London 2012 – A few thoughts.

So the summer of sport is finally over. I have to say well done Britain you actually pulled this off. For the seven since we were awarded the games there were plenty of sceptics including myself who thought that we would struggle especially after Beijing.

Oh we of little faith. Not only were the both the Olympics and Paralympic games a success they also succeeded in bringing a nation together but also showed the rest of the world how to organise a event.

I believe the master stroke was to hold the Olympic touch relay around the UK. Everybody else in the country was made to feel part of the games and not to be seen as a wholly London centric event. It also added to the games build up to. We could not wait for the event to start. The opening ceremony was classic Britain at its best in the way it sent us up. It highlighted our sense of humour.

Great Britain was shown to be a sports loving nation while supporting its own athletes it would recognise the efforts of other nations too. Everyone was made to feel welcome and it was appreciated.

Finally I would like to note that the real success of the summer was the regaining of the British flag by the people away from the far right. We have every right to be proud of the achievements this summer has brought us. More importantly I have regained my pride in being British. Once again well done Britain.

Until the next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep smiling.

Steve.

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Picture of the Week – New Library of Birmingham

This week’s picture is of the New Library of Birmingham.

Library of Birmingham

Located in Centenary Square in Birmingham City Centre it is due to open in September 2013.  It replaces the Central Library of Birmingham Building.  The significance of the building is that in a time where libraries are closing down in the UK it is refreshing to see a new building opening.

Pictures of the Week – Wembley Stadium, London

Wembley Stadium – England v Belgium 02/06/2012

With Euro 2012 currently taking place in Poland and Ukraine this week’s picture is of Wembley Stadium.  The home to English football (soccer).  Originally opened in 1923, the new stadium was opened in 2007.  Capacity is 90,000.

It is the home venue to the England football team.  It also hosts the FA Cup final and semi finals, the League Cup final and all the play off finals.  Wembley is used by other sports such as Rugby League, and the NFL have played a regular season since 2007.  It is also used to stage music concerts.  The most famous being Live Aid in 1985.

Famously, Wembley Stadium was home to English sport greatest hour when England beat West Germany 4-2 to win the 1966 World Cup.

Plaque to celebrate England’s 1966 World Cup victory

You can take an organised tour of the stadium.  It costs £16 for an adult and £9 for a child.  There is also a family ticket available for £41.  The tour itself lasts for 75 minutes.

If you attend a match or concert at the stadium be prepared for delays in leaving.  It is out-of-the-way from the centre of London.  Make sure you allow yourself enough time if you are catching a connecting journey.

The nearest tube station is Wembley Park Station which on both the Jubilee and Metropolitan lines.

Bus services 83, 92, 182 and 224 stop 0.25 mile away from the stadium.

Finally, Wembley Stadium is home to the English Football Association which celebrates its 150th anniversary next year.

The name soccer is an abbreviation from the word association.

Until my next post, stay safe, stay healthy and keep on smiling.

Steve

Steve is currently listening to Terminal Jive by Sparks

Photo of the Week – Karl Marx’s Grave

Karl Marx’s Grave

The final resting place of the founder of communism is located in Highgate Cemetery in North London.  Marx spent a lot of his life in London.  The cemetery is split into two, the East and West.  It is famous for the people who are buried there.

Some of the people buried here include:

East Cemetery

Douglas Adams (spot in the pens in the grave), George Eilot (under the name of Mary Ann Cross), William Friese-Greene (cinema pioneer), Malcolm McLaren and Sir Ralph Richardson.

West Cemetery

Beryl Bainbridge, The family of Charles Dickens (Charles Dickens in buried in Westminster Abbey), Michael Faraday, Lucian Freud, Jean Simmons and Christina Rossetti.

Entry to the East Cemetery costs £3.00 and the West Cemetery costs £7.00.

The nearest tube station is Archway on the Northern Line

http://www.highgate-cemetery.org for more details

Jewellery Quarter

Last Sunday I took advantage of some good weather in Birmingham.  As I had mentioned in a previous post about the Jewellery Quarter I thought I would check it out.  First thing to mention is that Sunday is not the best day to visit as a lot of the attractions were closed.  Still the good weather allowed me to explore the area.

To get to the Jewellery Quarter you either take the 74 bus or the metro.  The journey takes about ten minutes but it could easily made on foot too.

The Chamberlain Clock

The area is the largest containing businesses involved in the jewellery trade in Europe, hence the name.  Nearly 40% of all jewellery manufactured in the UK comes from this area.

The first place I visited was the Warstone Lane Cemetery.  It looks run down and may not appeal to everybody.  However, I feel that cemeteries and graveyards are great places to visit if you wish to get a feel of the history in a area.  This cemetery is no exception.  The main area to go and see are the Catacombs.  A two tiered building that used for interring bodies.  This practice stopped when the smell became too much and the local law was changed to ensure that bodies were sealed with lead.

The Catacombes

The striking feature of the cemetery are the family plots.  When you read the inscriptions you can only feel touched by what went through.  Nearly everyone I read included a family member who died at a young age.  It is food for thought when we consider the advantages of modern life.

Rest in Peace

From the cemetery I moved down Warstone Lane and I soon reached St. Paul’s Square.  This is the last example of a Georgian square remaining in Birmingham.  It has become a hub for modern city living.  There are several bars and restaurants in the area.  It is particularly popular with students and young professionals.

At the centre of the square stands St’ Paul’s Church.  This church dates from the 18th century and is based in appearance to St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London.  Despite looking like it has seen better days the church is still popular.  As well as services and organ recitals there is a shop were you can purchase homemade produce such as jams and cakes.  While I was there a lot people were taking advantage of the hot weather and sunbathed on the grounds.

St. Paul’s Church

As it was so hot I needed refreshment and I stumbled onto the Pomegranate coffee shop.  It is located in Warstone Lane and I can particularly recommend the white chocolate milkshake and the cooked breakfast sandwich.  As well as food and drink the shop also sells accessories for the home.

To conclude the Jewellery Quarter is an excellent way of spending a couple of free hours.  I would visit during the week or Saturday. You can visit the workshops, order bespoke jewellery or even sell your gold to fund your travels.  It is a great place with a lot of history.

Currently reading The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer

Currently listening to Firefly by Uriah Heep

Stay safe, stay healthy and keep on smiling.

Steve

Photo of the week

Apologies for the lack of a post this week.

The photo for this week is of The Chamberlain Clock which is to be found in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham.

The Chamberlain Clock

The clock was erected to celebrate the visit of Joseph Chamberlain to South Africa in 1903.  Chamberlain was one of the most important figures in the history of Birmingham.  An influential statesman of the late Victorian era Chamberlain was Mayor of Birmingham, member of Parliament and campaigner for improved living conditions and healthcare.

Birmingham

Birmingham is the second city of the United Kingdom.  It does not have the lure of London for visitors.  Nor is it a up and coming city such as Manchester or Leeds.  The two football (soccer) teams are rubbish.  The people talk in a depressed sounding accent.  Saying all that Birmingham is my home city and I am proud of it and I would like to welcome more people to it.

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Birmingham Town Hall

There are several reasons to come and visit Birmingham.  My reasons to visit are:

  • The Canals
  • Jewellery Quarter
  • Bournville
  • The Balti Triangle
  • Heavy Metal

The Canals

The one fact that anybody from Birmingham will give you is that it has more miles of canal than Venice.  Originally built in the 18th century, canals were used to distribute goods from one area of the country to another.  It predates the railways. In Birmingham there are over 100 miles of canal that can be used. Now the canals are mainly used for leisure activities such as boating holidays.  The towpaths are used by walkers, joggers and cyclists.

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Gas Street Basin

Jewellery Quarter

This area of Birmingham is so-called as the major manufacturer of jewellery in the UK.  The industry has now declined in size however, there are still some workshop operating in the area.  Places to see are the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.  There is also the ‘Findings Trail and the Chain Bracelet Trail’ to follow. If you are feeling flushed with spare cash you can go to one of the workshops and order a piece of custom made jewellery.

Bournville

Bournville is considered to be a company village.  It was established by the Cadbury family for the workers at the nearby chocolate factory.  This was the antidote to the slum conditions that was typical of the late 19th century.  The village itself contains houses with large gardens, recreation areas and parks. There is no public house as the Cadbury family were devout quakers.

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Non too flattering view of Bournville

While in Bournville check out the Cadbury World.  This is a attraction dedicated to the story of chocolate and Cadbury.

Balti Triangle

If you are feeling hungary then head to the ‘Balti Triangle’ and try a balti curry.  The triangle covers the Sparkbrook, Sparkhill and Balsall Heath areas of Birmingham.  The balti is a curry that is served in a wok like dish known as the balti bowl.  It is best eaten with a large naan bread.  Balti restaurants as also known as ‘Balti Houses’.  Being mainly run by muslims they do not sell alcohol.  However, you are allowed to bring your own beer or wine to consume with your meal.

Heavy Metal

If the city of Birmingham cannot offer you anything else it is the home of the music genre known as Heavy Metal.  In particular Black Sabbath who originated from the Aston district of the city.  The music perfectly describes that area in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  It was run down consisted factories bellowing smoke from it chimneys and bomb sites from the Second World War.  It was the total opposite to swinging London and the hippy vibe of San Francisco.

In future posts I will be explaining these areas in more detail.

Currently reading The Lost Estate by Henri-Alain Fournier

Currently listening to Paranoid by Black Sabbath

Until the next time, stay safe, stay healthy and keep on smiling.

Steve