For my first week´s holiday I was based at our youngest son Ben´s house in Birmingham. He was working - as a senior conductor on the railway - on the morning I arrived and I actually managed to get the train from the airport to Birmingham International, and change onto the train he was working, so he could help me with my cases, and then take me home. What a start! He did have to work an early shift the next day so I took myself into the city to do some shopping. We have no big shopping centres around here, and I rarely get to any shops other than a supermarket or todo shop, so it is a real treat to wander through the departmental stores around the Bullring, and with the sales on everywhere I managed to find some nice additions to my wardrobe. I didn´t carry my camera as I was shopping but I did take a couple of photos on my phone. As I got off the bus, the first thing I saw was this beautiful bed of red geraniums, surrounding the Birmingham war memorial. Not poppies it´s true, but just as lovely.
I am quite bemused by the big development around New Street station.It will be very impressive when it is finished but I can´t help wondering how they will maintain the huge fascia of shiny metal sheets, that surely will pick up the dust and grime of the city. They will also reflect the sun and make it even hotter around the station. But I love the reflections that you see as you walk towards them.
Everything is distorted, but it is continuously changing.
That evening Ben and Dave took me to the theatre to see Oklahoma. It brought back a lot of memories as my Mum loved it and she took my sister and I to see it as children, both on the stage and as a film. This was an excellent performance, and very true to the original. I only vaguely remembered what little story there was to it, but I was almost word-perfect on all the songs!
On Thursday I went to my home town of Oswestry where I was met by my lovely grand-daughter Emma, who took me back to her house to meet her gorgeous boys, Isaac and baby Alfie. (More about this in my Family post, HERE).
At tea time, her dad, my second son Michael, arrived with his two little boys, and he cooked a paella for all of us.
I went back to his house to spend the night, and Ben drove over to see his friends nearby after work that night.
The next morning Mike and I drove into town and met up with Ben in the park. For such a small town, this is a really lovely spot with a good children´s play area, plus a big expanse of grass and trees .....
... and a beautifully maintained area of flower beds at the entrance.
We sat in the sun and enjoyed a coffee together and then Mike went home and Ben drove me to son Jonathan´s house in Manchester.
It stayed nice and sunny so we could sit outside to chat. Then we went to see Jonathan´s new studio. In partnership with a friend, he is renting a recording studio at the top of an old mill. It is still very much a work in progress, as they are doing all the work themselves, and they want to strip all the walls back to the old bricks, and make a floor from wooden pallets that will then have to be sanded and stained.
This is where groups will play and in the end wall there is a big glass partition through to a small room with all the recording equipment in it.
But the practice room is ready and they have a few bands who use it regularly so that is paying for itself now. And of course, Jonathan´s own bands can make good use of it too. Of course he gave us a quick demonstration while we were there.
When his partner Ella came home from work, we all went into the city for a meal and the next day we set off to drive to our oldest son Jim´s house in Wolverhampton. (Are you keeping up with me?!).
This was for a family get-together, and most of the Perry Tribe managed to be there. We had a lovely day together with good food, wonderful company and lots of fun. We all stayed over, so there were bodies on every bed, on the sofa, on the floor and even in a tent in the garden.
The next day was Sunday, and Jim, being a vicar, had his commitments at his church, but the rest of us gradually surfaced, helped to clear up the garden and kitchen, and then went our separate ways until the next gathering of the clan. (Again there are more details in my Family post HERE).
Ben and I had the rest of my stay planned out, and it included a trip to West Bromwich, to go to my favourite shoe store, a chance to visit the organisers of the Africa Project I support in Market Drayton...
... and on the last night, another drive to Wolverhampton to watch my grandson Amias in his school play. That was a rare treat. The whole family are all interested in drama but I have hardly ever been around to see them in a production.
But before we went to that, we had one more little outing together which turned out to be a wonderful experience. The Birmingham Botanical gardens are only a short walk from where Ben lives now, so although it was a bit wet on my last morning we decided to go there anyway. The thing that always strikes most forceably when I go to UK is the many shades of green. I love to see all the areas of grass, and the tall and spreading trees, which are in sharp contrast to the barren earth and dusty pines that are all we have in Spain throughout the summer. And there was plenty of grass and trees in the gardens.
As you go through the entrance you find yourself in the tropical house where I saw this glorious plant, but it was too hot in there and we were glad to emerge into the gardens proper.
There were some well laid out flower beds, shaded by a beautiful red beech tree.
And sitting among the plants was this lovely pair of ducks.
We stopped to rest under another beautiful tree,
but it started to rain so we ran over to a building we had seen across the lawns.
It turned out to be an aviary, and neither of us are keen to see birds confined to cages, but I couldn´t resist this little ball of yellow fluff!
As we went wandering along the paths again we came to a butterfly house, and although most of these that I have visited have been a disappointment, I do love butterflies so we had a look inside. I was delighted to find a wide array of butterflies in all colours. Here are just a few of them.
As you can see, I was delighted to walk through them, but Ben was less comfortable when they took flight so we decided to move on.
Then, just as we turned to go, one came and settled on my dress. I wonder if she knew she was a perfect match!
Once outside we followed more paths and found this bed of colourful leaf plants. Such a lovely contrast between the red and the greens.
Round the next turn we found a pool that was the very essence of tranquility. It was hard to believe that the city traffic was passing just a few metres away.
There was a little wooden bridge at the end of the pool under which there flowed water from a fall that tumbled over the rocks. It was so pretty and peaceful. A real oasis in a busy city. I am so glad we found time to go.
Ben went ahead of me as we left, and as he entered the tropical house again I took this photo of him through a round window. I like it!
It was soon time to head for Wolverhampton to see the school play. It was very well done, written, stage set, acted and produced entirely by the youngsters, with no staff back stage to make sure it went OK. I was impressed, but we couldn´t stay to chat to anyway as we needed to get home as soon as we could. We had just a few hours sleep before Ben took me back to New Street station to catch the 5.00am train to Stansted for my flight to Denmark!
The story of our stay in Denmark will be posted some time next week.