Saturday, 16 November 2013

Catching up in Birmingham, Kenilworth, Cheltenham

Nearly three weeks back in the UK but it feels a lot longer and there’s not been a dull moment, certainly not much time to relax. This will probably read like a diary of events, but I’ll try and make it a bit more interesting…

Sheeps Heads in Birmingham Indoor Market
Got our road bikes back and rode mine the 6 miles home from Alvechurch, but haven’t been out on it since, despite planning a 15+mile country lane route I’d like to do. Same applies to the planned Park Run, which is a 5km timed run round local parks on a Saturday morning, other things got in the way. Had better success with the gym though and we used our 7 day pass to all facilities well, at one point, after Dennis’ Saturday morning circuit training class, feeling decidedly over-exercised, but that’s expired now so we can only use certain facilities at certain times now for free (swimming every morning 8am to 9am – probably not! The gym every day 2:30 to 3:30pm – will try to, and other odd classes at odd times, including Zumba one day – maybe!).

Jenny, Fiona, Becky and Abbie
Met up with my daughter Fiona and my three grandchildren Abbie, Becky and Jenny who have all grown in a year, Abbie at 15 looking decidedly like a young woman now and, as usual, things run at top speed in Fiona’s house! Went to their school to pick Abbie and Becky up, dashed back to get to Jenny’s school in time to see this weeks new dance routine learnt in the previous hour (her and about 30 others are taught every Friday after school and parents turn up after the class to see the final performance, she was brilliant!). Finally met James, her man, who seems a decent sort, so we’re hoping that all works well and then got lessons on how to use ipads that they all had, the kids playing some game with each other, all linked by the wifi in the house and all with high volume voices. 
Fiona with her man, James
Fiona is a live-in manager at a residential home, responsible for looking after a dozen or so elderly people and she is absolutely suited to the job, handling them all really well and, with the kids around, keeping them all younger and active. She got them all onto a carnival float last July and had them dancing on it along with the kids, winning the best float award and getting a picture of Jenny on the front page of the local paper, so they are all now well known! However, due to local authority cut backs there is talk that live in managers may be cut as part of cost saving measures, so she’s a little bit worried about that, but won’t know until next March. We’ll be keeping our fingers crossed.

Jackie cooked a Sunday roast at her mums, we went to the Old Moseley Arms followed by a curry at Diwans with Bill, Mark and Tim on Monday night, Tim making a special visit down from Derby to see us (he’s Financial Director at a multi-million pound company now and doesn’t like his picture to appear on the internet, so I’m not allowed to print his surname. Anyway, he’s still just our mate Tim, he just drives fancy cars now!).

And mustn't forget their cat Oscar
Jackie, Tim, Mark and Bill in Diwan's
Tuesday I went out for the day, leaving Jackie at home. I went to see my old work colleague Terry Spencer, who I started in business with in 1989 and continued until he retired in 2007. We’ve still got a property company between us with a house and a couple of apartments and we need to discuss the not particularly good situation with all of that. Terry’s now nearly 70 and got a DVT earlier in the year so is on drugs and can only walk at the moment with pain, so his golf now is via one of those little golf buggies. Hope he gets better from that soon. After that I went to see an old customer of mine, Iain Exeter who owns Wickman Bennet, a Machine Tool company, now very small indeed, but once a huge multi-million pound company that started its downfall during Margaret Thatchers government when the ‘arms to Iraq’ scandal came to light in 1990. The company was involved in selling Machine Tools to Iraq and the embargo sent the company down from which it has never really recovered. His millions have all but gone, but his energy and enthusiasm hasn’t even though he’s now 70.

Paul, Denise and Jackie in Tardebigge
Wednesday… have to tell you about our visit to Wednesday afternoons Tea Dance at the Methodist Church! It was as we expected, about 20 people there, of which only 2 were men, all probably in their 70’s. Nice wooden floor, chairs round the outside, lady playing some dance music on a cd player and people shuffling round the floor. Although it said Ballroom Dancing it was just sequence dancing, which are all the standard Ballroom and Latin American dances, but arranged in specific steps so everyone does the same. Different routines are named and there are thousands of them, with new ones being invented all the time, so you have to know, or be able to follow someone. That’s not easy when they are just shuffling and doing an approximation of the dance! However, she played a few I knew and managed to drag from the depths of my memory and a few others that we followed, Jackie superbly following my lead! Talked to most of them and they were all very friendly, but they were a bit old and slow for us so not sure we’ll go again. Had tea and biscuits at half time, wheeled in on a tea trolley, followed by a raffle where we won a packet of biscuits (but it seemed almost everyone won something!) and all for £1.20 each! It was very harmless, friendly and quite a laugh, but will think twice before going again!

The tunnel at Tardebigge
Denise and Jackie on a lunch stop
Thursday we caught up with my sister Denise and husband of 30 odd years, Paul (both recently retired) and went for a fairly wet walk along the canal at Tardebigge Locks (part of the Worcester and Birmingham canal, comprising 30 narrow locks on a 2 ¼ mile stretch, to raise the canal 220 feet, with a 580 foot long tunnel at the end We started and finished at a pub, so the chocolate rum at the end kept us going, despite the rain showers on the way out. The circular walk took us back through fairly muddy fields, but in clearing skies we had great views, particularly at St. Bartholomew’s church   
St. Batholomew's Church
Called in there to escape the rain, but inside we met the church warden (or whoever he was), a jolly fellow who talked and talked about the church and its history. 
Apparently its origins are from over a thousand year ago, a church standing there at the time of the Norman conquest of 1066, but the original church was destroyed in 1775 when the tower collapsed, the current building dates from 1777. According to our man, the original building was right on the Worcestershire/Warwickshire border, half in each county and during the times of the gunpowder plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605, some of the conspirators hid in the half of the church in Warwickshire, where the Sheriff of Worcestershire couldn’t touch them. Interesting stuff, but chocolate rum was calling so off we went! Great roast chicken dinner at Denise’s, a bed for the night and full English breakfast the next day was brilliant and very luxurious in their superb house set in rural and affluent Solihull (pronounced ‘Sewlihull’ to only those people born and bred in the town and ‘Sol-i-hull’ by everyone else. It’s like a little code that allows us natives to know who’s original and who’s ‘imported’!).

Jackie and Denise deep in conversation
Andy, John, Trish, Danielle and Jackie
Today is Saturday and yesterday we had an unplanned visit to Cheltenham. My good friend and Best Man at our wedding, John Fullerton rang to invite us down to stay in a hotel he’d booked in Cheltenham to visit Cheltenham Races and the ‘Paddy Power Gold Cup Day’. Sadly we couldn’t stay for the races as we’re out to dinner tonight in Birmingham, but we went down last night to have a wild night out in Cheltenham with him, Danielle his wife and his sister Trish and her husband Andy, all larger than life characters and great fun. We got invited as the third original couple had to drop out so the hotel room was paid for and going spare (at over £100 per night that’s not funny!). 
Jackie and John
The girls out on the town
What a great place Cheltenham is, it’s a Spa town since its mineral springs were discovered there in the eighteenth century during the reign of George III and has many imposing Georgian buildings and, with the major national racecourse it is a huge tourist attraction. We were a bit apprehensive at first as John is of Irish descent, so can consume alcohol in large quantities and is incredibly generous, persuasive and gregarious, any night becomes a major drinking event. 

While the lads try to find out where we are!
This morning, dressed up and ready for the races
Last night was no exception and with the town buzzing with all the racegoers intent on having a good time, it was a lively and very funny evening, finishing off with a really good curry in a local restaurant whose name or exact location I have no idea of after a night of drinking! This morning the head was  a bit fuzzy but we met up for breakfast in a pub, tea and coffee for us, but beer for all of them (at 10:00 ‘o’ clock in the morning!) and then we parted as they went off to the races and we went for a walk round the town before heading back.

Dinner tonight with Rob and Alex, walk and afternoon tea tomorrow with Helen and Ian our busy social life continues!

Dr. Edward Wilsons statue. He was one of Captain Scotts colleagues who perished in Antarctica with Scott. He was a local Cheltenham lad

The non-working Neptune Fountain


  1. What a social whirl! xxx Looking forward to your description of the meeting of Rudi!!!

  2. Looks interesting, ill be sure to check it out. Cheltenham tips