Monday, 20 October 2014

Leaving Las Vagas, finally.

We had moored two tics from the water point at The Cube the day before so at early o'clock in the chilly damp we arrived to find one boat moored exactly on the said water point.  Not at all annoying.  We tried to fit in front of them but they were long and so are we and the hose didn't fit.  I gesticulated through the window as David had to pull alongside.  It was a Time Share boat and they popped their heads out.  It turned out Reader that it was their second day, they had had rudder problems and had called out the engineer who had said the rudder was very worn, they had spent 7 hours getting the boat there and were heartily sick of everything.  Poor things, they were trying out narrow boating to see if they liked it.  As of that morning they were not terribly.

We filled up and departed.  Down the Birmingham to Worcester canal.  A tree lined route going through Edgebaston which I liked very much and on.  We didn't really see any traffic that afternoon and as time went on we arrived at Hockley Heath for what proved to be a bit of a treat.  David fetched the car from Edgebaston, and that evening we met Nick and Lynda (Pub recommender extraordinaire) to have supper at The Boot Pub in Lapworth.  Just a smidgeon further on down the flight.  Well it was great but totally different from the glorious Black Country pubs he sent us to, they were all great too. We had a lovely evening, thank you Nick for all your help and advice during our stay.
Here is The Boot HERE

The next morning we toddled off to the do the Lapworth Flight.  I thought these locks were pretty rickety, nice scenery around these attractive single locks but the workings to my mind were rickety.  We met a pretty fit looking pair coming up I would estimate they might have been in their late sixties, he was doing the locks and as we waited we chatted, they too loved going to Birmingham and moor at Calcutt, they go to Birmingham every year, which means that they have done the Hatton Flight, the Stockton Flight all on their own. Phew I say.

David in full golfing wet weather gear.

First half of this guillotine type thingy lock

Second half of it.

Lovely green weed that beautifully messes with your prop.

We got to the bottom of the Lapworth and carried on to moor at the top of tomorrows little challenge.  Good Oh.

Just for a change, rain.

Well today we were to have departed but it was bucketing down again.  Terrifically heavy unrelenting rain.  
David refused to go out, (Obviously I wasn't going to sit out on deck with him as I usually do).  So we stayed in the warm until  12:30pm, so we went to a concert at the Town Hall, to hear the Birmingham City Organist Mr Thomas Trotter, no relation to Del and Rodney.  That was pretty wonderful and I have to say to see the Town Hall was a treat.  It had been closed each time we had passed by and for £6 each it was wonderful.

Marvellously decorated organ

How beautiful is this?

So with just a little tiny bit of time left I thought it an excellent idea of going to the Bull Ring as I had located Selfridges and felt the suitcase hunt could continue there.
When we came out again, it had started to rain again.  We headed back to the boat and by the time we got halfway it was pelting down and so it continued for the next 15 hours or so.

Skinny supper of chicken tomatoes and olives.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Battle lines were drawn up

So out time was almost up.  Great pity as I have really enjoyed being in a city,  such a novelty.  Birmingham is such a good place to visit because everything is very close to the centre and the canals.
The weather was very wet again so I suggested we went to look in Harvey Nicholls for luggage for this trip to New Zealand in January.  At the Mailbox there is great improvements going on, so great are these improvements that they have closed all access onto the Mailbox, we had to walk three sides of a square then to enter via the underground car park.  Reader you can imagine what David was like.....?   He didn't really want to go there anyway let alone a Commando Course to gain entry.  
No luggage dept in there after all that.  Marvellous.
So we walked northwards to the cathedral.  Now  you couldn't help noticing that there was a small army of Police on duty, with big packs on each hip and long intimidating baton truncheons.  I asked a group of four the way to the Cathedral and they all looked blank, (Sue, two got out their phones and found the way for me!!!!)  None of them were from this area all drafted in to Police the March that was happening that lunchtime. YIKES.

On one side was the EDL and the BNP on the other were people from the other side of the political spectrum.  We spotted three GREENS to add to the mixture.  I asked the Police Persons who were the Goodies and who were the Baddies.  No answer was forthcoming, they weren't completely sure who they all were anyway.  All I knew was that I didn't want to get caught in the middle.
The Cathedral was lovely.  
Bit blurry, not sure why.

We didn't stay too long as we were the wrong side of the 
Maginot Line.  We made a dash for it and got through making our way past the Library and Symphony Hall and round past Gas Street Basin back into the Mailbox where we had tickets to a tour of The BBC Studios.  
This was good fun.  We got to meet Nick Owen and see the studio where The Archers is recorded, some members of the tour even recorded a play and made all the sound effects.  On very corner around the studios were examples of some dresses that have been used for 'Strictly Come Dancing', well some of them were almost dresses.

Nick Owen being a bit stiff, this was due to him being made of cardboard.

The Archers sound effect props

On the way back from there we popped into a Tapas Bar for a drink, later some tapas, later still some more tapas, much much later after almond tart and Spanish doughnuts to dip into melted chocolate we went home to the boat for the last night.

Arty Farty shot of The Cube from my seat at the Tapas place

Too late home to get the local news so not sure there was a battle after all.

No supper.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Well push the bloody thing then....

Woke up to the forecasted heavy rain.  We were in a bit of a quandary in that we needed water, a pump out, diesel, gas and to my mind most importantly deposit rubbish in a suitable receptacle.  There is this boat yard in the very centre of the canals in Birmingham, its on a loop with one end of the loop impossible to make the turn to the right back towards the majority of the moorings, where we were moored.  So the only way to get in there was for us to reverse past moored boats, in the swirling wind and pouring rain.  The very thought filled me with horror but David was game.  Well he was game when the rain stopped.  No point in going off for the morning as we felt that other boats may all be wanting to do the same thing.  So a couple of hours later, (A couple of hours spent mostly writing this blog), we set off.
Me waiting for clear precise instructions of my part, I wanted them given to me calmly and politely….
Well there was a bit of..
“Push the bloody thing then”
“No not there here, no, yes back there then”
and a
“Best get on the front” so I hotfooted it through to the front, then a very loud “No I need you here pushing that boat here NOW”
“Get on the side and push that boat away”  So there I was on the slippery side, in the rain,shoving or maybe creating distance between us and the parked boats with my weight and our dangly bits. Then a trip boat came pooling past, (They don't even slow down even though we were somewhat over his side just then), reversing through a bridge,  well I have to tell you Reader, he may get shirty but he did a truly splendid job, no tinks, no bashes and certainly no scratches.  Into the arm and the jetty section for services runs along on a wooden jetty, but is very short for us being a 70ft boat and so with this wind pulling the front and back end in turn we moored up and David went off to find a man.  In his absence of  5 mins another boat came along, a shorter boat and got onto the service section and nicked our turn, he nicked it because he was “Blocking” us being served first.  This did nothing to improve the weather I can tell you.  David was livid, the poor lad doing the services was helpless.  We really had no option but to let him go ahead of us.  So after a few sharp words the man said he would settle on a pump out and come back later, which is what happened.  So then pump out, gas, rubbish, water and diesel all done.  Off we set to re-moor again and when we had, the whole task had taken two hours.  TWO HOURS.

So we had lunch and went out for a walk having a look at the moorings all around the place the rain returned with a vengeance  as we were outside the CART offices at Cambrian Whalf, so cold and wet we returned to the boat.

embers of the Lunar Society.  Good eggs for the founding of Birmingham
HERE   click here to learn a bit more about the Good Eggs.

Gas Street  Basin in the shadow of The  Regency Hyatt

Gas Street where we couldn't see any visitor moorings today.

Confluence of three canals

Cambrian Whalf

Last two locks for the Brimingham to Fazeley canal.

WaL in the shadow of Brindley Place on the left.

Supper was steak, sweet potato wedges and veg. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Red Hot Lips

So another fun packed day in Birmingham to be had.  We had been advised by our “Boat Sharers” that we hadn’t gone far enough up the library, in fact you can go up to the 9th floor, so we did and although it was a horrid day and we were in full we weather gear, the weather broke for a while and we got some great views all across Birmingham and into the distance The Isle of Wight I’m sure.

The Cube.  I have heard this described as ugly, but we are liking this very much.

A38 heading to Devon

Major walkway over the A38

Look carefully to see the canal we came in by.

The Birmingham to Fazeley canal can be seen between those blocks of flats.

The blue are escalators and the perspex on the left is the lift to the top floors of the library.

The Library also supplies these fabulous Hot Red Lips Sofas, a young snogging couple were occupying one, so I talked loudly and annoyingly and they departed on cue and we had the lovers sofa…..

Full wet weather gear.

Small route march next northwards to do the Jewellery Quarter.  We just pretty much followed our noses….  I had been given what was to be our last pub recommendation by Nick, The Red Lion on Warstone Lane, as it was lunchtime David was anxious not to miss their lunchtime session and as a Police lady advanced on us I did something no man will ever do …… I asked the way!  I said we were looking for the Jewellery Quarter and she said “Well you are in it so welcome!”  See Reader even the Police are really friendly here.  The lady she was with opened her briefcase and pulled out this months edition of Jewellery Quarter Monthly, with a map and we were commended in our choice of The Red Lion. Good-Oh!
So we hotfooted it there, and Oh Reader they served David’s new Fav beer Bathams (Reader this is pronounced Bay-Hams, yes mad isn’t it?).
Great menu, great decor, great wooden original wooden shelving and draught protectors for the end benches and oh my GREAT food. Spicy pork shoulder with creamy mash and fresh steamed veg. I couldn’t manage a pudding, Reader yes that was me turning down a dessert, almost unheard of.

Come on! No resting lets go to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.  
A great place this was too, the three family owners retired in the early 1980’s in their 80’s and walked out leaving the workers overalls, account ledgers, tools on the benches, tea cups and marmite on the shelves and here it all is still.  A guided tour here was very interesting, explaining that selling the business was not appropriate as trading at that time is all based on trust, family, workers, skilled craftsmen all part of the is grand set up of trust that would exclude selling the business.  Hard to believe today, but thats how it was then.  The premises were owned by the council, they did sell off the gold but as they carried no jewellery stock, it was all strictly made to order.  The orders went all over the world from here and back in the day, there was no retail sales all wholesale.

Yes this is one.... A gentleman's comfort break place.

Saw her on the way.

So you can see two unmodernised workshops 

Typical buildings here

Many many small shop fronts here, but historically no retail here.

Very trendy area here now

Afterwards, we walked back to The Red Lion for another pint and dessert.

Tired legs, we headed due south, I found some brand new converted apartments HINT HINT David, nice place to retire to… Lots of trendy bars and restaurants hereabouts.

Following our noses and finding The Birmingham to Fazeley canal towpath and then on to Brindley Place, where our boat was.

No supper.

Busy Day.

This was to be a busy day.  We wanted to go visit the Back-to-Back Houses, I had found them on the web,  taking instructions, off we went to find them.  
Not nearly as easy as it sounds. Getting almost lost fairly quickly, then the first problem finding a local, all the people I asked were visitors to the city, then when I found a resident, no one knew but finally a little old lady with a drag along shopping basket knew generally where they were so full of trust we followed her instructions. She was correct.
Finally finally we got there in a circular route.  

Its yet another National Trust Property, "Frequent Flyers" here will know that we gave up our membership this summer and since then we have been to a string of their properties after having only been to one in about the previous 18 months.

The Back to Back's were houses built without back doors, your back wall was the neighbours front room wall too.  I am not aware that these types of houses were built in the south as we didn't have the heavy industry there and the need to house a lot of people quickly and cheaply.
They are an amazing slice of our national history, I had never seen the like before. 

This is the outside corner of the block, the end ones are converted into holiday lets by the NT

The sweet shop was there from the 1930's for years.

So this is the inside of the corner block around a yard

A couple of "Thunder Boxes" and a washing clothes area

Early range

The house is restored to 1830 when it was built. Stencilled walls.

Bedroom for their three boys in 1830's

Table done from the 1930's. Look mum, sterilised milk!!

Next to the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery.  Oh my what a building, the museum have the back half of the Council Offices.  Another amazing slice of history. Even the floors are tremendous.   We went into the History of Birmingham exhibition first which talked about all the crafts and manufacturing that Birmingham was world famous for, and in the case of pen nibs, a world leader making almost all them, they supplied the whole world literally.  Very very interesting it was too.

This beautiful installation is made entirely of chains.

Chains were made in the Black Country

Examples of stunning buttons.

Buttons made from shell, made by ladies mostly for very low wages

Then downstairs to see my fav's The Pre-Raphilities paintings that I have waited sooooooo many years to see.  A marvellous collection they have here.  These 'modern horrors' were not immediately recognised by society however they were often collected by factory owners in the new cities of the north (New money and all that), hence such a great collection here.  David did once take me to Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight, it was miles out of our way home from the Lake Distict but the art there was also wonderful.  He was feeling very kind and generous that day, then there were traffic jams and we got home about 2am.  He hasn't taken me back there since.
Here are one or two of them from today that I loved.

"A Day Trip to Brighton" in an open carriage.

The Last of England.look carefully to see the lady holding her child's hand under her coat as they set off for a new life.

The Long Engagement

A Christmas Carol at Bracken Dene.

"The Pretty Baa-Lambs"

"The Prescribed Royalist"

Love this, is an engaged couple, him trying to feel her face prior to marriage, a scene witnessed by the painter  in Cairo, William Holman Hunt.

Great picture but I mangled the photo, "Inside the Harem"

Council Offices to the south and the BRILLIANT gallery to the north

In the background is the Worlds biggest JL which I would have liked however not yet opened, and in the foreground is a snippet of old Birmingham been left, for now.

Dinner was in Carluccio's where the duck pate was delicious as was the Italian sausage pasta.  Pudding of course, Tiramisu, I sample this wherever I go in the interests of research.