20.04.2009 - 01.05.2009 15 °C
London had one final gesture for me. I was not arrested. Instead, I was “detained”. Under the anti Terrorism legislation. Seriously. I was moseying along near Kings Cross station, hoping I might find a decent coffee when a wee constable who had been lurking in an alley came out and “requested” that I join him. I expressed my displeasure but really, what can you do but submit. I even managed to make a joke, wondering why he could not arrest the folk running the nearby Starbucks as a crime against coffee. So he carefully searched me, we had a bit of a chat but by the time he got to my bag decided he could let me go. Funnily enough, when I read the copy of the report he had to give me, he had stopped me for walking in a “vulnerable area” i.e. near two major railway stations, carrying a “large bag” i.e. my laptop bag.
That reminds me of a wee story I read in Tartu about a large cupboard. Apparently the library was pretty keen to maintain discipline, so when people talked in the library or were late returning their books, they’d be locked in the cupboard. One person spent three days in such fashion. Go into a modern library, you’d soon need a HUGE cupboard to apply these measures to the users!
Back in Lichfield, it was my last couple of weeks. They were pretty full on, as I was making as much use of the library as I could during the day then spending my evenings in a pub, as it offered free internet and mine was cut off at work. I did take time out for a few photos of the University campus:
Random statue outside my window (the source was named, but not the statue)
and my favourite, Michael Faraday
He’s an impressive man and an unusual one for an educational institute to feature at its front entrance as not only did he have no formal education, but according to the theorists of the time, his most famous invention, the electric motor, simply could not work. Yet it did – he was the great experimenter, possibly the greatest ever. He later went on to become a Professor but not at Birmingham University, I have no idea what connection he might have with Birmingham – certainly not a strong enough one to feature in his Wikipedia entry.
I spent my last weekend in the area holed up in a hotel in Lichfield,
since my house wasn’t really conducive to hanging about in and decided to go walkabout with the camera.
Lichfield Cathedral is quite remarkably hard to get a good photo of, because it is so big and the Close is rather, well, close.
Walking around it at night was a pretty special experience, because it tended to be a ghostly looming presence when it was really dark. I tried taking a photo – you’d get the experience of seeing it!
One of the reasons to stay in town was to go visiting. First up, it was the house of Erasmus Darwin,
grandfather of Charles.
He was a doctor, and quite a guy. Mary Shelley credits his experiments in which he tried to re-animate corpses in the basement (visitors can only go down there under very special arrangements) with inspiring her to write Frankenstein, and he influenced Coleridge and Wordsworth with his own poetical works. Patients would tell of his travels to see them, his carriage laden with a pile of books to one side and food to the other. He invented all sorts of things, including a talking machine, a horizontal windmill
and a system for independent turning of front carriage wheels (to stop carriages falling over) which still informs motor engineering today.
He also had a few thoughts along the lines of a theory of evolution, but ran into a little opposition from the neighbours
His house was an important focal point for 18th century Lichfield intellectual life, which made Dr Johnson
a frequent visitor. Johnson’s house is right in the centre of Lichfield,
where his father was a not very successful bookseller
I have no photos at all of Birmingham. I was initially reaonably impressed with it as a city, but after spending four months there, I actually had trouble picking out any specific thing that I had warmed to, unless you count my Asian greasy spoon under the railway station. I think I managed three visits there in my last couple of weeks. One regret I have is that I didn't get to go back and say a finale farewell to Wolverhampton, as it had provided me with a variety of homes for a month or so and there's a very nice curry shop I wanted to dine at.
But time run out. At around 7:00 on 1 May, I slung my bags over my shoulder, reunited myself with my bike at Lichfield station and I was off.