So here’s the plan: reach Birmingham by eleven, find the tourist information office for a map and find out how far away the hospital is; look for a (self) guided walking tour; visit the museum to see the Staffordshire Hoard; return London by the afternoon train.
Of course it may not work out like that. Maybe I’ll have jettisoned this plan by the time I leave the station, and instead allow my nose to lead me, and wander the city’s streets and squares.
My return to the Midlands just over a week since the sortie to Coventry is thanks to some special offers on trains which Viv of the book group circulated. I shan’t have a lot of time, hence the plan.
You might be thinking I am going to visit someone in hospital. No, I’m not. It’s the buildings I want to see; specifically the older buildings, the ones that were there on the 1940s when Mother arrived to take an entrance exam that would allow her to train as a nurse. I understand that part of the hospital was originally the workhouse, and that there is an archway, unlisted that is threatened with demolition. Maybe it has already gone.
We never visited Birmingham. Although Mother had many fond memories, I don’t know that she ever returned. The closest I have been is a ride around Spaghetti Junction enough route to somewhere I don’t recall when I was a teenager.
So in part this trip is a pilgrimage, a spooling back the years to listen to Mother talking about this time she n her life. My visit won’t be peopled by memories in the way it might have been had we gone together. She won’t be there to say that on this street corner, by that stretch of grass she feels the flutter of a remembered moment; a person; a conversation; a decision or an emotion. She won’t be there to say ‘it was here I met my cousin Tommy for the first time; he in his Canadian airman’s uniform, me being given special permission to go out with a male relative insead of catching up on sleep ready for night duty’.
London’s blue skies and sunshine have given way to mists over the soft greens of the countryside. The day seems more pensive than it did at breakfast time. As though to remind me that everything is connected, there is a statue of explorer Matthew Flinders with his cat Trim at Euston station. My exploration of Melbourne last November began at Flinders Street station, the very man.