Nottingham: Places, Faces & Shadows

For the week leading up to Halloween, I visited my friends in Nottingham. It was the first time I had been back since moving away at the beginning of August. Not a long time but a great deal had happened in the interim. When I was planning my move, I had intended to go around to all the places that had had some meaningful presence in my life there and take a photo of them. I wanted to compile something to commemorate my seven years in the city, first as student then as resident, and this seemed a good way to do it. I had no time to do so. However, leading up to my visit I had managed to injure my foot while running; hobbling around the city wasn’t on the menu.

I went to Nottingham as a student at Nottingham Trent University. The funny thing is, the memory of university that I most strongly retain isn’t the campus but rather a particular part of my route to university, probably because I didn’t have that great a time there.. I lived about an hour’s walk, on the wrong side of the river Trent from Clifton campus. I would walk there (until I discovered the Sutton Bonnington hopper put on by the other University, the one with all the money) and at about the half-way point I would go over Clifton Bridge stop and look at the Trent, and on to university. Sometimes I’d think about going back, sometimes I’d think about what was ahead. Mostly it was just a brief pause before trudging tiredly on. Unfortunately I either lost or, more likely, never took a photo of the one time the Trent froze over. It was quite impressive.

In my seven years in Nottingham I lived in six different places, circumstance necessitating I move roughly once each year. This has instilled in me a deep distrust of and loathing for the rentier scheme. From my first land-lord who seemed to have some sort of manic behaviour pattern I would associate with drug abuse, to the last with my hyperacusic neighbour who would inexplicably listen to the radio/television at 3am, there has been nowhere without problems. Bank Apartments probably takes the prize for sheer blood-mindedness of the landlords though. The flat was billed as a modern apartment for young professionals. I lived there with my brother, and at first glance it seemed ideal. There were some things that we probably should have seen at the get-go, like the complete lack of double-glazing but then there were the hidden things, things like being signed on with Spark energy. Things like not a single telephone or aerial fixture being connected to anything. We had a BT engineer come to fit our services and test everything. He ended up having to drill through the wall. It was an absolute disgrace! My brother jokes, or rather joked, about my living habits in Nottingham. It can be summed up as, for me, there was no area that did not begin with postal code ‘NG7.’ It’s very true. I suppose we all have our tortoise moments, things where we poke our head back in our shell, and this was (one of) mine.

I stayed over with Robert and Liam while visiting. We are all rather big nerds, game players through and through. With TafkaJ and Poppy, we played a bunch of games; sadly Rob has lost Arkham Horror, or lent it out, or it has returned to the netherworld. Or, now I think of it, he was being obtuse because he really, really wanted to play Battlestar Galactica. Which we did. I was Gaius Baltar and I was a Cylon. An important part of the BSG experience is being able to pretend and I knew as soon as I realised what was going on that I would be awful at this game. I can’t keep a secret for the life of me. However, I managed to turn things around so that, while no-one was convinced I wasn’t a Cylon, they weren’t sure I was. Then I blasted off and damaged the ship, like a boss. Unfortunately, it was a long-arse game which we didn’t finish despite playing for several hours. The other game was 13th Age, which I was massively impressed with how smooth it ran. It brought out the best in everyone there; Liam was man-of-the-match with his Goth Drow Sorcerer, but Poppy’s roller-blading hobbit deserves honourable mention. It was a Halloween game, so everyone went the way of all flesh by the end, but we also had a good time. At some point I might try and write a little more about it, but for now it is enough to say that 13th Age is a great game, and if you enjoy RPGs at all, you should give it a look.

After University I worked for RBS in their Nottingham Collections Centre for (nearly) four years. It’s an ugly ass building, and the cash-machine outside was always being smeared with… well with a bunch of things. Inside it was either too hot, too cold. The less said about the third floor men’s restrooms the better. I originally didn’t think I’d make it past Christmas; I remember putting a recurring appointment with myself to mark each anniversary. I also remember when I was offered the job, and I was absolutely certain that the agency were selling me up the river for call-centre work. Thankfully it didn’t turn out like that. In the lead-up to visiting I had put out a notice when I would be there; the only respondent was an old work colleague, Keith. We met in the Wetherspoons around the corner from where I worked. It was a pleasant surprise as a group of old colleagues came with him. We all chatted for a bit about life in the forest, job hunting and wild boars. It was very nice to see them all. They’re currently dealing with their own troubles and worries, which I commiserated with them over before the end of the lunch hour. I also shilled This Grave Kingdom a bit, because they asked!

As more frequent readers will note, I am something of a cinephile, and the majority of my leisure time in Nottingham was taken up by going to the cinema. I like to do other things as well, but because in Nottingham (the year and a bit I lived with my brother notwithstanding) I was very poor and, relative to other things one can do, Cinema trips are good value for money, especially with things like Cineworlds membership passes. However, while I probably went to the Cineworld more than anywhere else, it’s the Broadway Cinema that sticks in my mind. I saw some damned fine films there, and also enjoyed them with a variety of friends – the Broadway offers very nice concessionary rates. It’s also right across from Lee Rosy’s; a ridiculously cheap, if hipster-trendy, tea shop and a good place to get some writing done.

While visiting Nottingham, I also went to the new ‘Assault’; I’ve had something of a funny relationship with nightclubs in Nottingham. Perhaps it’s just my age showing, things were rawer, more compelling when my mind was ten years younger. This was the first time I’d been to the new venue, and the first time I had been to Assault in two years. I’d stopped going because both money and friends ran out. But back to the location! The PA system is good, the lack of dance floor is bad. Alright, there is an area in front of the dj booth that is probably ‘the dancefloor’ but I digress. Perhaps it is selection bias but as I get older it seems club venues are shrinking. The fun came in the form of seeing old friends and getting to catch up with them. I didn’t get to spend as much time chatting with the people as I might hope, but it was good to see them; good to see the changes and the samenesses, the way time stretches out and changes us. Andy’s now a wrestler, Lisa’s got a job. I also met new people but a nightclub is never a place for conversations or even first impressions. As it was Halloween I also got to see some impressive costumes. I went as a ninja, but forgot my mask.

I spent a lot of the time this week, during the day, sitting in cafés, drinking tea and writing in Beeston. Much like my trip to Cheltenham, my trip to Nottingham was one of time-travel. I used to go shopping in Beeston and, during the trip, would stop for a coffee in Nero as a treat; my last day in Nottingham I spent in a Nero before my train came in. Nottingham is a city full of shadows, and htat made a tough week. In the main, our identity is the kind of gestalt of the stories we tell of our past, the total of all the things we remember doing, and a projection in to the future of what we hope to be. Our memories don’t stay the same, they change based on further events in our lives, reflecting back on the happiness and the sorrows. It’s easy to come unstuck in time without anchors to now, but the opportunity to renew ties with far away friends was, is, something to be treasured. It was a good week.

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