Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Notes from a Goldfish Bowl

Wallace & Grommit are regular visitors to Gas Street

Think of Birmingham and what springs to mind - Aston Villa FC;  Frank Skinner;  Spaghetti Junction; Crossroads Motel maybe!
What probably doesn’t spring to mind is the city’s comprehensive canal system, courtesy of the Industrial Revolution, that has given our second city more miles of waterways than Venice and spawned Britain’s only canal micro-system, the BCN (Birmingham Canal Navigation).
Now you might think that most places would celebrate this fact. Especially when the city’s current campaign, seen on posters all around the city centre, is “Big Up Birmingham”.
But a visit to the Tourist Information Office on New Street saw little literature on this legacy.
A roundabout at a canal junction. What next: speed bumps!
But where Birmingham has spent some money on its canals, the transformation has been phenomenal. The Gas Street Basin, slap, bang, in the centre of things, was once a dark and dingy place you only went too if you were looking for a bit of company for the night, but over the last 10-15 years  it has emerged as a magnet for locals and visitors to Birmingham, and the amount of pubs and restaurants that  sit in, on, and above the water course, is a testament to its success. And as a three-way junction (with its own roundabout) it sees a lots of boats coming and going with trip boats flying all over the place.
Brindley Place. Very much the centre of things at Gas Street

This was not our first time here, and I doubt it will be our last,  but when the sun shines, and the tourists and gongoozlers  are out in droves, if you are not careful where you moor, you and your boat become a tourist attraction within a tourist attraction. I was sitting in the boat last Sunday morning, and passers by were stopping and staring at me through the windows of the boat. A boating neighbour was doing likewise yesterday afternoon and a couple from the Far-East, got on his boat, came down his back stairs, and asked to be shown around. I don’t know what his response was. I didn’t have the nerve to ask.
The entrance to the Stratford canal at King's Norton. Shame about the graffiti

Our route into the city was slow and we stopped at several different locations after leaving Alvechurch. At King’s Norton, where the junction of the Stratford Canal starts, we stayed and sat out the rain and went out for a meal with Brendan and Sophie. We met this couple in Willington, on our first full day out this spring, when they were struggling with a new boat they had just purchased, and were cruising it back to Birmingham.
Brendan owns a successful solicitors practice in the city, and next weekend, when my mates descend on the boat, Pat is staying in their flat in the Jewellery Quarter while they holiday in Turkey. Very nice it is too.
The moorings at Bournville. Handy for the train though. Note the purpleness.

Cruising into Birmingham you can’t avoid the “purpleness” of Bournville and  Cadbury’s. There are moorings there, about two metres from the rail track at  Bournville station, but we had heard it was not a safe mooring. I was more concerned about the tannoy announcing “the next train to Redditch is on platform one” at six in the morning.
We have been to Cadbury’s World before, indeed I organised a trip by narrow boat there, from Gas Street, a few years back, when it looked somewhat different.
We were more interested in this popular  suburb’s architecture and social history.  Cadbury was a Quaker so no pubs in Bournville, but lots of very well-kept terraced houses, many of them having individual names etched above the front door, and the public spaces and buildings, many in a sort of kitsch Tudor-style, were very interesting and well maintained.  We had a good couple of hours there. People talk of Kraft, the new owners, closing the plant down. I hope not. It would be a real tragedy.
Now I normally kick off my blogs by having a rant about the weather, but this week it’s been t-shirt weather and the forecast looks fine for the next few day so yippee!
Ruby, a neighbours cat, liked TCW

"So that's how these things work", says a bewildered Roger

We returned to The Cat’s Whiskers after spot of lunch at Wetherspoons on Sunday afternoon to find we had a visitor. Ruby, the ginger cat from the boat next door, had taken a shine to our roof and soon she was cuddling up with us on the settee and had an afternoon snooze on our bed. It brought back how much we still miss our old cats. Ruby certainly was “The Cat’s Whiskers” for the couple of hours she spent with us.
We have now moved down to Cambrian Wharf, on the edge of the action around here. It’s a 14-day mooring and is gated, so we are fairly secure, but there is a pub 50 metres away. We’ll find out how noisy it is tonight. Two boats away is green 57-footer called “Blackberry Way”. A neighbour here said that an old geezer with a mop of black hair and a beard has been seen on her so I am hoping we get to spot the great Roy Wood, before we leave  on Saturday morning.

1 comment:

  1. Did you know that the roundabout is actually an air vent for the railway that runs underneath?