Saturday, 21 September 2013

Music of Hilary, Trinity, and Long Vac 2013

Well, it's been ages since I've done a music post, which is a bit of a shame, because I've discovered a number of new bands I quite like since my last post.

A friend of mine recommended Fleet Foxes and Bat for Lashes to me, both of which I quite like.  Fleet Foxes has a nice, throwback thing going and reminds me of classic rock, while Bat for Lashes has an indie/Florence + the Machine thing going on.

I might like 'Daniel' best of the Bat for Lashes catalogue, but 'All My Gold' is the one I get stuck in my head most often.  The Fleet Foxes song is 'Myknonos', which is great.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A Day-Trip to Birmingham

 Back in August, basically on a whim, Tim and I took a day-trip up to Birmingham, a city neither of us had been much interested in previously, but we ended up having a fantastic time and will almost certainly need to go back again.  What I discovered almost immediately upon arrival is that Birmingham is filled with treasures for a Victorianist, filled with lovely red-brick buildings and, for instance, the above-pictured Great Western Arcade, built in 1875-76.
 The lovely interior.
 Then we went to Birmingham's cathedral, one of the smallest in England, but lovely to visit, especially because it features four huge stained glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones, the pre-Raphaelite painter.
Here you can see two of the windows.  They all featured a surprising amount of red, making them seem rather lurid.
 We were very impressed with the civic spaces and buildings surrounding the Town Hall, which looks like a classical temple and which we apparently didn't take a picture of (tsk, tsk).  I've forgotten what the first building pictured was, but the lower one is the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.  The museum is free and wonderful - sort of a smaller mix of the Victora & Albert Museum (furniture, ceramics, etc.) and the Tate Britain (many pre-Raphaelite paintings, which we somehow missed), plus some great local history.  The history of the city did a great job of covering the Enlightenment figures who lived in Birmingham (many of whom Tim studied for his MA) and the city's abolitionists.
 A statue of Joseph Priestly, who discovered oxygen and was a Unitarian minister.  He was unfortunately run out of town when a mob burned his house down.  He ended up in the United States.  Tim considered writing his thesis on him.

After the museum, we went to the Pen Museum in the Jewellery Quarter.  For quite awhile, Birmingham was the centre of both the jewellery trade and the steel pen trade.  The Pen Museum housed tons and tons of metal pen nibs (including giant ones for use on posters!), pen nib boxes, and the machinery used to punch and shape pen nibs, plus fountain pens and typewriters of varying vintages, which you could actually test out.  For years we kept Mom's old university typewriter in the basement and when I was little, I remember playing with it was fair bit, and getting frustrated with the keys would all jam together.  This was the first time I'd used a typewriter since Mom's ribbon ran out of ink - they even had ribbons with black and RED ink!  It was all very fun, but I came away very grateful for computers.  I can't imagine typing an essay - a thesis - a novel - on a typewriter!

If we'd had more time, we would have booked a tour of the Jewellery Quarter Museum as well, but instead we set off through the quarter on a hike up to Matthew Boulton's house, Soho House, where the Lunar Society met.  One the way, we passed buildings that were (are?) jewellery workshops.
 This is Soho House.  I have to say, it seemed very liveable to me for an eighteenth-century house.  They've even uncovered the remains of a hot air heating system Boulton rigged up for the house.

Boulton was quite the man.  The house originally abutted the land taken up by Boulton's ground-breaking Soho Manufactory (sadly, it's all suburbs now).  With James Watt, Boulton came up with a new version of the steam engine, which ended up in factories all over the country.  He also minted coins and lobbied for an assay office in Birmingham, which allowed for the growth of the silver trade in the city.  Plus, how can you not love a man who had a Fossilry in his house - that is, a room for storing fossils!
At the end of our day in Birmingham, we went down to Gas Street, a span of the Birmingham canal charmingly lined with restaurants and pubs.

If we ever go back to Birmingham, we'd also like to see the university campus, Winterbourne House and garden, Aston Hall, and the Birmingham back-to-backs, the last surviving court of houses in the city, but you have to book ahead, as they only allow tours of eight through at a time.