Sunday 2nd October; Birmingham
We have been weighing up our options, as we weren’t able to go ‘straight on’ from Perry Barr up to the northern reaches of the BCN. We wondered about the Black Country Living Museum and a trip into the tunnel, but decided to leave that for another year. In the end we decided to use our original plan, but from the opposite direction as the work on Rushall Locks should be finishing tomorrow. We will set off towards Walsall tomorrow morning.
Dave took Meg for a good walk and play with her ball in the park, while I went to the Tesco at Springhill, then we got on with some jobs. The Mikuni has seemed to be belching fumes when we turn it on, but on investigation Dave discovered that the insulation bandage was causing the trouble – it was filthy, obviously with something a bit combustible, though we have no idea what that was or how it happened as it was OK before. Whatever, the heating now works without shutting itself down or risking setting fire to the bandage. A new one is ordered.
We went to the Art Gallery for the rest of the afternoon, taking the usual detour down Broad Street because of the Tory conference. There were quite a lot of protesters with placards for various causes but the police had corralled them all in a fairly small area behind barriers and we could barely see them for all the hi-vis jackets. I don’t imagine policy-makers would have seen anything of them at all.
There was an interesting gallery of canal-related art, and also a scale model of some of the motorways around the city. This is Spaghetti Junction from above; you can see the lines of the canals in blue, Salford Junction being at the lower left and the Tame Valley canal going towards the top.
The other day we went under it; now we have seen it from above too, but I don’t think we’ll be rushing to experience it by car.
The main thing we wanted to see in the museum was the Staffordshire Hoard. It was amazing to think it was just turned up by the plough having spent centuries buried; it seems that the ground above has been gradually eroding away over that time. Most of the items seem to have been bent a bit, and some, such as the ornamentation on sword hilts, had been taken off the weapon and folded up before burial.
The red colour on the cloisonné band above is from garnet, cut thinly to allow the gold to shine through. There is disagreement about the articles below. Some experts believe the lower one is a cheek-piece from a helmet and the upper is part of a helmet’s crest.
We were ushered out at closing time and went back through Centenary Square and past Baskerville House, in front of which is a sculpture in honour of John Baskerville. It is a representation of printer’s type spelling ‘Virgil’; among many other things he published the works of Virgil.
I have turned the picture sideways so it is easier to read – the letters are of course back-to-front in order for the letters to be printed correctly. They are on blocks of Portland stone about four feet high but luckily there are lower blocks at each end for short-houses like me (a term my father used – I’m sure you can see what he meant) to stand on to see the tops. We came back past the International Conference Centre at chucking-out time for the party faithful, all sharp suits and blue ties.
In the evening we went for a very pleasant meal at Zizzi’s and back to the boat to light the fire.