On Wednesday I caught the train to Birmingham, to meet up with my friend Nikki. From New Street station, we walked to the leafy suburb of Edgbaston, a leisurely two-mile stroll in the January sunshine.
Our destination? Birmingham's Botanical Gardens, which opened in 1832 and are now home to over 7000 varieties of plants. We explored the Victorian glasshouses and basked in the deliciously humid Tropical House, established in 1852, imagining we were back in India before venturing into the Subtropical House which opened in 1871.
We wandered outside, an area encompassing 15 acres, walking across lush lawns and down twisting, shrub-lined paths, listening to the breeze rustling through the grasses, the bubbling of the water in the Italianate fountain and the squawks of the exotic birds, spotting snowdrops...and a cat!
We chatted to the parakeets, macaws, cockatiels and peach-faced lovebirds and admired the peacocks from afar, safely tucked away due to an outbreak of Avian flu and simply had to capture the bandstand for posterity.
Walking back into the city was noticed a blue plaque dedicated to Washing Irving, the American essayist who lived in a house demolished many years ago. We admired a gorgeous Gothic gatehouse available to rent but on further investigation discovered that the interior didn't live up to the exterior - all grey paint and clean lines...yawn.
We'd been given discount vouchers when we'd visited Dishoon, the Bombay-style Parsi cafe we'd eaten at on our last visit so it would have been madness not to use them.
Along with bottles of IPA we shared another vada pau (hot potato vada, crunchy titbits and chutneys, tucked inside a soft homemade bun. sprinkled with the red spicy masala and green chillies) along with gunpowder potatoes (new potatoes smoky-grilled, broken apart, tossed with butter, crushed aromatic seeds and green herbs) and chaap pineapple tikka (Spiced soy kabab marinated and grilled with pineapple), again the food was so good our toes were tapping with joy.
Keen to avoid commuter hell we said our goodbyes and caught our respective trains home, arranging to meet up again very soon.
Jon picked me up at the station. Being a Wednesday the drinking continued with beers to accompany our pizza and rum and cola in front of the TV where we started watching The Alienist which I'd read during the first lockdown. I'm pleased to report that the TV adaptation is every bit as macabre and dark as Caleb Carr's book.
Unusually for me, I slept until 7am on Thursday. I wrapped parcels and caught up with Blogland before breakfast. In contrast to Wednesday, it was dark and drizzly and utterly hopeless for eBay photos. Jon was otherwise engaged with music stuff so I left him to it and walked into Walsall for a look around the charity shops.
The mask mandate had been lifted but pretty much everyone was still wearing them (including me). Walsall used to have loads of charity shops but, since the pandemic, we're down to just four but the pickings were good and, weighed down and somewhat overdressed for the positively balmy 11°C temperatures I was a sweaty mess when I got home.
Clockwise from top left: Vintage flutter-sleeved maxi dress by Slimuette, a 1970s embellished maxi dress by Trina Lewis for Marjon Couture of London W1, tie-neck vintage maxi dress, amazing 1960s-era handmade wool dressing gown, a trio of scarves - Tootal, Ness of Scotland and a 1930s satin foulard, 1980s Arancrafts, Ireland all-wool cable knit jumper, 1970s deadstock CB London gents brushed cotton checked shirt, a cheery Boden midi dress, contemporary scarf-print kaftan (for lounging around the house) and a 1970s English-made embellished chiffon cocktail top. There was something else but it's already found a new home and may pop up on a friend's blog very soon!