Barton’s Quarter Development

If you weren’t already aware, the UK has been in the grip of a housing crisis for some time. Not enough properties are available for people to live in, new homes not being built quickly enough, and the dream of home ownership is out of the financial reach of vast swathes of the population.

The various political, economic and social forces which drive and influence demand and supply means that it is usually more profitable for developers to build brand new homes on greenbelt land. The types of new housing being built varies, but unsurprisingly, dwellings such as 5 bedroomed executive homes normally generate the highest returns for the builders. This is not ideal for those wanting to get on the housing ladder.

A new development with a difference could soon be with us, if a proposal to build on derelict land at the Barton’s site gets the go-ahead. If everything is approved, 250 homes will be built on the fairly extensive site. The good news for those who are wanting to get onto the property ladder is that 54 of them will be 1 bedroomed flats/maisonettes, and 122 of them will be 2 bedroomed flats.

Another unusual aspect to the scheme is that the buildings themselves will be constructed according to aesthetic design principles. Much of the new estate homes that have been built over the last few years have faced much criticism for their utilitarian uniformity and less than imaginative design, which personally I think is unwarranted. A home is a home, and anyway, attitudes to architecture are fluid. An 80’s ‘Lego estate’ may well be as revered as a Victorian terrace in years to come. Getting back to the point, some of the artist’s impressions are very different to average new-builds, and would be a very welcome addition to the mixture of housing in the area.

A few nay-sayers have cited some concerns – one of them being the extra traffic the development would bring. It is highly unlikely that every one of the new homes would contain a car owner, and even if it did, the proximity of the site to the tram and bus stops would make life easy for anyone commuting to the University, QMC, city or in the other direction to Long Eaton and Derby. Lots more people work at home now, so it would hardly seem likely that dozens of cars will be creating queues of traffic along the High Road or Queens Road.

Others have pointed out that there would be added pressure on already well-subscribed primary schools in the area. For starters, less than 200 of the new homes have two or more bedrooms. 122 of them will be 2 bedroomed flats, leaving fewer than 80 homes with 3 or more bedrooms.

Of those who move into the properties with 2 or more bedrooms, I think it is fair to estimate that well under half will have children of school age. Take out the ones who aren’t at primary school, and it would be hard to imagine more than an extra 2 or 3 children in each primary school year.

As well as contributing to the housing ‘effort’, the scheme would also see substantial extra council tax revenue being generated. At a time when the money given to local authorities is ever-decreasing, an extra few hundred thousand pounds will be very welcome.

My biggest concern is that the site will lose some of the heritage magic, and the venue for some brilliant events. Over the last few years Bartons has been host to any number of superb performances. This has included comedy, music (of all genres), along with art installations, not to mention the markets and heritage open days. However, provision is being made for an events space, so fingers crossed that this is included.

If the scheme does get the go-ahead, it will be a couple of years at least before the site takes shape, although I’m tempted to start taking bets that it will be complete before anything worthwhile is built on the empty land opposite Tesco.

The Yorkshireman Speaks…on Trump, TV Dramas and kids clubs.

Top Trumps?

As I write this article we are about to see one of most potentially controversial presidents in living memory, being “sworn in” This is a term that is quite apt, as most of the world is thinking, “what the bloody hell happened there?” America has raised a star spangled middle finger to political elitism and voted for a man of the people.

Yes, to the rest of us he’s a figure of ridicule, a wig wearing toddler with a temper problem and a penchant for grabbing females in their unmentionables, but to many Americans he is a blueprint of the American dream. A self-made man, one of their own, you can see this in that famous family photograph. He, sat on a gold throne in a tailored suit, Ivana draped in fur and precious gemstones and his youngest son riding on the back of the lion.

In an eerie parallel with our own Brexit vote, I can understand how it happened. Poor opposition, campaigns embroiled in dirty tactics and lies and a desire from the electorate to regain control and kick out at the establishment. Americans have voted for change and this is much easier to sell than more of the same. It’s hard to tell what will happen when Trump takes over.

As a comedian people have said it must be a gift from the gods having him in charge. In truth, yes he is perfect comedy fodder, I mean which other president fires out tweets at four in the morning in a slanging match with an Oscar winning actress? He’s like an angry, drunken uncle with a broadband connection.

To be honest though I would prefer some stability in the world, comedians are not that masochistic, that’s like saying a lifeguard only does the job because they want to watch people drown. However I do think the world has changed. I hate the way that showing compassion nowadays brands you as a “lefty” or “snowflake.”

Since when was this trait categorized as a bad thing? I’m interested to see what happens over the next few months, Trump may trigger Armageddon, but I think they’ll be plenty of laughs along the way.

No more dramas

It was the finale of the series Sherlock last weekend and I must admit I am a fan. It’s all about that 9pm Sunday evening slot now and it’s a firm favourite in our household. I like to watch the Antiques roadshow first, because I’m basically a pensioner trapped in a 37 year-old’s body, Imagine, if you will a Yorkshire Benjamin Button. I like to watch it on catch up, that way you get the extra frisson of excitement knowing the items are worth even more.

Anyway I’d love to tell you about the series finale of Sherlock, I would, but I’m still utterly confused. There is an irony in a detective show being so baffling you need a degree in criminology just to be able to follow it. It appears Sherlock had a long lost sister, who had been dressing up as various characters and stalking him. It was like an episode of Scooby Doo. The final straw for me was seeing Paul Weller (of the Jam) laid out on the floor dressed as a Viking, I don’t know why and I don’t think he does either; utter twaddle.

Television drama is having a renaissance at the moment. Ever since the mumblefest that was Wolf Hall, I said ‘WOLF HALL!” it’s all about the feature length drama. Apparently people are writing in to complain about the lack of diction from some of the main characters in these dramas. I think they should have an interpreter, like they do late night for the deaf community. They could bring in Brian Blessed, a man who’s known for vocal projection skills so impressive they could start an avalanche. You wouldn’t be able to have your television volume above eight but at least you’d be able to follow the plot.

The latest hit is Taboo starring the intense and brooding Tom Hardy, (“cheer up son, give us a smile!”)  I haven’t seen it but my father-in-law offered a succinct but devastating review; “It’s all filmed through chair legs and mist.” They turned it off and watched “How stuff’s made” on Quest instead.

It’s not the winning it’s the taking part

It’s a natural thing for parents to think their child is unique and wonderful. It’s true some children will go on to achieve great things, future leaders, scientists who have moments of genius and cure diseases. However statistics dictate that some of them will reach the dizzy heights of middle management in an estate agents in Wigan and stay there until death brings the freedom they crave; but there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those scenarios.

It’s in the environment of the kids club we see this competitiveness magnified. Parents of children in the junior football team, screaming at their first born from the touch-line “mark him” “spread the ball” and my favourite “let me live my dreams vicariously through you!”

In the case of my daughter we had to endure the nightmare that is ballet lessons. I’ve sat through hours of recitals and paid thirty odd quid a month to essentially watch her bow in pumps. She enjoys it but she’s not a natural, she’s clumsy, which is an issue for the ballerina. Yesterday she fell over on a lino floor, just collapsed into a heap like a controlled demolition, she’s passionate and enthusiastic but she’s no Darcey Bussell.

But it doesn’t matter, it’s all about confidence. I myself did karate as a child, albeit only for two weeks. I failed to see how doing my little routines up and down the floor of a working man’s club in Yorkshire, taught by a man who I’m convinced had just been recently released from prison, was going to help me in a real time combat situation. Imagine it kicks off in the middle of Nottingham, fists are flying, men wrestling each other to the ground, broken glass everywhere and then here I come, doing my little moves, “stop everyone, look at this, we appear to have been joined by an angry line dancer!”

I’m not worried about my daughter. She’s already an independent thinker. I realised this last week when I tried and failed to put the fatherly foot down. “Olivia,” I said, “if you don’t get dressed this minute, mummy, daddy and your sister will all go out and you’ll be left here at home all on your own!” She looked up at me from her My Little Pony magazine, thought for a moment and replied, “Okay daddy that sounds great!” “No!” I said, “that’s not how this should go!” She continued, “You’re right daddy, I need to be punished, I’ll just stay here in bed with my magazine and think about how bad I’ve been.” I tried again, the desperation evident in my voice. “This isn’t right Olivia, you’re meant to be scared!” “I think you’re the one that’s scared daddy,” she said smiling. ”It’s Sunday morning and you’ve got to go to IKEA.”

New Year New Food

It’s a new year and the gyms are full of people blinking like newborn fawns at the flashing dials of unknown machines. Regulars sigh, knowing only the toughest will keep up their new routines. Health food shops sit back; it’s their time to shine. There is a national courgette shortage. Healthy eating adverts are everywhere. People hold their wobbly bits and sigh, knowing that if only they could have the discipline to make 5 days worth of packed lunch on a Sunday evening they would be True Adults.

Food is the cause of so much guilt during the January purge. It feels extra naughty to some people to indulge in a chippy tea or eat out somewhere posh after the extravagance of Christmas. BUT NOT TO ME. This is important, as I guide you through the January blues with a sexy calorie count and a love of my own wobbly bits.

If you find yourself adding lentils or quinoa or couscous to a meal in lieu of delicious pasta, or if you use a can of fizzy drink to make a chicken curry sauce, stop. Pasta is not the enemy here, and neither is a delicious korma. The enemy is the insane amount of marketing designed to make you feel bad about what you eat and how you look, and people are getting richer by the second while you spend your wages on stuff which tastes like the box your crimbo pressies came in. Pasta won’t kill you.

If you’re convinced it’s the work of Satan, just put a bit less in your bowl or buy wholewheat. Likewise if you’re hell bent on a health drive, just chuck a handful of frozen veg into your sauce, you’ll feel virtuous without breaking the bank or your soul. Any veg is better than no veg.

I’ve spent January eating from the 5pm priced-down range at my local supermarket thanks to literally everyone I know having a birthday just after Christmas. Selfish…. Weird recipes involving malt loaf and 9p steak slices have formed the basis of our diets for weeks, and do I feel bad about it? Of course not. My kid has the energy for 3 after school sports clubs and I work night shifts, so we’re doing something right.

No need to spend hours soaking lentils until they transform into edible fart-nuggets, a bowl of spaghetti shapes and some tinned tomatoes keep us flying along nicely without me skimming the back pages of women’s magazines for ‘new fitness regimes’ and feeling awful about every part of my life.

So eat the chips, feed your soul and don’t let the media tell you that any time of year is a time to change. Diet if you want to, but not because you feel you should. Enjoy those carbs and use the time you’d have spent looking at calories to read a book or play outside or take up needlework. New year, same old you. You’re lovely as you are.

 

A Genuine Beestonian Accent

Our resident Robin Hood talks propah…

Over the years Sal and I have had a lot of weird things happen to us: watching the birth of our daughter become the top story on the BBC news website; being mentioned in a question on a national TV quiz show and recently discovering someone had written us into a play where the ‘real’ Robin and Marian appear in modern day Nottingham and bump into us, meaning we are genuinely characters in someone else’s play (which on reflection may explain a lot).

Performance-wise I have done a few other things over the years; some TV work, music videos and even a proper play (for most of which I had to stay hidden under a huge pile of empty beer cans, pizza boxes and other detritus so I could ‘amusingly’ emerge halfway through proclaiming ‘Great party, man’ which didn’t require quality acting skills so much as the ability to stay awake). And several years ago I was also hired to dress as a vicar and act out a marriage service for a couple of people who wanted it to be filmed; I still have no idea at all what that was about.

I’ve also been in a couple of movies – not huge, big budget epics or lavish musicals but more what you’d call ‘very low budget horror movies’, the splendidly titled ‘Dracula’s Orgy of the Damned’ and ‘Werewolf Massacre at Hell’s Gate’ written, directed and produced by my old friend James Baack in and around his home in Chicago (and even now available on DVD from Amazon in the US).

A few years ago James asked me if I’d like to appear in his films to narrate/introduce as ‘Lord Victor Fleming’, a collector of arcane and mysterious stories. Wearing evening dress and having dressed our living room look as much like a 19th century gentleman’s club as possible Sally filmed me setting the scene for the film (“The story you are about to see is a tale of terror that will freeze your very soul” etc.) including some filming at Wollaton Hall to imply it was Victor Fleming’s ancestral home. We both enjoyed the experience greatly and were delighted to get copies of the final, finished film(s) several months later.

And then reviews of the movies began turning up online, and oddly the one thing all the reviews had in common were comments on the narrator’s ‘fake English accent’, which amused us all greatly. I can maybe see why American reviewers watching a film mainly shot in America with American actors might assume my accent was fake (and to be fair my ‘posh’ voice may not be entirely consistent anyway) but when I jokingly replied to one such reviewer on the Amazon US site recently,  pointing out I was genuinely English in what I hoped was an amusingly and vaguely sarcastic way, the Nottingham Post got involved and ran a story ‘Robin Hood slammed for ‘fake English accent’’, and that really was weird.

Although it was quite fun, albeit presumably on a slow news day, it also got me thinking. Much like Russell Crowe I know I’ve never spoken in a ‘Nottingham accent’ but I’m not sure what my accent is. I’m sure I do have some Nottingham influence but I don’t think it’s very strong (I’m sure growing up listening to a lot of Radio 4 has affected it much more) but that led me to further wonder – is there  ‘Beeston accent’? I don’t think there is, but is that due to the excellent cosmopolitan makeup of the town, with so many varying languages, people and cultures all mixing together?  Are there any particular words or phrases that we can claim as our own? Because if I’m going to be castigated for having a fake English accent I’d like to console myself with knowing I have a genuine Beestonian one…

Tim Pollard

Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

Beeston Musical Theatre

I got a text from my partner the night before. “Do you want to go and see The Wedding Singer tomorrow?” For a brief second I wondered was there some special showing of the film? Was it an anniversary edition, director’s cut? Then I remembered. No. It’s a musical version.

My better half was excited. She had a friend in the production and so, being the dutiful boyfriend, I obviously agreed. Okay, I said with a slightly sinking heart. Let’s go.

Forgive me people. I’m not usually so close-minded. It’s just musicals make me a bit, well, violent. Towards myself, not others, but violent none the less. Whether it’s Grease (which makes me want to hide), Mary Poppins (which makes me want to bash my brains in) or Mamma Mia (which makes me want to rip out my eyes and stuff them in any orifice capable of receiving sound) I just can’t get on with them. To this day the only musicals I’ve ever been able to stand have had Muppets in them. Sorry.

Okay so with all that bearing in mind I sat down to The Beeston Musical Theatre production of The Wedding Singer with just a little trepidation. I had actually commissioned another writer to go the day before but he had at the last minute been unable to do so. Curse him, I thought, smiling widely at my girlfriend. Next issue I’ll make him write about public toilets.

Then the curtains were drawn and it began.

Right so I’ll forgo any suspense. It was brilliant. I mean properly brilliant. I laughed like a loon, nodded along to the songs, my heart was warmed in the final act. This was a performance which, as soon as it ended, I would have happily stayed sat and waited for the curtains to come back up again. Though I think that would have been a terrible strain on the actors.

First of all let’s talk about the actors. The musical was led by Chris Bryan as Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler in the film) and Claire Rybicki as Julia Sullivan (Drew Barrymore). They looked young. Early twenties I thought. But God damn could they sing! Not just sing. Sing and act and dance. Chris was a perfect Adam Sandler replacement, not copying Sandler’s performance exactly, but adapting it. And the same could be said for Claire. I found them both captivating.

Furthermore the rest of the cast were equally talented. Zoe Brinklow, who played Julia’s best friend Holly, had an exceptional voice and David Hurt, who played Simply Wed keyboardist George, almost stole the show with his flamboyant performance. Finally, for those who remember the film, the various comic references to the 80’s in which the film is set were absolutely spot on.  The hair, the clothes, the music, the set design, it was all superb.

I had an absolute blast and I can’t wait to see another of their shows in the New Year. Shows confirmed so far are All Shook Up (tickets are already available!) about a guitar-playing roustabout in the 1950s who turns a little American town all upside down, and Spamalot, the Monty Python classic.

http://www.bmtg.org.uk/

Christian Fox

Beeston’s Beautiful Cakes

Anyone with the slightest sweet tooth is bound to love cake. Cupcakes certainly have made their presence felt with the ongoing interest in all things vintage. Of course programmes like the Great British Bake Off have also helped to make cake more popular and yummier than ever.

Brownies have naturally become favorites too. No, not the female version of the scouts, but those small, oblong chocolate cake, that usually have something ladened with temptation in them. Be it nuts, fruit, or even alcohol.

Beeston now has its very own brownie making enterprise in the form of the Beeston Brownie Company, which is based in a private house, close to the railway station.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The BBC is owned by Paula and Vic Roberts and began life in April this year. Vic used to be a baker for Tesco’s, but up until recently worked in the fire and intruder alarm industry. He first had the idea of taking up baking again back in February, when he mysteriously said to wife Paula; an administrator at the QMC, that he had ‘an exciting idea’, but didn’t tell her what it was.

His first attempt wasn’t very successful, as he forgot to take his wallet, when he went shopping for the ingredients he required!

But Vic persevered, and after trying out different recipes on their family, they took the plunge and rented a stall at the Trinity Square market. It was a varied success, but it spurred them on to do a few farmers’ markets, including the monthly ones in Beeston and in the Park Estate. West Bridgford recently got the opportunity of tasting their wonderful wares. A real boon for the couple is that they’ve now been asked to appear at next year’s Nottingham Food and Drink Fair.

Vic bakes every day. He has to, now that orders are coming in thick and fast. They started to trickle in, but now word has got round through social media that everyone wants a bite of the cherry brownie. The Treatment Centre at the QMC takes ten trays (100 brownies) a week, and they’ve just started supplying Chimera, the games and comic shop situated on the High Road. This will please Robin Hood Tim, as he’ll be able to munch on a Rocky Road whilst killing aliens!

There are currently 18 varieties of brownie available, and are made with free range eggs and 70% Belgian chocolate for that luxurious, melt in the mouth taste. Some varieties are available as gluten & dairy free. Rudyards Tea House is a good place to get these.  Salted caramel is presently the most requested flavour.

As the festive season is soon upon us, I asked the couple if they were going to release a special flavour Christmas. They were working on a couple of ideas. One has now been created in the form of a cranberry and orange brownie. This and all the others are available to order from their website, and they also take telephone orders. Boxes of assorted brownies are dispatched using Royal Mail. So there’s no need for your Auntie Ethel in Sheffield, or best friend in Cornwall to miss out on these treats. Free local delivery is available too. As the business is now doing so well, the couple are looking at moving out of their tiny kitchen and into a proper working space, so that more cakes can be produced at a time.

If you want to look at the flavours available and order some for presents. Much tastier than a pair of socks, then do have a look at their website: http://www.thebeestonbrowniecompany.co.uk

Alternatively, make friends with them on Facebook, or just give them a call on 07914 965499.

Christopher Frost

Oxjam 2016

For the sixth year running we are proud to have delivered a successful Oxjam Music Festival in Beeston. This year, a new Team benefitted from the experience of previous ‘teams’, especially Heather and Mike. Thanks to them all. Our ‘grand total’ this year is still awaiting confirmation but we do know that in six years Oxjam Beeston has raised £60,000, half of it in the last two years. Please check the Oxjam Beeston website at www.oxjambeeston.org for our official final total.

Of course, we mustn’t forget that the Festival covered six events, spread over six months. The ‘Oxjam Ceilidh’ and ‘Classical Oxjam’ were the most successful but all the others raised respectable amounts to add you our grand total. Building on a firm foundation from previous years the 2016 Team thinks we also added a little flavour of our own!

Coming from a ‘folk club’ background, I was pleased to be able to have just a little more folk and acoustic music, not only on the Takeover day, but also in a separate ‘Oxjam Unplugged’ event in July. I was also pleased that we had a slightly more diverse offering. Taking the Festival as a whole, apart from the ‘Unplugged’, we also had a mini choir festival on Takeover day, trad folk on Takeover afternoon (and through the inimitable Paul Carbuncle at ‘Unplugged’), some Hungarian folk fusion (‘Foreign Accent’), punk, post-punk, indie, blues. Americana and lots more styles at ‘Takeover’ – and some Indian classical music in our ‘Classical’ programme.

We were also able to involve more voluntary, charitable and public sector groups. These included a prominent role for the University of Nottingham (students and former students on the organising Team, and as performers and volunteers as well as financial support), several local schools provided performers or support for publicity (Alderman White, Chilwell Comp, Wilsthorpe Community School in Long Eaton, Round Hill and John Clifford Primary Schools) and three local churches were venues (Beeston Methodist Church, Chilwell Road: choirs, Christ Church: ceilidh and Parish Church: ‘classical’) plus the Beeston Youth and Community Centre (venue for ‘Oxjam Introducing’); two other new venues were provided by Middle Street Resource Centre (‘Unplugged’ and Takeover afternoon) and Royal British Legion (Takeover evening). Comments coming back to the Team have been universally positive about our organisation (too kind!) and the quality of music at all our events.

We were happy to continue the successful ‘Introducing’ night for under-19 performers which drew an enthusiastic crowd of mainly youngsters: thanks Anya and George, two of those youngsters who helped organise and promote it. The Music Quiz was almost TOO well attended: thanks Matt for being our quizmaster before retiring from the Team!

The ceilidh was a right old knees-up, with Penny and Steve Benford taking prominent roles in organising and promoting the event, as well as playing the ‘toons’ with the Beeston Ceilidh Collective. ‘Classical Oxjam’, our last event, again provided a stage for young performers – with the Nottingham Youth Band providing our youngest and biggest group – but literally spanned Bach to the Beach Boys as well as introducing most of the audience to the sarod, a fascinating Indian instrument: a kind of cross between the sitar and a steel guitar.

We inevitably made mistakes as a Team but audiences were extremely generous in their understanding – as well as in their contributions. I learned through the course of organising and promoting the Festival that people have a very warm feeling towards Oxjam in Beeston.

So thanks to them, thanks to the multitude of performers who sang, strummed, plucked, rattled keys, thrashed drum kits or did whatever else they needed to do to provide a wealth of diverse music right here in Beeston. Thanks to the venues, to our major sponsors NET and the Breeze Magazine, along with Nottingham University and thanks to our ticket outlets, Oxfam Books and Music and The Guitar Spot.

Finally, thanks to the superb Oxjam Team 2016 for their knowledge, skill, reliability and above all their energy: (in no particular order) Darren, Heather F, Penny, Steve, Raphael, Isobel, Val, Janos and Lulu. And, as of now, ALL positions on the Team for 2017 are vacant, so feel free to step forward and volunteer!

Colin Tucker (Oxjam Takeover Manager 2016)

Mr & Mrs Christmas

Scott Bennett pays tribute to his mum and dad who love Christmas

Well the festive season is almost upon us, where families come together as one.  It’s the same every year; you’re welded to the sofa, unable to move due to the calories consumed, it almost become normal to hurt after every meal. Sitting there in an ill-fitting Christmas jumper wearing a pair of slippers bought for you by someone who doesn’t understand either you or modern fashion trends.

You cast a booze addled eye around the room and look at all your relatives; uncles, aunties, Grandparents, parents and cousins all in your house and you think, “aww, look at them all, sitting there, isn’t it wonderful, you know I reckon its time they cleared off. Come on then, one more game of charades Nanna, two words, sounds like “your taxi” times up old cock.”

Christmas is a strange time to be a comedian. We are all now familiar with the phenomenon of “Black Friday” a tradition passed to us from our friends in the US, which sees retailers bombarding us relentlessly for a week with offers on the cheap tat that has been sat gathering dust in their warehouses for most of the year. We have seen people lose their minds in this capitalist orgy, men punching other men for coffee makers, and televisions being ripped out the hands of a frail pensioner in the foyer of an all-night Asda.

For a comedian the term “Black Friday” is something very different. It refers to that Friday before Christmas where a comedy gig can quickly resemble a bad day in Beirut. People on a works Christmas night out, sat in wonky Christmas hats, drinking heavily just to blot out the resentment and anger they feel for their colleagues sat just across from them. Shows that start hours late because the venue has tried to serve two hundred people a three course Christmas dinner with only three members of staff and being heckled mercilessly by an accountant called Nigel who thinks he’s the office joker.

I’ve had a few experiences with Christmas gigs over the years and it inspired me to re-write the classic Christmas hit Happy Christmas (war is over) by John and Oko. I see this as a fitting tribute to my fellow comedy warriors venturing out to entertain the British public this festive season:

A comedy show at Christmas oh what have you done

Another show ruined, no ones’ had fun

Comedy at Christmas It’s not a bad idea

But the bellends, the pissheads, they’re here every year

A very Merry Christmas, let’s try again next year

Please make it a good one and stay off the beer

Comedians at Christmas (the shows not over)

We try to stay strong (get off your phones)

We’re here to entertain you (the shows not over)

And It won’t last long (please stop talking)

So Merry Merry Christmas (the shows not over)

We stand in the lights (you’re the office prick)

Ignoring the heckles (the shows not over)

And avoiding the fights (stop being a dick)

A very Merry Christmas let’s try again next year

Please make it a good one and stay off the beer

 

Now I like Christmas, but some people just love Christmas, and I mean LOVE it, my parents for instance. They embrace the festive season like no-one else I know and it’s truly a sight to behold. Every year since I can remember they have had a party at their house for Christmas Eve. There are games, a lucky dip tub of presents, and food galore.

My mum starts cooking early, normally mid-November, the party goes on late into the night and only comes to an end once dad is too drunk to make it up the stairs and mum gets out the Dyson for some festive hoovering.

When I was much younger, my dad would even dress up as Santa Claus himself at the party, to give out presents to the other children. At the time I didn’t know this obviously, I assumed it was the man himself, particularly when I was very young. However I vividly remember the Christmas where I found out the truth about these bizarre moonlighting activities. I was nine years old and, as had happened every year before, with the party in full swing and the guests settled, at about seven o’clock my mother would suddenly announce to my father, loud enough for everyone to hear:

“Oh look Roy, we appear to have run out of beer and you’ll have to go to the shop for more”

My dad knew his line and played along with this ridiculous farce to the confusion of the assembled guests:

“Oh no love, this is a disaster I will go now I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

I’ve often wondered for years whether my mother and fathers friends thought he was a raging alcoholic or just incompetent when it came to judging drinks quantities for a social gathering, but no one ever said anything. Then came the moment, my mum, right on cue would switch on the outside light and we’d all have to look out of the window into the back garden. “Look everyone!” my mum exclaimed, “someone very special is here!” We’d all press our faces to the window and there sat on the garden bench, on the patio next to the water butt was Santa himself, it was a Christmas miracle.

I remember one year when the snow started to fall, this was the mid-eighties before global warming, when seasons were still individually recognizable. With Santa Claus sat there it was like an image straight from a Christmas card. All the children would then take it in turns to go and visit him, telling him what they would like for Christmas.

Most kids are quite gullible and most were none the wiser, “Santa comes to your garden Scott, how cool are you” “Yeah me and Santa are pretty close” I’d say, enjoying the adulation, “we go way back” I had quite good patter for a nine year old.

Then came my turn. I walked down the garden path and approached Santa. “Hello boy, said a booming Yorkshire voice, have you been good this year?” “Yes I said.” “Well come a bit closer and tell me what you would like me to bring you for Christmas” I moved in towards him, he had a jolly face which was strangely familiar. I looked him up and down, the red hat, the white beard, the red suit and belt, and then I looked at his feet.

It was at that point I knew. Santa Claus appeared to be wearing a pair of knackered old Reeboks, spattered with magnolia emulsion that my own father would use for doing the decorating.

My heart sank, the game was up. “I know it’s you dad” he looked at me and whispered, “I couldn’t find me wellies son, don’t ruin the magic” “Of course dad I said, I know Santa doesn’t come till I’m in bed anyway, I love you”

I walked back up the garden back to the house smiling. We then all had to turn and wave goodbye to “Santa” and then went back to the party. At that point there was commotion at the front door as my dad blundered back in with six cans of lager, (he still got the quantity wrong) “What a nightmare, everywhere was shut, did I miss anything?” “Santa has been!” my mum shouted, “You missed him, like YOU DO EVERY SINGLE YEAR!”

Marvellous.

Scott Bennett

Looking Back…Looking Forward

Apparently this issue of The Beestonian is a ‘festive bumper special’ which makes it sound rather splendidly like the ‘Beano’ and ‘Dandy’ comic summer specials I used to read (and re-read) as a child, now quite some time ago – so long in fact that the Dandy doesn’t even exist anymore. It turns out the older you get, the more things change, sometimes for the better admittedly, sometimes not so much.

I was talking with some friends in The Crown the other day (other excellent Beeston pubs are available) about just that; how certain phrases that used to be commonplace are now archaic anachronisms (obviously we didn’t use that phrase in the pub; we’d had beer).

Who remembers the term ‘Sunday drivers’? A phrase from a time where the roads weren’t as clogged on a Sunday as they are now a couple could jump into their Ford Zephyr and drive at a top speed of about 21mph along any A-road that took their fancy, possibly whilst eating a cheese and onion cob. Or ‘Half day closing’, which seems like an utterly prehistoric concept now in the face of 24 hour shopping (although as Tesco is now closing at midnight maybe they’re slowly bringing the concept back).

But 2016 has certainly been a year for change. We’ve lost a huge number of massive cultural icons, our collective political sense (pretty much globally) and who now remembers ‘public toilets near the Square’ eh? Beeston changes. Beestonians change – our own former editor Matt and his lovely wife Ellie have just had a beautiful baby boy so huge congratulations to them, that certainly is a life-changing experience. It’s genuinely surprising to me that no matter how many times people said to Sal and I “Cherish every moment, they grow up so fast” and we nodded and thought ‘Yea, right’ that come Boxing Day our wonderful Scarlett will be three years old. Three! And Sal will have been living with her cancer for over eighteen months and we’ll have been married for over three months.

Back before I was a responsible married man with a daughter I used to navigate the year not by days and weeks but by Robin Hood events and weirdly this time of year has always been the busiest… from 1991 to a decade ago it was the Christmas season at The Sheriff’s Lodge medieval banqueting centre on Canal Street in Nottingham (now sadly demolished).

In its heyday I’d do a run of over thirty evening banquets (plus matinees), starting in the middle of November. These days although the Lodge has gone Nottingham Castle still hosts the Robin Hood Pageant, the Robin Hood Beer Festival, the MySight Nottingham charity Firewalk (which I still take part in) and more – but with the redevelopment of the Castle and grounds now confirmed to start in early 2018 all of those will have to find a new home after next year too.

So this last week (as I write) being so busy was a bit poignant – I ended up abseiling down the side of the QMC with NUH’s Chief Exec to launch an appeal for the Children’s Hospital (that’ll teach me not to read emails properly and then just say ‘yes, happy to help’ on the phone before I actually knew what they wanted), I announced the £14m HLF funding success for the Castle to the national press, helped turn on the city’s Christmas lights and was (very movingly) serenaded by a fabulous group of WW2 veterans raucously singing the old Richard Greene ‘Robin Hood’ TV theme to me after I guided them on a tour.

Seriously, having thirty Paras, Commandos, Army, Navy and RAF veterans doing that was quite amazing and a real honour – and I’m sure it’ll never happen again.

I live a very strange life sometimes, but I’m very grateful to everyone in it. As with Beeston, there’s bits I miss, bits I’d change and bits I want to stay the same forever. But hey, “Ch-ch-ch-changes” as David Bowie once sang. Remember him?

Happy 2017, Beestonian readers. You rock.

Tim Pollard

Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

Christmas Dinner Disasters

It’s the most wonderful time of the cold, miserable, over-priced, consumerist month. The time we buy too much food and spend money on presents for people we don’t like which they don’t need or want. And yet, I bloody love Christmas.

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DINNER

It’s taken me having a child to bring back its magic, and now as soon as Tesco’s start putting their selection boxes out in August I get a lovely feeling of lets-not-be-horrid-to-each-other which usually lasts until Boxing Day. Now, I know I may be in the minority here, so allow me to lay down a few contingency plans for the more Grinchy among us. It’s all going to be ok.

What to do if the dinner is a disaster: I say preparation is key here. Light a fire on Christmas eve, and if you don’t have a wood burning stove just set fire to a pile of old boxes in a shopping trolley outside. Either will do.

The warmth attracts wildlife, and inevitable something will either fall down the chimney/onto your bonfire and provide a lovely leg of venison/cat/hedgehog for your family the following day. If anyone asks, it’s smoked game.

What to do if the Christmas Pudding won’t light: This tradition is puzzling. I’m all for lighting shots of absinthe on a good hen night then having a Maccys at 3am, but why set fire to a perfectly good liquor which may otherwise numb the effects of an entire day with your family? Odd. My suggestion is to make everyone, including Grandma, down a shot of brandy before eating some profiteroles. No one actually likes Christmas Pudding.

Uncle Alan may only ever have enjoyed package holidays to Malaga before, so broaden his horizons with some chorizo or something.

What to do if Uncle Alan has too much to drink and gets a bit racist: If the conversation gets around to Brexit or Trump, here are my suggestions. Firstly, point to the nearest posh bit of food and explain that without the influence of European cuisine (or the actual word cuisine) we would all be sat around eating ham sandwiches or cocktail sticks with cheese and pineapple on.

Everything rich and nutritious has probably come from outside the UK. Uncle Alan may only ever have enjoyed package holidays to Malaga before, so broaden his horizons with some chorizo or something.

How to steer Aunty Dorothy’s dinner table conversation away from awkward personal information: You’re unmarried, and so in Dorothy’s eyes, highly abstract and possibly even ‘alternative’. You are still working in a ‘job’ job and not a ‘career’ job and have yet to put down any money towards a deposit for a house. My suggestion here is to crack open the Terry’s Chocolate Orange and explain that the baby boomers destroyed both the housing and employment market, and that it’s actually her fault that you are so overworked and depressed that no one finds you attractive any more. She’ll come round.

What to do with leftovers: Leave them in the fridge along with your best intentions. Literally no one actually makes turkey soup the next day. Just buy less next year and give the cat a day to remember with a leg or two of roast hedgehog. Your budget will thank me.

That’s it, and just remember folks, I’m not an expert.

Daisy

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