Sunday, 14 May 2017

Bubbling Birmingham

Seventies B'rum vanishes ready to rise again
I love Birmingham. What a dynamic place it is. Always on the move; always reinventing itself. Knocking down, putting up, creating dramatic new buildings and resurrecting fine old ones. And at the heart of it; people out having fun, living the good life.
Since we were last here only two years ago the Metro tram system in the city centre has been completed and the huge stainless steel writhing monster that is New Street railway station has opened, its gleaming curves visible behind and between the side streets. The ugly seventies concrete development between the library and town hall has been flattened, too, and the towers of tall cranes dot the horizon all around.
Saturday night buzz at the Mailbox
The waterfront hasn't escaped either, the stretch from the Mailbox to Gas Street seems to be waiting for the jack-hammer; all shut down and dark. But on a Saturday night the rest of the canalside hummed with a vibrant buzz as Brum's young things set out for the bars and restaurants full of Saturday night fever.
It's a great spectator sport for the moored boater (always has been on our trips here). Girls in skimpy clothes tottering on impossibly high heels, layered in cosmetics that must have demanded hours of the afternoon in front of the mirror; lads in their skinny brother's jackets and knee-shredded refugee jeans whose aftershave hung in the air long after they'd gone. All of them out for a good time.
This morning was the morning after the night before. After a catching up on things cuppa with our friend Charley of Felonious Mongoose who moors nearby we headed out of the centre. And it didn't take more than a few hundred yards before the glamour turned to graffiti and grime.
Chance's famous Glassworks, being restored to new use
For all that, the BCN still has an appeal: passing all the dead arches through which boats entered old arms and basins even in my lifetime, then weaving among the massive concrete stilts of the M5 above us. On the way we passed a huge brick building wrapped in a spider web of scaffolding (it's even more dominant seen from the M5). This is Chance Glassworks, once the largest glass makers in Britain, suppliers of glass for the Crystal Palace and a world leader in producing specialist glass for lighthouses. Yet another of Birmingham's many contributions to British industry. A Heritage Trust now aims to restore, conserve and regenerate the site.
Tonight we are in Tipton, a shabby but friendly little Black Country suburb, famous for the legendary prize fighter the Tipton Slasher, the Black Country Living Museum and Mad O'Rourkes Pie Factory, home of the 'cow pie' of Desperate Dan fame, where we rounded off a good day with pies and chips.

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