July 9th - I’ve worked 40 out of the last 64 hours. It isn’t leaving a lot of time for anything much, but I’m still cycling; it’s my interregnum between home and work, and enables me to straighten things out and relax a bit.
This was my journey home tonight from New Street Station, in snatched photos.
Stations at night again, I can’t help myself. It’s that Late Night Feelings thing coming to the surface again…
July 8th - It’s been a while since I got a good sunset in the bag. I was tired. I had caffeine shakes. I was a stressed, weary mess. But Cycling home in this really sorted me out.
July 8th - Working late. Exhausted, with very sore eyes, I hit Shenstone station just as darkness was falling. Pleased to note this camera takes very decent handheld shots in low light. This rural station is a long-time muse of mine, and I find the station building and environment fascinating, particularly at night.
In high summer like this, working late and catching the dark is a rare treat, and despite my bleariness, I did try and savour the light…
July 7th - Working late, I returned at sundown and winched my way up Shire Oak Hill from Sandhills. I noticed that lots of trees along here are laden with developing fruits - beach nuts, acorns, pine cones and these, unusually abundant sycamore seeds, or ‘helicopters’ as we used to call them as kids.
They seem to be already ripening - but this is only just the beginning of July.
Am I imagining it, or are we heading for an early autumn?
July 7th - New Street, New… wet feet. 8am on a Monday morning, and water trickles through the ceiling and onto the floor of the new concourse. For a supposedly refurbished building, there aren’t half a lot of faults with the new New Street Station. The seems to be a permanent array of leaks, this one at the top of the escalator to Platform 7. Several others were in evidence.
What’s most worrying is that it hasn’t rained for a couple of days…
I wouldn’t pay ‘em in tap washers.
July 6th - Sustrans, the cycling charity who created and ostensibly look after the National Cycle Network are really annoying me locally.
A few weeks ago, I pointed out the baffling signage south of Chasewater on the canal, which appeared to prohibit a good cycling route. Here I noticed similar confusion at the level crossing by Chasewater Heaths station. Face north, and the signage correctly leads you over the crossing, onto the cycleway past the Sportway. Come in the opposite direction, and it shows you’re on Route Five. Or you’re not.
What the hell?
Get your act together, people; you’re supposed to be promoting cycling, not preventing it.
July 6th - I wasn’t in the mood to ride much - I had lots of work to do, so just popped up to Chasewater to check out the Craft & Farmers market, which again, disappointed. I shan’t bother with that again.
I spun out for a circuit around the park, and was taken by the buddleia, water lilies and various marsh orchids, which out here, unlike the ones near the canal, hadn’t gone over yet.
I stated last week that the flowering time was passing; but I was wrong. Things are still flowering well, just in different ways and different places.
This really is a most excellent summer.
July 5th - despite the advancing season, the flowers by the canal at Aldridge are still wonderfully prolific and diverse. No idea what any of these are apart from the groundsel, but all beautiful and all within 10 metres of each other.
July 5th - I popped into Aldridge, and spotted this job ad that I don’t think I can refuse.
Kids today, eh?
July 4th - Cycling in the rain presents its own hazards and challenges, but is especially hazardous in the rain following a dry, hot spell.
When roads are dry, the surface, which is gently abrasive, grinds residue from tyres and collects dust and detritus, plant matter and spilled oil, fuel and other gunk from vehicles. This is all mixed and blended by traffic action into a sort of instant-grease mix, just waiting for the atmosphere to add water.
When the rains come, the first surface waters and traffic action mingle with the powder to form a soapy, slippery fluid that actively foams and reduces traction. Cornering in this goop on narrow tires can be like cornering on ice, and wheel spin and braking skids are the signs that one needs to be careful.
Most car drivers would never notice it. But anyone on two wheels dreads the sight of the white froth on a road surface, just waiting to steel your wheels from under you.
Take care folks.
July 4th - Sweet rain.
It’s been a long, dry and warm spell. Today was fraught, stressed, tired, sweaty. I was struggling against the urge to just go home, the heat, tiredness, irritation. But I could smell the rain on the wind. Sweet, distant, but present. I stood on the threshold of an open fire escape at work and filled my lungs with the smell of moisture on the wind.
As I left work, it began. I enjoyed it. Not torrential, but steady. Gently saturating the plants, refreshing the greenery, and making me feel if not less tired, more alert.
A sensory delight.
I was glad the week was over. And welcomed the rain.
July 3rd - Cleavers, or sweethearts as they’re colloquially known hereabouts are fascinating little things. A creeping, grippy weed, it elevates itself from the ground by hooking on to other plants with it’s spiny, sticky hairs. The seeds themselves employ the same mechanism of almost velcro-like attachment, adhering well to clothing, feathers and animal fir.
The owners of dogs and cats with longer coats will know well the hours spent picking these devilish little balls out of their animal’s hair… but as a seed dispersal tactic, it’s brilliant, as animals preen the seeds out, and they germinate where they land.
Natural engineering is damned clever.
I’ve no idea what the bug is, but he’s an interesting wee thing.
July 3rd - Ragwort is one of those plants that everyone recognises, but few ever stop to look at. It’s rather beautiful. This plant was growing in Mill Green, and looked gorgeous as I passed this morning on my way to work. The buds are gorgeously dainty, and the shades and complexity of the flower parts themselves is wonderful.
At this time of year, it provides a welcome boost to the other, fading yellows of the hedgerow and verge.
Another weed that really deserves a bit closer study.
July 2nd - The onward march of summer means more purples - the urban wasteland warriors that are willowherb and buddleia come into bloom around now. This willowherb - or old man’s beard - is growing well at Telford Station near the overpass, and is a welcome splash of colour in an otherwise dull patch of scrub.
After flowering, this tall, distinctive and very common wasteland plant forms wind-borne seeds that will drift on the breeze and fill the station with white fluff.
Good for birds and butterflies, both plants grow well in urban areas and spots either beyond the reach of man, or out of his sight. They are a testament to the tenacity of nature.
July 2nd - Passing through New Street Station in the morning, I noticed a motorcycle paramedic had been dispatched to some unknown incident down on a platform. Parked on the concourse, a well used, and no doubt well loved, specially adapted BMW bike.
These bikes are incredibly well engineered; they have equipment for use by the technician mounted everywhere, and it’s all to hand very quickly. The paramedics themselves hang about town all day waiting for callouts, and off they speed with all the kit to save lives and tend the injured. I used to see them in a particular coffee shop in town, always with scissors tucked into one boot.
It must be a hell of a buzz to ride through the subways, concourses and malls of Birmingham to get to a shout. I can really appreciate the rush of that.
To Flymo and the lads who wait for the call, my total respect. And I love your steeds.