar anagram*, there’s an election brewing. I’ve not had much of an eye on the political scene of late: those who thought my marriage was just a clever ruse to gain access to the Council House and break into Jon Collins’ inner sanctum, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. Stronger lock than I expected….

So over in Newark there is a rather limp millionaire Tory, Robert Jenrick standing, a bloke so dull cabinet ministers have been bussed up from London to campaign while he’s been put in a back room with crisps and lemonade. Labour have Gedling Councillor Michael Payne, who looks unlikely to pull off a surprise victory even if UKIP cleave the Tory vote. Payne will be hoping to finish second, showing a presence in the constituency and rebuffing UKIP’s claims to have wooed chunks of the Labour vote. The Greens have David Kirwan, who will also be standing in 2015 in Broxtowe. Unless he wins, which he won’t. I don’t think I’ve met him before, but have briefly chatted via email and he comes across as a nice bloke, and hoping to capitalise on the Greens very much unreported resurgence in the Euro elections. Keeping his deposit will also be a plus.

There are a bunch of usual suspects: the Monster Raving Loony Party still think what was maybe a bit funny in the seventies is hil-ar-i-ous in 2014, and a middle aged guy with no previous excitement in his life gets to gurn on telly when they read his name out. There’s a couple of Independents standing on the hope of a protest vote, a guy called Dick Rogers (stop sniggering at the back) who is standing for a moderate Christian Party, Common Good, and one of those ubiquitous die-hard socialists who poll in the double figures while punching the air in an earnest fashion. Then of course there is the Mr Bronson tache’d Roger Helmer, a man who compares homophobia as akin to ‘not liking, or liking tea’, (I assume he applies the same logic to racism: you either like coffee with milk, or without); has ripe views on rape, and, as exclusively reported here many moons back, refers to his ‘tache as ‘the thigh tickler’. I chatted to someone who formally worked with him a while back and I believe their description of him was a ‘gropey grade A bell-end’. Perfect UKIP candidate, then.

More interestingly for me is two characters who will battling at the other end of the polling. Dave Bishop, aka the indefatigable Lord Biro is riding the crest of the ‘beating the Lib Dems in a council election wave’ and hoping his Bus-Pass Elvis party pull the same trick over the Lib Dem candidate, Dave Watts. You may recognise Watts as a long-standing regular of this page: he was PPC in 2010, and is the councillor for Bramcote on the Borough. He did say last time I interviewed him that he wouldn’t want to be a PPC again, not while his daughters were still young. It’s forgivable to assume he’s gone back on his word though -hardly a Lib Dem thing to do – as David has been bought in as damage control. As a enthusiastic campaigner on the door steps, and a pugilistic debater in  hustings, Watts will be trying to keep the Lib Dems in fourth place, and hold on to their deposit if possible. Watts memorably described the 2010 Broxtowe election as ‘a two horse race’. Applying that idea to Newark, Watts would be riding a tin of dog food. Will he push back Lord Biro? That to me is the real excitement. 

 

*apart from Scunthorpe. DO NOT even think about putting that into an online anagram solver...