|Day starts with breakfast as usual and a bit of a natter with the family. Today I think we will head into Birmingham Centre and have a look around. This will be the only chance really as I think the weekend will be tied up with replacing Uncle Jim’s conservatory roof and seeing visiting family.
We have been told that the best way into the centre is by train so off we head towards Shirley Railway Station. Uncle Jim has advised that it is better to go to Solihull Station, but Shirley is closer.
Ah! Shirley Station has very limited car parking. Maybe that is why we were told Solihull. Either way there is no room at the inn here so off we go to Solihull. That is not too far away and there we find a much larger car park. Should have listened in the first place perhaps.
The train ride to More Street Station in Birmingham takes all of ten minutes, literally. And the station is directly opposite the famous Bull Ring Centre. Here there is a very large shopping mall, a pedestrianized shopping street, a largish market and cafes, and a large old church.
We walk around and about the mall where we find a pick and mix lolly shop. Rowena has been looking for something like this so she can buy Uncle Jim some chocolate raisins (of which he is quite partial). So laden with a lot more than a few raisins we head outside to the main street.
The shopping street is pretty busy. We stroll up hill first and get photos of the town hall (looking just like a roman temple) and other older buildings. Then back down hill. The walk does not really take long and I think we are both missing the long walks we undertook whilst on the Continent.
A large circle and we are back outside the mall. Time for a bit of lunch.
We look in a number of cafés and eateries but the one that finally attracts our attention is a pie shop. The pies (there are many different kinds) are of a good size and the smell makes us, already hungry, feel starving. I choose a stilton and English Beef. Rowena gets roast lamb and mint sauce. Both come with mash potatoes and Rowena’s new favourite thing, mushy peas.
We are absolutely full by the time we are done and it is time to check out the markets.
The market is about ten steps below the Bull Ring but the difference between the people in the two areas is very much more than that. The folk up top are mainly professional, well dressed, city workers and young people shopping.
Below they are mostly wearing traditional Central Asian dress. Many women have their face covered. Older folk pulling little bags on wheels. Mums with screaming kids in tow, Row up on row of stalls. The noise is overbearing with all of the traders yelling out their wares and bargains. The crush of people is also.
We try to look around but it is very uncomfortable. And I see Rowena clutching her handbag under her arm as if it were a set of bagpipes. People pushing, shoving and blocking aisles.
We finally find what Rowena is looking for. Costume jewellery and the like. Auntie Pat likes making her own jewellery. Earrings and necklaces. Watches with various straps. Buying the beads for these can be quite expensive. But buying the costume jewellery isn’t and it is a good source of beads, clasps and other parts used in the manufacture of her jewellery.
Rowena gets a handful of necklaces for a few pounds. That done and I think that it is time to get out of here. Definitely if I do not want to end up killing the next one that barges into me.
Ascending the steps from the market up to the Bullring feels akin to climbing out of a mosh pit, or perhaps a gladiator’s arena. We walk towards the mall and the first thing that happens is someone steps back to allow us to access the door. I hold the door for someone else and they say thankyou. How can it be so different over a distance of 20 metres? The madness and rudeness in the market compared to the order and politeness above.
It is time to head back to the train. The station is not that big and certainly easier to navigate than many we have used in Europe. The train arrives within five minutes of our arrival and ten minutes later we are getting off at Solihull.
Into the car, a small detour to check out Sat-Navs on sale (too expensive for the one we would need) and back to Wixford Street and the rellies.
Auntie Pat is very pleased with her beads and Uncle Jim is over the moon with his raisins. Time to settle in to our (current) sedentary lifestyle, some TV and some pick and mix lollies.
Uncle Jim works on the roof of his conservatory, preparatory work for the main event over the weekend, but is also soon back down and is his favourite chair asleep.
Tea is salad. After the last few days of over eating this is a welcome change. We are joined for tea by my second cousin Rebecca and her husband Adrian, just arrived from Oxford. There is not much chance to get introduced beyond first introductions as the talk is of Uncle Jim’s immediate family. But the ebb and flow of family business and the banter in which it is discussed is very funny.
Rebecca and Adrian depart for family nearby and it is NCIS, Last of the Summer Wine and Agatha Christies Pierrot before bed.
Sleep happens very quickly.