A few months ago, a load of decorated owls popped up in and around Birmingham. I managed to find and photograph a few of them on my way to work and during my lunch break.
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We were back in Birmingham today so we paid a visit to Woktastic, which we go to occasionally when we're in the city centre. We always have the all you can eat sushi and every now and then they introduce different types of sushi.
The change this time was the introduction of deep fried sushi. I don't know how long they have been serving this since it's been a while since we were last there. Part of me thinks that deep fried sushi is such a bad idea and goes against the simple and healthy image of sushi. Another part of me thinks that if a food is worth eating, it is worth deep frying.
We continued yesterday's theme of visiting somewhere new, this time we drove west to the Black Country Living Museum. This is similar to Blists Hill at Ironbridge with a similar range of displays and shops.
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Every time we go to the Good Food Show, we try the St Germain elderflower liqueur. We like it but for some reason we never actually buy any. This year we finally decided to buy a bottle. They gave us a book of cocktail recipes so at least we will know what to do with it.
I was going to say that the Birmingham Back to Back houses were more interesting that I expected, but I didn't really know what to expect. The guided tour takes about an hour and you go through 4 different houses and one shop, decorated from different periods from the early 19th century through to the 1970s.
Walking from New Street station, we got to the houses much quicker than I was expecting. I recognised the stretch of Hurst Street but I didn't remember seeing the houses there before. I must have walked past them a dozen times without noticing them.
They were built when the surrounding area was still fields. None of the houses had running water - all the water had to come from the nearby 'Lady Well'. It isn't easy to imagine what the city was like back then but the short tour gave some interesting insights into the growth of the city.
Our only regret was that we missed out on visiting the sweet shop on the corner. It hadn't opened when we arrived, and was closed for lunch when we left.
The 'Woktastic Noodle and Sushi Bar' in Birmingham does an all you can eat sushi bar at certain times of the day, including all day at weekends. We've had sushi a few times before but I'd never been to a place where you pick it from the conveyor belt before. It was also the first time I had eaten so much raw fish.
(To build up an appetite first we went round the Sea Life centre to look at the fish. There was also a 3D 'Spongebob' film being shown, which was a bit of fun.)
The range of sushi is impressive - a wide variety of the different rolls and nigri. Noodles and vegetables were also available. The spices soy beans were very soft and tender. The pods were a bit tough but I soon realised you weren't supposed to eat them.
For £12.99 it is definitely good value. Since most of the bowls contain 2 of each type of sushi, we usually shared so that we could try a bit of everything. We managed to try most types before we got to full and had to stop. Next time we're in Birmingham we might return and see if we can try what we missed this time around.
We had one of our rare trips to Birmingham today. It's been nearly a year since I last went.
Leaving New Street Station via the Palisades shopping centre, we stopped at the Pretzel shop. We bought two: a cinnamon and a hundreds-and-thousands coated one. They were a bit messy to eat but worth getting. Next time I think I'll get a couple of plain ones. One to eat there and the other to bring home and eat with cream cheese.
We visited the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which was bigger than we were expecting. We went in by one door and came out of a different door in a different building. We didn't notice when we crossed the bridge between buildings.
At the Bullring, we got to Selfridges while the Krispy Kreme doughnut light was on, meaning that free doughnuts were being offered to customers. Which was nice.
There were also some cheeses on special offer in Selfridges. We bought a creamy but mature one called Old Amsterdam and a really nice ewe's milk cheese, but I can't remember what that one was called.
Update: Found the receipt for the cheese - it was called Brinata.
I had thought about going to Urban Pie (outside the Bullring) back when I worked in Birmingham, but never actually got around to it. As we happened to be in Birmingham this afternoon, we decided to eat there.
Fortunately they had a half-price offer after 5pm so we had a pie and a beer each without breaking the bank. My Aberdeen Angus pie was pretty good and Emma liked her Chicken and Asparagus pie. Both pies were well filled, with tasty pastry. Much better than your usual supermarket pie.
We went to Birmingham by train. The website for the Think Tank science museum suggested taking the 'Station Link' bus service, so that's what we did. It wasn't terribly easy finding the bus. There was nothing in New Street Station itself (which was no surprise really, New Street is one of the worst railway stations in the country. The planned multi-million pound replacement can't come soon enough) but there was a sign outside pointing to the bus stop.
The bus took a fairly roundabout route towards Millennium Point, taking us within sight of the building a couple of times before it finally got to the actual bus stop. We were still quite a way from the building itself, so it wasn't that handy a stop.
Things didn't get much easier when we got into the building. The huge atrium didn't make it immediately clear where the way in was. We wandered further in and only noticed the big sign when we turned round.
The museum itself was a fairly typical science museum. There was a mixture of exhibits aimed at kids (literally - many were too low for adults to use) and more serious industrial history. There was a Planetarium on the top floor. The show we attended was about the possibility of alien life and was fairly interesting.
The museum covers similar ground to the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry but with the disadvantage of charging an admission fee. Both cover the past and present of industry, with Think Tank having a floor devoted to the future. Of course both also have sections emphasising local contributions to science and industry.
The £8.50 entrance fee was a little steep. For only a few pounds more, you could take the train up to Manchester and visit a better museum with free entry.
Due to a Security Alert, this train will not be stopping at Birmingham International
No explanation was given. Our train had stopped just short of the station before the announcement was made. When we got to New Street, I noticed that the next train to International had been cancelled. There was also an announcement saying that the next train to London Euston (which normally stops at International) would not be stopping there.
I don't know what happened there - I hope it was nothing serious, just something like accidentally unattended luggage.
The National Rail Enquiries web site has the following announcement: Train services on all routes via Birmingham International are being disrupted due to a security alert. Birmingham International is currently evacuated and train services are currently unable to call at this station
BIRMINGHAM International train station has been evacuated this morning following reports of a suspect package.
British Transport Police ordered the station's operator Virgin Trains to close the building at 8.48am.
No trains are stopping at the station, although they are still able to pass through.
A spokesperson for British Transport Police said: "We can confirm that Birmingham International railway station is currently evacuated.
"Officers are at the scene following reports of a suspicious item and a person is helping us with our enquiries.
"Trains are continuing to operate through the station."
There was also news about this on the BBC website.
I was on the platform at New Street station, standing next to my train waiting for the doors to open. Some people walked past with bin bags tied around their legs as makeshift waterproof leggings. All I can assume is that they were on their way home from the mudbath which was this years Glastonbury Festival.
We decided to use our new National Trust memberships to visit a couple of nearby properties - Packwood House and Baddesley Clinton, both only a few miles from each other. We had a bit of a walk around each of the houses and parts of the grounds but it was a bit too cold to be spending much time outside.
Packwood House has interesting grounds, having an over-abundance of sundials and a Yew garden set out like the Sermon on the Mount. Baddesley Clinton House is slightly more unusual, set in a moat where we fed our sandwich crusts to the ducks.
I was walking home last night when I saw a poster advertising the NatWest bank. What struck me as odd was that it was in Polish. Unfortunately it was one of those 'rolling poster' types and it changed while I was walking past and I've not seen it since.
Our local Tesco also seems to be getting taken over by the Polish. They've got a shelf full of polish food and we had a leaflet pushed through the door advertising this (written in polish of course). We've tried some of their pomegranate drink and it was ok but didn't actually contain much pomegranate juice. I was tempted to try some of the chicken pate but it was a bit fatty. Ah well, back to the M&S Potted Chicken then.
It has been very windy today. Whenever it's windy, a strange sound can be heard from the back of our house. It's a low moaning note, sounding like a lower version of when you blow over a bottle top. We hope it is just air blowing past a pipe and not some sort of wind monster outside.
On my way to work this morning, the pavements were blocked by wheelie bins lying on their sides, victims of the wind overnight. The trains were running but were reduced to 50mph for safety. At least they were running. Things weren't so good tonight.
I had heard that the Virgin Trains to London had been cancelled but I got to New Street at my usual time in the hope that I wouldn't have to wait long for a train. I couldn't check the 'Live Departures' website because it was down. The screens at New Street were all displaying a notice apologising for the disruption caused by the weather.
The station was surprisingly quiet. There weren't many trains at the platforms and surprisingly few people standing around. I overheard someone saying that the main entrance to the station had been closed. With no train times being displayed, everyone was milling around on the bridge waiting for an announcement over the tannoy.
Thankfully a train to Coventry was announced. I managed to get a seat. The train was surprisingly empty given that it was one of the few actually leaving. The exercise in crowd control at the main entrance seemed to be a bit over zealous meaning a lot of people couldn't get to the platforms.
We only bought our tickets a week ago - we decided to go because we found out that some of Emma's friends from home (Judy and Helen) were going, and we were going to meet them there. We had tickets for the 10:30 Anthony Worral Thompson theatre show so we turned up in plenty of time to wander through the hall and start sampling the food and drink on offer.
We took our seats in the theatre, only to find Helen and Judy sitting behind us, just a few seats away. The cookery demonstration wasn't as destructive as last year, with no kitchen equipment falling apart. Gordon Ramsay did get mentioned a few times. AWT referred to how he doesn't dislike Ramsay and considers him a good chef, but since it isn't reciprocated he referred to him as a bit of a prat.
There were other celebrity chefs doing public demonstrations in the halls. We saw Paul Rankin and James Martin at various times but didn't hang around to watch. There were too many free samples to go after.
It wasn't all free food though. We did buy some things - a few bottles of cider, some 'nairns' oat cakes, some 'seabrooks' crisps, an assortment of Hersheys chocolate/Reeses peanut butter sweets, and some cooking oil. It was a lot to carry around with us by the time we were ready to leave.