Thursday, 4 August 2022

It's A Brum Ting!

 

If you're British, you'd have to have been living under a rock not to know that the 2022 Commonwealth Games are currently being held in Birmingham and, with events also taking place in Coventry, Leamington Spa, Cannock Chase, Wolverhampton and the Black Country, the West Midlands is absolutely buzzing. There's not a hotel room to be had in Walsall and, with one of the town's railway stations being used as one of the Park & Ride venues for the games, I decided that the trains might be crazy busy and opted to travel by bus to meet my friend, Annie for a day out in Birmingham.

 I always catch the train to Birmingham, which is a bit daft when you think about it, the bus to Birmingham stops at the bottom of our road, runs every 5 minutes and a Daysaver ticket, which offers unlimited travel throughout the West Midlands, only costs £4 for the day. You can even pay by card these days!

The Rotunda

The bus was packed, with many of the passengers alighting at Perry Barr's Alexander Stadium (four miles from Walsall), the venue for the opening ceremony and host to many of the events, and just over twenty minutes later I was in Birmingham city centre. 

Perry, the games' mascot

Thinking the traffic into town might be slow, I caught an earlier bus. With half an hour before I met up with Annie outside M&S, I had a wander around and soaked up the almost festival-like atmosphere. 

The bronze bull, greeting visitors to the Bull Ring since 2003

Grand Central (aka New Street Station)




I met up with Annie and we popped into The Shakespeare on Lower Temple Street for a pint.




We walked up to The Mailbox, the former Royal Mail sorting office but now a development, housing  amongst other things, the high-end department store Harvey Nichols and the BBC Birmingham studios.


We admired the Harvey Nicks window display, showcasing talent from some of this year’s Fashion Design BA (Hons) graduates, from Birmingham City University.


We wandered around Harvey Nichols, gasping at the prices and shaking our heads in disbelief at the awful, logo-emblazoned clothing and accessories. I spotted several of the brands I've bought from charity shops around the Black Country - Paige, Paul Smith, Free People, True Religion, Traffic People - rarely paying more than a couple of quid for any of them. I'm hoping that it won't be too long before the embroidered maxi dress below turns up in a local chazza (I didn't fancy paying the £495 on the tag!)
 

Ludicrously priced clothes aside, our real reason for our trip to The Mailbox was to visit Jambo Cinema, artist Dawinder Bansal's immersive exhibition inspired by her childhood memories of growing up in her parents' corner shop in Wolverhampton, which sold electrical goods and rented out Bollywood videos. 


 You may have seen Dawinder in the excellent BBC series, Back in Time for Birmingham, which explored fifty years of British Asian history within the West Midlands. She also popped up on The Repair Shop when she took Basanti, her vintage shop mannequin, to be repaired (HERE).

It was an absolute delight to meet Dawinder - her enthusiasm and passion are contagious.














The exhibition runs until the 26th August. Admission is free but spaces are limited - book HERE.




Birmingham Town Hall (1834)


Centenary Square's Queen Victoria (last seen on my day out with Nikki HERE) has been reimagined by Guyanese British artist, Huw Locke. In each statue she's wearing Britannia's helmet with a medal signifying an important battle in the history of the British Empire.





The day had started off with torrential rain but by midday the sun was shining and it was gloriously warm. We followed the crowds and made our way to the shining star of the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, the armoured bull, a mechanised beast breathing smoke and emitting tears of blood, standing ten metres tall and weighing in at a colossal 2.5 tonnes. 


If you've ever wondered why Birmingham is represented by a bull, here's a bit of history for you. 


Around 1160, a charter granted the Lord of the Manor of Berm, Peter de Bermingham, permission to hold a weekly market at his moated manor where he levied tolls on the goods and produce sold (now the site of the Bull Ring shopping centre). First called the 'Corn Cheaping' in reference to the corn market, the Bull Ring referred to a green within the market. The 'ring' part of the location's current name refers to a hoop of iron, to which bulls were tied for baiting before slaughter.


In the 16th century, bear-baiting became a popular 'sport'. It involved spectators at the Bull Ring watching dogs attack a defenceless bull and some wrongly believed it tenderised the meat. Bull-baiting stopped at the Bull Ring in 1798 when it moved to Handsworth, but the site kept the now-famous name.






Sorry about all the photos - I love him!





And here he is in action.....


Annie had booked a table at Dishoom - in my opinion, the best Indian restaurant outside of Mumbai - and we shared gunpowder potatoes, black dhal and a tandoori naan washed down with a bottle of IPA, followed by pistachio kulfi. As always the service was second to none and the food sublime. 






 Before catching our respective buses back to the Black Country, we enjoyed an ice-cold lager in the sunshine outside The Old Contemptibles, which was a regular haunt when I worked in Birmingham back in the day. Named in honour of British Expeditionary Force who served in Flanders between 5th August and 22nd November, 1914, 'Old Contemptibles' arose from an Order of the Day issued by the Kaiser, which mentioned 'Sir John French's contemptible little army'.


What a fabulous day, thanks Annie! 

If you didn't see the opening ceremony last week, here's some of the highlights. Steven Knight, the creator of Peaky Blinders, was one of the creative directors, it was an amazing watch.

And here's the inspiration behind my blog title.....

It's Lord Jon's birthday tomorrow - further adventures to follow!

53 comments:

  1. It was the best day out! Total fun from beginning to end. We always have a great time ­čÖé
    Can't to hear your next adventure with Lord Jon now.
    See you soon xxx

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    1. We had an absolute blast! Thanks, as always, for your brilliant company! xxx

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  2. Loved this blog as every time I had a question you answered it. Love the bull too. Thank you.

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Marjorie and that I've enlighted you with the significance of Birmingham's bull! xxx

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  3. What fun. That Bull is freaking
    amazing!

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    1. I was mesmerised by him during the opening ceremony, he's even more amazing in real life! xxx

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  4. As ever when I read your posts I feel as though I were right alongside of you. Wish Jon a happy birthday for me. x

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    1. Thanks so much, Cherie! I'll pass your message on! xxx

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  5. How fabulous that bull is! I watched the opening ceremony - I love a spectacle! The bull was wonderful. I love that song It's a Brum ting! I was humming it for days after. What a fab time you had with your friend.

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    1. It's a Brum Ting is such an earworm. I love the bull! I can't believe they're talking of breaking him up after the games finish, he needs to go on permanent display in the science museum, it would be a crime to lose him. xxx

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  6. So glad you explained about the bull - I've been wondering what the significance of him in relation to both the games and the city. Looks to have been a fabulous day out!

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    1. I'm happy to share the bull's significance. It was a brilliant day out, such a wonderful atmosphere and lovely to share it with so many! xxx

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  7. You have such adventures with Annie. I'm surprised you went with the sports crowds, but people watching is good fun. My eyes watered at those price tags in the store, even if the dress was beautiful.

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    1. It was thrilling spotting some of the athletes walking around in their tracksuits - a couple of the women from the Pakistan team were enjoying lunch in Dishoom! xxx

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  8. Happy birthday for Jon tomorrow! what an interesting place Birmingham turns out to be, I have never given it any consideration! I like the bull and the history is interesting - would love to eat at Dishoom. Yes I share your views on brand name clothing/prices. Everything I am wearing on holidays this year is either from EBay or from a sale, I never pay full price and couldn't care less about labels - in fact I cut them out anyway as they always seem to rub in the wrong places - so a designer label would be wasted on me :)

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    1. Thanks, Betty! Birmingham's so underrated, it's changed so much since I worked there in the 80s and 1990s and really is a fantastic place to visit. Dishoom is incredible, Annie hadn't eaten there before and was rendered almost speechless!
      I hate seeing clothing emblazoned with logos - if its well-made the quality should speak for itself, shouldn't it? Jon's like you with tags and rips them all out! xxx

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    2. I am going into grunge wear now as will be digging on the allotment frequently and getting messy - I am strangely looking forward to having an excuse to look scruffy and be comfy lol! my only interest in shopping right now is .... gardening gloves!

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    3. It's quite exciting - being scruffy! I've had a few days like that since I got back from my holidays - hence no outfit photos for ages! Enjoy! xxx

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  9. Wow, that looks like such a fun day for you and Annie, Vix! I've been following the Commonwealth Games in the news, as Victoria hosted it back in '94 - I loved all the people from all over the world! That bull is spectacular - thank you for the video. IT WALKED! Amazing.

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    1. I remember when Victoria hosted the Commonwealth Games. It's so thrilling to walk around and hear all the languages/accents of the visitors - there were loads of Canadians around, yesterday!
      That bull is the most amazing thing ever, I can't believe that he might get broken up. xxx

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  10. It's great to get caught up in the atmosphere and lucky you being a bus ride away! I told my eldest son I was going to The Impressionist exhibition in Edinburgh next week and he said 'oh good, I'll meet you for lunch and you can take me to Dishoom'. I said ......well, never mind what I said but going to Dishoom on a state pension is not happening!Happy Another Year Round the Sun to His Lordship. xxx

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    1. I bet the Impressionist exhibition will be amazing! Dishoom isn't too bad - our bill was £43, £11 of that was beer! Have fun! xxx

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  11. That looks like an amazing day you had together. Birmingham really is THE place to be at the moment isn't it.

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    1. It was fantastic! I'm loving the excitement in the West Midlands at the moment, even the local news is a pleasure to watch. xxx

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  12. Hi Vix! wow what a post! What a wonderful day out! the atmosphere must be electric in Birmingham at the mo. My guys are watching a lot of the games. I remember seeing Dawinder on the Repair Shop. She came across as a lovely enthusiactic lady. I was smiling at the exhibition, the mechanical bull and well all of this post. The history was very interesting. Just picked a ton of tomatoes son no.2 has grown. I am enjoying the sunshine, feeling better and catching up with your world. hugs Shazx

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    1. Hello Shaz! I'm so glad that you're both feeling better.
      The atmosphere in the West Midlands is brilliant, I'm loving seeing groups of tourists everywhere, even in humble old Walsall!
      Dawinder was such a lovely girl, I didn't realise she'd be there when we visited the exhibition, it made our day.
      Well done to son no.2 for his tomato harvest. We picked our first two cherry tomatoes today and had to eat them immediately. Home grown toms are heavenly! xxx

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  13. Even if you're not British, you'd have to have been living under a rock!
    The mechanized bull is spectacular, and thank you for sharing that piece of history.
    Dawinder Bansal's exhibition sounds right up my street. I saw the first episode of Back in Time for Birmingham in Shropshire, before our cottage's tv started acting up.
    Birmingham sounds well worth a visit. So far, we've only passed it on the motorway. Perhaps we should schedule a visit next year! xxx

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    1. I wondered if the Commonwealth Games got much coverage outside of the countries taking part. It's been utterly brilliant, it's been difficult trying to tear ourselves way from the TV!
      I hope you manage to catch the rest of Back in Time for Birmingham eventually - Walsall gets a mention!
      Do visit Birmingham next time you come over - the Pre-Raphaelites in the Museum and Art Gallery will render you speechless! xxx

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  14. I can't get over how much the Bull Ring has changed since I lived and studied in Birmingham in the mid 1980s! Although I've been back twice since last July we never made it to the Bull Ring or the new station - next time we will. Definitely will book a table at Dishoom, too.

    The bull was magnificent!

    Happy birthday to Lord Jon...
    xxx

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    1. Honestly Vronni, I'm constantly amazed by how much Birmingham has changed. You would be so impressed if you do revisit! xxx

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  15. Wow, my sister is visiting at the moment and she is really enjoying the games! She watched peaty grab a gold . But thinks he is nearing retirement. I love going to see things like you visited it takes me back to my childhood, even if we never settled for long .
    My sister thinks the commonwealth bull is hideous, but her husband bought her one to wind her up. It’s funny I never think of visiting Brum. We are back home came back Saturday after one damaged suitcase and one still missing one!! Thanks easy jet!! I’m sticking to klm.
    I did pop and see my sister on Sunday as we flew into Manchester and one crabby baby later ended up at hers before staying at a premier inn near her. We went to primark OMG CRAP CITY!!! Love and hugs and allie

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    1. Wow! Fancy your sister seeing Adam Peaty getting his gold - I love him!
      Perry - the Commonwealth mascot was designed by a little girl - the kids absolutely love him, you should have heard them squealing on the bus when we passed a couple of the statues.
      I hope you've been reunited with your luggage! xxx

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  16. We loved the opening ceremony, especially the steam punk section! In fact, we're also planning a visit next week to soak up some of the atmosphere. The bull's been saved (at least until September)! The exhibition looks incredible - fancy meeting Dawinder - and I'm desperate to try out Dishoom, but having dodged Covid so far, I think I'll wait for the numbers to drop further before I brave it. xxx

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    1. Go to Dishoom - you'll be fine! We travelled abroad four times, ate out, had all-dayers in pubs, hugged strangers, went shopping and managed to catch Covid by being outside in a field! Birmingham is buzzing, you'll have a brilliant time. xxx

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  17. happy birthday to lord jon!
    you and annie had a fabulous day! perfect weather and lots to see, yummy food and cool drinks......
    as a producer of fine clothing i must say that £495 for that gorgeous dress is a steal!
    xxxx

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    1. Thanks, Beate! We had a wonderful day out in Brum and that dress was gorgeous - but I think I'd rather go on holiday than add to my already bursting wardrobe! xxx

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  18. Many Happy Returns Of The Day to You Lord Jon x

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  19. What an amazing day. I watched the bull during the opening ceremony, it looked very impressive. In fact, I sat in awe of the whole thing, which is quite unlike me, so it must have been good :)
    I am ashamed to say I have never been to Birmingham. X

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    1. I didn't think I'd be able to sit through the two and a half hour opening ceremony but I was absolutely mesmerised. I don't want the Games to end but I'm really looking forward to seeing what the closing ceremony has in store...Ozzy Osbourne? xxx

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  20. The bull statue is gorgeous.
    I love your maxi.
    So happy to hear you and Annie had szch a great time.

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  21. Sounds a wonderful day, the exhibition looks very interesting. I will admit Birmingham looks way better than I ever imagined, sorry about the pre-conceived bias. Thank you for explaining about the history behind the bull , I had wondered.
    Birthday wishes to Lord Jon. xx

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    1. Birmingham's had a bad press for years but it's brilliant these days - honest! xxx

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  22. Another fabulous looking place to add to the list. Every time we're up there working we say we must visit Brum. Every August I am glued to the athletics and throw in something like the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games and I'm even worse...love it and have to be strict otherwise I'd never get anything else done. Your Walsall lad did brilliantly getting the judo gold. Arilx

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    1. Didn't Daniel Powell do well?
      It's been a brilliant fortnight for sport what with the Women's Football and the Commonwealth Games - like you, I have to limit my viewing or I'd do nothing else but I absolutely love the gymnastics, swimming, diving, athletics and even the weight lifting.
      You would love a poke around Brum, there's so much to see and do and the natives are very friendly! xxx

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  23. As always, my blue eyes gleam green at your Indian restaurant offerings. Locally, we have the options of an "Indian Kitchen" truckstop diner with an unpaved parking lot and unshaved patrons -- or DIY, courtesy the "foreign foods" aisle at the supermarket. * However, this blog post prompts real envy for your bus service and train service. Here in the Midwestern Heartland, we have private cars, period. Only seniors can remember train service to Chicago or commuter bus service to the 'burbs. Ah, well, when the tracks were ripped up, jogger and biker trails were installed. Progress of a sort...

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    1. Dishoom is definitely a cut above the standard UK Indian restaurant although I always leave feeling very homesick for my beloved Mumbai, it's so authentic.
      We're so lucky with our cheap - and frequent - public transport here in the West Midlands. I've never missed not being able to drive. xxx

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  24. What a fantastic day you had! The exhibition sounds brilliant (and the photos are so beautifully colourful!). I like the bull too- he's very striking- good to know his context too.
    Mmm, I want to try Black Dal!xx

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    1. We had a fabulous day and that black dhal is the best dhal ever! xxx

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  25. Such a great day!, love that exhibition, the pubs, the buildings and The Bull!, woww so magnificent!.
    I'm always envious of your great public transport system, missing something similar in my neck of the woods!
    And thanks for sharing some cool music too!.
    besos
    (I've been enjoying your posts about Corfu adventures too, totally happy to enjoy vicariously that atmosphere!)

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    1. Lovely to hear from you, Monica! We are so lucky with our public transport in the West Midlands, it's cheap and frequent - one of the reasons why I never learned to drive! xxx

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  26. I was thinking of you Vix whilst watching some of the Commonwealth Games (can't resist the synchronized diving and 400m relay!). The Darwinder exhibition looks brilliant. That decor is bringing back some memories. Isn't the bull wonderful! Looks like you and Annie had a fab day xXx

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Lots of love, Vix