#365daysofbiking Paint the whole world with a…
November 16th – After the old chap who ran the lawnmower shop in Brownhills retired, the shop stood empty for a while, before being renovated. It actually became, in time, an upmarket baby boutique called Nancy & Harlows, which seems very popular, and I wish the proprietors all the best in their venture.
What is a little unusual about the restoration is that as part of it, local artist Rory Northall was commissioned to paint a mural on the gable end of the building. This colourful artwork features the children in his family in age order, each holding a balloon with their initial on, Pooh Bear and Eeyore, a rainbow, blue sky, and the stars and moon. The moon itself forms the seat of a young girl in a pink dress with angel wings, and requires no further explanation.
The artwork is stunning, colourful, beautiful, well executed and popular. And I think it looks best after dark, which is how I caught it on an evening errand ride around town.
A lovely thing I’ve meant to feature here for ages. My compliments to Rory and the good ladies who had the imagination to commission such a wonderful thing.
April 29th – I’d been out for a ride late in the afternoon and returned when night had fallen. On a frankly uninspiring photographic day, I spotted Morris, the Brownhills Miner as I came back through town.
I never liked the mix of white and blue lights they chose to illuminate this remarkable sculpture with, but now some of them have burnt out, the lighting looks a lot better: less operating theatre harsh and more industrial darkness, as if Morris was being lit by the ghost light of the welds that created him.
Still love every single stainless steel segment of him (and there are hundreds – just look!)
January 10th – Sadly, my commuting life right now isn’t terribly varied. I’m seeing a lot of dark urbanity, stations, later and earlier. Apologies. Finding variance in a busy January when you don’t see much daylight is always hard.
Passing through Birmingham New Streetin the evening, I found myself at the same platform as the steel horse sculpture that forms the first in a chain of 12 along the line side to Wolverhampton.
Erected in 1987 and designed by Kevin Atherton, the Iron Horse project put similar horses in different motion positions alongside an urban railway line, to appear as if the train you were on was losing a race with a horse. Some jump, some buck, canter or trot. They are warm, lifelike, and softly amusing.
They have fared well and not dated, and are one of the great curiosities of Birmingham and the Black Country.
May 15th – I was pleased to note while in Birmingham that a piece of public art I thought had been lost from St. Chad’s Circus subway was still extant, and had been moved. The mosaic or whatever it is – it’s more like a veneer than anything, but it’s not wood – is of trains and transport and commemorates Snow Hill Station, which was closed (I think) at the time it was created.
The work used to be on the subway wall in one of the most horrid underpasses in the city centre. When the subterranean horror was infilled, I assumed the work had been lost, and forgot about it.
I noticed the work fronting the planters outside One, Snow Hill. I’m glad it was saved, it’s a little bit of the Birmingham I remember.
Just like the horrid pub in the subway, The Brown Derby. That was a shocker.
One artwork is still missing, though, and used to stand on the grass above street level on St. Chads; it was a metal, full size child’s swing, captured and welded in multiple stages of movement as if caught in stop motion photography. It was brilliant. Anyone know what happened to that?
March 26th – I escaped work early, and despite a fearsome wind, headed down to Kings Norton on the train and cycled back up the canal, and through the Sandwell Valley.
At Kings Norton station, this poster and one of the worst photo editing failures I’ve seen in ages.
Just what is going on with the spokes in that wheel, and are images of bicycle wheels so sparse that you have to badly photoshop your own?
December 31st – I’m concerned about the fate of the sculpture at Catshill Junction in Brownhills. Since the new housing development started, due to lack of access, it has become increasingly overgrown. I’m worried it might be lost completely, and fear that Walsall Housing Group have made no provision for it in the plans for the new build.
On the subject of which, it’s very early days yet but I’m finding the building flat and characterless at the moment. Any new homes here are good; the land has been dormant and unused for a decade – but I do hope this currently somewhat bland construction develops some character as it’s topped out…
August 28th – A bit of a strange day. I wasn’t planning on going to work, but ended up called in anyway. It wasn’t a bad commute as it happened, and the journeys were pleasant. On the way home, I passed over the The Bridge in Walsall town centre. It was while there that I spotted something I pass by loads, that is really part of Walsall’s furniture; the concrete hippo. It occurred to me that I’d never featured it here before.
Derided and loved in equal measure, this 1970s artwork has formed a meeting point for a couple of generations of Walsallians. Up until a decade ago, the hippo basked outside BHS, and teenagers, before mobiles and social media would agree to ‘see you by the hippo at 12 o’clock’ or somesuch.
For a while, the hippo image was even used to advertise the Walsall Show.
The story of how our town came to have this bizarre object is complex and not without some debate, but I think all true Walsall folk love it. There is talk of a renovation, of fixing the broken ear. I hope they go through with it.
Walsall is full of surprises. A concrete hippo – without any apparent rhyme or reason – is just one of them. And it’s lovely.