I’m more green than ever now….

I am feeling a bit smug today as I have a new bike. A Trek 7.5FX – it’s a hybrid – a cross between a mountain bike (we don’t have mountains here in Nottingham?) and a road bike (I already have one of those).

I picked it up yesterday and rode it home from Freewheel in Nottingham (the guys in there are really helpful and enthusiastic – well done!)

I have a selection of 27 gears – and am working my way up through them; it has carbon fibre forks – which makes the ride a bit smoother. I also have kevlar in the tyres – in case I am near a bomb blast. It’s not quite as quick as my road bike but nor do I have to put my MAMIL* gear on to ride it. No clip on shoes required or the seamless under-gear! It is almost designed for jeans – which I am hoping encourages me to get out on it more. The ads say it’s for roadies, commuters, fitness freaks, errand runners & Sunday riders. Not sure which of these is me. Not the fitness freak.

I found when I was riding before that I saw much more of Nottingham. I am doing a job at the moment looking for a site for a client to build something quite specialised, google earth is great, but there’s nothing like actually getting out and having a look. It would take me hours to walk around (my search area is a linear strip around 3 miles long!)

I will let you know how I get on, but in the meantime please note my positive contribution to saving the planet. I rode 20 miles on it yesterday. I have awarded myself a gold star…

* Middle Aged Man In Lycra (sorry about the image this conjures up)

A local international film!

I am always interested in local artistic talent – particularly in the arena of photography and film. Having now acquired a decent ‘bridge’ camera I am thinking about how I can turn my hand to film-making. I have a felling that it is not as easy as it looks though!

In the week I was with a group of like-minded folk who are setting a fascinating local project – more of that later when I can come clean about it! But one of the things we were discussing was local talent.

I was told about a Nottingham based film-maker, Steven Hatton who, last year, completed a film about World War 2 pilots – he travelled the planet to film these guys – who seem to have fascinating stories. Some had not told them before – bottled up for nearly 70 years. The tale is about the responsibility these men had for changing the course of history. Sadly, since he filmed them some have died.

The film is called Into The Wind.

The trailer is here. The quality of filming looks stunning, the subject matter is a real reminder that just a generation ago, there was plently of moral dilemma in the world. This is an important historical commentary too, these brave guys are not getting any younger. It looks to be a fascinating story – and I smiled when I saw them still flying! They clearly caught the flying bug, which then stayed with them.

At the moment you have to sign up for information on when the film will be released on DVD – I have done so – and can’t wait to see the film.

It is good to see that we have this sort of talent amongst us…


I have just had an email from Steve Hatton to tell me that the film has been acquired for UK broadcast by the Yesterday channel, part of the UK TV group. Millions of people will now be able to catch the film on mainstream TV, possibly on Dave or GOLD. And the film should be out on DVD by the end of the year. You can get more on the film by checking out the website here.

The housing problem….

When they came to power Labour had a battle cry, “Education Education, Education”. It became Blairs war cry.

They saw it as a way of improving the nation – a way of creating wealth, especially as manufacturing was pretty much low ebb. An educated workforce could work in the services sector – hardly the roots of Labour, but perhaps something that New Labour needed to become to shift the then incumbent Tories.

Kids though need somewhere to live and do their homework? And those who don’t may well suffer against kids who do. You can see where this is headed – the haves and have nots. Those with good housing allowing the education mantra tom come good and those without perhaps not?

Health is known to be affected by the quality of housing. Poor housing = poor heath.

The problem we are now seeing is that those trying to get on the housing ladder are struggling to do so. An average 3 bedroom house in my local area will set you back and it seems that most Building Societies are looking for a minimum 10% deposit. That’s £15,000 out of taxed income – and often beyond the reach of young people. It could take years to save – or a benevolent parent?

We may be seeing a generation who simply can’t afford to buy their first home.

The Government target for housing is 240,000 new homes each year – and this year it looks like there will be less than 100,000 built – adding to the growing shortfall. And shortfall generally means higher prices – so don’t expect good news any time soon.

The new mantra should perhaps be “housing, housing, housing”? It’s as fundamental as education…

A big plug (times 2)

My son Jak is in a band – Hijack Storm. And, though as say so myself, they are pretty good!

Last week they released their first EP – recorded over a 12 hour period and mixed at my house!

You can read about it here, but more importantly you can download it for free – and listen to it on your ipod.


Then my future son-in-law, Andy Smillie, has decided to go and get published. He writes for Games Workshop and if you are feeling brave you might like to download his recently published short story…

This one’s not free – it’ll cost you a whole £2.50.

You can get to it here.

I’m surrounded by ‘creative types’! Right, I’m off to get those oils out. Now, what or who shall I paint? Answers on a postcard to the usual address please…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged Andrew Smillie, Games Workshop, Hijack Storm, Jak Garratt

Who would be a shopkeeper?

It hasn’t been a great year for UK retailers. Failures this year include Focus DIY, Oddbins, Habitat UK, Moben Kitchens‘ owner Homeform, Jane Norman and TJ Hughes. Others, such as Mothercare , Thorntons , Carpetright and Comet , are closing outlets now…

Habitat RIP

The Local Data Company do frequent reviews of the state of the retail market – and the latest one has just been published. This is for the first half of 2011 and measures vacancy rates. It’s not pretty reading. The national average is 14.5% – which is pretty stable. But Nottinghamshire has taken a battering – and lies at 17.4%. Ouch.

We are seeing a shift in the type of people taking units. Supermarkets continue their inexorable move to global domination. Betting Shops are doing well too (!) as are ‘pound shops’ and Charity shops. These aren’t ‘real shops’ though? They are simply a reflection of a stopped economy – of a market where people have tightened their belts. They are not what we need in the long term.

The best shopping places in my view are where you have niche or specialist shops. Boutiques where they know their product. Not faceless conglomerates or recycled charity shops. Real shops – where you can find different things – not just the same old same old? The problem with the mass market is that we will all start to look like each other. There is little space for differentiation – it will become a pretty boring place when we are all wearing Tesco white tee shorts!

I’m not sure how we overcome this – it does point towards local independents coming back to life – they are currently on life-support and in some cases may need the plug pulling at the wall. But if we don’t get them back – and fill the little shops – we are in for a tough time for some time to come. Vacant shops don’t add much to a place – they can easily destroy it. Dead frontages hit adjacent shops hard.

Fingers crossed we can resuscitate the patient!

Batman and Nottingham

I suspect it was the worst kept secret in Nottingham. On Sunday Wollaton Park played host to Splendour 2011 – a mini festival – which i blogged about yesterday! You can rely on me being at live music events if they are half a mile from home! But previously there was a different use…

For three weeks last month Wollaton Park was closed. Although built for the Willoughby family – local wealthy mine owners they had to make way for the caped crusader. The Hall became Batman’s home! Film crews and film stars were variously seen wandering around the area – frequenting the local watering holes principally it seems. The local kids (including my own) took it upon themselves to sneak in and have a look at what was happening. Wollaton Hall might be able to keep the Deer in but I’m not sure it can keep the locals out!

The funny thing was that this was all kept secret! Not a great secret, but there was no information – I guess for fear of the ‘fans’ all turning up?

But what was perhaps more surprising was that Nottingham didn’t make more of it. I am not sure why, after the event, we weren’t shouting the story from the rooftops. Surely this is a great coup – and we should now be adding this to our list of tourism offers?

Come and See where Batman actually lives!

Sadly Nottingham seems to have got embroiled in the ‘how much did they get’ story. The figure for the filming is ‘commercially sensitive’ so it can’t be revealed. It is not as much as £1m apparently. But who cares what the figure was? Surely we should use the publicity to get visitor numbers up (although we might have to improve the cafe). And then we should celebrate that the Council got The Great Hall and Entrance Hall redecorated and re-gilded for free. A number of windows at the back of the property were specially wood-grained, and a new carpet is currently being woven for the Salon, to replace the old 1980s carpet, which was removed for filming.

This is a positive story – let’s use it?

Splendour 2011 – a review (of sorts)

It was a pretty safe bet that I would find myself at Splendour 2011 last night – as it was held about half a mile from my house and Feeder were playing…

Debbie Harry belts them out

We didn’t get there early as Eliza Doolittle was the only artiste worthy of the long journey to the Wollaton Park (home of Batman). She wasn’t that great – she lacked stage presence and seemed really slow to get going. The prospect of an hours wait before Debbie Harry was a bit frustrating.

However when she did come on stage with a very cool platinum blonde wig and then played the hits – Hangin’ on the Telephone, Sunday Girl, Call Me, Atomic, Heart of Glass, Dreaming and Union City Blue. We didn’t get a whole heap of new songs (which she has done in the past when I have seen her – thankfully!) Nor did we get Denis or Touched By Your Presence Dear…

Feeder at Wollaton Park 2011

Although I did see a bit of the Scissor Sisters (three songs) the stars of the show were Feeder. They were brilliant. They rip through a set of hits. Comfort in Sound, Insomnia, Feeling in Moment, Just the Way I’m feeling, Buck Rogers, Lost and Found and Just a Day. They play it loud – and I had the pleasure of watching my two son’s crowd surf and be unceremoniously thrown back out… It was a good job I was there to hold their glasses and ‘phones!

For the first time this year at an outdoor gig I haven’t got wet! The sun shone on the Park.

Not a bad gig for Nottingham – and it was good to see so many kids there (who got in for free). At least they didn’t have to suffer the £3.75 for a tin of lager….

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Buck Rogers, Debbie Harry, Feeder, Grant Nichols, Heart of Glass, , , Splendour 2011, Sunday Girl, Union City Blue, Wollaton, Wollaton Hall

The Lion Roars?

It’s upgrade time; Apple have released the latest version of their operating software system – Mac OS Lion. It came out on Thursday morning and was fully installed on my MacBook Air by mid morning. A bargain at just over £20?

Actually my first impression is that it is pretty good. Like most things Apple it just works. Plug it in and away it goes.

But there are some features I really like – the full screen applications are really good. Especially on the relatively small 11″ screen of my notebook. But the ‘gestures’ you can use to navigate around are great too. You can now switch easily between open applications by swiping your fingers across the trackpad. It is very easy to use.

The brilliant Apple spreadsheet and word-processing software has also been updated too – allowing a constant ‘autosave’ as you go along. All too often I forget to save stuff and then am only able to recover the positions several paragraphs back. Not now as it has a timeline of changes.

As with most of these upgrades it takes time to work through the vast amount of updating that has gone on. Apple suggest there are 250 new features! Thats going to take a while.

My only other observation at this stage is that the gesture for scrolling up and down the screen has been reversed. There is probably an easy way of swapping this around, but it is, at the moment, counter-intuitive… Unless I work upside down. Now there’s a thought….

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged , Lion, Mac OS, macbook air, new software


I am still waiting for my invitation to Google+ – the newest service from the behemoth that is Google.

It is the latest in a long line of social networks – and another to keep LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook warm in the winter. But this is going to be different. Whereas Facebook is about friends and LinkedIn is about business contacts (I think) Google+ is about acquaintances. It looks like I am going to have to get my label machine working full bore for a bit. All these monikers? I shall have to keep a list of people – but some of my business contacts are acquaintances and some I would dare say are friends too. Where shall I put them?

You can check out their demo site here. But is there a sense of deja vu here? I blogged about the wonder and then subsequent demise of the Google Wave some time ago? You can read the post-mortem here.

Looking at the new site it looks as though some of the features of the Wave have been re-used. Huddles, Sparks and Hangouts sound really cool. Circles of people too. Or is it cool really – are Google just trying too hard…

I am not sure how many more ‘places’ we need on-line. Sometimes we maybe need to move away from the screens and actually meet people? Now that is a cool idea?

Still – I have signed up for G+ and will let you know when I have been invited to join so we can perhaps huddle? And I shall definitely put you in a circle…

A refreshing organisation!

I have blogged before about – a group set up by Tony Bates to try to fill the void about to be left by emda. But this is a very loose organisation that was set up through a group!

I went to a meeting of the group last week – it was a meeting with a difference. Firstly, I learned a new word which is now going to be part of my everyday vocabulary! The group have set out some identity traits – and one is adhocracy – the polar opposite of bureaucracy. I like this. It appeals to the rebel in me. But the group also set out some other traits – future-forming, organic, collaborative, aware and about getting things done.

The group is a very diverse brigade – with a common purpose – to put the East Midlands on the world map and to ensure it realises its true potential – making it globally acclaimed by 2020.

Unusually I only knew one person on the group – so this is not the ‘usual suspects’ or the ‘Nottingham Mafia’. But the group does have some ambitious and altruistic members. All of whom contribute either commercially or culturally to the region.

This is not a talking shop though – and I have been co-opted onto a small group of people looking at a big event (more of this later) – an event that, if we pull it off, will put us on the map…

I encourage you to join the group. I encourage you to get involved. We all get something out if we put something in!