October 10th – I passed through Birmingham in a hurry on business in the late afternoon. Passing through Cathedral Square, I noticed something I hadn’t before – the wonderful, priapic Alpha Tower as viewed in low sun down Waterloo Street – past an example of nearly every period of architecture in Birminghams history of continual change.
I stopped for a moment, and caught my breath.
August 20th – A much better, brighter day for me, but not the weather, which got worse as the day went on.
Out for a meal and a ride with someone I’d been missing while they were on holiday, a ride out to a local pub for a huge steak blowout and then a ride to work it off.
There was no wind, and I started in sun; but it soon became overcast and the rain started. But for once it didn’t matter. Returning home 50 miles later in darkness and soaking wet was actually a joy after a wonderful trip out.
Travelling up the A515 through Abbots Bromley, I noticed the modernist, brutal concrete Jubilee Memorial bench, which must be one of the first examples of a very particular municipal style; and then the Best Kept Village trophy sign, which lists all the winners since the competition in Staffordshire began, which is actually fascinating.
I do wonder why that’s in Abbots Bromley, though, and not somewhere else. It seems very… specific.
June 5th – An awful day that found me running around the Black Country on errands. A strong wind, threatening rain and late for a meeting caused me to hop on a train at Wolverhampton.
Wolverhampton station is functional, but I dislike it – it always feels harsh, inhuman and exposed. With threatening skies today it was almost dystopian.
June 10th – Anyone interested in the canals of the Black Country knows about Smethwick Galton Bridge – the beautiful cast iron structure; the multiple railways, roads and two canals intersecting at different heights.
However, there’s something not half a mile away that’s as wonderful; where the M5 crosses a railway, which is running alongside two canals, and crossing a third.
This is a fantastic thing – right next to the sadly derelict Chance Glassworks, Victorian Aqueduct jars with 60s brutalism, which pays no heed to the water. A fine, fine thing that makes one wonder at the progress of engineering, the wildlife that perches in such situations, and the smallness the scale makes you feel.
You may not agree, but it’s beautiful in it’s harshness and ingenuity.
March 3rd – Birmingham, late afternoon. I’d finished for the day and needed to get a few errands done, and while I was about it, check out the slow death of Birmingham’s affair with architectural Brutalism.
This grey, colourless day was the perfect day to survey the wounds being inflicted on the skyline by the cranes, breakers and cutters currently removing Madin’s Central Library and 103, Colmore Row. The demolitions are fascinating, dramatic, conflicting. On the side of the library, soon to disappear, the mural proclaims ‘Todos eat posible’ – all is possible. Survival for that mural isn’t, but change is a certainty.
Until dusk, colour only existed in bright demolition machinery and the hi-vis of the wonderfully nonchalant crane driver; but dusk brought the lights and glimpses of the other Birmingham.
I don’t know what I feel. Uneasy probably applies best.
October 2nd – The run from Leicester to Derby is lovely, and contrasted sleepy waterways with stunning brutalist architecture, wide vistas, quiet trails and bustling shared-use tracks beside busy roads.
I love the wind turbine, and the halls of residence at Loughborough University look like some spaceship ready to launch. But the sleepy views over the west Leicestershire countryside were gorgeous, as was the tranquility of the car-free trail into Derby over the Trent at Swarkestone.
A great ride.