High School Reunion 3 #indielove indierock

This post has absolutely nothing to do with my high school reunion at the end of this month. It’s not about me, it’s you, my lovely friend (you know who you are) who took me to her ‘school reunion’ when Scouting for Girls came to Birmingham on tour.

Yes, my friend went to school with the lead singer Roy and the bassist Greg and she was on the guest list when they came to play the O2 Birmingham last night. With four tickets she invited me along with my husband Phil and our our son.

Now he’s going to hate me for this but not only was it the first ever gig my son has been to, it turns out the first album he bought was Scouting for Girls. I didn’t know that until last night. And now Roy (see first name terms now) knows it too as my friend told him.

And get this, we had these wrist bands. DSCF6241 My friend, for whom this is not a first time experience was like ‘well it is not that much you just get to meet the band’, and I am like OMG I have a wrist band. I didn’t say that of course, I am a fifty something sensible wife and mother but actually I was very excited about it.  Usually on a week day I am half watching a cookery programme while updating my Facebook status. We were going to the back stage party! Well not exactly but we did get to meet her mates later. And it was all very civilised.

Before the gig we met at Cherry Reds in John Bright Street. It was a freezing night and, even at 6pm, very few people were lingering for shopping eating or drinking in the German Market. Everyone was rushing to get home it was so cold.

Cherry Reds however was quite busy. It  is strategically placed for when Grand Central opens in 2015. The long needed overhaul of New Street Station will include a new retail development with a flagship John Lewis store. Over a few drinks, we decided that when it was finished  this quarter of Birmingham would be the retail destination of choice, as John Bright Street will be the. Gateway from Grand Central to the Mailbox where Harvey Nics is, leaving the Bullring to the cashed up Bogans and Wags.

Cherry Reds is directly opposite Brew Dog, a bar providing a range of craft beers and food in, according to their website, a temple of non conformity.  It was empty on this bitter Tuesday evening. Cleary all the non conformists were elsewhere.

Cherry Reds is a licensed cafe, with an eclectic mix of vintage sofas and formica tables it sells all day food, smoothly moving from hipster central for Saturday  brunch to a place to take mom for Sunday lunch. Its close proximity to the station, the Mailbox, The Electric Cinema and theatres including the Hippodrome, the Alex and The Rep makes it a good choice for pre theatre coffee, supper and drinks. It is also close to the O2 where we were off to later. Did I say I went to see Scouting for Girls there?

The food is hearty British, between us we had a pork burger with chorizo, gammon, eggs and chips, fish pie and bangers and mash, and there are lots of veggie options.  We were downstairs and it was a bit cold when people opened the door, but every table was full, enjoying laid back post work drinks or supper with friends. Upstairs was quieter and would be my choice for later drinks on the sofa. People watching. Definitely better than freezing in the German market.

We filled up on good food, good beer and good milk shakes and ventured to the sub zero temperatures to the O2. The support band were, Loveable Rogues who were on stage when we arrived. I am no muso journo and I make no claims of knowing half the bands my friends  like, or even what genre of music they are but I thought they were they were good. I had no idea what genre they are but Wikipedia tells me they are indie pop and that they were hand picked to be on Britain’s Got Talent.

For the main act we decided to go on the balcony for what was a better view of the stage without having to stand with the young people who jump up and down at concerts. Phil and I were not (surprisingly) the oldest at the gig. Some parents had brought quite young children (under 11) and there were 20 to 50 something couples as well as teeny boppers or whatever they are called now with bored chaperones.

The band were good. They put on an entertaining show, engaged the audience and nearly everyone in the room knew most of the lyrics. And for those of you who turned down free tickets as they are not a ‘cool band’, well thank you because I loved it.

The highlight for me was the acoustic set. Bringing the instruments to front of stage they played a brilliant set. It was very intimate (as much as the O2 could be) almost like being at pub gig with just mates in the room. Brilliant.

Of course the night is not complete IMHO without the Michaela Strachan number and She’s So Lovely.

At one point Roy came up to the balcony to sing, and brilliantly had to pass our and his friend so to the chagrin of the teeny boppers standing next to us, gives her a bear hug and greets her by name. Their faces we’re a picture, imagine envy mixed with bewilderment aka ‘why has he chosen her she’s really old why her and not us lithe teenage fans?’ Just as most 12 years old think that anyone over 20 is over the hill. Here’s the news guys, Roy’s the same age as my friend.  And she’s not old, just older than you 13 year old teeny bopper and one day you will be that age. I guess one can be grateful that they were at his gig and not at One Direction. Not that there is any connection between the two bands. Of course not. None at all. Nada. None whatsoever. Nothing to see here.

Finally it came to meeting the band. And after just chatting to family, with the fan club girlies with double lip gloss waiting patiently, and me wanting my bed, my friend drags Roy over to introduce him to us. Clearly as we are not friends of her age, but a family consisting of 50 something’s and a 20 something, the ‘how do  you know each other’ question arises. ‘Mary Portas introduced us’. Well that would have been the clever, and true if somewhat embellished answer, instead is was more ‘eh um, we all live in Bearwood, and um xxxx stayed with us during house renovations’ sounds less interesting when talking to the lead sing of Scouting for Girls. Ho hum.

He chatted to us about record deals and reveals that he also does a lot of writing for other bands. ‘She’s So Lovely’ may be his pension but hey he has to make a living, so writing for boys with floppy hair pays the bills. ‘ They’re just kids’, he says genuinely kindly, to me who today discovered said boys on a toothpaste tube and was less kind about them. He is the bigger person for that then. And richer. But he is genuinely an ok guy without ego, he keeps that for the stage. Not that I would expect any less from a friend of my friend. And anyway she knows too much about him for him to be anything other than just who he is.

Then Greg comes over and shows us a picture of his dog a Cocker doodle doo pug something cross that looks like a lab puppy, always.  In my day they were called mongrels, now cross breeds have designer status.  Equal rights for dogs.  He gets told off for doing the rock star hand gesture, teased that he’s in a pop band and cannot get away with it.  He then lists his rock credentials and is grudgingly acknowledged  by his old school friend that they are indie rock. Not pop. Chats about old school mates and who is married and who has 5 kids. Just like any other high school reunion then? Again she’s known him too long for him to act anything more than an old school friend and egos have been packed away by the roadies with the guitars.

We are tired, it’s a school night and they need to schmooze and smile at the lip glossed girls so off into the cold night and despite trying to be really nonchalant about meeting Scouting for Girls, we are all a bit star struck. Well I am. And I think my friend, despite saying its hard to find people to come when she gets comps, is too.

All I can say don’t be a music snob. Because you may miss out on a good night out.

Thank you for taking us, mate.

Advertisements

High School reunion 2 more #indielove

You may have gathered that I am determined to steer the old Holly Lodge Girls to independents during their visit to Birmingham.

In my last post I gave them a number of indie coffee shops to visit so if I see any evidence of visits to chains to get coffee or tea I will judge them harshly.

So onto shopping. Yes there is the Bull Ring. It is full of chains and it will be absolutely rammed and migraine inducing. And of course there is the German Market, plus the so called craft market that starts just outside the new Library of Birmingham. Not wanting to offend I don’t care if I have offended any stall holders but quite honestly most of it is imported tat. There I have said it and I don’t care.

So where to go for good quality hand made original gifts? The Mailbox. Yes, you heard me right because the lovely and extremely talented Crafty Muthas from Bearwood will be there selling their hand made goodies. To find out more click here.

English: The Mailbox, Birmingham, UK

English: The Mailbox, Birmingham, UK (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While you are at The Mailbox you can have a giggle at the silly prices in most of the shops there (if there isn’t a price on it you can’t afford it) and visit the BBC shop too. Harvey Nics staff believe they are superior to everyone so please go and annoy them too. It will be warm as it is under cover but not heaving like the Bull Ring which will be full of cashed up Bogans. And if you need a coffee Urban have a pop up pod there.

If you haven’t seen the Selfridges building yet, here it is. So now you don’t need to walk to go and see it. Happy indie shopping ‘old’ girls.

Selfridge store, Birmingham Bull Ring

Selfridge store, Birmingham Bull Ring (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

School Reunion part one #indielove

I am going to a school reunion at the end of this month. My secondary school, Holly Lodge, recently had an open day and a lot of ‘old’ girls and boys went along to see the new buildings. I was away that weekend, or I would have gone. I loved school, really, I would wake up every day and look forward to going. So after a few had posted on the Holly Lodge Facebook Page, somehow plans were made for some of us to meet up again.

As some of the girls are coming up for the weekend, I offered to give them a mini guide of what to do in Birmingham while they are here. Simon Calder must have heard about this as he pipped me to the post in this article, 48 Hours in Birmingham.

As I think I know the city better and have an interest in promoting all things indie, I was not swayed and here is my guide, for a group of fantastic fiesty fifty something ‘old’girls’. We will not be wearing purple nor wearing red hats. However this is a Warning to you, Here Come the Girls!

Visit the Christmas Market, early. It is so busy later on and it gets a bit lairy for my liking. I do however recomend a sausage for lunch. DSCN9189A ride on the carousell may be fun though ladies!

Time for tea or coffee. Avoid the horrid chains and visit some of the best indie cafes there are. Yorks, Cherry Reds, (see also hereUrban, Six Eight (at the back of Rackhams) and Brewsmiths are all different and all fantastic for tea or coffee. In my view the best cake is at Six Eight, not don’t got to Druckers almost next door. Really no, don’t.

The music at Brewsmiths is fantastic and the furniture an eclectic mix of scrubbed pine and vintage. A bacon butty and a muc of builders tea is my choice here, yet there is an amazing rage of teas and seriously good coffee.

Urban is also another favourite, New York loft style. Good coffee and tea although I don’t rate the food. But squashy sofas upstairs and good music make it a favourite of mine.

Six Eight cakes are to die for. Seriously, go.

Yorks is also loft style and have an interesting range of teas.

I have not visited Home is yet, but it is on my list as is Cherry Reds.

So that is coffee and cake sorted.

My next post will be shopping and why you have to visit the Crafty Muthas.

Make Friends with a Book go to Stratford (again)

Yes, we liked it so much we did it again!

English: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, home of th...

English: Royal Shakespeare Theatre, home of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last October I took my mom to see The Tempest with the lovely Make Friends with a Book people. I wrote about it here.

Make Friends with a Book at Stratford upon Avon

On September 21 a whole bunch of us took another trip from Sandwell to go and see All’s Well that Ends Well at the RSC.

DSCN6138

Some of us met on the train at Snow Hill Station.

I timed my journey so that I could enjoy a bit of sightseeing and tea before the theatre.

Mom loved Stratford, and had fond memories of a trip she took with her old friend when they were teenagers. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to make it one of her last days out. And as per her wishes I left a little bit of her there, on this visit, by the river in the shade of the theatre she loved so much.

DSCN6127

The people from the group that meet at Bleakhouse Library had been very important in her life for the last year of her life and I knew that they were looking after her while I was away on my travels.

Who knew that a group that I helped to establish four years ago was going to have a significant impact at the end of her life? Not me.  They were her final audience and gave her the opportunity to share her stories from the theatre once again. She got lots of curtain calls.

And the play? Thoroughly enjoyed by all, amazing production, and the sun came out for Make Friends with a Book again.

Our next theatre visit is closer to home, at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre to see A Christmas Carol. Guess what we will be reading in December?

The Library of Birmingham

DSCN5934I was very lucky to have a sneak preview of The Library of Birmingham before it opens its doors to the public on 3 September 2013.

I was a guest at one of a series of soft testing. Members of the public were there to test the knowledge of the staff, some of the services on offer and generally feed back on the building.

Today the photo embargo was lifted and I can now share my photos and thoughts about my visit.

The press have also released their reports, it seems The Guardian hates the library and Birmingham, and the council. The Independent is kinder.

This is my personal feedback, based on what I experienced on the day.

What I hope they have got right by the time of opening is:

The temperature. It was too warm, everywhere. It was a warm day, after a particularly hot few days. The studio theatre we met in was stuffy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Shakespeare Memorial Room was sauna like. The rest of the building was certainly warmer than needed. Time will tell if this is a snag or a major issue.

The wi-fi. This was patchy and non existent on either of the terraces.

The lifts. They were so slow, I wasted valuable time waiting for one to arrive.

My other thoughts are:

The Children’s Library is on the Lower Ground yet the Buggy Park is on the Ground Floor. This does not seem very practical or secure to me. Buggies are very expensive and I cannot see parents wanting to leave them unattended. Or take toddlers down two escalators.

The change from escalators to a travelator in the main body of the library was a bit disconcerting, especially coming down. I can’t say why exactly but it confused me a bit. I wear varifocals and sometimes I have issues with stairs and escalators, so perhaps it is just me.

I think there are some accessibility issues. My mom, as her sight deteriorated would have found it very difficult to navigate around the rotunda and on the escalators. The light would not have been adequate for her. For me, as the person who took her out and about in her wheelchair, I would have found it difficult to manoeuvre around the building. And mom would have got fed up of waiting for the lifts. As I am not a wheelchair user nor was with someone who is on the day, I couldn’t test this, I did however ask someone who was there with a wheelchair user. They thought there were some issues too. Again, time will tell how major a problem this is.

So onto the good bits.

DSCN5941

The Rotunda of Books is stunning.

DSCN5940Every member of staff I spoke to was enthusiastic and excited about opening to the public and were well informed. They will have a lot of changes to get used to and I think they are up to the job.

DSCN5946The Secret Garden on the 7th floor is lovely and will be a good place to relax. The views are amazing.

DSCN5948

I also liked the Discovery Terrace on the 3rd floor. DSCN5961

More amazing views of Birmingham.

I will be visiting the library when it opens and hope that I can organise a special visit behind the scenes for Make Friends with a Book, the shared reading group I helped establish in Sandwell.

In the future I will be trying out the cafe and may even write a blog post from there. So watch this space.

DSCN5962

Twitter talk

I was going to share my happy bus experience today. I am not as I am not feeling that happy now. Outraged, astonished and bemused is closer to what I am feeling, all because I dared put my head above the parapet on twitter.

It followed my visit to West Bromwich and The Public yesterday. And my blog post. Not really sure how it all started as there were quite a few of us involved in the conversation.

  1. morning @westbrompaul hope you are going to help save @_the_public .Its contribution to health & wellbeing on many levels is important

  2. @brummytaff The council cannot afford to subsidise it. The Public will still be there but is likely to end up with a smaller arts offer.

  3. @westbrompaul @PaulSandars @brummytaff health, wellbeing, culture not high on the councils agenda just more tesco and poundlands

However it seems that because I live in Birmingham, I have no right to have an opinion of decisions made by Sandwell Councillors. 

@westbrompaul: @travellingcoral @PaulSandars The people of Sandwell are my priority. I make no apologies for that.” < Rt Indeed Paul

While I absolutely accept that they are not my elected members, I do not accept that I should not be able to voice an opinion about Sandwell, its councillors or The Public.

I also dared correct @sandwellleaders grammar in response to this: I couldn’t help myself.

@westbrompaul @travellingcoral @PaulSandars Paul just ask where they pay there Council Tax !

And so it continued:

  1. @sandwellleader @westbrompaul @PaulSandars i am shocked that you are confined by boundaries esp now bham is labour controlled

  2. @travellingcoral @westbrompaul @PaulSandars When will you have something positive to say about Sandwell.. There their

    And there is more:

    1. @sandwellleader @westbrompaul @PaulSandars I have a lot to say positively about Sandwell: libraries the first but need to be marketed better

    2. @travellingcoral Your off again Coral but they need better marketing.

      Grammar is clearly not the strong point of Darren Cooper. Others agree.

      @travellingcoral And you’re/ your 😉

       I just hope the advice is taken on board.

      @loveourpublic @westbrompaul @travellingcoral @PaulSandars Thanks for the tip useful 🙂

      The message is clear here. Am wondering if I will need a visa to visit Sandwell.

      1. @travellingcoral @sandwellleader @PaulSandars You can always go to Birmingham if you’re that unhappy. Bearwood & Cape Hill are busy places.

        At least Paul can spell.

        If not take advice.

        1. @westbrompaul @loveourpublic @travellingcoral @sandwellleader @PaulSandars Suggest you setup separate personal & professional accounts guys

        2. @re7ox I don’t need two, thanks.
        3. @westbrompaul No need to thank me. Just an observation. Most employees have a statement to differentiate their public/professional views.

          Interestingly, only one Sandwell councillor attended Hyper WM when it was held at The Public. She has since been reprimanded for improper use of social media. (IMHO she didn’t). Darren and the Pauls may have found it useful. I suppose I should be glad that at least they are having a conversation and not just sending messages.

          And in case I don’t understand that my views are not important to them.

          1. @sandwellleader @westbrompaul @PaulSandars 2/2 and what happens in Bearwood impacts us in B17.parking and litter. empty shops.

          @travellingcoral @westbrompaul @PaulSandars Moan to Birmingham then.

          I already have expressed my concerns to my local councillor on how what happens in Bearwood has an inpact on those that live on the border. I don’t think I have moaned to him or a Sandwell councillor. Ever. Expressed my views and challenged decisions perhaps. And got the refuse collected because my councillor understands that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. To listen twice as much as you talk is the making of a great communicator.

          Amusingly, it ended thus:

          Next week I am volunteering. On Bank Holiday Monday. For Sandwell Library and Information Services. At the Sandwell Show. Promoting the wonderful services that are available in lovely Sandwell Libraries. To the people of Sandwell.

          I will be letting Darren et al know that, of that you can be assured.

          And bringing my passport, just in case.


Cinemas and why I avoid them

There are only three places I enjoy seeing films, they are, in this order:

The Roxy, Miramar (with Tim and Jo-Anne for company and after a fab meal at Coco’s)

The Electric Cinema, Birmingham (only if I get the big sofa and a loved up couple don’t sit next to me)

At home

I just hate going to the cinema. I recently wrote a blog post,  A guide to cinema etiquette about why I hate going but the family persuaded me that I would enjoy seeing The World’s End. As it was into the second week and has a 15 rating, most of the things that annoy me would be absent as it is a bit of a geeky film. This not to say that geeks will not break any of my rules, they are just less likely to. And I was right, none of my rules were breached.

Yet now I need to add more reasons not to go.

It is mind numbingly expensive.

£7 per adult. £21 for the three of us. We usually go for a morning showing for many reasons, one of them is that it is cheaper (£4).The other is to avoid the idiots who share a brain cell. While it is more expensive to go to The Electric, especially if you go for the sofa option, I do not resent a penny when I go there, as it is an independent, and the risk of any of my rules being broken is limited.  Except for last time, but my glares worked eventually and they left.

The food is of appalling quality and very expensive.

We chose to go for a 12.30 showing and I made the mistake of saying we would get food there. I would not be breaking my no eating during the film rule as we always get in to the cinema before the ads start. I had forgotten (I go so rarely) how much cinemas charge for crap food. (I have just looked at the nutritional values of the hot dog I ate and now know why I felt so ill later). Two hot dogs, one nachos and two diet cokes came to about £20 and a migraine.

It was too hot. And I am not complaining about the weather.

We were told, as we show our tickets, that Screen 10, where our film was to be shown, had no air conditioning. Normally in the UK this would not be a major issue (as it is always cold and wet here), except that we are experiencing a bit of a heatwave right now in England. Sunny Birmingham has averaged 28 degrees most days and the nights have been muggy. The nice people at the Odeon would refund us if we were too hot and left the screening in the first hour.

Odeon people, you are charging a fortune for entry and crap food so spend it on the air con or close the screens affected.

There had been a storm the previous day so the temperature had dropped a little, I was in a cotton dress and I had a fan with me. And my cold expensive cola. So I just about coped with the heat.

I eventually stopped grumbling and to the relief of the family I really enjoyed the film. It was funny and sad and thought-provoking. A bit laddish, not unsurprisingly, and hey we have all been there, wishing we could go back to some fixed points in time when we didn’t have a care in the world.  I liked it and I could happily watch it again. But not at the Odeon Birmingham Broadway Plaza. #indielove is not just for shops and coffee houses, it seems it is for the cinema too.

A guide to cinema etiquette

After a lot of deliberation I decided to go with my family on Saturday to see Ironman 3. It is rated 12A so I was shocked to see so many very young children there. Really, do you want your 5 year to witness gun violence? Not only is some of the content  too violent for children, the dialogue and the plot is too complicated to follow for an under 12. If your child is not traumatised they will be bored.

I love movies, I used to love going to the cinema. I have fond memories of going to see the Sound of Music at The Gaumont in Birmingham. The whole family went and it was a experience that we appreciated and had anticipated for weeks.

Not any more. I dread going.

This is why.

People do not behave properly at the cinema any more.

Here is my guide to how to behave at a cinema. Similar rules apply at a concert and the theatre.

If it is classified as a 12A don’t bring your toddler. Really don’t.

This is guidance from the British Board of Film Classification website. Read the full guidance here. 12A means that anyone aged 12 or over can go and see the film unaccompanied. The A stands for ‘accompanied’ and ‘advisory’. Children younger than 12 may see the film if they are accompanied by an adult (eg someone over the age of 18), who must watch the film with them. 

What’s the difference between 12 and 12A?

The 12 certificate is just for videos, DVDs and Blu-rays. 12A is for films at the cinema only.

Is there a lower age limit for a 12A film?

No. However, the BBFC considers the content of 12A rated films to be suitable for children aged 12 and over, and we would not recommend taking very young children to see them. Works classified at these categories may upset children under 12 or contain material which many parents will find unsuitable for them. An adult may take a younger child if, in their judgement, the film is suitable for that particular child. To help adults make this decision, we provide BBFCinsight for all films.

If you throw sweets at me I will get you thrown out. All 20 of you.

If you talk, even during the trailers I will look at you and if you continue I will get huffy. I may also get you thrown out.

Don’t snog (yuk) and definitely no heavy petting. Double Yuk.

Please arrive before the film starts, preferably before the lights go down.

If you arrive late, don’t choose a seat in the middle of the row. I want to watch the film not your ass. 

Don’t make a noise while eating. Better still don’t eat during the film.

I presume you don’t throw litter on your sitting room floor at home so why do it in the cinema?

Turn your mobile phone off. No, not on silent. Off. You are here to watch a film, aren’t you?

Teach your children how to behave in a cinema.

Read the credits, all of them.

I long for the days when there was a B movie, a break to use the loo and get an ice cream then settle in for the feature film. Do you remember the interval in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? A real cliff hanger moment! A proper cinema, no litter and people who are there because they love the whole movie experience.  An experience you still get at The Electric Cinema in Birmingham or The Roxy Cinema in Wellington.

And of course bring back these! Mom as an usherette No messing with these ladies. The one far right, front row, that is my mom!

Can you share too much?

Or is that what social media is all about?

A few months back a Facebook friend sent me a DM saying  ‘no offence but I am having to un friend you, your posts fill up my time line too much’.  I met this person way before the days of Facebook. She wasn’t a close friend but she lives near me and we have volunteered on the same project and we once shared an employer. I wasn’t offended, just a tad surprised. Did I really share too much on Facebook? Do I retweet too often?Did I annoy anyone else? Well if I do, I am sorry and please go ahead and un friend/follow me too.

Then this happens:

A Facebook and real life friend acknowledged me in her self published book, Going it Alone at 40: How I survived my first year of self employment for ‘services to sharing and retweeting’. She even calls me the Queen of Sharing, and she means that in a good way.

We see social media as an opportunity to share information and knowledge. We both help out at social media surgeries and attend the monthly Social Media Cafe in Birmingham organised by the wonderful Karen Strunks.

I have documented my social media journey in other blogs so I won’t go over old ground. If you are interested, you know what to do.

All I will add is that all the friends I have made in the past year, who I meet with regularly, go on trips to Malvern with, go to supper with, meet at a Street Food events, and those who came to my birthday bash, I met via social media first.

Happy sharing!

Spendy Saturday

Not been a good day for budgeting

May well have blasted the budget for this week. A combination of tempting bargains in the GAP outlet store and the charity shops meant that my husband now has 4 brand new tops. However in his defence the Gap tops were dramatically reduced at £4.88 for a long sleeved tee and £8.74 for a more formal shirt. The OH does like his shirts so when he saw the ‘perfect work shirt’ in Barnardos for £3.99 he obviously had to have it, as a man cannot have enough shirts, apparently. Then I spotted a YSL 100% wool, lightweight sweater for £6.99 and it wasn’t hard to persuade him to have that too.

Or for shopping locally

I also broke my only buy from shops within walking distance pledge today. I had an appointment in West Bromwich which is about a 15 minute drive from here. After the appointment the OH and I decided to mooch around the Astle Retail Outlet Park where there are a number of outlet stores including a Next, a Marks and Spencers and a Gap. Which explains the purchases referred to earlier. And then because it was sunny we strolled up to the outdoor market and bought some vegetables. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, Bearwood doesn’t have a market or a vegetable shop so this sort of shopping is a bit of a treat. Look at me, getting all excited about being able to buy fresh veg at a market!

A special journey was not made

Which is my only excuse for not shopping locally. I would not drive just to shop in West Bromwich, although the market is a temptation. To be honest if I were to drive to a market to shop, it would probably be Birmingham as it has a bigger and better market and West Brom, well isn’t the most attractive place to be.

Sorry West Brom

I don’t want to be mean about West Brom, but it isn’t the most attractive place in the world. I swear it is alway 5 degrees colder in West Brom than the rest of Sandwell. This is probably becuse it is so high up, indeed the local football stadium, The Hawthorns, is, or used to be he stadium above sea level, or something like that. Anyway it is cold and windy. And West Brom also has the threat of a massive Tesco development, on the edge of town whis could be a threat to the survival of retailers on the High Street. Yet it seems to be thriving for the time being. It certainly has wider range of shops than Bearwood, and the market is busy, all traders there are the independents I like to support. The veg stall seemed to have three generations of one family working there, which is great. I just hope they manage to survive once shiny Tesco sucks the life out of the high street.

But the councillors love West Brom (in my opinion)

More than they love Bearwood. Probably because Bearwood is in Smethwick Town yet not central Smethwick. So if there is any money floating around it goes to West Brom and the High Street and Cape Hill part of Smethwick, because apparently Bearwood doesn’t need it.  However, I think they see West Brom as the capital of Sandwell. Councillors are delighted that Tesco, Next and other retailers and food outlets are being built and will bring, oh hundreds of jobs to an area that has very high unemployment. I suppose this is a good thing. However, this development has effectively shifted the centre of town where both the indoor and outdoor markets are and shops along High Street are closing. It has a shiny new FE college locally known as the Ski Slope. This was built after many years of Sandwell College getting very poor OfSTED reports. Apparently building a shiny new campus will improve the quality of teaching. Then there is The Public. Depending on your point of view it is either a wonderful arts resource for Sandwell or a White (actually purple) Elephant. It does have very good toilets which is very handy, of course, when it is so cold in West Brom. And the West Brom Building Society is building its new Headquaters there (despite origallly planning to abandon its lovely art deco HQ in West Bromwich town centre for shiny offices in Merry Hell Hill). Merry Hill is in Dudley which doesn’t seem to be the right location for a building society called the West Brom. The council also thought this and were very vocal about the planned relocation. Almost overnight a piece of land, conveniently adjacent to all the new development, was found, so the West Brom is staying in West Brom after all. Handy that. There also seems to be work going on in the area where the market usually is, new paving and such. Hopefully the market will thrive even when the smaller Tesco relocates to the retail park and leaves a big empty unit in the old shopping centre. I hope so.

So what was the damage to the purse?

 £          0.08 onions 2kg  £          1.00
aubergine x3  £          1.00
grapes 1kg  £          1.00
petrol  £        15.00
Gap shirts  £        13.62
Charity shirt  £          3.99
Charity YSL jumper  £          6.99
Lamb  £          5.47
cat food  £          2.39
peppers  £          1.49
Cauli  £          0.89
Ketchup  £          0.69
3 tins tomatoes  £          0.93
bath mat  £          4.99
Steak mince 500g  £          3.59
6 sausages  £          1.99
fresh basil  £          0.65
Spagetti  £          0.24
Penne  £          0.29
Bet on the National  £        10.00
Beer and wine  £        25.00
 £      101.21

A massive dent to the budget. The betting and the alcohol were luxuries I guess and if we were on benefits we could not afford these. To add insult to injury we did not get a winner. Yet who is to say that poor people shouldn’t have a treat now and then? We are not exactly rich as we only have one wage, and a relatively low one at that that, coming into the house. But we choose to rent out rooms to English language students to supplement this. It is a lifestyle choice that not everyone could or would make.

Supper on Saturday cost £9.06 and there is plenty left over for lunches, so at 6 portions this is £1.51 per portion.

The lamb is for Sunday dinner and will be used as sandwiches in the week. so that will be five meals for around £1.40 each, three of which will be a big yummy Sunday roast using up all the vegetables I have bought this week.

How local did I do?

Apart from the Gap purchaces and the market stall purchases of grapes, aubergines and onions every thing was bought in Bearwood. I used Aldi for most of the shopping and the lamb was bought at another family butcher on Bearwood Road, Higgins. I like to share my indie love around!

The Mary Portas factor

West Bromwich also put in a bid for the Portas Pilot funding to improve the high street, and Bearwood was the other bid in Sandwell. Both were unsucessful. Which looking at some of the bids that were successful may not have been a bad thing. However it still smarts to be reminded that Sandwell Council could have had funding of 10k each for West Bromwich and Bearwood as subsequently all towns that submitted a bid were offered this amount to help build a town team to improve the local high street. The reason for refusing to accept this money? Well it was ‘political’. I do have an email from a Sandwell MP in response to my querying why they chose not to support local residents who wanted to improve where they lived, which I may just share with you one day. It wasn’t personal to Bearwood, so maybe they don’t love West Bromwich enough either. Who knows?

Do you live in Bearwood? Do you shop in Bearwood? Do you think Bearwood gets overlooked for investment? Did you town put in a bid for the Portas funding? I would love to see your comments? And please share tips on budgeting for food and in general.