From Chequers to pizza

We had a couple more days in Birmingham before going to London.

There’s an environmentally friendly shop called Clean Kilo, which uses no plastics, and you take your own containers to fill up with food, toiletries, and cleaning stuff. There were two shops at one time, but they struggled during the pandemic. The one in Bourneville (where there’s a chocolate factory!) is still going strong. However, the one in the Custard Factory (Digbeth’s creative quarter) has converted to a cafe/bar. We popped in for an afternoon coffee.

The Birmingham tram network is extending to Digbeth. Work started around the time of the pandemic and although there’s no obvious work going on, the trams have still not started running! It reminds me of the roadworks around the central New Street Station a few years ago. The streets were clogged up for years! It may be just my perception, but infrastructure works take a long time in Birmingham!

The following day, I went on a day trip to Kings Heath and Moseley — adjacent, and quite leafy, suburbs in the south of Birmingham. Kings Heath was once promoted as a gay village by the Birmingham comedian Joe Lycett and there are now Pride events there.

There was a friendly bookshop in Kings Heath, which looked quite new and served coffee. After leaving the bookshop, I walked through the affluent-looking backstreets and through the rural, and pleasantly wild, Highbury Park.

In Moseley, I checked out the Oxfam bookshop then went through Cannon Hill Park to the MAC (Midlands Art Centre). I did my first parkrun in Cannon Hill Park. It became, by far, the busiest parkrun I’d done. Just before the pandemic, there were more than a thousand participants.

Later that evening, Helene joined me in Moseley and we went to Damascena for some tasty Middle Eastern food.

We broke our journey to London by going on a walk in the Chilterns region. Chequers is the country house of the Prime Minister and is about an hour’s drive from London. The mansion was given to the nation by a wealthy former Member of Parliament and has been the Prime Minister’s country residence for about a hundred years.

There’s a walk around the mansion and you get surprisingly close to it. A few years ago, whilst walking with a group, someone told me that they once were on a walk in the area and ran into David Cameron, who was Prime Minister at the time! Our current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak was, alas, nowhere to be seen having gone into hiding after his D-Day commemorations faux pas!

On our walk, we came across a church serving tea and home-made cakes. We didn’t have any cash but the enterprising women running the cafe (a table with cakes on it) had set up contactless payments. We asked them for pub recommendations and a lengthy conversation followed. The upshot was there was only one pub they recommended, and it turned out to be fully booked!

When we got back to London, we went to a local pizza restaurant, which we’d not been to for ages but is our favourite pizza place. We asked the server about the owner, who we’d previously got to know because we used to go so regularly. The person, who turned out to be the son, told us that they’d opened another restaurant (more a gastropub) and that his dad was helping out there. I complimented the son on the diverse music playing in the background, covering everything from the 1960s to now. He told me the old music was his dad’s choice and the new, like Monsters and Men, was his.

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