Birmingham station has changed a bit since I was last here. I came here on tour in 2014, spending most of my time walking between the Broad Street Ibis and the Rep theatre, sweltering in the summer heat and waiting for the Library to close so the theatre could take over the air con.
When I arrived in 2014, the station was covered in hoarding and adverts about the new exciting station that was being built. It wasn’t terribly exciting, hoarding is pretty much the same wherever you go. But now, in 2016, Grand Central, as it is now dubbed, is finished, and enormous. The outside is covered in mirrored panels, with a large eye-shaped advertising board on one side that watches you, and tries to get you to buy things. Very Orwellian, and very appropriate for my dystopian novel. I took a note of it whilst I ate some lunch in one of the many eateries, all of which were not allowed to provide bins, which in itself made the whole thing seem a little 1980s in a different way.
I had great intentions for my time in Birmingham. I was going to wander the jewellery quarter and take notes on the warehouses and victorian buildings, find somewhere to sit and add to my word count. Those plans were slightly scuppered within 15 minutes of setting out.
It was raining, which in itself is not a huge problem, I was prepared. I know British weather, and I’d brought a waterproof and changes of clothes. The rain itself didn’t bother me. Until. Until I was crossing a road to get to the jewellery quarter, where, somehow, I slipped over. I felt myself go and, in slow motion, it seemed, watched as my feet disappeared to one side, my backpack leant me sideways and there I was, like a turtle, on a road. It was a terrifying few seconds, until the cars started just going around me. Well, Merry Christmas to you all too.
“Are you alright?” shouted a kind woman, who was also sporting a huge backpack, on the other side of the road. So I wasn’t still in London, and it was possible for people to give a shit about others. How nice.
Limping slightly, and lamenting my formerly clean trousers which now had a long stripe of muddy rain water down one leg, I begrudgingy headed towards St Paul’s square.
The church was rather lovely, at least from the outside. I have to admit to being a little grumpy from hurt pride, so I didn’t investigate inside, justifying it by saying that my character wasn’t likely to go inside a church either.
It took another 20 minutes for me to get genuinely fed up of the rain, and to be somewhat desperate for the loo. As the heavens opened properly, I headed for the lovely Birmingham Central Library, who had a cafe, a workstation and, most importantly at that point, a toilet.
I spent the rest of the afternoon typing, getting down nearly 2000 words of the novel, and the character’s journey.
I spent the evening with my lovely friend Laura, who was kind enough to put me up for the night, and to invite me to join their writer’s group (PoW WoW) for and evening of ‘gluttony and ghost stories’. It gave me the idea that it might be nice to go to other cities and visit other writing groups, see how they work and hear work by people around the country. Perhaps next year, eh?
It was wonderful in the back room of the Prince of Wales pub, warm and cosy with plentiful food. Most of the 20 or so writers there had a ghost story to tell, which gave the evening a wonderful Jackanory feeling. I have to admit, that I was close to dropping off a few times, due to the soothing nature of being read to, like 20 bedtime stories. I shook myself, obviously, because I wanted to hear the tales. And I’m glad i did, for they were of excellent quality. I hope to return some time to visit them again.
In the morning, it was off to Manchester.