The Ruffled Crow

Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things

Tag Archives: Birmingham

Golf Balls, Silver Balls, and Cricket Balls

I usually have a bit of a time titling these posts, but today was very different. I nearly titled this post “Balls Out” but somehow I just couldn’t do it… Another option was “Triple Stoked”. You’ll see what I mean as the post winds along.

This was another one of those incredible days where things just fall together wonderfully. Our original intent had been to find a laundry yesterday to wash everything in preparation for our trip out of Brum (Birmingham) tomorrow. Young Master Crow had a lot of work to get done as he’d spent Friday with us, so he took Saturday to get it done. We had a nice little, highly rated spot picked out, but, as the trip out to Stoke-on-Trent took longer than we’d expected, we delayed it until today.

Front door of Ghetto Golf in Digbeth

Before I began to plan this trip I’d begun following a local Brum newspaper online and had noted the opening of a quirky little spot called Ghetto Golf. It’s a mini-golf course created in a warehouse in Digbeth and has a funky, graffiti style. During the trip planning I dropped it in my saved places on  whim.

Well, This morning Mrs Crow suggested Young Master Crow and I go ahead on to it and perhaps also to a pinball parlor close by. (I was quite the pinball wizard back in the day and spent a lot of time in front of a lot of tables and didn’t have to spend many quarters doing so, in fact some nights I made money at it) She was perfectly fine doing the laundry and reading her book as she did. Did I mention that the missus is quite the woman? She’s put up with me for nearly three decades so she really has to be, but it’s good to note it every once in a while.

Anyways, we dropped Mrs Crow at that great little laundry nearby and found our way to Digbeth and an early tee time.

Remember Abe from Abe’s Oddworld side-scroller?

The place was amazing and the street art covering the walls (and about everything else as well) was incredible! The 18 holes were highly imaginative and a few of them were quite adult in nature (dildoes were an impediment on one), one hole went through an old city bus, another wound you around shelves of horror videos until you rounded the corner to be confronted by a mural of Hellraiser’s Pinhead and a tableau lit up with Regan from The Exorcist at her demonic best. Finally the three last holes were all done in black light day-glo color.

And those last three holes, hole 16 in particular, is where Young Master Crow beat me. The lead wavered back and forth between us by no more than a single stroke throughout until then, but on this Pachinko-like hole my ball dropped into the plus-three slot and his into the negative-one, and that was the game.

Walking out of there to make our way to the pinball parlor we found the neighborhood full of street art. Around another corner, another mural. It was glorious.

Apparently I didn’t raise my kid quite completely as, at the pinball tables, he went through his 5 pounds in no time, whereas I won a few extra games and gave him the opportunity to finish off his entire pot of tea.

Our timing couldn’t have been better as we got back to the laundromat only a few minutes after Mrs Crow finished up the laundry. Picking up YMC’s laptop at his apartment and dropping off our newly-clean laundry at the hotel, we set off to hunt down the elusive ‘lunch’.

At this point I must ask, in the strongest possible way – Nando’s please please, come to Seattle! That peri peri sauce is a wonderful thing. On the plus side, I can get the sauce online, so at least I won’t perish from withdrawls.

Sated, we all went in search of someplace to watch the Cricket World Cup finals. England was hosting the World Cup and it had also made it to the finals against New Zealand. We’d been following it all day and, in a fortunate twist, New Zealand was up to bat first so we made it to a pub at the interval and right before England was due up to bat.
I’ve watched Cricket for years, when I could find it, so I have a minor understanding of the game but not a great one. Test matches are just way too long, so the 20/20s and 50/50s ar about the right size for me. The World Cup is 50/50s.

A Pot of tea and a couple hours later it didn’t look good for the home team. England just wasn’t producing the runs it needed per over and they kept slipping. 49 overs with only one to go and only math seemed to hold the hope of the possible.

And then Ben Stokes made a play I’m not sure anyone thought possible. For much of the game I had been kind of down on Stokes. His partner for most of the game, Jos Buttler, was very efficient, scoring nearly as many runs as bowls faced, but was caught out. Stokes just wasn’t playing with that much efficiency and it felt like he was losing the game for England. To make matters worse, they were deep in the lineup with mostly bowlers (think pitchers in baseball) being all that was left. England needed 15 in the last over, just six pitches, to win – no chance.

Then, on what was the third or fourth ball from the finish Stokes hit for what would be a solid single, but needing 15, they stretched to try and make a double. Sliding face-down to the line, the ball, thrown from well outfield, glanced off his bat and rolled to the boundry for four more points for a total of six!

With that bit of renewal, England managed to tie the game in the last few bowls and they went to a Super Over where they just kept rolling and won the game! Incredi-freakin-bul.

So there you have it; golf balls, silver balls, and cricket balls – but that was not the only trinary to occur. Remember Friday? Stokes Croft for the street art. Yesterday was Stoke-on-Trent. And today was Ben Stokes. I’m sensing a pattern here…

As mentioned, tomorrow we’re on our way north to Huddersfield then Holmfirth, and we missed out on wandering the Birmingham Library. Hopefully we’ll get in there when we pass back through Brum next weekend.

Observations from…today: Showtime at the Apollo is not the show from Harlem we were expecting.

Scaffold companies are making a killing here in the UK.

Moorcroft Is Not A Sherlock Holmes Villain

On our first full day in Birmingham we spent very little time in Birmingham. Our hotel is right next to the New Street station and the Bullring so there is an incredible number of stores we could of drained our pockets at, and it is part of the second largest con-urban in the UK, second only to London, but we had other plans.

Standing about 3 feet tall, this incredible piece is several thousand pounds – and well worth the price, I think.

Instead, I had my eye on a smaller city about an hour and a half to the north-west called Stoke-on-Trent. One of the city’s nicknames is “The Potteries” and it is considered a world capital of ceramics as some of the world’s most respected companies create their wares there. Among them are Wedgwood and Royal Daulton, Portmeiron, Royal Stafford, Gladstone, and the place I wanted to go – Moorcroft.

Some years ago Mrs Crow and I came across this little show that’s not seen in the US called Bargain Hunt. We were hooked immediately. It’s huge here in the UK and it pits two pairs of players against each other to gather three items at antique shops and boot sales and make the most cash selling them at auction. Well, every once in a while someone would pick up a very small vase or bowl to find that it was outside their 300 quid budget.

Hard to see, but these vases are done in the rare ‘Flambe’ firing technique originally done in the middle of the last century. Very striking and incredibly beautiful!

It was always a striking piece, quite unlike the porcelain and pottery my mother collects. The colors were unusual and vibrant, and there was an edged beading between the colors creating an almost a cloisonne effect. I collect glass and never really looked at potteries, but this stuff was special.

So off Mrs Crow and I flew, training it out to Stoke-on-Trent to the Moorcroft manufactory. Walking through the shop for me was a near sacred experience. The colors were intense yet restrained, the designs were of every kind – from simple to detailed scenes. Did I mention the colors?

One of the shop ladies was kind enough to show us a short film on the creation and manufacturing process guided by Eric Knowles who we know from Bargain Hunt and Antiques Roadshow. It was truly an entrancing experience for me. We ended up buying two rather small items and spent a few hundred pounds for them, but just having two Moorcroft pieces is indescribable.

Hidden Dreams Frog Model designed by Emma Bossons in 2005

From there we began a walk up towards the Royal Doulton outlet, but as we hadn’t had more than coffee and a doughnut for breakfast, we neeeded fuel and chanced across a small fish and chips diner a half block off our route and took the opportunity for a quick sit-down.

I love diners. I see them as little windows into the local culture and this one was no exception. The sign noted that it was ‘award winning’ although didn’t mention what award that was. Inside was a take-away counter and several booths and tables that were half filled with local folks and families. Very working class, just like us. It looked as if we were noticed right away as ‘not from around here’, but everyone was nice, or at least tolerant of our presence. Mrs Crow was kind of pedestrian in choosing the cod and chips, but me, being the rebel that I am, went for the haddock.

Topped up, we made it up to the Royal Doulton shop. There were stacks of pattterned dinnerware for some incredible prices! You could probably put together a full 8-piece dinner set for less than 200 pounds! There was also an area where, I presume, school kids could paint their own pottery and get it fired. I ended up with just a mug, but it had an octopus on it, which my mother collects (yeah, she collects a lot of things) and it is surprisingly difficult to find octopus themed items. In Royal Doulton ware it was a real coup in my thinking.

Keep It Real by Banksy

Walking out of the shop we prepared to call a car to take us back to the train station, but there was a little gallery nearby I wanted to peer in it’s window so we wandered over that-a-way. I’ve mentioned that Mrs Crow and I have come across some wonderfully unexpected things when we just wander and this was one such time. Getting around the side of the building we found a small bit of street art on the wall next to the gallery – Banksy’s Keep it Real. From what I gather, the design has had several incarnations on various media, but Stoke does count him as one of it’s own, so it’s quite possible it’s genuine. Nonetheless, it did make for a wonderous capper to our visit to this city of clay-makers.

Observations from day…uh…today…and maybe yesterday too: I use the term ‘city block’ frequently but it has no meaning here.

We have yet to see a washcloth-sized towel.

%d bloggers like this: