If I haven’t overstepped my deadline (something I do on a regular basis) this issue should be out in early December, just in time for the Beeston Christmas Lights Switch-on.
Almost every end of year magazine issue is full of ‘Round ups of the past year’ or ‘What will next year be like?’ articles and it would be wrong of The Beestonian to avoid such traditions, of course – but as I’ve written about my traumatic past year in previous issues and the coming year will be pretty trying too, let’s talk Christmassy stuff.
Robin Hood-ing for me is a very seasonal business, with summer tours at the Castle ending around the time of the October Robin Hood Beer Festival, yet again a splendid event albeit very moving as four local breweries had all made beers named in honour of my late wife Sal; the Robin Hood Pageant a week afterwards (except this year as it was cancelled due to extreme weather); November’s MySight Nottingham Charity Firewalk which I’ve done annually for eight years now and the Nottingham Christmas Lights Switch on (which I confess this year I missed for the first time in about as long as I was at a prog rock festival in Wales).
But I do get to be Robin at several festive tours of the Castle caves, lots of tourism promotions and some banquets – and even get to change my costume colour from green to red (like some abstract mythical traffic light) as I’m also going to be Santa at the Albert Hall for the second year running, which is great fun.
And this year I’m going to Lapland to meet the real Santa.
In fact by the time you read this I’ll have been and come back, and I have no doubt it’s going to be very moving and emotional, as I have the huge honour to be travelling with a group of very poorly children and their families on a plane chartered by the ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ charity, a superb Nottingham-based organisation who specialise in making very sick children’s dreams come true. A few years ago when I was doing medieval banquets at Center Parcs we did some shows for them and they were astounding – the joy, laughter and sheer fun we had just blew away our concerns it would be a sad or gloomy time, and I can only imagine the happiness on everyone’s faces as they meet Santa inside the Arctic Circle, see the Northern Lights and even get to meet husky teams in the frozen forest!
Of course the children being so ill makes a difference and it’s a long day for everyone – a 3am start and returning to East Midlands airport about 10pm at night (so the return journey will probably be a bit less riotous than the outbound one) but I was so pleased to have been asked, I love the idea of Robin Hood helping local children and their families have an unforgettable trip, and it certainly puts a lot of things in perspective.
And although Sal’s and my three year-old daughter Scarlett (who’ll be four on Boxing Day, where does the time go?) won’t be travelling with me she’ll be seeing one or more Nottingham-based Santas over the festive period. Last year she saw about three on various visits with family and friends and firmly decided the last Santa was the best because he greeted her by her name, knew all about her Gran-Gran Joy, her special cuddly White Bunny and not only gave them all a chocolate frog but also gave her one for Mummy who was poorly at home. And rather marvellously, Scarlett then asked for another one “For my Daddy, because he’s working”.
That was a truly beautiful moment and Santa was very moved. Because, dear reader, I was that Santa. And what’s more, she actually gave me the chocolate too. So from us both (and Santa) may we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood
Over the past few issues I’ve written about my wife Sal’s incurable cancer and how grateful we both were for the fabulous help we had from the City and QMC hospitals, Sarah, our local Macmillan nurse, the local Red Cross and the brilliant community nurses at Dovecote House on Wollaton Road.
Sadly, as some of you may know, Sal died at home, surrounded by her friends and family in June and it has been a hugely traumatic time for all of us who loved her. But I’d very much like to thank not only the organisations that helped but everyone in Beeston who have given us so much love, support and friendship. Sal appreciated it greatly, as do I and our three-year old daughter, Scarlett. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I think Scarlett is growing up in the best village possible.
One of the few events I’ve attended as Robin Hood since Sal died was the (re)opening of Beeston Library, on the 9th September, the day before what would have been our first wedding anniversary. I’ve lived in Beeston all my life and when I was growing up the library was incredibly important to me, giving me access to worlds, ideas, stories and new horizons – and when Scarlett was born Sal and I took her to the brilliant ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’ baby music classes there which we all loved. I was asked a long time ago to attend the opening, to do some Robin Hood storytelling and help celebrate the renovation and Sal had planned to come down with Scarlett to see it too. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, but I really wanted to go for her and for me – and I’m so glad I did.
In these harsh economic times, where public money is increasingly difficult to find, Beeston’s ‘new’ library is a revelation and a joy to visit. Entirely redesigned, light, bright and airy but full of resources, space and almost unrecognisable from the old version it can and will be a wonderful community resource we can all use, enjoy and support. In a time of austerity and closures it’s something we should all be proud of – if you haven’t been yet, please do, you really won’t regret it.
Other community hubs are still being forced to close though sadly – as I write it’s just been announced that another stalwart centre of Beeston life (albeit for a slightly different demographic) is to shut its doors for good; The Greyhound, a frankly awesome rock pub famed not just locally but across the Midlands and further afield for passionately putting on some of the best live rock music gigs, will close its doors in a few weeks’ time, frustrated by brewery avarice and a massive increase (a doubling) of business rates.
I went to The Greyhound on the same day as I’d attended the library opening to see a brilliant (and local) Marillion tribute band, ‘Real to Reel’. You may remember Marillion’s most famous single ‘Kayleigh’ from the now 30-year old but still fantastic album ‘Misplaced Childhood’. I’ve been a Marillion fan since 1983, introduced to them by my school friend Rob Reid, who now fronts the tribute band. They played a blinder, and as you can imagine on the eve of our wedding anniversary it was a very emotional gig for me, as a year before Sal had walked into the hall to the sound of Marillion’s ‘Lavender’, a beautiful song which Scarlett even now loves to listen and dance to. So when the band played it as their final song of the night I admit I was in tears and very glad to have the support of some really good friends.
That’s the power of music, and also the joy of community. It’s a real shame we’re losing The Greyhound in its present incarnation because it (and its passionate staff who rescued and relaunched it not too long ago) rocked, both figuratively and literally. It will apparently become a gastro- and craft beer pub, which may well be wonderful – but will never be the same.
But then I guess learning to live with significant change is something I, and we all, have to do.
Tim Pollard, Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood
Many of our regular readers will recall that over the last few issues, Bow Selector writer Tim Pollard’s wife Sally has been suffering from breast cancer. Sadly, Sally died in June.
Her legacy is rich, leaving not just a husband, but a daughter, Scarlett, 3. She leaves many friends, family and colleagues who were all touched by a unique soul. She leaves the world a better place than when she found it, brightening everything she touched.
Tim has subsequently raised thousands of pounds for cancer charities. To the end, Sally was a determined advocate for getting checked for breast cancer.
We offer our deepest condolences to Tim and Scarlett. We cannot even begin to imagine what such a loss is like, but we can be very sure that, alongside The Beestonian, our town wishes the best for them, and will in time remember Sally for the joy she spread, rather than the sadness of her loss.
What does Beeston mean to you? Is it your home or a place you’re visiting (and if you live here is it somewhere you’ve been for a few months, a year, decades or your entire life)?
When you look at photos of ‘old’ Beeston from last century (maybe on one of the excellent Beeston Facebook pages) do you remember how it was, or is Beeston’s current incarnation your only experience – and how do you see, live in, use and enjoy Beeston these days?
Lots of questions, I know – but the reason I ask is I’ve recently become much more aware that ‘my’ Beeston isn’t the same as your Beeston – the places I frequent you may never visit and vice-versa. Places I think are great and make our town new, exciting and vibrant may be places you’d never dream of entering and there are plenty of local shops and venues I really should try for the first time.
I recently had an interesting and eye-opening conversation on one of those Beeston Facebook pages about the possibility of late-night noise pollution from a (very good) restaurant near my house which has applied for much extended licensing hours. Most replies thought I was concerned over nothing as it wouldn’t affect many people and the benefits would outweigh the potential disruption to the few locals who it did – and maybe they had a point, maybe the needs of the many do outweigh the needs of the few (to quote Mr Spock from ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’). But again, it got me thinking about what different people want from our town; for instance a good night out, an excellent and profitable business or a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by loud and protracted conversations right outside your house at closing time.
My view of Beeston changed when we had our daughter Scarlett
So, what makes your Beeston?
Over the past few months I’ve written a lot about my wife Sal’s advanced and incurable breast cancer, which is weird, because I’d never have thought I’d write about it, let alone have it published. I certainly had no intention of writing an ‘Our Cancer Diary’-type column, partly because it just feels a bit wrong but mainly because it makes it a bit tricky to drop jokes into; Bad Cancer is hardly a laugh a minute subject for anyone.
But in the same way my view of Beeston changed when we had our daughter Scarlett and I suddenly discovered Beeston had a great medical centre, soft play areas and parks that I’d really not bothered about before I now know what great at home and on-call medical services Beeston has – and after Sal finally made it out of the house on her borrowed electric wheelchair what utterly dreadful pavements and roads we have, as well as what places are easy to get into and around, something yet again I’d not really thought about until I had to.
The biggest change for me though is where all of these things come together.
As I said, I never intended to write about our experience of Sal’s cancer. Hell, neither of us want it, we want a long and happy and pain-free life of course – but the other day I had a truly wonderful email from someone who’s relatively new to Beeston, someone we’ve never met but had initially read about Sal and me on the ‘Beeston Updated’ Facebook site and just wanted to send both of us best wishes and support. We were genuinely touched, humbled and astounded as it was a truly lovely thought and gesture. We ended up talking about why their family had moved here (it turns out they love Beeston and couldn’t be happier to have moved) and I realised that for us the reason Beeston is such a great place to live isn’t just our friends and family (awesome as they are) or the facilities, shops, services or even late night restaurants – it’s the brilliant, wonderful and caring people we have here.
Beeston, you are awesome, thank you.
Nottingham’s Official Robin Hood