April 12th - I love Moor StreetStation in Brum. Not only is it a lovely, light airy and atmospheric station, but on the whole the staff are more relaxed and customer focused than their competitors. Coming through tonight, I noticed some inconsiderate muppet had locked their bike to the security railings by the ticket barrier inside the station. If this had been a Virgin Station, the bike would have been removed and it all would have been rather tetchy. Here, they sellotape a warning notice to the bike, which considering it’s not actually a trip hazard, makes sense. That’s a nice approach.
Their spelling is about as good as mine.
March 18th - A day of misty light and skyline silhouettes. My journey this morning was shrouded in a thick fog of the variety that condensed into frost on my clothes and bike, yet once on the train to Birmingham, it was as clear as a bell and sunny by Four Oaks.
At Moor Street, the morning light was hazy and yellow. Digbeth looked beautiful as the train glided above it on the viaduct towards Small Heath.
I left work late, and caught the view from Tyseley as darkness was falling. Again, the light was lovely; the city skyline was enchanting, and the station remains fascinating in its faded, jaded, days-of-the-empire style. Down on the platform, as a high-speed intercity shot through, I really got the Late Night Feelings vibe again.
Jewels in an otherwise awful day.
March 14th - It was a gorgeous morning, and it looks like the last one for a while. The morning ride was lovely, and the sun over the city more so. Moor Street Station in Birmingham continues to fascinate; the combination of old, new, interesting textures and architecture make for a lovely, light station that’s pleasant and relaxed when the sun shines. In that, it reminds me of Hull and London Marylebone, both wonderful stations, filled with soft, natural light when the sun shines.
March 8th - There’s not much, photographically, you can do with a day like this, except record it as it was. For the second day running, it was wet and foggy. The traffic was still acting strange, and I was glad to get home. It’s not really cold, and the cycling was surprisingly good due to the still conditions - but the flat, grey outlook, devoid of decent light, is relentless.
Please, spring, come back! What on earth did I do to scare you off?
February 21st - Running late for my connection, I piled it through the city centre in the morning, and saw two of these curious advertising trikes parked up advertising Thinktank. They look hand built, but not terribly well cared for. Primitive disc brakes on the back, and small wheels with an absurdly low gear ratio. Must make for an… interesting riding experience.
Certainly wouldn’t fancy piloting one in a crosswind.
February 12th - Lunchtime, just in front of New Street Station in Birmingham. I keep seeing this lady and her pastel blue Dawes step-trrough framed bike. The front basket (only just visible in this hurried shot) is always full of shopping.
That’s some rake on those forks. Bet it’s a nice bike to ride.
January 30th - The sun came out today, and it felt springlike, which I didn’t mind at all. I guess I’d been mourning the passing of the snow - at night, it makes the landscape light in a way that’s almost joyful, and when the thaw comes, it’s like being plunged back into darkness. I’d felt it keenly since Sunday; the weather has been bloody grim, and to turn out on a sunny morning - even with a wind crafted on Satan’s back step - was a joy to the heart.
I’ve actually found a ramp down to the Solihull platform at Moor Street, which I thought had been closed years ago. As I made my way to it today. I looked at the road system, and the buildings around. I can remember the old Bull Ring well, the network of 60s subways and overpasses. But I can’t place any of it, which I find sad. I know Manzoni Gardens was here somewhere, but…
Brum was also showing beautifully from the overbridge at Tyseley. With decent light, I could zoom right in, and I noticed something I’d not done before; before the mosque, and the shiny modernity of the city centre, there are rows of terrace roofs and chimneys in Small Heath and Sparkbrook. I found it fascinating.
January 21st - I remain fascinated by the railway, and the snow has given it a new slant. I’m no trainspotter, and couldn’t give a toss for the operations, or the trains, or anything like that. What I like is the scale, the idea of connection, or a big, unified machine snaking from place to place. Today, I thought about the thousands of mechanical points across the country, working in very cold, wet conditions. The electrical overhead wiring, the signals, the track. The buildings. How it all survives and still (mostly) operates in the worst of the UK weather.
It really is quite remarkable when you think about it.
January 10th - I keep forgetting to take photos in Birmingham. I pass through it every day, and am still failing to look at it properly. The New Bullring and Selfridges are classic night photography shots; probably cliched by now - but I liked the angle from Moor Street; that the whole thing was viewed from a restored, beautiful Victorian railway station, with the camera tripod wound around genuine old railings. The steam engine - supplied by Tyseley Railway Museum is a nice touch, too, although the track it stands on isn’t connected to anything.
December 11th - It didn’t take long for the mist to settle in, but even that was enjoyable. Just as well, really, as despite the promises of a new dawn, the London Midland train reliability is still lousy, even with the new timetable. 6 out of this week’s 8 trains so far have been late. I still love the sights and views of the railway. I’m not interested particularly in trains, but I love the slightly unreal, meccano landscapes they create, with vividly pronounced perspective, repetition and reflection. I love the impression of distance and connection they create, and of the illusion of solid control, like a huge machine.
The machine is broken, and deserves some love and attention, and a master who loves it, but it’s still a wonderful and oddly beautiful thing.
December 3rd - A grainy, long-distance shot across Moor Street Station in a rain shower. I noticed this cautionary warning in the bike shed between platforms 2 and 3. Some careless cyclist - perhaps in a hurry - has locked their bike up by the front wheel. A thief has come along, and just opened the quick release, left the wheel locked to the stand, and made of with the rest of the bike. They may even have nicked a front wheel from an adjacent bike to replace it. Bastards.
If you’re locking your bike up, use 2 or more locks with the ‘Solid Secure’ rating. Use different technologies - one chain and one D lock, for example. Thieves rarely come tooled up to deal with both. Always lock through the frame, and a solid object if possible.
Bike thieves a the lowest of the low. Don’t make it easy for them.
November 15th - Autumn - season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Well, we got the mists. Cycling on foggy days like this is unpleasant. in a short, 20 minute journey to Blake Street, 6 cars and 1 cyclist without lights at all. The usual selfish, aggressive driving. The discomfort of water condensing over your clothes and face.
It does, however, add a pleasantly enjoyable air of mystery to otherwise unremarkable scenes. A challenging day for riding, and photography too.
November 9th - The day was very grey indeed, and the train service lousy. Bad weather had been predicted for the evening commute, and with cancellations and slow running all round, I left work half an hour early. We’re in the days now of the nascent winter; grey, smoggy air, partial drizzle and heavy cloud makes for a greasy, unreal, not-quite-daylight feel. This is the worst bit of winter for me; not cold enough to be dramatic, or photogenic, or even challenging to ride in, but just headache-grey mundanity, rumbling from day to day. Stuff this, bring on some real winter, please. Snow, or crisp frosty mornings with bright air that hurts your forehead and clutches your chest when you breathe in.
The only thing that looks good in the is murk is the light of the railway. Steady, bright, control.
November 2nd - I was pleased to note this year that the re will be a remembrance service on Moor Street Station, Birmingham. There is a war memorial on the concourse here to the fallen railwaymen of the Great Western Railway, spanning two wars. Tucked into a corner, the memorial was restored in 2003 upon the reopening of the old station. A sombre and beautiful thing.
October 29th - One of the many excellent things about Moor Street Station in Birmingham is the Moorish Cafe. Cheap, good food, served to folk on the move, like me, with speed and great service. As I stopped for a butty this morning, I noticed the usual table decorations were out, and halloween pumpkins were in. Must have taken ages to carve them all. I figure pumpkin soup could be on the menu here for quite some time…