The crisp morning of Saturday 20th December saw a small but happy band of five stamina-filled enthusiasts assemble at Kidderminster Railway station for a pleasant ride into Birmingham. Our task to find the Café Nero was interrupted by a visit to Drucker’s, the Viennese patisserie, where we all enjoyed the sumptuous cakes (and of course coffee)!
Our walk around Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Market was most interesting, and most of us refrained from purchasing items, enjoying the sights and aromas associated with all types of food, drink and craft. Of course, we could not resist a trip into Jessops! At this moment, the sun came out!
After a leisurely morning, we assembled at The Dragon Inn for lunch (having lost our two Londoner friends en-route – not to worry, John’s map came in useful!) Full of festive food and drink, we assembled at the Olde-fashioned-sweet shop (Andrea made some purchases – were they really stocking-fillers?) to be met by our National Trust Guide and visit the carefully-restored, atmospheric 19th century courtyard of working people’s houses, Birmingham Back-to-Backs, where we had a glimpse into the lives of the ordinary people who helped make Birmingham an extraordinary city. The last surviving court of back to backs – houses that were built literally back-to–back around a communal courtyard. (We were reminded that no flashers were allowed inside the house, as this would affect the wallpaper! – so John Jeff and Bob stayed outside – LOL)
The tour covered three houses, complete with authentic coal fires, lit candles, Christmas trees decorated with oranges, etc, from the 1840s through to the 1970s – visiting Mr Mitchell’s downstairs rooms, with a collection of “glass eyes”, a typical Victorian family home, and lastly the home of George Saunders – who turned his house into a tailor’s shop, full of suits, patterns, buttons and memorabilia. The wooden staircases were most treacherous – they must have been very little people, of very slim stature in those days!
When we left the Chinese Quarter, it was approaching dusk, and we walked via the Mail Box, into Gas Street and onto Brindley Place, where we saw the spectacular three “sky needles”, which have been added to the roof of the NIA as part of its redevelopment. Of course, we could not resist a visit to Café Rouge for social intercourse, followed by tea and cakes. We meandered round to Centenary Square, which was lit by the wheel and evening skating. What an atmosphere! Even the exterior of Birmingham Library looked interesting. By this time, the town was heaving, passengers alighting from New Street were being directed in a one way system round the German Market, but it really was a wonderful opportunity for photography. We were all tired, but happy, as we departed Birmingham at 7.00 pm for a jam-packed train back to Kidderminster.
Thank you all for your company – Andrea
by John Pugh