February 11th – I can’t beat about the bush here: it was a bloody horrible weekend weather-wise and my disposition wasn’t sunny as a result, either. All the spring of the previous weekend had evaporated and I was left with cold, freezing rain, sleet and a strong wind.
I had to get shopping and run errands. I had to get out. I went to Brownhills, and it did, to be fair, lighten my mood but the photography was dreadful. But there couldn’t have been a better afternoon to consider Ravens Court, the crumbling, derelict shopping centre whose private owners couldn’t give a toss for.
This foreboding, grim vandal-magnet seems beyond the powers of anyone, including the local authority (and lord knows, they’ve tried) to be sorted once and for all. The people with the power – the owners who are a land-banking company based in Mayfair, London – couldn’t be less bothered.
This place blights our town, is a cause for derision, prevents new investment and stands testament to the abject failure of governments to tame the worst aspects of speculative property capitalism.
It was raining in Ravens Court; but surveying this desolation, the rain in my heart was torrential.
August 20th – A very tired day in which I felt groggy, tired and insubstantial, like I was a ghost or something. I didn’t realise at the time, but I think I was experiencing low sugar levels.
I set out late to the supermarket in Burntwood on a punishingly windy day, and got caught in a rain squall on the way back that made my forehead so cold it hurt. But there was a rainbow, too, which didn’t photograph well, but made me feel better.
Passing through Chasewater, I note the valves are still open and the water level is steadily dropping, now about 12 inches from maximum.
I love the tide marks on the spillway weir.
March 28th – Crikey, it was a long journey home. Engineering works commencing at the frankly bizarre time of 2pm today resulted in there being no through trains from Wolverhampton to Birmingham. Since my bike can’t go on a replacement bus service, I was faced with cycling to Walsall from Wolverhampton (I wanted to visit the night market), or find some other route.
I was tired. It was very cold. The route from Wolverhamton to Walsall is horrid. And the wind was against me.
A quick hack with the National Rail app showed I could take a train from Wolverhampton to Stafford, a second service from Stafford to Rugeley Trent Valley, and another from Rugeley to Walsall. The whole lot from Telford took about 3 hours, end to end. An adventure, of sorts.
I hadn’t actually been to Stafford Station in over 20 years; it’s still bloody odd. One of several local stations built in the 60s, it has dated badly, and shares the same faults as it’s sister stations, Coventry, Wolverhampton and Telford. It’s a peculiar place.
Even more unsettling is Rugeley Trent Valley. It’s bleak, desolate and deserted. This station is unstaffed, and occupies a withering, wind-blasted location in the industrial north of town. 2 of the 3 platforms are an Island accessed from a high, steep footbridge, and trains thunder through here at very high speed. It’s clearly a place people choose to take their own lives, as I’ve never seen so many signs advising the number for the Samaritans. With every train that blasted through, the cold wind lashing me in it’s wake, I thought of poor, lost souls.
On the train to Walsall, I was comforted by Cannock Chase in the snow, and not far from the Goosemoor Green crossing, a small herd of fallow deer loafed by the line. They made me feel human again.
Never underestimate the cheering power of snow, trees and wild animals.
May 31st – A really bad commute home this evening. The train I was due to catch – the 16:08 from Telford to Brum – was running 30 minutes late. Then cancelled, which meant there wasn’t another train until 16:51. Then it reappeared on the system, and rolled up at about 16:40… to terminate short in Wolverhampton. Resigned to my fate, I changed onto the stopper train from Wolves to Walsall that stops at every anthill and lamp-post. I arrived in Walsall – this train itself late – at about 18:25. I should have been at home with my feet up by then, and I still had to cycle home.
Wolverhampton station is a barren, soulless place. Like the city itself, I’ve tried to love it, but can’t, sadly. Always seems way too harsh and way too neglected to me. It matched my mood perfectly.