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.
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 5th - A beautiful, late winter/early spring day. I left when the morning fog was thick and cold, and headed to Telford. As I got nearer the station, the mist was gradually burned off by the sun. I came back to Tyseley later, and it seemed the colour of the day was gold. The mist lingered, and made for beautiful skylines.
This spring thing? I think it could be a goer…
February 16th - I hadn’t been to Lichfield since Christmas. It was nice to visit at sunset, and feel the chill coming in, reminding me not to get too cocky and that it was still February. The sky was gorgeous, and the city skyline more so. As I walked the streets pushing my bike, I reflected on how depressed the city centre was; so many closed shops I used to love. But the place is still gorgeous, for all that.
February 15th - I hopped off the canal and along the old railway line towards Clayhanger. It’s an interesting spot at dusk, and the views over the rooftops on a clear night are wonderful, as is the view down towards the village. As I arrived, there was a familiar rustle in the undergrowth, and out strolled the old dog fox. He looked at me, as if in recognition, then trotted off down the path.
It was good to see him, I was worried he wouldn’t survive the winter. He must be getting on a bit now.
February 14th - Today was spring-like again. When I went to bed the night before, there was still snow on the ground. When I awoke, the snow had gone and we’d rebooted into spring again. An odd season, this.
As I dashed late from work, I noticed the sun over the city, and a decent sunset. Snatching a couple of quick shots, I dashed for my train.
The season’s wheel is really turning now; when I got back to Walsall, it was just about still light. I think there’s hope awhile yet…
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.
December 17th - Last commute until 2013. I found myself having to visit a place in the backstreets of Small Heath, which gave me somewhere new to explore. Leaving the oddly desolate Small Heath station, I noticed the great view of the Birmingham city centre skyline from the bridge. There’s everything in there - the new library, Beetham and Alpha towers, Selfridges, the cathedrals and various churches. This really is a wonderful view, all with the perspective-defing railway before it. I love this city. I love it with all my heart.
December 4th - Another gorgeous morning immediately after rain. As I headed to Shenstone to get the train, the countryside was beautiful and dramatic, and put me in mind of Joni Mitchell ‘…shivering trees standing in naked rows’. I noted that the twin towers of Shenstone are now visible on the skyline again, the smaller tower - the ruin in the churchyard - is hidden by the trees in the summer months. I love the way the gargoyles on the heavily gothic modern church tower are visible from some distance away…
November 28th - First decently sunny, clear morning for weeks. It was cold, though. The trains seemed stuffed again, so I cycled from the city centre, over Camp Hill to Tyseley. At the railway bridge next to the station, I took in the city skyline in decent light. Amazing how much of it is really quite new. It’s all here: Beetham Tower, Masshouse, The Hiatt, The Cube. Lovely. My city, my future.
November 26th - Returning from Tyseley, the alternation flip-flopped again; it was raining. The drizzle was reasonably light, though, and I stopped to admire the view from the bridge. Winging it, I stood the camera on the Wharfdale Lane bridge parapet, and zoomed in on the city skyline over the train yard. I’m quite surprised at the result. The image is noisy, but I think I like it. Talk about unexpected beauty…
December 2nd - Coming up from Caldmore (‘Karma’ to locals), passing over Church Hill in Walsall at 6pm, I couldn’t resist a few night shots around the church. The view of Paddock, is one I’ve found fascinating for years, particularly at night. Just about the last large concentration of tower blocks in Walsall, oddly they survived whilst others were demolished. The church and grounds are wonderfully atmospheric at night and offer great views of the marketplace and beyond to the north, and the Ditch area and Ablewell Street to the east. A century ago I’d have been overlooking a heaving, densely packed slum. How times change.
November 26th - Passing through Lichfield for lunch, I spotted this unusual shot across the rooftops from the car park at the rear of Bakers Lane. Lichfield is such a photographed city that sometimes it can be hard to find an original angle. I like this one, because it shows how busy the roofline of the city is, and how, from many angles downtown, St. Mary’s dwarfs the cathedral. I would imagine that realisation has annoyed the odd lofty cleric from time to time…
August 24th - Urban sunsets can be wonderfully dramatic. I love the outlines of buildings in silhouette, and I’ve always been fascinated by the image and concept of skylines. Taken from an unassuming railway bridge on the borderline of Butts and Reedswood, I spent ages stood like a lemon in North Street snapping the sunset as it developed, much to the bemusement of passing drivers.