Birmingham has never been on many peoples ‘must visit’ city, particularly in cold, damp and dark November, but it’s my home area (Solihull actually!) and Jackies adopted home, so it feels comfortable to be back and it’s not a bad place, having quite a few interesting buildings, lots of interesting places, such as Leamington Spa, Warwick, Stratford-on-Avon in the near vicinity and, being in the centre of England, easy access to any part of the country, all except Scotland within 2 or 3 hours drive away.
|Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa|
When we say ‘home’ we don’t actually mean the house that we own in the village of Alvechurch, south of Birmingham and in the county of Worcestershire, because it’s rented out to long-term tenants, who are very happy there. As we’re only here for two months we decided to rent for the duration and, here our friend Bill Voisey came in. He owns several houses in Kings Heath, a suburb in the SE of Birmingham and happened to have a room free in a shared house in a very quiet street so, at a very reasonable rent, we’ve moved in. Zoe and Rob are our fellow house sharers, both late twenties/early thirties and professional people, so at least we’re not with late teen students and it’s actually quite pleasant. Having bought Jon and Lucy’s old car, a Vauxhall Vectra for a very good price and UK and European insurance (in anticipation of taking it to France in January when we go skiing for the season), we feel pretty well set-up.
|Jackie in Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa|
We’ve got off road parking, a smallish bedroom, plus the box room for storage and downstairs a smallish kitchen, reasonable lounge dining room and a huge garden with shed (for bike storage!). It’s within walking distance of the local pub where we have always met for our Monday evening drinks with Bill, Mark Holmes and Tim Holden (when he gets down from being FD of Pendragon, a multi-million pound company in Derby) and, better still, walking distance of the local leisure centre, Cocks Moors Woods, where I used to go circuit training every week. Being Birmingham residents we are entitled to a ‘Be Active’ card, which gives us free access at certain times of the day to the leisure centre, so we’ve enrolled and intend visiting regularly over the next few weeks to get as fit as possible for skiing.
|This cheeky grey squirrel was clearly after food|
Also relatively close is Birmingham’s biggest indoor climbing wall, Creation, where all our friends from Solihull Mountaineering Club meet on a Tuesday night and which itself is right opposite our favourite Indian restaurant, Diwans, what more could we want!
|And he knew how to turn on the charm!|
Since arriving back on Saturday we’ve managed to meet up with quite a few people, Sunday evening with our good friends Ian and Helen for proper British real ale in the Old Moseley Arms (how we’ve missed that - fantastic!!!), followed by a curry at Diwans and a good catch-up with them and Jay, the owner of Diwans (it’s great to be back, although strangely it almost seems as though we’ve never been away!)
Monday was back to Andantex to collect the luggage we’d sent back from Melbourne and to see them all (except Rob who’s still off after breaking his ankle doing a via-ferrata in the Italian Dolomites in July), followed by the dentist, a walk round the lovely Jephson Gardens, in the afternoon sun (a Victorian park in the centre of Leamington with formal gardens, lakes and a hot-house, all on the banks of the River Leam) and then our Financial Advisor in Leamington Spa.
|Jackie, Helen and Ian in Diwans with Jay in chatty mood|
Tuesday was enrolling at Cocks Moors Woods, shopping and then a visit to the indoor climbing wall to meet up with all our friends. We went early, to get the reduced entrance price before 4:00pm (even cheaper when we said we are members of Solihull Mountaineering Club, who get discounts there, but actually we aren’t yet!), which may have been a mistake as, after no climbing for 6 months, the last time with Paul Tooze on Kangaroo Rocks in Brisbane in early June. Climbing fingers and forearm muscles just weren’t used to it and muscles were screaming after two hours and fingers were refusing to hold on to things any longer. A cup of free tea (courtesy of SMC arrangements) to wait for our friends to start arriving around 7:00pm and then great reunions and chats and a further attempt at some more climbing (failure!) and then off home for dinner. A great day and a lovely catch-up. We’re back, have we ever really been away?
|Ians empty balti dish - we think he enjoyed it!|
I’ve been catching up even more, having come back from Dorset with Mum, on the Friday, while B stayed with J&L, C&C to go back with them to collect the car, which was very odd, having not been apart for more than an hour in the last year (which in itself is odd I know) we were apart for a day and a half! (back to normal then!) So I popped round to Sarah who has been scanning all our post and sending it to us for the year (what a star) for coffee, caught up on all that has been happening at work. If I hadn’t got out when I did, there would have been no chance of redundancy as the boss appears to have been empire building ever since I left, though I knew my timing had been good before I left as a colleague who worked on the Olympics, and remembered what making real telly is all about, asked to go and was refused, with the words “And I wish I’d never let Jackie go!”. I feel like we caught up with an old friend in Jephson Gardens! All I did was ask the guy feeding the squirrels what he was giving them (digestive biscuits) we suddenly got his life story – he emigrated to Canada in ’89 but his Mum died so he popped back and then couldn’t settle away, his daughter came back pregnant, but his granddaughter is lovely and nearly made him a great granddad, but lost it ……. This went on and on, interesting? Yes, Terribly personal? Yes, slightly more than we wanted? Yes. Fortunately B got a text message, so we could claim our next appointment and move on! Still if it made him feel good to talk.
Today I’ve been to Alex – just pop round for coffee, 11.00 till 15.00 Great, barely mentioned the trip, just talked like nothing had ever changed. Off to see another friend tomorrow to catch up, which I’m also looking forward to. We’ll re-unite B with his bike on my way, so he too can catch up with an old friend! Not to mention seeing Fiona (B’s daughter) and the kids on Friday and meeting her new man. Why are we trying to do so much in the first week, I have to ask!