scribbles tagged ‘Birmingham’

colourful temptation

Sunday, July 1st, 2012 | tags:  |

Christmas lights in the orangerieOrganzaThe wendy house orangerie has ivory net curtains that help shade inhabitans from the sun. Mostly they are tied back with satin ribbon softening the impact of the black window frames.

During a recent meandering around Birmingham’s rag market I found myself pondering the possibilities of introducing brightly coloured organza nets




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art imitates art

Sunday, June 10th, 2012 | tags: ,  |

Jacob Epstien "The Rock Drill" 1913-1915 (Replica)My first throught when I saw Jacob Epstein’sThe Rock Drill” (replica)  was that it must have been inspired by the Star wars battle droids.

Epstien’s original sculpture was constructed  1913-1915 – pre-dating the Star wars movies – arising from the turmoil of the onset of World War 1.

The sculpture is both beautiful and disturbing. It feels as-if the droid is sitting astride a  gatling-gun, firing it into the earth – killing the earth with extreme prejudice

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There’s a clock on the wall

Monday, November 2nd, 2009 | tags: , , ,  |

and it tells my time

In 1984   I rented the ‘Tea Warehouse’ for the night.   For my time.    I found some friendly DJ’s with large and obliging record (Vinyl albums) collections.   They were prepared to indulge my taste and keen to get better aquainted with some of my gorgeous girl friends, as indeed they did.

I have memories of dancing along the street to the Warehouse at midnight for the start of the party. Dancing between the traffic. I remember kissing the policeman who lured me back to the pavement with the promise of a chance to  wear his helmet.      

The Psychedelic furs sang ‘Heaven’

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apostrophe annihilation

Saturday, September 5th, 2009 | tags: , , , ,  |

Local councils are phasing out the use of apostrophes because they are complicated, confusing (to GPS units), messy and generate too many complaints.

  1. In   January 2009 the Daily Telegraph reports that Birmingham city council has updated their street name signs to remove apostrophes.   From now on, no sign produced by Birmingham City Council will contain the punctuation mark.   Debates over whether Kings Norton really should be King’s – or even Kings’ – Norton may rage on, but they will be useless.   And nearby Druids Heath – which was never actually home to one, let alone many, druids – will never take on the possessive, no matter how furious local apostrophe advocates become
  2. In February 2009 the Yorkshire evening post reported that Wakefield council dropped apostrophies from its roadsigns.
  3. In March 2009 the BBC reported that Bristol City is removing apostrophes from public road signs.   “Bristol City Council says the ban makes the road signs look “neater” and argues that if capitals are used then apostrophes should not be…       …Roger Mortimer, from the Cotham and Redland Amenities Society, says residents are keen to keep the threatened apostrophes.   “I think it is an example of just ignoring the English language. Punctuation is extremely important and the apostrophe is very valuable – it gives you a sense of place.”

The founder of the apostrophy protection society is quite upset.   He mentiones that ‘this could be the first step towards linguistic anarchy’  .   I wonder whether he knows about text messaging?  

The colonies find this a bit amusing.   3 News (New Zealand) wittily reports that:    “the Queen’s English is now the Queens English.   England’s second-largest city has decided to drop apostrophes from all its street signs, saying they are confusing and old-fashioned.   But some purists are downright possessive about the punctuation mark.”

Imagine  a Monty Python sketch with the team in suits and ties passionately discussing the value of the apostrophy in avoiding linguistic anarchy. Lots of arm and leg waving, diagrams and charts.    Terry Jones demonstrating what total linguistic anarchy sounds like…. …and its impact on your sense of place…     which probably involves falling over.

Meanwhile the Times reports that councils are publishing crib sheets to help their staff work-out where to put apostrophes for the rare occassions when they are allowed.  

This post  is dedicated to my many tolerant readers who refrain from correcting my spelling, typing  and gramatical aberations despite the irritation and distress this causes  them.
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a red car in the fountain

Monday, July 13th, 2009 | tags: , , , ,  |

birmingham art museum-ten-to-oneLiving in windy Birmingham I quickly learned that my umbrella management skills were inadequate. The high turn-over of umbrellas was too burdensome for my student income. I started wearing hats, getting wet.

Walking through fountains.

Specifically the fountain infront of Birmingham museum and art gallery.  A summer night in a fountain, a wonderful temporary innoculation againt the pain of a lost heart. A fountain and The Blue Nile’s album  ‘A walk across the rooftops’ took me to the places I needed to be. When they later released ‘Hats’, naturally I was thrilled by their unknowingly knowing  insight.

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Swans way

Monday, June 8th, 2009 | tags: , , ,  |

1984 involved discovering life outside of the southern 1968 Wimpy housing estate of my youth.   Catching National Express coaches to join  demonstrations  supporting the miners strike.   Being picked-up by the police  on the main streets of Birmingham city centre under suspicion of being a prostitue*.      A friends suicide,  numerous confidences of experiences of rapes.    According to the Birmingham rape crisis centre in 1984 an estimated 1 in 4 women were raped by the time they are 21 years.   There was a fabulous music scene in Birmingham  and it attracted many upcoming artistes from around the cournty  to the smaller venus.   The midlands had soul.    

In Birmingham Swansway played ‘Soul Train’**

(warning: this video  includes Sax)

* girls not accompanied by a men walking  outside after dark,   the only possible justification for this wreckless behaviour was prosititution

** the video ends before the eerie last notes of the song….   I bought their album ‘The Fugitive Kind’ which is exceptional way beyond its recognition.

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Jah people

Monday, June 1st, 2009 | tags: , , ,  |

I used to think that Exodus was about char people until I met a Rastafari  in Handsworth, Birmingham, and he explained how the local riots stemmed from a lack of understanding and tolerance for the role played by ganga in their religion.

in 1977 Bob Marley sang Exodus

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staircase cascade

Monday, February 23rd, 2009 | tags: , , ,  |

In 1985 I was sharing an upstairs rented room with another girl in a house shared with five other people. The stairwell was laced with buckets, pots and pans to catch the rain water from the leaky roof that the landlord never got around to fixing. The one toilet was in the original backgarden outhouse, now technically indoors due to a small extension that included the household bath.   If anyone needed to relieve themselves in the night the journey downstairs involved a complex hopscotch  aound the pots and under the raindrops.  Often I ended up with a foot in a pan of cold stinky water, starting a cascade of pots tumbling down the staircase releasing their load on the dubious surface mascerading as a carpet.

Simply Red released ‘Money’s too tight to mention’

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outer circle

Thursday, May 4th, 2006 | tags: , , , ,  |


Unlimited travel, freedom printed on my West Midlands Travel  pass.   Buses, seven days a week, 24 hours a day.   Trains too!   No more planning my journeys by cost or parental good will.  No-one I knew could afford a car.   Riding Double Decker buses above the driver with views across the city and into first-floor rooms of street lining houses.   Everything is on show through those windows: loneliness; lovemaking; waiting; TV watching; eating;  arguments; cats watching me watching them.

Sunday riding  the “outer circle”, route 11.   A circle by name,   squished octagonal by map, and  voluptuous curvacious rolling ride by road.   Either way if you keep going long enough  you  end up right back where you started.   The route  is strewn with churches, graveyards, suburbs, slums, shopping streets,   industrial ‘parks’ and other passengers.    A couple made love on the back seat of the upper deck.     When they noticed me noticing them we all giggled.   I respected their location choice because its warm, dry, relatively private,  and best of all it lacks  the scent of rotting mice

West Midlands Transit Map - SQUINT!


Commuters reading books.    A lady explains to her phone  how to treat dry skin then takes its  advice on using a  tea-bag to treat a sore eye.   Everyone looked busy,   except me.    Passengers  in another part of Seattle could make a very different impression.    I wanted to ride the buses ’til the sun had long set and  the buses carried me home,  tired and sated.     But

My stop.      Temporarily mislaid freedom.

Maybe Sunday….

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of mice and maturing

Sunday, April 30th, 2006 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

1985 (Assume poetic licence  with the precision of dates and details.   The story has  changed with  fermentation in memory.   The gist of the story is consistent with the orginal experience.)

I   rented a room near ‘The Mermaid’ in a small  Sparkhill red-brick terraced house shared with four girls.   Bambi rented a room  in a Handsworth  red brick terraced house  shared with four boys.   Two bus rides, an hour, apart.   Neither house had a telephone.   We were poor.   We were young.

Bambi’s house smelt of rotting mice.   It was infested.  The neighbours houses were infested.   The whole area was infested.   Everyone lived with the mice.  Mice would dash for cover when you entered a room, switched on a light, moved suddenly.   The boys would play at trying to jump on, squash,  mice before they reached cover.   Several  squashed mice decorated the floor in the front room.   The floor was also decorated with chair-side piles of empty beer cans and chris-crossed with glittering slug trails.    A milk bottle containing a dead mouse sat on the fireplace mantle; gently warmed by the gas fire on colder days.   The mouse had climbed in voluntarily when the bottle lay on the floor then, unable to climb out,  starved to death.   The boys treated  the bottled mouse  as a trophy.   Some mice died more peacefully of old age under the floor boards.   Then rotted.   I’ll never forget the overwhelming stench of rotting mouse.   It’s integrally bound with first love.  It filled your lungs and scented your sweat during the deep breaths of love making.   It seems appropriate that I read Ian McEwan’s “First Love, Last Rites” in this house.  

Early on a brightly lit  summer evening I turned-up to meet  Bambi.   He wasn’t in.  In other homes I would make myself at home with a cup of Tea.   Not here. Concerns about household hygiene.   The mice-droppings on the kitchen work surfaces and stench were an effective deterrent to eating or drinking.   I picked a book from Bambi’s collection and  opened a window in a futile attempt to release the seemingly endless odour.   With my head by the open window I  started to read ‘the catcher in the rye.    My first American novel.   The sun gradually set.   Sodium pink, then yellow, street lights lit the pages.    The mice scuttled over the silence.   Lost in the story I forgot about the planned evening with Bambi.    Despite knowing  very little about the places,  symbols,  or lifestyle outlined in the book it felt powerfully relevant to  the loneliness of that night, madness of  youth,  and pains of new found adulthood.  

I finished the novel as Bambi arrived.

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