I am Beeston: Jamil Ahmed – Postmaster

“I grew up as a migrant child in greater Manchester. We lived in some of the poorer areas of Manchester. At the age of 10, my father got a job in Nottingham and we made the big move from Manchester to Sneinton. I went to Greenwood School which later became the Nottingham Academy. We moved to Beeston in 1994, as it was a friendly area and also well known for good amenities.

“In 2013, an opportunity arose to buy the local post office on Broadgate. I decided to take this opportunity, as I wanted a change from my previous job. Living in Beeston and having a business in Beeston, allowed me to stay connected with my local community and allowed me to contribute to the local area. It also helped me to gain knowledge of the local community. The post office plays an important part when it comes to serving the local community, and I don’t just mean the products and services that it offers, but from helping customers with non-postal related issues to conversing with some of the elderly and vulnerable customers who don’t have anyone to talk to, but love coming into the post office to have a chat. I often see the majority of my customers in and around Beeston, and some of them I know so well, that I have built up a good relationship, that even when they move out of the area they still come back to use my post office.

“What I like about Beeston, is that it’s very lively with the university and there are many prominent businesses around. A lot of green spaces such as university park and Rylands. Beeston is very diverse and very friendly and I think that’s what makes the town so unique. Most people are very relaxed and this creates a great atmosphere. Since 1991 the town centre has been transformed a few times. The old shops such McDonald’s, Superdrug, Be Wise and many others have all gone. But the construction of Tesco’s and now the new cinema bring new opportunities. Not forgetting the tram.

“One thing I have done is the development of two derelict commercial properties on Chilwell Road and transformed them into a modern retail premise and two flats.  My brother and I bought the shops back in October 2015. They were derelict and completely ruined and so we spent most weekends and evenings fixing it up. The work took us 18 months in total. These were featured on the TV series ‘Homes Under the Hammer’. I had great fun doing the show, and the episode was aired in 2017. After that, it was nice to get recognised around Beeston when shopping and at work. It still turns up on daytime TV, and someone will say that I’ve been on TV again”.

“There are so many funny stories that have happened at the post office. If I had to pick one it would be when a student came in and handed me an item, unpacked, and with no address on it. They simply walked out whilst I was walking back to the serving counter. Another one is that someone once posted a parcel, and then three years later he received it back and he asked me why. 

“I’m proud to say that as a sub-postmaster, I enjoy serving the local community and I hope the local community will give me the opportunity to serve them. I would ask everyone who reads this article to use their local post office and encourage friends and family to use theirs. Post offices are run by individual Postmasters, and we rely on the customers’ footfall to keep us open. We offer a wide range of services such as postal services (Royal Mail and Parcel Force worldwide), local collect services, currency exchange, travel insurance, DVLA services, passport check and send and many more. We also sell greeting cards, stationery, toys, gifts and household items. You can even drop off your dry cleaning.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the lovely people of Beeston for making it such a great place to live.


Broxtowe Community Projects

Ever wondered what has happened to the old Carphone Warehouse shop on Queens Road? It is now occupied by Broxtowe Community Projects, who have been in there since the start of November last year.

The project is a self-referral foodbank covering all of the Broxtowe Borough Council area, which was originally set up in the Labour office on the High Road. ‘Self-referral’ means that anyone in need can go and request help, rather than having to be referred by social services or other agencies.

As well as collections, volunteers deliver food parcels throughout the borough. The service is open on Mondays from 10am to 1pm and delivers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This covers all of the borough, across to Stapleford all the way up to Kimberley and Eastwood.

The project runs on donations from the public, as well as supermarkets. As well as food parcels, those in need can also be provided with toiletries, nappies, formula milk etc.

Anyone wanting to donate can take items during opening hours. If that isn’t possible then there is a collection point outside. What is working really well is neighbourhood collections that can be taken to the project in one go during opening hours.

Donations that are most useful are pretty much anything that has a shelf life – tins, packets and jars. Especially breakfast cereals and porridge oats, tins of soup, tinned meals such as chilli con carne or Bolognese sauce, rice, pasta, spaghetti. Also toiletries, nappies etc.

As well as serving those in need, each Saturday from 10.30am to 12.30pm the project is open to anyone who wants to come and take surplus food in exchange for a donation. As well as raising much-needed funds, this also eliminates a lot of food waste.

The project is always on the lookout for volunteers, so if you have time to spare then get in touch and see how you can help – 07434 664 174 or email broxtowe.cp@gmail.com

To keep up to date with what is happening at the project, follow them on Facebook here. 


The mask and the red death

As we enter a second lockdown, initially for a month, I’ve thought about how much has been written and debated about the Coronavirus since it appeared globally at the beginning of the year. Some real, some false and some downright dangerous. Injecting bleach. Really? I’ve known a few people who have been asked to self-isolate, as they may have come into contact with someone who may have had it. Someone I know at work caught it, but are better now. But I don’t know anyone locally who has been diagnosed with it. So, I was stunned to find out that one of my Beeston-based Facebook friends announced recently that they had been infected and have had it. So I contacted them, to find out whether they would be willing to share their experience of catching the scarlet coloured killer. They were happy to, as they wanted to make as many people aware of the seriousness of the pandemic.

Paolo Lannattone comes from Ausonia in central Italy and has been living in Beeston with his family for more than five years now. They love Beeston and plan to stay here for a long time. He is a piano and music theory teacher at MLC Academy in West Bridgford and has composed music for Italian films. He also attended the last year of a degree course in Music Technology at the University of Derby.

Firstly I asked Paolo how he initially became aware that he might have caught Covid.

“In mid-October, the NHS app reported to the whole family that we had been in contact with someone who tested positive. So we self-isolated. A few days later, my wife and daughter started having the first symptoms and requested the test. It came back positive. A few days later, I too started having the first symptoms, such as fever and a cough. So I too took the test, to which I also tested positive.

“We don’t know exactly who transmitted the virus to us. The app respects the privacy of users, so it only warns that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. So you must self-isolate. However, I must underline that thanks to the NHS app we were able to self-isolate a few days before having the first symptoms, thus avoiding any further spreading of the virus.

“A few days later, the symptoms became more difficult to manage. In addition to having a fever and cough, a strong sense of fatigue and shortness of breath appeared. For 10 days, it was very intense. Although I am an amateur runner, running more or less 20km a week, I was struggling to climb the flight of stairs in the house. More than once I thought that soon I would end up in the hospital with a ventilator because my breath was really short. It helped a lot to sit or lie in bed, so I could manage my breath a little better.

“Fortunately I did not need any hospital treatment. Although for a few days I was afraid of having to call 111, as I was advised to by the NHS operators who were in contact with me daily. Just in case I needed it. I’ve had the symptoms of Covid-19 for about 25 days now and they have not yet completely passed. I tire easily. I have sudden coughing episodes, especially when I wake up and when I go to sleep. I have completely lost my taste and smell and have not yet recovered them.

So you are still struggling?

“After my fever passed, the NHS allowed me to go out again. I don’t go out much because I don’t have much strength in my legs. I go for small walks with my wife Claudia and dog Jackie. At present, I don’t know how long these symptoms will last. Some acquaintances of mine, who contracted the virus, has had the same symptoms, and they’ve lasted for two and a half months now. Considering my situation, this is an entirely probable scenario. I think it is good to have patience and wait for it to pass. Hoping it does not leave deeper consequences. Considering that science does not have a thorough knowledge of this virus yet.

What about the rest of the family. How are they doing?

“Claudia and Ali are getting better. Ali has returned to Bilborough College. Claudia will go back to her job after the lockdown. They got exactly the same symptoms but fortunately it hasn’t lasted as long for them.

“What’s your view about the imminent availability of a vaccine?” “Obviously I think the vaccine is great news, but it will take longer than we think to get it for everyone. The first problem is that it needs to be preserved and transported at minus 80 degrees. I’m not sure about how many facilities we have in the UK for this kind of storage at the moment. The second is that the number of requested doses is very high and we have to be patient. It won’t be available for all for a while.

“There are of course other drug companies around the world that are working on a solution to the virus. So maybe between them, they should be able to come up with something to see the virus off. Or it may be one of those diseases that humanity has to live with, like the flu, the common cold or malaria. And as Paolo says, we will just have to wait and see what happens.”


It’s my un-party, and I’ll cry if I want to…

Ahhh admit it, you know the words to the poptastic hit made famous by Lesley Gore from back in 1963, or its other various forms which include a cover by Drake and Rhianna in “Take Care”. Or maybe the American Metalcore version by Motionless in White? With their additional lyrics “Die if I want too?” on their track “Necessary Evil”? Of course you do.

This brings me nicely to my point in hand, it actually was my party. Well kind of. Being a November baby I celebrate my birthmas in this month and have celebrated this occasion over the years with parties in nightclubs, bars, catching legendary performers – The Prodigy, (No Tourists Tour 2018), Alice Cooper (Spend The Night Tour 2017). This year I spent the day in at home, drinking copious amounts of rum and coke and binge-watching music documentaries. The contrast is stark, however I am a happy bear. Don’t get me wrong, I miss the pounding in my heart of live, ridiculously loud and heart-trembling bass, but the inner optimist in me is beginning to revel in this new life. I shall explain…

While we gloriously sugarcoat the good old days when we could do stuff with rose-tinted heart-shaped glasses, there are so many aspects I don’t miss. Rock City toilets for example. Only those with a strong stomach dare enter, the mix of two-pint beers and drunkenness make for a sorry state. I feel for the ladies who spend all night in there selling lollipops and the like. Don’t get me started on The Emporium Nightclub; I will leave that one there, only to say Rock City would be an upgrade…

There is more I don’t really miss about gig life, I don’t miss being five foot two and always, always being stood behind the tallest person in the venue. Don’t ask me how but they find me then barge past me to stand that close, I wonder if we should exchange phone numbers.

I don’t miss the smell, sweaty and nasty, being in a club and seeing someone I know who has been in the mosh pit. They smell like one and that is from across the room, they make eye contact and oh dear god no they are heading over for a hug. It is too late, I try not to breathe, smile and wander off to find air.

I don’t miss the queues. The night even begins with one to get in. An hour in the cold and people who know people have joined the queue ahead of you, as you try not to get too annoyed five of their mates have joined the joiners. Finally in the venue and there’s a queue for the cloakroom yey! Ok, in you go and get a drink from the bar? Good luck with that, its 5 people deep and no one ever knows what they want. Who needed to see any of the support acts anyway?

My personal favourite pet hate is trying to remember where you were stood in a gig or festival, after a loo trip or bar run, now trying to find your mates in low lights while holding plastic cups filled with beer and bouncing bodies are everywhere, at seven pound a pint trying not to cry when Betty Knobhead decides to start a mosh pit and you realise why the floor is so sticky. Still, fourteen pounds for two empty plastic cups, bargain!

And more than anything, the expense! It is an expensive hobby. A friend and I booked tickets for Hip-Hop “Insane in the Brain” band Cypress Hill back in 2018 – the tickets were £60, the hotel (the gig was in Leeds) was £120, so that was £180 not including train tickets food, drinks, taxi to the venue and back to the hotel. The gig was fabulous but the cost of a trip abroad, and the band were barely on stage an hour.

All these reasons swirled around my head as I sat on my comfy(ish) sofa on my birthday, as I poured myself a drink without having to queue, from a bottle of rum that barely cost me twenty good old pounds with mixer, with a lemon wedge plonked in for good luck. In a club that money could barely stretch to two rounds, and I had whole lotta rum for my money. Bargain. The only tall weirdos that will get in my view are not really that tall and already live with me. There’s no sweaty encounters with drunken acquaintances and the restroom is free of gross uninhibited strangers and features a clean porcelain toilet to use at my desecration. This is the life!

My conclusion is this, while ‘Rona has changed every person’s life this year, we have to find the silver lining. I have enough gig experience to tide me over, I can wait, it ain’t gonna be forever, and while I wait I try and look at the positives. Don’t get me wrong, as soon as this is over I will be at ALL the gigs, festivals, raves et al, but until then, pass me a drink and I will party at home in my pyjamas. Of course, I am still watching Netflix but what else have I to do?! Christmas? That’s sorted – bring it on, no unnecessary family trips and extra time in my pants singing “It’s my parrrrrrttttehhh!” Oh, by the way you are not invited…


Jamie Ireland: owner, The Cycle Inn

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“Our lockdown? One day! After the first lockdown announcement when Boris said “that’s it, everyone’s got to stay at home” we closed, but that same evening the list of the services that could stay open was produced, and third on the list was cycle shops.

“I came in the next day and was faced with a High Road with no people walking up and down it – I thought ‘how long can I stay open with no money coming in?”- but by the end of the day I was running around like a headless chicken.

“A lot of people needed to still get to the QMC to work, and with restricted public transport there was a surge of people needing bikes to get about. Then people were permitted one form of exercise, and if you don’t have a dog to walk, getting on a bike was suddenly a legitimate reason to escape for that hour.

“Lockdown showed (people) the freedom bikes gave them.”

“Within the first week people were rushing to buy bikes – we sold 20 bikes in a week, that’s usually a month’s worth – the whole UK bike trade has gone through the roof.

“There aren’t any 2020 models left in the country, pretty much all the 2021 stock has been pre-sold. It’s changed individuals and families -my neighbours never cycled much, now they’re a family of dedicated cyclists. Lockdown showed them the freedom bikes gave them.

“The ball is still rolling: people are reluctant to use public transport to get to work, to get to school. I’ve never seen such an epic boom – I’m working 6 or 7 days a week, 12 hours a day to keep Beeston rolling. But it’s great to see so many discover cycling – the more converts the better!”


Gary Fox: bus driver

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“When lockdown began I was actually on long-term sick leave, but getting ready to return to work. Eventually, in May, I returned, but things were quite different. My route (the 510) was only running at peak time, and on-demand at other times, though we didn’t see much demand. Our passengers are usually more senior people, and I don’t think they wanted to cause a fuss calling out a bus like you would a taxi.

“We moved to a full service in July, but numbers have been right down since, perhaps around 30% of before lockdown. We provide a link to other forms of transport – the trams and the buses – so we’re a service that gets subsidised. We’re a life-line to many.

“I’ve had no problems with people following rules, everyone has been great. There was one strange event: driving through Stapleford one day, a woman ran to the bus, flagging us down. I stopped, thinking she wanted to get on but when the doors opened she didn’t get on, instead telling me that one of my passengers wasn’t wearing a mask. Mostly though, people have been tolerant towards wearing a mask and those unable to do so.

“I sometimes think we’re less a bus service, more a social club on wheels.”

“There have been positives to lockdown: the roads are clearer, for a start. People have been forced to stop, and take stock for a moment. Working from home has probably helped many people, not that I can drive my bus from my front room! But I do miss things. I’m a Quaker, and I’ve missed the meetings. I miss my passengers – you get so used to them, and their routines, their stories. I sometimes think we’re less a bus service, more a social club on wheels.”


Sarah: care nurse

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“I am a student nurse, so when lockdown began I felt I had to do something, so I went to work in a care home- partly out of duty, partly to gain some valuable experience. It was a home for dementia patients who were particularly vulnerable and not easy to contain for social distancing. It became clear it would be a challenge. Staff numbers were down due to shielding and illness

“Working in PPE was a challenge: even in March, you’d be dripping in sweat throughout. We had to make a single mask last a shift, so removing them for a sip of water was difficult. The gloves broke all the skin on my hands, that would be constantly sore. All this was necessary, but whatever I expected, whatever I had imagined, well, it was more difficult. I shouldn’t have really been thrown in at the deep end as I was, but at the time this was a major crisis and you just did what you had to do. It was a baptism not of fire, but of alcohol gel!

“It was hard to lose people to Covid – the first resident to die was someone I’d bonded with, and trying to describe the day to day reality to those who had not experienced it was impossible, so I kept it to myself and grieved alone.

“Around June I thought I was going to collapse. It was overwhelming and heartbreaking. We couldn’t send those with covid to hospital and instead had to keep them here and hope for the best, though I never saw a single oxygen bottle on site. I thought I couldn’t continue, I was so tired and my lack of training meant I had huge responsibilities with little in the way of knowing what to do in often impossible situations. This was all for minimum wage.

“I get angry when I hear people moaning about mask-wearing: I wore full PPE in sweltering weather for 14 hours. You can wear a mask for the time you’re in a shop”.

“The people kept me going though. You fall in love with the residents, their beautiful smiles when you help them and you know you have made a difference. You pour your love into them, and when it is returned…well, that’s job satisfaction. No one goes into the care sector for the pay. Working in care changes you, covid adds another level. You see how precious life is: these people with rich lives beforehand, suddenly taken away so easily. Often the ones who appeared stronger succumbed faster than those who seemed weakest: it didn’t seem to have a logic to it.

“Our home suffered, but in comparison to others not so badly. We lost about a quarter of our residents – other homes lost all of theirs, many at least half. I get angry when I hear people moaning about mask-wearing: I wore full PPE in sweltering weather for 14 hours. You can wear a mask for the time you’re in a shop. It’s not about you. It’s about the people I was caring for, and those that are vulnerable.

“That said, I was proud of Beeston and how it rose to the challenge in the early days of the crisis: we all looked after each other, and it was wonderful. People seemed to have got more tetchy now, more judgemental. We have to rediscover that spirit that united us early on. We will probably need it again very soon.”

For privacy reasons we have changed the interviewee’s name


Paul Swift: mutual aid organiser

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“I anticipated the lockdown, so we prepared early. I have an elderly uncle who is a vulnerable person, and that made me think. While big organisations take time to respond, we could be ready from the start.

“Friends in Derby had set up Mutual Aid groups, so I had something to work from. A Facebook group was set up after a bit of research and promoted on Beeston Updated. I was astounded that within 24 hours we had over 1,000 members. People wanted to help. As we grew, we looked at ways to facilitate getting people to organise on more local levels, street by street. People with different skill-sets offered help so we could run as tightly as possible: for instance, an IT expert worked out how best to set up networks.

“We didn’t want to step on the toes or duplicate the work of existing charities or local authorities: this had to be hugely cooperative. We had to keep it clear: help others to help themselves help others. The response was tremendous in those dark days: streets came together via WhatsApp and leafleting. It pulled people together and helped with isolation. Politics and other differences were put aside: we all worked towards that basic human instinct of helping others.

“People will always need community, virus or no virus”

‘As lockdown eased, it might be thought that these groups were no longer needed. But we aren’t out of the woods yet, far from it. This time though, we know how to look after each other. People will always need a community, virus or no virus.

‘I’d like us to reflect on how we can develop community, how we can collectively aspire to a better future. We’ve had a taste of lower pollution, cleaner air, communities working together.

“We proved we can do these things. I enjoyed the opportunity to explore my neighbourhood, and spend time with my nine-year-old son Edward. He took it in his stride, interviewing family members, documenting the experience in a journal. He read loads of books and made the most of the time off. I think we’ll emerge from this better people. I’m an optimist: you have to be.”


Glenys Lufkin: rylander

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“I’ve just missed chatting to folk! I live on my own, just me and the cat who is probably fed up with me talking to her by now, and although I can message, Skype, phone etc. It isn’t the same as face to face interaction. I know couples have had their own problems but at least with two of you conversation is possible.

“The biggest thing for me, which I fear may be the case for one or two is that I lost a wonderful relationship because of this lockdown.

“I had been with Nigel for 16 years.  We had weekends together (he lives in Leicester), holidays; long weekends away; meals out; cosy nights in by the woodburner, all those lovely things that keep a relationship going. We got on well, liked the same things, history, heritage, countryside, long walks. Then lockdown happened…

“It affected his mental health badly. He just didn’t know what to do and was scared. He stopped phoning and one evening he announced that he wanted to end our relationship. There was no one else involved, he just wanted to be on his own. I believe some sort of breakdown had happened. It’s all very sad, no real reason, but I blame this virus and lockdown.

“I will be ok. I’ve lots of lovely friends and family, gorgeous grandchildren. I’m just sad that he has no one. Apart from all that my garden has been my lifesaver. I’m out there every day, and grown lots of veg took on new projects, raised beds, etc. I cannot imagine lockdown without a garden. It is a great healer.”


Lisa Clarke: lead nurse for children’s allergy, Nottingham children’s hospital, QMC

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“When it hit the guidelines were changing constantly, so we knew things were moving fast and we’d soon be having to change things majorly. I usually see inpatients and outpatients throughout the day, but that all stopped. The wards became eerily empty, and even A+E fell quiet. Yet you knew there was a crisis, and that was painful, not being able to deal with it when your response is always to care and help.

“At home, our daughter went to live with her boyfriend’s family, as there is a real Romeo and Juliet thing going off there – plus, she’s asthmatic, so I didn’t want to put her at risk. It was terrifying at first when people didn’t know much about the virus and didn’t know what our chances are with it. I’d remove and bag my uniform straight after a shift,  and shower before hugging my boyfriend – I still do.

“The whole veneration of NHS staff was actually quite scary. We were being treated as if we were going to war, not just going to work. It felt like we were being set up for martyrdom. That said, cycling home one evening when people came out to clap for carers was quite amazing: I felt like I was winning the Tour De France as I passed down the street.

“I worked on mask-testing and would have to spend hours standing up. I’m fit – I like to run marathons – but sciatica started to set in, and for eight weeks I’d put up with it despite the intense pain as I was so deeply into work. It’s since been under treatment. I also trained to work on A+E, which was an eye-opener. Non-Covid admissions were right down, but it felt good to train in readiness.

“I would advise anyone planning things to do so with caution: be prepared for anything as this is far from over.”

“My colleagues and the hospital trust were amazing: there was absolute dedication. They would bend over backwards to ensure very difficult situations – family not being able to see dying relatives, for instance – were looked after on a personal level and everything done to help.

“As the summer wore on, and cases fell fast, I felt less anxious about the situation, though I still did everything to avoid infection. Last week though, my daughter’s boyfriend developed symptoms, and we recently found he is positive. We’ve had to subsequently go into lockdown and isolation again, and I’m prepared for the worst. I can do some of my job from home, so will have to.

“I am worried about Winter, as flu cases and other respiratory illnesses start to return to complicate things. I would advise anyone planning things to do so with caution: be prepared for anything as this is far from over. I’ve booked time off for Christmas. Will I take it? Right now, I have no idea.”


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