Sunday, 24 May 2015

Re-discovering Nottingham - with a little Nostalgia

This weekend, we drove to Nottingham, our soon-to-be new home to check the house is still standing (it is), that we still love it (we do) and to see our family (we did).

When my parents offered to have the boys for a few hours so The Man could actually see some of the City he's agreed to move to, we snapped their arms off.  Having lived in Manchester for the past few years, where The Man grew up, I was excited to be able to show him around for a change, to show him the sights, the places to go and the things to see... except, having not been to Nottingham for 15 years, I could show him little except the street names I remembered.

We came into town through Victoria Centre - so far, so normal.  A little has changed - some funky lights, a few move arounds, a few new additions. The mirrored pillars that I once waved at myself in thinking there was another little blonde girl in there looking at me have been replaced by some laminate wood contraptions, but altogether the changes were positive, not too drastic.  Despite my desire for a changed city, I felt nostalgia begin to creep in.

Until I headed towards Boots.

I stopped in my tracks, wondering where the crowd around the marble seating had gone, where the children milling about were. Something wasn't right; no trickle of water, no general chatter...  Where had it gone!?

DSCN0535-mediumOnce the site of the glorious clock fountain, now the site of a dull John Lewis display, I could do nothing to stop the horror and disappointment creeping across my face and the memories creeping through my mind. Throwing a penny in to make a wish, watching the metal birds dance around the clock on the hour every hour, feeling the slight spray on my face as the fountains spurted their insipid water in the air, feeling the cold marble on my legs as I sat on the ledge in my too-short-for-school skirt. All those childhood memories, gone.

Where is the clock now? Surely they can't scrap it?

I realised then just how full of culture Nottingham is; the clock, the Left Lion (I keep mentioning this infamous Lion - my husband thinks I'm mad), Boris and the man who played the Xylophone outside of C&A - what was his name again? And I felt excited about the life my boys would make here.  Will they meet their friends at the Left Lion?

We headed out of the Centre, The Man's relief palpable as he realised I'd stop bleating on about the whereabouts of the fountain and the travesty that it should no longer be there, and headed over the crossings and down Clumber Street, where nothing had changed, not even a shop front, or so it seemed.  Then left towards Hockley.  If I hadn't have been on twitter and searched for Nottingham, I'm pretty certain I'd have headed straight on, not quite ready to show The Man the delights of Hockley that was, the gothic shops that scared me as a girl, Ice Nine that intimidated me beyond belief. But we followed the crowds to find bakeries, bars and shops (Oh My!). Restaurants, galleries and video games arcades too - what was going on? It reminded me of Manchester's Northern Quarter - Independent, quirky, unique; a part of town that rose from the ashes of cans in the gutter and alleys smelling of urine, still with some of that 'don't go there' aura, but with the corners rounded and the edges blurry - the chewing gum scraped off the street, the independent bars sandwiched between chains, the pedestrianised roads all showed me a part of town to see and be seen in.

Quickly running out of time, we trundled our way around the rest of town; Market Square (no fountains, no foam; another memory that wouldn't be re-made by my boys), the Left Lion (a memory that would), Broadmarsh (being done up - at last), all punctuated with visits to trendy bars selling cocktails, 'small plates' and Prosseco - and not a City Bar or Slippery Nipple in sight (c'mon, you must remember that place!?)

I left Nottingham city center and headed back to my parents house, back to my boys and felt sad and nostalgic for all that had changed, the experiences I had in my home town that my boys wont have (except City Bar - I hope they don't experience that). But I felt excited by the prospect of our family's life in what appeared to be a young, cosmopolitan city, so different from the one I left behind 15 years ago, about the fun we will have, the experience we will have, about the life The Man and I will have in this City with our family (and babysitters!) being so close by.

It's going to be good.  It's going to be great.