Nottingham Mark Two

So I returned to Nottingham last weekend. While I kinda missed the place, I certainly missed the people I met. Last weekend a lot of the MA-ers were handing in their dissertations and I wanted to see them, look at the place again and see a street art exhibit at the Contemporary. I managed to do most.

You might have read the blog I re-posted on FB dispensing my initial thoughts of the city (town?) from July 2010. Reaction was swift from locals in particular who felt I’d done the place a disservice. Jon called it harsh (but liked the ending), Siobhan referred to Nottingham as a aesthetic and cultural dream (come on…!) while Ashley assumed I didn’t like it. Well I did.

Last weekend was the marathon which in 2010 had marked my first weekend in the flat, a pretty but cold place with high ceilings, no TV or internet and ultimately too damn far away from Uni. I checked the TV this weekend and Big Fish was on, one of my favourite films. That was on last year too.  I love that film. So it all means its been one year for Mila and Basia too, since I met Mila and gave her the keys to the flat before running off somewhere for something.

I mentioned I found the city a curiosity. But there are small gems mostly in the Hockley area; Broadway cinema, Rosey’s Tea Shop, Jam Cafe or the Contemporary. Further a-field there’s the Orange Tree, Sir John, Crocus Cafe, The Golden Fleece, The Maze, the cheesecake shop etc. All these places became my haunts. I’m a recognised face, for better or worse. 🙂

I said ‘I was a fool for now’ in the original piece lulled in by the city’s gentle atmosphere. Little changed overall. As I got to know it, I liked it more, felt comfortable and found my homes with ease. The city is still very walk-able (except to Uni), the roads and pavements are quiet and the townsfolk are kind. A serious saving grace are the music venues, acoustic nights everywhere and plenty of international bands called through.

As you can tell I’m still pretty ambivalent about the city but in a positive warm way. I think a lot is related to the University. It does have an out the way, ivory tower feel about it. It lacks a hub. The Union building feels like a shell, the bar is paltry and only the library or just outside could be considered a meeting point. It lacks a community vibrancy, a homely feel. Its almost a chore to get there. Lenton and Beeston are the same. They can’t act as student hubs for they lack the infrastructure. No pubs, no real cafe, no communal vibe.

There’s a Cathedral. Did you now that? You may have walked past it on numerous occasion but it looks more like a small church. There’s a castle that isn’t. It also lacks, and this may be a benefit a distinctive street or area like Broad Street in Birmingham, famous for its run of pubs and curry houses or Big Market in Newcastle. The higgledy-piggledy nature of the centre with its weaving streets and lanes make it difficult to gather an image.

But putting it all in relative perspective, few cities in the UK stand out. Bristol has a vibrant music scene with access to the sea, Liverpool is Newcastle plus The Beatles, Manchester is trying to go Northern Cosmopolitan, Bath and York are lovely but quaint. Only Edinburgh, Brighton and London stand out as go-to cities. Nowhere else really stands up.

Returning to study will be interesting. Many friends who came to visit referred to the city jokingly as Nothingham. There was even going to be a Uni magazine article about it. I can understand that. At first glance, that’s pretty much all you see. But the city does have the amenities but without the distractions. It feels comfortable without the sprawl and contains hidden, small delights without the swarm. As someone I know would say, ‘it’s aright.’

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So I’ve left Nottingham now. I might make the odd return to the library and see friends but basically that’s that. And damn its been fun especially since January after which I found myself a good team, got involved with the magazine, understood the city, later moved house to Lenton and wallowed in the pleasant odour of plentifulness. Plenty of nights out, barbecues and parties. I was on campus far more, less isolated than before and met a very good crowd with whom I could deviate.

The year has been so fast. Its difficult to grasp its half-wholeness. Andalucia with V was nearly four months ago. That’s the time I really can’t fathom. But while I may never fully understand, I suppose we can never really except to say Joy and bright minds can lead you far. The course in the second semester was far more challenging and interesting but I never struggled, instead content to load up my essay with movie, music and love references. I wanted my teachers to finish them with a smile on their face. Maybe hug their partners and open a bottle of wine. They were a labour of love but without the humbug. I wrote about people, how to improve our lives, bring us together and to some understanding. I can’t fault my love.

So now I have my dissertation building a case to conceptually destroy Cameron’s Big Society, highlighting inherent and possible deliberate malevolence. I like some of the ideas. Its trying to build social capital and cohesion, an admirable cause and certainly one I support. But building capital requires capital not just good will and hope.  I don’t think Cameron is only trying to reduce the state through Big Society, using some outward chatter and inwards malice. But I also don’t think ‘Britain is broken.’ It is strained under the pressures of neo-liberal capitalism and modern conveniences. We are now so connected and yet see each other less. We are a clan species traditionally to rely on each other for forage and to keep the wolves at bay. Our pre-historic genes remain the indifference to ‘progress’ but we spend our time behind firewalls, constantly told there are dangers to avoid. Its depressing but look at us in summer, sitting the park smiling and laughing. And we do this instinctively because we arent broken. Just downtrodden and isolated. Change the rhetoric and let’s move on from there.

But you’ll have to read this masterpiece when its finished. I wanna do Charlie’s too :). The mind is pretty clear. And for that I’m grateful. Its good to be me right now. I’m lucky. The future involves possibly moving more into law, especially humanitarian law working on project to initiate a shift from emergency or long-term development to national sovereignty and sustainable development outside of the present system. Small scale projects are helpful but the poor fundamentals of African/Asia poverty (Africa is poorer now than in 1960) means we are clearly doing a lot wrong. Having fucked Africa once, we shouldn’t be doing it again.

I need to talk to some friends, either Gearoid, Sean, Gemma, Aaron, Si, Cath and Michele before I commit to this. We’ll see. All is well.

The Joys of Just Thinkin’ and Drinkin’

So why was this last semester so good? Well as mentioned before, the last five months in Nottingham and generally at Uni were excellent. It took a month to find my feet but when I did, it all went so fast with such variety. This last semester in particular changed my outlook.

The academic focus shifted to more sociology from migration, NGOs and globalisation and an international relations module called disaster politics. Not only are the modules far more global in perspective but the group I study with are nicer, more varied and make up a good team. We socialise together, help each other with essays and party. I’m also auditing a post-colonialism module taught by Colin Wright, a really impressive man.

I’ve got 4 more essays to write but they are under control. Then one last, the dissertation at 15,000 words is a challenge but I think I can meet it.

I’ve said friends with the people from the first semester (Leanne, Josh, Oscar and the critical theory crew) and built on it. Guys like Edan, Arthur, Sam, Keaton and Wei are all laid-back and fun. The girls (Laura, Elena, Dena, Kat, Heather, Ces and Cat) are all fun and out-going. Its a warm atmosphere.

I’m involved much more closely with the magazine, contributing more travel, music, news and commentary and socialising with them. I’ve put up a few articles up here and there are more to come. Ones about Love, Ronda and world music. Rosie, Ellie, Ruth and Claudia have all proved great fun with jabber with. I’ve made friends with Vicky too.

Other activities include going to Vivali, bbq or picnics in the park, a night at the theatre, seeing Bright Eyes and the Wombats and a whole host of random occasions.

Pedro, Oli and Sarah came up to visit. Joe is over next month, Linden should be over and the new guys I live with in Lenton seem cool.

And I’ve learnt a lot. Ultimately it has just been nice to sit back and gather a framework round your ideas. Its like a Sunday in the pub, sitting with like minded people every day. Its all been pretty damn good. 😀

Nottingham Semester 2

I’ve been here six months now in Nottingham. The fastest 5 months of my life for sure. Has been quite incredible. Essays written. Exams merited. Gigs attended. Bars found. Friends made. Plays attended. Articles written. House parties caroused. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Now I am part of the furniture. A known face. Its quite hilarious. I wish it wouldn’t end.

Well it hasn’t yet but things are changing. I’m moving house this week. Into Lenton, a poor attempt at a studentland but nevertheless, the best they have here. The weather has picked up and its now t-shirt time :). Next its flipflops and sunnies. Jesus, summer is on its way.

I am broke financially and so off to work asap. Got 3 more essays to write followed by one exam. Then its chilled out time before Oxford. I am mulling over the next phase. Simply depends on money, people and whether I get this scholarship to Indonesia. So its either a September or Janaury Uni start in the UK or Netherlands, a research project about Bosnia all followed by a PhD attempt. Lets see 🙂

Nottingham

There is something comfortingly middling about Nottingham. It sits quietly middle of the Middle slightly to the east you may argue and definitively south of the North but not strident in its own location. It might possibly explain the perceived lack of accent in the city. It has missed out on the ugly drawl from Birmingham and certainly doesn’t have the distinctive cut of the Sheffield accent.

A lot of people have asked me where it is. I thought like that too for a long time. I had no connection with the city or the area of East Midlands. It was always on the wrong side of the country when we travelled as kids from Devon to Newcastle or later at University on the train to Sheffield. There simply were no signs for Nottingham on the roads I travelled. It existed in myths and TV dramas, a forested area which later, like Father Christmas didn’t exist at all. I discovered Milton Keynes recently too. Not to compare the places. (I almost said ‘cities’ there. I am not sure either come up to the mark).

So in short, Nottingham isn’t offensive or challenging in any way so far. It is yet to be defined maybe. The centre is built up and cluttered. Multi-storey car parks have refused to be moved while department stores meekly sit hidden away down alleys or under facades. Narrow streets wind round the ill-defined centre sloping off this way and that to nowhere in particular. Nottingham Castle fits the bill too. For it isn’t. It’s merely a stately mansion. And finding it in amongst the winds proved impossible this time while last time I couldn’t miss it.

I stayed in a good hostel and wandered the streets in my flippers looking at houses and people but I curiously can’t remember much about either. I took pictures to build an image for Basia and Milena but couldn’t find any shots to be proud of. And yet despite all this inertness, I found the man in the shop polite and clearly spoken. The hostel staff were almost cool. The landlords were ever so helpful and considerate. The bus driver told me where I needed to get off. A gentility overcame me. The hills that seemed too steep in any weather were smooth ascent, gentle on the calves. I was there before I broke sweat. There seemed too strikingly similar to here. But I was there and talking with the correct people.

I never waited to cross a road. Traffic was well-managed. Buses, trams and taxis paraded by with ease. Cars were seen in the distance approaching but never interfering or being noisy. There was no hustle and bustle on the pavements. I don’t really remember anyone there. The city has a vortex feeling about it. Life continuing without impacting on other people, cities or the world at large. It has a town feel to it. Kids worry and grow, get piercings and cut their hair and then become adults. It seemed devoid of ambition, hunger or strife.

I would be normally frustrated by all this lack of clamour. But I felt softly couched by it all. Some trick had been played on me. I was cuddled and taken care of. I knew it too. But didn’t fight it. The void was not within me. Am I being hoodwinked or placated by all that gentility. How I will feel in the near or far future? I simply don’t know. My restless nature might have found a pillow for now but for how long can I say? But for now, I am a fool.