A word to the wise

The first year I came to live in Nottingham I spent a considerable amount of time combing the city centre and looking for robins – great big fibreglass robins that had been created by a company called Wild In Art, sponsored by local businesses and painted by artists and were set in a trail around the city for a couple of months until they were auctioned off in aid of the local hospice. I had great fun following the trail and if you want a reminder, you can read about it here.

This year we have spent much of it indoors out of necessity. No one wants either to catch or to spread Covid-19. But now lockdown restrictions are gradually being eased and people are being encouraged to go back into the town centres to try a boost a failing economy.

So what encourages people to get out of the house and go into towns? Well in my case it was some wise old owls. Ten of them in fact, created once again by Wild In Art and organised by It’s In Nottingham.

Sporting a beautiful bright pink floral mask to match my new pink glasses, I got the bus into town , getting off at Maid Marion Way and headed to the castle to find my first owl by the Robin Hood statue.

This is the Sheriff of Nottinghamhoot by mural artist Donna Newman. From there I headed to outside our dead shopping centre Broadmarsh where I found Little John by artist Lizzie Rose Chapman.

Bridlesmith Gate was my next stop where freelance illustrator Michelle Turton’s Raleigh Apple. For those who don’t know, the famous bicycle manufacturer began life right here in Nottingham in 1887.

He has a family of cyclists on his breast and a nice pair of very loud cycling shorts.

I found this guy – Lacey by RP Roberts – outside the Galleries of Justice. A very appropriate name for an owl placed in the Lace Market. I still want to learn about Nottingham Lace and maybe have a go at lacemaking.

Hockley was my next destination where I found…

… Sherwood the Wise Owl by artist MrASingh (I haven’t forgotten the spacing, it’s meant to be like that). I think this one is my favourite. MrASingh is the founder of InkANIMA. The plaque on the owl says MrASingh takes his inspiration from nature and encourages people to see the patterns in animal and plant life as well as microorganisms. Just shows you art is everywhere.

The next owl was the only one under cover. It’s inside the Victoria Centre, upstairs by Emmett’s amazing clock. Amanda Quellin is the artist responsible for this one and it’s called Goose Fair Owl – well one had to be didn’t it.

The final four are really close together and easy to get between in about five minutes.

This owl is rock chick by Jodie Silverman. I’m loving the leopard skin footwear! She can be found outside the Cornerhouse.

And then just a few hundred yards away by Cloughie’s statue is Carousowl.

On the route that I took this was owl number 8 – and another contender for my favourite. Partly because I think the artwork is lovely (it’s by Jessica Perrin) but secondly because this is the best name so far. Who doesn’t love a nice pun?

Of course there had to be an owl by the Left Lion didn’t there. You couldn’t not have a Left Lion owl and this is Ey Up Duck! (even thought it’s an owl) by Laura-Kate Chapman.

I walked across Market Square and up Long Row to find the final owl in Chapel Bar.

I give you owl number 10 – at least in the order I did them.

This is Mrs Bramley Southowl by Megan Heather Evans. It’s a play on words on the Bramley apple which comes from Southwell in Nottinghamshire.

This owl had the added benefit of being right next to Elena’s Patisserie and Coffee Lounge so I stopped and bought a lovely black coffee and sat outside and watched the world go by – which was thoroughly deserved after a couple of miles hiking around the city centre.

It’s In Nottingham, this was a really nice idea and I had a lovely couple of hours hunting your owls. And it got me into the city centre, which is something I haven’t done for a while.

If you’re anywhere near Nottingham, check it out – it’s a nice stroll.

Well hello again my friends

Hello, it’s been a while. Well over a year in fact. I’m sorry. Work and other things took over for a while but now I’m back.

How are you doing? 2020 has been a bit of a disaster so far hasn’t it. When I last wrote no one had heard the terms coronavirus, COVID-19, lockdown, unprecedented times, social distancing or new normal. Now they’re the most repeated words of all time.

So many deaths worldwide, so many heroes – NHS and care staff, Captain Sir Tom Moore, legions of binmen, supermarket workers and fundraisers showing us how it’s done.

Lockdown seemed to last forever and everyone’s talking about the new normal, whatever that will be. It got me thinking about what was normal for me… and then about whether I wanted those things to be normal and what I wanted to change

Actually the changes for me began a lot earlier than this year. To start with I moved to Nottingham. That was just over two years ago now but apparently I can still be a newbie to Nottingham for at least the first decade of my residence here, so no need to change the blog title yet.

Then last year, just a few weeks after my last post in fact, Phill and I got married. We told no one in advance apart from our friends Paul and Tommy who were our witnesses on the day. We didn’t tell family or friends or colleagues, we just did it and then told everyone afterwards. It seeemed best. We have both been married before, my family is down south, Phill’s family is up here and it wasn’t like we needed wedding presents.

I also had a tattoo.

It’s a robin. But you can see that. I love it. It’s on the inside of my left forearm. The reason for the robin was twofold. One: someone once told me that robins are the spirits of loved ones looking over you, so this is for my dad and two: the girls have called Phill Robin since they found out he was from Nottingham (Robin Hood and all that). It didn’t hurt, I don’t care what anyone else thinks of it and I still love it a year on.

I spent much of the end of last year driving between home and offices in Guildford, Chelmsford and Cambridge and I can’t say it didn’t take it’s toll. To say I became sick of the sight of motorways is the understatement of the decade.

But then there was a new worry on the horizon… the small matter of a global pandemic. Since the beginning of March I have been working from home. Like many other people I have seen my family twice in that time – once for a socially distanced 30th birthday bash for my eldest daughter where we set up pop-up pubs around the town she lives in because the pubs were not yet open and the second for a socially-distanced birthday barbecue for my youngest brother.

In addition we have seen two of our friends on three occasions, socially-distanced barbecues at each other’s houses and a curry night at ours which we held in the garden at a distance of some metres apart. It’s been a strange old year.

Other than that we have eaten out to help out twice and that has been the limit of our activities other than a weekly trip to the supermarket.

But everyone talking about the ‘new normal’ got me thinking. Quite apart from the fact that no one seems to know what this ‘new normal’ is going to be, I have been thinking more about what I don’t want it to be. And I decided somewhere along the way that I didn’t want my new normal to be very much like the old normal.

So I made a couple of life changing decisions and decided I want some adjustments to my life. I want to try and live the best life I can while I am still young enough to do that and so some major changes will be taking place in a couple of weeks’ time (two to be precise).

I have been thinking long and hard about what is important to me and I want to do more of and what I really need to do less of. And as well as restarting this blog and discovering how the city copes post Covid-19, I thought I’d also launch a new blog to document my progress. It’s going to be called ‘Making my new normal’ and I am currently working on setting it up so it’s ready to go on September 19. I very much hope you will join me on it (link to follow soon).

So that’s it for this post. I have returned and will be giving you a guided tour of some wise old owls later today.

In the meantime, I hope you are well and I hope this global pandemic has not touched your lives too badly.

It’s good to be back.

Getting to the art of the matter

See that little pile of treats above? These were just some of my purchases from an artists’ open studio event in Nottingham yesterday.

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And these were some more… I’ll show you what I did with them in a minute.

Yesterday morning we headed to St Jude’s Church in Mapperley where a group of artists were showing and selling the fruits of their labours. I’m sorry, I can’t call them creatives because creative is meant to be an adjective not a noun in my humble opinion – although I know a lot of people  use the term.

So I visited a church and inside I found a lot of creative people that I call artists – cos that really is a noun.

The event was organised as part of Nottingham Open Studios and the artists were a talented bunch. There was a jewellery maker with gorgeous silver rings, earrings and necklaces and some amazing woolen wear on another stall (but it was a bit warm for wool); there was a lovely lady who makes rugs from recycled clothing and they were funky designs and colours.

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I loved this stall – I bought some cards and some new notebooks (I have scores of notebooks, I will never get through them all but I love new notebooks). She also made clocks using old book covers. She calls herself The Forgotten Library and blogs on wordpress.

We had a lovely chat about an old font book she had, which I wanted but it wasn’t for sale.

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This is Lis from Lily Mosaics. I really, really want to make a mosaic sign for the front of the house with our door number on it (mainly cos the old one is unbelievably old and tatty) and Lis runs mosaic courses for beginners – yay. In the meantime I bought two little mosaic kits with everything I need to make a tiny gecko to join a large beautiful gecko that I bought  in Flying Horse Walk a while ago and a mosaic robin that will go in my new home office. Can’t wait to get started on those.

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This lovely lady is Sasha Niamat who paints beautiful watercolours and is holding the fabulous scruffy robin that I bought from her. My first piece of original artwork. I’m very proud.

We had a chat about her work and she even invited me to visit her studio some time and see how she works. She gave me a robin card as well.

So you may be sensing a bit of a robin theme going on here. Three reasons: I like robins; they remind me of my dad who died a few years ago; and also my daughters have called Phill Robin since they first discovered he came from Nottingham.

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This is Jen McEwan who makes the most stunning stained glass creations. From Jen I purchased yep, you’ve guessed it, a robin which will hang in my office window (when we’ve created my office space – not quite a work in progress yet!) and some strung pieces of coloured glass which I used to make this when I got home.

It makes such a gentle, pretty noise and glistens in the sunlight. I’ve hung them on a twig and strung with rope made by Phill ages ago on a trip to the Peak District.

Jen also leads workshops and I’ve love to have a go at making some stained glass.

I also picked up plenty of these…

20190525_182147596_iOSI am a complete leaflet freak. My car, handbag, footstool, bookshelves, kitchen are full of them but I learn stuff and find interesting thing to do. Who knew there were vineyards 20 minutes outside Nottingham? Well I do now. And I picked up a brochure for Sherwood Art Week and there’s LOADS of stuff going on from art and craft fairs, exhibitions in shops, walking tours to look at Sherwood’s mosaics (I didn’t know it had any), music and food. It’s at the end of next month. I can’t wait.

I met some talented and fascinating people yesterday and bought some beautiful things for our home and garden as well as some things for me to have a go at as well.

A little bit of inspiration from these artists for me to start getting a little more creative again.

Blend a little brunch into your Sunday: a review

I love coffee and I love coffee shops and in Nottingham I really am spoilt for choice.

I discovered Blend at Sneinton Market last year when I was tracking down Robins all over the city.

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This one was in Sneinton, a fair way from all the others on the Hoodwinked trail. It was hot, it was lunchtime so I stopped at Blend and had – and I do not say this lightly – the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever tasted. It also sells rose lemonade; I’m a big fan of rose lemonade.

So I have returned a few times and on one occasion, I was sitting outside wondering what the glorious smell was when I noticed the coffee roasting premises next door. One of my favourite smells is fresh coffee.

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When my daughters came to visit a couple of months ago,  we took them there for Sunday brunch… and now it’s become a bit of a habit.

We are slowly working our way through the menu – at least we were until last Sunday when they changed it. Now we have to start all over again. Damn :). The awesome grilled cheese sandwich is still on there though – they put mustard in it and cook it on a griddle properly with loads of cheese and sourdough bread. You have to taste it to believe it.

 

 

Just a few examples – cinnamon toast with maple syrup, brie with mushrooms and spinach, Phill had one with Gorgonzola and beetroot a couple of weeks ago, although that one’s not on the menu any more.

This Sunday I tried a vegan one – black beans and vegan mozzarella, served with a green salsa. It sounded delicious, it tasted delicious but more importantly it was called the Creature from the black legumes which amused me. Who wouldn’t want to eat a grilled sandwich called the creature from the black legumes?

Blend’s sourdough bread is delicious and the coffee is great too. But most of all I really, really like the location. Sneinton Market lanes have had a bit of a makeover. Formerly full of market traders buying the wares for their stalls and then derelict for a while, it is now filling up with quirky little shops: a vegan chocolatier, a cake shop that has great signs, a craft centre. It’s fun and it’s quirky and I love it.

There is lots and lots of outdoor seating – my preferred option even in mid winter – and an oversized chess set that I’ve yet to play (mainly cos I’m not that good).

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We’ve also made a friend. This is Ty, he comes over to say hello as soon as our food arrives and waits very patiently for us to feed him, which we don’t.

He’s lovely. In fact he’s so lovely, I now have dog treats in my handbag even though I don’t own a dog. His young owner is lovely too. And we did ask her before we fed him some treats in case you’re wondering.

Sneinton Market has received another huge cash injection, it was announced this week. Avenues D and E of the former market wholesalers is to be refurbished next, which makes me very excited because I love a good mooch around there.

It’s one of the places in the city that makes me believe there’s a creative and cultural revolution going on here and I love that.

 

Poetry and crime

I like poetry – in fact I have been known to write poetry (probably really badly but what the hell) – however I really don’t know very much about it so an evening at Five Leaves Bookshop with poets Stuart Henson and John Harvey seemed a good opportunity to learn more.

The evening, a few weeks ago, was a pre-launch event for Nottingham’s poetry festival – the majority of which I was unfortunately unable to attend due to work and other commitments. The evening was free, I just emailed and reserved a seat, it was packed to the rafters and I learnt stuff. So a good night was had by me, and I think by all.

Stuart Henson was the first poet. He read several of his works, old and new and as he read, something occurred to me for the first time – poetry is meant to be heard, not read. During a poetry reading, the poet puts the intonation where he intended, pauses for a split second, or for a longer time, where necessary. A poem needs to be performed.

Some of the audience had their eyes closed and, I have to be honest, I had as much fun observing people listening to the poetry as I did listening to the poetry but that’s because I take an almost unhealthy pleasure in people watching. People are fascinating.

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But I also found the poetry fascinating. I enjoyed Mr Henson’s poems very much – I even purchased a volume of it.

John Harvey was on my list of Nottingham authors to read. He’s very prolific and (according to Wikipedia) has written more than 100 books as well as scripts for stage, television and radio. On this particular evening he was launching a new book of poetry, Aslant, which features fabulous photographs taken by his daughter Molly Ernestine Boiling, who was also in attendance.

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In fact she also read her father’s poetry.

I liked the language of the poems. They were accessible, not written to confuse or confound. I wasn’t searching for a meaning, feeling I was trying to gain access to a club of which I wasn’t a member. I got the imagery, clever words that put pictures in my head. I enjoyed the listening.

I bought a book of Mr Harvey’s poetry too – and a poetry anthology. I’ve read many of them. John Harvey’s I like very much, some of the ones in the poetry anthology I am not so keen on. I genuinely think that I shouldn’t have to struggle to find the meaning of words. I mean I’m educated, literate, I have a good vocabulary, if someone wants to communicate something to me, I’d appreciate it if they did it clearly and not hide behind obscure meanings. I suppose I just find it a bit pretentious. And surely choosing to read someone’s poetry is meant to be enjoyable not a chore (unless you are studying for an exam and I’m not).

I gave up on the anthology but I fully intend to read more of John Harvey’s poetry.

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Before that, however, I thought I’d read one of his novels. His most famous creation, I believe, is a Detective Inspector called Charlie Resnick, based in Nottingham. It seemed a good place to start. Waterstones in the city centre stocked a fair few, I chose this one. I don’t know whether I should have started with the debut appearance of this jazz-loving detective, but I liked the look of this one and the novels all looked as though they were stand alone.

It’s funny but I’m not sure I’ve ever read a novel with as much geographical detail about a place I know pretty well and I loved the Nottingham details. This novel was written in the mid-1990s so more than 20 years ago and it was really interesting picking up some of the social history too.

Phill and I were on the bus into town the other day and I asked him whether there used to be a police station at Canning Circus. He pointed out the building at the top of Derby Road that used to house the old police station and asked me why I’d asked.

I’d asked because we’d just passed the Sir John Borlase Warren pub and in Living Proof, the CID officers pop in there for a drink after work.

As the mystery unfolded, I could follow the action around the city knowing the locations or wondering what shop had replaced one mentioned in the text. It added another dimension to what was a really good read any way. I do like a nice crime novel.

I now have another goodness knows how many books added to my ‘must read soon’ list. Every time I cross one off, another 20 or 30 get added.

I am so glad I went to that poetry evening. The evening itself was great fun, I have added to the list of reading matter and I have a new source of information about my adopted city.

As an aside, a couple of months ago I had a whistlestop tour around Beeston with Matt Turpin, project and communications manager for Nottingham City of Literature and self-proclaimed Lord Beestonia. He showed me a cafe where they have poetry slams. I now feel the urge to go along and hear some more poetry. Maybe one day I’ll even be brave enough to perform some of my own.

 

The one with some partial nudity

A couple of weeks ago a bright pink marquee appeared in Market Square, Nottingham, and the Ladyboys of Bangkok brought a touch of glamour to the city centre.

When they went on their merry way, a new structure replaced it – The Magnificent Spiegeltent – and it promised delights for all the family.

Over two weeks it hosted comedy, music, circus workshops, and much more. We went for the much more… we went for the x-rated burlesque. Oh, come on, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it :).

The Spiegeltent did, indeed, turn out to be nothing short of Magnificent. It was like walking into a cross between a spaghetti western saloon, a smokey jazz bar and a circus tent. Round, with seating in the middle, there was a stage at 12 o’clock and a bar at 6 o’clock. Lines of seating filled the middle of the marquee but around the edge was wooden-booth seating. All of the tables in the booths had signs on them, most of which said reserved. We found one, however, that simply said ‘this booth is designed for six people, if you’re a smaller party, be prepared to share’. We were prepared to share so we sat there. We were joined by another couple and we had a great view.

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The walls of the spiegeltent were metal and wood and stained glass windows met the roof area which was swathed with drapes and looked amazing. The bar was pricey – well they’ve got you cornered haven’t they – and there was a £3 refundable deposit for the plastic cups. But, actually the plastic cups were funky and we liked them, so we kept them instead. I do not feel guilty, I bet the organisers can buy 10 replacements with the £6 we paid for them and they look much better in my kitchen.

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The audience was diverse: there were couples, mixed groups, single sex groups, veterans of burlesque, burlesque virgins (like us), straight, gay, old and young. some people had dressed for the occasion, like Phill’s new friend pictured with him above (and with her partner below)…

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Others, like us, turned up a bit casual.

The evening was presented by The Gilded Merkin that usually performs at Nottingham’s Glee Club – in fact we have tickets to see a show next month.

Our very lovely host sang and entertained between acts. One of his songs told the audience to cheer loudly as the artistes removed their clothing… and also warned them to keep their hands to themselves. This wasn’t a sex den after all, this was burlesque (definition: a variety show typically including striptease). It’s an art form to be observed and not fondled.

He did another song to Elvis’s Devil in Disguise. ‘You look like a brunette, you walk like a brunette, you talk like a brunette but I’ve got eyes – you’re a ginger in disguise, oh yes you are, a ginger in disguise). It got ruder than that but I’m already including bare naked ladies so I’ll refrain.

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Guess what happened to all these balloons. Go on, guess. Yep, they all got popped. She was wearing very little underneath. This is Miss Scarlett Daggers, performer and producer.

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This guy juggled ping pong balls from his mouth. He got up to five in total. He also juggled knives while balanced on a board on a rolling barrel and he looked alarmingly close to the front row if he just happened to slip. The front row didn’t seem that bothered – they had confidence in him.

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And this Donald Trump drag was hilarious especially when removing the clothing.

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Some of the acts were funny, some were exotic dancers, some were variety. It was fun, raucous in places, sensual in others and I’ve never seen more nipple tassels in my life. Well, to be fair, I do not have a huge amount of experience when it comes to nipple tassels, but there you go. This, incidentally, is the paragraph which will prove or disprove whether my daughters read my blog. If they’ve got this far, I shall expect a couple of ‘oh my god mother’ messages shortly.

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It was a fab evening, hugely entertaining, funny and enjoyed by an appreciative audience (it was sold out, by the way) and, as I’ve already said, we are already looking forward to seeing another Gilded Merkin show in June.

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I love the fact there is also something new and diverse to see in this city. The only problem I have is fitting it all in. I’ve been a resident of Nottingham for 11 months tomorrow and, although I have packed a fair amount in, I haven’t even scratched the surface.

I love this city.

 

 

On the trail of some decent ale (part 1)

I worked from home this week. The combination of a short week and the need to have not one but two missing fillings replaced on Wednesday lunchtime made it sensible to do so. It also made it possible to have some leisure time in the evenings for a change and so we went out on both Tuesday and Thursday (I know, social whirl or what!)

One of the things I love about Nottingham is that there is always something to do and last week was the launch of the Nottingham Ale Trail. Now I like collecting things and I like trails and I like pubs so it would be churlish of me not to take part.

There are 41 licensed establishments on the ale trail and they are split into six categories: Animals (6 pubs), Caves (6 pubs), Industry (6 pubs), Legends (8 pubs), Music (8 pubs) and Performers (7 pubs). You order a half or a pint of real ale in each establishment and they give you a sticker for a map and collectors leaflet that you can get from the tourist information office. For each section you complete, you get a pin badge. Collect all sections and you get a t-shirt. I want the pin badges – all of them – Phill wants the t-shirt (and the beer).

So after work on Tuesday we headed into the city centre (all the venues are in or around the city centre) to make a start because we only have until May 19 to finish the lot.

Now before I start, I have to say I am not a beer drinker. My tipple of choice is gin (or tequila) and I generally refuse to drink alcohol that has bubbles in it. The mixer can have bubbles but the alcohol should not. So at each destination we ordered two halves of ale and I had a lemonade as a substitute if I really didn’t like it. But I tried them all (and even liked some of them).

 

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First stop was the Pit and Pendulum in Pelham Street. Now when I first came to Nottingham, I thought this place really quirky and fun. I have to confess I don’t enjoy it so much now. We sampled Barnsley Bitter and it was truly awful. This is no reflection on the ale, which I’m sure, if treated with care, is probably delicious. But even my ale-loving partner in crime didn’t enjoy this and swishing it about from one glass to another couldn’t put any life into it. So we left it and moved on to…

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Not a long walk – it’s directly opposite – but here we had a much warmer welcome and sampled a blonde beer called Ninja Shark. Now this one was lovely; light, fruity and refreshing. I liked the venue too. First time I had been here. Upstairs there was a band playing (plastic glasses only please) and in the bar downstairs it was quiz night – which I have noted for a future random Tuesday. The bar staff were friendly and the atmosphere good.

Up to the top of Pelham Street and the next stop was Faradays.

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Now I do believe that a pub is only as good as their bar staff and the barmaid in here was an absolute delight. She chatted about the ales on offer and told us how often they changed, took a genuine interest in where we were heading to next and sold the breakfast menu to the extent that I think we may well head there this weekend. (Note to Faradays – she probably deserves a pay rise).

Here we tried a ruby ale from Magpie Brewery called 3 For a Girl and (says the non-beer drinker) it was absolutely delicious. Phill was sad because he didn’t get to finish this one after I’d tasted it and decided it wasn’t for me. So that was a success. Oh, they have board games in the corner too for customers to play.

We must have walked about 50metres to the six destination – probably the longest distance between venues that we did all evening.

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Six Barrels Malthouse in Carlton Street was my favourite venue of the evening. It’s a little bit quirky, has the biggest and most comfortable high bar stools that I’ve ever sat in and it was also Tunesday – do you see what they’ve done there? Yep Tuesday night is open mic night. We saw three people sing and they were really good. Phill can sing. I’m now trying to persuade him to go and take part one evening (I’m not doing so well so far). I’d take part but no one should have to endure my howling.

Six Barrels takes its ales seriously too.

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The big screen displays not sport or music videos but information about beers. It also had board games, really friendly and welcoming bar staff and the beer was good too. We had an amber ale here called UBU. I liked it (but Phill still got to finish it off).

The final destination of the evening was The Curious Tavern on the corner of George Street that is housed in the Mercure Hotel. Now this hotel claims to be the oldest one in Nottingham and the information in reception says Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor stayed there. Why? Why were Burton and Taylor in Nottingham? I wonder if I can find out.

Anyway, The Curious Tavern is actually quite lovely. It’s like an old gentlemen’s club with big cosy armchairs and a mishmash of furniture. There is also a glass panel in the floor where you can look down and see this (apologies for the worst picture in the world).

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This is looking straight down the hole in the floor to the caves underneath (probably why it features in the caves section of the ale trail). It’s pretty funky. Here we tried Shipstone’s Gold Star. It was ok but Phill got to drink most of it. The cocktail menu looked good though, and the afternoon tea menu (but it wasn’t afternoon).

From here we walked across the road, literally opposite, and jumped on a bus home.

So that’s five down on the ale trail and here’s what I’ve learned. 

  • Some beers are actually nice
  • Faradays seems like a good place for breakfast
  • There’s a quiz night at The Bodega on a Tuesday (don’t know if it’s every Tuesday)
  • I really like Six Barrels Malthouse and I hope one day to be blogging about Phill taking part Tunesday
  • I quite fancy trying afternoon tea at The Curious Tavern
  • I probably won’t go back to The Pit and Pendulum even if you do have to go through a bookcase to the toilets

So five down, 36 to go. This could be fun.

Guiding me back in time

Just after I first moved to Nottingham – which is around nine months ago now – a very lovely friend and colleague bought me this book which she’d found in a second hand shop in Folkestone (thanks Bev).

20190324_075918418_iOSHaving completed my little creative corner in my lounge (see the header picture) yesterday, I now have a whole little treasure trove of interesting stuff unpacked on shelves and in drawers within grasping range of my favourite chair, so I thought I’d take a proper look at it.

I absolutely love these old guides, I love that some places you can still recognise instantly but others are well and truly consigned to the past. This one still has it’s fold-out maps intact and pretty much undamaged (I’m a little bit of a map freak too).

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I had a bit of difficulty dating the book. It’s the revised sixth edition. The most up-to-date dating evidence in the book is a footnote – that I guess was probably one of the revisions – which says: “In November 1919 the Corporation decided on a scheme for the extension of the Guildhall, which involved the demolition of the Machanic’s [sic] Institution and its erection on another site.”

I did search online and found a sixth edition dated 1922 and this advert in the back of my copy…

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… is advertising a book published on January 1 1922.

In my revised edition the text says that Wollaton Hall is ‘the property of Lord Middleton’. Now Wollaton Hall was bought by the council in 1925 so that narrows down the date of my book to sometime between the end of 1922 and the end of 1925. That’s good enough for me.

So we are between the two world wars; a time of considerable change, of flapper girls and dance halls, the beginning of the end for the landed gentry and our upper and lower class society; a time of railways, and a time when working-class people could explore beyond the confines of their towns and villages for leisure thanks to improved transport links. Hence the need for these guides in the first place.

The book describes Nottingham as a hub of industry – paying particular attention to lacemaking, hosiery and coal mines. But it goes on to say: “Although Nottingham is a great manufacturing centre, there is an agreeable absence of smoke and griminess” and then adds: ‘The death-rate shows that Nottingham is one of the healthiest manufacturing cities in the kingdom”.

It has a section on the legend of Robin Hood (obviously) and a history section that rather annoyingly told me the first Mayor of Nottingham was elected in 1284 without telling me who he was so I had to go and look it up (it was Roger de Crophill).

Under the heading Local Worthies, we have a list of people I am now going to have to find out more about: poets Henry Kirke White and Philip James Bailey, and William and Mary Howitt, artist Richard Parkes Bonington, General Booth and a gentleman called Herbert Ingram who brought out the London Illustrated News.

And then it says this: “Other notables were Paul Sandby, the inventor of the watercolour painting…” Now that statement certainly merits further investigation.

And after it has finished with its preamble about history and people, this lovely little guide then proceeds to do just that – it guides you around the city and looks at notable places. I think I may have to follow its trail (a bit like Michael Portillo does with the Bradshaw Guides) and see what’s changed and what hasn’t – that sounds like a fun sunny day activity to me, watch this space…

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One thing that has certainly changed is this. Why did I not know that the Victoria Centre stood on the site of a former railway station? I’ve seen the clocktower and still did not twig. Not to self: try and be a little more observant!

There’s a lot of blog ammunition in this little book so I have no doubt I will be returning to it time and time again.

As an aside, I have started a little collection of postcards of Nottingham.

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It’s not huge (yet!) but it’s definitely got to the stage where I ought to think about purchasing an album to put them in. Some of them I have bought because I liked the photographs and some because I love reading the words on the back.

Like this one.

20190324_081401940_iOSIt is postmarked Long Eaton 1905 and was sent to Miss Macdonald in Gregory Street, Old Lenton, but it’s not signed.

It says: “I say you will wonder what now, well it’s just to pass the time on. I just hope you will send me a postcard before long, I have not had any from you lately, pls don’t forget.”

Our unnamed scribe sounds like a bit of a stalker. I wonder if Miss Macdonald wrote back?

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