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.