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Archive for the ‘Birmingham’ Category
I spent yesterday evening, from 7-11, in Bacchus Bar, Burlington Arcade, Birmingham, one of Mitchells & Butlers‘ supposedly “Classic Pubs”. Had I not been there as a guest of others, for whom I have great respect, I would have left.
The only guest ale was off.
The dirty plates left by the departing people whose table we occupied, and their and our empty glasses and bottles, were not collected once. The plates included uneaten food, which sat festering for four hours.
The men’s toilets were an utter disgrace: stinking, awash with urine – footsteps caused audible splashes; I’m going to have to have my trousers laundered – and clearly not attended to all evening. Everyone who entered, each time I was in there, commented. I was told the women’s toilets were little better.
A pile of vomit on the carpet outside the toilets was marked with a “wet floor” A-frame, but otherwise left for over an hour, remaining until after closing.
I have never seen such bad practice, even in run down inner-city pubs; let alone a supposedly prestige, and pricey, city-centre venue.
Update: I have contacted Mitchells & Butlers, and asked them to respond here. Their contact form includes several unnecessary yet mandatory questions, such as wanting my postal address (which I declined to give, using bogus data instead) and the number in the party, which must be a number, making it impossible for me to say “over 15”.
I love The Rep in Birmingham. It’s a great theatre, with a noble history (as the civic Birmingham Repertory Theatre), and the staff are invariably helpful and friendly. But I’ve been disappointed recently to see that they’re using
six seven “Heatstore” electric heaters (four pictured) outside the building.
Every evening when I pass by there, the heaters are on, over empty tables, with no-one benefiting from them. This is madness, from an environmental and a financial point of view.
I decided to let them know that I thought so, not least since Jon Bounds tells me that I’m good at complaining (I think he meant that as a compliment, and that any complaints I make are always well-founded and cogently-expressed, but I could be wrong…). The heaters actually belong to wine REPublic (see what they did, there?) the
trendy wine bar within (and owned by) The Rep, so I phoned and spoke to their manager.
He told me that
they’re only [sic] on for three hours each night — we don’t use them during daytime (so that’s the equivalent of having one heater on for
75% of the time 21 hours a day, then), that
they are low voltage [sic] and that
we aren’t allowed to discriminate against smokers, we have to give them somewhere to smoke.
Which leads me to ask the question, since when has discrimination against smokers been outlawed? Why have no pubs or wine bars been fined for doing so?
And if smokers are protected, why are the Rep allowed to discriminate against them in the daytime, when the temperature is still below freezing?
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I am shocked and more than a little disappointed to see that the picture used by the Birmingham Post in this blog post seen above, by the tiresome Roshan Doug, and credited, poorly, as “Photo from Flickr” (Why no mention of the photographer? Flickr is a hosting website, not a picture agency) is marked by the original photographer as “All rights reserved”. Perhaps I’m being overly cynical, and the Birmingham Post can reassure us that a cheque will be in the post to the photographer shortly. After all, Doug is apparently a magistrate, so wouldn’t condone anything like copyright theft, would he?
but appears to be doing so no longer.
One afternoon last week, I had cause to catch TWM‘s 997 bus from central Birmingham to Great Barr, while my car was in the garage, for its annual MOT test (it passed, I’m pleased to say).
I have mixed views on public transport: on the one hand it’s a good thing (TM), in that it’s available to all, environmentally friendly, and so on, but on the other hand, it usually involves the kind of user-experience which makes it undesirable for anyone who doesn’t have to use it through lack of choice.
I had already used the 997 into Birmingham that morning. It’s a limited stop service, and I must say I had been impressed that the level of comfort was higher than I was expecting.
I wasn’t sure when where to catch the bus for my return journey, so looked up the route on the Transport Direct website.
The way that site works makes it impossible to link to the relevant timetable, but as this screenshot shows, they clearly say that the service departs from Carrs Lane in Birmingham City Centre.
I arrived in good time for the advertised departure, but none of the three bus stops in Carrs Lane listed the 997 as stopping there.
Purely by chance, I happened to see the 997 turning into Carrs Lane, from High Street, only to stop at a pedestrian crossing. I indicated to the driver that I wished to board, and he kindly opened the doors and allowed me to do so.
I subsequently found that the 997 does not stop in Carrs Lane, but around the corner — and earlier on its route — at stop DG, on High Street (map here).
The above picture shows the corner of High Street and Carrs Lane. The bus stop on the extreme left is stop DG, on High Street. On the extreme right, it is just possible to see stop DH, the nearest on Carrs Lane. Note also the pedestrian crossing at the start of Carrs Lane.
The bus I boarded had already departed from its stop. Had it not been for the pedestrian crossing and the kindness of the driver, I would have missed the bus, and thus missed the chance to pick up my car before the garage closed.
TWM and Transport Direct need to work together to eliminate erroneous information from the latter’s service, not least if they expect to entice car drivers onto public transport.
OK, Hands up everyone who thinks Birmingham Central Library is of sufficient architectural merit to warrant occupying its prominent position in the centre of Birmingham? OK, now put your hands down again if you’ve never worked in there (as an employee, I mean: not just doing your homework for a few hours).
Well, you might not have done, but I have, and it was awful. Bad acoustics, stale air, inflexible, unwelcoming — and impossible to drill into to attach a coat hook, much less a bookshelf.
Goodbye and good riddance to the monstrosity.
As a child, I was often taken to our local shopping centre in Perry Barr, north Birmingham (since replaced by a tin shed with pretensions of being a mall) to see a Mynah bird (Acridotheres tristis). It resided in what I now realise was a ridiculously small cage, on the counter of a petshop, and would delight all and sundry by asking repeatedly, “Where’s George?”, wolf whistling, or performing another of its many acts of mimicry.
Now my ears are more attuned to such things I realise that the journey was unnecessary. Still living in Birmingham, I can hear the avian equivalent of Rory Bremner any time I wish, simply by opening a window and listening to the Mynah’s relatives, my local Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). With the onset of autumn, they flock in ever increasing numbers, resplendent in new, strikingly sleek and spotty plumage, and very vocal. As well as having an uncanny ability to sound like any number of other birds, they have been known to imitate car alarms and mobile phones, and even children’s playground screaming.
The quiet suburban road where I live is rarely without Starlings, at any time of day, but the city-centre skies are no longer darkened by the flocks which came in to roost there in my childhood. A backfiring car would see thousands take off at once, and have pedestrians reaching for tissues to remove their supposedly “lucky” deposits from clothing or — worse — hair.
The birds in my garden are far better behaved, except when treated to their favourite delicacy: leftover, raw, shortcrust pastry. They descend from my and my neighbours’ rooftops the second I step back from the bird table, and the food disappears in moments, in a cloud of flying feathers and squawking and pecking bills, the birds mingling too rapidly to count accurately.
One particularly convincing, if annoying, individual has perfected the art of reproducing a Buzzard‘s (Buteo buteo) mewing call, no doubt heard in more open country. Ever gullible, I rush into the garden each time it performs this trick, in the hope of adding the real thing to my “garden list”. So far, without success.
[The above was written some time ago, with the intention of emulating the Guardian’s Country Diary column. As such, it has exactly 200 words, not counting the subsequent addition of scientific names. These are marked up with the draft Species Microformat, which I developed, and which is already being used on Wikipedia.]
Back in 1996, or thereabouts, I gave a presentation to a meeting of my then colleagues and senior managers, and said something to the effect that the web, and the technologies that were emerging alongside it, would “change the way we work, as surely as the coming of electricity changed the way our grandfathers worked”. They looked at me as though I was raving mad, and there was even a murmur of embarrassed laughter. [To be fair, one of the few present who seemed to accept what I said was Michael — later Sir Michael — Lyons, whom I had earlier shown his first ever view of a web site. Now, as chairman of the BBC Trust, he’s responsible for overseeing bbc.co.uk!]
Last week, I wrote a review of a concert by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall (please feel free to comment on my review, below). During the interval, still sat in my seat (booked, of course, by e-mail), I wirelessly bluetooth connected a pocket-sized, folding keyboard (an iGo device, purchased on-line) to my Nokia N95 mobile computer (it’s really not fair to refer to the latter as a mere “phone”) and jotted down my thoughts on the first half. After the concert, I sat in the ICC’s adjacent cafe and, using the same kit, fact-checked some spellings and dates on the web, then completed the draft of my review, which I then sent by e-mail to my home PC. To be more precise, I hit “send” and dropped the N95 into my back pocket. The e-mail was actually sent from there, as I walked to my car.
When I got home, I tidied my prose, then e-mailed the review to the publishing site’s editor, who, after his usual procrastination, uploaded it to his web server. Can you imagine me writing a review that way, in 1995? I think I had the last laugh, after all. My grandfathers, George Mabbett and Harry Brazier, would have been astonished. And, I hope, proud.