January 21st - It’s not kicked off to be a good week. I’ve had a ton of work dropped on me, and the railway system seems to be in a permanent state of entropy at the moment.
I left work in Telford late, having tried all day to solve an ostensibly simple problem, without success. Riding back from Walsall, it was wet, but drier and warmer that the previous morning.
Tired and ground down, I remember little of the journey home, as often happens, but I did find this image on the camera I don’t remember taking whilst stopped on red at Rushall Square.
I’ve had enough of the dark and wet days. I need to move into the light.
January 7th - The nights are opening out already. This makes me happy. Stood on Tyseley station, it was pretty much still light, which was an improvement. It had just rained, and everything shone. I liked the lines, the perspectives, the lights. Tyseley Incinerator chimney acting like a windsock, an approaching train. The lights of the Birmingham skyline.
Late night feelings again. I never get bored of this.
January 5th - It was a thoroughly horrid afternoon. Windy, wet, dark. I went out with a heavy heart, and didn’t find much of interest in the immediate area, so I spun out to Shenstone down the very wet and muddy backlanes.
Visiting the church, I was again reminded what a gothic, ugly edifice it is. I’ve never liked it; it’s a perfectly competent architectural design, it’s just not to my taste. I find the dark grey sandstone, and heavy Victoriana dismal. Even the gargoyles look desperately unhappy.
Compare St. Johns, Shenstone with any other local church, say Hopwas. Hopwas is a place you’d feel happy to give praise in, to wed, to christen; Shenstone looks like a place to go and endure, repent and suffer - it’s full of foreboding.
More interesting to me is the old tower in the churchyard; crumbling, it’s the remains of an earlier church. Perhaps it would have been better left.
Down in the village,I headed to the Lammas Land - a strip of parkland along the Footherley Brook. On the way, I passed The Plough In, busy, bright, inviting. Newly reopened, it’s good to see. It had been derelict for a few years.
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…
October 26th - And then, there’s the darkness itself, and the magical effect it has on otherwise ordinary, everyday places. A by-pass, a windswept pedestrian bridge, a well-positioned streetlight, a lone stranger.
Even Chasetown can be dramatic at times. Hello darkness, my old friend.
Septemebr 24th - I came home after a late finish at work full of cold. Still struck low with the weekend’s bug, the going was hard. The dusk fell during the commute, and I became painfully aware that we’re now in the few weeks where drivers seem to be re-learning to drive in the dark. I don’t understand the psychology at all, but up until about the end of November, driving standards at dusk will be very poor. Left hooks, getting pulled out on, overtaking into oncoming traffic. All tonight. I had bright lights and a generally decent road position. There must be a reason for this, I see it every autumn.
Be careful out there, folks. You never know what’s lurking at a bad junction or beyond the oncoming headlights.
April 12th - Back in Brum for the day, and I loved it. I don’t mind commuting further afield at all - an enjoy it when the trains work OK - but it’s nice to be in Birmingham, my city is always a joy. Today started damp, and somehow I managed to just miss the rain all day. But every leg of my travel was threatened by dark, heavy cloud.
It was lovely, though. The skies were dramatic and photogenic, and the air of grim threat made my legs spin a tiny bit faster. But most of all, it was warm. I don’t think it reached ten degrees, but after recent weeks, the wind was warm. The air was warm. I cycled with an open jacket.
That’s what was lovely, even though the wind was against me all the way from Walsall.
January 28th - Marbles. I go on about them repeatedly, with good reason. The roads are absolutely covered right now in debris - bits of wood, bits of vehicle, grit residue and gravel, left behind by the snow and ide. This material gathers in hollows and patches on the roads, and passing traffic grinds and polishes it ind it’s wheels. The result is a loose material with very low friction, that lurks on bends and junctions, ready to snatch your wheels from under you. It’s particularly bad in backlanes, but even busy roads like the Chester Road are affected.
Motorbikers call this debris ‘marbles’ due to the similarity to riding on glass beads. The problem will remain until either the road is swept, or heavy rains wash the worst away.Take extra care, please.
January 27th - The snow, thanks to heavy rain and a sudden ramp in temperature - had gone. Only the remnants of snowmen remained, melancholy mementoes of the whiteness of the week before. The consequent darkness around St. James Church shocked me in it’s foreboding.
I’d been to drop something off to a friend, and the weather was wet, warm and inclement. I cycled up the dark pathway from School Avenue, up past the cemeteries and churchyard, and the church itself was unoccupied at 5:45pm on a Sunday, which I found oddly sad. Brownhills Church is one I’ve always had difficulty with architecturally; It’s not ugly, and it’s not remarkable. Apart from an odd spire and hideous extension, it’s pretty plain, really. It’s position, however, is excellent. It’s like the centre of the town was built around it, and the warren of streets take curious right angles around the grounds.
December 28th - Take one large pit mound. Leave it in the northwest corner of Chasewater, then landscape it. Plonk a bench on top. Then wait for a bored, bedraggled cyclist to pedal up it in the dark.
Here, I experimented with long exposure photographs again. I was looking for something interesting, but the wind and rain were a problem. As I returned, I tried the same over the Swag pool, towards Norton.
None of these have been doctored, and exposures varied between 1.6 and 5 seconds. Quite pleased, really.
November 20th - At the ‘cute Victorian’ end of the railway station spectrum is Shenstone. Full of stereotypical metroland classic commuter charm, this was one of the last stations built on the old Cross City line, when the fillip was added between Sutton and Lichfield. It’s a gorgeous, terracotta brick, semi gothic marvel, sadly defiled by having it’s lovely glass canopy destroyed and chimneystacks truncated. In this dormitory commuter village, it is dark and quiet on the station at night, and I think, even in a steady drizzle, that it is beautiful. A good place to leave from, and a fine place to return to.
23rd October - As I headed homeward, conditions - and the light - didn’t improve, but at least the wind was almost behind me. The amount of motorists I saw without lights was astounding, and by the time I was negotiating Shire Oak Hill, it was both raining steadily, and very nearly dark. This weather is difficult to ride in - not just for practical visibility and comfort reasons, but the rain makes people drive oddly, and it puts me on my guard. One would imagine that bad weather would make people drive more carefully, but the opposite seams to be the case. Most bizarre.
October 5th - As I noticed yesterday, the dark evenings are on their way. Once more incontrovertible, it was dark at 6:40pm as I cycled up Clayhanger Road. Grim, dark and for boding, This is what many commutes will be like for the next few months - time to start carrying the gorilla pod again.
September 2nd - I just knew all day it was going to be a good sunset. I had no idea why; sometimes you can just tell. At teatime, that cold, damp chill descended, of the kind you only get in autumn and spring, and the sky started to turn pink. I knew it was game on. I took my time and headed to Chasewater, which has to be the best place to catch a sunset in these parts. I was surprised and delighted by what I found: not just a great sunset, but a yellow moon rising the east, geese honked and chattered in the dusk as they came in to roost. Bats skittered about my head, and moths became iridescent in my bike lights. Behind this was the most delightful susurration - the continual lapping of water in the darkness. I realised how long it was since I’d heard that at Chasewater. A fine thing. It’s been grim times, old girl, but it’s nice to feel your recovery at last.
February 21st - There is a place in New Street Station, Birmingham, that is only known by a select few: those who use the lifts. This happy club includes cyclists, wheelchair users, those of limited mobility and service personnel. The platform access is so shambolic that only on two platforms do lifts connect to the concourse above; for the remaining five, you can only go downward to a connecting subway. This makes every platform change an absolute joy. If you actually want to get out, and land at, say, platform 2, you have to go down to the subway, and come up via tone of the two lifts connecting to the concourse through other platforms. These two lifts are very busy and the wait can be considerable. The connecting subway is dark, dingy and contains lots of horrid, dark corners. But never mind, it’ll all be better soon… and there will be jam for tea, too, I’m told.