Christmas…Birmingham – we prefer Hastings!

Here are Battleaxe’s and Philosopher’s Christmas lights. Last year we drove up here to look at our new house, and the entire road was in darkness – not one lousy light.  So this year we thought we’d show these lily-livered Southerners what for…. We also have our famous dancing and singing Santas installed, but unfortunately their motion detector is a bit knackered – they now dance and sing loudly and frantically all the time they are switched on, which lowers the tone of the neighbourhood a bit…

     This week we went on our Christmas visit to Birmingham.  Wet wet wet drive back – the A21 from John’s Cross Island was closed due to floods, so we had to go via Battle – you can imagine how bad the traffic was, inching along the crowded High Street….
    We went up on Tuesday, met Grand-daughter Eve from school and took her back to her Dad’s for take-away pizza. We stayed with friends Sue and Alex – next day was hectic round of visits to friends. Philosopher and I had to split up to spread ourselves as thinly as we could.
     I caught the bus to the city centre to meet friend Pete for lunch – it is well over a year since I visited….the crowds were mind-blowing.  Trust me also to be specially chosen by the the obligatory Brummie madman on the bus.  He sat next to me and yakked non-stop all the way, about did I think it was wrong of him to spend £500.00 on presents for his family.  I said it sounded very generous. Touchingly, he told me how he had been saving all year.  He was relatively OK except for disconcerting flecks of foam at the corners of his mouth….
     The centre of Brum is taken up with the huge German Market – one of the biggest in Europe, I  understand.  It was just heaving… as well as the tat stalls, surrounded by coach parties of bemused pensioners,  they had lines of wooden multi-story bratwurst and bier outlets, crowded with shrieking office workers getting tanked up for Christmas.  Here is a pic – not mine – I was too addled to get my phone out.

I did think I’d miss the Birmingham shops when we moved, but I don’t. No, not even Selfridges and Harvey Nicks. If I had to do Christmas shopping in that scrum I’d never buy anything – I prefer the little independent shops we have here. The Old Town, St Leonard’s, coupled with outings to Battle or Rye, is just fine, and if we want more, we go to Tunbridge Wells.
     I would like a better M & S in Hastings though – more choice of knickers. I don’t buy outerwear in Marks at the moment – their fashion buyers must have had mental collapses.
     On Wednesday evening, we went out with Sue and Alex and other Sue for a Chinese meal – that is one other thing lacking in Hastings – a decent Chinese restaurant.  There may be a little paradise lurking in a side street that we have not seen, in which case I apologise to it, but so far, not. You would also expect that coming from the home of the Balti, I’d also be banging on about shortage of Indian food, but firstly, after nearly 35 years in Brum I must have eaten enough curry to fill a shipping container, and secondly, we have discovered local Gurkha cooking, which is a less greasy version of what we ate in Brum.
     We discussed what else we missed about Brum in the car.  Culture? Philosopher misses the Art Gallery, and a very splendid place it was too. We could pretend we missed concerts, theatre etc., but if we are honest we hardly ever went…. we go to the Stables here far more often. Clearly, it is hardly Stratford, or even the Birmingham Rep., but it is good fun, and just down the bottom of the road. All in all, Hastings wins easily – thank goodness, after all the hassle we have had to get here….
     For me, I do miss our friends. Of course, I can never recreate all those years of shared history with new people and I knew that when we decided to move.  Although I have met some nice folk here, I could not as yet count any of them as friends… that takes time – and effort.  This year, I have not really tried, and that’s OK, but in 2013 I think making at least one friend will be on my to-do list. Friendship is not an issue for the Philosopher.  I don’t think men are generally as bothered, and he is down the bottom of the sociability continuum anyway.
     Got a relatively busy time now – last night friends Bob and Alison came over and stopped the night.  They have both just been appointed Chairs of Housing Associations.  I suppose my new people-meeting plans could include me becoming involved with housing locally, but I don’t think I could stand it…. On Sunday evening we are doing drinks for the neighbours. Christmas Day we have a local guy called Joe Fearn coming – Nick was his supervisor years ago back in the Midlands.  Then a quiet few days, then Tom comes to stay for about 4 days, Anna and Gareth will come down for the day etc. etc.
     I may not have time for any more blog posts before Christmas – so, Happy Christmas and a good New Year to all.  Here is a solitary rose, blooming on a sheltered wall in Winchelsea last week.

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