December 5th - Without a functioning rail service, there was no alternative and I cycled home from Tyseley. The wind was strong, but it had died back considerably, and the rain - apart from a brief shower as I hit Park Hall - had cleared. I didn’t fancy the traffic up the main drag over Kingstanding with a side wind, so hit the canal all the way home. It got dark in Aston, and the front light - my trusty Hope R4 - was plenty good enough all the way. The going wasn’t fast, but it was steady, and much of the time I was sheltered from the wind.
Reality checks came at Tower Hill, where rocks had tumbled from the steep cutting embankment onto the towpath, and Park Hall, where a tree had similarly come to a sad end.
There was a cracking sunset, too, but I missed most of it, hidden behind the cityscape. The views over Hamstead were great though, and it made a change to see them at this time of day. I must head here for a sunset when I get chance.
I arrived home tired, but just pleased to be back, and safe. Many, many people had a far worse time with floods, the tidal surge and severe gales. My tribulations were nothing, and I did get in a decent ride, after all.
December 5th - It wasn’t a great day for train travel in the Midlands (or the rest of the country, for that matter). Signal failures led to horrid delays getting to work, and storm damage mainly caused by falling trees stopped lines to Walsall and Lichfield during the afternoon and evening, so I cycled home from Brum and gave the trains a miss completely.
I noted that Notwork Fail have this year put up a lush, artificial Christmas Tree in the ‘New’ New Street.
It’s irritatingly not straight, buy very apposite.
November 28th - I don’t know who this cat is, but she has a look about her that suggests crossing her would be a very bad idea. I stopped in Hall Green to answer my phone, and she glared at me with evils from the opposite footpath. As I made my call I was watched very carefully, and I was hissed at periodically.
She’s in very good condition, and I guess her mum loves her…
November 27th - Today, I spotted something I’d never noticed before at Birmingham Moor Street Station: a robin nesting box. Painted to blend in with the brickwork, someone who cares for the structure of this station also cares about the urban birdlife. I shall keep an eye on it next spring and see if it is used.
Top marks, Chiltern Railways. Top marks.
November 26th - I spotted this curious bike as I passed the bike stands at New Street Station. It’s an unusual thing, to be sure. I’d say it’s a late 70s or early 80s knockoff Chopper; all the ingredients are there; small front wheel, three speed with central car-style stick shift, ape hanger bars and big banana saddle. This is clearly not a real Chopper, and has a single front hub brake, and a curious fork with decorative springs to mimic suspension, possibly aping the Cinzia Cricket, another odd, chopper-like bike of the period. This thing must weigh heavily, and the gears are broken, but it’s clearly someone’s loved getabout. It’s the kind of thing one might be lucky to find at a boot sale or house clearance, and is obviously original.
I’d love to know more about it if any bike wonks are reading this?
November 25th - Sorry, but it was a great sunset. I was late for my train, and took a short cut through an industrial park. As I cut through the access tunnel, the sun pulled me up short. In the winter days, light is short and precious, which is why I think the sunsets are so much more beautiful to me. Within ten days, I’ll miss the sunsets completely.
November 21st - At the other end of the day, it was even colder. But the air had developed that hard, glassy-clear quality that it only really develops in winter; when even sounds seem sharper. I noticed as I hopped between stations that the view of the mid-renovation New Street Station, Bullring and Smallbrook from the access bridge was quite stunning, so I stopped to photograph it a while.
Quite surprised I wasn’t collared by the ever-present security as I took these, to be honest…
November 19th - Yesterday’s sunset was clearly unfinished business. Sorry for the repetition, but I do love this view. Tonight, there was less cloud, and more smog, which sat as a band over the distant city centre. I love the gradual colour transitions and trains, like a Hornby set in the dusk.
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 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.
October 30th - I spotted this yesterday, but it’s surprisingly hard to photograph. Growing from the thinnest of fissures in a capstone 20ft above Park Street in Birmingham, a small shrub. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s bearing the most beautiful red berries. It’s way out of reach beyond the platform fence of Moor Street Station, where the line crosses the street below. Here, the parapets and abutments of the bridge ramble and cross, and this small plant is clearly thriving, unseen, unchecked and unappreciated, presumably seeded by the local birdlife.
Give nature half a chance and it’s in like Flynn. Wonderful.
October 29th - A the risk of being repetitive, now we have cooler, drier weather, the sunsets are great. This was (again) the view from Tyseley this evening. I never tire of that view of central Birmingham - ever changing, yet changeless. Such a fine sky tonight, too.
October 29th - Spotted whilst passing through Moor Street Station, the Moorish Cafe is again using pumpkins as Halloween -themed table decorations this year. Whoever carves them does a great job - the expression on this one is brilliant.
A real moment of serendipity in an otherwise dull commute.
October 28th - The shift from BST to GMT and the earlier fall of darkness is always depressing, but it did allow me to catch a great sunset sky over Birmingham on my way home tonight. The inclement weather had left the door open for the cold, and it felt like winter out there, cold, dark and intemperate.
Better get used to it quickly, I guess…