Friday : Into Birmingham Once More…..

Another day, another train, this is the Greater Anglia thunderbolt service from Norwich to London Liverpool Street. I had a problem with the ticket collection machine which managed to not perform its main task of allowing me to collect a ticket. Fortunately the helpful person at the ticket desk was able to print my ticket out for me, so that’s a myth that they can’t do that…. Anyway, pre-annoyed already, I went to board confident that there would be no more problems. I got three metres before the automatic gates wouldn’t let me through. The staff member looked puzzled at my ticket and let me through.

For reasons that were unclear, the train crew had closed off Carriage G. Although, with these things, I’d really rather not know what was happening in that carriage. There were occasional reminders about the carriage, including “to the man who I’ve just seen running through Carriage G, I must remind you that this is closed”. At that point there was a sheepish looking man who was walking through the train and I decided he was the likely culprit, but he gave the appearance of being more muddled up than a renegade train wanderer.

With one carriage out of use, the train filled by Colchester. The arguments of the days of train travel being over as everyone liked staying at home were always farcical, the network is as busy as I’ve seen it. Perhaps there are fewer commuters, but the number of leisure travellers seems to be soaring.

Into a busy London Liverpool Street.

And a hop and a skip to the platforms of the underground, to get the Metropolitan line service to Euston.

However hard they try to make the concourse at London Euston look welcoming, it always feels dreary and miserable to me, it’s an awful station in terms of its design. It was rebuilt in the 1960s, knocking down the architecturally stunning Victorian building, and I’m slightly disappointed that with all the HS2 work that they didn’t replace it, although that would have likely come at too high a price. There’s a British Railways document about their “exciting” new development at, slightly shocking in its ineptitude.

Mine was the 11:43 to Blackpool, not visiting the pearl of England’s coast, but instead getting off at Birmingham.

I was the third to board to the train (I’m like that), which at least meant I knew that I’d get my reserved seat without any difficulties.

There was a ticket check at the entrance to the platform, as this is one of the platforms which doesn’t have automatic ticket barriers.

A suitably modern interior and the train filled quickly. I’d say half the people here were sitting in the wrong seat, although I thought everything was entirely clear but just stayed out of it. But there was then a ten minute period, by which time the train had set off, when passengers used passive aggressive comments to get interlopers to move.

Arriving on time in the Birmingham, they’ve done a marvellous job at Birmingham New Street with the station’s modernisation, it’s a shame that London Euston can’t look something like this rather than a giant shed.

I thought that I’d better pop into the Head of Steam in Birmingham since I was walking by. I did the same with the Wetherspoons as well.

Back in the Holiday Inn Express at Birmingham Snow Hill, but I’ve written about that before and don’t have much to add.

And the view from the hotel window.

I found it quite hard to date this sculpture by Lea Grandjean, but it’s from as early as 1987 and is titled “Birmingham Figure” which at least isn’t an elusive name. I was going to pop into Brewdog, but they had an emergency and were opening later than advertised, so that was that plan scuppered.

I’ve been to just about all the decent pubs and bars in Birmingham already, so finding somewhere new was a little difficult. But, I discovered this one thanks to Untappd….

Sommar is a local brewery who I haven’t heard of before, but they have a nearby taproom which I’ll likely visit on another visit to the city as well as bars in Solihull and Leicester. They list their beers on Untappd, which I find particularly useful.

I went for the Baby Forbidden Pastry Sour : Chocolate Strawberry Jam Donut, which sounds like an entirely appropriate drink for me. Quite decadently priced, so I just went for a third (I’m not sure the barman seemed delighted by that) and it didn’t disappoint, although it’s from Three Hills and they rarely do. The doughnut flavours were very clearly evident, although the chocolate element seemed superfluous here.

I then had a little walk to Purecraft, which was busy, but I found a space downstairs at the last remaining table.  The service was immediate, friendly and welcoming, this feels like a really well managed bar.

But let’s just take a moment to mention this, the Fruits of the Forest Triple Stacked Breakfast Waffle from Vault City Brewing. The depth of flavour here meant I could have a sip of the drink and still get the full force of fruit, with blackberries, strawberries and raspberries all evident, alongside some vanilla for extra excitement. This is one of the standout beers that I’ve had, it’s no surprise at all to see it rated as 4.42 on Untappd, it is really quite beautiful. And also, this is how to get your 5 a day, fruit made to taste delicious.

Richard then turned up in his little tank, delighted to find out that he had to pay a clean air charge for bringing it into the lovely clean air of Birmingham. The pub cat came to join Richard and I after his very long nap (the cat, not Richard). This was the Bull in Birmingham on Price Street which I visited and enjoyed last year, but I didn’t feel the same excitement this time. The customer service wasn’t quite there, although was never rude, the pub hasn’t kept its beers up-to-date on Untappd (they’re two weeks out of date, which is odd given they’re paying to be listed) and the selection of beers wasn’t particularly inspiring. However, it did give Richard and I chance to discuss the reason that we were in Birmingham, for the Ramblers General Council on the Saturday.