December 12th - Coming home late, it was raining quite hard. It was warm, though, and well wrapped in my waterproofs I enjoyed the sights, sounds and sensory onslaught of the traffic on the rain. At Rushall, I stopped to photograph the Christmas tree. It looks better in the photo than it looks in reality - this one seems a little tatty, if I’m honest.
In the late hour, the junction at Rushall Square was quiet, and glistening in the rain. Sadly, I couldn’t keep the lens clear and just had to go for it.
Hopefully, the weather will clear for the weekend.
December 12th - I spotted him on the canal towpath in Pleck, Walsall. This large, curiously vocal calico cat. He saw me coming, and scrambled up the embankment, and stood, yowling and mewling at me from high in the scrub. I stopped. I spoke to him,. He replied. I spoke again. He replied. We had quite a long conversation. Then he got bored, and wandered off.
I suppose that was me told, then.
I will continue to talk to cats, dogs and passing wildlife until someone convinces me that the animals are not listening to what I’m saying.
December 11th - Taking a short cut through the Butts (no sniggering at the back), I noticed that Eastbourne Street has had it’s street lighting changed to LED technology. These lights are cool white rather than the customary yellow, and run much more efficiently and at lower power than sodium discharge types. Birmingham has being undertaking a rolling program of installing this type of lighting for a year or two now.
They’re a shock at first, but I prefer them. Although they look dimmer, their illumination is actually great, and I find they don’t cause the glare that the older types do.
The eerie effect on the urban scene is also rather wonderful.
December 11th - In the midst of an industrial Darlaston winter day, flowers. Outside the derelict, doomed Kings Hill Methodist Church, a beautiful rose grows from the scrub, bringing welcome colour on a grey day. The building is thought to have been sold to a developer, and may be under threat of demolition, which would be a shame.
Not 10 metres away, flowers of more permanence - metal poppies complete the detail on beautiful new railings, erected as part of the refurbishment of Kings Hill Park. They are gorgeous. The designer should be very proud.
Brightness can be found even on the dullest days.
December 11th - The waste fridge problem continues. Spotted in Shelfield this morning on the way to work, this could have been waiting for a bulky waste collection by the council, or more likely, left out for tatters (scrap men) by a householder. With scrapyards now unable to take fridges and freezers due to them being classed as hazardous waste, the tatters have just stripped the valuable electrical parts - the motor, condenser and wiring - and left the rest. Such discarded whitegoods are flytipped in lay-bys, country lanes and industrial estates.
If this was left for an arranged bulky collation, great. If not, it could stay where it is for weeks. This is a reflection of what happens if waste laws are tinkered with without consideration.
Please, please, please - dispose of this stuff properly. Travelling tatters will not. By leaving stuff out for them, you’re exacerbating illegal dumping and metal theft.
December 10th - Walsall Wood again has a Christmas Tree that must be the envy of the borough. Purchased personally by local councillors Mike Flower, Anthony Harris and Pete Sears, it’s an act of generosity I admire and respect. I’m a million miles from them politically, but you have to recognise the clear community spirit in the lovely tree they donate.
Wee done, chaps. And thank you.
December 10th - If I’ve got time, when cycling to Darlaston, I like to hop onto the canal. It’s a quieter, more interesting and contemplative route, and depending how much time I have dictates where I join the towpath. Today, I was running a bit tight for time so I left it until Bridgman Street, in the industrial centre of Walsall. This is an area of small units, some old, some very new. About ten years ago, it seemed the industry here was threatened with encroaching apartments and gentrification, but the credit crunch saw to that.It’s generally a thriving, humming area with frantic commerce of the daytime being replaced by an eerie desolateness at night.
The view from the canal bridge is quite good, if not beautiful, showing many of the architectural and development phases of Walsall. Interesting to note that you can now see St. Matthew’s Church from here, a sight impossible until the BOAK building burnt down last year.
December 9th - After some years of the awful skeletal Christmas tree - literally a lighting column with a wigwam of lights strung from it - it’s nice to see Walsall has returned to the tradition of a real tree, and this years looks great to me. Tonight was the first time I’d seen it, and I must say, it’s a nice one.
Considering a couple of years ago the outrage when the tradition was threatened, it seems to be surviving well.
Welcome to Walsall, the land of political u-turns…
December 9th - It was a beautiful commute this morning. Heading into Darlaston, I took to the canal to better enjoy the sunshine. The day felt mild, and just a little bit, I’m starting to feel Christmassy. I need a break. Christmas will give me chance to get some stuff done. Hopefully, the weather will either be like this, or cold and clear. I’d hate another like the past couple…
December 8th - I really didn’t know what to do with these photos. I spotted the deer in their usual place, but the unusually strong sunset made the images - which were quite long exposure due to poor light - an odd pink colour. I tried fiddling with the colour balance, but that’s not me and I’m not good at that stuff, so I made them black and white.
There were lots of deer about today; I saw fallows on the Chase at Shooting Butts, Lady Hill and Pepper Slade, but the photography was so very poor. It was also poor at Brownhills Parade, where I passed a large Red Deer stag and his harem in darkness at 5pm, loafing by the roadside.
Watch out for the deer if you’re driving locally. There isn’t a whole bunch of road sense, or any sense at all for that matter, in your average Red Deer…
December 8th - Not another bloody sunset? Sorry. They are very good at the moment, and I just seem to be out when they happen. The one today was incredible, but I wasn’t in a position to get a good shot. I’d gone up on the Chase, over Cuckoo Bank and Rainbow Hill. When the sunset occurred I was around Penkridge Bank, and couldn’t get a good view. But the contrasting blue-red sky was astounding, and positively lysergic, really fairytale stuff.
It was quite cold, though, with a quickening wind that was really quite unpleasant on the way back. The Chase was as beautiful as ever, and oddly deserted. I don’t know where the year has gone - can in really be the shortest day in less than two weeks?
December 7th - The distraction was a murmuration of Starlings. They were hypnotic, and none of my images were properly in focus or did it justice.
I’ve heard there have been such murmurations here for a couple of weeks. What happens is starlings flock together in large, mesmeric formations. These started as two groups, and merged atop the electricity pylon by Jeffrey’s Swag. Up there, they rested a while, then gradually took flight in a tight pack, swirling like a maelstrom. For 25 minutes or so they circled the Swag, taking sharp spirals, about turns, each time they came close the sound of their wingbeats disturbed the quiet. Eventually, they spotted a place they liked and descended into the poolside scrub to roost.
I’ve only ever seen this a few times in my life, and never so close. The noise, the Moire visuals as they banked, the sheer bird count were all astounding, as was the manner of their disappearance into the roost.
Glad I was out to see that.
December 7th - The sunset was even better than I expected. I caught it from the west shore and the old norton pit mound. As darkness fell, it became richer and darker, but by heck it was cold. Thankfully, though, there was a bit of a distraction…