World in Pictures: Hyson Green, Nottingham

What is it about leaving a place that makes you fall in love with it all over again? As we prepare for our big journey across Central Asia I find myself looking around at all the little things I have on my doorstep, and appreciating them more than ever.

The things that make me smile, things that hold so many memories, and things I will miss…

I want to make it clear that curry is not the ONLY thing I will miss. I’m sure my body will get used to eating fatty morsels of meat on kebab sticks as we travel over the ‘stans, I’m sure it will be fine. There will be no tears – or waking in the middle of the night, interrupted from dreams where I was about to tuck into a spicy melt-in-your mouth lamb curry with a freshly baked, soft naan bread to my side – none of that.

The problem is, I live in Hyson Green – home to some of Nottingham’s finest curry houses. If you are reading this and have not yet sampled such delights then can I suggest you grab your purse and go straight away. Now. My personal favourites are Kabul (where Mantu, steamed dumplings of chopped lamb, onions and herbs topped with yoghurt, is an absolute must) and Desi Express, which has an array of delicious curries and the amazing takka-tak dishes, where the meat is chopped up as it cooks on a large metal grill. It literally makes the sound ‘takka-tak takka-tak takka-tak’ as the chef chops away, which incidentally is a beautiful sound. A curry and a naan bread in both establishments will set you back £5.

So, yes I am a bit worried there might be some curry-starved-tantrums on the Silk Road. But just to prove that is not all I will miss about this lovely ‘hood, here are a few pics I’ve taken in recent weeks of my other favourite things…

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The Forest Recreation Ground… thank you for the wine-fuelled summer evenings and crisp, snowy walks

 

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Oh Gregory Boulevard, we’ve had some times, haven’t we? You look prettier in the snow.

 

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Thank you tram for stopping at the end of my road and sometimes making me a little bit less late to things.

 

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Asda, we’ve had a love-hate relationship, but thank you for always serving me wine at 21:59.

 

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You’re one of my favourite doors in Nottingham (and no, I have not been behind it)

 

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Hyson Green, you have buildings of all shapes and sizes. I like your eclectic style.

 

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And I love your rows of red-brick terraces with big bay windows

 

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Errrrm… you have some nice trees?!

 

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The fabulous New Art Exchange: For art, music, craft and FOOD.

 

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Hello My Name is… Hyson Green

 

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Art on every corner.

And yes, there probably will be another post yet on the colourful vegetable stalls, Indian-sweet stores and ahem, curry houses of Hyson Green. Talking of which, I’m getting peckish… time to “make the most” of what’s down the road, eh?

What have I missed? Feel free to share your favourite haunts.

Travelling The Silk Road: Our Planned Route

In just a few months time we shall be embarking on a trip that, although may seem a bit ‘off the beaten track’ today, is actually one of the most ancient and well trodden routes of the world. The Silk Road, or pedantically speaking – The Silk Roads (as there are actually dozens of different routes) – is the journey the silk took overland from China, through the ‘stans of Central Asia and into the western world, hundreds of years ago.

People spent their entire lives traversing across barren deserts in the scorching heat, warming up their icy, cold fingers in snowy mountains and stopping off at little caravanserais (aka traveller inns) for a shot of belly-warming vodka, before moving onto the bazaars to shift their goods. Actually I’m not sure the vodka bit is true at all, but there sure seems to be a lot of the hard stuff on the road now, and Matty has his eye firmly on the brandy kiosks of Kyrgyzstan that seem to be almost giving the stuff away at about 20p a shot.

So, in April we are giving up our little house in Nottingham to travel as the silk once did (but in reverse order). And we will be doing it all with our good friend Donagh, also known as the Mongoose (a nickname he has not just earned but OWNED when his wild side emerged on many a drunken night). Allow me to introduce him…

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The Mongoose enters a cave in Lebanon… I have some much more entertaining photos of him, but I shall break you in gently.

So, it will be me, Matty and the Mongoose taking on the Silk Road.

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The Route

We shall be travelling from Hyson Green (our much loved inner city streets of Nottingham) to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, where we shall be working for about a year or so, if all goes to plan.

From Hyson Green we shall be taking the tram to Nottingham Station, and the train to London, before embarking on the Eurostar to Paris for a swift lump of cheese and bottle of wine. From there we will take the night train to Munich, before stopping off at Salzburg in Austria, Budapest in Hungary and Bucharest in Romania, on our way to Turkey.

Then it’s onto the Silk Road. We wanted to visit Iran, but following the savage burning and prompt closure of the British Embassy there we thought it may be somewhat ill-advised so instead, this will be our Silk Road:

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When I tell people I’m travelling the Silk Road, I get a fair few blank faces. And if you’d have asked me a year ago I would have met your gaze with equal blankness. But after a little bit of reading (combined with some artistic licence), this is what I am expecting… and the reasons for visiting each country:

Georgia – For its green valleys, mountain scenery and other such beautiful things.

Armenia – For the Cognac (and a ‘riot of flowers’ according to the Lonely Planet).

Azerbaijan – To understand what is ‘not Asia nor Europe’ and cross the mythical-sounding Caspian Sea.

Turkmenistan – For fabulous gold statues, ever-burning gas craters and bugged hotel rooms.

Uzbekistan – For majestic cities, brawling bazaars, ancient desert fortresses and a shrinking sea (fact).

Afghanistan – For the scary armoured vehicle ride to Mazari Sharif (the Mongoose’s current place of residence).

Kyrgyzstan – For horse treks, hunting with eagles and crying ‘wow’ a lot at stunning scenery.

Tajikistan – For the world’s most remote mountain-top road trip (the Pamir Highway) and hospitable home stays.

Kazakstan – For the leafy city of Almaty that sounds too much like ‘Oh Matty!’ to risk missing.

China – For the ‘Desert of Death’ aka ‘The Point of No Return’ or the name it goes by on most maps – the Taklamakan Desert. We don’t talk about this. And of course Xi’an where the Silk Road ends.

So there we go, that’s our journey. The journey taken by hundreds of camels years ago, as they travelled nose to tail, pulling large, heavy caravans through swathes of deep, dry desert sand for miles and miles. Am I scared? No, not at all.* Bring it on.

Follow our journey on this blog. I may do some geeky posts about gear and what to pack before we set off but you can ignore those and join me for the ride from April 22nd if you fancy it.

*I might be a bit scared… Crossing the desert of death in 40+ degrees does sound a little scary, right?

Urban Exploring in Nottingham: The Great Northern Railway Warehouse

I have become one of those people who looks at an empty, derelict building and thinks: ‘Can I get in there?’

I’ve even specifically cycled to buildings just to ‘stake’ them out.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately as my mother would see it, I’m not a very good law breaker and am easily deterred. For instance on a recent stake out to the old Radford Mill site near Garden Street in Nottingham I walked away within minutes after seeing the Warning: Guard Dogs on Site sign.

If I stop to think about this it’s probably fairly unrealistic that dogs have just been kept at this old mill for god knows how many years… But am I going to risk it? Not a chance.

More recently, as Matty and I walked home from town after a few ales, we passed the old Forest Mills buildings off Alfreton Road, which are currently being pulled down by the council. We skulked around the edge of the site, threatening to go home and get our camera – ‘and just get in there’, and making other such brave comments. It was then a bloke appeared out of the shade and said ‘you wanna get in?’ – as if selling tickets for entry.

‘Yeah, yeah’ I muttered, desperately trying to disguise my Home Counties accent for something a bit more street.

‘Don’t think much is left in there,’ he said darkly, as much to himself as to us. ‘I know a bloke that got in that one,’ he said, turning his arm 180 degrees across the dark sky, towards a 1960s tower block that had just been emptied and was earmarked for demolition. ‘He stripped it, got about £5k of lead,’ he continued.

‘Crikey,’ I said (I couldn’t help it, it just slipped out), thinking I’d probably written stories about his mate.

‘Anyway, you want to get in? I can get you in’, he said, our eyes falling back to the site we had been scouring just minutes earlier.

‘Errr yeah, that would be great,’ I found myself saying. ‘Although not tonight, we’ve, errr, got to meet some mates now.’ And with a dramatic glance at my watch and a slightly over-zealous gasp, we were off on our way home.

You get my point. As fascinated as i am by old empty buildings that are laced in history and scattered with little pieces of life from another time, I’m just not really cool enough for all this ‘urban exploring’.

But if a door is left open, that is another matter.

My first experience of ‘urban exploration’ was when I stumbled across this old corn warehouse in Nottingham, which used to belong to the Great Northern Railway. Built in 1850s, it has stood empty for years and was pretty much gutted by a fire that ripped through the building in 1996.

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I was doing a spot of homework for my photography course and wandered over to its main entrance, on Manvers Street, to take a few snaps.

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But as I was taking pictures of these seemingly impenetrable gates I was interrupted by a couple of teenagers. Truth be told, I was lying on my back at the time, trying to get some ‘arty shots’ that never actually worked out.

‘You into urban exploration?’ I suddenly heard. Lowering my camera down from my face, I saw a girl and a boy peering down at me.

I think I might have said something intelligent like ‘what’s that?’ as I peeled myself from the floor, ignoring all the stones and grit stuck to my skin.

‘We go into old places and record it, take pictures and stuff,’ replied the girl, who must have been about 14 tops. ‘We can take you in here if you want’, she added, pulling away a wooden panel at the side of the locked gates.

I was tempted. I nearly followed them in, but I held back, a little unsure about my new friends.

‘Just don’t go in on your own,’ one of them warned me. ‘Full of skag-heads and homeless people. Two women were murdered in here,’ she added.

And with that as their parting shot they trampled over the wooden panel and into the unknown. I gingerely put my head through. There was a grassy hill leading into the unkempt grounds with weeds almost the size of trees and grass as long as wheat…. I decided to just perch on the hill and take a small picture.

I knelt down into the grass (avoiding the needles) to change my camera lens and at that penultimate moment where both lenses are off and the camera is naked to the elements, I heard rustling and voices. I looked up to see a bloke and a girl walking towards me. Holding eye contact with my camera only, he greeted with me with an ‘Alright’ while her eyes rolled around in their sockets. As I took in the dark rings around their eyes, and their pale, hallowed faces, I felt certain that they could hear the loud thumping of my heart as I debated whether to try and run back down the hill or just play it cool.

I attempted the latter, I think I squeaked an ‘alright’ back as I casually furiously changed my lens. They staggered past me and were soon lost in the jungle-like weeds ahead. I turned on my heels and ran the hell out of there.

Two days later I was back. With back-up… in the form of Matty. And after walking through the needle-strewn grass we reached an entrance of sorts….

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As we approached it, we heard someone call out. As we have discussed before on this blog, I am a massive scaredy cat, so news that we had company naturally terrified me.

The man shouted down, ‘I just wanted to let you know I’ll be coming down the stairs. It’s pitch black in parts so I didn’t want to alarm you.’

Well, what a lovely chap, I thought. But as we walked into the darkness and started climbing the stairs I did think, ‘it’s probably a trick, what if he’s just luring us in…’

Suddenly I found myself thinking of the two homeless women that were found in the building in 2005. Was this how it started for them, I wondered.

We soon passed him on the stairs and he was most pleasant.

So… what did we see?

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Passing all the dark, leaking, empty rooms – one of which had numerous tents in it – we finally stepped onto the roof.

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See Matty is a much cooler ‘urban explorer’ than me and my mental, over active imagination.

Nevertheless, as we headed back down the rickety stairs (at a quicker pace past the tent room) and into the wilderness, stepping over bottles of Buckfast and fag packets, I mentally made a note to add ‘urban explorer’ to my CV.

If you want to see some more impressive explorations, take a look at this site called 28 Days Later, which has some wicked stuff on it.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This is, of course, a fictional tale. Under no circumstances have I ever considered breaking and entering and certainly not trespassing. These pictures were borrowed from someone naughtier than me. And no, that’s not Matty in the picture, it’s his pesky doppelgänger, who gets us in all sorts of trouble.