The Retirees return to Nottingham – Fellow Travelers and Old Friends

Wednesday, we will travel by car to Manchester to meet Martin and Chris who we met on our river trip from Cologne along the Rhine in Germany. The trip to Manchester would normally mean heading for Stoke on Trent then onto the M6 and a dreary drive fighting the traffic and road works so we decided we would head out through Derby and follow the rim of the Peak District around to Leek and then across to Warrington and Newton where we would meet them.

As usual the Peak District was beautiful and green. We stopped for morning tea at Leek another historic market town. The town square had some market vendors and a lovely cake shop where we stopped for coffee and a lolly shop for something to suck on whilst driving to Newton. As we left I noticed the Police station although I suspect the building has a different use today.

We met at a Toby Carvery which is a franchised pub built in an early 19th century style with a carvery buffet. Nice food and lashings of it. It was wonderful to catch up again but Martin has been “in the wars” falling 18 feet off a ladder although you wouldn’t know it to see him now.

Thursday and our time in England has come to an end. Pack the suitcases and head for the M1 back to London Gatwick. The trick when travelling the motorways is to avoid major delays otherwise no matter how well prepared you maybe, delays can take hours to clear and planes will be missed. The M1 was free flowing until we stopped in Northamptonshire for morning tea. Unbeknown to us there had been a severe motor accident on the north bound lanes and when that occurs emergency vehicles will use the lanes on the opposite side of the highway to access the incident thereby stopping traffic in the opposite direction. We had planned for that eventuality and despite languishing somewhere between Northamptonshire and Hertfordshire on the M1 we made it to the dreaded M25. I say dreaded because delays will most often occur on the M25 just because of the volume of the traffic and as usual we had some minor delays. After all was said and done we arrived with time to spare to have lunch and prepare for the flight to Florence.


The Retirees return to Nottingham – Old Neighbours

One of the things we wanted to do was catch up with our old Long Eaton neighbour, Pam Fowler. Pam and her husband John lived across the hall from our flat 41 and we regularly met and they shared their knowledge of the counties with us to help our explorations. Just before we departed Long Eaton we took John for his last walk around the lake at the University of Nottingham. John was determined despite his ill health to do the circuit and enjoyed the outing very much. We returned to Australia and learned that shortly after John had died. Now we wanted to catch up with Pam and see how she was getting on.

We walked from the Novotel to Oxford St (about an hour walk) past one of the many garden beds full of spring flowers and there was Pam waiting at the gate for us to arrive. Pam had planned that we have lunch at Bennett’s Hotel, a site which had been under redevelopment for the whole of the time we were living in Long Eaton. The hotel has been renovated internally in a modern style and it has a simple menu for seniors like us. Lunch was very pleasant. We returned to Pam’s flat, flat 40 a very familiar scene for us from the myriad of visits we made to John and Pam. Over coffee we reminisced about John and Pam spoke of life after John. It appears that Pam has come to terms with John’s passing and is now comfortable living on her own. We will continue to keep in touch.

Monday evening is Rotary at Nottingham. Still meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, we turned up for their AGM and surprised many of them despite having given notice to the Club Secretary. It was a great reunion and reminded us how supportive they were when we lived at Long Eaton. A surprise visitor (apart from us) was Eve Conway the RIBI President (Britain is the only country in the world where Rotary is administered outside of Chicago as a result of war time communication between Chicago and the UK being difficult during WWI). We posed for a photo with the Club dignitaries Paul Jones the President Elect on the left and Chris Spencer on the right the current President and Eve and it is posted on our Rotary website.

Tuesday, we visited Nick Smith at Direct Trimmings our former associate in the Glitter and Dance experiment in the UK. Nick’s business is on the 4th floor of an old spinning mill in Leopold St and site of the first G&D shop. Kerry had always complained that the stairs were killing her without knowing that she had a “wart” inside her heart. This time having undergone open heart surgery to remove the wart she climbed the stairs grinning about the change the surgery had made. The chimney in the yard of the mill, (formerly served the steam boilers of the old factory both now heritage listed) was undergoing some repair whilst we are there and we stared in awe at the blokes climbing the various ladders tied to the chimney to do the repair.

After chatting to Nick regarding business trends and changes around Long Eaton, we jump onto the tram at Toton and headed into the city for lunch with Geoff and Diana Bosworth from the Rotary Club. Diana is a Kiwi who lived in Australia after meeting Geoff and then in Canada with Geoff ultimately moving to Nottingham. Coming from the Antipodes we had a connection. Diana selected the restaurant in a part of Nottingham that is new to us just to show us that we have not been everywhere. Typical Kiwi always trying to out do an Aussie. Not really but we keep the rivalry going.


The Retirees return to Nottingham – Lord Byron and Hucknall

After lunch we made our way into the village of Hucknall itself. Lord Bryon appears to be the only historically significant person to have come lived in the area as there are statues to his fame and the local Church of St Mary Magdalene holds his remains in its vault along with the rest of the family. The vault has now been finally sealed. The church holds a great deal of history about Byron and his only legitimate daughter as well as glorious plantings of spring flowers and little animals. In the former High St (now being turned into a mall) is one of the few remaining towers displaying the former name of the village and a statue in remembrance to the mining heritage that brought wealth to the village.

So, after returning to our hotel I had a look at the life of Byron. Although born in London, Lord George Byron the poet made nearby Newstead Abbey his home. The Byron family’s relationship with Newstead Abbey started with Sir John Byron of Colwick in Nottinghamshire who was granted Newstead Abbey by Henry VIII of England on 26 May 1540 and started its conversion into a country house. The 5th Lord died on 21 May 1798, and the title and Newstead Abbey was then left to his great-nephew, George Gordon, the famous poet, who became the 6th Baron Byron.

Despite the Abbey falling into disrepair, he was determined to stay at Newstead—”Newstead and I stand or fall together”. However, he was cash strapped and a buyer was found, who offered £140,000, which was accepted. By spring 1813, the buyer, had only paid £5,000 of the agreed down-payment and Byron was now without settled financial means. Involved at first in an affair with Lady Caroline Lamb and with other lovers and also pressed by debt, he began to seek a suitable marriage, considering – amongst others – Annabella Millbanke.

However, in 1813 he met for the first time in four years his half-sister, Augusta Leigh. Rumours of incest surrounded the pair; Augusta’s daughter Medora (b. 1814) was suspected to have been Byron’s. To escape from growing debt and rumour, Byron pressed his determination to marry Annabella, who was said to be the likely heiress of a rich uncle. They married on 2 January 1815, and their daughter, Ada, was born in December of that year. However, Byron’s continuing obsession with Augusta (and his continuing sexual escapades with actresses and others) made their marital life a misery. Annabella considered Byron insane, and in January 1816 she left him, taking their daughter, and began proceedings for a legal separation. The scandal of the separation, the rumours about Augusta, and ever-increasing debts forced him to leave England in April 1816, never to return. He died of a fever whilst fighting with the Greeks against the Ottomans for Greece’s independence.

Ada, became the Countess of Lovelace, whose work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine is considered a founding document in the field of computer science.

Photos – statue of Byron, family vault and memorial

The Retirees return to Nottingham.

We arrived at Gatwick Airport South and after resting our weary heads from trains and planes, we then set off in search of the Europcar office, which also proved to be difficult to find but we got there only to find the car we had reserved was not available. After one and a half hours we finally got away from Gatwick and headed off up the M23, the M25, and then the M1 to Nottingham. It really felt like we were going home with all the familiar features along the highway. Finally, 4 hours after leaving London Gatwick we pulled into Bostocks Lane off the M1 and arrived at the Novotel Nottingham Derbyshire; a hotel well known to us. When we left the UK in November 2015 the hotel was undergoing renovation, now in April 2017 we were given a comfortable room with a view of the bush leading to the canal path leading to the River Trent. Spring was coming and as usual flowers were blooming everywhere.

Rested we awoke to a grey day without any real plans. After speaking with our eldest daughter in Australia, we decided to ride the tram to Hucknall. In 2015 the council had just finished constructing a new tram line from Toton (the next village beside Long Eaton) to Hucknall through Nottingham and although we were there for the opening we did not ride the rail all the way to the end. So that is what we decided to do – ride the tram to Hucknall. As we left to drive to the park and ride station I took photos of the beautiful road side flower beds proving that Spring was in the air but it did not feel like it at all.

Kerry had read about Bridlesmith St and its boutiques and as I was foolish enough to comment that it was just near the Lace District and the tram passed through it, our first stop was Bridlesmith Lane. Of course there were some shops that needed investigation but we finally made it to the old Market Square and picked up the tram once again to complete the journey to Hucknall just down the road from Newstead Abbey the former home of Lord Byron. We had lunch at the Station Hotel which had a curious games room which included a quote from Lord Byron on its wall “What’s drinking? A mere pause for thinking!”

The Retirees return to Italy – Leaving the SS Costa Diadema for Nottingham.

We spent our day tying up loose ends and generally lazing around the ship. We attended the disembarkation lecture and tried to reconcile our on – board account with the deductions made from our cash card (that is another story). The following day we were unable to disembark until around 9.30 am and that was an hour earlier than our schedule time. We shared a cab to the Civitavecchia rail station and caught the train to Terminii but after enduring screaming children and ignorant Italian parents for an hour we left the train at what we thought at first to be the wrong station. However, when checking the station timetable we found that we could catch a train to the airport from that station without going into Terminii.

Our train trip to the airport was far less stressful but we had arrived hours too early. We had lunch and then waited and waited until the check in opened finally making our way to the plane and ultimately London Gatwick. A long day travelling. Just when we thought that our travelling was going to get easier, we encountered the case of the missing hotel. We had a reservation at the Hilton London Gatwick but could not find it until a kind gentleman in the carpark told us the sign directing us to the hotel meant go straight ahead then turn right not turn right. We soon located the hotel and ordered room service. It was now 10.00pm Italian time/9.00pm UK time. We had been travelling 12 hours and were dog tired.