A453 good news for Nottingham (?)

After my previous blog post here, I had rather given up on the widening of the A453. The previous Transport Secretary was ‘not convinced’ of the business case for the Road. He clearly hadn’t queued on it!

Last week, my tongue in cheek Christmas wish list included the widening…

I nearly choked on my coco-pops when I heard the news that George Osborne had announced in his Autumn Statement that we were going to get the Road sorted once and for all. You can read his statement here. But, being a suspicious type I just wonder what the announcement actually means. Politicians are like lawyers with words – careful!

He said, “We can today give the go ahead around the country to 35 new road and rail schemes that support economic development…In the Midlands…the A453 link…will all be improved.”

So we have the go ahead. And it will be improved. It supports economic development (he must have forgotten that chat with Philip?).

But behind these attention grabbing headlines where is the detail. The detail on the state of the economy was there – it was a bit down- beat. Growth at less than 1% for the next 2 years (and I am still to come across anyone whose business is growing). Europe might make it worse…

So, without wishing to be the ungrateful kid for the kind ‘offer’ on the table, when do the contractors arrive? When will the work start – and when will open for bombing down to the M1? What strings are attached? Is the route fixed? When we get this sort of detail, I will then be able to thank Santa properly. Until then, I hope you don’t mind if I reserve judgement?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged A453, Autumn Statement, Conservatives, George Osborne, M1, , Philip Hammond, Road, Tory, widening

New NHS Miracle Cure?

it seems the NHS have fallen upon a new miracle cure for patients. If you are unfortunate enough to be admitted to hospital, they wheel out a new all-ecompassing fight against all known illnesses and diseases…

We have ways Mr Kubrick of making you watch the handsome Health Secretary

A 3 minute looping video of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley telling you that ‘your care really matters to me’ and then asking you to be nice to hospital staff. Its a 3 minute epic and is looped. As far as I can see it is compulsory too – unless you part with £5 to subscribe to the TV, internet and email – each day you are there.

This is genius – firstly listening to a Politician talking at you whilst you are captive must have the effect of making you way to get out of the bed and away from him as soon as possible – hence the miracle cure. I guess it’s the only way anyone ever listens to an MP – if they can’t get away?

But the alternative thought is that this is a brilliant way of generating cash for the NHS. You actually have to pay to turn him off. I can’t imagine anything worse than listening to an MP lecturing you about how important a (reluctant) customer you are – but reminding you to be pleasant and appreciative to everyone who wanders up to you.

I think this could be taken further. I am wondering if we could persuade Vince to do a slot on Business Finance for those who can’t sleep. Some others could be used for alternative therapies – perhaps Liam Fox on making new friends whilst you are in hospital?

I think I would be in hospital for longer if I saw the film – from injuries sustained whilst (stupidly) punching a TV monitor?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Andrew Lansley, , BIS, email, Internet, Liam Fox, nhs, Stanley Kubrick, TV, , Vince Cable

Vodaphone – how not to do customer service

I moved our telephone account at work 18 months ago from O2 to Vodaphone. O2 couldn’t compete on price.

Initially Vodaphone were great, but we then had a change of account manager’ and the fun started. First, it seemed that our ‘agreement’ that the phones were ‘warranted’ for the 2 years of the contract was being questioned. Despite open emails, there was apparently some small print…

Then we had some fraudulent activity on our account – someone had ordered a number of phones (Colin I recall) and had them delivered to various addresses in Kent – where we don’t have offices. At least Colin signed for them. I asked Vodaphone to report this to the Police, but am still waiting to hear…

But here’s the rub. Vodaphone have charged our account with around £5,000 for the phones – and collected the monies by Direct Debit. I have asked them for the cash back, but amazingly, they have to ‘investigate this’ and last week couldn’t tell me how long this would take. I imagine it is quite difficult to give money back (as opposed to collect it). In one email I was asked whether we could ‘discuss my expectations’. I wasn’t quite sure which Anglo-Saxon phrase to use which suitably fit the bill for my reply.

This sort of thing drives me mad with big organisations. They are like layers of an onion – you have to keep peeling away – but you have no idea where you are in the process.

I am now in touch with the CEO’s office – who are very nice, but haven’t quite got the whole picture…they need to investigate. There’s a theme emerging I think you will see.

As for the renewal of the account which we need to think about shortly, I wonder if we will start with Vodaphone. I think I know the answer!

Art – the New York way

Last week whilst over the pond we visited New York’s latest Art Gallery – The New Art Museum at 235 Bowery. It’s an interesting building from the outside – industrial looking – punctuated with a giant red rose!

But unlike the Nottingham Contemporary entry isn’t free. It was $16 each (around £10) – to see effectivley one exhibition -The Carsten Holler Experience.

I will confess that sometimes Contemporary Art puzzles me. This was pretty puzzling – a giant slide, a submersion tank (an hour queue to undress and get wet), some bird cages and giant mushrooms. There was a room with some plastic figures and headache inducing flashing lights. There was a tame carousel with mirrors all over it – a 2 year old wouldn’t have been ‘thrilled’ at the speed. You could have worn upside-down glasses all the way round if you signed a disclaimer.

This was a show I struggled with. I think they call it “installation art”. But it wasn’t partuclarly clever. I didn’t fancy queing to take part in some of it.

I suppose you always take a risk in paying an entry fee to see something you have never heard about -or an artist you haven’t hear of. I’m not sure if it was the lack of exhibits that disappointed or that this was at the edge of my understanding of ‘art’.

But the following night we were walking through SOHO on the way back to our Hotel – and happened upon a Gallery selling art. The front part of the gallery was a little too ‘fantasy’ world for my liking. But at the back were original cartoons – The Simpsons (signed by Matt Groening), Tin Tin (Herge), Shultz’s Snoopy, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride sketches and a brilliant sketch of Kermit the Frog by Jim Henson. Prices varied from around $800 up to $30,000. I didn’t buy any – although had the Herge’s Tin Tin not been sold I would have been very tempted.

For all of the prices though – viewing was free! And I appreciated it much more than Carsten Holler…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged Carsten Holler, Corpse Bride, Dr Seus, Herge, Jim Henson, Kermit the frog, Matt Groening, Muppets, New Museum, , Schultz, Snoopy, The Bowery, The Simpsons, Tim Burston, Tin Tin

The Civic Trust Awards 2012

I was really pleased to be asked to act as a judge on the Civic Trust Awards again. I can’t believe a year has passed since I was hurtling around the East Midlands last year!

Obviously, I can’t divulge exactly what I looked at – or how I voted. The announcements are made in a few weeks time.

I really enjoy looking at the nominated schemes – I am privileged to get a behind the scenes look at buildings I wouldn’t ordinarily get access too. And, by the nature of the nominations – this is pretty good architecture. It is work at the forefront of what is being done. It is brilliant to see what new ideas are being put into practice.

I had wondered this year – in the light of the rather austere economy – whether this might have been reflected in the quality of the work. But I was really pleased to that this was not the case. All three schemes I looked at were built around a budget – no gold plated taps here. But all had gone well beyond the average you might expect when costs are cut.

In fact, I did wonder if these tough times had made people more creative; certainly some of the detailing I saw was as a result of some clever (and cost saving) design work. It did prove that you don’t always need to spend money to get good design.

So far from being disappointed I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t get to find out if the schemes I looked at ‘win’ until later (I am one of three judges).

The Civic Trust have been around since 1959 and aim to celebrate good architecture, design, planning, landscape and public art. Awards are given to projects of the highest quality design, but only if they are judged to have made a positive cultural, social or economic contribution to the local community. 6,500 awards have been given since the start. Nottingham Trent University and Julian Marsh’s house won awards last year.

I await the award brochure with interest!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Architects, , Awards, Buildings, Civic Trust Award

The Wrong Stuff

I studiously avoid daytime TV. There’s a reason – it is mostly turgid and is likely to shorten your life expectancy. One of the special programmes I avoid is The Wright Stuff – presented by the affable (and sometimes rather smug) Matthew Wright. You can see the programme here for a short time – the relevant parts are at around 1 hour and 8 minutes – just before and just after the breaks.

Yesterdays programme was about burglary (in part). The main thrust of the story was that perpetrators of crime are now being asked to write to their victims and apologise. But one of these sweet little angels wrote to his victim suggesting he was in the wrong for making it easy. So this was an interesting story -and does raise some issues.

But they couldn’t leave it at that and decided to run a little quiz – which went something like – what is the Burglary Capital of Britain – is it (a) Nottingham, (b) London or (c) Hull. We had to wait until after the break to discover it is Nottingham.

But Mr Wright delighted in telling us that Nottingham was Gun Capital of Britain, Murder Capital of Britain AND Burglary Capital of Britain. He laughed all the way through his auto-cue. It clearly amused him.

It took Tom Glancz some time to get a printed apology from The Times following a complaint to the Press Commission. Tom guest blogged here back in the Spring.

It seems that once again, Nottingham is victim to off the cuff, cheap and incorrect ‘facts’ uttered from the mouth of ill-informed ‘celebrity’ presenters. The only good thing is that this show can’t muster enough viewers to get in the top 30 of Channel 5′s programme schedule according to BARB.

In fact getting true comparable crime statistics is notoriously difficult (gun crime and murder statistics aren’t recorded in such a simplistic way) – but see the graphs below from last nights HMIC website – things might not be quite as bad as Mr Wright makes out? We are not perfect by any mean – but labelling us with his sensationalistic giggling ‘statistics’ is misplaced and grossly unfair.

Time to demand another apology? Feel free to express your view on the website

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Cannel 5, crime statistics, Gun crime, HMIC, Matthew Wright, , Nottinghamshire, , Statistics, The Wright Stuff

What I want for Christmas

This, if you know me, is a somewhat premature list. A week ago, I was asked what the City’s messages are going to be for us to take to MIPIM 2012. I’m not sure I am qualified to be deciding the City’s messages – but since they asked (and apparently it is getting close to Christmas – approx. one month I’m reliably informed) here’s a suggested list. I’m happy for you to add / subtract as you see fit!

1. The A453 to be ‘dualled’ from the M1 at Junction 24 to Clifton Bridge.

2. Work starting on The Broad Marsh Centre – and only finishing when the new owners at CSC have run out of cheques – £450m should cover it. Ridding us of the Patio Door entrance from the stain would be a really nice, early pressie.

3. Work not starting on the Victoria Centre – well not until c.2020

4. Some sort of World Class offer being introduced at Nottingham Castle. Ideally based around Robin Hood. But joined up thinking with The Trip, BroadMarsh, The People’s College site, Castle and Castle Gate all being a part of something big.

5. A ‘new’ Specsavers / Speedo / Experian or Capital One. Someone who can bring jobs to the young people of the City. We need jobs generally, but our young people need a step up too.

6. Work starting on the tramlines 2 & 3. After Xmas ideally.

7. An announcement that the HS2 Station will be close to the A52 / M1 junction (this rather assumes the HS2 line will proceed)…

8. An announcement that the Nottingham – St. Pancras line could be electrified in the short term.

9. Some money from central Government for investment in Education in the City – schools and colleges have slipped back.

10. A pair of Paul Smith stripey socks…

I hope this doesn’t sound greedy Santa? Could you sort?

New York – the essentials!

When you have been to New York 17 times there are some things you can afford to miss (the tourist attractions!). But there are some essentials. Having just got back to Blighty I thought I would scribble my recommendations!

Breakfast – The Cupping Room Cafe on West Broadway. Just great food and a great atmosphere. The way your day should start. And if not The Cupping Rooms – Edwards on west Broadway is a close second.

Boys Toys – the best shop on the planet – B&H Photo – just near to Madison Square Garden. Acres of ‘toys’ – and not all Apple. A photographers nirvana. When you have done that – the Apple Store – there’s a few of them. The one at the south-eastern corner of Central Park is quite cool – but the one in the Meatpacking District on 14th is pretty good too. The original one in Soho is being refurbished – so has a temporary home around the corner.

Neighbourhoods – Soho and The Meatpacking District are great fun to explore. The scale of the buildings here is more ‘normal’ and you can find some really interesting places.

Pizza – It has to be John’s Pizza on Bleeker Street, They don’t do slices and you have to pay cash – but $30 for two is great value – and this is where The Ramones had their Sunday lunch.

Star Spotting – you have to look carefully as the reason the celebs love the place is that they blend in. But I have seen Eddy Izzard, Ricky Gervais, Bill Murray and Charlize Theron (twice).

Humbling moment – go to Ground Zero. It makes you realise the devastation on that 9/11 fateful day. The new Freedom Tower is now a significant landmark – which you can see for some distance – and it’s not quite there yet!

Coffee – The New Yorkers do coffee shops rather well. There are hundreds of them. Often accompanied by Cup Cakes – clearly the healthy types. There’s a Starbucks on nearly every corner. But the independents are pretty good too.

Music – Bleeker Street Records is just a gold-mine of music. It has been there for ever and stocks an amazing range of CD, vinyl and even cassettes (remember those). The new vinyl is reasonably priced too – $15-20. Downtown at J&R you can pick up some bargains too.

So that’s this trip over – I guess we’ll have to wait for another couple of months to get back here…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged , B&H, Bleeker Street, Charlize Theron, Cupping Room, Edwards, Ground Zero, John's Pizza, Meatpacking District, , Soho, The Ramones

9/11 an event that defines a place…

On our last day in New York yesterday we headed downtown to Ground Zero. The Freedom Tower is climbing ever higher (the posters say they are well past the halfway stage – 104 storeys will be the top). It is already tall – and can be seen from all around town – in Manhattan that’s an impressive feat.

We had managed to reserve tickets to the newly opened National 9/11 Memorial. It is free but you are invited to make a donation.

9/11 really did make a mark on this place – both physically and mentally. The scars are still there to see. No one can really forget this images from 10 years ago – firstly the planes crashing into the towers to the later horrifying images of people jumping and finally to the crashing down of the towers.

I have been to the site lots of times – and still find it difficult to comprehend the size of the gaping wound left by the terrorists. It is a vast area, but until recently you have been carefully shepherded around the building site.

The Memorial opened this year and you can now go to the park which contains the two ‘infinity pools’. These basically sit where the footprints of the two towers were – each is around 1 acre. It is a sobering place. The pools are a stark reminder of what was here. The names of the 2,983 people who died in the 9/11 attacks are etched in the bronze edgings.

The area has a strange aura of calm – despite some major rebuilding go on around. There were a lot of people too; last week they reached 500,000 visitors side they opened on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

Security is currently really tight – airport standard, but in due course the area will be opened up to the surrounding roadways. There are lawns, planted beds and high quality paved areas in the 8 acre park. You can look up the victims on a number of screens – it is a stark reminder about the pointless waste of life.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged 9/11, 9/11 Memorial, Ground Zero, Infinity Pools, Manhattan, Terrorism, Twin Towers

The High Line and Chelsea Village

This is one of our favourite parts of New York. I was here just after the High Line opened in 2009 – and had watched it being built (or rather re-built) over the preceding years.

The New York High Line - at Dusk

It really is one of the best pieces of public open-spaces in my view. The group of people who had the forethought to rescue it from demolition really do deserve a medal. It was frighteningly expensive to do – and when you visit you can see why. It meanders through buildings, over petrol filling stations and through pretty expensive real estate.

We were there at Dusk and the light was amazing – everything glowed pink. It was also really busy (not a good sign for a photographer!).

It has recently been extended northwards and now runs for nearly 1.5 miles.

But this whole area is a fantastic neighbourhood. This was The Meat Packing District (think Ronseal Tin!) but has now become the trendy part of town. Expensive boutique shops (Stella McCartney et al).

One of the best pieces of re-use of a building is the Chelsea Flower market. It is one of a handful of ‘shopping centres’ in New York. But comprises predominantly independent small shops – The Fat Witch Bakery and RonnyBrooks Dairy being two notable ones. It really has been well thought through – much of the original ‘industrial’ feel of the place remains. There are rough edges – this is no polished marble floored centre.

And I think that’s what New York does best. It doesn’t do the clinical sanitised centres we have become used to. Grunginess is character here. It may not have a long history as we do back home, but the history it does have, it celebrates and holds on to. It makes the shabbiness cool – but authentic too. There’s little pastiche here. What you see is what you get…


I have purchased the book about the story of the High Line – which contains some amazing images (and the story of how it was all saved).

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Green stuff Tagged Chelsea Flower Market, Manhattan, Meatpacking District, Meatpacking District Manhattan, , , Ronny Brooks, Soho, Stella McCartney, The High Line