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August 12, 2012 / Claudia

One Day in Birmingham

Mr B’s parents are notoriously suspicious of big cities. So when they came to Birmingham last month to see our new flat (and to interrogate me a little further), I was determined to abolish that suspicion and make them appreciate my beloved Birmingham a little more.

The Ikon in Oozells Square acted as our first stop where we saw a mammoth retrospective by artist couple Boyd and Evans entitled Views. It was wonderful, with sweeping alien landscapes and unique perspectives.

Following our jaunt around the gallery, we headed down to the Ikon Cafe for some lunch of calamari, courgette fritos, meatballs and canneloni. Ikon Cafe is a consistently good tapas restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the square and Brindleyplace. Needless to say, our trip to the Ikon was a success.

Onwards into the City Centre core, through the ICC, Centenary Square and Birmingham Central Library, throughout which I gave my much rehearsed (and overused) planning, development and recent history spiel about the past and future of the area. Next was Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, with their largest public collection of Pre-Raphelite art. This was a big hit with Mr B Senior, however Mrs B and I were much more interested in the fabulous Style Africa exhibition:

In honour of Birmingham being host to the Jamaica and USA athletics teams during the Olympics training camps, the pillars of the Art Gallery is adorned with knitting in the colours of their respective flags. I knitted a bit of the red column. Mr B’s parents were pretty impressed.

From there, we took a wander through the grand civic and not so civic buildings of the Colmore Row and Environs Conservation Area. This bit was pretty important as they had never seen this part of the City Centre, and there really are some architectural stunners to be seen in the area.

After all this art and walking, a quick stop for tea was in order. Over to the City Centre branch of independent coffee shop Urban Coffee. They do great coffee apparently. Being of the tea drinking persuasion, they do a decent enough brew. I will however bore anyone reading with a separate post on that in the future.

Now, it was getting towards time for tea. Again, aiming to impress, we decided on a fancy meal at Brindleyplace’s fine dining restaurant Edmunds. The food was simply divine – tasty, interesting and satisfying however a little on the pricey side!

And so completes one day in Birmingham. Mr and Mrs B Senior went away pretty convinced that Birmingham has a lot to offer and is a fine, fine place to be placing roots. We’re already planning the itinerary for their next visit.

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August 12, 2012 / Claudia

The Last Projectionist

I am a cinephile. I learnt this recently. I love films, and the act of taking a trip to the cinema is one of the greatest pleasures IF you make it to the right cinema.

Recently*, Mr B and I took a trip to The Electric to see Tom Lawes’ (owner of the Electric) brilliant documentary about the Electric Cinema and other niche, unique independent cinemas across the UK The Last Projectionist.

The premise of the documentary is to celebrate the independent cinema and the opportunities it provides for film distribution and presentation. I’d had the privilege of being told quite a lot of the Electric specific content as I interviewed Tom for my dissertation on cinema space and the construction of experience (a good 6 years ago), and have been a loyal patron of the cinema since Tom has been looking after it, and long before then too in its former life as a struggling independent. The documentary also gives significant time to some beautiful and unique cinemas that I’m already plotting trips to.

Here’s the trailer for the film. It’s wonderful. If you have any interest in cinema or films, do see it. There’s select viewings across the country over the rest of August.

*By recently, I mean weeks ago. I am well behind the times.

June 8, 2012 / Claudia

Wings of Desire

Birmingham is never short of some form of arts festival and May 2012 was no different. International Dance Festival Birmingham 2012 ran between late April and middle of May with a whole range of events taking place, but to be brutally honest there was only one that I was interested in:

Alan Lyddiard’s adaptation of the Wim Wenders 1987 film Wings of Desire, bringing together the Australia’s world famous Circa and Britain’s 2Faced Dance Company in an awe inspiring outdoor collaboration in Victoria Square against the backdrop of the divine grade I listed Town Hall.

Goldie played the narrator, and former angel, luring the angel to seek a life of mortality to be with a past love. Goldie was brilliant. Charasmatic, relevant, likeable and a perfect spokesperson for Birmingham in this guise.

The dancing and acrobatics were genuinely jaw dropping, and the light spectacular on the Town Hall was honestly amazing.

[We were extremely lucky to see it on the opening night as we were having terrible weather back then (and we still are now) and two of the evening performances only delivered the light show as it was too dangerous for the dancers!]

Excellent work from IDFB and the whole company!

May 27, 2012 / Claudia

ONE

Mr B and I celebrated our first anniversary in the middle of May. We went out on a Tuesday evening and attended an art exhibition opening at the gallery we went to on our first date, followed by dinner at the place we went for lunch on our first date, and onwards to a pub for cocktails where we rounded our first date off. It was a lovely evening, with the locations meaning a lot to us for more than the first date.

At points in the last year, I had a strong emotional moment in each of those places:

  • In the gallery, we diffused the awkwardness of a first date with raucous laughter instead of petty small talk by seeing art that has been banned in the past.
  • We got takeaway from the restaurant the first time Mr B took me to his favourite pub which until that point had been exclusively reserved for friends. He drew a smiley face in my diary, and told me he was too nervous to draw a heart.
  • We had a long conversation about past mistakes and discreet hopes in the pub, about 2 months after our first date.

It was wonderful to spend the evening reflecting on the last 12 months, how much we have got to know each other and laughed and loved.

It has been the happiest year of my life.

April 14, 2012 / Claudia

New Food Thursday (2)

Another New Food Thursday Update*

In March, we made these new things:

  • Toad in the Hole
  • Roast Pork with Honey, Ginger and Lime
  • Sweet Potato, Carrot and Ginger Soup
  • Apple Crumble
  • Carrot and Coriander Soup
  • Seafood Paella – made by Mr B for me when I was poorly
  • Courgette and Spinach Soup
  • Lentil and Pea Soup
  • Fresh Green and Yellow Pasta (courgette, green beans and lemon)
  • Proxy Tartiflette – what? It consisted of bacon, potato and cream…
  • Chicken Fried Rice
We’ve gotten a little lax recently due to an extremely hectic schedule for the both of us. Hopefully, things will settle down over the course of the next couple of weeks and we’ll be able to dive straight back into our culinary adventures with gusto!

*No pictures or recipes still. Must get better at this blogging malarky.

April 14, 2012 / Claudia

Fierce Festival

As you may have realised from the posts in this blog, I like to take whatever opportunity possible to do something interesting and unique in Birmingham and encourage other people to join me, if they want to.

Fierce Festival shortly followed Flatpack Festival at the tail end of March and in to April. It is a performance art festival that hosts a number of events and activities throughout Birmingham for just over a week.

After reviewing the programme, a couple of things took our fancy: one at the start of the festival, and the other at the end. Never one wanting to shy away from something unusual, we signed ourselves up.

Track, by Graeme Miller

On a cold March Saturday, we braved the wilds of Aston to head under the undeniably striking Spaghetti Junction to lie on a rudimentary skateboard and be pushed along a 100m track. Not the most appealing way to spend a chilly, grey Saturday afternoon.

After waiting in a surprisingly long queue, whilst watching swathes of people take the journey we were about to, we boarded the platform and set off on our journey: Andy, myself, then Chris (Mr B). (Initially, I was mostly concerned about the remaining spectators seeing my knickers.)

The journey was as peaceful as expected: all that I was aware of was the creaking of the track. Looking up was a disorientating experience, watching the sky, trees, and mass of concrete move above you as you lie completely still. I felt nauseous, and a little scared. However, the juxtaposition of the concrete, grey sky and eerie treescape was incredible. Being in such a static position, moving against your will, you really take notice of what is directly above as its the safest place to look.

I thought it disrespectful to take photographs of the view above me, so here is a picture of the iconic Spaghetti Junction.

Hamish Fulton Walk

On a fucking freezing Easter Sunday, Chris, myself and a couple of friends (one of which had travelled in to Birmingham from Shrewsbury… you will understand how guilty I felt shortly) headed to Curzon Street Car Park to embark on what we imagined would be a life affirming walk around Birmingham.

We were welcomed by Hamish with the explanation that:
‘Choose a line. It can be short or long, across or lengthways. Over the next two hours walk the distance of the line. You can use your phone or watch to pace yourself. The only thing is that you don’t speak over this time. Once you’re in position begin when you hear the gong. After two hours it will ring again, this is the sign the walk is over.’

This was my line.

I positioned myself facing the railway line going east out of Birmingham City Centre. An ongoing distraction task was to count the number of trains that passed us.

This was me at the start of the walk.

(I am reading Craft Inc. It will completely change my life one day.) Passing the time was my main objective, and I thought the two hours would give me some good quality reading time. After 30 minutes, I started to feel very cold, and nauseous. Performance art and nausea seems to be a theme with me.

This was me towards the end of the walk.

I was very cold. I had taken to calculating the seconds remaining of the “walk”, estimating the amount of steps that I had left to take, and finally counting the number of seconds until I would allow myself to take my next step. That tactic lasted for about a minute.

The first half was tolerable as us group of four were facing each other along our chosen lines and could communicate. There was a sense of solidarity that I could grasp on to, and it made me aware that my boyfriend and our friends were around and would be there if anything went wrong. At the midway point, we passed each other and were on our own from then on. This is when I found it most difficult.

I did not enjoy the walk. I was cold. I was struggling to think about anything except how cold I was. I have discovered from doing the walk that I am obedient – I stuck out the walk for the duration, despite how I didn’t appreciate the piece that we were participating in. Was I perhaps committed to the cause, keen to find out if I was to discover something about myself?

In short, not my cup of tea. However, the big hug from Chris and the satisfaction of the cup of tea I had following the walk were almost worth the discomfort.

Total number of trains: 48

March 4, 2012 / Claudia

New Food Thursday*

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

– Virginia Woolf

Food is extremely important to me. Eating is one of my favourite things to do, and food is generally near the top of the list of preferred conversation topics.

At the start of the year, I decided that a goal for 2012 should be to endeavour to make at least one delicious thing per week. When discussing this with Mr B, he expressed that he was keen to improve his cooking skills and learn to make new things. And so, New Food Thursday was founded.

Since the start of the year, we have made the following things:

  • Mushroom soup
  • Carrot and lentil soup
  • Broccoli and almond soup
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Lamb with redcurrent and mustard sauce
  • Lime and ginger chicken
  • Courgette fritters
  • Chicken with chickpeas and spinach
  • Sweet potato and spinach curry
  • Courgette and mushroom risotto
  • Beef stew and dumplings
  • Pancakes
  • Coffee and walnut cake

We’ve found throughout this little food adventure, that we really love cooking together and find that we have already improved a number of skills that we had previously. New Food Thursday is definitely one of our favourite things to do – food, chatting, science (cooking is science!), and eating. Awesome.

* It’s not always a Thursday. But it usually is.