Sunday, 30 May 2010

Excuse Me, Haven’t you Got Any Change...?

Day 12, and it's probably been the shortest day to date.

All I had to do today was to travel from Coventry, where I stayed last night, to Birmingham which was little more than an hour away. So, with a whole day ahead of me and only an hour of travelling to fill it with, I decided to take another look at Coventry's cathedral.

It being a Sunday, it seemed like a good idea to attend a service so that I could really see this amazing building in use. But in the event, it was even better than I could have hoped. I'd arrived in Coventry in the middle of their International Church Music Festival, so Sunday's Eucharist Service was to be against the background of Schubert's Mass in G delivered with the help of a 100-strong professional choir, a couple of fine soloists and the full might of the BBC Chamber Orchestra.

It was an amazing, spine-tingling experience and one I'll not easily forget.

I made my way to Coventry's Meadow Pool Bus Station, which probably the most palatial bus station I have yet encountered – shops, information screens, seating, even picnic tables, and it was wholly lit my natural daylight. Why can't they all be this way?

Unfortunately, things went disastrously wrong when the Stagecoach 900 service pulled up. I asked the driver for a ticket to Birmingham and handed him a £10, but he turned me away saying that he could only accept the right change. I rummaged through my pockets for loose change to drop into the slot device on the driver's door and managed to scrape together exactly £1.69p. The ticket to Birmingham cost £1.70p

So off I got to find a shop so that I could buy a packet of Polo mints with my £10 note. Barmy! It seems the drivers are not given the chance to handle any money at all as all the change falls into a sealed cash box via a sort of trapdoor with window so the driver can check you've put the right amount in. If any I'd known beforehand – but there were no signs, no warnings, no nothing.

The actual journey to Birmingham was quick and uneventful. The scenery was pretty uneventful, too, though we did pass through Meriden which used to be the home of the British motorbike industry (for a little while) and which also holds claim to the title of the absolute centre of England. Apparently nowhere else in England is as far from the sea as Meriden. Not the centre of Britain, however – I'll be passing through there much later in my trip.

Anyone getting off an airplane at Birmingham International Airport is able to catch a bus into town very easily – the bus stops are right outside the terminal. There is also, somewhat bizarrely, a fully-functioning Job Centre Plus in a set of Portacabins right next to the terminal. Crikey, things in the airline business must be bad!

I have not visited Birmingham in 25 years and the city as changed markedly in that time. It looks a lot more busy and prosperous. Shiny new office blocks, pedestrianised streets where once there were streets of dense traffic, it was all rather disorientating.

Birmingham being the home of the balti, you can probably guess what I had for tea tonight. Well, I had to, didn't I?

Tomorrow is Bank Holiday Monday and, more importantly, it's the day when the two local bus museums - at Aston Manor and at Wythall - get their exhibits out onto the road and use them to run visitors from one museum to the other. That's the whole reason for being here tomorrow – and I have to say I'm rather looking forward to it.

No comments:

Post a Comment