Saturday 10th October; Birmingham
Dave gave Meg a good long walk this morning while I planned a walk for us round Birmingham, and off we went after an early lunch. First we ventured into the depths of the Mailbox, having only checked out the restaurants on the outside before. There is a lot of building work being done inside, with hoardings up all over the place and we were quite disoriented by the time we got out. The BBC tour today was full when I tried to book yesterday, which was a shame – I would have loved to see the Archers’ studio!
We found our way out eventually and headed off to find the redeveloped New Street Station and the ex-Pallisades shopping centre, now called Grand Central. Big shops are not our thing – as a rule I find retail ‘therapy’ tedious and frustrating – so we just gawped at the amazing reflective roof above the station entrance. Dave will be here next week, down in the bowels of the station, when he travels back to Swanley to collect the car. Most of the area in front of the station seems to be complete …..
but the barrier at the bottom of this shot masks an area which is still being worked on.
I took this photo directly underneath the curve of the reflective bit but I don’t think I am in shot.
We walked on past the Bullring. We last came here with the children about 15 years ago when we had a hire boat, and the Rotunda was an isolated concrete ugly thing surrounded by concrete and roads. It’s still not beautiful but the area around is more pedestrianised and heaving with shops and shoppers. Well, I suppose it was Saturday afternoon. If it had been less busy we would have gone to explore the market but couldn’t bear the thought of the crowds.
Now for our next target, St Philip’s Cathedral, to see the four stained glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones. Well I’m sure they are magnificent – the little bits we could see were glowing with colour even though there was no sun outside – but the whole of the interior, apart from just enough space for worship, was pretty much obscured by scaffolding and sheeting. The work should all be finished by Christmas, but we’ll have to wait till next year before we can come back. The cathedral was built in 1715, in the English Baroque style. So it’s the 300th anniversary this year. To the left of the gate where I took this picture was an engraved stone. It was difficult to read, but I think it said it was the entrance to a family vault. It was only a foot or so in each direction, so I don’t know how you would get new occupants in.
Our next destination was the little art gallery run by the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists which has free exhibitions. The top floor was given over to an exhibition by Colin Simmonds, who we had never heard of. We looked around, liking some of his pictures and not others. I don’t think we said anything too disparaging about them, which was lucky because there he was, chatting to the visitors. When he realised we were on a boat he said he was interested in painting the canals so we gave him a few suggestions for hiring and promised to look out for him!
To get back to Chuffed we walked down to the Birmingham and Fazeley canal past St Paul’s Church and climbed over a wall at about lock 7, just before the canal disappears under the buildings. Although we crossed the canal near here on our way to the gallery, it was completely invisible from the road. I stopped briefly at Cambrian Wharf to say hello to Tom and Jan on Waiouru while Dave went back to take Meg out before we went out for the evening.
The play we had fancied at the Rep was sold out and we didn’t want to hang about waiting for returns, so we looked up the films at the Mailbox – the only showing with seats available would have been £12.30 a ticket! That’s a shocking price for us country bumpkins! And no crumbly discount either. So off we crumbled to Strada, which was heaving with young girls and their parents. There was a One Direction concert on at the Arena and the girls were all having their tea. They were soon gone, off to spend their parents’ money on the street sellers’ tat, then going in to squeal at their idols leaving Mum and Dad to go and have a quiet meal elsewhere. For those in blissful ignorance of teen pop, One Direction is a popular
beat combo boy band but you’ll have to find the link for yourself ’cos I can’t be bothered. In the relative peace, we had a very so-so meal and wished we’d gone for a curry.
We called in to the Fiddle and Bone on the way back, but the band was not very good so we left after a pint. We will be on our way tomorrow. We didn’t see anything specifying the maximum length of stay on this mooring, but our neighbour looked to have been there for a few days. The stretch opposite was 7 or 14 day, can’t remember which.