August 9th - I pootled into Brum on the train for an early evening curry on the Soho Road, and did a little shopping in Brum while I was about it.
These street performers were drawing good crowds of astonished onlookers, which amused me as it was clearly separating those with some mechanical knowledge from those without.
It is very clever and visually stunning, but it can’t be comfortable for extended periods, so hats off to the chaps doing it.
Can you spot how it’s done?
August 8th - I came to the top of Shire Oak Hill in light rain, and stopped at the quarry entrance to look at my beloved view to Lichfield. Rain was sweeping in along the Trent Valley, and the hills to the west were obscured by low rain clouds.
It had been another tough week,and I was glad to crest the hill and be nearly home. I love my job, but sometimes it’s tough to keep everything going.
But knowing home was downhill from here, the promise of good company, the family and a decent mug of tea was strong, and cheering.
Home is where the teapot is.
As it happened, the rain never really reached here.
August 8th - In contrast to recent days, it was dark and overcast with a very threatening atmosphere for most of the day. Racing home, I could smell rain on the wind, and it felt ominous.
A bit of rain is welcome; it’s needed. But we haven’t had weather like this for any length of time for a long period, and this felt dramatic and alien.
As I rode down Mill Lane in Stonnall, I noticed a flock of starlings had settled on the field, hedgerow and overhead lines. Perhaps it’s just the Hitchcock thing, but even those little birds in silhouette felt menacing…
August 7th - Closer to home, across the spread of Springhill and Sandhills, it’s harvest time. At Cartersfield Lane, wheat was ripe, and ready to be harvested, a process already underway at Home Farm, where the combine was sending up a terrifically dramatic cloud of cereal dust as it worked. Also growing on the lower fields of Sandhills, a healthy and verdant maize crop, now quite tall.
This does seem to have been a most favourable summer for the farmers, but I’m sure they’ll find something to complain about before long…
August 7th - I had to nip into Brum on my way home from work, and hopped on a train to Shenstone on the way back. I haven’t been this way much lately, and the familiar wooded hill with church tower - just the one in summer, the other being obscured by trees - looked splendid in the early evening sunshine. I love how you can see the gargoyles at the vertices from a very long way away.
The station and it’s complex, partially mansard roof is still gorgeous, too, despite being neutered of it’s tall, elegant chimneys several decades ago.
Shenstone is gorgeous, and there are few better places to be on a warm, sunny evening.
August 6th - This is in response to a recent request by top bloke and Brum social media whizz John Hickman. This is a saddlebag vomit.
Don’t be alarmed, is a meme, or idea carried from something common elsewhere - handbag vomit/daily carry - where someone posts pictures of what they carry in their bag daily.
Here, minus personal stuff like paperwork and work junk, is what I carry daily in my saddlebag. I regard these things as essential. I suspect some folk will find them surprising.
The items are, in roughly back to front order:
- 1l flask of earl grey or chai, sugar and milk
- Sharpie marker
- Cheapo multitool thing
- 2 spare tubes for different bikes
- Apple mac network adaptor
- clean paper towels and disposable gloves for mechanicals
- Emergency sweets (milk gums) for bonks and sugar crashes
- Pack of self-ahesive patches still in blister as case is crap and they pop open
- Muji box with sheets/tubes of meds - Sudocrem, painkillers, hay fever pills etc.
- Nasal decongestant for troublesome sinuses
- Pedro’s tyre levers - the best I’ve found
- Aquapac for keeping phone dry in the wet
- 2 Rema conventional puncture kits
- Spokey spoke wrench (again, the best there is)
- Emergency work phone
- Bahco mini socket, ratchet spanner and bit set. Brilliantly useful.
- 15mm stubby spanner
- Spare camera, GoPro and GPS batteries
- Mini torch
- Memory cards and sticks in waterproof box
- Various everyday USB and charging leads on a keyring with thumb drive
- Huawei 4g mobile WiFi router with selection of SIM cards for different networks
- 7000mAH USB battery for charging phone etc.
- Google tablet (interchangeable with iPad/macbook air depending on work requirements)
- Not shown: cable ties, pager, security access cards, clean socks and about 100g of assorted detritus
The tools and survival items have evolved over years and changes of bike. Surprisingly, this lot doesn’t weigh much and leaves plenty of space for the junk of the day and shopping if necessary.
Is this the geekiest saddlebag out there? What do you lot carry?
August 6th - Riding back through Walsall on a warm summer evening, you realise this is the best time of year to see it; the trees around Hatherton Street, Lichfield Street and the poncily named ‘Civic Quarter’ are absolutely wonderful. People run Walsall down as being dirty, post-industrial and architecturally barren, but it’s one of the greenest pieces of urban landscape I’ve ever seen.
Beneath these trees, a town lives and breathes.
If you don’t believe me, get somewhere high, like the New Art Gallery or St. Matthews steps on Church Hill, and look out. Walsall is a green oasis.
August 5th - Another saying my Grandfather used to use a lot was ‘It’s always a good year for something.’ On this, the old man - who lived life much more connected to nature than I - was bang on. Every year, every season, is detrimental to something and benificial to something else.
This year we have an absolute wealth of early blackberries. They, sycamore, horse chestnut and beech appear to have done very well indeed. Oak and fruit seem to have had a very bad year. This is the first acorn I’ve seen - last year, the boughs were heavy with crab apples, damsons, cherries and acorns. This year, very few. Rowan, Hawthorn and cotoneaster seem to be doing reasonably well, though.
I guess it’s just how the weather falls. One late frost and the fruit crops are ruined…
August 5th - Grove Hill, Stonnall, on the way to work, just past dawn. Granddad used to say ‘Mackerel sky, 24 hours dry.’ On this, his rule of thumb is generally right.
This pagan place was beautiful, and despite running close to time (as ever), I stopped to capture it.
A morning like this sets you up for the day.
August 4th - He was fishing in the canal from the gardens at the back of Barrow Close in Walsall Wood. He is absolutely gorgeous, and I think I’m in love. He has to be a pedigree.
Look at the length of that tail! A fine cat whose staff should be very proud.
August 4th - I ought to know what this is; I can’t remember and the book is in elsewhere. The nettle-ish leaves have me confused. It’s a lovely shade of purple and one single instance (that I’ve found) is in bloom by the canal at Birchills.
August 3rd - Terrible angle, sorry, but the heavy rains of Saturday morning again washed the footpath away on the canal bank at Anchor Bridge, for the fourth time in a year.
Watch out if on bike or foot; it’s a trip and fall hazard.
Just what will it take for the Canal & River Trust to repair this properly for once, instead of just sweeping the washdown back into the cavity?
August 3rd - Chasewater itself was gorgeous. From the honeybees busy on the knapweed, which looks so very like thistles, to the thistles themselves, which are now doing the seeding thing. Amphibious bistory dabbles the western edge of the lake, and the north heath looked gorgeous.
We’re so lucky to have this nearby.
August 3rd - Still laying off the long rides for the sake of my sore foot, I had to run some errands and get some shopping in - so I headed on a sunny, but windy afternoon to Morrisons at Burntwood.
A lovely day, for sure - and the harvest at Home Farm, Sandhills, had started, but the wheat still wasn’t ripe enough. Hopefully, it will be before the next lot of rains midweek…