Thursday, 21 June 2012

Hello, Nott'm!

Ah, Nottingham! Place of my 1960s childhood, fragile growth, and miserable school confinement!

Once the proud dwelling of Saxon Lord Snot; home to a fine Norman Castle; late battleground of Richard I and evil brother John; and the defiant site where the English Civil War began. What a heroic past you have!

Now you wear your twenty-first century triple glories as English city of gun crime, drug-dealing, and anti-social binge drinking. I am told I can see your city centre unveiled regularly on late night shock cop TV, but I spare your modesties. I have never looked.

Dear Nott'm, I am your exiled daughter! Gone to the fragrant shires I am, and never, in all likelihood, will return to dwell with you again. I know, for I see you today, maybe the first time in twenty years, and you are too big and urban and scary and the newspapers proclaim last night's murder behind the Pizza Express.

Although yes, despite your changes, you stay the same. It is a comfort to see your lions once more, looking as grim and menacing as they ever did. Which is a feat, considering they have King Tut-style manes. But I look at them fondly; they are a meeting place for ghosts.

But we are not here for me to reminisce before I die from an attack of the tortoise balloons.

No. I have maintained that our visit here to Nott'm is an educational undertaking for geological and geographical purposes. We are to stroke a sandstone escarpment, find contours on a map, and provide an excuse for me to deliver my interesting lectures on settlement, land use, communication patterns and physical environment.

Thus I have promised myself. I will not tour Nott'm excitedly pointing out the car window breathlessly exclaiming This is the park my mum took me to! and This is the hedge I was sick in after Goose Fair! although I do lapse a bit into burbling that, now and again. But the children egg me on to do so, something terrible, strangely on each occasion I begin to outline the Burgess urban land use model.

And in truth it is hard to stop. In the city centre, those Victorian buildings are every bit as impressive now as I recall years ago, except for the ones that have been knocked down for redevelopment, obviously. The Broadmarsh centre still lives on, as tacky and desolate as before. The Council House in the market square, that grandly conjured building, a show-off of a place, recklessly declaring the ever-lasting might and power of the Corporation, still stands! And the library where I wrote my fantastically erudite A-level essays! Not closed down! Hurrah for the people of Nottingham!

Okay, enough of that, otherwise the sandstone rock will be unexplored and Burgess sat alone forlorn.

The little grits eagerly tour the castle. (Where my mum took me!)

Delight at the secret tunnels. (Mortimer's Hole!)

Marvel at the world-famous Robin Hood statue. (My first story books!)

Admire the Trip cut into the rock! (Bad teenage angsty stage.)

And walk right past the doors in the walls. (Don't anyone ever tell me they are store rooms.)

Then, almost overwhelmed with excitement, I drive my little grits ceremoniously past my old school. (Knocked down, eliminated from all records, name removed from memory, gone; existing only in my scars.)

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