Sprucing things up

If you are one of those people that have spent far too much time in their home over the past six months, then you might be in need of the services of local Interior Designer Sarah Kirkby. Her domestic interiors service “Spruce Interiors” offers a range of services from a single room revamp to a full home renovation and is a self-confessed colour addict!

After completing her BA in Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University, Sarah secured herself a job at Dulux as an Interior Designer. She not only does the initial colour consultation and manages the project, but she also works alongside the client to ensure they get exactly the look they want, and this usually starts with her asking what colours inspire them.  When I popped into her new shop at 108 Chilwell High Road, Sarah was busy working on ‘kitchen CAD plans’ and the shop was being expertly managed by a friendly intern, Faaria who was happy to show me around.

Conveniently situated at Chilwell Road tram stop, with its show-stopping signage and slatted circular window display, it’s hard to resist stopping to take a peek through the wooden aperture at the tropical richness within. Immediately I spot a familiar grey linen shade of one of Beeston designer Mark Lowe’s table lamps, flanked by a luscious bright green fern, and am enticed inside. Though not a large space, there are plenty of inspiring things to feast your Ikea weary eyes on. It’s small but perfectly dressed.

From unique one-off lighting and furniture pieces to small ranges of hand-printed artwork goodies, the shop has been selectively stocked to its best advantage. Simple wood and metal racking houses the array of sculptural plants, soft coral walls show off a row of Sarah’s solid printed wooden clocks and the delicate framed screen prints of Nottingham based illustrator Laurie Hastings. As I bend low to study the plant selection I catch the musk of sandalwood from the shelf above and notice an attractive row of brown glass scented soy candles from PF Candle Co.

Behind the bespoke wooden counter are slim shelves busy with colourful tiles of all patterns, shapes and sizes – we are entering the design part of the shop that leads onto the design office at the back. There is more to this compact shopfront than meets the eye. As Faaria leads me to the back room I am impressed how the narrow space has been transformed into a fully fitted kitchen, a showcase of Sarah’s design ideas and where some of the initial kitchen design consultations take place.

“A new venture at such a time takes a certain amount of courage and self-belief and Sarah has both in large amounts.”

When I met up with Sarah later in the week, she told me that she bought the building at auction on April 1st. The realisation of how much renovation work was needed momentarily filled her with apprehension. With help from her Dad, local Beeston based joiner James Crawford from Appletree Joinery, and her helpful plasterer Nick Garbutt they transformed the ex-hairdresser’s salon into a stylish space that could accommodate all of its requirements. She talked me through the process as we walked through to the workshop at the back, where creative evidence of previous products sat on shelves and benches.

A new venture at such a time takes a certain amount of courage and self-belief and Sarah has both in large amounts. We discussed how lockdown, though putting all of her interior design projects in suspension, gave her the time to devote to moving the contents of her rented studio near Sneinton Market to her newly acquired building. Redeveloping the rooms to suit her plans for the place gave her something purposeful to do, but she says it also felt very strange to be in a new neighbourhood at such a surreal time. 

Having been based at the other side of the city, Sarah wasn’t familiar with what Beeston had to offer until the building came up at auction, but what little she saw she liked. Slotting her design business into a street that is now home to many creative independents, the location felt right. And although the bulk of her services will remain focused on interior design, Sarah’s commitment to design and supporting some of the Notts & Leicester based artists and makers she has met along the way meant the shop and business has been able to evolve. As a consequence, she has made her business more customer-facing now, and as soon as people step inside the shop they get a flavour of Sarah’s style. Her goal is to make interior design accessible to all.

During her art degree, Sarah developed her love for wood and specialised in screen-printing her designs on furniture and other wooden objects. The clocks, coasters and furniture in the window are all examples of products she has made over the years merging surface design and colour, with form and shape.

She explains how the aperture window was conceptualised, first as a way of addressing the gaping space that felt intense in full-sun and then as a way to recycle palette wood. She abandoned the poor quality wooden slats full of unwieldy nails in favour of lengths of stained construction timber, producing the perfectly shaped circle within a slatted divider. 

Why not pop down and have a nosy!

Visit: https://www.spruceinteriors.co.uk/

DU

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!”

MT

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.”

MT

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

MT

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.”

MT

Suzana Plimmer: secondary school teacher

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:

“We were told by my school that we’d be off for two weeks, so leave everything on our desks and we’d be back in a fortnight. That night, Boris told us we’d be having the full shutdown. I’ve got three kids away at different unis, so I called them home – get back quickly. One of them, studying in Liverpool, though it was all a fuss about nothing. I didn’t get to see her for six months.

“I had a couple of weeks just doing my Joe Wicks and whatever, but I felt in limbo. I was sewing scrubs and that was something, but I felt I needed to do more.  I went to my local Co-op and said: “If you want me to help stock the shelves then I’m happy to help”. Remember, back then it was hard to get anything, and I thought volunteering to help might make it easier for them, and for my community. They said yes, and I got to work.

“One night, the manager told me he was sending a load of food down to the Haven food bank in Stapleford. I was curious, so found out more, and ended up asking a bloke working there, Richard (Macrae, Stapleford Community Group Director and local councillor) if I could volunteer more. I started by going to the food bank twice a week at the food bank picking the food. There’d be people with short term needs, people with long term needs, people with mental health issues: we’d serve them all. I was shocked at how many people needed help.

“I gave the woman living there some nappies. She burst into tears: her baby hadn’t worn nappies for two days.”

“I moved on to deliveries, and what shook me was how there were people I knew, who never in my mind did I imagine they were needing help. I visited one set of flats, a building close to me but I’d somehow not really noticed before. I gave the woman living there some nappies. She burst into tears: her baby hadn’t worn nappies for two days. That moment did something to me. I thought how the evening before I’d opened my fridge and thrown away all the crap I hadn’t not yet eaten that week. I was struck by what a waste it all was: I could afford to throw food away while this poor woman couldn’t afford nappies.

“Since then, I only buy exactly what I need, nothing else. It’s morally corrupt to throw stuff away. I will never do so again and will encourage others to do so. I take my lunches to work, and every scrap of leftovers is eaten. Until I worked at the food bank I didn’t know the extent into which this was all happening. We’re a rich nation, yet people have to rely on these silent heroes to help them. The last few months have given me the opportunity to have some clarity. Life before was a hamster wheel, working long hours and not having time to think about much outside work. I’ve seen what is important and what isn’t important.”

MT

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.”

MT

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.”

MT

Grassroots football club feed over 100 people during half-term

A football club in Chilwell provided free meals during the half-term break.

Phoenix Inham FC helped 140 individuals as they joined a number of restaurants and cafes across the country in feeding disadvantaged people.

The club’s efforts have been recognised on Twitter by Marcus Rashford who has been a leading campaigner in trying to end child hunger in Britain.

The England international footballer successfully forced a government U-turn to extend free school meal vouchers over the summer.

But the scheme was not extended during half-term – a move which prompted widespread criticism.

Richard Ward, chairman of Phoenix Inham said: “I think it’s disgusting.”

“There’s a lot of parents who have lost their jobs and suddenly you’ll go from having a permanent wage to having nothing whilst trying to afford a mortgage and everyday household bills.

“People need free school meals.”

Left to right: 23-year-old volunteer Nile, Raiden aged 9, Macaulay aged 10, club chairman Richard, Kylum aged 11 and parent Kelly, aged 32

Richard was born in Chilwell so knows the importance of providing food and support to the local community.

“We spoke to a lady whose partner was furloughed back at the beginning of lockdown and sadly on Monday they received a phone call saying they’ve gone into liquidation,” he said.

“They’ve got a family with two children who they now can’t afford to feed.”

Latest government data shows that the percentage of students eligible for FSM’s has increased across all schools from 15.4% in 2019 to 17.3% in 2020.

That percentage is only going to increase with the number of people losing their jobs during the pandemic.

The club have been providing free food during the half-term break

32-year-old Kylie Goodband has been volunteering at the club after recently losing her job as a carer.

Kylie said: “If I was in need then at least I know that I’ve got people to come to when I need it.”

“I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands at the moment so I like to help out as much as I can.”

The Beestonian have asked Broxtowe MP, Darren Henry, to comment after being one of over 300 MPs to have voted against extending the FSM scheme.

Mr Henry has yet to respond.

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Andy Hallam: co-owner, Hallams Grocers

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:

“Lockdown was pretty horrific.

“It turned our business upside down: people wanted home deliveries, so we had to create a website to manage that.

“The Barton family kindly let us use the Garage as a packhouse as we simply didn’t have the space in the shop to get the orders up while maintaining social distancing. We lost all our catering contracts as the businesses we supplied all closed. Because of supply and demand, prices rose, lots of products became difficult to get hold of. People were panic buying things like potatoes – it was a hard time for us all, really. Footfall dropped dramatically, but while we had far fewer customers, people were buying more, often shopping for shielding neighbours.

“I’d be working up to 9 pm, after being up since 4 am. We didn’t have a single day off – in fact, we worked Sundays for the first five weeks of lockdown to cope. We had – and still have – early morning slots for NHS workers.

“In the first few weeks, we had to employ a doorman – the first time Hallams has had a bouncer in 110 years!”

“Things feel like they’re slowly getting back to normal now. Home orders have dropped right off and people are coming in more, though as many office workers aren’t in Beeston, the lunchtime trade – they grab a sandwich from Boots, then see a punnet of lovely strawberries and buy then on impulse – has not recovered.

“We thought the social distancing rules would be a lot more difficult than they have been. Everyone seems to respect it. We’ve not had anyone come in causing trouble about masks, or anything. People police it themselves now as they have become used to having to queue outside, but in the first few weeks, we had to employ a doorman – the first time Hallams has had a bouncer in 110 years!

“It’s still difficult work.

“We have to clean down so frequently, and have to deal with new routines and habits, but there is a normality settling in.

“The new normal, as people keep saying.”

MT