Thursday, 28 October 2010
I’d only ever been there once, in the 1980s and that was to look at the ex-London Routemaster buses that the local company put into operation on one route there at the time. Other than that, oh and knowing that it was the birthplace of John Bunyan, that was about it.
Now I pride myself that I can find interest and fascination in the most mundane of places. When you’ve concocted walks around
Well, although I could see some interesting buildings, especially a fine church,
The markets looked large and busy but somehow I just couldn’t warm to the place and I spent an hour less there than I’d intended.
Rare for me that.
Monday, 25 October 2010
The following day on Facebook I wrote:
“If……. they do a good restoration job, it could be in the long run a good thing, raising the profile of [Weston] and allowing it to be better than ever.”
Well, skip forward just over 800 days…….and here we are. After a remarkably quick rebuild (and despite some delays), on
With a new pavilion designed by the
The English seaside has been through some difficult years but is not-so-slowly reinventing itself these days. Even before the era of recession, staycations (ugh!) and carbon footprints, people were re-discovering their “home” seaside. Weston in some ways was poorly-placed to attract “specialist” tourism (as the
- It has a splendid beach with firm sands. The famously receding tide frankly means there’s lots of space for everyone! And it’s a lot nicer than Bondi, believe me.
- It’s not that far away from major centres of population (day trips from
, the Bristol West Midlandsand South Walesare easy).
- Lying in the shadow of wooded Worlebury Hill, with sublime stone terraces tumbling down towards the bay Weston has a truly magnificent setting. Its only real rival in that department is Torquay (and that’s spoiled a little by too many post-war apartment blocks nowadays).
- And the Grand Pier rebuild is just one of a series of improvements. The need for flood defences (that sea does come in!) has been seized to create a much improved new Promenade which is almost finished. The traffic-choked junction opposite the Grand Pier itself is also being transformed, into a new “
Pier Square” which will improve the setting no end.
There is a “buzz” in the town at the moment caused by the amount of inward investment.
Yes, there are some “bits” to deal with. The buildings of the central sea front aren’t yet a credit to the town. The Northern end of the Promenade needs some tidying up, especially now that the Royal Pier Hotel is no more and that could go hand-in-hand with the restoration of the “other” Pier, at Birnbeck. And don’t get me started on the Tropicana (the former Open Air Swimming Pool whose fate is easily Weston’s biggest shame).
But the town is on the up. The motto on its coat of arms (borrowed from
Friday, 22 October 2010
Some 18 years ago, I started my tourist guiding career working on the open top double decker buses run by the much-missed “Guide Friday” company in
The concept of guided tours of
Well, fast forward. Almost by accident, I spend years tour managing all over Europe, qualify as a Blue Badge Guide in the Heart of England and then London and carve a small business for myself doing specialist tours of all sorts of unusual places for more “discerning” clients.
But - among my peers at least – I’ve always been thought of as a “Birmingham Guide”. Despite this, in recent years
So this last week has been something of a change for me, as a party of
And do you know what? I’ve rediscovered my wonderful, impressive, unequalled home city. People are stunned by the greenery, the housing, the historic characters, the cultural heritage and the welcome. The staff at Saint Mary’s and Aston Hall have been so fabulous to deal with they’ve been like a breath of fresh air (after the sort of characters you get “welcoming” you at places like Blenheim).
Service isn’t always geared to international visitors and I wish shopkeepers in suburban strips like Stirchley and Bournbrook would tidy up their premises. But the coach driver (from Chauffeurs of Birmingham, a new firm to me) was exceptional.
Yes, it it’s not actually all that bad at all. I’m proud to be a Brummie again!
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Many people will have seen, or rather heard, the recordings released for the first time at the inquest into the 7 July Terrorist Murders in
If you haven’t some examples are at:
As so often happens with the media, journalists in search of a sound-bit type quote get emotionally charged friends and family to become angry and to use words like “shambolic” which are succinct but frankly inaccurate.
I think the staff of London Underground are getting very unfair treatment here. The "confusion" was very soon after the explosions (of which there were three at disparate locations within 90 seconds) and I think that no organisation could realistically have reacted differently. It may be that people would prefer staff to react in an excited frantic and dramatic way, they way we see on television or in the cinema. In fact, people remaining calm might not make a “good story” but it is the best way of dealing with a situation.
Indeed, some of the stories which have emerged about help, compassion and heroism from some of the station staff deserve a higher profile than this.
There were a lot of heroes that day. And I defy anyone to have reacted better, other than with that wonderful thing, “the benefit of hindsight”.