|Redmarley D'Abitot to Moseley, Birmingham|
The short distance of 56 miles (90 km) took us from rural Redmarley D’Abitot in Gloucestershire to our friends Helen and Ian’s house in Moseley, Birmingham, taking only an hour along the M50 and M5 motorways.
Birmingham is generally regarded to be the second largest city in the UK (although Manchester disputes that!) with a population of 1.1million, comprised of a wide range of national, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Just over 50% of the population are ‘White British’, about 20% are from the Indian sub-continent, with the remainder from a wide variety of places from around the world.
|Diwan Balti Restaurant in Moseley - our favourite!|
The high proportion from the Indian sub-continent have had a big impact on our cuisine, an Indian ‘Balti’ curry is now almost considered our national dish and there are a huge number of Indian curry restaurants in the city offering fabulously spicy food at very reasonable prices. Since most do not serve alcohol they allow customers to take their own drinks in, making it an even cheaper and very popular night out.
|Jackie, Helen and Ian with Diwan owner Jay|
|Molly cat with Max at Richard and Judiths house before we left|
Moseley is an affluent suburb of Birmingham with many large Victorian era (and newer) properties situated well back from tree lined avenues, steeped in history and with many interconnected parks and canals making it, according to a recent survey, the best place to live in the UK. The largest and best known park is Cannon Hill Park, close to Edgbaston Cricket Ground and the Cadbury chocolate factory and our friends Helen and Ian with their Labrador Monty Dog live in a fabulous house that backs onto the park, giving superb views over the park and, through the trees, views of the university clock tower and many famous local buildings. It’s a lovely next destination for us, albeit only for a few days, after leaving the hospitality of Richard and Judith after breakfast on Monday.
|Lazy breakfast with Richard and Judith in their conservatory|
|Charlie cat wants to help unload the car roof top box|
We welcomed Richard and Judith back to their house on Sunday evening with a two course meal we had both prepared, washed down with nearly three bottles of wine. They’d had a pretty difficult journey back from the south of France in the May Day long weekend holiday, a lot of it in driving rain as they neared Paris, so they were fairly tired, but also very pleased to be presented with a glass of wine, followed closely with a hot meal and five happy pussy cats. After the cats quiet month without their dog companions it all seemed to be a bit of a shock to them as four large dogs came romping over to them, Flora the labrador giving Ginger cat a big lick while she closed one eye and braced herself, but Charlie the cat settled down with Flora later showing that cats can get on very well with dogs.
|Helen and Jackie in Ian and Helens back garden|
It was great welcoming them back and, as when we arrived, the evening went very quickly as we all talked non-stop, but the long drive and the hour time change took its toll on them and it was soon bedtime, but not before we had agreed to come back again, but next time to look after their four dogs as well! Next day we were out with them and the dogs for their usual walk through the woods to learn where the dogs expect to go and how they react to other dogs and people (keep Max on a lead if joggers or horses appear!), back for a lazy breakfast, before we helped with their unpacking (Charlie wanted to help by climbing the stepladders and into the roof box on their car!) and then bade our farewell to them all at least for the time being and headed off.
|Helen and Ian in their vegetable patch|
Driving back into Birmingham through Longbridge (former home of the Austin, Morris and then the Rover car company), Northfield, Stirchley and finally Moseley was like coming home. Familiar territory for us and it felt like our trip was finally over, we were home and after sitting down with Ian and Helen in the back garden with a cup of tea and some lunch it felt like we had never been away!
|Ian, Helen and Monty Dog at our afternoon pub stop|
After helping Ian with a few jobs in the garden we all took Monty Dog out of their back gate, straight into Cannon Hill park for one of his daily walks. They are so well situated that they can walk through their garden into this huge park, out of their front door into Highbury Park, the very well laid out large former gardens of Highbury Hall and all of these interconnect with many other parks making it feel like a rural retreat in the centre of a city (Central Park, New York – eat your heart out!)!
|Monty Dog and Jackie share a moment|
Ian had to go off to Germany on business on Tuesday morning so we were able to cook for Helen on the two days we were there and take Monty Dog for a walk in the daytime while she was at work. Monty is a real sweetie and although he is very big is very friendly and just wants to be with us, plonking is heavy paws on us and looking at us with his big eyes, soft floppy ears and big wet nose and trying to get as close as possible, following us around everywhere. He’s good on his lead on his walk but if he sees other dogs or something of interest he pulls on his lead to the extent that he almost pulls us off our feet he is so powerful!
Today is Thursday 7th May and a very important day in UK politics as it is election day. Today everyone goes off to vote for our next government and, by all accounts it’s likely to be a dead heat, or hung parliament, meaning various parties may have to form a coalition to govern our country, possibly leading to a difficult next 5 years for whoever gets in. We should know the result by tomorrow, but may not know who will govern for some days yet while the various parties negotiate to see who can form the best coalition. We’re all very excited (not!).
|I'm not strangling him, honest!|
Other people who are excited are Helen and Phil and Ian and Ed who are, as I write en route to Yosemite, USA with a date to climb El Capitan, a massive 3000ft high granite tower. It’s Helen’s house (a different Helen from Helen and Ian) that we have now arrived at to look after Phil’s cat Maggie for a month while they go off to do their climb, so we’re now in Solihull in a nice house with a very friendly Maggie cat, who recognised us as soon as we walked in and is now lounging on the dining table in the middle of a jigsaw puzzle Jackie has started – it’s going to be a tough month!
|Our first walk on our own with him!|
Helen and Phil set off at 6:30am this morning, met fellow SMC (Solihull Mountaineering Club) members Ian and Ed at Birmingham airport and have now started their huge adventure that they’ve been training for for the last six months or so. It’s a massive challenge and we are full of admiration for them. Helen told us last night that ‘The Nose’, the main climb they are aiming at will take them 5 days, with them sleeping on a hanging tent called a portaledge, strung on a vertical rock wall thousands of feet up (let’s hope they don’t rollover in the night).
|That's a big stick he's found!|
The whole climb is 30 pitches (a pitch is the distance the leader climbs up before belaying, bringing up the other climber and then hauling up all their gear) and there are some ‘pendulums’, where they swing sideways on a rope to gain the next section of the climb. Helen told us there are some technical sections graded E2 (UK standard) or US grade 5.10b to 5.10d and it is either trad (where you place your own gear) or aid, where fixed gear has been placed.
The whole thing sounds an amazing life experience and we are sure they will be successful as the four of them are very competent, experienced climbers, so good luck to them, it is certainly not something we would be able to do!
|The Yosemite 'El Capitan' team. LtoR it's Ed, Ian, Helen and Phil|
|Maggie cat helps with the jigsaw!|
In the meantime its tea and cake time for us, the smell of the sultana cake means I have to sign off, make the tea and cut the cake! As I said, its going to be a tough month and Maggie cat agrees!