In the town where I was born

The venue where I saw The Stone Roses for the first time has certainly changed. Back in the day, Byron House was home to your typical sweaty-polytechnic-student union. Today, it's all more open plan. As in, a pile of rubble being ridden by a JCB. Students of Nottingham Trent University are looking forward to a new, improved union building. I bet they won't stand for sticky snakebite on the dancefloor anymore.

Cities evolve. Show me a city without a crane on its skyline and I'll show you a city that lacks ambition. I was back in Nottingham to visit two places in particular, ones that have been instrumental to my upbringing. One of those was just around the corner from where Byron House once stood. That place had changed, too, although I don't remember anything of it from the first time around.

On Peel Street stood the Nottingham Women's Hospital, better known to locals by the name of the street it stood on. Like thousands of others from the city and its suburbs, I was born here. New generations are now hatched down at the Queen's Medical Centre; Peel Street closed in 1981. Part of the site was cleared and, fronting the street, there's now a pub. The Gooseberry Bush.

It's a comfortable and comforting place. Low ceilinged but still feeling airy thanks to skylights and picture windows, there's a warmth to the wood around the bar. Throughout the long room, knots of people find their own space to enjoy a late breakfast or an early drink. It's by far and away the best Wetherspoons I've visited, more like a hotel bar than a bargain beer hall. I supped my Thornbridge Jaipur slowly and tried not to think too hard about waters breaking.

Rather than hotfoot it to the next planned pub, I fancied a bimble about. Through the Arboretum, with its rescue bird aviary and the cannons captured from Sebastopol. To the Lincolnshire Poacher, ensconced in a corner with a quiet pint of Adnams Lighthouse before the lunchtime rush. Shopping for a spork. Lunching at the Kean's Head with a sublime goat's cheese, Nottingham asparagus and Parma ham turnover. Afternooning in Brewdog for the likes of Stone Oaked Arrogant Bastard, which I may have described on Twitter as "a big fat spicy jockstrap of a beer".

Eventually, I ended up in a cave. Just as I'd intended. Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem may or may not be the oldest pub in the world, the beer range may or may not be exciting, the tourist quotient may or may not be high (clue: it's always high). But... I love it. I love the cool sandstone walls in the bar. I love people watching as old boys vie with hipsters for space at the bar. I love the babble of overlapping languages; the almond-eyed Spanish girls drinking pints of bitter, the Americans playing cards and declaring one beer to taste of ass, the Hungarian doctor melding technology by Googling places on his iPhone and then inking details onto a glossy paper map.

It's where I came to skulk as a sixthformer after buying a clutch of vinyl from Selectadisc. To play Ring The Bull with random beery people. To fit in a sneaky lunchtime pint when I worked at an office down the road. And it's where my maternal grandparents met. I often sit by the front door and try to picture a lady with a cold and a man who offered to buy her a medicinal whisky. How chance encounters set the roots of a new family tree.

On Twitter that day; someone said "Nottingham, City Of Surprises! The Castle isn't a castle, The Park isn't a park, The Forest isn't a forest, The Meadows aren't meadows". I'll tell you what, though. Even when they used to be hospitals or factories or caves, Nottingham's pubs are most definitely pubs to love.

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