Wednesday, 7 March 2018

A Beeston biscuit secret shared and other foodie treats

My shopping habits are just that — very predictable.
Most of the shops I regularly use can be found in what I call my very own 'Beeston Quarter':
The map shows the small shops, not the chains, that I use with a couple of exceptions insomuch as Birds and Wilkco's have local roots of sorts. What prompted this map is this little shop:

It stands on Wollaton Road where the pavement is at its narrowest. To view the shop's whole frontage you need to stand on the other side of Wollaton Road. I took this pic from the pavement outside the shop. What makes it special is the fact that it sells Trebor Very Strong Spearmint Mints and, and sugar-free biscuits (the two ands is deliberate) at prices which demonstrate why no supermarket chain or their companions deserves any loyalty from shoppers. News & Essentials on Wollaton Road sells sugar free digestives, chocolate wafers, chocolate chip cookies for c.£1 a packet. 

In the next week or so they hope to add sugar-free chocolate to the range they sell. News & Essentials sell other biscuits as well, all at below supermarket prices as far as I can see. They deserve to succeed — hence this commercial by me! The service is friendly and a great example of why I try to use local independent shops as and when I can.

Out of this World at the junction of Cross and Villa streets is Beeston's only organic food shop insomuch as that is all it sells, be it fruit, vegetables, breakfast cereals, cakes, flours, nuts, tinned foodstuffs, cosmetics, you name it. I buy things like nuts, honey, shampoo, body wash etc most weeks. If I had the money I would buy more there but there are areas where it is competitive with the supermarkets and there are offers all the time, so it's worth looking once a week at least.

Hallam's the fishmonger and greengrocer. Well, what can one say? Good quality at reasonable prices, certainly better than any of the supermarkets. I visit several times a week.

One of my better photographs which includes the top pic of the salmon's head and, most notably, its eye. The fish counter is a always a work of art, a sight to behold. This week dogfish, one of my favourites, along with cod's hard roe. I bought them both!

Birds make the best pork pies. I like the small 'cocktail' pies, all of 68p best. Three small bites and its gone, but every one close to divine. Their custard tarts are good too and Susan loves their cream buns, which I always think of as Devon Splits. Their boiled ham is like no other cooked meat and we both like tongue, and Birds is usually my first port of call for this homemade sandwich or roll treat.

Rosie Lea's Tearoom is a place we do not visit often enough, but when we fancy a bacon roll this is where we go. I usually have the version which includes an egg and, of course, brown sauce. The pot of tea for two is generous and of your choosing. We usually have Earl Grey. Hidden away it may be, but well worth searching out. I would describe it as Beeston's most unlikely location for a café.

Next time I will take a pic. I've just realised that I've been too busy enjoying a Rosie Lea's bacon and egg cob to take a pic. I can feel a visit coming on. I might see you there. They do good poached eggs too!

The Country Market in Wollaton Road Methodist Church every Friday morning (7.30–11.30am) is worth getting up for and when I don't have time to make a cake and I have visitors coming, there is no better place to go. Supermarket cake is always overly sweet, so I never buy it. The worst shopping smell I know is the nauseous smell of the open cookie counters in shopping malls. The Country Market is a whole different experience. There is a small café open at the same time. For the perfect treat it is even better then Birds.

In The Square there is a regular 'Monday Market' of sorts selling food and other items too. Craft fairs as well. It's really a case of turn up and see, especially on Saturdays. I have bought a couple of hats and the occasional bunch of ripe bananas.

I could go on, but the whole point of this post is to encourage you to explore; to create your map of the Beeston town centre you like even if it never leaves your head except when having chance conversations.

Beeston Town Centre is so accessible on foot,  by public transport and car parking is cheap, that is should be a Mecca for shoppers wanting to escape Nottingham City Centre and enjoy somewhere more intimate. The High Road has such potential that you wonder Broxtowe Borough Council fails to use its imagination? The truth is it is a victim of traps it makes for itself!

Monday, 5 March 2018

Everyday mass produced objects of pleasure

An email recently exchanged with a friend set me thinking about simple everyday mass produced things which give me pleasure; which I look at at least once a day and enjoy for what they are and wonder why they've disappear from shops when they could go on forever. I show them in no particular order.

For my birthday a few years ago our friends Rosie and Paul who live in Stoke-on-Trent took me and Susan to the Middleport Pottery when it was  run-down and neglected, just hanging on by the skin of its teeth with the help of funding from The Prince of Wales Trust (I'm pleased to say it's now thriving again). I took a fancy to the bowl and decided to buy four. Rosie added the saucers, then bought me the lot as a birthday present for all of £5! We use them every day, they are a pleasure to hold and handle, and great portion control!

This portable reading lamp cost £16 a few years ago. It is elegant and gives off three levels of light from rows of small LED light. During the recent power cut it was bright enough to light our kitchen. Its clean lines make it an object of pleasure just sitting on a bookcase.

Two IKEA items. The plastic garden chair was one of six I bought in 1996 for a new office I was opening for the housing charity I worked for after 11 years working from home. It is one of the most comfortable chairs I have ever sat in and cost £9. When I retired in 2006, they had long been written off the books but still graced the charity's office in Old Basford. When asked what I would like as a retirement present, I chose two of these chairs from the office. IKEA stopped selling them years ago. I can't understand why. The cushion covers will be a different design when they need replacing, but the material is hardwearing and still looking good after 22 years!

The round glass table is an IKEA take-off of a classic design which they no longer sell.

Finally a plastic Cyclax container which contains the home-made shaving balm Susan makes for me. Our local pharmacy in Lenton was selling off end-of-line Cyclax hand and face moisturisers for 50p a pot all of 15 years ago and we bought loads of the lavender lotions. I just love the tactility of this plastic container, how it sits in my hand, the roundness of its lid and the base; no awkward corners, easy to clean. Again, another so so simple pleasing design which has disappeared.

I'm sure that I'm not alone in the enjoyment I get from everyday mass-produced things. Good design matters and something we should all be able to enjoy without having it pointed out to us.

A postscript (6 March 2018).

How could I forget my Lamy fountain pen? This posh version cost all of £19 and was bought for me by Susan to replace the Lamy pen I lost/left somewhere a couple of years ago. She said it being lurid green aluminium should make it harder for me to lose and, so far, she has been proved right (the lost Lamy pen made of clear plastic turned up a few weeks later). The answer to my question appears in the photograph. The pen is an extension of me and, as I say in the last pen written sentence, there can be no better tribute than that!

Thursday, 22 February 2018

A lovely winter's day Stapleford to Beeston walk and I feel on top of the world!

Life at the moment is full of contradictions. I was recently reminded by my hospital doctor that I am terminally ill (with ideopathic lung disease) and could find myself falling off a cliff without much warning, yet right now I continue to walk without any sign of breathlessness or tiredness and feel on top of the world. What one lucky bunny I am!

This morning I went to my dentist at Stapleford Health Centre and after a cup coffee I set out to walk home along public footpaths, and dead end lanes and roads. My friend Richard who lives in Beeston works in Stapleford and walks between the two towns weather permitting. You can follow my route on the three maps below, which have been created using Open Street Map thanks to all the work done by their Nottingham volunteers, who have created the base map.

This is more like a picture essay with (unusually for me!) not much text. It took me just over an hour to walk. I did not see another person from the moment I climbed the steps outside Stapleford Health Centre (pic no.2) to getting home, except for a family of four on Common Lane near Southfields Farm and two cyclists who passed me.

1. Stapleford Library

2. Turn 180º and climb the ramp. About 200 yards and you reach Nottingham Road. 

3. Cross Nottingham Road and turn right up Cliff Hill Road, which is quite narrow. 

4. About 100 yards along is this footpath to the left between a blank wall and a house. 

5. At the end of building in pic.4 are these allotments. I will come back in the high summer when the view will be very different I'm sure.

6. Stapleford Cemetery is on both sides of the footpath running towards the A52, Bramcote and Beeston. I am assuming these 'bushes' are yew. Some encase gravestones. I have not seen anything quite them before.  The building to the left is the cemetery's listed chapel and mortuary and dates from 1880. Here is a link to the Historic England listing.

7. The muddy path across a ploughed field from the cemetery towards the bridge across the A52. The farmer does not plant the footpath strip, nor is it anything but tufts of grass and earth. I had stout urban walking shoes on, but walking boots would have been better!

8. Looking back towards Stapleford Cemetery. The hedge stops about half way across and this is the state of the unsigned public footpath. It is the only section of the walk not suitable for urban walking shoes after it has been raining. Ideally, this strip needs a gravel path. It doesn't have to be wide, but if there was such a path this would make an excellent all-year walking route between Stapleford, Bramcote and Beeston. 

9. These steps (and the gates of course) are what make this a walk not suitable for wheelchair users (and buggies which cannot be folded).

!0. From the steps in pic.9 you can see the bridges across the A52. At this point the road is no more than a low rumble.

11. The A52 from the bridge.

12. Across the A52 and to the left is this sign marking 'The Erewash Trail'. The only one I saw. At this point across the bridge the lane/track  goes to the right.

12 still. Then it turns left and across the fields you catch a distant glimpse of Chilwell and Inham Nook.

13. The lane/track may actually be Common Lane at this point. Maps are unclear, but the dog-leg takes you around Southfield Farm and you just keep on walking. It was on the stretch that a cyclist and and family opf four passed me.

14. This signage is a marker of sorts and is on the right-hand side of Common Lane.

14 still. Beneath the signposts this 'pothole' has been marked up I assume for filling. There are another half-dozen like this, but many more unmarked. What makes the marked ones different I have no idea. Perhaps its the size?

15. This is just one section of what once was a serious wall, now close to collapse in parts.

16. On the other side of Common Lane, a little further down, other small buildings are being reclaimed by nature.

17. The closer Common Lane is to Chilwell Lane the more large houses there are, so the lane is clear of mud. Not a single vehicle came along Chilwell Lane as I approached it...

18. ...and once across it remained deserted. This is its junction with Peache Way opposite Common Lane.

19. A fallen tree caught my attention. I liked the detail.

20. I love signs like this — an oxymoron of sorts — is a Christian heaven as exclusive as this? Is heaven littered with signage saying 'This is God's and it's private'?

21. Between here and Bramcote Drive it is pretty much a straight walk through rich modern suburbia on the southern edge of Bramcote village and then across Beeston Fields Golf Course...

22. ...All you have to do is hold your nerve and not doubt that you are on the right footpath. There are lots of high fences and walls. You are in a world where property owners/tenants value their privacy and (in fairness) security.

23. Keep on walking...

24. This a public footpath equivalent of a dog-leg junction. Go to the right and you get close to Cator Lane on the Chilwell side of Beeston...

25. ...At the other end follow the sign to Bramcote. I wonder why one public footpath junction has signage and the other one doesn't? In truth, the signage marking public footpaths is often absent and when it is there, at times, confusing!

26. Turn 180º at pic.25 and you are walking across Beeston Fields Golf Course.

27. The whole route to Bramcote Drive has a high wire mesh fence on either side. I like this no more than the footpath across the farmer's filed in Stapleford. I got the clear view by poking my camera through a gate lock opening. 

28. The same with this view of an up-to-date Tardis which is used to teleport golfers between greens and the Club House.

29. Bramcote Drive and Beeston comes into view. At this point I'm 10 minutes from home. Those of you walking onto Beeston have another 20 minutes ahead of you, and another map to look at.

30. The footpath's end (or beginning if you're going the other way) and Bramcote Road will take you into Beeston (see map below).

31. For me, it's a left turn and straight on. No more corners to turn, my home is dead ahead (as good as literally). I know the road well. I deliver 160+ newsletters and leaflets along it and off it for Beeston West Branch Labour Party.

32. Beeston Town Hall and bell tower close-up, the latter my favourite part of the building. It is difficult to appreciate with all the electronic gob-ons which surround it. The Conservatives who control Broxtowe Borough Council want to sell the Town Hall with little or no idea what might happen to it, beyond wild, optimistic, speculation. Beeston Civic Society is leading a campaign to keep the building as part of the council or transfer ownership to a Beeston based social enterprise, although as yet there appears to be no agreed vision as to its future. The Conservatives claim that it costs c.£500,000 in management and maintenance costs. Perhaps I will write a separate blog on the issue before too long.

 33. Beeston Library entrance, opposite Beeston Town Hall. The Library was refurbished in 2017.

34. Next to the Town Hall is a fine looking Roman Catholic church (The Church of the Assumption) with its square tower (above) and  this side door onto Foster Avenue which you cannot miss. If the church is open then it's worth a few minutes of your time. Modern Roman Catholic churches always seem appealing than their older counterparts (eg. the RC cathedral on Derby Road in Nottingham City City, although it does have a fine garden).

35. Beeston Square on a market day. There is no regular fixed market day, but most Saturdays there is something going on and, increasingly, on other days of the week too.

36. For the next few days this is a holding pic of a Trent Barton 18 bus, waiting to leave Beastmarket Hill in Nottingham City Centre on a short working to Beeston. There are 2 per hour to Beeston, one of which continues onto Stapleford during Monday–Saturday daytime. For this walk this is the perfect link service (click here to see timetable).

I willreplace with a pic of an 18 at the Interchange going to Stapleford.