As Andrew and I walk from Mapperley to the city center on my second day in Nottingham, the sun is coming out, and the clouds are sailing away solemnly in the sky. This is most certainly not your typical „English weather“, this is a lovely early summer’s day. We walk past the castle and into what is called the Park Estate. Built in such close proximity of the castle, it must have been built on what used to be immediate castle grounds.
The Park Estate is a private residential area with beautiful Victorian architecture. The houses here are not houses. They are mansions. I don’t think people here qualify as wealthy anymore, they are probably filthy rich. There are only three entrance gates, and it feels very secluded – but in the sense that is a bit terrifying. I don’t think a lot of protection increases the feeling of security; on the contrary, I think it takes away from it.
I am strangely reminded of the one day I have ever spent in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, going there from Texas. My host father took me to see a protected estate where the upper class lived – just on a drive through, but I didn’t fail to notice that there was barbed wire on top of the white wall that surrounded the area with its houses of unreal dimensions. Quickly I call myself to order as I feel uncomfortable with that comparison. A gap between rich and poor as big as in South America – here in Europe? Impossible. Or is it? Honestly, gaps in society are probably much more of a reality than most of us in Western Europe care to admit.
But it is easy to forget about injustice on a day like this. The area is open to the public today for what is called the Park Garden Trail – meaning some of the gorgeous Victorian style gardens can be visited, and in the circus in the middle they sell food and drinks, and a band is playing with what we quickly identify as the least enthusiastic drummer in the world’s history. But as we sit on the grass in the sun and sip our wine, that doesn’t take away from the beauty of the day.
The first garden we enter has a high fir hedge and designer wedding dresses on display. I wonder if people will throw me out if they hear my American accent. Honestly I don’t think I would even be surprised if someone along the lines of Maggie Smith, the way she looks in Downton Abbey, would call me words like „ghastly“ and „common“ and tell me to leave. The second one is much more up my alley. It has a few cute terraces with shrubberies and a beautiful house (have I mentioned that they are all red brick stone…? So much love for Nottingham for all its red brick stone!). Then there is one where they sell scones. People are sitting at tables or on the grass with trays that hold delicate china and sip their tea. It cannot possibly get more quintessentially English than this.
All of the gardens are full of people out and about, enjoying the sunny weather and the beautiful flowers. Yellow roses are blossoming, reminding me of the BBC film North and South where they play a plot vital role.
Again with the romanticizing England because of costume dramas… I blame Jane Austen. The architecture doesn’t stop its charms at the red brick stone being interfused with glazed ones to form ornaments – there are little pillars and statues, and gorgeous coloured windowpanes, jutties and balconies.
Forgetmenots are blossoming all around in most of the places we see. I pluck one to put it into Andrew’s button hole. He looks at it and says: „Look how the three blossoms all have a different colour in the middle!“ I look at it and it’s true – one is white, one is dark yellow and one is pale yellow.
I am thinking that this must be why people love travelling with other people – because they point out stuff that you wouldn’t have seen yourself. Then I notice that this is not travelling in its strictest sense, because we are in Andrew’s home town. This is basically just good old regular sharing your life. And I get very excited at that thought.