|Maggie cat (no,on the right!)|
Solihull, Brians birth town and still feeling like home! I grew up in Castle Lane about 2 miles from the Land Rover factory, spent many a happy hour on bikes in Hobs Moat Woods and we’re now staying at Helens house looking after Maggie cat for a month, which is less than 2 miles away. It’s nostalgic, bringing fond memories of my childhood from nearly half a century ago and Jackie humours me with soothing words such as ‘yes dear’, ‘yes, you’ve mentioned that before’ and ‘no, it’s very interesting’, she is so understanding!
|Hobs Moat Woods, scene of many childhood adventures|
I have to throw in a few facts about Solihull, some of which people, such as my sister Denise and up to 10 minutes ago, me, didn’t know. It is located 9 miles (14.5km) southest of Birmingham and, although appearing to be part of Birmingham’s urban sprawl, it is actually a separate County Borough with a population (in 2011) of 206,674. It comprises of Solihull Town (pop 97,943), Shirley (pop 35,689), North Solihull (Castle Bromwich, Chelmsley Wood and Kingshust), pop 48,900, Meriden and Bickenhill (pop 24,142). Historically part of Warwickshire, but now in the county of West Midlands, it was voted in November 2013 by the uSwitch Quality of Life Index as the ‘best place to live’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solihull) and is relatively affluent, characterised by ‘above average levels of income and home ownership and a high proportion of residents (50%) classified as belonging to the Prosperous Suburbs socio- demographic classification’ (http://www.solihull.gov.uk/Portals/0/KeyStats/SolihullPeopleandPlace.pdf). More than 85% of residents describe their ethnic group as ‘white British’, which is higher than the England average of 80%, but its population is aging, with 19.1% of the population over the age of 65, compared with the England average of 16.3%.
|Maggie cat guarding the jigsaw|
All this is very interesting, but not as interesting to Maggie cat as when Jackie, and occasionally me, try to do a jigsaw puzzle on the dining table. Feeling neglected she jumps onto the table and lies across the jigsaw, covering as much of it as her body will allow and swipes her paw as we approach with a piece. At one point she even got her mouth round Jackies wrist and frequently growls and beats her tail on the jigsaw. She is a lovely cat and is very friendly despite this, she just doesn’t like us doing jigsaws!
|Sooty relaxing in between us|
Our first weekend here (last weekend) was split between Solihull with Maggie cat and Hall Green, Birmingham with Sooty cat. We looked after Sooty cat last year and have arranged to look after her again in June, but Abigail had a wedding to go to (not her own!) so needed us for last weekend as well. We split it, one night with Sooty, one with Maggie, which worked out well, but meant we were going from one to the other and having to take overnight stuff with us as we travelled. Both cats seemed quite happy as they spent quite a bit of time with us on the bed during the night, always sleeping just where we want to put a leg or an arm, at one point Sooty jumping on me in the middle of the night!
|Sooty demanding attention|
Since then though we’ve been able to settle in with Maggie cat in Solihull and the time has been spent with me trying to get fit by running round the local park and taking part in the nationally organised Park Runs on Saturday morning (26 min 15 sec for 5km so far!),a visit to our Financial Advisor in Leamington Spa (‘keep doing what you’re doing, it’s all looking good’ he told us!) and some ‘catch up’ visits by Jackie to our good friend Alex and her old work colleague Sarah.
One other meeting we’ve had this week is to deliver ‘The Package’ at a rendezvous in Solihull! This completes the circle following our visit to Sumatra in March when we stayed with Mery and Abdi in Berastagi (http://brianandjackiecross.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/berastagi-volcanos.html and http://brianandjackiecross.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/samosir-island.html). We’d booked a few nights at their Homestay in the town in order to climb Sibayak volcano and see dawn next to its smoking crater. When we arrived Mery, asking where we were from, got all excited when we said ‘near Birmingham’, she said her sister lives there, in Castle Bromwich, and would we deliver a package to her. ‘No problem’ we said, but as we got near to the time to board a plane and answer the question ‘are you carrying anything for anyone else’ got us feeling nervous, so we opened it to find a bar of chocolate, a big lump of palm sugar and some tea bags (at least that’s what it looked like!).
|Delivering 'The Package' to Karol and Andy in Solihull|
A few emails and a couple of months later we met up with Karol (who is not Mery’s sister it transpired, only her friend), Andy her English husband and their child (who’s name I can’t now remember) in Starbucks on Solihull High Street. ‘You’ll recognise her as the Indonesian with the baby’ Andy had said in one of his emails and, indeed that was exactly the case. Very friendly nice family, we spent a good hour exchanging stories and intend to converse in the future as their knowledge of Indonesia and the places to visit in Indonesia are, of course extensive and the little bit of conversation and the photos Andy showed us makes us want to book a flight back out there now!
‘The Package’ was delivered safely and, although we knew it was completely harmless (honestly, your honour!), it became a bit of a standing joke that ‘the drug squad’ might pounce on us as we handed it over. As it happened, the only drug was in the Starbucks coffee cup – and very nice it was too!
I’m going to be very daring and post this now without Jackie proof reading it first, her fault for being out with her friend, so don’t let on if you find any spelling mistakes or bad grammar!