Monday, July 5, 2010

Birminham - Solihull Experience

Coming into Birmingham by air. The fields are separated by hedges which have grown up over the original fence. This is a very beautiful country. Very green. With all the rain it gets why shouldn't it be? The trees are huge and not stripped by wind. Even though Britain is the home of municipal planning, I don't think the planing was done before development. They just built and put up roads and fences where ever they got the notion. The roads are narrow and very winding. There are few big stores. Most stores are small shops with a narrow merchandice base.

On our first night here, I fell to sleep at the table. Deanne went to bed early. I woke up at 8:00 and went to bed.At 9pm Deanne woke up in a panic thinking it was 9am. She shook me awake excitedly saying "Ron wake up and get dressed. We have to be downstairs to meet Elder Green soon. Hurry or you'll be late". She sure had her reconning of time all screwed up. By the time she was convinced that it was not morning I was awake and it took some time to go back to sleep. But we made it through our first day. It was like drinking water from a firehose.

The most common mode of transportation in the city is double decker bus. It is no wonder given the size of the roadway. Parking is another matter. Canadian cities need to take a leaf from the British book and chill out. There are no parking meters and people who are brave enough, simply park wherever they find room. On the side walk usually and if you see a parking spot on the opposite side of the road you simply wheel over into it. So you will see cars parked on the side of the street facing both directions. The whole idea is to discourage you from driving. Buses are much more reliable than at home. Usually running every 15 minutes and you can get anywhere in the city faster than by car.

Wow what a place to drive in. We attempted to drive to Costco. When we got near it we could see the Costco sign, but we could not make the right turn to get there. They have these round abouts (traffic circles) everywhere. If you take the wrong exit you end up in Neverland. After 3 attempts to exit the round about, we took the wrong exit even with the GPS. It took us into a part of the city never seen by a sayne man. The streets were just wide enough to peddle a bike and here we were in a car which by north American standards is considered small, but by British standards was large, a Vauxhal. There were blocks and blocks of this. There was little room to pass and no place to turn around. When we did pass another vehicle our mirrors came within inches of touching. We saw what looked like a Hindu wedding. the streets were lined with thousands of people of all nationalities. The sidewalks were covered with small small stands for fruit, vegitables, meats, cloths and some unmentionables. We didn't know where we were. We were told latter that this was old Birmingham and that some of the buildings we saw were over 1800 years old. All were 2 or more stories high. After about 30 or more minutes of this we found our way out. By then we decided that Costco wasn't worth it. Three unbelievable hours latter we finally found the mission home and safety. We regretfully didn't take any pictures. I was too busy driving and Deanne was too busy screeming "RON WATCH OUT".

We took a side trip down to Warwick to see the Warwick Castle built by the Normans when they invaded England. What a fantastic experience. Unfortunetly we forgot the camera. If any one comes to see us this is a trip worth taking.

The most common material used in sidewalks and many streets are sidewalk blocks and paving stones. They tell me that is is cheaper and more economical than cement. If the sidewalk heaves or cracks you simply remove the block, tamp the base and lay a new block in.

Most houses have these thick heavy hedges arround them. It deadens the sound and adds privacy.

This is an old road bridge built by the Romans. Notice the firns growing out of the stones. It looks delapidated but it is over 1800 years old and stood the test of time. This is the view from the south.

This is the view of the same bridge from the north.

Just to the south of the chapel runs a small creek. It is surprising how clear the water is in such a highly populated area. It wasn't always this way but the city and county have done an excellent job of cleaning up the creek and repopulating it with fish.

One of our favorite walks. This is a small stone path which led along the creek. Above us on both sides of the creek are golf courses and on the opposite side of the creek from the chapel is a Romada Inn Resort. It looks very old and expensive.

Notice the heavy vegetation. Birmingham gets a lot of rain and is very green for much of the year.

This is the Birmingham Mission Home. It has offices on the first floor for the mission president and an Employment Resources Center and apartments on the 2nd floor for missionaries.

This is the Birmingham Ward chapel next to the mission home. The Stake Center is at a neighbouring city, Litchfield. Because most members use the bus as their mode of transportation, they have to rent a bus to go to stake conference and car pool for other meetings.
Our apartment was on the 2nd floor with the big windows. From here we had an excellent view of the surrounding area and the creek beyond the chapel.

This is the view of the mission home and chapel from the street. The chapel is small by north American standards because they only house one ward in each chapel in the UK and Irland. The chapels are built in a location that is on the bus route because the majority of members come by bus.

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