This entry is dedicated to…
Steca, who may be jealous of my Tolkeinian fly-by
AJ, who requested pictures of the buildings and streets
BW, who has not yet discovered her love of narrowboats

(Allison asked a question about thatching, it has been answered here.)

Sleep did not happen last night. I finally gave up at about 2:30AM and went downstairs and purged windows from the Netbook, replacing it with Ubuntu. The install went fine and now everything works but the sound and microphone. After that, I still wasn't tired, so I had cereal and read about James Harriot's adventures in veterinary practice in the Yorkshire. I got back to bed around 4:30AM and woke up again at 8:30AM, which I took as a good sign. Since Glenys is still asleep, I decide to go out for a run.

Glenys mentioned the existence of a lake, so I try to find that first, but, instead, I find the canal. Naturally, I haven't brough my camera along, but you can see a picture of the canal I saw in Stratford to give you the idea. I cross the canal on an ancient, moss-covered bridge and take off down a grass-covered path wending through trees and shrubs by the canal. This green space is wedged between the water and a fence which protects a set of rail tracks. Every ten minutes or so a small train goes whizzing by. It's interesting that in Minneapolis they're working on making the light-rail longer, rather than more frequent. Thus, I continue my run between the age-old "water transit" and the newer "mass-transit".

The canal has, as usual, no guard rail; also, as usual, there are a number of narrow boats parked along the canal. The dirt path goes on for a good ways beneath several bridges and some old locks. The canal narrows for these locks and I realize that, were I a better long jumper, I could get across at these places or, indeed, elsewhere. The water, though, is dark and murky; it's probably shallow, but just as probably hides carniverous fishes.

Running along the canal, I pass the University of Bristol's hydrogen-powered canal boat, the "Ross Barlow". As far as hydrogen-powered things go, it seems fairly useless, but the folks who made it claim it can do great things, as they claim here and here.

I climb up through the grass and a fence and up onto a busy road. The sky above is gray and cloudy. The houses and shops here are all brick and connected together. The streets are all curvy and, on one, I count nine different rental companies for a single row of houses. In my mind, I see the dark history of blood-shed and intrigue that most haunt the property ownership of these buildings - this is what the game monopoly was all about.

I find myself at Birmingham University and poke around. The old campus is a circular set of massive red buildings with imposing domes. On the inside, these are painted and supported by crenellated pillars. Long hallways with arched ceilings and stone floors lead you about. Climbing many staircases, I find the senate chamber, a venerable circle of dark wood chairs in one of the large upper domes.

Heading out, I stop by, naturally, the physics building. It has more wood than mine did, with larger, and perhaps brighter, freshmen labs. However, it has the same slightly hunched, ill-dressed, bearded professors stalking about - some things are universal. I can't get onto the roof and find the basement is dark with exposed bricks and pipes, under which I have to duck. The philosophy department is a row of non-descript doors and completely deserted. Although I hear music, I fail to find it. Finally, I turn myself back towards the house.

Glenys says she was just getting to worrying about my perhaps not knowing how to get back. She's made beans on toast for breakfast and I have the same, topped with eggs. I'm thinking of leaving today, but the train prices are expensive, so we decide to go out to the station to get a "Young Person's Rail Pass" as a form of mitigation. At the station, I take a passport photo - the first time I've used a photo-booth - and push all possible regulations to their limits.

Afterwards, we decide spontaneously to drive to Stratford on Avon to see Shakespeare's house. On the way Glenys tells me about all sorts of relatives I never knew I had. She also tells me that Tolkein grew up in the Birmingham area. There's a mill near some woods where he used to play, there are two houses he lived in, and, somewhere, two towers.


On the way we stop at Huxley's Ice Cream in Henley-in-Arden (Arden being a woods that is not at all evident as we drive in). It's a few blocks down from the town cross - an ancient, ancient pillar of weather-worn stone surrounded by thick ropes sporting a healthy growth of lichens. The ice cream shop seems to be white stucco and wood on the outside with huge wood beams supporting the ceiling inside. On the wall, there are a series of photos of the shop - each one older than the next. It's been around so long that I fully expect to see, at the end of the row, an illuminated tapestry. The ice cream - a scoop of walnut & maple and a scoop of pralene and cream, since I can't decide - comes in an odd double-cupped cone and is delicious. Afterwards, I venture upstairs in search of the W.C. and a maid in full-costume brushes past me on the stairs.
In Stratford, we walk down by the canal and see the statue of Shakespeare, seated on high, and his characters around him. Glenys's grandfather, a preacher, has a picture of himself in his "dog collar" posing next to Fulstaff with his empty glass. She wonders why, as a preacher, he did this, but seems amused by it. I take a picture with Hamlet, who was a fencer.
We cross the street towards Braxby's, which seems to be like the McDonald's of fish and chips. On the way we pass a little harbour where the narrow boats live. I have a haddox with chips, vinegar, salt, and tartar sauce. It's tasty, but very large!

Stratford on Avon

We walk by the houses and take the requisite photos. Glenys says there's really nothing inside Shakespeare's house and seems dismissive; regardless, it's closed and, as a result, very little traffic. Anne Hathaway's cottage is really the prettier house. But Anne Hathaway's mother's estate, with its barns and trees, probably has the most of interest as regards that time. Glenys is convinced that practically every house in the area has some connection to Shakespeare and you'll be charged for finding out what that connection is.

The pretty alley next to Shakespeare's house is not a highway.

We drive back home…

By 02012, whites will be a minority in Birmingham. I don't think I'd have even noticed the multi-coloured aspect of the town if Glenys hadn't pointed it out. It reminds me of my theory that "teaching" children not to be racist actually perpetuates racism. People out in Henley-in-Arden and Stratford-in-Avon don't like the Bermies (Bermingham-people) moving in, though many of those objecting are from anywhere but England; they don't even have the British accent.

Tomorrow, I leave for Keswick.

Check if this is a private message just for Richard:

Allison - Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 11:09:57 (PDT)
Excellent pictures, and congratulations on the comment-box.

What do we know about the roof of Anne Hathaway's cottage? It looks like it'd be complicated to build- but does water run off it better?

Richard - Wednesday, July 01, 2009 at 15:34:12 (PDT)
Thanks, Allison. I'll try to get information up on the roof as soon as I can. I do have a good idea of how it's done as I once conversed with a Master Thatcher.

Mom - Friday, July 17, 2009 at 11:04:08 (PDT)
Does your comment mean that you were "taught" not to be racist, but you rebeled from our teaching and hence are not.
Or did we (knowingly or not) avoid the issue completely in your upbringing, hence you are not?

Richard - Sunday, August 02, 2009 at 16:13:31 (PDT)
I think, as regards me own education, it wouldn't have occurred to me to discriminate in that (or many other) ways had I not been taught that it was possible to do so.

Matt - Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 21:59:43 (PDT)
Just a small correction, the Ross Barlow is a U of Birmingham project and not Bristol, and the more widely preferred term for someone from B'ham is a Brummie, not a Bermie