As soon as I stepped off the tour bus in Birmingham is started to rain. Really rain. Big fat drops that ran grossly into my topknot, onto my scalp and trickled down my face. I spent a good few minutes in M&S just tissuing off the wet from my head and face before buying an umbrella. I sometimes teach in Birmingham, the people are lovely but it’s a funny old place. The Bullring, built just on the outside of the centre siphons off most of the people so that the real centre kind of feels a little lost. It’s still packed full of shops but there’s an melancholy air of ghostliness.
The paragraph above serves to explain why I ended up having a chile con carne in a Wetherspoons and it’s pretty much all I did. In my defence I had tried to go to a vegetarian café that was shut that day, so wet-footed and with a still dripping face I went for the lowest common denominator and made the most of the wifi. No pictures survive of this blah day, it came just after a lovely three-day break in London so I think I just moped around the venue for the rest of the afternoon.
Parked up in Brighton a day later, or more accurately Hove, I jumped at the chance to go to my spiritual home, George Street charity shops. When I was an art student in Brighton I would regularly spend the generous amounts of free time we had visiting the charity shops in the area. After showering in some duff hotel by the sea I went to check out the good ol’ chazzas. This time it was a bit of a bittersweet outing, as charity shops just don’t have the same exciting feel now the rails are bursting with H&M and Primark instead of old ladies’ cast offs. Also, the Wimpy where I once saw a woman packet after packet of sugar down her throat has now been turned into a Chicken Cottage; end of an era.
Bath is a wonderful bubble of middle class cosiness, it’s sort of the town equivalent of a front room, with branches of Bang and Olufsen and Space NK instead of rumpled couches and killim rugs. I walked around admiring the Georgian architecture and biscuity Bath limestone, plotting my future as a manager of the local branch of Hampstead Bazaar. Just imagine. Floating around in loose linens and speaking to Judi Dench on the phone about a custom order, before retiring home to ‘supper’ and Book at Bedtime. Brilliant. It rained and then hailed at which point I wandered past a glowing, warm pub window. Pies! The Raven in Bath was a recommendation, but I sort of stumbled upon it. They took me in and took my order, a steak and ale Pieminster pie with fluffy mash and Guinness gravy that restored my faith in humanity.
Can I also add that in Bath, the final outpost before Europe, I posted a HMRC document just before the bus left for Paris and I’m really proud of myself? I hate posting things and paper forms so, there you go.