Before we get into the latest news about the town centre consultation I'd like to show you some great sketches done by a lady called Jean,
This is her site, take a look she has some great stuff on here, and thank you Jean for letting me post these up on my site. All the sketches I have posted are of places in Northampton, but there's loads more to see on Jeans site.
I particularly like the one depicting Carlsberg and Abington Park which I'll be mentioning later on in this post.
So I was perusing Twitter earlier in the week and came across a tweet by the Chronicle & Echo which was reporting about and I quote "There is a percieved lack of cleanliness in the town centre". "Perceived poor street cleanliness putting people off visiting the town".
The article also mentioned that out of a population of over 200,000 people only just over 700 had responded to the Councils consulation laying out it's proposals for possible improvements.
The Council had said that they many people had responded positively to some of the ideas put forward, and this predictably drew a scathing response from some quarters.
As soon as the tweet went out some people on another veru popular social media portal were saying that there should be no building on the towns historic market square as to do so would destroy its chacter etc.
Now correct me if I'm wrong but apathy is more often than not taken as consent, and if people felt so strongly they should have registered these feelings on the consulation website,
The article went on to say that footfall in the town centre had dropped by 700,000 on last year, a huge figure, and then expanded on this by asking the question "Is Rushden Lakes drawing people away" ?.
Well in my opinion the answer is yes, and it doesn't take long to work out why, what has Rushden Lakes got that our town centre hasn't ?.
Again an easy question to answer and that one visit will answer for you, its a complete no brainer.
Rushden Lakes is a relatively new development and was purpose built, it didn't evolve over a long period of time like the town centre and it has all the advantages that that brings.
Ok you have to drive to RL but once you arrive there is a huge amount of parking which is free for up to five hours, I'm not extolling the virtues of out of town shopping complexes just doing a contrast and compare before anyone gets their eco hat on.
With the amount of traffic generated that's really the last thing we need, putting more cars on the road is just increasing bad air quality, and it's becoming apparent that this will have dire consequences for our health in the not too distant future.
RL has a wide variety of shops, an M&S food hall, and lots of other nice food outlets which cater for nearly everybody, numerous clothes outlets, lots of good quality stuff on show and for sale, all in a nice clean environment, with the added bonus of the lakes as a backdrop.
Contrast this with our town centre which is full of charity shops and budget stores, and while I use charity shops myself I think a good town centre should have so much more if its going to be worth visiting, and above all the overall environemnt should be clean and safe.
When St Giles street was repaved the whole look and feel of the street was vastly improved and its probably the only street I would want to show anyone who was visiting the town from oversea's.
The sucess of RL is proof that there is still a call for shopping and proves that although a lot of shopping is done online that doesn't have to mean the death of the high street.
This being the case there must be lots of other factors such as the general environment and the perception of a relaxed and trouble free shopping experience that the town centre doesn't currently offer.
So to compete with the likes of RL our town centre has lots of catching up to do, a good example of where we are going wrong is an exchange of emails I had with Andrea Leadsom some yesrs back when Gold Street had just been repaved.
The paving had been done well and I believe a lot of money had been spent to get it looking good again, but within a few days chewing gum was being spat out and being trodden into the new paving stones.
When the paving was laid common sense would dictate the asking the question "why don't we put something protective substance onto the stone to make cleaning them off a lot easier" ?, apparently that hadn't been done.
I emailed Andrea Leadsom and asked why as money had been spent why hadn't that investment been protected, I can't remember the exact reply she gave but it didn't inspire me to feel that our town was being well served.
Going back to the perception that the town centre is dirty, do you remember when Veolia won the contract for street cleansing and recycling in Northampton ?
I seem to recall certain pledges being made, one being that they would carry out a deep clean in the town centre, did that ever happen ? does anyone recall a particularly bad area that was cleaned up ?.
Here is what Veolia said at the time -
"We are very pleased to have been given the opportunity to improve the local environment for the communities in Northampton".
"Street cleansing will focus on improving standards across the borough and the grounds maintenance service will deal with all area's of public open space with particular attention on Northampton's premier park in Abington.
So I thought I'd take a look at Abington Park one evening after work, here's what I saw.
Over the years the park has won awards and walking around it in the early evening light it was easy to see why.
I was generally impressed with how clean and litter free it was, there was some litter but given it the school holidays and the park is being heavily used by parents with their children I though it looked pretty clean.
When I was young there as a boating lake and some nice gardens, those sadly have disappeared, well not strictly true, the lake is there but no boats, the gardens are there but no longer looked after and planted out.
Probably a cost cutting measure but for all that the park is a lovely place just to walk around, or visit the aviary and look at the birds, which kids loved when I was young and still seem to.
Abington Park is still somewhere I would take a visitor from overseas which is something I couldn't in all honesty say about some parts of the town, When you see a park and all those glorious trees and wildlife it lifts you up.
That above all is what we all need, we need to be inspired, uplifted and be able to see nature in the heart of our towns, I hope the Council will make use of the empty site of the old bus station and if greened that would be a massive improvement to the town generally.
It would help cut pollution, and give people somewhere pleasant to sit and contemplate what a great town Northampton is for all its faults, the people of the town deserve no less.
What a week that was, a week of extremes in many ways, we now have a new Prime Minister who has been selecting his cabinet ministers, we have had weather like I can't remember, and this was how I came to meet Betty, more of which later.
But first behold my chiili plant which has at last started to produce some bambino chilli's, for weeks it seemed to languish in a state of coma, giving no indication it would produce the goods for me. Now the recent sun and rain seems to have kickstarted it into life, and this simple thing has made me happy, which is what my Wife says about me to her friends.
Oh and while we're on the subject of extremes, before I forget we're now on the cusp of another Ashes series at the concusion of which I will either be elated or very downhearted.
Just like my chilli plant the England players need to produce the goods, as usual I'm anticipating a good result, I'll give you my thoughts as the series progresses.
As well as the chilli the Verbascum which has evolved over the Summer has just flowered, its been great watching it grow and the bee's seem to love it, a very large and unusual plant.
The picture above is the core of the plant and looks like something out of a Sci Fi film, and below the plant produced these lovely flowers some weeks back on the tendrils that grew away from the core of the plant.
The bee's really liked these and I managed to get a few decent pictures, taken with my Sony HDR-CX405.
My Sunflowers are now thriving as well, after a dodgy start when one of them was dug up by a cat taking a crap in the soft earth I'd planted it in, I ask you you what an undignified way to go, dug up and shat upon, poor little thing.
A rather large slug took a liking to one of them and that was duly dispatched over the back fence like a duke being hit for six.
My garden is in stark contrast to my neightbours whose lawn looks like a particularly well kept bowling green and where everything is pruned to the nth degree, that's fine but I prefer the slightly wilder look.
Anyway back to how I met Betty, the date was 25/07/2019, this Thursday just gone, I was told I needed to go to London to attend a work related user group meeting, in fact I had to attend two, one in central london on the Thursday, and the other in Hatfield on the Friday.
So together with a colleague who was also going I booked a hotel, somewhere within an easy commute of both locations, so me and him drove down on the Wednesday evening to the Ramada at South Mimms services.
I know what you're thinking and you're right, in a bloody services, well things were about to get interesting, I'm not a cheapskate but I'm restricted on cost you understand, of course you do.
We checked in and I went up to my room, no air con, and it was warm, very warm, so down I popped to reception, which was nice and cool, and asked "do you have a fan", "ah" the young lady said, "I'll have a look for you but I can't guarentee anything", "Ok" I say. and go back to my room.
Five minutes later a knock at the door, a young lady stands in front of me with a a fan, well in better times it had been a fan, now it looked like something that had been pulled out of a skip.
The back cover which hides the electrics that power the fan was missing, the stand was at a 45 degree angle, and the blades had what appeared to be black mould on them, she plugged it in, it didn't work.
"" I'll go and find another one" she said and disappeared to return five minutes later with what looked like a nice clean serviceable fan, and it worked, thank god I thought, otherwise I would have cooked like a medium sized chicken in that room.
The windows were open so I took a look outside,
Not the best view, ah but at least breakfast was included in the cost of the overpriced room, although when we asked at reception we were told, "I can't see any sign of breakfast being included on your booking", "bloody hell" I thought.
My colleague later questioned this and came back with two coupons for a breakfast at the Harry Ramsdens in the services area which would have cosy us 8 quid each, welcome to rip off UK.
After a night of little sleep with the fan droning away in the background Thursday morning dawned and off we trotted to fortify ouselves for the upcoming day, well all I can say is it was interesting, if I'd been charged 8 quid for that I would have been pretty pissed off.
Funnily enough my colleagure had read some reviews left by pevious guests and one comment was "for the love of God don't have the breakfast".
There were lots of very young Chinese people staying in the hotel and they had been queuing in front of us to get their food, when we left after having ours we noticed all these breakfasts still completely untouched on the tables,
I hope they didn't think that's the best we have to offer, they may never come back.
My colleagure got a ground floor room with a broken window lock and which was opposite the area where the smokers fill their lungs with various toxins, and the smoke was wafting into his room, oh and no fan either.
He asked to change rooms which they did only to give him a room which still stank of smoke and but at least had not one, but two fans, two fans, to say I was envious is an understatement.
I later took the view he needed at least one of those fans to redirect cigarette smoke back out of the windows.
After feasting on a what was described as a traditional English breakfast, we made our way to Potters Bar train station, a gentle walk of 40 minutes in the coolest part of the day, this involved walking through a nature reserve at the back of the Hotel which was actually quite nice.
Arriving at the station things were now starting to warm up, I hope the train is air conditioned was my one and only thought, when it did turn up it was obviously old rolling stock and no air con.
When you watch people who obviously commute regularly by train you can see in their eyes that with each journey they take a part of their soul dies, they have that blank, resigned sort of look,
We arrived at Finsbury Park and here we had to get on the underground to travel to Victoria, this was the bit I'd been dreading, under normal circumstances I like using the tube, but today it was going to be warmer than a pair of testicles trussed up in a pair of 1970's bri-nylon underpants.
If people on the overground appear half dead then those forced to use the tube on a hot day resemble animated cadavers, with all the seething resentent of vampires forced to live forever in a state of unrest.
With each station we arrived at I ticked off one less to go before we got to our destination, and when we did I was glad we were now near to our final destination which I knew would be air conditioned, whether I would be in any fit state to take in any information was another matter.
I'm sticking in this random image of beer girls at the Adelaide Oval during an Autralia England test match just to cheer myself up, the girls escort you back to your seat with your beer, I didn't avail myself of this service but many testerone filled yound lads did.
If you are a cricket fan and find yourself in Australia the Adelaide Oval is a lovely place to visit.
Below I can be seen with a cock on my shoulder, and it has to be said a bit of a belly, this is beer related nothing to do with eating too much chicken, this is in France, it has to be in France where else could you get a cock so well behaved ?.
Here sans belly and ready to dine at a lovely place in the South of France, I love France, the food and wine, food wise you can't beat a good cassoulet, washed down with a red, it's bloody nirvava I tell you.
What a week it's been for me, the Cricket World Cup has seen me both despondent then higher than a kite, I was convinced we had blown our chances and would be dumped out by Australia.
I tried valiantly to avoid looking at the score but this plan was defeated by a colleague wandering over to me and telling me Australia were 14 for 3, when he assured me he wasn't winding me up my hopes rose.
Then my mind turned to the many times England have flattered to deceive, could Australia still nick the game, the final outcome was too much for me to take in, in a pressure situation England not only won, but won in style.
I was hoping to see the West Indies do really well, that however was not be be, but I would love to see a really strong W.I side in the future.
Now today it's the final, whether we win or lose its been a great tournament, with the Ashes still to come, and now I've got into the tennis as well, sport is consuming me.
The Grand Prix I can take or leave, I used to love it but its become a tad boring in my opinion, in fact I'm more interested in the E-Prix, those cars doing incredible speeds but almost silent, incredible.
Anyway apart from all this an update on my last post.
In my last post I covered some of the ideas put forward in the Council and their partners consulation document which closed last week.
I took part in that and I hope lots of others did too, what the outcomes are from this will be interesting as will how long things take to get moving, obviously as said before lots of thought is required.
I'm hoping the results of peoples input into the consulation will be published as I'm keen to see peoples ideas, we can't just leave this to those who make decisions as they have proved before to be, shall we say "unreliable" :)
Going off on a tangent and before I bore you to death, what do you think of this picture I manged to get a few days back, I was quite pleased with it, watching this stuff is a great antidote to the pressures of watching sport .
An update on the mess I saw last week on Campbell Square, see below -
I reported this to NBC and they responded saying it would be cleared within two days, hopefully it has.
Also I mentioned that I'd walked past idling taxis next to All Saints church belching out diesel fumes where a lot of shoppers are affected, so I passed this info onto the council.
Now lets put this into context, councillors in Northampton very recently declared a climate emergency with talk of making Northampton carbon neutral by 2030, very ambitious but given the councils reply to me probably not attainable.
I'm not going to cut and paste the entirety of their reply to me but basically the gist of it was -
"Whilst I agree that it serves no purpose and is unsessesy for hackney cab operators to idle their vehicles engines during the warm periods of weather, there are currently no Road Traffic Orders in place to prevent any vehicle to idle whilst parked stationary in the town centre. Such orders are put in place by and enforced by the Highways Authority which is currently a County Council function".
So we are back to the old, "this is somebody elses remit", now where have we encountered that before ?, oh yes, in the saga of who was going to be responsible for the repair of Saint Eleanors Cross,
Then we get -
"There is legislation that makes it an offence to leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily whilst parked under the Road Vehicle Regulations (1986). A £20 fixed penalty notice can be served under the Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002. To the best of my knowledge, Northampton Borough Council have not adopted a policy to enforce this legislation thus enforcement officers are not authorized to enforce the legislation. Consideration has been given in the past to such actions but in order for a fine to be issued the driver of a vehicle has too refused to turn their engine off after being asked to do so by a council official".
So I think you can see that for the council to declare a climate emergency and then state the above is a bit of a joke.
They want to make the town centre a better place to be, well in my mind that doesn't include having to breathe in diesel fumes, there is absolutely no reason for an engine to be running when stationary.
I know that central govenment hasn't helped here in that the example it sets is less than perfect, and they have given councils less to spend, this was published in the Guardian newspaper back in 2016.
"Last March, the supreme court required the government to produce an action plan, but nothing much has been forthcoming apart from extending low-emission zones"
We're now more aware of the dangers of dirty air, so this should be at the top of the agenda, the council used to operate a park and ride form the council offices on the Bedford Road into town, I used it regularly.
Why not bring that back and keep the traffic in the centre to a minimum, seems like a relatively easy fix which could at least go part of the way to a solution.
The big ugly space which is where Greyfriars bus station was could be partially greened, more trees would enhance the place visually and help mitigate some of the pollution, a great opportunity to really make a positive difference.
I've often sat in a green spot in central London and had some food and a drink, it a makes a big difference to the tarmac and concrete environment, to leave this space as it is would be criminal.
Back to the consulation and I've been keeeping abreast of what others think on Facebook, there is some discussion but most of it seems to come from the same people, and most of it seems to be negative.
We all look at things through the prism of our own past experiences and yes we all know the town used to be vibrant, but the factors I've mentioned before have changed things and they are not going to change back overnight.
Some people seem to be upset at the councils proposal to put a food market on the market square making the point that we had one before in the form of the Fish Market, a good point but not necessarily a bad idea.
Shopping was the main reason people went into town, I used to regularly go in to buy albums back in the day, if the primary reason for most people has gone with the advent of shopping online, what will replace this ?.
Can the affect of online shopping be mitigated by creating a more diverse mix of shops, restaurants, pubs, and other facilities?.
From a personal perspective I love to read, and yes I do buy books online but I also like to wander round a bookshop and look at books, maybe more variety in term of shops would tempt people back in ?.
I stopped going to the cinema many years ago, mainly because of the distraction of people on mobiles etc, but a few years back the Errol Flynn cinema opened in the town, now I regularly go to see new films.
The last one I saw was "Yesterday" a brilliant film, watch it if you get the chance, I watched in a great little environment, quiet and comfortable.
So now most of my trips into town are to watch films, what would I do before of after the film, go for a drink, have a meal, and there are some decent pubs and restaurants in the centre.
I've already mentioned that for the town to become attractive again we need a visible police presence, and this was born out by events on Saturday just gone at Sol Central, the entertainment complex.
I was on my way into town on Saturday evening for a night at the Roadmender, and as the taxi approached Sol Central we saw three police cars all with their blues and two's on and the entrance was cordoned off with tape.
This was obviously not a traffic accident so me and the taxi driver assumed that some sort of fracas has happened, and we were right, a group of men had been fighting and someone had been stabbed.
This was bad enough but the following day somebody was shot and stabbed on the football fields on the eastern side of town in front of spectators.
Earlier in the week a man was robbed at knifepoint in an alleyway, the problem we have is with the rarity of seeing a policeman the n'er do wells are pretty sure they won't be caught and this makes it easy for idiots to engage in anti-social behaviour.
Old and young alike are not really going to have confidence that they will be safe if this continues, and it needs to be stamped on very quickly, because otherwise it's only a matter of time before we have have a fatality.
On a brighter note I had a great evening watching this band who I only became aware of recently.
They were supported by Jared James Nichols
Living Colour are well worth checking out, as is the splendid Mr Nichols who does a great rendition of Mississippi Queen
Now you know I wax lyrical about the beauty of Northamptonshires countryside, but unlike some lets say more official sites that cover the town I'm not going to just show the positives,
There are some lovely buildings in the town centre but it doesn't take long to see how the town has been spoilt and neglected over the years, in many cases the good has been torn down and replaced with the bad.
There is no one culprit to blame although I think most people could give you their views on that, and to be fair that's a whole new conversation.
There are exceptions to that though and they are the redeeming features of the towns architecture.
Lets start with the good, Northamptons Town Hall or The Guildhall is a magnificent building, when you step back and take the time to look at it properly, it's full of detail and a delight to look at.
The history of the building is interesting and I'll let you look further into that if you want to, if you get time or are in Northampton take a wander along and take a look inside.
The inside matches the exterior for beauty, stanied glass windows and other stuff well worth seeing, worth taking time out definitely.
Now Northampton has had a market for hundreds of years, over 800, obviously with such a long history many things have changed, including how it is used and who uses it,
Old Northamptonians like me will tell you it's lost much if its character, the fountain that used to grace the middle of the market was pulled down in the 1960's, the cobblestones were pulled up and replaced with block paving.
Certainly it's not used anywhere near as much as it was, and that obviously has an effect on the atmosphere of the place, but then this is largely true of the town centre itself.
Some pretty momentous events have taken place there, one being a riot involving 7,00o supporters of Charles Bradlaugh the famous Northampton Politician who I have mentioned in the radical Northampton section of this site.
Above the north end of the market in the 1950's, with the Emporium Arcade where Boots now stands.
Above the market as it appears today, in the background you can just make out the ugly monstosity of a 1970's multi storey car park.
The buildings surrounding the Market are a hotch potch of the old and newer, some visually appealing and some to be frank an eyesore.
The picture below illustrates my point, whatever were they thinking of when they built the square grey box below ? It's ugly, very ugly, reminiscent of eastern bloc architecture in the 1970's, contrast that to the building to the right.
Now I understand that places evolve over time but surely some thought should be put into how a new building will integrate with what's already there?. It can be done and it has been done very sucessfully elsewhere.
Below is Welsh House, the oldest building on the market square, it's had many uses over time but is a still fine looking building,
This heraldic sign on Welsh House which in Welsh reads "Without God, Without-everything, with God enough".
Welsh House was one the the few buildings to survive the Great Fire of Northampton in 1675,
Above is the north end of the market, the building surrounded by scaffolding has a long history, it was once the Corn Exchange, in more recent time it was Chicago's nightclub.
The sign attached to the scaffolding is for a roofing company and that got me to thinking that if they are refurbing the roof there must be something more going to happen.
I chatted to an old boy on the market and asked him if he knew anything about what was going on, he told me he'd heard it was going to be developed into retail units and flats, the interior of this builing is enormous.
I'd seen somewhere that Northampton Borough Council had a consulation document which lays out several idea's for improvements to the town centre which they have designated as comprising several specific area's.
The market square area is one such area and the proposals within the docment are -
"Upgrade market square public realm"
"New indoor food hall as a catalyst project"
"Rejuvenate active frontage around market square"
"Redefine existing pedestrian links"
"Improve Drapery environment and public realm".
OK, the first one "Upgrade market square public realm", what does that actually mean ?,
Firstly I seem to remember the new fountain which cost £50,000 to put in and has added nothing visually as it's rarely seen working, so a lot of thought has to be put into any upgrades proposed.
Hopefully the consulation which get a good response and and the council and others involved will take note of what people say, but it needs people to engage in the process, put scepticism aside and let the powers that be know what they want.
The new indoor food hall, this maybe a good idea, the market covers quite a large area and not all of it is utilised, why not have small units selling foods from all over the world as we are now a town with many different nationalities.
Rejuvenating the frontage, not really sure how that would work, but there must be some inventive types in the town that could input their idea's. Could be a project for students at Northampton UNI ?.
Redefine the existing pedestrain links, needs some thought, really dependent on if residential development happens, and if it does how will that exist alongside commercial activity.
The Drapery could be improved straight away by just removing the buses, which being diesel pump filth into the air shoppers have to breathe.
Personally I'm very aware now about dirty air and if the centre could be made cleaner that would definitely be a plus for me, I'm not sure if everybody feels the same but just as a point of public health it must be a priority.
There are proposals for many other parts of the town centre some of which sound positive and some which I'm not so sure about, lets hope I'm able to write about some improvements in the near future.
For me priorities would be making the place a pleasant and safe place to visit, with definite reasons to want to go there.
One thing I noticed when I went into town to take the pictures on here was idling taxis pumping out diesel fumes, I contacted the Council about that and will let you know their response.
Newer buidings can be added in sympathy with what is already in place as seen above when the Guildhall was extended.
St Giles Street is probably the best shopping street left in the town centre, it has some nice cafes, some decent shops, and was recently repaved, if the rest of the town could match this ?.
There's no doubt the town could be vastly improved in many ways, footfall has fallen and as a result businesses have suffered, and with Marks and Sparks closing there is yet another empty unit in the main shopping street.
A lot of the proposals in the consultation document are positive, introducing more housing within the centre would in my opinion be a step forward, as long as it is affordable and not just luxury flats.
A building like the old Corn Exchange should not be standing empty and hopefully this will be developed and add somwhere for people to live and some decent shops, it's important that the town is clean and attractive, at the moment that's not the case.
A decent transport strategy needs to be put into place, it's ironic that the town centre used to be served by a Tram system, replaced by buses, but we need to move away from polluting vehicles in town centres.
I'm not an evangelist on this subject as I own a diesel vehicle myself but I wouldn't drive it into town, it just seems to be common sense when so many vehicles are on our roads.
Northampton has many rivals for people to go shopping so something urgently needs to happen, I love this place and I would hate to see it turn into a ghost town.
A tent in All Saints church yard, surely in the our supposedly rich economy we shouldn't be seeing this ?. I know the causes are complicated and central government squeezing councils funding haven't helped but this has got to be wrong.
I know the church has asked others who were camped in the same place to move because they wouldn't interact with people trying to help them, so those that did move are now camped on the land in front of the Mayorhold car park.
The cost to society of homelessness is high but more important is the the cost to the homeless, we have already had people die on the streets, some quite young, this is not a third world country, There are people out there helping and I'll write about that in a future post.
There is much to think about and much to do but I'd like to think that in years to come hopefully sooner we won't be seeing this, people need to be put first.
If you have taken the time to read this thank you, if you have any thoughts feel free to comment.
Have a good Summer :)
I was chatting to my step Mum who reached the ripe old age of 90 last year, and we were comparing our childhood experiences, she was telling me about the harsh winters she remembered.
She was born and bought up in Northampton in one of the old streets in the town centre which was demolished to make way for the Grosvenor shopping centre in the 1970's.
She told me about how her Mum sent her down to queue and collect coke and slack to burn in the winter, the picture above was taken in Northampton at the old gas works, it shows people queuing for coke in 1947.
Times were hard then by todays standards, food waste didn't exist, rationing was still in place long after the war had ended, my own childhood was comparatively easy compared to what my parents experienced.
Seen through the prism of our own todays the past can look like a strange beast, imagine trying to explain to a child today about rationing, when the local supermarket might stock 25,000 different items.
Slack BTW was a fine coal gravel and coal dust mix, I never came across it but I do remember in my very first school there was a storage area for coke next to the playground, it had a strange texture and smell.
From my own pespective I remember some very harsh winters when I was a child, deep snow and bitter cold, although at the time it was great to have snowball fights, they were the best fun you could have.
1963 was a really cold one.
My Dad used to tell me off for laying like a cat in front of our old cannon miser gas fire, some of those long walks home from school saw me come in like a frozen fish finger, cold but happy.
However cold I got I never had the hardship of knowing there were strict limits on what I could eat, I was lucky my dad grew lots of stuff, he bred rabbits and I look back on the food I eat then with a pleasant nostalgia.
We were boiling bunnies long before Glenn Close, bit of a film reference for you to mull over, those of a certain vintage will know straight away, for who don't the web is your educator.
When we go for meals out, which I'm lucky enough to do often, if I ever see liver or steak and kidney suet pudding on the menu I go for that rather than order steak or chicken, you can just imagine the young waitress thinking "why" ?.
Ironic really that I have that choice but choose to order stuff that children these days would turn their noses up at, even my Wife asks me what it is about liver that I like, the answer is simple. the taste.
She was telling me that when she was little they would have what they called bone stew, that is basically neck of lamb or scrag end, not a lot of meat on it but mixed with pearl barley and vegetables and cooked for a long time it was one of my favourites.
Stick some dumplings in as well and we are talking my food heaven, even now I could happily sit down to a plateful of steaming stew with lovely moist dumplings, (who doesn't love moist dumplings) ? :) I can smell it just writng this.
So at this point I hasten to add that our scrag end would have been warpped in newspaper by the butcher, no fancy herb garnishes or polystyrene trays in those days.
Now come on what would you rather have on a cold day, a burger, bit of chicken, risotto, ?
Nah it has to be liver and bacon, with brussles sprouts, covered with pepper.
Leaving the cold hard days of the past behind, in the present day my garden is looking pretty colourful, this morning after yesterdays high winds I noticed the first bloom of one of my sunflowers.
Today I was flicking through Twitter and saw this lovely drawing of Pitsford water by
Giorgio Pandiani @GiorgioPandiani
This year I've grown a few things I hadn't tried before, Fennel, Aubergines, Chicory, Sweet Peas., all of which are growing well,
The ashes 2019
First Test 1st August 2019 at Edgbaston.
Oh dear, oh dear, this Ashes series has started on a sour note, well at least if you are an England cricket fan like me, if you're an Aussie you must be over the moon.
In the run up to this series I wasn't really sure which way the contest would go, although currently England have some great batsmen individually they have never really convinced me about their ability to consistently play Test cricket.
Sure they can whack the ball all over the place in limited overs games and in it's own way that is entertaining, the ECB certainly seem to think so with the genesis of the One Hundred competion.
To me that is not something I will be following, it holds no appeal whatsoever, what allegiance do I have to any of the eight teams who will be playing ?, answer = none.
The mindset of these limited overs games is a world away from that required to play Test cricket, now I'm no big fan of Steve Smith but you can only admire the way he dug in and pulled his team out of a perilous position in the first innings of the first Test at Edgbaston.
After the sandpaper gate scandal Smith was always going to get some stick from the Barmy Army and if he had harboured any hopes that would be forgotten they were swiftly dispelled.
However you get the impression with him that anything coming from the crowd directed at him only acts as further motivation, it certainly doesn't seem to get under his skin, or if it does it doesn't show.
He displayed all the characteristics required, stubborness, obduracy, mental strength, grinding down the oppositions bowlers, frustrate them, hitting the odd six and fours great, but above all don't give your wicket away.
He effectively put down a marker which made it clear to the England team that he wouldn't go quietly, unlike his partner David Warner who failed in both innings, we have to hope he fails again in the next Test because if Smith and Warner are on form England will get a another thrashing.
The irony is that it all started so well, Stuart Broad was skillling them out and soon enough Australia were 122 for 8, this was the basis for a false hope of winning this first Test,
The look of incredulity on Stuart Broads face as he took the wickets was a picture, however that picture would soon change, and suddenly the vista didn't look so good;.
Smith pulled his team out of a hole and England seemed to run out of steam, from looking confident and full of energy they started to look bereft of idea's and tired.
Worse was to come with Anderson breaking down, and with all due credit to the other England bowlers we really needed Jimmy to be on form and to get amongst the Australians, losing him so soon must have been a massive blow to his team mates.
Anderson along with Broad has been a constant in Englands Test team and served us well, I sincerely hope this won't be his last Ashes Series, and with Wood out with injury we may be asking a lot of the other bowlers to do the business.
Australia finished on 248 all out and from a position of 122 for 8 I'd say that they must have been very pleased with that, while England must have thought they'd thrown away a great chance to take a big step towards a first Test win..
In Englands first innings Rory Burns a left handed batsman got to the end of the day with 125 to his name, it wasn't elegant, or fluid, but he got there and laid down his own marker,
Of his teammates Roy, Buttler, Bairstow and Ali all failed, but Englands tail wagged to give them a lead of 90 which could have been so much more if the aforementioned batsmen had contributed.
Now the question was could Steve Smith replicate what he had done in the first innings, and could Warner contribute a big score to make up for his first innings failure, could Englands bowlers dismiss Australia for a relatively low score.
Warner failed again but Smith as in the first innings would not go quietly, he showed what Test cricket is all about, and backed up by Wade, Paine and Head Australia declared on 487 for 7, leaving England with a day to stay in and frustrate the opposition.
Mitchell Starc probably their best bowler was not playing, but their other bowlers all looked confident and were fit, it now needed England to dig in and make Australia fight for every England wicket.
Now you will remember some of the abject capitulations of the past where Engalnd have folded like a pack of cards, oh the misery of seeing your team humiliated, the mockery of the Aussie fans, too much to bear.
Surely they could hold out for a day, at the very least fight till the last man, this after all was the first Test and they needed to bolster their own morale and prove they have what it takes to if not win outright to not actually lose.
What was to follow was a total shitshow, a complete lack of character and total and utter surrender, not one batsman scored 50, the nearest to get to 50 was a bowler, Chris Woakes who lasted for 54 balls for his 37, Jos Buttler lasted 25 balls.
Nathan Lyon took 6 for 49, Pat Cummins 4 for 32, so Starc wasn't required, it was painful to witness and I can only imagine the Australians will be full of confidence for the Tests to come, I only hope England can show some fight and redeem themselves.
Some of the umpiring decisions came under scrutiny with Joel Wilson coming in for some criticism, in total there were 20 reviews in the match of which 10 were overturned which I suppose tells a story of its own.
To lose by a tight margin when you have put up a fight fair enough, to lose by 251 runs and collapse is embarassing and pretty pathetic, I hope my Summer is not about to be ruined.
After the deluge of rain in recent times, yesterday (Saturday) the sun made a timely and much appreciated appearance and shone all day long on the village fayre at Kislingbury.
As I have been housebound for a while I popped along to get some much needed serotonin and meet some friends who were running a food stall, the food and the afternoon were both great.
So here is a little taste of what I saw and did yesterday, with the usual disclaimer that the pictures are my own so the quality may not be brilliant :)
So to start although I wasn't hungry I had to go for the chicken tikka with rice, with some mega hot sauce, some of which I'm hoping is being put aside in a jar for me.
And of course samosas and pakoras, which were very nice, home made and freshly cooked,
When I arrived there were not that many people about but that soon changed as the afternoon wore on and families arrived to soak up the sun and listen to the band, they played a good mixture of music including some ska which the kids seemed to love.
I made a new friend, Larry.
Did I mention I discovered the beer tent ? I washed down the food with a pint of Phipps IPA, which was very pleasing on the palette.
Oh and I picked up some Peruvian mint, looks a bit like cannabis I think :)
The church nearby was open and was selling refreshments, funds from the fayre will go to to support St Lukes Church,
A while back I posted on the Grand Union Canal, and in that post put up some pictures of murals that have been designed by local schoolchildren and painted onto some of the underpasses that support roads over the canal.
I'm pleased to say I have an update which shows some of the latest work done by the children, some of which I believe will be finished today.
Hope you like the pictures kindly sent to me by one of the childrens Mums, thank you Claire.
Personally I think they are a great addition and will much appreciated by anybody walking along the canal side or boaters travelling on the canal.
A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of vsititing Boughton House, a magificent building set in huge grounds not far away from Geddington.
A beautifully preserved stately home, the house has been in the same family for nearly 500 years and it's history is as rich and varied as that of the county it's situated in,
The house as it is today is attributable to Ralph Montagu, later 1st Duke of Montagu, who had the good fortune to inherit a buiding whose origins were Tudor and of a much less grander scale sometime in 1683.
Walking aroung the house in the sunshine you get an idea of the scale of the place which is pretty impressive, but there is a lot more to see than just the house, inside there is a collection of work by Van Dyck, which includes pictures of Charles 1 and his children.
One of the paintings in particular has an interesting story behind it, the picture depicts the children of Charles 1 who was said to disliked the way one of his children had been portrayed and so aked Van Dyck to do the painting again.
As well as Van Dyck, there is work by Gainsborough and El Greco, and some rather grand tapestries although I have to admit at this point that's not my thing.
What is my thing though is a lovely garden, walking around beautifully laid out gardens with the scents you get as well as the visual stimulation has to be one of lifes great pleasures.
And yes Dad if you are watching that is your formerely long haired rebellious Son speaking.
the times they are a changing.!
Naughty girl that Debbie, shame on her.
Have you ever some across a really old photo, one you'd forgotten had even been taken and had to go back to keep looking at at ? like a moth to a flame you keep getting drawn back,
A mate of mine once gave me a photo of me with a young lady taken way back in the mists of time when we had gone on a trip to Amsterdam, I was fascinated to see us dressed in the height of fashion.
I spent ages looking at that picture trying to remember what we did, and who were the other people we travelled with, little did I know that over 45 years later I'd be writing about it on the then unheard of internet.
No Facebook, no Twitter, no digital influencers, no Instagram, no online bullying, no email, no email ? bloody hell you had to write a letter, with your address at the top, and a date, and then put a stamp on it, walk it to the post box, dodging the white dog poo which abounded on the pavements of the time.
The anticipation of waiting for the rely from Jimmy Saville was intense, but when it eventually plopped through the letter box, oh the joy.
Primitive times people, primitive times, you were even expected to talk to your peers, like face to face, about real things,
Enough of nostalgia, enough I say, so lets have a bit more nostalgia.
I came across something last week which held an equal measure of fascination, some footage from a really old report done by a chap called Ian Nairn, after his career as an RAF pilot flying Gloster Meteors he got into architecture in big way.
He is most well know for his Book Nairn's London in which he describes the often overlooked gems in terms of places and buildings in the city.
Sadly some of them no longer in existence, and some changed irrevocably.
He does this with an eloquence I don't posess and he does it with passion, and a degree of sadness, as he could see things changing even as he wrote.
Most reiews of his work will say "he taught us to look at the world" and how many of us rush around consumed with doing whatever we think is important at the time, and miss what is all around us.?
Watching this the first time made me feel both happy and sad, happy that someone had had the foresight to film this and was obviously passionate about what was possibly about to happen to this lovely old building;.
Sad because I remember my Mum taking me there on one of our trips into town, she died about 5 years after the arcade was demolished, ripped apart as my life was when she passed away.
What replaced the bulding was a poor subsitute, some things are irreplaceable.
If you listen to Ian's commentary he is saying essentially what a lot of the towns populace would have said at the time, a petition was raised to try to save the building which got around 10,000 signatures, it made no difference.
Planners, who would have thought of a nice dining experience where as you eat your poppudum the vista before you is a garage forecourt, ah the aromatic delight of 4 star.
This is not in Northampton BTW which supprises me as I'm sure the council would promote this as a good idea, probably hold lots of consulations, and then ignore the majority of the peoples wishes and go ahead anyway.
Looking back at the Emporium Arcade with it's many little units anyone with an ounce of imagination could see the opportunity it presented, a unique building full of character, so much potential.
Northampton's councillors in their infinite wisdom bought the site with the express intention of demolition, and as Ian Nairn rightly says "what an admission of failure".
They also said it had "no architectural value", you have to wonder at the mindset that comes up with that little gem of silliness, but there is worse to come m'duck.
Things don't seem to have improved with Northampton's councillors -
With all the talk of people being poisoned by diesel particulates our esteemed leaders have built the new bus station right in the town centre, guaranteed to make the air where most people will be walking around, dirty.
We can't afford electric buses, the coffers are bare, so let's stick to diesel, a few bits of soot deposit in the lungs won't kill you, all aboard, get your tickets ready for inspection.
And apparently they didn't consider the road layout as a factor at the time of design, you can only wonder how these muppets would manage in a real job, I would say if they had brains they'd be dangerous, but they are dangerous anyway, to our health.
At least the old bus station was pretty ;)
Shame the building was empty, I'm sure quite a few of our councillors could have been accomodated in there on the day.
The old bus station seen above being demolished caused a lot of controversary with its nickname "The Mouth of Hell", apparently being voted one of the ugliest buildings in the UK.
Pretty it wasn't but at least it kept any pollution away from the majority of shoppers, and it gave them a direct access to the shopping centre.
Now the building is long gone and what's left ? a hugh expanse of nothing, and I suspect that will be the case for a very long time, an improvement ? no not really.
Every time I turn on the telly it seems to be fanny time, every aspect of the dear old things is up for discussion, too dry, you must need some new fannytastic cream to combat the parched state of your vagina. Conversely do you need something to dry it up a bit ?, make it something like death valley for dryness, every scenario is catered for.
Just an observation on my part, nothing to get all worked up about. But maybe a bit of balance is required, so lets see more adverts for willys, todgers, trouser snakes, whatever you choose to call them, or rather products for the application of.
I had a nice walk this morning, a bit of a trip down memory lane.
The picture above shows Boughton Crossing as it was in 1959, to be specific June 1st 1959
the level crossing had just become the towns new boundary, why am I posting it up ?, because I spent many happy hours as a sprog playing in the fields, on the river, and even on what was then a working railway line, as I lived not far away from that signal box, it's now a walkway / cycleway for the public.
You can just about make out the signal box and level crossing gates, just in front of the lorry, the old fashioned sort of crossing gates that the crossing keeper had to come out to close, and that sealed the the road right off from the track.
There was no nipping round them in your little Honda Jizz, mainly because the gates would have prevented such irresponsible behaviour and also because little Honda Jizzes didn't exist at the time.
Me and some other kids once spent an afternoon waiting on the corner of Brampton Lane which is the other side of that signal box waiting for the Queen to pass by so we could wave at her.
The picture above is the same scene today, the signal box is long gone as are the level crossing gates, and the house has changed a bit, but then in 60 years you would expect a bit of change.
Talk about a trip down memory lane, I even saw this is a field, do you remember Homepride ? it's the flour your Mum used to make cakes mixes with, and you used to wait until the end of the process and full of expectancy you would say "Mum, can I lick the bowl, ?" and she would say "No, flush the chain like everybody else". halcyon days.
The wind in the wires
Not quite the Wichita Lineman, but an atmospheric sound on a cold bright morning.
Having taken my after photo I had a wander down The Brampton Valley Way, which is what was the railway line between Northampton and Market Harborough, the wind was whistling through these overhead cables, a nice sound I thought.
I had the River Nene (pronounced Nen) to my left, fields to my right, and the beginning of the track the rail enthusiasts have laid over the years to run restored engines along.
There was even a bit of blue sky.
The hours the volunteers spend doing up these old wagons is amazing, taking something which has lain unloved for possibly years and making it look if not exactly new then not far off.
On one of the the engines I manged to zoom in on the builders plate, these were still the days we used to make stuff.
Looking back I had the privilege of growing up on the edge of town, I had a large garden to play in, sometimes I'd help my Dad dig the soil over, although I was probably more of a hindrance as I seem to remember putting a fork through my wellies and piercing a toe.
My Dad even built me a sandpit, which I spent quite of lot of time in with my matchbox diggers and earth movers building whole road systems,
That garden was the scene of so many adventures, it hosted many big bonfires on November 5th, I sometimes used to set up my tent and camp on the back lawn with some mates, many an airfix model aeroplane was shot up whilst hanging from the washing line by a couple of lengths of cotton.
The other great thing about my garden was that we had an Anderson shelter next to the shed, that served as a nice place for me and my mates to plan what we were going to do for the day .
I once set the wooden fence alight which separated us from our neighbours, I loved playing with fire, still fascinated by fire to this day, sitting in front of one not setting alight o anything I should add.
I remember laying in my bed at night and the sound of the trains that ran along the line from Northampton to Market Harborough had a sort of soothing sound, as a kid I always thought the best place to be on one of those trains was in the guards van.
If you walk far enough along the BVW you'll come to Kelmarsh Tunnel.
In the early 1850s, the London & North Western Railway promoted a line linking Northampton with Market Harborough, the intention being to capitalise on the huge amounts of ironstone found in the area.
The route was engineered by George R Stephenson, nephew of his famous namesake, and George Parker Bidder. Work got underway in 1856, with Richard Dunkley of Blisworth awarded the contract to build it. 16th February 1859 brought its official opening.
The single line was forced to penetrate hills at Kelmarsh and Great Oxendon, the former being driven through strong blue clay. On Sunday 11th April 1858, Sergeant Rawson from the local constabulary attended Kelmarsh Tunnel and found Thomas Thompson busy assembling some timber centres, whilst four other labourers loaded bricks into a wagon.
All were charged with working on a Sunday, despite the engineer protesting that their exertions were necessary in order to correct a defect in the tunnel. Each was subsequently fined five shillings; the contractor paid costs totalling £2 7s 6d.