November 18th - I came out of work, and just caught the tail end of an incredible sunset over Tyseley station. I hurried caught these shots in the four or five minutes before my train arrived. It ws gorgeous, and I was glad I caught it.
November 18th - I left for work a little early today, I took the backlanes for a change. Despite the grey, overcast weather, they were beautiful in late autumn colours. A good wind now, and these trees will be stripped of their last leaves.It really is gorgeous out there at the moment.
Day 321 - Past It’s Prime - I must have ridden past this wonderful contraption dozens of times but it has never caught my eye until today. Having a poke around on the interweb, I discover that it’s a threshing machine. I have also seen much better photos of the exact same machine. In my defence, the farm it is on seems very securely cordoned off and I could only get this picture by holding the camera up over a wire fence.
This was taken with smallest and oldest of my regular cameras - a tiny Samsung Digimax from around 2005. It still somehow manages to take some nice pictures though.
Meerash Farm, Hammerwich. Lost horizons.
November 17th - Today was a carbon copy of yesterday, but warmer, and so the mist had risen a little. By the time I got out - again, as dusk fell - the air was clearing and a very quiet darkness settled upon Brownhills. I spun around, enjoying the unusual quiet; up the canal to the old cement works, then up the old railway line to Engine Lane, and back into Brownhills via the Hussey Estate and Holland Park. It’s taken a long time this year, but tonight, I was aware of being in love with the darkness again, or at the least, in love with the things it brings. Solitude, quiet, a new aspect to familiar places.
There’s the dark town, the darkness itself, and the fear of the darkness. At some point in the last 24hours, seasonal lines recrossed and I stopped fighting it. The fear is real: it’s not the menace, or the ghostliness as found here at Coppice Lane, but the fear of never seeing the summer again. I can’t hold on to the year passed,the warm days, long grass and flowers have withered and now, it’s winter. Come Christmas, everything will open out again.
And in the meantime, evenings like this: quiet, dark and beautiful.
November 16th - I went up to Chasewater just to spin around the park. I haven’t done that for ages, but in the shorter, colder days of winter I’ll return to it more and more. Although it’s nice to see the lake busy in summer, like Cannock Chase, the magic comes when it’s deserted and few venture out. Apart from the odd dog walker and twitchers there to catch the Great Northern Diver that had been exciting local birders all week, I saw few folk, and as dark fell, I felt the familiar haunting feeling I get here… A mixture of enjoyment, desolation and sense of smallness in the great dark.
The lake seems to hover these days about a foot off full, and is functioning normally, with Fly Creek flowing well to keep it topped up. As I folded back over the causeway, the last bit of the sunset over Norton and Jeffrey’s Swag was quite nice, and in the dark from the Balcony Shore, it seemed the resurgent Water Sports Centre was getting ready for a party.
One of the few joys of the off season is returning to old haunts.
November 16th - I headed up to Chasewater late afternoon in bad light, as I hadn’t been for ages, and as usual I took the canal route. Nearing the paddock at Newtown that had been home to Big Tasties, who’ve since moved to Stonnall, I heard the oddest twanging noise. Not long after, I spotter her.
This huge, healthy sow seems to be on her own and have the entire space to herself. She had attracted my attention by repeatedly biting on the barbed wire fence at the towpath edge, barbs and all, tugging it out and twanging it like a guitar string. At first, I was very concerned she might hurt herself but that mouth seems very, very tough. She was very tame and allowed me to stroke her head.
November 15th - While capturing Morris, the lights of the former Brownhills Council House - The Parkview Centre - caught my eye. It was an interesting original building - not handsome or beautiful, but a tour-de-force of civic pride in a growing town made prosperous by coal and bricks. The brick legacy is reflected in the light terracotta masonry, and engaging detail around the windows, doors and eaves.
Sadly, up until recently, the hundred year old clock has neither been accurate nor reliable, and is affectionately known as the ‘three-faced liar’ to locals.
Recently, the timepiece has been refurbished following welcome work instigated by the Brownhills Local Committee, with new mechanisms and seems to be holding time well; it was a mere minute fast in this picture.
Unfortunately, the civic pride the building and clock conferred has been utterly destroyed by the hideous, architecturally lazy and cheap extensions added in the last decade to make this landmark suitable as a health centre and library.
A more botched, unsuitable conversion would be hard to find.
November 15th - It had been a long day, the energy was low, and I didn’t have much time. I spun up the High Street at teatime and rode the backstreets for a bit. Returning, I looked at something thats so familiar, I rarely pay it much attention: Morris, the Brownhills Miner. Much as I feel uncomfortable with the extravagance in a faltering town, I do love him. John McKenna’s work in drafting all those fragments, then welding them together in a finite-element model like this is stunning, and always has been. So much better than the laser cut by numbers tat in Walsall Wood, this took a really skilled artist a huge amount of time to design, facilitate and build. I just wish the blue lights didn’t make it look so cheap.
Morris is such an obvious and cliched subject, I’ve only rarely featured him here, but it’s worth it, once in a while, just to share him. The politics and cost aside, it’s a terrific thing.
November 14th - Now winter darkness is upon me, that Late Night Feelings thing is haunting me once again. I pitched up at Tyseley station this evening on the threshold between day and night, and all it took between the two was the journey downstairs to the platform.
The lights, the skyline, the signals. Bright, warming, steady, reassuring, control. The glistening, ever-crossing parabolas of the rails; the ever present shadow of the incinerator, innocuously operating unnoticed in the dry warm air of summer, but now with it’s dirty secrets revealed into the chill air in the form of a plume of steam.
Cityscape, geometry, light. Can’t stop the fascination, I really can’t.
November 14th - I spotted this interesting - if slightly bizarre - fixie locked to the railings outside Moor Street Station. That’s actually a really nice frame, and is quite old, although I think something’s been done to the bottom bracket looking at the dark marks on the frame. I didn’t look at the time, as I never noticed. I wished I had.
That’s a great set of wheels, and quite a high gear ratio, but the chain needs an oil and retension.
What’s with the ball-crushing saddle angle? And the oh-shit! brake lever is front-acting, but mounted left handed, USA style. Note the way narrow bars, too.
This is the steed of a serious hipster. Fascinating.
December 13th - Further along the canal,I played again with night photography. Interesting that the lack of moonlight tonight made for such grainy images, but I like them, all the same. I hated it at first, but I’m quite getting to like the ghost-flats in Brownhills. The colour comes alive at night.
November 13th - Heading home from work late again, I hit the canal for a bit of a mental challenge. It’s been a hard couple of days, and night riding in a darker than usual environment is really good for clearing the head. I wait until I get to a dark spot, then kill the lights for a bit. It’s great fun.
This image is taken without flash, and this is how it looks from the bike.
The front light I’m using at the moment - a Hope Technology Vision R4 - is great, and bright enough to stun a badger. Here, it’s on the lowest of three ‘trail’ settings, and it’s more than adequate for tiding in woodland at night.
As soon as the weather clears, going to try it out on the Chase one evening…
November 12th - Meanwhile, at the other Oak Park, something is happening. The 70s recreation centre and sports ground is up for a rebuild, and I’m hoping that should it happen, the council might be able to renovate the old park adjacent. All around the grounds of the leisure centre there are surveyor’s marks on the tarmac, highlighting measurements, cables and pipes. Meanwhile, on the football pitches, a small drilling machine was boring test holes to measure ground conditions. This plan is clearly serious.
Meanwhile, the row of ornamental cherry trees on the east side of the site rain golden beauty on the Brownhills road. Hope they can be preserved in any new development; they’re lovely.
November 12th - I had something important to do in the morning, had had planned to take the rest of the day of, but I got called in to work. In Walsall Wood on my errand, I noted with sadness the seasonal lake is filling up at the original Oak Park. This was once a bowling green.
It would bring tears to a glass eye. This water will stay here until spring, and nobody at the council - whose responsibility this virtually abandoned public park is - seems to give a toss.
November 11th - I think the rain made this, in a funny kind of way. When I came past the war memorial in Darlaston, it was raining quite heavily, but the statue, wreaths and tributes positively glowed in the murk. It looks like Darlaston did it’s fallen proud. So touching, and beautiful, it was a great sight on a wet, grey monday morning.
A few minutes later in the town, I saw the regular street sweeper cheerfully litter picking in the rain. Just as I passed, a lady from a local shop shouted to him, and came out with a cup of tea for him, and praised him for his hard work.
Life here, distilled. I love this place.