11-11-11: Aston Lane

Am 11. November 2008 Clare und ich verbrachten einige Stunden circumnavigating die Stadt von Birmingham auf dem Bus der Nr. 11. Dieses wasn‘ t unsere Idee, verstehen Sie. Eher war es das Geistesprodukt der Jon Bounds der erstaunlichen Brumgegründeten Web site Birmingham: It’ s Nicht Schit.

Birchfield Library

At about 2.30pm we leave Wellington Road and cross the Perry Barr roundabout on Birchfield Road. Although I’m no stranger to this area, this is an odd approach for me. I regularly drive along the Birchfield Road, but I usually take the underpass that runs beneath the traffic island. Here’s a picture of the underpass from when it was under construction in 1961, courtesy of Digital Handsworth:


That’s The Old Crown and Cushion pub in the background, which has changed a lot since then. Luckily the underpass has too, otherwise it’d be a bugger to drive through.

One of the advantages of seeing the world from the front seat of the top deck of a number 11 bus is that you get to witness all the juicy street level stuff you’d normally miss while driving through underpasses and along flyovers. That’s why I’m surprised to see that the library that used to sit on the corner of Birchfield Road and Aston Lane has now been demolished, and that’s why I say out loud (and a bit too loudly): “Where the fuck did that go?”

Someone sitting behind me lets out an audible tut. As we’re sitting on the front seat, “someone sitting behind me” hardly narrows it down, so I let it pass.

Maybe I’m too sensitive about these things, but there’s something about the sight of a demolished library building that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Didn’t this country once take a moral stand against a cruel and evil regime that was more than a tad partial to burning books? If so, then how can we turn a blind eye and let such wanton acts of anti-intellectualism escalate on our own doorstep? I imagine it’s because we’re all too busy driving through the underpasses and along the flyovers of life.

Let’s just hope that all the books got out in one piece.

Tufnol Factory, Aston Lane

At Aston Lane the bus stops for what seems like seventeen years. As the Wellhead Lane depot is nearby, I assume that the bus has to change drivers, the driver has to take a leak or the leak has to change buses.

I notice an elderly couple get on board. The man is wearing an Edwardian-looking suit, sporting a pair of jam jar glasses and bears an uncanny resemblance to the great Irish writer James Joyce. I can’t say whether his companion resembles Joyce’s wife and muse Nora Barnacle, but that’s only because I can’t remember what Nora Barnacle looked like.

Along Aston Lane, on the corner of Wellhead Lane, we pass the Tufnol factory. Tufnol, in case you don’t know, is a firm based in Birmingham and Glasgow who have been producing rods, sheets and other laminated plastic products for over 70 years. The reason why I know this is because my Uncle Eddie used to work there. Uncle Eddie was one of my favourite people in the world. He had a sense of humour was as dry as a sand sandwich and he always made sure that my family were never short of rods, sheets and other laminated plastic products. I miss him.

As we pass the Tufnol factory I realise that it’s been years’ since I last travelled along Aston Lane. That’s why I’m quite surprised to see a massive, new 24 hour Tesco Superstore, and that’s why I say out loud (and a bit too loudly): “Where the fuck did that come from?”

Someone sitting behind me lets out an audible tut.

I think it might be James Joyce.