The joys of the city.

I know I write about this a lot, but living in Birmingham is a real joy for us as a family.  There is of course a lot of bad about the city, if I may be political (I don’t need your permission actually dear reader), a policy of austerity shows its effects on a population of a million fairly dramatically. There is a lot of good though. Green spaces, cultural events, community organisations.

All of that came together yesterday in a lovely, if under-publicised, Song Festival, held at the Birmingham University Green Heart – an outdoor amphitheatre which has just been created.  Choirs from all over the Midlands were invited to come along and sing with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Simon Halsey and the mesmerising Music Director of the CBSO, MirgaGražinytė-Tyla.  To be conducted by world-renowned conductors and accompanied by an internationally acclaimed orchestra is one of those opportunities that living in a city offers.  

We were able to cycle to the venue, off road pretty much all the way, surrounded by green and birdsong. The rain stopped long enough that it was a pleasant, although chilly, evening.  Sitting outside surrounded by modern and Victorian architecture and listening to beautiful varied music and witnessing the joy of hundreds of people singing for pleasure together was a beautiful way to end a Sunday.  

A week of all the volunteering

The last few months have definitely been a work and play focus. The sheer volume of work that happens in January and February takes me by surprise every year. But this year I got through very much by keeping very focussed on work and trying to do a lot of socialising and travelling at weekends in order to make sure I relaxed somewhat.

Now though I am ready to turn back to the various volunteer roles I hold in life. All of which I enjoy and have a different purpose. The CAFOD group at church is preparing for Lent Fast Day this Friday and a Fairtrade wine tasting in May.

The Birmingham Children’s Book Group is part of the Bournville Book Fest this weekend and next and I will be on the Book Swap stall that we run. If you are near Rowheath Pavilion this Saturday or Bluecoat School next Saturday, come and swap children’s books.

My Scout role definitely needs some more attention, although as always with my Scout role, a fair amount has gone on in the background even if its not as visible as it could be. Now though I need to set my sights back on recruiting others who can share their administrative, financial and management skills for the benefit of the hundreds of children who enjoy Scouts every week in Birmingham. How to do that is still puzzling me a bit though.

I have resigned as a children’s liturgist after some years of service. I leave at the end of Lent, but meanwhile am working hard to train and support some new liturgists so that they are ready to take over once I step down.

It is good to be back in the mix, even if all the meetings happening in one week along with a weekend full of volunteering is a bit of a leap back into it all.

Visiting Birmingham

One of the spring time resolutions is to discover more about my home town of Birmingham, UK.  I am an immigrant to the city, arriving here 19 years ago, drawn by a sense of friendliness, a real buzz as the city changed dramatically from its industrial roots.  There seemed to be a desire to do something different, not develop, that implies it was in some way backward, but that is not true at all.  This is a city built on discovery, on science and industry, and on a strong sense of being Birmingham.

For those of you not from here, I know the reputation is not always of a dynamic city, but believe me it is.  I have myriad political views about whether that dynamic nature is being encouraged and allowed to thrive, but despite cynicism on my part on the reduction of local facilities, education, health care, social care, I suspect that there’s something in the nature of being here that will ensure the city continues to thrive.  Ever the optimist.

So this spring I intend to visit some of the many places I have never actually been to.  Feel free to add to the list, but so far I have Aston Hall, Selly Manor, Blakesley Hall, chunks of Sutton Park (I have done some, but seriously, it’s huge!).

I have one of the brilliant Independent Birmingham cards and intend to start working through the members of the scheme.

I haven’t been to the Ikon gallery for ages and there are rooms at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery that I have never seen.  And – confession time – I have never been to the Barber Institute of Art.

There are a couple of quirky places I want to get to – the Coffin Works and the Pen Museum are on that list.

Add to that the miles of canal to explore and the parks to visit, and I am wondering if this is a whole year’s work?