July 29th - Sorry, more cygnets. I didn’t know about these, but taking a desperate dive onto the canal to avoid traffic madness on my way to work, I passed this family of three and parents in Pleck, Walsall.
They interested me particularly, as the young are clearly starting to develop white plumage, yet look younger than the Catshill brood (they’re smaller, too).
The adults don’t look any different, though…
July 23rd - Riding back home this evening, something shiny in the road caught my eye - lying on the edge of Green Lane in Shelfield, the debris from something that really shouldn’t happen. It’s a shattered bicycle sprocket.
This would have been part of the cassette, or rear group of cogs an the back wheel of a cheap bike. It’s been used, as the teeth are worn, and the chrome coating ground through. Decent sprockets are made from high-grade alloys or steel, with some flexibility. Generally, they’re pressed or forged.
This one is low grade steel, and has been made from cast material, making it inflexible and weak. It’s a fair assumption that under load, it’s cracked, and at some point catastrophic failure has occurred, and other debris in the road suggested as much.
Cheap supermarket or discount store bikes are often fitted with this kind of cheap componentry and fail in this kind of manner. Deprending on when it failed, this kind of breakdown could be very serious, and cause the rider to be injured - imagine if this had happened when cycling up a steep hill, like Black Cock Bridge, further on?
If you need a decent bike, and haven’t got much cash, a better option is to look out for a decent secondhand steed. You’d be surprised what you can get from Gumtree or the small ads for the same money.
A very, very cheap bike really isn’t worth the risk or hassle. They’re cheap because they’re made out of cheese, bus tickets and spit…
July 23rd - in the Goscote Valley on my way to work, as the day started to warm up, I was drawn to a continual crackling sound. This always fascinates me; it’s the sound of gorse pods popping open with a snap, and scattering their seeds.
The action is induced by the warmth of the sun, and makes for an interesting diversion on the way to work. I love how the pods rattle musically when you shake the bushes, too.
It’s the little things that make summer, really.
July 16th - Working late, stopped off for a Chinese takeaway on the way home.
Just what do bored staff do in such places when it’s slack, then?
A variety of animals and flowers, mostly folded from the local newspapers. I loved it. There’s creativity in the oddest places if you look out for it. There’s clearly a talent here.
July 16th - Hey, South Wigston has a station cat. With the close proximity of dense housing, and embankments and wastelands full of small, squeaky things, it was inevitable, really, but I’d never seen this young lad before.
He was doing monorail cat on the pedestrian barrier until I appeared. He hopped off when I got out my camera, but did pose for a few shots… a lovely lad, clearly.
Like pubs, every station should have a resident cat.
July 14th - South Wigston station, where sadly some Philistine has been out with a brush-cutter and mown the interesting flowers back from the walkway.
However, the sweet peas growing in the centre of my favourite patch of wilding are keeping the bees busy.
There’s always something to cheer, here…
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 - 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 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 - 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 - 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.
July 1st - At the other end of my morning commute, Telford. The flowerbed here that held crocuses and tulips early in the year now holds these delightful blooms - the only ones I recognise are the blue lobelia.
So many people passed this flowerbed getting off the train, and never gave it a glance. I felt sorry for the flowers, who were clearly trying very hard to get our attention.
So I shared them here.
June 27th - A hard day and an awful journey home for the last commute of the week. The trains were a mess and I came back from Four Oaks against a grinding headwind with little left in my reserve tanks. I was knackered.
Re-armed with the camera, I spied this field of high-quality, nicely ripening barley at the foot of Castle Hill. It’s a lovely crop, with plump, large grain and will make fine malt.
I love the satin sheen of an undulating crop of barley, as it bobs in the wind. It’s one of the great seasonal sights of the English countryside.
June 26th - Without my trusty camera, the phone was employed again on the way home - but I hate it, and inadvertently set it to take square images, which are no use to man nor beast.
I took some photos of a lovely black and white puss that walked out of the hedge in Green Lane, and mewed a greeting at me, but the images were terrible. Just as well that I noticed this impressive pile drilling machine on the building site near Catshill Juntion. It will be drilling foundation piles for the new maisonettes here.
That’s a large drill bit and an impressively complex piece of equipment. Bet it would be fun to play with…