I began shopping in Beeston on a regular basis in 1996 when my wife Susan became the first client of Caritas, which was then (and still is) located above Manor Pharmacy on Chilwell Road. Soon there were other reasons to come, as friends downsized from Lenton and made their new homes in Beeston.
We made up our minds a long time ago to follow them, but aged cats delayed us, then illness, so it was not until December 2013 that we finally put our Victorian house in Lenton up for sale, but because of new planning restrictions in Nottingham, it took until Easter to find a buyer and it was not until May 2014 that we found a lovely little house in a quiet cul-de-sac on the edge of Beeston town centre.
On 21 November (seven days ago) we actually moved to Beeston and after seven days it already feels like home - each time I go into the town centre I meet people I know — it's that kind of place — and it reminds me of the Lenton in the 1980s before the students began to take over every available house.
Devonshire Promenade in Lenton with its twenty-three houses, off Derby Road and beside the recreation ground, was in the eighties a real mix of families, academics and older Lentonians. Local Conservatives called it 'Little Moscow' on account of the number of Labour councillors living there (three, including me) and the number of houses occupied by Labour Party members. With us gone, just two houses remain occupied by a total of three men, all over fifty. The other twenty-one are owned by private landlords and classified as student houses-in-multiple-occupation. This is what we have left behind. Susan and I were community activists and began to loosen the bonds about two years ago in preparation for our leaving.
I tell you all these things because we will be active in Beeston in some way. We will join things and we will certainly help the Labour Party locally. Susan remains a member, but I left the Party in 2013 after fifty-three years because I am at odds with the Party nationally over many issues. I simply see them as too right-wing, more interested in placating big business than aligning themselves with working people, the poor and disadvantaged. 'New Labour' still runs through them like a stick of seaside rock, whereas local Labour Parties across England struggle to serve those Miliband and Balls mouth platitudes about whilst showing no real commitment. For Nick Palmer to get my vote, he will have to distance himself from the national leadership. I so want to vote for him, but not if it means voting for continued austerity and cuts to local services - neither are necessary.
Scotland may seem a long way from Beeston, but for Labour to stand any chance north of the border it will have to adopt a more left-wing agenda, whereas in England they seem determined to appease the right. They lack the courage to take on UKIP and anti-immigration racists in a way which should worry any libertarian socialist like myself.
Mentioning UKIP brings me neatly back to Beeston and Toton, where a ward by-election will soon take place, thanks to UKIP supporters calling the election if press reports are correct, whereas the political parties on Broxtowe Borough Council had decided to leave the seat vacant because there will be borough elections in May 2015. On this one I am with those who called the by-election, regardless of their politics. To keep council seats vacant for any reason is an attack on democracy. Of course the by-election will cost money — all elections do.
Back in 1979 when Susan and I lived in Mansfield I actively supported the calling of a by-election in the ward where we lived and, in the process, so upset the Labour establishment that they got me barred from holding office in the Labour Party for five years. A few months later we de-camped to Lenton and in 1981 I was a elected a Labour Party county councillor for a Nottingham ward. Although it was all a long time ago, my feelings about local democracy remain the same — it is something we should cherish and nurtured, not something to be put aside for administrative convenience or political advantage. Once you do the latter you are siding with the enemies of democracy.
Susan's association with Beeston and Chilwell go back to the late-sixties when she lodged, whilst a student at Nottingham University, in Chilwell vicarage for two years before moving into Florrie Boot Hall for her final year.
From now on I intend my weekly post (with the occasional extra I'm sure) to be topical and based on what I do, read or hear about Beeston each week. Right now you know a little more about me.
If you have read this far. Thank you.
PS. I have images and pages to add as soon as I have the time. Moving house has been stressful and there is a great deal to do over the coming months, but I am determined to find the time to help Labour win Beeston North ward where we live, working as a foot soldier if they will have me and if I help Nick in the process it will be a price worth paying to have a Labour Broxtowe Borough Council.