On Friday, Arthur, Lynn and I went to Birmingham for the day. We wandered around a bit; Arthur and Lynn looked around in a couple stores. We went to the national Trust’s “Back to Backs”. They’re the only back to back houses left in Birmingham. Quite literally, they’re houses that share a back wall that’s only one brick thick. One house would be facing a street and the other would face a courtyard made by the collection of back to backs. There are 11 houses still standing, and in the 1890s there was 61 people living in those 11 houses. The houses aren’t very big either; they’re simply three rooms (a kitchen and two bedrooms) stacked on top of each other with a set of very steep stairs. The only way you can visit them is through a guided tour. We went through 4 houses. The first three were set up to as they would’ve been when people lived there in different time periods ranging from the 1800s to the 1940s. The guide told us stories about a family that had once lived in each of the houses. The last house was as it was left by a tailor named George Saunders who ran his custom suit business out of the house for a number of years. In all the houses except for George’s we were allowed to touch things and sit on the furniture. I didn’t play around with much of it, because it felt wrong (in every other national trust property there are strict no touching rules. I couldn’t get them out of my head). However, once we got to George’s sewing room, I would’ve liked to play around with his old sewing machine but we weren’t allowed to touch George’s stuff. In the courtyard, there were three bathroom stalls and one laundry basin. Imagine sharing that with 60 other people.
We also went to the Birmingham Museum, which mainly a spot for a cup of tea, but Lynn and I also took a quick jog around their galleries. We both agreed that the best piece they had was a painting called Superduperperspective by Patrick Hughes. (It’s definitely worth checking out his work).
Our last stop was the Library of Birmingham. It’s probably my favourite library I’ve been to. In the center of the building there’s an atrium lined with old books. They had a number of balconies with gardens and benches that gave you a great view of the city. At the very top was a room completely dedicated to Shakespeare and collecting any piece of work that could be deemed related to the author. They had all of his plays in every modern language, critiques, interpretations, illustrated copies, playbills, posters, you name it. It’s like a shrine to Shakespeare.
Once we were back in Coventry, we had a lovely lamb shank dinner and orange chocolate sponge pudding. We ended the evening with a fire in the summer house and I showed Arthur and Lynn the pictures I took while I was travelling. All 1000 of them.
Now I am back in Leeds with my last 3 weeks in England looming over me. Lots and lots of work to accomplish! I will be very relieved once I’m back in Canada and don’t have to worry about these projects anymore.