Archive for the 'Life' Category

Take the High Road

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

You take the low road, and I’ll take the high road, and I’ll use more fuel..

We’ve been away to Scotland; more precisely Mallaig, the end of the Road to the Isles.

A common theme of our trips up north seems to be killer road allegations- though I suspect the 30mph advisories on some of the bends may be the attempted fix for this (for the record, with the exception of a couple of sharp bends under narrow bridges, there’s not a bend on the road that you couldn’t get round safely at well above that unless you have 4 bald crossplies and knackered dampers).

Anyway, our journey was uneventful.

Friday afternoon’s trip took us to Moffat and an overnight stop. Next morning, a fuel stop, and off up the A82 (another “killer road” that can provide some real entertainment if you like the twisties. It’s noticeable that a lot of improvement work is happening now: The section at Pulpit Rock that had traffic lights for years will soon be wider- a deck is being built out into the loch- and Crianlarich’s bypass looks imminent. A turn to the west just after Fort William, a trip past Glenfinnan and Our Lady of the Braes and Inverailort House (give me a pile of cash and that’ll be my highland home) and we’re soon in Mallaig: the A830 was quiet, and I didn’t have 4 bald crossplies ;-).
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Pier to Pier

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

We decided to pop away for a weekend, but other appointments kept us at home on Saturday, and needed us back on Tuesday, so just one night away. This meant somewhere reasonably close by, so Weston-super-Mare it was. The resort’s been a popular visit for West Midlanders for years, to the level that the local rag gets published in the town.

My last visit was sometime around 1996, when we drove in looking for lunch, didn’t like the look of it much, and drove out again. The one before that was a day trip sometime in the 1970s, on a coach, when I were but a lad.

Since then the prom has been done up, and the pier has had a disastrous fire and amazing rebirth.

It now looks great, and despite the Tripadvisor whingers, well worth the £1 entry fee:

The Grand Pier

The Grand Pier

As a fan of English seaside, it’s nice to see a pier in such good conditiion, unlike the Birnbeck Pier, a short morning walk just up the coast, undergoing emergency repairs by the looks of it, with the lifeboat station in temporary accomodation on the seafront. The pier is in a shocking condition, pictures here, and 2 Urbex reports here (2011) and here (2007), showing the rapid deterioration.

Birnback Pier: just look at the corroded support bracing.

Birnback Pier: just look at the corroded support bracing.

I like piers: love them, which makes this list sad reading, and a good proportion of this list distrubing too- just look at this site, for example.

That made our diversion on the way home the next day all the better: Clevedon Pier also has a chequered past, having suffered partial collapse, but has been restored and is now both in great shape and grade 1 listed:

Clevedon Pier in all its beauty.

Clevedon Pier in all its beauty.

with lovely cast-iron fittings. It’s small, and there’s no amusements (just a tea room), and it costs more that Weston’s Grand, but it’s a structure of beauty, and an example of what can be done. Which seaside pier next?

Southport

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

I decided we deserved a weekend away, so we went to Southport. Somewhere we’d always meant to go, and having had a reccomendation from friends (“It’s very Victorian, you’ll like it”) we departed.

It’s surprisingly close: 2 hours, a hundred or so miles, and yes, it is very Victorian. The rather splendid Lord St is lovely, and the Pier is fine- the second longest in the UK, and as the longest is the admittedly long, but dull, Southend, it’s Southport FTW, as there’s a bar at the end, for a start.

One building caught my eye from the pier: this lovely, huge Victorian pile of an ex-hospital:

Tho old Southport Promenade Hospital, Now Marine Gate Mansions.

Tho old Southport Promenade Hospital, Now Marine Gate Mansions.

which is now appartments, with a half-million pound price tag(PDF, 1.2MB).

Southport is a oddly laid out place: the pier bridges a lake between the town and the sea, and the actual seafront has a retail park (where our hotel was), which presumably is the type we’ll soon have in Walsall, with a cinema, and a large selection of crappy chain restaurants:

Share and enjoy: crappy chain restaurants and a cinema: seems inexplicably popular.

Share and enjoy: crappy chain restaurants and a cinema: seems inexplicably popular.

I don’t know if the land is reclaimed, but it’s odd: the promenade is some way back: you’d imagine the hotels and pubs would be on the front, not a modern retail park.

We had a fabulous meal, a few drinks, and a bit of a stroll: one to revisit with more time, the town is affluent, but not up itself, architecturally good (mostly), and a blend of seaside and town.

A Trilogy in Five Parts

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

After many years, I’ve finally got to listen to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio show, from the original 1978 episodes to 2004-2005′s Quintessential Phase. I’ve heard it all before, but as the timespan was several years (from borrowing the original two series CDs and then hearing the Tertiary-Quintessential phases on the radio) spanned several years, I bought the entire set in 2012.

Then left it on the shelf, unplayed, along with the MP3 rip I took. The problem is, you need continuity. There’s 13 discs, plus a bonus one, and each disc is around an hour.

My ongoing hate of most radio, and the fact I’m unable to choose a music CD in the morning, has meant that my commute has tended to be accompanied by a Pump-Duse engine and tyre and wind noise, as while VAG’s PD is not the smoothest or quietest, it’s better than the breakfast show. Seems like an opportunity.

So the last few weeks have been filled with Vogons, Marvin, and the Total Perspective Vortex. It’s been great; taking some of the tedium out of the commute, showing just what a genius Douglas Adams was.

The only problem now is that I’m back to diesel knock and tyre roar, with HHGTTG back on the shelf for a few years. Oh well: Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can’t like it.

Golden Opportunity

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

I wasn’t at work last week, but the weather put paid to most of the outdoor tasks, as while it wasn’t universally wet, things were too changeable to commit to much. When a friend mentioned that she wanted to sell some gold, but wanted company (was I a bodyguard? maybe), it seemed like a pleasant diversion: The Jewellery Quarter has nice architecture, and decent pubs (more of the pubs later). I wanted to suggest CatsforGold
, but didn’t feel I’d get taken seriously.

We’d arranged to meet by the Chamberlain Clock, but I had something magnificent, but sad to look in on first, on my walk past Snow Hill:

The Gothic

What was The Gothic pub in Great Hampton Row, Birmingham

The Gothic was built around 1869-1870. It closed in 1991, and seems to have been rotting since: two of the nice gables have gone (see the c1950 photo here and another here), nasty modern shopfittings have been added, and the roof looks very dodgy in places. Thus is despite it being Grade II listed since 1982, though I suppose we should be grateful the arson contractors haven’t moved south from Walsall.

Anyway, onwards. We met up, and commenced the tour of the gold dealers: let this be a warning: prices varied by at least 10%, and this was not insignificant given the value in this case. After a tour of 5 or 6, we settled on one place, sold the gold, and got the bulk of the cash paid in to Barclays, handily back by the clock, and just in view of the lovely Warstone Lane Cemetery lodge:

Warstone Lane Cemetery Lodge, taken by Wikipedia user Oosoom. Click to visit the image's page.

Warstone Lane Cemetery Lodge, taken by Wikipedia user Oosoom. Click to visit the image’s page.

Now the nice bit: as a reward for standing about looking large, lunch, with some of the proceeds. A walk round the corner back onto Great Hampton St, passing the Rose Villa Tavern and the Jewellers Arms and on to The Lord Clifden
which turned out nicer than expected.

Mission Impussible

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

No exploding tapes or dossiers with 8×10 glossies: It was time for Kitty & QT to have a vet visit: vaccination boosters and a check up.

Our kittehs are lovely, but they’re not keen on being picked up and held, and we weren’t looking forward to getting the cats into carriers.

As it happened, QT was little trouble: a bit of whinging, and one brief struggle, and he was in.

Kitty, as usual, was made of sterner stuff. Hissing, scratching and biting, it took the two of us, lengths of wood to poke her out from under the bed, and a wrap in a towel to get her imprisoned. This time, Stymistress got the wounds.

The next item for our amusement was Kitty almost escaping: we have two cat carriers: one is a Pet Voyager, over 20 years old, and sturdy. We used that for QT, as he’s a big, lovely lummox of a cat. The other is a generic affair, with a flimsy front door that fell off during Kitty’s incarceration, was rapidly re-attached, and which she then managed to force open while I was putting my shoes on. A rapid shove and some gaffer tape saved the day for long enough to drive to the vets, but a mournful meow as we drove away signalled that maybe all was not well in the other kitteh prison, as we later discovered when QT was extracted, wet, from a stinky carrier. He’s such a soft lad, a big, strong cat, but soft as shite.

Once at the vets, warnings were given, but, true to form, they behaved like, well, pussycats. A rapid check over, a quick injection, a note that the cheap carrier was also losing its handle (don’t fancy dropping Kitty and dealing with an escape on the A461), re-imprison the cats (who went quietly), pay up, and home. Cats released, carrier washed out, and hopefully no more vet visits until next July.

QT has subsequently shown his appreciation by releasing a live mouse in the house (Kitty is more efficient and would kill it), leaving me to capture it in one of the many Indian takeaway containers I’ve fastidiously collected:

A meece. Captured by me. I need to have words with those cats.

A meece. Captured by me. I need to have words with those cats.

Oh, and a new carrier has been purchased.

Walsall Beer Festival 2013

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

As is traditional, I went to Walsall Beer Festival. Unusually, I went in the day on Saturday, hoping to avoid some of the beers running out, and have it not so busy.

It worked, to some degree, but there were still a few notable beers that had run out: Backyard Brewhouse‘s Chinook IPA had gone, so we had to take a post-festival visit to The Fountain for that (well worth the trip). In all we found 5 or 6 beers no longer available: it seems everyone likes the same sort of beer (pale, hoppy ales and IPAs) as us.

Beyond that, it was great. There was still a good choice of great beer, decent food on offer from the town hall restaurant, and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, so a big thanks and kudos to Walsall CAMRA for a great job. My one slight complaint? More seats required- us poor middle-aged types with kanckered legs and backs can’t stand for long. We did find seats, but they were in short supply.

Next year, I reckon, it’ll have to be a day off and visit on Thursday afternoon.

Stolen Bike

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

My bike has been stolen, from the Barns Lane area of Rushall this morning. My own stupid fault in one way- it was unlocked.

It’s a Forest Green GT Nomad Hybrid bike, similar to this one:

A bike similarish to my stolen GT Nomad. Click to enlarge.

A bike similarish to my stolen GT Nomad. Click to enlarge.

with a 19″ frame, a black back wheel (the front is the original silver-coloured one). The bash ring on the chainwheel is missing, and the brake cable outers are silver rather than the original black, so it’s fairly distictive.

[edit]
Here’s a picture of an almost identicatal bike (front). Note mine has the bash ring on the chainwheel missing, silver brake cables, and a black back wheel, and this one (an unknown colleague’s) has had a replacement saddle, which mine needed…

An almost doppelganger.

An almost doppelganger.

Bournemouth

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

I was back in Bournemouth Network Monkeying again recently- 4 years on, the town has declined a bit, but there’s still good restaurants and a couple of decent pubs. This time, the weather was mostly cold, but Easter Sunday was stunningly bright, and felt like we might see a spring, maybe: the only snow there was on the trucks colleagues took down, so returning to WS9 was a bit of a shock, with snow still on the ground.

Even with the decline, and the seafront drinkers at 8am, I like Bournemouth: it’s a proper town, but also has the seaside- a nice beach, a pier. Bugger me, the drink’s expensive though.

Pelsall, Common

Sunday, January 27th, 2013

I’ve bought a slide scanner, and I thought some readers might like to see this photo of Pelsall Common in the early 70s, taken by my late father. It’s me, my mom, and (I think) a next-door neighnour who was friends with my sister stood around my Dad’s Wolseley 16/60 on Pelsall Common- the railway bridge at Fordbrook Lane/Vicarage Road is in the background.

Me and family on Pelsall Common, circa 1973. Click to embiggen.

Me and family on Pelsall Common, circa 1973. Click to embiggen.

It makes an interesting contrast with this Google Streetview image form around the same place in 2012:

A similar view in 2012

A similar view in 2012

I can’t work out if the fancy wall and gates are there, but obscured- will have to look.


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