The Big Hoot

Sunday, August 23rd, 2015 01:38 pm
tourmaline: (strawberry shake)
I took a four-day weekend, starting Thursday, so I could go owl-spotting in Birmingham.

The Big Hoot )
You can see the full set of my photos here. I have a work thing in Birmingham next week so hopefully I can get a few more photos, I didn't see the one that's in the Bullring because I only went in to get my JellyBellys from Selfridges.
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Christmas)
As I had a ton of annual leave to use up before March, I took a day off last Monday to visit Birmingham - specifically to visit the German Market and the Library of Birmingham. It was busy but not ridiculously so, I got a few things from the German Market and a few things elsewhere. I'm still waiting for one present to arrive from the US, but I've got a contingency present if it's not here in time. Everything else is wrapped, I've given out or posted my general Christmas cards and just have the cross-stitched cards for family and close friends left to write. I'll contact my friends next week to arrange to see them. Everything else left to arrange is largely food-related.

I finally got round to visiting the Library of Birmingham on Monday, it's fabulous - the fabric of the building is completely modern but it has a very traditional library feel. There seemed to be lots of space for serious studying, to the extent that some parts feel like a University library (except I didn't see anyone asleep). There were a few school parties there too, including one lot where all the kids were dressed as elves. There's plenty of great views to be had from the secret garden and the terrace, but it would benefit from some of those signs which tell you what you're looking at - I could see old, medium and new buildings, canals, and some hills in the distance (Staffordshire? No idea how far I could see) - they could then integrate it with their local studies collection or whatever they call it there.

I took lots of photos on my phone - here are some )

You can see the full set of photos here. I'd love to go back, armed with more knowledge of what the views are of.
tourmaline: (hugh laurie)
I'd spent most of the runup to last night thinking my tickets were for seats right at the side of the circle, when they were actually for the circly bit of the circle. Birmingham Symphony Hall is fantastic, it's big and intimate at the same time, but their online seating plan isn't great.

A fabulous evening of music )
It was a fabulous evening - also a first glimpse at the refurbed bits of Birmingham New Street Station, but with the old cruddy bits of platform still sadly evident - in contrast to BSH, they're cavernous and claustrophobic at the same time. We got the earliest of our possible trains home but got a slow ride thanks to a faulty signal. And I then had a succession of songs from the evening in my head, which hasn't finished yet.

Birmingham Blues

Friday, January 13th, 2012 05:19 pm
tourmaline: (Squeee Odyssey)
I visited Birmingham having high hopes of buying some DM boots, preferably not in black. Didn't see any so will be venturing online and hoping I choose the correct size. Bought a Gap T-shirt, some Jellybeans (they've replaced the lever things with little shovelly things, and removed the Ice Cream flavours, boo) and some sushi.

On the train towards Birmingham I was sat across the aisle from two middle-aged men on their way to a business meeting. One of the men was very upper-middle-class looking and sounding, the other was more a standard guy in a suit. UMC guy was talking about how he had no plans to see The Iron Lady, he was definitely not a Thatcher admirer, even though not seeing the film meant missing out on seeing Meryl Streep. Other Guy looked rather crestfallen at this anti-Thatcher revelation, and talked about how she did this or that and you can't argue it wasn't successful. UMC guy then started talking about watching TV news reporting of the Leveson Inquiry, and what a horrible man Richard Desmond was, I think Other Guy was a secret Daily Express reader cos he was not impressed by the direction of the conversation.

I must have been in a train carriage near the end, because when I got off at New Street I was near the signage for the exit to Victoria Square, so I thought that would be a good opportunity to visit the da Vinci exhibition at BMAG, which opened today. I'd only heard about it a couple of days ago so I wasn't sure if I'd be visiting, especially given the queues there'd been for the Staffordshire Hoard, but the queue this time was officially half an hour and actually more like 20 minutes at 11am. The pictures - mostly studies da Vinci made for paintings, anatomy drawings - are wonderful, very detailed, and accompanied in many cases by his famous mirror-writing. There's also lots of stuff alongside about the materials he used, and the papers. There's only ten items in a single room, but well worth a visit, to see with one's own eyes the works of one of the greatest creative minds of Western civilisation is too awesome to miss.

I bought some da Vinci postcards from the giftshop, and a three-colour pen, which seems to have vanished :( I came back into the main shopping area via New Street, I went in Shared Earth, which is undergoing a liquidation sale - sad, but I was surprised it had lasted this long. There were two women in there accompanied by a guide dog, a beautiful creature apparently called Rupert-No who had to sniff everything on display within nose height.

I stopped at the food court for lunch, but for a veggie taco bowl rather than my usual jacket potato, as I had a jacket potato for dinner last night. Waterstones had lots of children's Christmas books on sale, and I was tempted by a pop-up book about How Santa Works, which tells how the elves read letters from children and check on a computer to see if the children have been good, and how after the party Santa throws for his elves on Christmas Day, everyone sleeps until the spring. However, I managed to resist this, and a copy of That's Not My Puppy - if I start buying books for Bean every time I visit Waterstones, she's going to need a separate library as well as a warehouse to store all her toys.

As well as looking online for DMs I might also look for soaps. I found out that Lush have moved from Corporation Street to somewhere else I didn't see, and The Body Shop only had the same stuff they always have in. I prefer soaps to shower gels, will see what Lush have on their online store but am also interested in looking up some natural ingredients soaps, can't remember if it was Oxfam or Greenpeace or someone else but a while back one of the major charities used to sell a big box of assorted cubes of soap made with olive oil, sage, rosemary etc. Something seasonal, preferably.

A Week Off

Monday, August 1st, 2011 07:51 pm
tourmaline: (strawberry shake)
I would've posted last week, I'm sure, if LJ hadn't been hit by the DDoS. I had a week's leave last week, I wanted to get a bit of a break in before everyone else starts their summer holiday leave. I didn't really do much, got plenty of studying in (trigonometry, which is for me one of the easier branches of mathematics), went to Birmingham and bought lots of sweets as usual and also as usual had a jacket potato for lunch.

I also bought Bean's birthday present - she's a year old mid-month, and is growing up fast into a proper little girl. She's still a bit away from walking I think, but I think the main obstacle is that she's not interested and can get about quickly by crawling. She can now crawl down the step into the extension. The first time she crawled of the big step at the bottom of the stairs she overbalanced and ended up gamboling off the end - she was lying there on her back, there was a brief silence which I thought was one of those brief silences you get from little children just before they wail and howl the building down, but instead she started laughing and giggling and then got up.

The only downside to all this time spent with Bean recently is that picking her up on Saturday I twinged something in my back. It hadn't been great to start with, I must have been sleeping at an odd angle, and picking her up finished it off. It's much better than it was now (ie I can walk and I don't need painkillers during the day) but I think a return to Zumba classes will have to be postponed.
tourmaline: (coffee)
Am in a Google Earth mood again, and have been posting lots of pics to my Tumblr from Google Earth & Street View. So, if you fancy a very slow history lesson (currently of Birmingham), punctuated by the occasional picture of partially-naked astronauts, please check out my Tumblr at

Hubble 3D

Friday, March 25th, 2011 04:40 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Saw Hubble 3D today at the IMAX cinema at Millennium Point in Birmingham. Seriously cool and awesome and amazing.

More detail, with spoilers )

I'd really like to see this again, if I get the chance. There was also a trailer for a movie about people who look after baby elephants and baby orang-utans for their return to the wild, which would be so awesome to see too, the animals were so beautiful. And everyone in the theatre ducked when the elephants were playing football and the ball headed camerawards :)
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
I did dye my hair, with newly-bought hair dye. My current colour is terracotta red, and I've got some honey-chestnut to use as well, because it was two for £10 at Tesco. As expected, Dad's first reaction to my newly-coloured hair was to do a Janet Street-Porter impression.

I dyed my hair yesterday, and today I went into Birmingham. Going out early (8.30am) paid off, the bus/train ticket is more expensive but worth it, by 9.45am I was walking through New Street Station, if I'd waited for the off-peak I would've just got on the bus by that time and saved only around £1.20. The peak fare is worth it to me, so long as I can set out sufficiently early to notice the difference.

I bought most of my intended purchases - a new watch strap, Hotel Chocolat goodies (the chocolate marbles), JellyBelly Jellybeans - the assistant in Selfridges also gave me three 10g sample packs of Jellybeans, a new bag, and summer dress & cardigan set for Bean. I stopped at the Waterstones branch of Costa for breakfast of coffee and a scrambled egg & mushroom toastie-type thing (delicious), and ended the shopping spree with my usual lunch of jacket potato with tuna.

Couple of pictures )

Tomorrow I am visiting my friend for her birthday, which means I get out of visiting my cousin for her birthday and to meet her son's very pregnant girlfriend. I hope all goes well for them in that department, but I have to be honest and say I'm really not interested. I have Bean, I have the six of us, that's where my interests lie.
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 319 This was supposed to be Christmas shopping, but the only Christmas thing I bought was an advent calendar. It was freezing cold when I first set out, and was forecast to stay that way all day, but it warmed up lots - which was not good, because I was wearing my big winter coat, good for the cold but I ended up lugging it round Birmingham with me. The thing I dislike about shopping in Birmingham is that even at the best of times I end up yucky and sweaty and untidy, and everyone else there is neat and dressed up and perfectly made-up, lovely hair, everyone else looks like pretty flowers and I'm there like a discarded turnip.

Two pics today - the first is the frost on the roof of the bus stop this morning:

Bus Stop

The second is the collection of bags I now have to sort through:

Shopping Bags

From left to right that's Selfridges Food Hall, Hotel Chocolat (remembered my discount card this time!) and Marks & Spencers. Not visible is the Boots bag (bought an ankle support, expensive but looks a good one, hopefully it will be a worthy investment) and I declined a bag in Clintons, where I got the card I was hoping they'd have - a "Happy first Christmas to my niece" card, from the big Clintons store in the Bullring. The rest of my shopping was rather predictable - M&S lingerie, sushi, jellybeans - it's fun to watch unsuspecting people at the jellybean dispensers give what they imagine to be a gentle pull of the lever to have a great cascading rush of beans fall into their bag :D

Sadly Waterstones did not have a copy of Barbara Barnett's Unofficial Guide To House, only the official one - with one of those little review cards written by someone who doesn't really watch the programme. I guess it's to Amazon to shop for those.

Train Again

Thursday, September 16th, 2010 05:10 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 259 I have been to Birmingham again. Train services provided by London Midland:

London Midland

Thankfully the walls aren't green too. I bought the usual stuff - Jellybeans, Hotel Chocolat, sushi, coffee - and a 101 Dalmations wrist rattle for Bean, who is 1 month old today! We're visiting tomorrow so I can give it to her then.
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 196 A third of the way through the current wool colour:

Primary Colours

I really like this colour combo. Primary colours but not over-bright, plus the purple and the off-white, and I like how they blend with the previous block.

And shame that Birmingham didn't win the inagural UK City Of Culture title. But Derry is a cool place, I hope they do well from it.

Big Bag Of JellyBeans

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010 02:42 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 184 Oh the anticipation.....


I still miss Champagne Punch flavour JBs - since they were discontinued I no longer have a favourite flavour :(
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 183 I went to Birmingham today, and despite the humidity it was a good trip. I managed to get almost everything on my list - the exception being the iPhone case, cos the shop was closed. But lots of money was wisely spent.

Today's official photo is of my lunch, which I ate by the waterfall near St Martin-in-the-Bullring:

Birmingham Picnic

Sushi from Yo!Sushi at Selfridges (utter deliciousness, even the whatever-it-was greenery which got stuck between my teeth), and an awesome chilled coffee thing from Costa - the first chilled coffee thing I've had where caffiene is discernable. It was yummmmmm.

More photos here )

The Lush stuff was really nice, I bought some new soaps (chucked the Sandstone soap out cos it's purpose appears to be to scatter sand in the shower), some talc, and some almond handcream, which I must have put on half an hour ago and my hands are still really almond-scented and soft. And they gave me a mango bath melt, which I melted under the shower and rubbed all over as a body moisturiser, so both me and the bathroom smell of mango.

And I completely forgot to tweet any of this while I was out. I blame the influence of the STS-132 crew, who I was thinking of today (they're somewhere in the UK now) and who apparently cannot tweet.


Thursday, July 1st, 2010 11:28 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
I have plans for tomorrow which do not involve going to work. I have the day off and will go to Birmingham.

As it's not going to be a blazing hot day I've decided not to set out really early but to get the bus after 9.30am when it's cheaper, which means I can have breakfast before I set out. And luckily it appears that when the standard bus fares went up recently, the daytripper fares (ie bus/train/tram day tickets) did not.

I have shopping to do in Birmingham, which involves going to Lush to stock up on soaps, Boots or Superdrug for E45 lipbalm and some own-brand handcream, M&S for lingerie, Hotel Chocolat for chocolate, Selfridges for JellyBeans, Dixons (or whatever it's called) for one of those brick-tough iPhone cases, and possibly The Disney Store to look at baby stuff with Tigger on. Or possibly look at non-Tigger baby stuff in Mamas & Papas or elsewhere. And not to go to the food court at the Pavilions for lunch, it's high time to find somewhere else for a change, even if I end up with sushi or a panini yet again. And something cold from Starbucks on the way home again perhaps? Cos those things are yum, and I only have maybe two or three a year.

Crabtree & Evelyn

Friday, April 2nd, 2010 01:29 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 92 Last week in Birmingham I visited the Crabtree & Evelyn store at the Mailbox. Unfortunately they don't sell their standard range soaps individually any more, only in sets of three. So I bought two sets - Summer Hill and Nantucket Briar. They're individually boxed within the main boxes still:

Crabtree & Evelyn

I started on them today, had a Summer Hill shower. They do cost a bit (£11 for a box of three) but they smell gorgeous, and they last well - they're firm and they don't disintegrate when you get near the end. And the lather is smooth and bubbly and luxurious. You get what you pay for.

It's Good Friday today. So I checked my phone to see what's on TV this afternoon. Surprise surprise, The Sound Of Music is on BBC1. Also I think some (or all) of the Wallace & Gromit canon is on UKGold at some point over the weekend.

Birmingham Goodies

Friday, March 26th, 2010 04:09 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
Day 85 Have had a day off and visited Birmingham, and now my feet are sore and one of my toe joints is throbbing. But a good day, despite all the massive amounts of rain that meant I had to stop at one point to stand under the dryer in the ladies' at the Pavilions for five minutes.

I went to stock up on Crabtree & Evelyn soaps, but they don't do the regular range soaps individually any more, you have to buy a set of three. I contemplated buying shower gel instead, but the soap trio is the same price as a smallish bottle of shower gel, so I went for the money's worth option and bought trio sets of Summer Hill and Nantucket Briar soaps. I also visited Hotel Chocolat for Easter goodies, I went with Selectors in the end - a set of praline mini eggs and two bars with easter eggs pressed into them. They were selling off some Valentines stuff too so I also got a strawberry heart lick.

I was also sooo predictable and bought some Jelly Beans from Selfridges, they have a new set of flavours collectively called the Ice Cream Parlour, not sure what flavours they actually are but may investigate online as the flavour leaflets they had appear to be a few years old. They also had Green Tea flavour, which I've never seen before. I also bought a book from Waterstones - Buzz Aldrin's autobiography - I used to buy so many books from Birmingham, but now book space is strictly rationed I can't return home with bags of them like I used to.

And so to the photo - ever since I saw House sucking on one I've been thinking about frappucinos, so I bought a stawberries & cream frappucino from Starbucks above the station. This pic was taken on the train while we were waiting for departure:

Strawberries & Cream Frappucino

It was absolutely delicious, who cares how many calories and how much sugar. One every 6-12 months is a healthy dose.

Staffordshire Hoard

Thursday, October 8th, 2009 03:32 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
I saw the Staffordshire Hoard today. There had been tales of very long queues, so I got up early (6am) and was out the door before 7.30am to get the bus to get the train to Birmingham. Got to the museum just on 9am, the queue was out the building & just round the corner, it was pretty chilly but I was inside in about five minutes cos they've been opening early for the Hoard at 9am. Only ended up queueing for around 40 minutes before getting in to see it, which was much less than I'd expected - obviously the early start paid off.

The items themselves were so fabulous, mostly gold and lots of garnets, mostly decorative pieces from swords & armour. Very detailed & intricate, there were magnifying glasses over lots of the pieces so you could see the detail. Very crowded round the display cases, almost all good-natured except for one arsehole who kept complaining he couldn't see (he was at least 6 foot tall), and asking people to move but they had nowhere to move to in any direction. One woman was there with her two children and most people were moving when they could to let the children get close to the display case, but he was getting arsy about them getting closer than he was even though he could easily tower over them.

I went in the gift shop afterwards, first time I've been in there for years and it hasn't been full of schoolkids, so I bought some postcards of some of the gallery paintings and a three-colour pen. I was hungry by then (no breakfast except a cup of coffee) & I thought about going into the cafe, but I saw the arsehole heading that way (lecturing his wife on the way) so I left for food elsewhere. I headed round the back (ie where the underpass begins) to see how big the queue had got - about half-way back along the side of the building, but looked slower-moving. I walked round the back streets there, the old buildings that survived the war there are awesome, huge sturdy Victorian & Edwardian era buildings with original lettering preserved for "Birmingham Institute" and "National Bank" & similar. I love buildings like that. Many are still banks etc, the Birmingham Institute building is part of one of the Universities or colleges, but a lot of the ground floors are bars or eateries. I didn't venture in there but headed to the Bullring, and had a hot chicken jalapeno wrap in Pret A Manger at Selfridges, before buying my usual stash of jellybeans. Then off for some Christmas shopping at Hotel Chocolat before heading home via Marks & Spencers.

A few links on the subject: Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, where the Staffordshire Hoard is on display. They have a fundraising thing on to try & keep the items in the Midlands. Also, lots of pics of the items can be seen here.

Long Weekend

Sunday, July 5th, 2009 11:36 pm
tourmaline: total solar eclipse, from a photo by NASA (Default)
I am - shock, horror - using up annual leave by having last Friday and tomorrow off.

My long weekend so far, and a rant about Kingdom )

I have one day's worth of freedom left. Not sure what to do yet. But I won't be getting up early.