Monday, November 15, 2004

A Trip Down Memory Lane - Road Trip to Birmingham

After a night spent catching up, we were up for an early start and our first road trip out of London, to Birmingham, where Mum was born. Mum's family had celebrated the 40th anniversary of their arrival in Australia just before shane and I had left to come over here and although Mum had been to England since then, she had never been back to Birmingham; the town that she had lived in all those years ago.

Shane and I had decided to organise a trip back there for her to see all the sights and for us to experience some of what the UK has to offer outside of the capital. So with an EasyCar booked over the web and overnight bags packed we were off. We drove straight to Birmingham in the morning, and arrived by lunchtime. We were none too impressed with the town itself, very industrial and dirty but as we were not there for touristy sites that didn’t matter. Not having a road directory we managed to get very lost attempting to find the old house in the suburbs, but with the help of a friendly service station attendant we managed to get our bearings.

A quick phone call was made to Nana in Melbourne to confirm the street name, and the house was then located without too much trouble. While there we were also able to see the old school and church amongst other remembered places. Obviously things had changed over the last 4 decades but everything was still recognizable and we had a lovely time with mum reliving a lot of memories. After lots of tears, stories and photos we had had our fill of Birmingham and decided to continue on with our trip.

We had a mammoth effort getting out of Birmingham through its traffic jams but were soon back on the open road and heading to Stratford-upon-Avon, otherwise known as Shakespeare territory. First of all we found a nice B&B in which to stay and then set about organising our night out. Our plan of seeing a Shakespearean play in Shakespeare’s town quickly fizzled out, with our host informing us that the only play on in town that night was Oklahoma, or as it came to be known, thanks to our great disappointment during the night, ‘Okla-fuckin-homa’.

As we had lost our chance of culture for the night, we decided to do the next best thing - yes that’s right we started off on a pub-crawl. I mean, what else would you do on a trip to an English village with your mum? This culminated with dinner and drinks at The Dirty Duck, a fabulous cosy pub overlooking the Avon where the town's thespians hang out after performances. And, as you do when enjoying yourself on a night out on the drink, we decided to call home to make sure we gave as many people as possible the chance to have some fun. Dad, my sister Kate and some rellies in Melbourne the Alexander’s all ‘enjoyed’ a few drunken phone calls that I’m sure will be brought up often in the future for their pure entertainment value. Poor Kate was woken up numerous times in the early hours of the morning following a decision to have a mini-musicals quiz (in honour of the Okla-fuckin-homa theatre season) to conclude a bet shane and I had between us, the prize of which was an all-important High Tea at the Ritz Hotel. When shane did not know one of the answers he had to sneak off to the toilet to cheat and call in his reserves, i.e. Kate’s knowledge, and this seemed like such a good idea at the time that we continued to do it again and again for the next couple of hours. Anyone who knows Kate will know how much she likes having her sleep interrupted in the morning, but the 3 of us had a blast and luckily Kate was good enough to limit her swearing!

Mum and I outside of Shakespears birthplace in Stratford

The next morning, after a delicious cooked breakfast to help with our hangovers we were off again, a much quieter trio this time. The highlight of the last day's driving was a side trip to the Rollright Stones, a ‘fabulous’(?) ancient monument well worth the money we had to pay to get in, 50 pence, as the photo below shows. As readers can probably tell for themselves this would not really be a place to recommend for others’ travel plans but it gave us a laugh and shane thoroughly enjoyed his first ancient stones experience.

Shane at Rollright Stones - perhaps one to miss!

The day continued with a tour of Oxford, as we all wanted a nosy around this famous university town. Beer and chip butties for lunch in a pub helped to make the day, and after a long walk around it was time to hop back in the car for the return to London.

Chip Butties at a pub in Oxford



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