Saturday, 9 November 2013



Monday, 28 October 2013

Costume drama!

Film shoot:

Library plus


Sunday, 22 September 2013

Friendly Alicante

Whether it's Alicante, the Mediterranean in general, a sunny country, but there was a natural friendliness amongst people we came across in cafés and bars particularly.

We chatted a bit in very limited Spanish (ours) and much better English (the young owner or owner's son) and felt we made a bit of a bond with the family running the local café where we had breakfast, and watched the football on our last night :). They made sure they knew when we were leaving and gave us a friendly greeting and farewell.

This was even without knowing names - apart from the younger man's wife's name which is part of the café title - and without formal introductions in British or German style ;-) (this would never happen in a German café, I think ;)).

It was very touching, natural and really made the holiday.

Location:Back in Birmingham from Alicante

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Alicante warmth

First, Alicante isn't just sun, sand and tourists, bodies baking on the beach and cooling off in the Med. It is partly, and rather pleasurably for those concerned too, but even then there are plenty of Spanish voices to be heard and rather fewer "Brits" than I expected (snobbishness, probably, sorry!)
There are three real jewels of museums - the Archaeological MARQ (Museo Arquéologico) and the modern and classical art galleries MUBAG (Museo Bellas Artes Gravina) and MACA (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Alicante).
Archaeology has rich finds in the area from the Iberic hunter gatherers and boating discoveries. Salt extraction has been an important feature and there was a parallel exhibition about Hallstatt and salt mining in Austria.
The Contemporary Art museum was a pleasant if light excursion though some dark contributions which seemed to jar with the sunny and generally optimistic feel of the town.
The Gravina gallery has some really beautiful nineteenth century Spanish and specifically Alicantean art, echoing realistic art from elsewhere in Europe but with local touches in the settings and costumes and the people portrayed.
Emilio Varela was an Alicante painter (1887 to 1951). Local scenes with Cubist and other influenced, but realist and with the sun-soaked, sandy buildings and parched landscape of the area. Wonderful, and you probably won't see these elsewhere, another reason to go to new places if you can.

Above all of these, as they say quite literally, the Castillo Santa Barbara looms on its rocky outpost looking out to sea. Dramatic and housing history exhibitions and the lift to the top from the rocky underground centre is welcome in the Mediterranean heat.

Location:Back in Birmingham

Friday, 13 September 2013

Moorish Influences?

In historic centres, decorative tiles and gardens -

Location:Alicante & Elche

Thursday, 12 September 2013

And cacti

Elche has quite a few of these too ...

Location:Elche near Alicante


Elche has lots of these ...

Location:Elche near Alicante

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Crazy paving


Sand, palms and sun

Always popular with Brits and Other North Europeans.

I wonder why ...


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The English were here of course

In 1706 the British Royal Navy (?) bombarded Alicante then troops entered the city and took the castle.
In a rather fun video animation however the locals dug a tunnel and planted explosive under the castle and half the hill broke off and sent the Royal soldiers falling into the sea ...
The lift to the castle starts at the end of a long modern metal tunnel into the centre of the hill.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Art, Folk, Estate, a Park

Had a rewarding weekend catching up on culture with landscapes and folk art at Compton Verney and folk music in Moseley.

Compton Verney has simple but grandly fronted houses which would otherwise belong to a National Trust portfolio, with grands landscaped by the designer-to-the-gentry Capability Brown.

The permanent collections range from paintings of the Bay of Naples, German portraits and Chinese ceramics and figures of horses and riders, through to wonderful folk art from Britain, outsized sheep and cattle, a toothache sufferer having his tooth pulled by s friend with a piece of string, and tools or signs hung from the ceiling, and many other paintings and objects.

Moseley Folk is now established on the festival circuit at the end of August going into September, with big name acts from past and present and plenty of room for up-and-coming artists.
Sometimes it goes so far into the pop/rock mainstream it seems to lose touch with folk, but Sunday this year was definitely folk, starting with accordionist and former Poozie Karen Tweed, taking in Be Good Tanyas, ending with the former Dubliners the Dublin Legends (we'd gone home by then I'm afraid) but already highlighting Kate Rusbie and her band.
Of course, as with Compton Verney, the lovely setting, in this case Moseley's normally private park, is part of the appeal and with a sunny afternoon catching trees, grass and pond then sitting amongst other festival-goers near bead, ale and coffee stalls is really very satisfying, although an Autumnal chill crept in later.

Location:Compton Verney, Moseley Park

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Gardens and Outdoor Food

Cannon Hill Park on a walk from home, Food Festival in the city centre. Botanical Gardens in Edgbaston ...

Authentic Birmingham Bavarian Beer tent: ...

Botanical Gardens ...


Sunday, 18 August 2013

A Museum Piece Too :-)


Museum Pieces

Now and again Birmingham Museums have an open day at their collections warehouses out in Duddeston (between Aston and Nechells in North Birmingham).
A real treasure trove of everything from washing machines to boneshaker bicycles, Ancient Egyptian figurines to Mexican statuettes and ceramics from various Chinese dynasties, as well as models of industrial age machinery, valve radios and '78 gramophone players with ear-trumpet style speaker.
All that and a trip to and from the warehouses on a restored old bus of the model I probably used when I was at school!
Oh dear.
Great fun :-)


Proms Live


Birmingham on tour

Had a trip to the Proms on Saturday to follow the CBSO on tour at the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, in a wonderfully entertaining concert with excerpts from Verdi, Strauss Waltzes, a Dvorak symphony (number 8) and plenty of enthusiasm from the conductor, Andris Nelsons, as well as beautiful singing from his wife Kristine Opolais.
Really enjoyed following our local orchestra on tour, so to speak, and we found that other Midlanders were around as witnessed by a members' coach outside the Albert Hall and one half of a friendly retired couple who was heading back to Berkeswell near Coventry on the train from Euston after the concert (unfortunately the train wasn't stopping there ...).
The Proms audiences are so enthusiastic and obviously warmed to orchestra and the charismatic conductor and his wife.
The CBSO is a great advert for Birmingham, to the point where I'm not sure how much we deserve the rich mix of talent from across the world, players and administrators working harder than ever when resources to support them are getting ever tighter and commercial pressures greater.
The blend of national and international, local and worldwide gathered in the city, is for me though a hallmark of Birmingham and the CBSO is at the cultural heart of this blend.
Do try and get to a concert if you can, keep an eye out for special offers if cost is a problem.
Town Hall Symphony Hall or CBSO website for concert details.


Monday, 12 August 2013

Going local

Stirchley isn't a prepossessing place, but it has useful shops scattered along the scythe way of the Pershore Road. A Gent's barber, a clothes alteration shop, as well as DIY places, builders merchants and grocers.
I always tended to get on the bus or train out of the place, but as I live here and since I've done some shifts at the Stirchley Stores, I've become more aware of what's just about on my doorstep.
A bit like Birmingham itself has been over the years, having to work away without the appeal that other cities have, although the makeovers of recent years have certainly helped.
So I actually used the barber's over the road at the weekend, instead of going to Harborne or King's Norton as before (where I used to live), and the expert ladies at the alterations shop have saved two pairs of trousers and a jacket from the recycling bins for me.
Go local, it's worth it, discover what's around you and not just further away.
If you're interested in becoming a member of the Stirchley Stores and helping out, go to Join on the website.

Location:Stirchley, Birmingham

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Stirchley Stores

Interesting to see local volunteer or cooperative groups being set up in recent years.
Stirchley Stores, currently in a building owned by the Loaf bakers' group, is staffed almost wholly by volunteers and sells a variety of foods and other groceries either loose - muesli, oats via scoops, nuts - or small packs such as spices, tins, cordials, locally made jams. The best-known feature is the superb bread of various kinds all baked on the premises by the Loaf team.

Well worth a visit! Open 8-2 on Saturdays, 2 to 7 Tuesdays to Fridays

Located on the Pershore Road almost on the corner with Mary Vale Road - down the hill from Bournville train station, turn right and go three or four shops along. 45 or 47 buses along the Pershore Road, nearest main stop the British Oak pub, and number 11 to Fordhouse Lane is a short walk away.

If you're interested in becoming a member of the Stirchley Stores and helping out, go to Join on the website.

Location:South Birmingham near Bournville

Things to do in Birmingham on a budget

Going to nice cafés, concerts and such like is fine if you can afford it, but not everyone can. Here's a useful link on the Visit Birmingham website for free events or venues in Birmingham and the surrounding area: see here for details.


Saturday, 27 July 2013

More Digbeth Art and Industry


Local action

Local mini-festival on Fazeley Street with allotments in troughs or containers. Behind the small site a disused warehouse where cyclists on fixed bicycles seemed to be powering a screen display of animated short films.
It's the sort of thing you come across in unpromising unoccupied stretches of Birmingham by chance or word of mouth or nowadays maybe a tweet or blog post.


Friday, 26 July 2013

Ground views


Sport Live

This year I've had a chance to enjoy live sport twice, tonight at a T20 short-form cricket - Warwickshire versus Worcestershire at Edgbaston - and earlier at the Hawthorns when West Brom played Wigan.
You do have a different experience when you're at a live game, seeing the pitch and the players (very near at West Brom) and watching the spectators' reactions through a game and reacting yourself. At West Brom I had the advantage of not being too involved in one team, although it would have been nice to see the home side doing better than the 2-3 loss. There wasn't that strange and obsessive sense of anxiety and personal loss in what's after all "only a game" that comes with being bound up with a local side.
I've lost touch with who's winning in which leagues when it comes to county and one-day cricket, but it didn't matter this evening, I do enjoy and follow cricket a bit more and used to be a junior member at Warwickshire (watching not playing) and thought a bit of a couple of scenes I still have in mind of seeing players come off the pitch, and getting autographs as boys always do, famous players then and still, looking back, and of being high in an old stand as two of the West Indian greats batting for their county side.
Another, vaguely, being at the ground with my mother as the well-known local opener knocked the ball around before getting out.
How we remember things, scenes, snapshots, a feeling maybe, only then the word or words that attach themselves and cling in the telling of stories. Names in the autograph book, vaguely, perhaps, the handwriting, more the colour, shape, maybe size of the blank notebook for autographs.
Did I think that decades later I would recall, even hazily, those scenes? Did I think that decades later I would be, and that others I saw, much older, would become me in years?
No, and another pleasure of the moment. Sport, whilst prepared, is of the moment and created from one moment to the next, from afresh, using the mix of talents and people and what happens in improvisation.
We need sport, sport as well as art and literature, sport as a kind of stuff of life or reflection in itself.
If you can afford it, get along to a match, if not, then do think of local smaller sides and amateurs just having kick-arounds in the park on a Sunday.
Birmingham has Warwickshire CCC, and Worcester is 40 minutes on the train. For football there's Aston Villa and Birmingham City and nearby the town and club West Bromwich, and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Location:Edgbaston +

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Brum bird life

Canal ducks

Strolling geese

Avian customer waiting for the Uni bar to open ...


More international Brum :-)

Just to show what a wonderfully international and diverse place Birmingham can be, we were sitting in a city centre pub around 5 o'clock, waiting for the EDL idiots to be escorted back out of Brum, when a colourfully dressed folk group from Alicante (we asked) came in and cheered us all up.
You can't see the instruments in this picture, but you get the idea! :)