Monday, March 16, 2009

It is all in the soil

An interesting item on the BBC web site about an area just over the River Tyne from the site of what I call 'Battlefield':

Read more about it here.

I can not help recalling that a scheme to build flats – sorry! Apartments – on the former paint factory fell through because of concerns about the amount of (expensive) clean up required. Over many years of operation the whole site had become impregnated with toxic heavy metals associated with traditional paint making. The coincident 'crash' in the housing market was apparently not the main reason. Interesting, then, that the joint promoters of the current scheme, the University of Northumbria and Metnor Group plc, the well known industrial park developers, were not similarly 'concerned' six months after the apartments plans were dropped about building student accomodation on the as yet undecontaminated site ...

In actual fact, I see nothing very wrong in all of this, simply a telling lack of frankness or, if you prefer, 'transparency'. It somehow typifies the whole way the Council goes about it's business, an habitual lack of straight dealing with a long pedigree.

The outlook for student accomodation.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring is sprung ...?

I may come to regret this but as of today I am thinking Spring has come a little early. Time to change a few things around here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

On yer bike

I got on my bike on Tuesday in order to take it to what pet owners are wont to describe as 'a good home'.

Three punctures in a row (plus a serious attempt by some yob in a 'mo'er' to dismount me turning right at a busy junction) made me think my cycling days in this city are at an end.

I spotted a discreet sign ...

'Recyke y'Bike'.

On investigation this turned out to be just the place to take my old but graceful 'machine' and see if they were interested. They were.

I found myself down a green lane beside one of the imposing arches of the mainline railway bridge which spans the Lower Ouseburn valley. I will leave to another post an explanation of how this all came about; how the Victorians 'filled in' a narrow dene (valley) to make the flat topped space I call 'Battlefield' but is more usually called 'The City Stadium'.

Recyke y'Bike are a nice bunch. Within seconds of arriving I had filled out a simple donation form and had a hot cup of tea thrust into my hand. I went on a short tour and saw some of the dozens of bicycles which are being re-furbished (re-cycled!); bicycles of all types and splendid they looked. Newer styles – 'mountain bikes' and sleek road bikes – side by side with the kind of bicycle George Orwell must have had in mind when he wrote his famous lines about "old maids biking to Holy Communion" – lovely things being cared for with skill and affection. Some of these re-furbished bikes go far and wide with the aid of the web. However, if you are living in the north east and are looking for a bike then I do urge you to try Recyke y'Bike.

But I have something else to write which feeds in to a recurring theme.

I am not simply against developments which I think unsuitable or in opposition to the organic growth of the Lower Ouseburn. All around us as we spoke in the warmish spring sunshine today I had the sense of hidden enterprise and people doing something to make a difference; small workshops, a second hand furniture warehouse cum community removals service; a builders yard, bus and coach company, carpet and flooring warehouses and all of this unsuspected endeavour hidden from view. Post industrial sites lend themselves it seems to such adventurous new comers; unfashionable, uncared for and over looked, such places have found second lives stemming from the very circumstance of their neglect. Frequently the pioneers are seeing something others have lost sight of, and the very feeling of 'unwantedness' as a strength.

There is a bad side of this, which in fact is now a familiar consequence of such formerly run down urban sites, the process described in the UK as 'gentrification', when such places are discovered by the wealthy and – bang! "There goes the neighbourhood" as they say. Something like this is threatening Ouseburn. The men in the white Porches are circling and homing on the 'potential' others have taken risks and used their own often meagre resources to highlight. With their priorities and cash to support them what is real and living is distorted by mere money and the vibrant is replaced by the synthetic; not always, but most often. As a result the pioneers find they are priced out of the game they invented. I hope that does not happen to Lower Ouseburn and I think that there are good reasons to believe it may not, not least for the time being: The 'credit crunch'.

I have placed Recyke y'Bike's web site on my links with permission.

(Edited for grammar 18.04.09)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

One to watch out for


Coltsfoot is one of those 'daisy' type flowers; yellow and discreet. It is a harbinger or herald of spring, one which grabs its brief place in the weak sunshine of quiet days like yesterday close by to 'threatening' Battlefield which Metnor Group plc and the Newcastle City Council wish to 're-shape'. Maybe they will overlook this strange and beautiful little plant which in any case grows among the rubbish and litter where more tender plants do not.

The name comes from the flower heads on the end of the silky green and white stems that, before the flower head breaks open, resemble the outsize hooves of young horses – hence colt. Perhaps also it is something about spring, pagan beliefs, foaling horses, or the return of the sun. I found these specimens too late* to capture the 'hoof' like heads.

I shall consult.

Long low shadows of late afternoon.

*CORRECTION! I should examine my own photographs more carefully! If you look at the bottom of my first photograph you will notice the 'hoof-shaped' flowerheads.