What A Relief!

Hello, good citizen of Beeston, how are you this lovely spring day?

Very well, thank you – the sun is shining, the Crown has been refurbished and… hang on a minute, you don’t normally start your turgid ramblings with an individual greeting, what’s going on?

Ah. Bother, you noticed. Weeeell… this column is a bit different. It tackles some… er… odd subject matter. I just thought I’d warn you. Don’t read it out loud, m’kay? Especially in the pub.

As some of you may know, my lovely wife Sal is really quite poorly with a scary and incurable breast cancer which has spread to her bones, liver and brain. She’s coping with it reasonably well though, for the most part she’s in good spirits and we have our beautiful three year old daughter to keep us laughing which helps a lot. Moreover, thanks to the enormous generosity of a considerable number of very lovely people we recently had our garage converted into a downstairs bedroom for her as (just after we got married last September) Sal lost the use of her legs and partially because of this is unfortunately now quite often in considerable pain.

I’d promised her and her best friend Lou a spa break before Sal’s diagnosis nearly two years ago as who wouldn’t enjoy a champagne filled weekend of pampering, relaxation and massage? Because of her condition though it appears almost impossible now as there don’t appear to be many hotel/spa resorts that will treat clients with advanced cancer (insurance issues I guess). So I thought I’d see if there was anyone locally who could help, not only for Sal and her pain but also for me as I do a lot of lifting these days and Sal keeps insisting, probably very sensibly, that I need to look after myself as well as her.

So I went online and Googled ‘Beeston Massage’.

Wow.

Wow? Why ‘Wow’?

Erm… look, I’m not hopelessly naïve, nor do I imagine Beeston is a haven of purity, decency and light (after all, our town topped the list of ‘Places People Have Extra-marital Affairs’ a couple of years ago) but one of the first links I found was to a site that reviews the… ahem… professional services of ‘Ladies of Transactional Affection’, so to speak.

Come again?

Very funny. Imagine a ‘TripAdvisor for Personal Services’ with a very in-depth and detailed review of the ‘goings on’ at the (now already closed) new massage parlour on Regent Street, as well as a many other locations. It was, to quote Star Trek’s Mr Spock, “Fascinating”. I read sections of the reviews out to Sal, her Mum and a group of friends when they were round and we were all laughing fit to burst (which was actually great therapy in itself).

I find that hard to swallow…

Stop that now. Anyway, it just got me thinking about the ‘darker’ side of Beeston, what goes on behind closed doors and how much of a good or bad thing it was. As I said, I’m not that naïve to think it doesn’t happen everywhere and Beeston is surely no exception – so I’m not sure why the Broadgate establishment only lasted a few weeks before closing…

Maybe they’ll wait fifteen minutes and try again?  

You’re just being silly now. But as I said, maybe Beeston is packed full of naughtiness – or is demand drooping (sorry, dropping)? Was the closure due to local pressure, lack of demand or not paying the right business rates? Might it simply be that Beeston is no longer the illicit nookie capital of the UK, (and if not should we be pleased or disappointed)?

No idea, I’m going to the pub for a stiff one.

Oh suit yourself, I can tell you’re not taking this seriously. The really sad thing is Sal and I still haven’t found somewhere who can provide a nice, soothing and entirely respectable massage.

Oh, that’s a real shame. I do so love a happy ending…. 

Tim Pollard

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

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

Take a vow

In keeping with this issue’s ‘Fifth Anniversary’ theme up until the very last moment my article was about how our wonderful town might look and feel in another five years. It was written before Sally (my Maid Marian) and I were married on September 10th but now (thanks to the kindness of the editors) I’ve rewritten it entirely with a single point to make.

Regular readers may recall that sadly Sal has incurable breast cancer which has already spread to her bones and liver and is still undergoing chemotherapy. In fact she had another treatment just a week before the wedding and was sadly becoming increasingly poorly as the weekend approached, but on the day she looked radiant dressed in a beautiful outfit she’d made herself whilst I was dressed like a Napoleonic Hussar (because… erm… I wanted to and Sal said I could. Seriously, that’s the best and most genuine reason I have).

Sal genuinely took my breath away with her grace, beauty and joy when I saw her appear at the top of the stairs, I have genuinely never been happier – but how she made it down them (accompanied by her father Steve, best friend Lou and our two-year old daughter Scarlett) I’ll never know as by the start of the wedding her nausea, constant sickness and tiredness were utterly debilitating and the greatest honour she could ever pay me was (by sheer force of will I’m sure) making it, smiling, through the whole ceremony. Surrounded by friends and family we happily made our promises and exchanged rings with each other as well as presenting one to Scarlett and suddenly… we were married!

Heading outside we managed about five minutes of photos before Sal needed first to sit down, then to be ill again and finally needing to alternate lying down and being sick which of course meant missing all of the usual family photos, the  meal and (probably thankfully) speeches.

With no improvement and Sal becoming increasingly frail I rang the emergency on-call cancer nurse who told us Sal needed to be seen straight away, so we left our friends and family at the venue to spend our wedding night in a shared ward at the City Hospital’s Specialist Receiving Unit – but I’ve never been so grateful to the dedicated staff there who saw exactly how poorly Sal was and gave her the very best of care. I sat by her all night and all of the next day too, still dressed like an escapee from a bad Adam Ant tribute band.

I hope five years from now Sal will be still going strong, happy and enjoying watching our daughter grow up

In fact Sal had to spend the next ten days in hospital. Our original plan had been to go on honeymoon but instead Sal was moved to a specialist oncology unit whilst they slowly stopped her constant vomiting, replaced fluids, calcium, potassium and blood and finally discovered the devastating cause of her worsening condition.

The cancer has spread again. Into Sal’s brain.

I cannot tell you how much that news terrified us. Even writing this it doesn’t seem real, but it is. The same day it was diagnosed Sal began an intensive ten day course of brain radiotherapy whilst still undergoing more chemo. She is utterly wiped, tired beyond all comprehension and I have to say if it wasn’t for our marvellous friends and family rallying round with support, babysitting and transport I’m not sure we’d have coped at all. She’s home now but we’re still making daily trips in for treatment.

So here’s my ‘five year’ hope… I hope five years from now Sal will be still going strong, happy and enjoying watching our daughter grow up. And I hope beyond words that all of us here in Beeston still have access to such world-class dedicated, supportive, caring and free at the point of contact NHS facilities on our doorstep, because they really do help us all in our darkest hours of need and Beeston is so, so lucky to have them on our doorstep. Thank you, NHS. And thank you all for your support too, we appreciate it hugely.

Tim Pollard

Robin Hood And Maid Marry-On

By the time the next issue comes out I’ll be married. That may not impress some people (especially the already married) but while I’m not turning into GroomZilla yet it’s definitely a Big Deal for me.

I’ll be *married*.

Yes I know, people get married all the time. Not the same people obviously (unless they’re Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor) but as I’ve never been married before it’s all a bit of an adventure.

I’m quite used to adventures though, I’ve done any number of weird and amazing things as Robin Hood but that all seems rather tame compared to getting married and I guess that’s how it should be.

Sal’s just as excited. She’s making her wedding dress herself (no, it’s not going to be a Robin Hood wedding) and even our daughter Scarlett is looking forward being a bridesmaid. Everyone we know is gearing up. Great friends are travelling from the UK, the US and Europe to celebrate with us. It’s all *perfect*.

Except… Sal has cancer.

Just over a year ago she was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. It’s already too late to cure, having spread from her breast to her liver, pelvis and spine. As you can imagine, we were devastated. It was close to being the worst possible news we could have, and as Sal teaches genetics at Nottingham University there wasn’t much she didn’t know. It’s fair to say we were broken, for any number of reasons (us, our future, watching Scarlett grow up). All of it potentially ripped away in a single diagnosis.

But here’s the thing – Sal is a truly amazing woman. I love her without limits and for some reason she feels the same about me. So we wept, second-guessed, swore and wished. And then she decided to just get on with life. She started chemo and radiotherapy and after each treatment was back at work in days. I was – am – utterly in awe of her.

Her decision to live with cancer rather than giving in to it was inspirational, and not just to me. Sal took part in the University’s Impact campaign which aims to make a real difference in the lives of breast cancer sufferers. And because she was in a unique position (involved in research and a patient) the organisers asked her to give a presentation at their Open Day.

A year ago she couldn’t have done it. But a few weeks ago she gave a presentation so powerful it touched everyone there. And because the university press release mentioned that ‘Dr Sally Chappell, Nottingham’s official Maid Marian’ was speaking about having cancer local media found out too. We’d not told anyone (not because having cancer is anything to hide, far from it) but suddenly it was out in the open.

So when local media contacted her Sal could have ignored them. Instead she decided people should know that all this could happen to anyone. If any good can come of this she needed to convey a message. So she went on Radio Nottingham for a couple of really sensitively conducted interviews, she talked to the Post, raised over £2.5k for charity by doing a 5k run, and even did an interview for ‘Candis’ magazine (published later this year). And the message Sal really wants you to get is this:

Check your boobs. Check your partner’s boobs (male or female). Probably don’t check strangers’ boobs (that’s wrong and creepy) but if I can say it again one more time: CHECK YOUR BOOBS regularly. Sal didn’t have any of the ‘classic’ signs (lumps, orange peel skin, puckering) just a general thickening of the whole breast tissue that even her GP wasn’t initially worried about because breasts change after childbirth.

As I write, Sal is on round 2 of chemo and it’s dreadful to see her knocked sideways by it. Scarlett keeps us going, she’s an utter joy and gives us both love and smiles and we have a brilliant support network of incredible family and friends who help with babysitting, shopping, lending ears for us to bend, shoulders to cry on. We couldn’t do it without them. We’re really blessed, the bloody cancer withstanding.

And we’re grateful to everyone who asks how Sal is. Knowing that people care is very helpful, especially in the long dark, scary hours of night. Now even when I’m out Robin Hood-ing people I’ve never met before come up to me and ask in a very genuine and concerned way “How’s your wife?” as a lot of people think we’re married already.

I thank them for asking and don’t tell them we’re not married yet because the really great thing is we soon will be. After all of the fun we’ve had as Robin and Marian this is real, a proper grown-up adventure. There’ll be laughter and tears, love and sadness. It’s life. And it’ll be fun so wish us luck.

Oh and please remember: CHECK YOUR BOOBS

Food Time!

“What time is it, Scarlett?”

Sal and I ask our two-year old from time to time. “FOOD TIME!” she replies with glee, and starts listing all the food she’d like to eat… “Wittybix, ogange, monkeynana, yoghurt, chocle bissit, grapes and cheese PWEASE!” she pleads politely but forcefully. “And bubbles and juice! And milk!”

And we smile because somehow having a tiny person with the permanent appetite of the shark from JAWS charging around the house actively trying to devour pretty much anything (except cucumber) is wonderfully cute and endearing.

We hear stories of parents who can’t get their children to eat anything but macaroni cheese or cat food and we wonder how weird that would be, in much the same way that I find it incomprehensible that anyone wouldn’t like STAR TREK (the proper one, with Captain Kirk of course).

And maybe there’ll come a time when she’ll hate everything except chicken nuggets and Haribo and I’ll be forced, ironically, to eat my own words – but I have to say for someone who likes food Beeston is an excellent place to be growing up.

Last Sunday Sal and I, admittedly without Scarlett this time, attended a charity fundraising dinner for My Sight Nottinghamshire (formerly the Nottinghamshire Royal Society for the Blind) at the always astounding Café Roya on Wollaton Road.

I have a soft spot for the charity as every year in November I lead a group of volunteer fundraisers in walking across burning hot coals to raise money for them at Nottingham Castle. Great fun, brilliant cause (give it a go, it’s inspiring, life-changing and best of all doesn’t actually hurt, I promise)!

For once it wasn’t Roya doing the cooking though, although the food was still entirely vegetarian – the special guest chef was the phenomenal Alex Bond. Alex is a brilliant bloke – very friendly, extremely talented and has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants and with Nottingham’s Sat Bains and hopes to be opening his own restaurant in Nottingham soon. Given the truly inspiring dishes he produced (in content, presentation and taste) I hope he does.

As I’ve said, Scarlett will eat pretty much anything but I’m a bit pickier these days – I certainly wouldn’t class myself as vegetarian but each time we’ve been to Roya’s we haven’t even noticed there’s no meat, the food is just so good. But Alex served up a series of dishes, some of which consisted entirely of foods I wouldn’t normally eat (olives, yoghurt and lemon anyone?) that were simply delicious.

So maybe I should learn a lesson from Scarlett and try a more varied diet – as I said, Beeston can certainly provide that.

We have a new world tapas restaurant, The Frustrated Chef opening in place of Relish on Chilwell High Road, a new seafood/Thai restaurant, The Lobster Pot (near Sainsbury’s), Korea House on Broadgate and the excellent Gurkha Express almost opposite, taking the place of the now-defunct ‘Bonito’ restaurant, a place that very long-term readers may recall I once wrote a scathingly unfavourable review of in this very magazine.

The place closed down very shortly afterwards and although I’m sure it was nothing to do with my review… well, just for a second I got to feel like a real food critic.

But these days, new food and drink establishments in Beeston have some great forebears to aspire to and beat – and I think we’re being really well served here, literally and figuratively.

So don’t worry about the clock not being repaired in the Square, if anyone asks you what time it is in Beeston you can just quote Scarlett… “Food time”!

For more information on other events organised by My Sight Nottinghamshire visit http://www.mysightnotts.org.uk. Roya’s and Alex Bond’s fundraising evening raised over £400 for the charity. Many thanks to them, their staff and My Sight’s Jonny Rudge and sponsors for organising it!

Tim Pollard

Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood

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